“We Love You Guys” But . . .

My husband, John, was a master with people. His philosophy about people was “it doesn’t matter if they drive the truck or pick up the cans.” He motivated others by making them feel extraordinary thereby bringing out their best. He sincerely cared for others and had a giving spirit.

I especially enjoyed watching him “work his magic” with service people, people who would fill a need we had, people we would only meet one or two times. One important lesson that I learned from John is that “people love to hear their name.” No matter who crossed our path, he greeted each person asking their names. Whether it was a crew to help us move, paint our house, pave our patio, maintain our yard, he knew them by name. He always provided a cooler of water and Gatorade for the workers. For the guys who moved us to FL, we bought lunchmeat, bread and chips for a “take-out lunch” before they left. He never failed to thank them by name when they were done.

Two weeks ago, construction started on our dream home with an opportunity for me to put John’s lessons into action. On the first day, I drove out to meet the crew and watch the process of building a log cabin. I met Glen, the crew chief and head carpenter. When they took a much-needed break, I met the other three: Charlie, Ray and Roger. They are definitely a “motley crew”, and my initial thoughts were “I hope they don’t cut off an arm or leg or get stuck under a pile of logs!”

Throughout the afternoon, I sat on their trailer and observed. I couldn’t tell if they were amused or intimidated with my presence. They took breaks for Mountain Dew and water, but they never ate a bite. Around 4:00 p.m., they started cleaning up and packing their tools for the 2-hr drive home. Before they left, I asked, “don’t you guys eat lunch?” Glen said, “we grab breakfast at McDonald’s; we don’t have time for lunch.” Charlie could see the surprise on my face and said, “she doesn’t believe him!” Ray and Roger just smiled and kept packing up.

I walked to the car and grabbed some cash. I handed it to Glen and said “have breakfast tomorrow on me.” He shook his head and said, “no ma’am, that’s ok”, but I was insistent. All of them thanked me, and they drove off.

The next day, I grabbed four Cuban sandwiches from the Publix deli. When I got to the property, Charlie, Ray and a new guy were taking a break. I handed them the bag and said, “I brought you lunch.” They looked surprised but gladly ate the sandwiches. I watched the slow manual progress of stacking logs for the detached garage. When the new guy walked to the trailer, I introduced myself. He shook my hand and said, “I’m Jason, Glen’s son-in-law.”

Again, around 4:00 p.m., they packed up and headed home. I told Glen that I wouldn’t make it Thursday but would be back on Friday. Charlie thanked me again for lunch, and said “you’re the best.” It felt good to hear “thank you”, like I was appreciated. I drove home fighting back tears.

On Friday, I grabbed chicken tenders and a 12-pk of Mountain Dew. Luckily, I arrived before 2:00 p.m. because I learned something new. On Fridays, they leave earlier to give them time to stop by the shop office. The blue-collar construction world is new to me. It’s very humbling to watch these guys work in the hot sun, hauling logs with sweaty hands for an hourly wage. They left early so they could get paid.

Week two, a rainy Monday postponed construction. On Tuesday afternoon, I showed up with Mountain Dew and water. Now, there were six guys on the crew to build the house: Glen, Charlie, Ray, Roger, Jason and Glen’s son, Kyle. I was glad I didn’t bring food because I would have been two short!

But over the weekend, I had a brainstorm. I could achieve two important needs: clean out the freezer and pantry and provide lunch a couple of days a week. On Wednesday, I showed up with BBQ crockpot pork sandwiches. When they took a break, they couldn’t help but peek into the bag. They eagerly grabbed a sandwich as I walked around taking pictures of the work-in-progress. When I returned, one of the guys called out, “hey, you can cook for me any time you want!” I said, “I want to make sure our cabin is built right.” They were all smiling and said the sandwiches were fantastic. They went back to work, and I sat on the trailer fighting back more tears.

By Thursday, they had grown accustomed to my daily visits. They also know I’m the General Contractor and have figured out I ask a lot of questions. (John’s nickname for me was “Perry Mason” because of my never-ending barrage of questions.) And, they reluctantly try my suggestions for process improvement. Glen found out quickly that I can read a house-plan and will point out anything that doesn’t look right.

Snack crackers on Thursday and more sandwiches on Friday. Charlie, Jason, Ray and Kyle were taking a break together. Jason, was the first to peek into the bag, and say “what do we have today?” Charlie said, “you’re the best; you know how to motivate us through our stomachs.” After a couple of bites, Ray asked, “are these home-made?” to which I replied, “yes”. He smiled and said, “I can tell because they are made with love.” And then Jason said the most profound thing: “You know, the lady from the last job told us every day ‘we love you guys’.” And then came the BUT . . . “But she never once gave us something to drink let alone feed us. You bring us drinks and feed us. You wouldn’t believe how most people treat us.”

