Nov 6, 2013

The Shell

I just a spent another few days in Michigan.
 I don't share much about my parents on this blog...other than the fact that I have been driving the 6 hours to see them just as often as I can...usually once or twice a month, because their health is declining! My dad has bone cancer, my mom has memory issues. 
I can't bring myself to call it what it is! 
Even after all of this time...these words sting like a knife and bring tears to the eyes!
This Thanksgiving day my dad turns 90 years old...on the same day that my Grand daughter turns 1!!
How blessed I have been to have my parents this long...and both relatively healthy until this year!
In the past some of my family, along with my parents have come to Indiana for Thanksgivng. This year...unsure of what was ahead...we decided if we were fortunate enough to still have dad with us we would get everyone together and spend it with them in Michigan. All of their children...grand children...and great grand children together for Thanksgiving. 
This is our plan and I'm praying it lines up with 
 God's plan!

About a week or so ago...I got an email from my husband. He had surprised me with this story...which touched me more than you can know! I had no idea he had noticed the shell``...that I myself had been noticing and wondering about!  I decided that I would like to share his writing with you!

Listening to the shell 


     During a recent visit to my wife’s parent’s house, I found an old and odd souvenir. Sitting alone on a shelf was a large conch shell collecting dust. After blowing off some of the dust, I could find nothing on the shell to identify where it had come from, or any indication as to its age. And knowing my mother in-law, do not know what would have prompted her to buy it in the first place. I am just assuming it came from some distant vacation taken while both my in-laws were younger, happier, and more care free. The shell, if you could ask my mother in-law, means something, and I am confident that back in the day held special memories for her. These memories are still found on the inside of the shell, just waiting for someone to lend a mindful ear and listen carefully.
     With an eager grin, I followed my own memories from childhood, and held the shell next to my ear so I could “hear the ocean.” As a child full of youthful imagination, I believed that the soft hiss was actually the ocean trapped inside, and no matter where I went, I could carry the ocean with me in a shell.
     The best part of taking the shell is that I could take it and share the sound with anyone willing to listen. Of course, I would also then have their second ear to listen to my story of when, and where, and embellished with other special bits that made the journey to the ocean oh so special. The story time would really become even more special if the listener had a tale to share after listening to their version of the ocean within. The key to success was understanding that it wasn’t the ocean you heard, but the tiny feet of a distant memory charging forward to be heard from again.
All these years later, listening to the shell offers an entirely different opportunity. Listening to the ebb and flow of the silence, I can easily slip away for a few moments of “me time” and walk the South Carolina coast on Paradise Island as a child. Picking up Hermit crabs, sand dollars, and tasting the salt of the ocean for the first time. Changing ears, I can feel the hot Hawaiian sun on my skin, and once again walk the beach of Waikiki hand in hand with my wife. Feeling the sand squish between my toes, and hear the gentle lapping of water on sand. The warm gentle breeze cooling freshly baked skin. Switching back again, I can escape to a vacation yet to be taken, to remove a wish from my bucket, and fish for bones along the Key West highway. In any scenario, the tiny feet of memory rush in and take me away immediately, and the journey is always pleasant.
     It has always been painful hearing the words cancer or dementia, even more so when applied to someone you love. The pain doesn’t lessen with time, but grows as I stand idly by and watch the individual diseases cover each of them separately, yet together, with a thick pall of age and pending death. Both are aware that I am there, but neither is capable of exhibiting the life that formally rang through. What remains are two people hollowed from the wages of their individual struggles, but hallowed for the lives they have shared with each other. They talk about their day, recounting how well they slept or didn’t. How good they feel today, or don’t. Never really complaining, trying to sound hopeful or optimistic, and somehow reciting the words that they believe we want to hear. Both saying all this with all the strength that they can muster, with the sincere belief that in some small way, they are comforting us, their children.
     Both people are not who they used to be. The diseases have changed them permanently, and have diminished them physically. Although significantly different physically, much like the conch, they still have much to share. As often as possible, I visit and hold the “shells” as close as possible. When they talk about having a bad day, I hear a Strawberry story of a field fire that destroyed the family crops. When they talk about having a good day, I see a “speckled hound dog under a little red wagon” or or remember how a little girl started life in a homemade incubator made from canning jars, a shoe box, and undying faith in God. On the rare occasion that laughter is part of the day, it’s easy to remember that laughter always started with any story that started with “one time me and Ben D. …..”

     These “shells” will never have to worry about being found on a shelf, nor be concerned with collecting dust from years of neglect. I will bring myself to hug these shells more tightly, and listen more closely than ever, with my heart. There are numerous memories that still want to ring through what is happening today. And still more memories to load into the shell for later…… 
written by Bob E.

I just ask that you would say a prayer for my parents and the family!

Thank you so much!
and please, take the time with your parents while you can!
I want to have no regrets later!

God Bless 


  1. My sweet friend Sharon,

    I am bawling my eyes out - Bob's beautiful story, the discovery of the seriousness of your parents' health............I am keeping you in my prayers!

    I lose my mom over 20 years ago and dad almost 14 years ago......and not a day goes by where I don't think of them and miss are so blessed to have had your folks so long........I pray you have a wonderful Thanksgiving all together.

    Your love will sustain you forever, that I can promise. Hugs.

  2. Beautiful tribute to the best grandparents I could have asked for!

  3. Sharon - Such a beautiful story about the shell. I hope all of your family is able to be together for Thanksgiving and to celebrate your dad's birthday. What a special day that will be and what wonderful memories all of you will make. That shell will be full!

  4. Sharon As you know I had the priviledge of being your Mom and Dad's Pastor for 16 years. And I could not be blessed more , they always supported me,never one time did they ever give one problem. Your Dad would often tell me how much he enjoyed my wife's piano playing. I have many precious memories about them I could not have asked for any better Church Members. I am sorry that your Dad is not doing good at this time. But one thing I know (far better to be with the Lord) if you get to see your Mom and Dad at Thanksgiving ,please tell them hello for me and tell them they are in our Prayers. We will also pray for you in this time. God's will be done nothing more, nothing less God bless you and your's is our prayer.

  5. Sharon, this was an amazing story. I will look at a Conch shell with different eyes and ears now.

    I am so very sorry that you are walking this path, you are very wise to cherish the time that you have with them now. Wishing that I had the words to make this easy. Sadly I don't. I can tell you that no matter how much time we have with our parents, it is never enough. I still wish for more. Big hugs, you remain in my prayers!!!

  6. Hi Sharon, this story brings back many memories for me with my parents as I walked this same path just 13 years ago. My heart goes out to you and I will keep you in prayer. I miss my parents who passed away just 22 months apart but hold close their memories and the people they were to so many.
    Yes, cherish each and every moment you can. It will give you comfort in the future. I am originally from Michigan born and raised. I now like in Texas and my mother came here when my dad passed away and then she went to Heaven 22 months later. We went back to Michigan to lay them to rest together. Life is so very fragile.

    I visited from Melanie's blog.
    Wishing you a special Christmas season.
    Hugs, Celestina Marie


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