I typically try to blog daily, but between getting ready for my trip to Nevis, being in Nevis and then returning to chaos, I haven’t had time to blog. I apologize to all of you who enjoy my daily musings and thank you for being loyal readers. I will warn you now that this is a wordy post, and it is possible you won’t find it uplifting, but I’ll try to bury some nuggets of wisdom in my thoughts. .
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The week before I left for Nevis, I received horrific news that our dear friend Owen had passed. Owen was not only a friend, but he was also a client. He was that rare breed of mankind who always found the best in people. As a client, he was the “dream client”. He would say do anything you want, I trust you.” I can remember my last face to face conversation with O in the house I designed for him in Chapel Hill. It was the end of the day, and the local historical home tour had just ended. Of course, Owen’s house was part of the tour since it is the oldest house in Chapel Hill. The house was a highlight of the tour because of its historical significance and because of the colorful history. It was built by William Hooper, son of one of only three North Carolinians who signed the Declaration of Indepence. The previous owner to Owen was Kay Kyser, the big band leader from the 50’s and his movie star wife, Georgia Carroll. Owen thanked me for all I had done to make the house and the tour special. We talked about our kids, life and silly things from our past times together. If you were sitting and chatting with Owen, chances were good you were enjoying a glass of Ornellaia
or a Super Tuscan of some varietal. As we sipped wine and talked, our conversation deepened to more serious topics. We talked about God and what matters in life. He gave me advice I plan to pass onto his son and my children when the time is right. Little did I know that would be the last time I would see Owen face to face. I’m happy that I told him that day how much he meant to me. After losing my son, I made a promise to myself to tell the people I love that I love them every chance I get because that opportunity may not happen again.
The week before Owen died, the latest issue of Southern Cottages magazine hit the newsstands. In the magazine was a 12-page feature on the Hooper-Kyser house in Chapel Hill, which is the house I decorated for Owen. I had purchased several of the magazines to send to him but with my busy work schedule had not gotten it done. How I wish he had seen the house in the magazine. He would have been proud. He loved that house as he loved UNC-Chapel Hill, where he graduated top of his class in MBA school. His dream of being a
a bonafide resident in Chapel Hill was complete with the acquisition of the Hooper-Kyser home. One thing was for sure, if Owen wanted something, he didn’t rest until he got it.
The news of Owen’s death stirred so many insecure feelings inside me because it made me realize that I had lost another person I loved and would never see again. His death at such a young age made me think about my immortality. It shook me to my core. I had a talk with a loved one which turned into an adversarial conversation I regret because of my frame of mind. I did two hairbrained things that are in retrospect laughable, but at the time were enough to send most sane people over the edge, but I survived and made it on our trip.
We arrived in Nevis, which was like entering paradise. We were greeted graciously by the staff of The Four Seasons Resort and shown to our beautiful room. The hotel had prepared a lovely plate of macaroons and left a note wishing us a “Happy 20th Anniversary.” It was our anniversary, a time we should celebrate, but the celebration seemed a bit tarnished at the moment. The tangled mess prior to our trip and stress of the week tied a knot in my stomach and made a hole in my heart. I couldn’t go out to dinner, or celebrate. I went to bed early that night and tossed and turned in bed. My husband was a champ. He went to eat alone and later joined me for early lights out.
The next morning, we awoke feeling refreshed and ready to discovered Nevis. I laid in bed and pondered my options. I heard a little voice in my head say “The situation is what it is, and you have to make the best of it.” It was the phrase I had heard Owen say on many occasions.
I knew Owen would want us to enjoy our trip. I decided the best way we could honor Owen was to have a good time and toast him along the way. He was in our constant thoughts. That night at dinner we raised a glass of red wine to O. We toasted his life and the kind of friend he was to all of us. We made a vow to be there for Truman, his son throughout his life, as we knew Truman was Owen’s greatest source of pride. Yes, that would be the way we would honor Owen. It was ironic that O was now in Heaven with Walker, and we were left behind on Earth with Truman. I can only imagine the greeting O got in Heaven by Walker. That meeting brings a smile to my face.
