“I hear the train a comin’…”

Recently, I was the Keynote Speaker for a conference in Columbus, GA. (And just for the record, I would go back again in a heartbeat to spend time with those wonderful people!) It was the first time I had ever been to that city, and the conference site was a renovated historical hotel in downtown Columbus. I arrived to find that the hotel was just beautiful! Large, shady trees…old brick…. and ambience that people attempt to duplicate in more modern hotels, but never get quite right. It was “southern” through and through. I checked into my room and began unwinding from the trip. Since I had arrived near dinner time, and it was already dark, I went ahead and ordered room service for the evening. After eating, I reviewed my presentation to make certain there was nothing missing, and that I was fully prepared for the next morning’s event. I then stretched out on the bed for a little relaxation and reading.

As time passed, I changed into my pjs and began the nightly ritual of “trying” to go to sleep. I’m not the best sleeper to begin with, and staying in hotels as often as I do, can cause absolute havoc with my sleep patterns. I am a very light sleeper, so any little noise or light, will bring me fully awake. It was about 10:00 p.m., and as I lay there, I heard a train in the distance – blowing that mournful horn that you hear in the night, as it began its initial approach into the city. As the train got closer to our location, the horn got louder and louder. In fact, the horn never stopped! The engineer apparently starting blowing the horn at the outskirts of the city, and was determined (or required) to blow the horn the entire length of the city! As the train made its way closer to my location, I kept thinking, “My, it sure does sound pretty close!” Within moments the room began vibrating. The horn was so loud I had to cover my ears, and it felt as if the train was going to come through the walls. I looked out my window, and sure enough, there was the train passing by – just across the street from my room!!

Within moments the phone in my room began to ring. Since I very rarely ever get calls from a land line, I picked up the receiver and cautiously said, “hello.” The person on the other end, introduced herself, explaining that she worked the front desk of the hotel. She said, “I’m so sorry to bother you, but are you playing a guitar?” I laughed and responded, “Although I do play a guitar, I did not bring one with me this trip…” I then asked if there was a problem. She indicated that there had been a few calls complaining of someone playing a guitar near (or in) my room. Now, I have to tell you, I was laughing so hard and trying not to insult the young lady, but I was thinking to myself…Guitar??? Did you not just hear that train coming through???? We had a good laugh and she apologized for bothering me. And by the way, that train made another “appearance” at 4:30 a.m. the next morning…

So many times in life people get extremely upset over minor events, while ignoring HUGE occurrences that should be addressed. I’m sure that whoever complained about the guitar playing was very upset about that “inconvenience.” Certainly, they were bothered enough to call the front desk and complain. I just wonder if they mentioned the train while complaining… Personally, I could have tolerated the guitar, but that train! Had I known about it beforehand, this one issue could have been a “deal breaker” for my stay at that particular hotel…ambience or not. But apparently, for that other person, the complainer, the playing of a guitar was the issue. We get so occupied with the “little things,” that we miss the huge, life-changing events that need to be dealt with on a daily basis. I think I will try to NOT sweat the small stuff, and attempt to get a handle on all those “trains” in my life. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

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The last words you will ever hear…

lastwords

As you know, for the last few weeks, I have been attempting to post positive, uplifting, or humorous stories because I felt that we could all use that in today’s current climate. I was on a good run, and then the rug was pulled out from under me once again. My father unexpectedly passed away! Yes, he was 91. Yes, he had lived a long, wonderful life. Yes, he was ready to go. But I had just talked with him on the phone, and he was feeling great…

I got the call late Tuesday evening from my brother and sister, telling me that Daddy had passed out, was unresponsive, and they were taking him to the emergency room. Once he got to the hospital, he was in a lot of pain, and having great difficulty breathing. After a few tests, they “thought” he might have had a mild heart attack, was in the beginning stages of pneumonia, and had a horrible UTI. The decision was made to transfer him from our little local hometown hospital to a larger hospital in a nearby town. Once there, he was stabilized, and my brother reported that he was resting better.

Since I live in another state, I was trying to get to the hospital as quickly as I could. I did not make it in time!! I did not get to see him or tell him good-bye!! I was devastated that I did not get to tell him how much he meant to me, or that I loved him beyond reason. But then, I thought about our last conversation on the phone the week before. The last words he ever heard from me were, “I love you Daddy!” And the last words I ever heard from him were, “I love you baby!” He knew that I loved him, with every fiber of my being, and I knew that he loved me. We had spent a lifetime sharing and showing that love to each other.

I have always lived with the knowledge and the belief, that when you leave someone, it may well be the very last time you see them. None of us are really guaranteed one more moment of life than we have. As a result of that knowledge, I have always made certain that my last words to anyone are of full of love and caring. I have shocked some people by ending phone conversations, email messages, and direct dialogue with “love you,” or “you matter to me.” It seems to take them off guard. Some don’t know how to respond. Others respond immediately with similar affection. My message is clear: I ALWAYS want those in my heart to know how important they are to me, and to know that they are loved – fully and completely.

This whole experience made me start thinking about the words we use with others, and what will be remembered when we are gone. Are you careful in what you say to others? Think about your last words to those you love…Were they spoken in anger? Hurtful? Cruel? Lies? Or were the words spoken in love, supportive, meant to inspire, lift up, or motivate? You never know when any of the words that come out of your mouth will actually be the very last words that someone will hear.

When they explained to my Daddy that there was nothing they could do for him, that there were no options, his response was, “Praise God! Thank you Jesus!” Those were his last words before he simply stopped breathing in his sleep. I think that says everything you need to know about the kind of man he was. What will your last words be? And will people remember them? Will they be happy or terribly sad with that memory? Maybe we need to give a little more attention to what we say…and who is listening. I think I will try to be even more like my Daddy…Won’t you join me? Just for this week….