My Boy Rob

Yesterday afternoon Rob called.  “Guess what I’m doing, Mom?” he asked. My mind raced around but I could not think of a good answer. He hinted, “think about what today is.” I mentioned it was Wednesday but he said, “No, not the day, think about the date.” As I brought the date, June 3, to mind, suddenly I burst out, “You’re driving!!!!”  “Yes!” he replied with great joy and satisfaction. June 3 marked six months since Rob had a seizure and finally he has his “get out of jail free card” and can safely drive again. What a relief to be able to go to the grocery, get his car inspected, run a few errands and just ride around without having to call a friend to chauffeur him everywhere. Rob is an amazing young man and I am so proud to call him my boy. Here are a few of the highlights that make Rob so special:

Rob does not complain. We have been dealing with seizures for over ten years now and there have been some very scary and difficult times. He is a writer and I think he processes things through his writing. One of his funniest and most honest blogs was one he wrote while being treated at the Mayo Clinic.The date of his post was May 5 and the title of his post was Cinco de Mayo (pun intended), totally Rob-style! He has chosen to accept the physical challenge that lives within his body but does not let it stop him from pursuing his dreams and goals. When he can’t drive, he asks for help from friends, and they always pitch in and keep him on the move. For the past six months he has never griped about his situation but has gotten his exercise walking to and from home and work and class each day. Most of us would stage frequent pity parties, but not my boy.

Rob is a spark plug in our family. We just wrapped up our family vacation at Daytona. Early in the week I announced that since none of our kids could go to our Leavell Family Reunion in July at the University of Virginia, JB and I had decided not to go either; we would just take a year off. Now a year off really means three years off since we only have reunions every three years. My brother, Theo, said if we weren’t going then he would quit pushing Vicki and their daughter Mindy and husband and two young children to go; they would just go back to the beach instead.

Then comes Rob …….

Then comes Rob….. He decided we all should go and he got on a high horse about it. He could work out taking a little time off from work; he could even contribute to the very expensive plane ticket from Ft. Worth. He encouraged his siblings to do so as well. (One could, the other could not.) And then he shared his enthusiasm with cousin Mindy. The subject stayed on the table the whole week. So, no surprise, JB and I are going, Mary Margaret and Rob are going, Theo and Vicki as well as Mindy and Michael and Willie and Ruby.  So our family will be well represented at this year’s reunion. We all agreed we will not regret going but we may have regretted not going. Reservations are made and we are all excited. Thank you, Rob!

Rob is a social butterfly. That term comes straight from an article on birth order that I read in Real Simple magazine today. The middle child is most often described as “social butterfly and expert at negotiation.” That certainly is the case with our boy! Like his Daddy, Rob makes friends everywhere he goes and as described above he certainly can negotiate and inspire others to get on board! Rob loves people and a party, and when he is around, life is just more fun.

Social butterfly and expert at negotiation!

Rob is a great conversationalist. He is one who thinks deeply and loves to explore interesting and important ideas with just about anyone, including me! He is well-read and a continual learner; he is not afraid to pursue people he admires and respects so he can engage them in conversation and maybe learn a few new things. While a student at the seminary one of his odd jobs was picking up important people at the airport and driving them to campus. On more than one occasion Rob got so excited over someone he got to know and chat with; he even snagged a few invitations to join an interesting group for dinner at a really nice restaurant. That’s my boy!

Rob is a student. He loves to learn and functions extremely well in an academic environment. Studying and writing seem natural and almost easy for him. He is passionate about things. Currently his interest career-wise is in the field of ethics. His faith in God is strong and his commitment to Christ is rock solid. He is fascinated with the connection between faith and work; faith and entertainment; faith and sports; faith and the arts. Rob wants to make a difference in our country and in our world helping others to see how we can impact society understanding who we are, whose we are, and why we must do all that we do with excellence. It’s all for God’s glory.

Rob is a great friend. All of his life Rob has made the very best friends. He has a great memory and knows most of his friends’ birthdays. He calls them every year, just to touch base and see how they are doing. What a thoughtful gesture! I have never met a friend of Rob’s that I did not also come to love. J.R. is one of his buddies from Samford. He was waffling between becoming a doctor or a lawyer. When Rob had his worst accident with a seizure, J.R. stuck with him as he was taken to the hospital and stayed close till we could get there. Guess what? J.R. is just about to start his residency as an E.R. doctor! Rob’s “situation” helped J.R. confirm his calling. Keith is another one. Rob asked if a friend of his could come live with us in Little Rock for three months while he did a rotation in P.T. school. We had never even met Keith so I was a little hesitant. But Rob reminded me, “Mom, you love all my friends; I promise you will love Keith.” And, we did!  He is an amazing young man and our lives were enriched by having him in our home. Today Keith is a physical therapist in Nashville and he talked with Mary Margaret yesterday and helped her schedule the best rehab she needs for her ankle now that she is off crutches and soon to be rid of her boot! Thank you, God, for friends of our family who keep on blessing our lives.