The guys worked until around 2:30 p.m. and packed up. I turned away to take more photos, and I heard Charlie say, “see you Monday.” I waved as they drove off wiping away tears.

They say “actions speak louder than words”. Greeting the crew by their names . . . providing water, Mountain Dew, and homemade sandwiches don’t seem like big “actions”. But to these guys, who typically aren’t recognized, let alone appreciated, they bring a smile to their faces and maybe a small bright spot for the day. For me, they give me a feeling of purpose, if only for a day.

I’m honored to share a couple of John’s simple but positively impactful life-lessons. I hope you will do the same . . . take a moment to speak someone’s name, share a drink or meal, put a smile on someone’s face.

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Circle of Friends

Back in February, I met a lady in the hospital. She and I shared a common fear – our husbands were in ICU not knowing what the next hour would bring let alone the next day. We were the only two who spent uncountable hours in the ICU waiting room. We were both afraid to leave but too tired to stay.

One day we spoke to each other. We shared our situations. We shared tears, and we shared prayer. We shared our greatest fears with each other – life without our husbands. We prayed fervent prayers to God for divine healing.

Fast forward six months . . . something told me to reach out to Lourdes three weeks ago. It was a strong feeling in my spirit. Lourdes lost Roger in February; he never left ICU. I was devastated for her, and I cried for her. I prayed for her not really knowing what she needed, not really knowing what she was feeling, not really knowing her loneliness.

Until now . . . now I know how she feels. Now I understand the depths of her pain, hurt, loneliness, heartbreak, gut-wrenching sick-to-your-stomach feeling . . . the indescribable hole you feel in your heart. Lourdes was the first person to reach out and ask to sit with me, cry with me, pray with me, experience the same pain with me, asking for nothing in return.

With experiences such as this, you find out who genuinely cares and doesn’t just say the words and phrases that are “a propos”. You find out who stands with you when you can’t find the words to describe how you feel, you can’t itemize what you need, you can’t stop the tears long enough to say hello, you can’t remember who is in the same room with you, you can’t remember if you’ve eaten today.

You find out who is willing to just sit with you while you cry, while you grieve.

You find out who will text you just to let you know they are thinking about you.

You find out who is willing to hold your hand, put an arm around your shoulder and sit in the same room and say nothing.

You find out who is willing to hear what they don’t want to hear.

You find out who is willing to understand that you can’t flip a switch and feel better.

You find out who is willing to provide their company and time vs. suggesting you need professional help.

You find out who is willing to be uncomfortable to provide just a little bit of comfort.

You find out who is willing to be there for the long haul, because it’s a long journey.

You find out that your circle of friends becomes very, very small.

I’m thankful for my very small circle of friends.

Love Letter from Heaven

To the love of my life,

I want you to know that it is beautiful here, and Jesus is even more magnificent that we ever imagined. The King of Kings welcomed me with open arms. He and I are holding you even though you cannot feel it physically. Let Him take your sorrow and pain; cast your cares on Him.

Always remember like I told you last week, I am blessed, we are blessed . . . We are blessed. Repeat those words over and over when you feel like you do right now. While you can’t hear me speak to you, you have my words all around you. Read them so you know how much I truly love you. Yes, I say love, in the present tense, because I will always love you. Don’t ever doubt that.

You’re like the lovely little lovebird that was in the cabin in Nancy’s Secret Garden on the day we married. She, too, lost her mate, and Nancy told us that she quit singing. I know you’re not singing any more . . .but you can write. We said we would write our story together. You have my written words in poetry. Now you need to fill in with your words as only you can write.

Share our Bea-utiful love story. Tell everyone how every day, hour, minute, second is precious and will never come around again. Bea my Bea . . . Bea Beautiful . . . Bea Positive.

I love you,

Your JB

“Go Ahead, Make My Day”

Trish cleaned our room around 4:30 p.m. each afternoon. The first couple of times, she was pleasant, said hello and went about her cleaning, not a lot of conversation. Very meticulous, you could tell she takes pride in cleaning the room, bathroom and disinfecting all surfaces. After all, a sanitized environment is critical to the patient’s health and recovery. She spent about 15-20 minutes and then left to take care of the next room.

After a few days, John struck up a conversation with Trish. One of the many qualities that appealed to me was John’s desire to know a person, no matter what their responsibility may be. She takes her responsibility seriously but is a lovely, caring lady. Trish’s husband adores her, much like John adores me! She likes to do yoga on her days off to recharge and meditate. She takes an annual gambling trip with the girls which just so happened during his second week. If it was up to Trish, she’d have all of the floors stripped and waxed! Another example of her high expectation for cleanliness, patient comfort and satisfaction.

