What would you do if you knew that your friend was going to pass away an hour after you were just holding his hand? Would you say more? Do more? These were the questions running through my mind, when I got the call that my friend Bill had crossed over.
Bill had been in ICU you for over a week. I kept trying and trying to go see him, and between him having a bad day and me having a bad day, (the later nowhere near comparable to the first) the schedule just didn’t line up.
But yesterday morning when I woke I felt the pull or the push.
I felt the push. Today’s the day to go see Bill.
We weren’t the best of friends, but we worked together for as long as I’ve been in Nashville and most recently on the Pickler and Ben show. I saw him almost every day. We sometimes sat next to each other in the morning production meeting. And we often stood together at the craft service table, always joking about the unlimited supply of sugar, as he encouraged me not to indulge.
Bill was a television icon in Nashville, and one of the best Stage Managers in the business. I can’t remember who, but someone said once, “Bill Turner is such a great stage manager that not only will he be able to tell you when the wheels are about to fall off the train, he can tell you when that train leaves the station.” He was always ten steps ahead of everyone and had an eye for spotting and fixing the problems. But mostly he took care of people. He’s stood by and guided more “A” list celebrities than you can count, keeping them calm and relaxed and informed before the red light went on. And when the said wheels did in fact fall off, (as they often do in TV) everyone could and would be rattled, except for Bill. Hands down, Bill was always the most solid person on the set.
I knew I wanted to take him something when I went to visit, but what? A balloon? A card? Chocolate? These were all things that I of course would want if I was in the hospital, especially the chocolate, but what would Bill want? I walked through the store searching, thinking about the countless hours we spent hanging out in the wings, Bill sometimes holding a paper cup filled with coffee.
The bottom half was rough, with a raw pottery finish, and the top half was smooth and soft gray in color. It had a strong thick handle with a special divot carved out for your thumb.
When I arrived at his room, holding a black and white gift bag overflowing with purple tissue paper, his sister met me at the door. “He’s not doing well. He took a turn last night, and he’s probably going to die today.” Wait. What? Die? Today? I just read on Facebook that physical therapy had him up and walking yesterday.
She continued, “You can go in and talk with him, but he probably won’t respond.”
As I entered his room I thought, “I am not prepared for this moment.” I have had the privilege of being with a couple people when the veil between this life and the next gets thin, and I am always humbled and scared shitless and not prepared. I hadn’t eaten lunch yet. Surely sitting with someone at such a precious time requires a full belly and someone more spiritual than me with tons of faith. But the writer Anne Lamott says,
I placed the gift bag next to a stack of cards. A bright yellow smiley face balloon waved in the air above. Monitors beeped and blinked. I held his hand. In the silence, I relived our many conversations through the years, Bill out on the stage and me in a control room or TV truck, “Hey Lynn, you in there?” “Yep, I’m here, what do you need?” He’d continue, “Hey listen, I’m thinking that…” which meant, you or someone in the control room should listen carefully to what I’m about to say, because the wheels are about to fall off. I held his hand a little tighter. His breathing was deep and loud, but I could tell that he was at peace. I tried to get him to respond, and when he didn’t, I started rambling. I told him how many people were praying for him and believing in his return to the studio for season two of Pickler & Ben. I told him that his friend Mike was really missing him and that he needed to get back to work to keep us all in line.
I talked about all the cards in his room – and the obvious lack of chocolate – but I promised to fix that the next time I came to visit. And before I knew it, faith and peace filled both me and the room.
An hour later I got the call. I was with a friend I hadn’t see in a while when the news came, and I loved her more deeply in that moment.
On my way to pick up my son James (who has special needs) from school, I cried. I will miss Bill. I will miss his presence on the set for the rest of my life. This is the sucky part about death.
James is way more aware and in tune than I could ever hope to be, so my sadness wasn’t lost on him. I wanted to sit in silence as we drove and mourn my loss.
James wanted to have a polka dance party in the car, and so we did. For Bill.
I’m am so grateful that I got to see my friend one more time before he left. And I’m grateful for the potter who hand-crafted the coffee mug. I don’t know where it will end up – maybe his sister or one of his beautiful daughters will use it and know that his work community of friends loved him beyond words.
