By Lynn R. Mitchell
As I type, it’s past midnight and I’m winding down from a long day that ended with live-blogging the loss of Congressman Eric Cantor in the Republican Primary in Richmond. In his loss, he reached out to those in the room to comfort them (see Photos: In loss, Eric Cantor reached out to make others feel better).
George W. Bush once said that as long as there’s family, nothing else matters. Eric Cantor said the same tonight … family is everything.
And so the reality is that I shift back to thinking about family and friends and those I love. It’s been a whirlwind five days at the Mitchell household so I’m reflecting on the reality of life and five friends who have been touched the past few days by unfortunate circumstances.
Today we buried my husband’s sister who passed away from cancer. It entailed a trip to Chesterfield County last night for visitation at a familiar place, Bliley’s Funeral Home on Hull Street, where we had my dad’s funeral, my grandmother and grandfather, my aunts and uncles and friends. It holds decades of memories in my mind. Last night and today added more as we visited with family and friends from our youth. My sister-in-law was quiet and private and had a shy smile when someone amused her. She was generous beyond compare. She had been widowed at age 40 when her 42-year-old husband died of cancer. He was the love of her life and she never remarried. She was left to raise two young daughters and so she worked two jobs to make ends meet. She loved their little river house on the Rappahannock and got away whenever she could. She had four grandchildren when she died. Twenty-five years after the loss of her husband, she joined him, and so we drove in the familiar caravan of vehicles to Dale Memorial Park to her final resting place. I can just imagine the two star-crossed lovers sitting on a pier on the River Jordan as he fishes and she makes a joke about his fishing abilities. Farewell, Anne….
This afternoon our good neighbor came home from the hospital in an ambulance and began hospice care. He is a Vietnam veteran after serving his country as a 17-year-old tunnel rat in that faraway conflict. He has not been comfortable talking about the experience although I tried some years ago to coax the story out of him. He wasn’t ready to relive the nightmare of war and now I fear it will be gone forever. He worked hard all his life providing for his family and looking out for others. Don’t let the gruff exterior fool you … he’s a marshmallow on the inside. We’ve been neighbors for 14 years and I don’t want to see him go….
Yesterday one of my long-time friends from Richmond made it through brain surgery to remove a tumor that was a little smaller than the size of a golf ball. It came on suddenly and I didn’t know until Sunday evening that she had a tumor and was in the hospital and would have surgery Monday. On Monday morning, even though her motor skills and speech were slow, she called to talk with me before going into surgery. It meant the world to me because she took 20 minutes of her morning to reach out to an old friend. We laughed, we cried, and said we loved each other. The plan was to remove the tumor and she was to remain in an induced coma for two days. Thank the good Lord, she is recuperating far faster than imagined, awaking today and actually walking for a short distance. Indeed, tonight her son wrote, “Just got back from seeing Mom. She is recovering well! She says ‘I love everyone! Goodnight!’ ”
And this afternoon I got a call from another dear friend who was diagnosed yesterday with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. She’s on medication and we’re hopeful for a good prognosis after she came down with splitting headaches, loss of energy, and a fever of almost 102….
I am counting my blessings. And sending up lots of prayers. And thankful for those who are in my life, who make a difference in a my life, and who pass through my life. I’m always evaluating and removing the ones who suck joy from my life because there’s just not enough time for that kind of nonsense. The past five days have been emotionally rough but they have reinforced that I have the right priorities….