Within a couple of weeks as John’s hair thinned, she mentioned how he resembled Clint Eastwood especially when he furrows his brow, looking very serious. She’d say “make my day”, which would make John smile. Such a simple thing, but so delightful – something he anticipated to brighten his day. Needless to say, John’s nickname on the floor became “Clint”!  Each evening before she left, she would blow a kiss and say she would pray for us.

Over the next five months, John would leave and return three times. On each arrival, Trish was one of the first people we saw when we walked onto the 4th floor. Despite the circumstances, it was comforting to see her smile and hear her say, “there’s my cutie-pies”!

So, back again for a third and last time. Trish was the first person we saw as we walked onto the 4th floor. Her face lit up when she saw “Clint” and let us know she had cleaned the room prior to his check-in. Before clocking out, she made a point to say good night, and she would pray for us.

Tuesday, I stepped out of John’s room for a phone call to discuss the next step in his journey to healing. The reality of this finale is overwhelming, stirring up suppressed emotions while producing new ones. I took refuge in the handicap stall in the public restroom. I hadn’t been there more than a couple of minutes when I heard Trish call out, “Mrs. Boxx, are you in here?” I had lost track of time, and John’s procedure was just minutes away. Trish made sure to find me before he was transported away.

I can count the number of hours we’ve known Trish, but she’s as dear as my friends I’ve known for 30+ years. Trish didn’t have to befriend us.  Trish didn’t have to pray for us. Trish didn’t have to come find me because she had her own job to complete. Trish didn’t have to hug me to comfort me. Trish didn’t have to help wipe away my tears as her own eyes welled up. But in the famous words of Dirty Harry, “go ahead, make my day” is what Trish does daily.

Bea Positive and take time to make someone’s day!

Will You Be My Warrior?

It was mid-afternoon, sunny and breezy, a very nice May day. I sat on the metal bench waiting for the valet to fetch my car out of the parking garage. Since I like to people-watch, I sat, eyes behind my sunglasses, and watched. Some people dropped off their cars to be parked. Others, like me, waited for their cars to be retrieved from the garage.

The striped red-black-white dress caught my eye, something that I would wear. The lady in the dress was an attractive tall, model-thin lady, and wore nice black-heeled sandals to match the dress. She held the tell-tale large brown envelope with x-rays. Beside her was her daughter, who looked to be 11-12 years old and was almost as tall as her mother and just as pretty! Another lady, who looked like her sister, also stood beside her as they waited for their car.

While the lady’s dress caught my eye, her lovely English accent caught my ear. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but they stood close enough that I could hear their conversation. She said, “you know, there are angels around us everywhere we go.” Through my sunglasses, I saw the tears rolling down the young girl’s face. This lovely lady, like all patients in this hospital, is here because this is the best chance to beat cancer.

I heard the young girl say “I’m so scared” as she sobbed. Her mother held her close and wiped her tears. She said, “It’s only four months, and it’s going to be alright.” Then she turned to her sister, touched her forearm, and asked, “will you be my warrior?” Her sister nodded yes. She turned back to her daughter and held her face in her hands and asked, “will you be my warrior? I need you to be strong for me.”

My car showed up as my own tears rolled down my face. The question haunted me for quite a while. To me, a warrior is someone who shows great vigor, courage, aggressiveness. There isn’t a cancer patient in this hospital who isn’t a warrior; they are fighting every day with courage and perseverance to endure tests, x-rays, treatment, biopsies, waiting, hoping. So why did this lady ask her daughter and sister to be a warrior? Can a loved one, friend, family member be a warrior, too?

Well, yes, because in any battle, there are “non-combat” warriors – advocates, guardians, supporters. These people provide strength, encouragement and care for the battle-worn . . . As I reflected, I realized our personal warriors . . .

  • Mow the grass, edge the sidewalks every week without being asked
  • Pick up the mail and watch the house
  • Show up on Saturday to clean out the refrigerator and kitchen
  • Bring a delicious chicken potpie and fresh fruit tart, just because you don’t have time to cook
  • Give you an “Angel of Prayer” to sit by your bedside
  • Provide company while I wait during the biopsy procedure
  • Bring “care packages” of fruit, snacks, hand-sanitizer, books, magazines
  • Spend Saturday mornings pulling weeds, trimming hedges, fertilizing the yard
  • Pray, have faith when we are weak

So, how will you respond if asked “will you be my warrior?”

