An email arrived in the middle of the night back in August. Its message was to tell me that my precious friend Randy Parks, one of the dearest friends of my life, was back in the hospital with congestive heart failure.
“I’ll be down on Saturday and spend the day with her,” I replied to her daughter, Edna. The next morning was Friday. Besides morning revival service, we had many things to do since we had just returned from a week out of town with an ill family member. However, as we listened to the sermon that morning, something jerked me by the shoulders and said, “Don’t wait until tomorrow. Go now.”
The nudging was so strong that I would have walked out then except we were sitting on the front row. As soon as the altar call was made and the benediction said, I turned to Tink. “We have to go to the hospital NOW.”
When I walked into Randy’s room, she was sitting up in bed, her light coral colored lipstick perfectly placed, her smile as bright as ever and her eyes twinkling with the continuous joy that always lighted her pale bluish green eyes. She was chatting with her husband, Ed, and a friend. I stopped and did a dramatic retake. She looked terrific.
“Well, something told me that I should come right down to see you but that ‘something’ must be wrong because you’re doing great!” I hugged her.
“It’s so good to see you,” she squealed. “Sit down.”
Three hours later, things were dramatically different. Hospice arrived and prepared to move her to another floor. There were several of us there, those who loved her so deeply. She called each one of us in, one by one, to say her good-byes. She was keenly alert, sensible and this woman, the most sentimental I have ever known, was calm and soothingly unemotional. I sat down beside her, my face wet with an hour’s worth of tears. She took my hands in both of hers.
“Oh Ronda, I want you to know how much I love you and have always loved you. You have been so good to me for all the years I’ve known you.” She said other things then asked for a promise which I gave and I take seriously. In two hours, she had slipped into a sleep that would lead her into everlasting life the following day.
As Thanksgiving comes this year, I am most thankful for that last few hours and for hearing her words of love. It bandages the pain a bit. To her family and me, she bequeathed Ed and his care. “Promise me,” she said, looking steadily into my eyes, “that you will see after Ed and love on him a lot.” Faithfully abiding to that promise helps the hurt, too. We love Ed.
There are two other people that Tink and I love deeply so Thanksgiving makes us ponder on them and pray with gratitude for them. Roy and Ann Hodnett of St. Simons Island — we call them “Pop” and “Mom” — have touched the Tinkers profoundly by the way they love us, teach us and show us the importance of loving others while paying forward our blessings.
“You can’t out-give God,” Daddy used to say. Well, you can’t out-give Roy Hodnett, either. And, you can’t “out-love” Miss Ann.
When we married, the Hodnetts were among a handful who celebrated at dinner with us that night. Pop offered a toast and a piece of advice.
“When we got married, I told Ann that she could make all the small decisions and I’d make all the big ones.” He paused, smiled and his eyes twinkled. “In 70 years of marriage, there has never been a big decision yet so she’s made all of them.”
To the Hodnetts and the Parks, we are thankful for God’s tremendous gift of y’all in our lives.
Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “There’s A Better Day A-Comin’.”