And as Bill said too many times to count in his career…
When James was eight-years-old, I sat on the bathroom floor with three highly trained ABA therapists. Clad in trash bags that read, “Team James”, and surrounded by colorful gadgets and M&M’s and anything that might motivate him, I watched and cried as they worked to get James Potty-trained.
And thankfully – it worked! But that weekend wasn’t free nor cheap. It cost us about $1,500. But, gratefully, it was covered by a grant from the financial assistance arm of The Grammy’s – MusiCares. (MusiCares also provided resources for James to receive speech therapy as well as dental sedation in order to get his teeth cleaned. And, a donation from another foundation, The Fiona Rose Murphy Charitable Trust, provided James with the now “infamous” IPad within days of his breaking.)
Which is why, Because of James, A Foundation Providing Support for Special Needs Families, now exists. And this Saturday night is our very first event to raise awareness and funds!
The Old School Farm, just ten minutes outside of Nashville, as offered to have all the proceeds from their Fall Festival benefit The Because of James Foundation. If you haven’t heard about this place yet, it’s awesome. It’s a farm to table restaurant and music venue and they employ special needs adults to work on the farm. How cool is that?
I hope you will join us on Saturday. It’s supposed to be a beautiful day in Tennessee. From 5-7pm there will be lots of activities for the kids, pumpkin carvings etc., and then LynnMarie & The Nashville Polka Guys play from 7-10pm! (The 5-7pm festivities are free, but the suggested donation for the music part of the evening is $10, but not mandatory.) Your presence will be the most important part.
And because of their example, I hope James and I can change the lives of many more.
Come celebrate with us!
Over the weekend I was listening to one of my favorite audio books, “What to Remember When Waking, The Disciplines of an everyday Life” by David Whyte. He tells this great story about a time he held his daughter in his arms. And in the moonlight, he watched her little palm open and close, as sometimes children’s palms do when they are falling asleep, and he noticed the lines in her hand.
And that as well as he knew her in that moment, people in her future world might know her better than he ever did.
I feel the same way about James. I know as much as I can possibly know about him right now. What he likes to eat, how he sleeps, and what brings him joy. But the reality is, I will not be in his life forever. And I have to trust that the people who are with him when I’m gone, the friends he will have when he is forty or fifty, may know him better than I do.
And I am aware that I am not alone in this fear, and that all parents with children probably feel the same way. But because James will likely not be able to care for himself completely, these future unknown life-helpers are on my mind and heart all the time.
We swam at a friend’s pool on Sunday. And watching James jump in the water never gets old. And that is the only way I stay away from the darkness. By knowing that in his future there will be a pool. And the ability to jump. Resulting in joy. This keeps me present and mostly away from sugar.
After I took this video, we snuggled on the patio furniture. He ate his pretzels and I stared at his palm. I ran my finger up and down his Palmar Crease.
And I prayed that they will always take him to the pool, make sure he has Rold Gold (not Snyder’s) pretzels to eat, and mostly, to remind him how very much I loved him.
Last week was THAT week. The one where you don’t get enough sleep, you eat Ruffles for dinner and
But I made it through. Sometimes, you just have to close your eyes and run, and believe that you will eventually, get out of the storm. Which I did
James is adapting to the new crazy schedule as well, much to the love and support from The Village. Shout out to Catherine and Will & Colleen Mandell who have stepped up and become care-takers to both James and myself. (Oh, and house cleaners and grocery shoppers!) You are loved and appreciated. . , Thanks to the prayer warriors (Sara George & Sandy Ivey), I have felt every single one! And to my office mates Shaunna and Julie – I love life with you in our little 9×12.
It’s Tuesday. And already things better and more doable than last week.
Enjoy the moments.
James fell asleep like this, in the middle of the afternoon. Chin resting on the car door. Snoring away.
New school. New teachers. New routine. James needs time adjusting to “new”.
And it turns out, so might I.
Whether it’s a new house, new job, new government, new relationship – there’s an adjustment time. A period of a few days, or weeks or maybe even months where you feel slightly out of sorts and possibly crunchy.
