Are you a procrastinator? This open ended question brings to mind missed blessings because of putting off doing ‘to do’ things on my list. This story stirs as April showers fall like tons of teardrops wetting the world outside my sunroom window. Inside my heart, tangled emotions release my own tears, as I write in hopes of helping people who procrastinate.
Three months ago (a cold, January night) someone called with an urgent request to visit a lady in our local hospital. The patient’s persistence for me to visit her began in November when ladies at my church visited Autumn Winds Nursing Home and ministered to several people, including a dear friend of mine. My supervising teacher from 1974, Mrs. Harriet Hales, loved their visits and shared her pleas for me to go see her. So, I put it on my list and highlighted it. “Go to Autumn Winds – visit Mrs. Hales”!
My good intentions of going to see Ms. Hales unintentionally got sidetracked. Doing daily duties with the extra trimmings added without notice kept my plate filled to the brim. Getting things done either takes longer the older I get, or we are responsible for doing more things. Anyone with me? Visiting Mrs. Hales was one of the important things I kept adding to my daily ‘to do’ list, saying ‘I’ll get there tomorrow.”
The January phone call that beckoned me to go was unsettling. After praying and settling down in bed, my thoughts were focused on Mrs. Hales. I remembered meeting her for the first time at District Seven School in Cumberland County. She stood tall and commanded attention from her 4th grade students and me. My fears subsided when she opened her heart and allowed me to see Harriet Hales’ philosophy on life. She grew even taller in my eyes as she shared her love for the Lord, for teaching His children, for church and community, and for doing things right and in order. She influenced my life tremendously. Her energy and excitement for life and the good things it gives impacted my way of thinking and style of teaching. My love and respect for Ms. Hales were set in stone when I left her mentoring to make it on my own. Relishing memories of Mrs. hales, I prayed for her, promised to visit when morning came, and closed my eyes for some much needed sleep.
Surprising Ms. Hales early the next morning was a gift I will forever treasure. She burst into squeals and patted her bedside with a command for me to go sit by her. So, I did! We talked and spun yarns of times passed without missing a beat. Our regret was not staying connected as we had promised one another when our lives took different directions. When the nurse came in, I pulled my hand from Mrs. Hales’ grip and promised to visit her at Autumn Winds. She told of the lonely days and nights with earnest pleas for me to go visit her often. After praying and promising again, I left her room with tangled emotions.
The cycle of life continues for each of us. Many people experience lonely times as they prepare to exit this world. I knew Mrs. Hales’ closeness to Christ kept her company when it seemed no one was there and she longed for people to come and care. Riding down the elevator, I prayed for peace in her heart…and mine. Often, we become buried in ‘to do’ lists that keep us from doing the most important things to our Father and those we love…sharing time together. I know how special visits are when my family and friends come by, even for a five minute visit. My mother in law taught me about five minute visits after Tim passed away. She understands my schedule is filled and never makes me feel guilty for not going. Yet, her smile shows just how happy she is when I go, even for 5 minutes. Time has taught me lessons on handling loneliness and looking forward to visits with my loved ones. When they come, even for 5 minute visits, my happy heart celebrates!
Two months passed before I kept my promise to Ms. Hales. During Easter vacation, I loaded up the Sonshine kids one sunny afternoon and headed to Autumn Winds. Knowing how much she loved children, this would be a double blessing. We marched in the nursing home with gifts and cards for Ms. Hales. Stopping at the front desk, I asked for her room number. Three precious people looked at one another with dismay. Without saying a word, they told me what the Spirit released in my heart. Unable to hold back my tears, I stood stoic as Mrs. Hales taught me forty three years ago to do in tough times.
Thinking, ‘Oh Lord, please help me be strong for these children. Why did I put this off? Is she really gone? I thought I had plenty of time to come’… I waited quietly for words that stung deeply.
One lady finally spoke, “I am so sorry. Ms. Hales was buried on Friday.”
My sadness showed. Words would not come. And in that very room love rose up in ways I would have never imagined. My children surrounded me with hugs and tried to understand my loss.
Next week I will share the rest of this story, showing how God can bring good from the bad things we face according to His plans and purpose for our lives. Until then, I challenge you to check your ‘to do’ lists. If a long overdue visit to a loved one, a neighbor in need, a sick friend, or someone whom you have promised something and have kept putting it off is on your list…take a few minutes from your busy schedule and go! The blessing you receive will be even greater than the blessing you give!
Becky Spell Vann is the owner of Tim’s Gift and The Learning Station.