Today I wept for Judy.
I woke feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Too many tasks, too little time and energy. Farm bookkeeping. Church conference preparations and fundraiser contributions. A long list of writing and teaching tasks. A longer list of household duties, most of which I’ve allowed to build up while occupied with more important matters. The number one matter: my parents. Before my feet hit the floor, I was praying for direction.
What preparations should I make in anticipation of my mother’s upcoming surgery and recuperation? We don’t have a date yet, but it’s a safe bet I’ll be staying with my parents for a month or more, partly to help Ma, partly to take care of Dad while she’s in the hospital and laid up afterwards. Late December and early January are ground zero for the farm bookkeeping, payroll, and taxes, so I started making a list of things I might be able to do in advance. That kicked the old brain into overdrive! I put on my clodhoppers and went for a walk on the flat.
The sun and wind and river would have been very pleasant if all the uncertainties of taking care of my parents during this surgery, and beyond, hadn’t been banging in my head. Ma has done an amazing job of taking care of Dad at home, but he’s an 89-year-old guy with diabetes, a pacemaker, and advancing Alzheimer’s. We’ve had some tough discussions already, and more lie ahead. The worst of it, I thought, is that I could make the smartest preparations in the world and get caught short by the unforeseen, just like when … Judy died.
Judy was my father-in-law’s second wife, closer to my age than my husband’s mother was, and she joined the family when Bill and I had been married for ten years. She seemed more like a dear friend than a mother-in-law. I’ve often wished I could share my writing and speaking exploits with her, give her copies of my books and the magazines that carry my work, see her broad smile of shared joy. But I didn’t embark on that phase of my life until after I left my full-time career. By that time, Judy was gone.
As I walked, thoughts about Judy’s last few weeks revived my anger. We had known she was dying. There had been those tough discussions, and it was decided that she would stay at home till the end. Family members would take turns, a week at a time, taking care of her. I remember talking to her alone about it. She protested that I surely wouldn’t want to spend time with a dying old woman. I grinned and told her that depended on who the dying old woman was; if it happened to be her, it would be my pleasure. I meant every word. Not only did I like and love her, but a person who had served everyone else all her life, as Judy had, richly deserved to be served herself.
That was in January. While I waited to hear which weeks would be mine to care for her, I made arrangements to get the time off from my job and spent practically every minute after work and on weekends working on the farm accounting that was due in January and February. I wanted to clear the decks so I could focus entirely on Judy when my turn came.
It never did.
She passed away early in February. I was shocked. On recent visits, Judy had joked and played Uno or some such game with us. I’d had no idea her death was imminent. I was shocked and sad and angry. I felt robbed, not only robbed of my friend but robbed of the week I’d expected to spend with her. The supreme irony was that all the time I’d spent at home clearing that bookwork had cheated us out of time we could have spent chatting. Saying goodbye.
I don’t suppose I’ll quit worrying about the future. And, of course, some advance planning is necessary. But who knows what tomorrow will bring? Maybe Judy asked the Lord, whom she served with even greater devotion than her family, to use my tearful memories today as a reminder not to let fretful, futile preparations cheat me again.
Friends, this blog post wasn’t on the to-do list I made this morning. Somehow it bumped all those urgent tasks aside. Please leave a comment to let me know if it spoke to you.