It’s hard to believe it’s been 8 years, but it has.
I’ve learned that for those of you reading the stories I write here, a number of things happen.
Sometimes you come here on purpose.
Sometimes you come here by habit.
Sometimes you come here by accident (you wouldn’t believe some of the searches that get people to this blog).
But what you always get when you come here is a story.
Sometimes you get a lesson mixed in with that story.
Sometimes the story makes you laugh as you see me learn that lesson from my own mistakes.
Sometimes the lesson makes you wince as you see the pain in the story.
And sometimes, in some of the hardest stories, I’ve heard from some of you, that you see yourself in either the story or the lesson.
I’ve learned, to my surprise (and I’m being quite honest here) that people thought I was good enough at writing stories that several have honored me in ways I cannot comprehend, by asking me to tell a very specific story.
To everyone they cherish and hold dear; their family, their loved ones, their friends.
It is a story that they have lived, that they have asked me to tell, but they won’t ever hear.
And this brings us back to me being amazed that those eight years have gone by already.
Back then, my friend Glenda asked me to tell her story.
And it came easily in some ways.
It was very hard in others.
I stood in front of a crowd of her family and friends 8 years ago, and told this story of my friend Glenda.
June 1, 2007
Glenda first caught my eye when she sat down beside me in Dr. Bob Chamberlain’s “History of Western Rhetoric” class over in Peterson Hall at Seattle Pacific University. She was different because unlike all the other college aged young women in the class, Glenda had her daughter, Daisy, sleeping on the floor beside her. Class time and nap time happened to coincide, so Glenda did what worked, and Daisy got a head start on a lot of freshmen by sleeping through a very early college education.
I learned a lot about Daisy, and her brothers and sister in the next few years. I also learned a lot about Glenda.
This was a mom who clearly loved her four kids, and these were four kids who clearly loved their mom. One time, a few months after we graduated, Glenda asked if I would watch them while she went into the hospital for a few days.
This meant a couple of things.
- Glenda, though in the hospital, didn’t have to deal with or get four kids up and ready for school or daycare every day
- Tom, not in the hospital, got to learn what it was like for Glenda to get four kids up, fed, dressed…
No, wait, almost dressed – first have to find their socks…
“Where did you say you put your shoes?”
“What do you mean you can’t find your homework?”
“There isn’t a dog to have eaten it!”
“I’m supposed to sign what?”
…pray that at least the socks matched, and get them out to the bus stop in time for school.
That haggard looks of the other moms waiting with their kids at the bus stops made so much more sense after that.
I understood so much more what it was to be a mom in those few days.
And I learned a lot about Glenda.
When it was time to visit her in the hospital, it was – well, I am still amazed at how she was able to get four kids packed up and ready to go – anywhere – on time. It was just amazing. She loved to tell this story – and always with that wonderful laugh of hers.
When Tom the Mobile set of Monkey Bars got to the hospital room, four kids either on me or around me, I saw in Glenda’s face the exhaustion that comes from being in the hospital, from all the poking, the prodding, the middle of the night waking you up to give you your sleeping medicine, and so on. But in her eyes, I saw something different. I saw a sparkle, a relaxation, a rest, that is only seen in a woman’s eyes – no, a mom’s eyes when, for whatever reason, she’s had a chance to recover a little from being a mom by being away from the kids, and then when she gets to be with them again.
She tells the same story from another viewpoint, seeing her kids scamper into the room, at least one of them (Daisy) still hanging from a very bedraggled me, when our eyes met, she remembers me saying, “Two! Only Two!” – I couldn’t imagine how she could be a mom of four, but she was, and she made it look easy.
She did that a lot in life…
We lost touch for a number of years, then ran into each other at a cancer survivor’s support group. We hugged, as old friends do.
…and then the reason for our meeting there, in that place, sunk in to both of us.
And you know what?
She made cancer look easy.
She made raising four kids look easy.
She planned enough to where there weren’t many surprises for her – except this one, and even then, then she handled it the same way she always did.
Glenda made dying look easy.
She loved those kids, she loved her husband Mike.
A few weeks ago we talked, and it was clear to her that time was short. We chatted about all sorts of things for a while, and toward the end of the conversation she said, “Tom, can you do me a favor?”
Understand this is the lady who trusted me with her most prized possessions, her kids. And she did it regularly. There was a trust built up there over the years, and I figured that this “favor” wasn’t going to be, “Can I borrow a cup of sugar?” or “Can you feed the cat while I’m gone?”
But I didn’t know what to expect.
“Sure Glenda, anything.”
“Can you speak at my funeral?”
What do you say?
You just do it.
Because that’s what friends do.
She told me it was going to be a “fun” eral – and to remember something “fun” about her.
She wanted me to tell the story of the kids when we visited her in the hospital, because it made her laugh that wonderful laugh of hers so often, so I did…
And I can tell you that I did indeed, only have two.