This blog entry almost didn't happen today. Oh, I did the service, I just nearly didn't stay awake to type it up. Courtney is working tonight, and Ava asked if she could sleep in my bed, so I said sure. It's not enough just for her to be in there, though. She also needs to be cuddled. "OK," I told her, "But just for ten minutes." And of course, I fell asleep before she did and happened to rouse myself about ninety minutes later...
Today might have been the best day yet of Project Advent. Celeste, who works at Blake and Ava's school, is on the board of Lubbock's Hope Lodge, and told me about it. Are you familiar with Hope Lodge? I wasn't. It is an outreach of the American Cancer Society. It's a place where cancer patients and their caregivers and loved ones can stay if they have to travel for medical treatment. It is free of charge. The one in Lubbock is the first, and so far only, one in Texas. Celeste put me in touch with the folks at Hope Lodge, and I set up a time to go today.
When I arrived, Sandreena, the lady I had spoken with, told me that they really didn't have much going on today for me to help out with. I told her that I'd be happy even just running a vacuum and emptying trash cans, so that's just what I did, after another employee, Casey, showed me around. There's a very nice living room area on the first floor that needed to be vacuumed - their Christmas tree has lots of glittery decorations, and there was glitter all over the floor! After that, I rounded up some trash and did a little cleaning in the first floor bathrooms.
I needed something else to do, so I walked down the hallway to the kitchen area. The kitchen is a perfect example of what the Hope Lodge offers. It's not just a place to stay, it's a place to be encouraged and be part of a community of support. The kitchen is one large area with four separate, smaller but complete kitchens in each corner. I started to empty a dishwasher, and that's when today went from just housecleaning to something really good.
A woman was in the kitchen, putting some things away after the lunch she'd eaten with her husband. I'll just call her Mrs. M. Mrs. M's husband is currently in treatment with cancer that had previously gone into remission, but has since returned. We began to visit. She was excited that they are returning home tomorrow, and that they will be spending Christmas with their children and grandchildren. They are hoping for more Christmases. She asked about my family, and I was only too happy to tell her about my kids, and to show pictures.
"Where are you from?" Mrs. M asked me.
"I grew up here in Lubbock."
"Do your folks still live here?"
"Yes. Well... My dad..."
It happened that fast. My throat closed, and tears filled my eyes. I couldn't say anything else. Seconds of silence, and then I was able to quietly mouth, "August... leukemia." And she looked at me and understood, and then I was crying, and this kind woman who is there to support her own loved one put her arms around me, and was comforting me.
I found myself apologizing. "I'm so sorry, Mrs. M. I didn't mean to drop that all on you."
"You were supposed to. That's why you were here, and that's why I was here."
It was time for me to go. "Thank you. Have a Merry Christmas, Mrs. M."
"You, too, Danny. Hug those children."
Merry Christmas, Mrs. M. Love and healing to you and Mr. M. Thank you.
Gratitude Project: I like to have a plan, and I feel successful when I execute a plan and flustered when things don't go to plan. One of the biggest lessons I've had to learn, then, is that the very best moments are the unplanned ones, the serendipitous ones. I'm thankful to have those reminders on days like today.