My book signing yesterday went great and I was privileged to meet some of Elkins’ kind and generous people. I loved every minute. As I packed up my little chocolate basket and drove away, what I reflected on was how many people helped me get there. Without the support of A LOT of people, I would not have found the confidence to actually finish writing Smiling Again. By not being honest and vulnerable about my experience, I would have missed out on the stories of others.
Main Line Books is an adorable bookstore that made me want to curl up on the comfy couch in the back of the store and read. Warm people who stopped in shared stories of perseverance in the face of adversity — both personally and as a caregiver. One common thread was focus on their loved ones and not themselves. People draw strength from other people.
For each person who has encouraged me by completing a step in the publishing cycle, purchasing my book, giving feedback — or just sharing your personal story — I thank you.
I love spending time with my friends and family. Yesterday, I spent time with Kayla and smiled after leaving. I talked to Kendra on the phone and felt warm and connected even though she’s across the ocean living in Europe. Sometimes after being with the people in my life I don’t recall the conversation, but always remember the time spent. It gives me strength.
One of my friends laughs most at a line in my book where I describe my brother as “giddy.” He normally isn’t, but was after a short phone call to me in the hospital right after my brain surgery. I could hear in his voice that he was relieved that his sister was going to be OK. It was short phone call, but encouraging and meaningful. I found strength in his uncharacteristic giddiness.
I recall my friends visiting me right after getting home. They were each there for only a few minutes, but they were moments – not just time. Margie helped me feel understood in my terror. Nancy pushed me forward, “You’ll be fine” in a confident tone. Time given as a gift to me was like fuel to my spirit, building strength to move forward.
As a caregiver, the ultimate gift is time. Just sitting with someone is very important and helpful. When someone is facing a medical crisis or recovery, you are most likely not going to have an answer or solution. There is a time to do research to help educate and evaluate treatment options, but there is also a time when you just need to sit. Together.
God tells us to be still at times and loves to have us spend quiet time listening to Him. Speaking to Him. Being together. Pulling strength from that relationship.
We only have so much time in our day, our weeks, and ultimately our lives. Sharing it with others is the ultimate gift.
I went to a local bakery recently and greeted the woman behind the counter. She’s worked there for years, smiling casually as I’ve bought cakes for my daughter’s birthdays, rolls for family bar-b-ques, and bread for Thanksgiving. She’s always behind the counter or arranging delicious baked goods on nearby shelves – her blond and now graying hair pulled back into a hairnet. A stark white apron is always tied around her waist and looped around her neck, splattered with that day’s rainbow colored icing pattern,
While greeting her on this recent day, I wondered at just how little we know about people we see almost daily for years. While I’ve perceived that she’s spent her life in the bakery icing cakes, I know that isn’t true. I don’t know her name and she doesn’t know mine. Since her first pleasant “hello”, I‘ve gone through many life experiences personally and professionally.
Two daughters came into the world and grew into lovely adults. We visited the bakery regularly, starting with a weekly family doughnut day when they were in preschool. I now treasure occasional visits for a leisurely moment over coffee and a sweet roll when I’m lucky enough to get them for a snippet of time.
My career transitioned step to step up the corporate ladder followed by a tumble into retirement via brain tumor. The life and mind altering medical crisis of brain surgery and recovery has taken me through unimaginable changes. I now see the world and people differently.
I’ve visited that same bakery despite moves to several houses and cities. I’ve greeted pets into my life and cried as they slipped away. People have been welcomed into my live as wonderful new friends. I’ve seen, and cried, over friends who have transitioned out of my life as contact slowed from daily to weekly and then seldom or none as the cycle of life and friendship shifted under our feet.
Of course the lady in the bakery doesn’t know any of that. I know nothing about her. I wonder what she’s experienced in her life – even while icing cakes. Perhaps between cakes she takes exotic vacations or writes romance novels. She may have just nursed her mother through cancer. She may have lost a child to a tragedy. She may have an charmed life and family. Maybe she lives alone and only interacts with people at work.
Do you ever wonder what lies just under the covers of a smile? Let’s be kind to one another. Let’s care. . .