“Will you be my warrior?  I need you to be strong and bea positive…”

My Name Is Juanita

In hospital waiting rooms, you do just that – wait. It can feel like an eternity. When a loved one is in ICU, you don’t want to leave for fear something might happen. God forbid something really dire happens, and you’re not there. You know that your body needs rest, but you can’t take a chance of missing a doctor or nurse who might have an updated status.

Lourdes never left the hospital while her husband was in ICU. In one corner of the ICU waiting room, she had taken up “residence” so that she could be close to her husband. There were several Publix shopping bags full of food, bottled water, travel bag and lots of coffee cups. A pillow and blanket was folded neatly on one of the sofas when she wasn’t using them.

Every evening a large group of family and friends came by. Kids under 12 aren’t allowed to visit patients, so the two that came romped around the waiting room while the adults took turns visiting their father/brother/friend. Cartoon Network blared on TV with no one really watching. For several hours, the waiting room was pretty chaotic, Fresh clothing, hot meals and more coffee were brought in for Lourdes. More importantly, love and support surrounded her.

One morning, it was fairly quiet and Lourdes had one visitor. They sat in the corner quietly, speaking Spanish to each other. On the other end of the waiting room in a corner, was another lady. She sat alone and every now and then looked at her phone and typed a few messages. In the chair next to her, she had a box of hospital-grade tissues, definitely not the soft branded-kind! She received a phone call.  As she talked on the phone, she wiped away tears with the tissues and piled up the used ones next to the tissue box.

After a few moments, Lourdes’s friend walked across the room to this lone lady. She spoke softly and placed her hand on the lady’s arm and said, “I saw you sitting alone, and saw you crying while on the phone. I don’t know you or your situation, but I know you are hurting. My name is Juanita, and sometimes people just need a hug. I just came over to give you a hug.”

I never saw Juanita again, but she made a lasting impression on me. Now, when I see someone alone, and especially obviously hurting, I just speak a few words. Sometimes it seems appropriate to touch them softly on the arm or give them a squeeze to one of their hands. The power of human touch and a few kind words don’t seem like much, do they, until you’re the one who needs it.

All I remember is her saying to me, “my name is Juanita, and I came to give you a hug.”  It was just what I needed that morning.

An Angel Named “Angel”

Friday afternoon, and we were trying to get our errands completed in order to avoid the back-to-school weekend shoppers. We completed our first errand and decided to grab a late lunch. Back in our old Trailblazer, I started the engine and shifted into Reverse. The gear shifter moved but wouldn’t Reverse. As a matter of fact, it wouldn’t connect with any gear.
John tried and same result.  Slightly panic-stricken and frustrated, I started to cry. Stuck in Tampa, car un-driveable, hungry, and I wasn’t going to make my 4:00 appointment. John went back into the building, and asked to use their phone. In addition to the “dead car”, his cell phone died, too. Thankfully, we have AAA, and they sent a tow truck to take the Trailblazer to the “auto hospital”.
I collected my emotions, used my cell phone and called Enterprise rental car.  You know, “Pick Enterprise. We’ll pick you up.”  Within 30 minutes, I was picked up, driven to Enterprise, rented a car and headed back to meet John. As I pulled into the parking lot, I saw the tow truck leaving empty. Then John drove up next to me, and said “let’s go eat!”
We got to Mott & Hester Deli, ordered, and sat at a window-side table. That’s when John told me, “I’ve got a Bea Positive story for you.” Do you know the Bible verse about how God will give you double blessings for your trouble? Well, please read on.

The tow truck pulled up, and the driver asked John what was wrong. John told him about gear shifter sliding back and forth without engaging in a gear. The driver asked if he could take a look. He got in the car, tried the gear shifter, turned it off and crawled under the car. He was under the car for a minute or so, then crawled out from under saying “I’m getting too old for this.” He put the Trailblazer in gear and pulled it up to the tow truck.

John watched, and he assumed he was getting ready to load the car and tow away. The driver pulled the front wheels onto the bed of the tow truck, and used a chain and trailer to lift our car. Once the car was a few feet off the ground, he got back under worked a few more minutes. He got a screw driver out of the cab of his truck and what looked like a tube of super glue.

He looked at John and said, “I might be able to save you a couple hundred dollars” and got back under the car. He worked a few more minutes, crawled out and said, “we need to let it dry”. After a few minutes of chit-chat, the driver said, let me check it out. He crawled back under our car, came out, and said “I think you’re good to go.”
He lowered the Trailblazer off the tow truck, unhooked the chain, and backed it away from the truck. He told John, “there you go. Have a nice day.” There was no paperwork to sign. Very appreciative, John handed him a nice tip and that’s when he saw the driver’s name on his shirt:  A – N – G – E – L.

Talk about being blessed by an angel . . . this time by a tow truck driver named Angel.

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