Written by Debbie Whitlow
I have believed for most of my adult life that God speaks to us in many different ways. Sometimes, for me, it has been like a very subtle “something” nudging me in a certain direction, and at other times, it has been a much stronger sense of communication. I know that God has spoken to me through other people as well. I wish to share a very personal story, a time when it was apparent to me that God was speaking.
On Friday, August 21, 2009, my husband, John, and I had the daunting task of driving my stepfather, Mac McAllister, to the University of Virginia to see Mom, who was struggling with an unknown health issue. Dad was struggling with his own health issues and Parkinson’s, and it was unrealistic to be in Charlottesville the entire time due to his mobility problems. I had a bad cold myself, and didn’t want to give it to Mom, so I had returned home after taking her there for tests a few days earlier. My brother, Mike, had come to the rescue by driving from Atlanta and getting a room, so that he could be with Mom on a daily basis. On the night before this trip, Mike had called to inform us that Mom had had some sort of horrible respiratory attack, and from his panicked voice, I could tell the situation was dire, thus the trek to Charlottesville first thing Friday morning.
When we arrived at the hospital, Mike met us in tears, and told us that Mom was on a breathing machine, and that she was struggling. He prepared us as to what to expect when we saw her. She had indicated to him that she knew she was dying. We all cried, then gathered our emotions and headed to her room. Although Mom was covered in medical devices, I still thought she looked her beautiful self. She was the most wonderful mother a child could imagine. As most of you know, Mom and I had a very special relationship. We had the blessing of being best friends, as well as mother and daughter. The day was exhausting, filled with questions and very few answers. The doctors could not figure out what was causing Mom’s issues. At one point, late in the day, she was taken to the operating room for a procedure, and when she returned, she was still under the anesthesia. We decided to head back to Martinsville, as Dad was worn out, and I was feeling badly from my cold. Mike was staying, until I could come back on Sunday. He promised to call, if there was any change. Dad said that he wanted to say goodbye to Mom, even though she was out of it. I wheeled his chair up to the side of her bed. He stood up and gently reached for her hand. He said, “Goodbye, Sweet Pea, I love you”. I tried not to let Dad see my face.
On the way home, Dad sat in the front seat with John, and I sat in the back. I fought my emotions all the way from Charlottesville to Lynchburg, tears streaming down my face, but I didn’t want to upset Dad, so I tried very hard not to sob out loud. I could not get that picture of him holding her hand out of my mind. I had never been more distraught in my entire life, wondering if he had just said goodbye for the last time; wondering if I was about to lose my mother and best friend. I was overwhelmed with the most fear I had ever experienced in my life, and I truly felt that I was going to explode. This feeling, these thoughts, it was simply unbearable, and just when I thought I might lose my sanity, I happened to glance out the window.
Just to the east of us was the smallest cluster of dark clouds that must have just passed by minutes before. There was hardly any moisture on the road, and it had been a sunny trip both up and back, but there it was…the most beautiful double rainbow I had ever seen! I knew immediately it was meant for me. God might as well have shouted down to me, “I am with you all, child, as I have always promised.” In that moment, I experienced the most overwhelming feeling of just total peace. I could feel it up and down my spine. I suddenly knew that everything was going to be okay, that God was in control, and that He was with Mom. The relief was both instant and satisfying. I thanked Him for this blessing. I share this because we all face death and adversity, and it is so difficult to see the blessing through the tears. Our humanness can be so blinding, sometimes.
The days to follow were very difficult, but I felt God’s arms around me the entire time. Mom departed this earth on August 25. Oddly, the last gift that I ever opened from her was a Hallmark Christmas ornament of an angel. I remember her saying that she had no idea why she had purchased it, but that she just had! It sits on my piano in front of her picture.
Written by John LeRoy
In Christmas 2009, Jackie and I returned to Pennsylvania to visit with our extended family and lifelong friends. We feasted for four days, with seemingly no end to the abundance of food, when the subject changed from feast to famine. We seniors began reminiscing as to what life was like when we were kids . . .
Early in childhood, we were so hungry that we picked and ate flowers. We regularly collected violets, dandelion blossoms and leaves, clover blossoms, pokeweed, and flowers of the squash family --- to be used as a filler in a batter made up of eggs, flour, salt, pepper and diluted evaporated milk, and cooked and served like pancakes. Now we eat flowers to not forget hunger.
In the Spring of 2010, Jackie and I shared a dinner table with Bill and Virginia Manson. Our dish was garnished with an orchid, which I, as usual, picked up and ate. Virginia looked at me as if I had just gotten off a UFO. I asked if she had ever gone hungry in her life time. Her answer was that they always had plenty of food. Well, I said if you were hungry enough, you too would have eaten flowers.
That’s how it was when we were young.
It was 1929, and my dad used to walk into steel mills looking for work. The mills were closed, but sometimes they hired day help for maintenance. I remember a night when Dad cried himself to sleep from hunger. It was then, when I was six years old and my brother, Bud, was 3-1/2 years old, that we went looking for a job. We found one mowing Katie Greenham’s lawn for 5 cents a week. We took that first nickel home and tried to split it with a hatchet. All to no avail – every time we hit the nickel with the hatchet, it flew off. Mother came to door to see what we were doing. We told her that we had gotten a job and were trying to split the nickel. She said that any money earned must be spent on food, so brother Bud purchased a can of evaporated milk to be diluted and poured over bread crusts saved for us by our neighbor. This affluent neighbor saved bread crusts for Brother Bud and me. I know now that she did this so we would have something to eat, but at the time, she gave us the bread crusts under the pretext that they would curl our flaming red hair and make our freckles disappear.
I (John) was the older boy, so I was the negotiator. I would go to the store and bargain for a soup bone, an old dried-up carrot, onion and piece of potato, and I would make a broth to pour over the bread crusts.
One day, a hobo came to our door looking for work. My mother had him spade a garden plot and cut wood. While he worked, mother gave him some of Dad’s clothes to wear while she washed and mended his clothes. Brother Bud and I picked daisies, spread a towel on the porch and decorated our “table” with a jar to hold the daisies and, of course, a Bible, because Mother was a deeply religious woman. She brought out my broth, and I threw a tantrum because the hobo was getting our food. She took me by the ear back into the house and wailed me with a katynine tail until she had my undivided attention. The hobo ate; when he was ready to leave, Mother gave him a bag with the remaining bread crusts, a spoon and a small jar of jelly. He went on his way.
Within a few days, my Dad had made his usual trek into the steel mills looking for work. While en route home, a runaway truck caused Dad to jump into a ditch for safety. He flushed out a ringneck pheasant, which flew into the side of the truck and fell dead at Dad’s feet. Needless to say, we feasted on bread crust-stuffed pheasant. As we sat down to eat, Mother reminded us of her saying that the Lord would take care of us.
When we were boys, we were curious about an inscription carved in a sandstone boulder in our front yard. In our retirement years in the 1990’s, Jackie and I attended the Hobo’s national convention held annually in Britt, Iowa. They told stories of how they were helped in their travels. They had several inscriptions available for viewing – it was then that I realized that the carving in our yard was an open hand, a signal to hobos that the residents would help a traveler.
In Ralph Lester’s book titled The Magnet, he notes the fact that there were more self-made millionaires in Martinsville than any other city in the US. The money is here – it is time for us to loosen up and help the poor.