Rob will be 29 on June 11. Hard to believe that my sweet little boy who always had to fix his hair just right and always shared and always made us laugh is a grown-up man. Thanks, Rob, for all the good memories. (And we will try to forget the not so good ones!) It is with joy that we relish every day with you and look forward to your amazing future!

That’s my boy.

The White Flower Club

On Sunday I became a member of the white flower club. When I woke up early on Mothers’ Day, the first thing that came to mind was that I would be wearing a white flower this year instead of a red one if this tradition was still active. All day long I kept thinking about that.

Let me explain. When I was growing up, on Mothers’ Day everyone wore a flower to church – and I mean everyone! Those whose mothers were living wore a red flower and those whose mothers had died wore a white one. Mama was not much of a gardener, but she did have a red rose bush that was typically in full bloom in early May. I remember being sent outside early morning on Mothers’ Day to cut three red roses – for Mama, my brother, and me. We were blessed to have my sweet grandmother living across the street from us so Mama got to wear a red flower also. But Daddy’s mother had died young. Mama always called my Uncle Doodle at Murphey Florist and ordered a white rose to be delivered to the house for Daddy to wear. So, off to church we went every Mothers’ Day and joined all of our friends also wearing red or white flowers.

I have not thought about this tradition from my childhood and hometown in years, BUT this year it consumed me all day long. Grief is funny like that; it hits you in the strangest ways.

Grief is funny like that; it hits you in the strangest way.

The past months since Mama died on Nov. 29th have been a whirlwind. I have literally felt like a hamster on a wheel that just would not stop spinning so I have been forced to keep running. The things that have had to be done – only those who have walked this path know what I’m talking about. The hardest thing is that regular life just kept happening, other challenges and heartaches presented themselves, all while I was just trying to survive Mama’s death and tackle my long list.  I wanted to scream – “wait, wait, wait!”, but that was not an option.

Just to illustrate – our son Rob graduated with his Masters’ degree in December – a happy occasion to celebrate. Our daughter, Mary Margaret, fell on the ice in Nashville on February 16 and crushed her ankle. I did just what my Mama always did for me – I showed up for surgery and became her side-kick for months – back and forth between Nashville and Newnan. And then – whew – my precious Aunt JoAnn Leavell – my other mother, died in March. This brought on another wave of grief and realization that “we” are quickly becoming “the grown-ups.” Can the world please slow down for a minute?

Life doesn’t stop to give us time to grieve; we have to learn to grieve and keep living. This life lesson cannot be learned ahead of time.

Life doesn’t stop to give us time to grieve; we have to learn to grieve and keep living.

The good news is that I am blessed in the midst of this unpleasant chapter of life.

Blessing #1  I just have one brother and the good news is that Theo and I get along! I know this is huge – not everyone has a good relationship with siblings. Theo is an attorney and has always handled Mama’s “paperwork” and that has been such a relief. He discusses things with me, takes care of the necessary communications, and keeps me informed! That’s a good deal for me. We decided to go through Mama’s house together – just the two of us. It took F-O-R-E-V-E-R. Initially we met every couple of weeks for a few hours. We took it room by room and had many trips down memory lane as we opened every drawer and cleaned out every cabinet and closet. Let me summarize – Mama. Saved. Things.

Blessing #2  I have said before that Mama was the most organized person I’ve ever known. She put a tiny number on the bottom of most everything in her house; then she made a long list describing the items – where they came from and what was the significance. Hundreds of items were cataloged and as we went through her things, with the list in hand, we were reminded or learned for the first time the significance. We now have treasures that came from all sides of our family – things passed down from parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great grandparents.  Thank you, Mama! What a blessing for us and our children.

Blessing #3  Mama’s house sold and we didn’t even have to put it on the market! An offer was made and we accepted. This was a huge blessing and what came with it was a deadline. For a month Theo and I met at the house almost every afternoon and stepped up our process of cleaning out and dividing. When friends have gone through this I never knew how emotional and physical and hard it is. Now I do. It has been exhausting.

I could go on and on. But I will stop for now. People told me that when both parents have died you will feel like an orphan. That feeling has not been troubling, but the realization that frightens me is the fact the “we” are now the “grown-ups,” the ones whose decisions will influence the younger generation coming behind us. At my age and now as an official member of The White Flower Club, I pray my choices and life will give honor to the Lord and to my parents who set a great example before me. Counting my blessings and acknowledging things I am grateful for each day has brought the best comfort in this time of grief.

The Lord Giveth And The Lord Taketh Away

The past six weeks have been a wild roller coaster ride in our family.