Later in the week, I got a message that my friend, Franklin Mills had unexpectedly passed away. Franklin was my children’s doctor when we lived in Henderson. His wife Janet was a cousin to my college roommate. Janet and I had stayed in touch through the years even though the miles had divided us once I left Henderson. The week before our Nevis trip she wrote me and told me how much she and Franklin had loved Nevis on a medical related trip they had taken there a few years ago. It broke my heart to think of Janet without Franklin. They were “two peas in a pod” as the old saying goes. Janet had written me a few weeks earlier, asking if I would talk to one of Franklin’s patients who had lost a child and was struggling with the loss. I said of course!
Franklin was a kind man, the good listener who took in every word his patient shared. He was a gentle spirit with a sincere twinkle in his eyes. Franklin had a way of making everyone feel special. He will be missed by everyone who loved him so dearly. My heart goes out to Janet and Franklin’s family who loved him so dearly. We didn’t get to Ottley Plantation, which was the place Janet and Franklin enjoyed under the stars in St. Kitts, but I did think of them for the duration of our stay in Nevis. Franklin’s passing made me cherish the time I spent with my husband during our trip even more.
The evening after I got the news of Franklin’s death, I heard from my high school friend, Jeff, who had found his brother same day. He was heart broken. A few months earlier Jeff had lost his precious grandchild. He said, “I don’t know how much a person can endure.” I know the only way to get through grief is on your knees in prayer. I prayed for Jeff and his beloved brother Johnnie and John Robert and his family.
I lost three friends, all males under the age of 65 in less than 2 weeks. Lives had been changed forever! The world was a different place.
The sting of death brings the immediate thought that you can no longer talk to someone and then thoughts that the life long dreams you had for the person will not get fulfilled on Earth. Death brings a “new normal” where you have to retrain your brain that dialing their number isn’t going to allow you to hear your loved one’s voice on the other end of the phone. You can no longer share fun times, you only have memories of the past. It’s as if your life has been “put on hold”. You watch while all those around you continue as if nothing has happened. “It’s been a few weeks, shouldn’t she or he be feeling better?” they say. These people may mean well and feel the loss, but they don’t feel the devastation you feel. I do. I offer the one piece of advice to those who suffer loss…concentrate on those left living, the ones that are gone are gone but there are plenty of loved ones around you who need your love now.
Here we were in paradise, while our friends were mourning. How could we enjoy our time when others were suffering? I prayed about it daily. My prayers went something like this,
“Dear Lord, Please be with my friends as they walk the loneliest road on Earth because I know Lord you are the only one who can comfort them. Wrap your loving arms around their loved ones and give them peace. You are the ultimate one who knows what it is like to lose a precious loved one having given up your one and only son for us. Lord you knowingly gave your son up for us, and for that I am amazed. I gave up my son begrudgingly. How great you are God for your gift of salvation. Be with these families and be with us while we navigate being in this beautiful place yet wishing we were behind to comfort our friends. Help us to enjoy our time here and to honor our friends by living life to the fullest while we can.” Help us to be a comfort upon our return during their times of need for I know the need is unending.
I prayed that prayer every day, and it did help me to enjoy my time in Nevis. We may never have another trip to Nevis, so I wanted to make sure this one was full of good memories.
We returned from our trip rested, revitalized and renewed. The renewal part is where the rubber hits the road. I have made a renewed commitment to living more fully and more intentionally.
This year is my son’s last year of high school. Next year this time, I’ll be preparing to send him to college. I don’t want him to look back and think, “all my mom did was work”. I want to have family dinners, and fun times he will remember and cherish. I want to be present in my loved one’s lives which means, working 8 hour days instead of 11 hr hour days. I will have to unplug and enjoy the time with my family. My older family members aren’t getting any, younger and I want to spend time with them. I want to exercise, eat right and get back into shape. It’s time I return to my former ways of hitting the gym in the morning and getting my diet in tact. I ask you to be patient with me. I’ll blog when I can, but it might not be every day because I’ll be busy juggling work, life, and kids.
We only get one chance to make each day count, and I want to honor each day by being fully present. I want to “stop to smell the roses” and enjoy the little moments that create the great memories we cling to when we no longer have the people we love. I invite you to do the same.
Happy Sunday! Please spend the day with those you love because your presence is more important than presents. You show those you love that you love them by being part of their life and by making the effort to spend time with them.
I was reminded recently, I haven’t worn a wristwatch in 20 years. I have decided I am going to ask for a watch for Christmas. I want to pay attention to time and make every minute count!
I plan to make time to “Stop and Smell The Roses”
This post is dedicated to the families of Owen Mitchell, Franklin Mills, Johnnie Warren and John Robert Warren.