For example; I was in Publix the other day and the woman in my aisle couldn’t figure out if she wanted to be on the left side or the right side and kept swerving like she was drunk and every time I went left to pass her, she went left and so on and so on and all I wanted to do was ram my cart into her backside! (And yes, I am well aware that my current menopausal situation may be contributing to this hostel state of mind.)
What to do in those times? The only thing that I’ve found that works is to fall back on the things that make you feel good and grounded –
(Maybe not exactly in that order.) And of course – naps! James apparently understands the importance of naps.
All week we’ve been saying to James, “This is the new routine.” On the drive to school we ask, “James, where we are going?” He responds, “New School!”. And because he has a tendency to want to resist and sit in the parking lot, we then ask, “What do we do when we get there?” And he responds, “Walk.” “Yes James. New school. Walk.”
It will be natural to want to resist and sit. But keep walking. And before you know it, new becomes normal and you might just like people again. Or at least not want to run them over with a grocery cart.
7:40pm CDT!! LIVE from Douglas Corner in Nashville TN. LynnMarie will share a 9 minute story on her life and being “Different” as part of TenX9 Nashville. Log On! Xo
On Monday July 24th, I get to be a part of this really cool event. They pick 10 Nashville people to each tell one true story for 9 minutes. TenX9. It’s at Douglas Corner at 7:30. So… if your in town and need an excuse to get out – come! The topic for this round is “Different” which is of course why they are letting the accordion player speak. Hehe. I’ll actually be sharing a story about James! xo
I went on a date.
Okay, perhaps I should back up a bit.
My life has changed.
Because I write about what’s happening in my daily life, it’s only natural and necessary for me to fill you in on a few other changes that are taking place. I hope you will continue to read as I share stories of where I’m at– at the moment.
I’ve heard women talk about it. Even read a bit about it. But for some reason I NEVER ever thought IT would happen to me!
(And for the male readers – stick with me – your wives or girlfriends are gonna be here one day, and this might provide a little insight!)
In just a matter of days I have gone from the occasional cozy-warm flush feeling to daily hot flashes, night sweats, sleepless nights, crazy dreams and hours spent crying over animal videos on Facebook. It’s not pretty. In fact, it’s downright ugly, as I’m sure those of you who have gone through it will attest too. And, I sincerely apologize to the hundreds of women in my lifetime who said something to me about their menopausal state and I shrugged you off like it was all in your head. I’m lining this right up with back pain and contractions. If you’ve never had it, you can’t even begin to understand it. So, I am sorry if I didn’t give you the empathy you deserved. Because God knows I need empathy!
“For you woman, I’ve got the following rights of passages; menstruation, labor and let’s top it all off, late in life when you’re tired and flabby, with a nice dose of menopause!”
So, as I mentioned, I went on a date.
Nor should they!
And yet, five minutes before I’m leaving on a date, I’m standing with my head in my freezer. The freezer is packed-full of James’ pancakes. Which I first think about eating, then I realize that they make great neck-coolers. I even contemplate stuffing a couple down my shirt for the drive.
Dating is a good learning tool for me right now. One of the first things I’ve
realized is that it feels good to get dressed up again. When you’re in a long-term marriage, or suffer from depression, it’s easy to not care so much about what you look like. Your sweats and yoga pants become your best friends and the ponytail is the way you ‘do your hair.’ The guy stops holding the door open for his wife and date night turns into popcorn and Netflix’s. (Which is not necessarily a bad date night, if you’re watching Bloodline and not still in your yoga pants.)
So, recently I was getting ready for a date. I’m standing in front of the mirror agonizing over two pair of earrings, trying to figure out which ones would make me look thinner, since I’m wearing clothes from the menopausal-chubby-bloated end of the closet. At that moment,
(Insert ten year’s worth of images of me sitting in my robe with no make-up on. Had he never seen me “done up”?) I imagined if he could speak, he might have continued, “You clean up good Bobby! I had no idea you had real clothes and real long blond hair.” I would have answered, “Yes James, mommy’s clothes are real.”
The date was lovely. He held open every door and took me for a great meal, which I could hardly eat because I was so nervous.
So much to learn! I ate a half-thawed pancake on my way home. He hasn’t called.