October 23 – My niece gave birth to a precious little girl, Ruby Leavell Leech. She is a gift from God and has been a true source of joy every day since she was born. Her early arrival made it possible for my brother and sister-in-law to attend the next big family event – thank you, Ruby!

November 2 – Our son, Wes, married Taylor Bobb in Lexington, KY. Wes is our youngest and the first of our three children to get married. Preparing for this happy event kept us busy for months and the wedding weekend was everything we dreamed it would be. Surrounded by family and friends from far and wide we were blessed beyond measure. Taylor is a true treasure – a fun-loving, happy, industrious young woman who loves Jesus and is the perfect match for Wes. They are a great team already and JB and I thank God for the gift of Taylor.

November 13-15 – Women’s Forum at LifeWay in Nashville. Our daughter, Mary Margaret, is in charge of this annual women’s event. It was sold out in August and was an amazing and inspiring time. I am so proud of our girl and her leadership. From childhood we have said, “she could run a small country,” and she certainly is using the gifts God has given her. Keynote speakers at the Forum included Priscilla Shirer and Karen Kingsbury. What a blessing and challenge they brought!

November 17 – Mary Margaret had surgery. I stayed in Nashville to be her nurse. In October she was in San Diego with her work and landed in the emergency room. (Another addition to this fall’s roller coaster ride.) It was a scary experience for all of us, but she got great care along with the diagnosis that she needed surgery soon to remove a benign tumor. Whew! She knew it had to be scheduled, and right after the Forum seemed to be the best time. Praise God her surgery went well and she was an excellent patient. By the end of the week I drove her home with me to recover and stay through Thanksgiving.

Mama – My Mama has lived with JB and me for over three years. She was with my brother and sister in law for over two years before coming to our house. How can the sharpest person you’ve ever known lose her memory? I don’t know, but it happened to Mama, and a broken hip and surgery accelerated her condition. Full-time caregivers have been a blessing; in so many ways God has provided for Mama and we thank Him. However, during these busy weeks, we began to see more decline.

November 27 – Thanksgiving – Rob, our soon-to-graduate-from seminary son, was able to come home early for the holiday. This was a bonus and gift; he and Mary Margaret were delighted to have some extra time together. The newlyweds, fresh from their honeymoon, also came home to join us for the holiday. We stayed close to home and cooked together and all took turns visiting with Mama. On Wednesday night my brother and all his family came to our house for dinner. It is hard to get all our crowd together at one time but it happened; another sweet gift. We had our new baby girl in one room and Mama fading in the next room. Thank you God for family.

You won’t believe it but late Wednesday night Rob and JB were still downstairs and Rob had a seizure. That is when I nearly tipped over. This precious son of ours began having seizures ten years ago. For quite a while now he has been seizure-free and he just had his annual check-up with his specialist and all was well. Go figure. Dr. Mama (that’s me) is certain that stress is a factor. Fortunately Rob was not injured.

November 29 – Our Nashville three (MM, Wes, and Taylor) left to go back to their homes and work on Friday. Saturday morning JB took Rob to the airport. Just before JB got back to the house Mama stepped into heaven — with Theo, my brother, and me right by her side – not a coincidence. It was just the way she would have wanted it, one more gift. Thank you God for a life well lived and a legacy that will live on for generations.

Rob called just before boarding his plane and I told him NeNe had just died. He called his professor and arranged to miss his Monday class and came back to the house. Another miracle of God — when he called Delta to change his return flight to Tuesday evening, the charge was $40. That just doesn’t happen, but God once more gave us a gift.

December 2 – Mama’s service on Tuesday was beautiful and personal and inspiring. JB, who loved her like his own mother, and other family members were the ones who shared. It was all about her and the source of her strength and humor and wonderful characteristics – the God she loved and served. Friends and family showed up and surrounded us with love and food and flowers. Late in the day our children once more left for their respective homes.

December 3 – You won’t believe this but Wednesday morning Rob, back in Ft. Worth, called from the ambulance! He had a seizure in the shower and fell out onto the tile floor, hitting on his face. Once more I wanted to fall apart. But, can I tell you again that in the midst of something terrible, God provides? First, I am grateful his roommate was home and heard him fall. Secondly, I did not know this, but his roommate is an EMT. He knew what to do; that is a blessing and gift. Other than bruising and soreness, Rob is okay and meds are being adjusted.

December 12 – Rob’s graduation from Southwestern Seminary with a Masters’ in Divinity. At this writing we are packing our bags to fly to Texas to celebrate Rob’s graduation. We are so proud!

Stopping for a breath — This recount of the past weeks is not exaggerated. Emotionally, mentally and spiritually, we have been swinging from one extreme to another. BUT, God is our anchor, our provider, our protector, and our guide. We have so much to be grateful for and we have survived and will continue to survive the hard things that life brings our way. This is my current mantra, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!”

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