Last week, we had the privilege to drive to Mexico and build a house. I know you've heard this story before but this one is worth hearing. Another perspective on life...
This trip was hot...probably 105 degrees daily and the sweat from manual labor made me a little gritchy. As the week went on and the house was coming together, I noticed that the father of the family, while with us, wasn't helping. That is an odd occurrence. When we start building in Mexico, there is no shortage of help from the males in the family...they are helping and having a part in making the house "their" home. This father was always helpful but for the most part, sat in the shade and watched.
Because I have been on a number of builds, I started to wonder if there was something going on. The last day, after an amazing lunch they made for us served sitting under pop up tents with cold coca-cola with ice, I got my answer.
Jim, my husband, after lunch wandered over to the family and sat down. In his best Spanglish, he began to talk to the family and I noticed they were laughing and very comfortable. I pulled up a chair and joined them and began to try to communicate. Jim walked away and I was left to sit with them. The father, Jose', had lived in the US and could speak some english and I could fake a little spanish so we were golden. After spending a few minutes making small talk, Olivia, Jose's wife, began to talk to Jose'. Best I could understand, she asked him to tell me why he was so thankful for a new home. Finally, he looked at her and smiled and began to talk to me.
He spoke English very slowly and at first, I thought it was because he was really struggling with the language. As I looked closer, he was choking back tears. Around Christmas, he wasn't feeling well and went to the emergency room. After some rudimentary tests, they told him to go home and get his affairs together because he was going to die. He was diagnosed with Lymphoma and he had a week to months. All he could think about was taking care of his family and that included somewhere for them to live. At that time, and still today, they were living with his brother and his family in a small place. While thankful for housing, it was still many family members in a really small place that wasn't his own. As he thought about getting his affairs in order, he wanted to be able to leave them with a roof over their heads.
Then, upon hearing of his illness, a friend of the family suggested that they apply for a house through Casas por Cristo. They applied and usually it takes a year to two to be approved for a home. This family waited about 6 months and a house was to be built.
Now this "home" that I refer to is small. It is about 300sq feet, has a door with a lock, three windows, three light sockets, a concrete floor. It translates into two bedrooms and a larger room to be whatever the family wants it to be. There is no bathroom or kitchen or plumbing for that matter. You get the picture, nothing fancy.
But to a family that has lived in places that are made of wood pallets and cardboard and some plastic to try to keep out rain...this is a palace. And for a man who is looking at the end of his life with a wife and two teenagers with nowhere to live...this is a mansion.
How would you feel if you were in need and a group of 15 whom you've never met showed up to help? And would you be able to sit and watch these strangers with sweat dripping off of them everywhere build you a home and ask for nothing in return? Could you just be thankful? I am not sure I could but I hope that if I am ever in those shoes, I could accept the gift and be thankful.
Before we say goodbye, we dedicate the house to the family and we offer prayers and good wishes for them in their new home. We pass the keys and hold them in our hands for a bright future. Then after that, it's the family's turn. As we stood, the story came out and we all were so thankful that we could help this family. Needless to say, there wasn't a dry eye...
We drove 14 hours home on Saturday and it was difficult. If you wanna know the truth, I hate the drive and I complained the whole time. Actually, early in the build, I was named the "designated complainer" because I never shut my mouth!
Monday was a new day and it was time to get back to work. Some of my patients had some issues while I was gone and I was happy to come back to the cool mountains and deal with them.
I have a couple that have been married for 65 years and celebrated while I was gone. They had a party and all the family showed. It was a joyous time.
Sometimes, after a big holiday or celebration, folks who are dying decide it is okay to go and begin to decline. This is what happened with this couple. In the mean time, the husband was having some more issues with his health and staying on his feet. He was starting to fall and needs to go to rehab. The wheels were put in motion for that to happen and Tuesday, it was going to be the conversation of the day...sending him to rehab for a tune up.
It was a beautiful day on Tuesday and we just had a hospital bed delivered to his wife. She was quiet and comfortable and obviously declining. He was sitting on the couch with his coffee reading a book. It was very peaceful and honestly, lovely.
My job was to convince him that he needed to go to rehab and needed to get stronger and safer at home. I sat next to him and held his hand and said nothing. Frankly, I didn't know what to say and I thought I knew what he was going to say...
Finally, I started the conversation asking him how he felt and letting him know that we were all worried about him. He looked me straight in the eye and asked me how his girl was doing and if this was "it". I gently told him that I think her time is coming and it will be soon but not today. I told him we were going to keep her very comfortable and that she would have no pain or anxiety as she slept. He teared up and choked out a sob...then told me he wasn't going to rehab right now. He had been with her 65 years and rehab could wait while he saw his girl off this earth. Then, he got quiet and stroked my arm thanking me for understanding. Needless to say, I teared up and accepted the thanks.
Yesterday, almost a week after we watched her begin her decline, she peacefully left this earth in the bed in the sunny living room surrounded by her husband of 65 years and her daughter. She was quiet and comfortable and right where she needed to be and just how it needed to be. When I arrived to take care of them, I sat with the husband and told him what a great job he did caring for her until the end. He teared up again and choked back a sob and struggled to say, "I hope so...."
We all make decisions in life and after they are made, we hope they are the right ones. Sometimes we never know they are the right ones until years later and sometimes we know right away. We have to just decide and then go with the flow.
One decision that I know is right 100% of the time is to love and serve others. I know it's right because I never feel such peace in my heart as when I am in the middle of things like that. Does that mean you have to drive 14 hours in the car and then endure the heat and try to speak spanish? Nope...it means, look at your life and when you see a gap somewhere, fill it. If it is stuffing envelopes for a cause you think alot of...do it. If you grown child needs your help with your grandkids....do it. Whatever you do is good, right and holy if it is out of a giving and loving heart...and I made the rule that you can even complain!!!
As we watch our world crumbling and people become more afraid of each other...the only thing that we can do that is easy...is to love and serve.
We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,