In a few months, I’ll celebrate 6 years of working in Creative at Hallmark Cards. Not long after I started, there were boxes and boxes of some plastic-y sleeve thingies for free. I didn’t know what they were, I didn’t know what I’d do with them but I knew they were free, and that was enough for me. I am, above all else, a bargain hunter and pack rat.
In all fairness, I was also working part-time at the library and thought we might be able to use them for crafts. Yes, that was justification.
Anyway, I kept a handful of the plastic-y sleeve thingies (PSTs) for myself in the event I had a keen idea one day. I happened across them in a box last week; the planets aligned and BAM! my keen idea hit.
Most of my Star Wars toys came from garage sales and thrift stores when I was a kid. I did, however, get some straight off the pegs at the toy store—my mom had the forethought to save the cardbacks for those figures. Most are worn from handling or covered in clearance stickers, some suffered from an overly excited little girl ripping off the blister packaging to get to the toy and one apparently served as a notepad for said little girl (I scrawled my name across it). They’re in pretty rough shape, but I absolutely love them.
The PSTs looked like they might be a good fit as cardback protectors, so I gave it a shot. Alas, they weren’t a good fit… They were PERFECT!
As I worked my way through the stack of cardbacks, I grew increasingly concerned that I would run out of PSTs. The library recently purged a lot of stuff, so I was certain I wouldn’t be able to replenish my supply there. I pondered how I might post a request on the want-ads at work: “WANTED, plastic-y sleeve thingies that we had here 5 years ago.”
Worry occupied my mind as I slipped the cardbacks into the PSTs. Soon I realized there weren’t any cardbacks left. There weren’t any PSTs left either. I had kept the exact number that I needed—not one more, not one less. That number, in case you’re wondering, was 24 (which also happens to be one of my favorite Switchfoot songs).
Your world view might tell you this was a brilliant case of coincidence, kismet, a stroke of good fortune. For me, it was also a reminder that God provides for even the smallest of concerns.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times.”
(The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien)
There’s nothing particularly endearing to me about the Lord of the Rings saga, save for Samwise Gamgee’s unwavering loyalty to Frodo. Nevertheless, this exchange with Gandalf strikes a chord.
None of us ever really wants to face tragedy. Sure, we may have some strange inclination towards fictional accounts in action/drama/post-apocalyptic fare and we may even give in to gawker syndrome when passing an accident scene, but the vast majority of our species does not genuinely wish to see suffering.
And yet, we are privy to tragedy and pain on a daily basis, be it on a personal or global scale. The bad in life seems to happen so frequently that we can become indifferent to it. It’s only when the pain hits close to home or in a shocking, unexpected way that we pause and truly mourn.
This morning, for the first time in my life, I awoke in a world where Uncle Pete does not share his smile. Just shy of a year after his terminal diagnosis, the cancer became too much for his body to handle. It is now my turn to mourn.
On Friday afternoon, I received word that Pete had been moved to a hospice facility. My extended family had already planned to come to town on Saturday, so I joined them that evening. I expected it would be a difficult visit, but I couldn’t have imagined the degree to which I had underestimated.
Severus and I sat with Pete and Sherry for about ten minutes Saturday night. What do you say to a dying man who is physically little more than a shell of the person you’ve always known? Naturally, I told him he looked good (to which he replied “under the circumstances”). I told him that he was a trouble-maker and a brat; he said I was a brat, too 🙂
When he got fidgety and started pulling at his oxygen tube, I lectured him not to be like Papaw—who had died after pitching a fit about not needing the oxygen and throwing his mask across the room. In typical Pete fashion, a Papaw-esque fit ensued…followed by a devious little smirk and “hee hee.” He then told me to sit down (in as close to a Papaw imitation as he could muster). We bantered a little more, but much of his mumbling was incoherent and I could tell he was hurting.
Not knowing what else to say, I suggested that we let Pete get some rest. After kissing him on the cheek and discreetly slipping a note into his breast pocket (I’ve no idea if Sherry read it to him), we walked to the door.
“See you soon,” I said.
“Are you coming back tomorrow?” he managed to squeak out.
“Wouldn’t miss it,” said she who was on the verge of tears.
But I didn’t make it back in time.
When we got out of church Sunday morning, I had a voicemail from my mom and text message from my dad—”Pete’s home now.”
In the days ahead, I hope to detail some of the lessons I learned from my uncle and the example he and my aunt set. In the meantime, my duty is to help Aunt Sherry as much as I can. Her transition from wife to widow is not an easy one; I pray that she will feel peace and comfort.
This is still May, right?! Like most of America’s Heartland, we’ve had snow over the last few days. Great weather for watching Star Wars movies, not so good for 5k training—I’m not feeling terribly confident about Saturday’s impending event.
At any rate, it’s about time for an Uncle Pete update. This time around, I’m sharing bits of a message my mom sent to her coworkers [I’ve included a few notes]…
I come from a family with a LONG history of mushroom hunting. Every spring, my parents would pair us up [4 sisters], grab some bags and a sturdy stick (in case of snakes) and head into the woods. In the olden days, when I was just a small sprout myself, we would have family reunions where we would go find morels, pick some “greens” and have a feast. Some years we found many, some years few. My mom once found a 12-lb morel—she nearly fainted.
Morels only come up in the spring and only last for a few days. The conditions must be just right; they need warm, damp soil with lots of decomposed plant material. Kind of sounds like a science lesson.
When Pete married my sister [my aunt Sherry], my dad spent hours with him, teaching him how to find the best places for those yummy gems. Pete hates eating mushrooms of any kind, but the hunt draws him to the woods every spring… He actually starts walking the treadmill in February to be in shape for the days when the weather turns warm and he can head out. He spends hours walking to find the best spots, brings home his bounty, and then doesn’t consume even one.
Pete started walking the treadmill again this year; it was good to see the old Pete back again. But it took too long for the warm days to come, the cancer in his bones is starting to flare up and walking is becoming difficult.
Life is kind of like a small mushroom. With the right conditions, it grows quickly and flourishes. But its season is short. Enjoy it and share it with the ones you love.
God put us together for a reason. We’ve been walking on the treadmill of prayer together for a while, preparing for what lies ahead. There will be some days we’ll need walking shoes and some days we’ll need wading boots, but now we’re in shape to walk with those friends and families who need us. And we just might find more than a few blessings along the way.