Sometimes It Takes a Tragedy to Remember What’s Important in Life…

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Things have been incredibly stressful here lately. Did I buy everything I was supposed to? Are all the books that MUST be done by Christmas formatted and uploaded to the printer? Did Frank remember to turn on the outdoor Christmas lights tonight? Is the baking on schedule? Who’s going to shovel that half inch of snow and ice off the front steps in the morning? Did I just hear Max say he has a sore throat? Did Zach remember to ship the packages to the grandparents yesterday? Shouldn’t Ali be home from basketball practice by now??

Too much stress. Too much trouble. Too much to worry about! Call it burn-out or PMS or whatever, but when things start to get just a bit too hairy around Christmas, I start to wonder how Three Wise Men bringing gifts to the Christ child evolved into us all giving gifts to each other. I mean…we’re not saviors so…what the heck is up with that? Anyway, so I was feeling just a bit too stressed this past weekend and then something horrible happened that brought the most important things in life into perspective.

My very good friend, who I will call G to protect her privacy, is 41 years old. She has two beautiful daughters, ages 16 and 6. She is an amazing human being. When she walks in the door, the entire room comes to life. Her personality is larger than life. She’s Italian. She was born in Rome. She was even baptized by the Pope! Yeah, she’s super Italian! She has a strong Italian accent, despite having lived here since she was a little girl (she visits Italy often). She talks loudly and with her hands. The entire family talks with their hands. I had to warn our children when I took them to meet G for the first time. “Watch out!” I said. “They all wave their hands wildly when they talk. Don’t leave with a black eye!”

They celebrated our 2006 visit by having the entire family gather together to welcome us. They hadn’t seen me for almost 20 years but it was like not a day has passed. I spent a great deal of time at G’s house when we were in high school. When her grandfather wasn’t locking us in her room at night (to protect me from her brothers – ha ha), he was reprimanding me in Italian (he didn’t speak English). The only thing I ever understood was the repeated, sharply accented “Angela’s” that came out of his mouth, surrounded by loud and stern Italian words. G would just laugh and wave her hands at him, yelling back at him in Italian, but with a smile. They served huge Italian dinners at mealtime and we swam in G’s pool for days on end. We took trips to the beach together and to Lake Conroe and those are the happiest memories I have from high school.

G was two years ahead of me in school. She went to college and I was so sad. I had to make some new friends and she moved on, eventually owning her own business. I got married. So did she. I had children. She did as well. She go divorced… so did I. We lost contact with each other until 2001 when she got my email address from my mom when she ran into her one day.

We were back in touch, thick as fudge, and emailed each other often. We started seeing her each time we visited Texas and things were going just grand. A couple of weeks ago, G emailed me photos of her fiance. She had met the love of her life and was going to get married in March. She’d never been happier.

On Sunday night, my cell phone rang at 10:30 p.m. I didn’t recognize the number so I didn’t answer it. A few minutes later, I asked Richard to check my voicemail. He did and then said, “Who is A.?” (Again, name changed to protect their privacy at this time.)

I said, “Oh my gosh. That is G’s sister! Something must be terribly wrong. Why would she call me at 10:30 at night when I’ve only talked to her once in the past 20 years?!”

I immediately returned her called. Skipping the niceties, I bluntly asked, “What’s going on?”

G, who is only 41, had a heart attack Wednesday night. She had experienced leg pain and was cold and just not feeling well all day. I won’t go into the details but G suffered brain damage and is on life support. The doctors are very pessimistic.

I talked to A for quite awhile and tried to offer my support and tried to stay brave for her but I was in shock. I tried not to cry. Truly I did, but I didn’t do very well. We finally hung up with her promising to send me updates. I then gathered the children around me and told them what happened. They love G so much and they were so sad, too. I cried and cried. I went upstairs where Richard had taken Max and Mason to give me some quiet time when I was on the phone. I laid down in bed after everybody fell asleep and cried some more. Should I fly to Texas? I want to be there for G’s family so badly! If I do, I will need to take Mason because I’m still nursing him. Richard doesn’t want me to travel alone, especially with Mason, so he would come, too. And, of course, we can’t leave Max behind. He’s way too attached to us at this age (6). Plane tickets this week of the year and on such short notice would be very expensive…not that that’s a concern for me when an emergency like this happens. But, the weather here is pretty bad (very cold and tons of ice and snow on the ground from the weekend storm). And, Christmas is only a few days away and I have to be home for all the children for that. Should I stay? Should I go? What a painful decision I would have to make.

I finally fell asleep at some point, and I woke up after I dreamed that I was at G’s house with Mason. The family had asked me to come and watch her daughters… except I realized in the dream that nobody was home. Her daughters weren’t there. Nobody was there. NOBODY WAS HOME. I kept wondering what I was doing there when NOBODY WAS HOME. I woke up and realize that somebody, maybe G, maybe my guardian angel…I don’t know who…was telling me that NOBODY IS HOME. G is not “there” so there is nothing I can do for her by going to Texas. So, I am planning to write a letter to her family instead. If she does not make it, I am going to write a special letter and ask her sister to ask somebody to read it at the funeral.

A friend went to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City today and lit a candle for G. He will never know how much that meant to me. He took pictures and I sent them to G’s family. My brother, Justin, is a youth pastor now and he started a prayer chain for her and her family last night. I have other friends praying for G and her family in Texas, Tennessee and even Canada. If you have a minute, can you please pray for them, too? Especially her two young daughters. I can’t think about them for very long because I will start crying and won’t be able to stop. If you can pray for them, thank you.

I’ve been hugging the children and Richard extra close and I am so sad deep down inside. My insides feel so heavy and it’s hard to concentrate on any one thing.

Big holiday hugs to all of you. Remember, in the following days, what is really important in life: LOVED ONES… and letting them know how much you love them every single day.

Ang