September 26, 2021

ON BEING A PART OF THE FAMILY

When Heather and Paul married, having his parents Lewis and Judy living in the same town I did was an added bonus. From the very beginning, they made it clear that I was now included as part of their family—and extended that love and welcome to Patrick, Julia and their sons. We rejoiced together during our children’s lovely October wedding in 2004, and sat together in the Vanderbilt Hospital waiting room on Saturday, September 2, 2006, thrilled to share our first glimpse of our first granddaughter Charlotte.  This photo was from another day of shared joy—the Sunday when Charlotte was baptized.

For 60 years, these two did life together beautifully.  Their deep love and respect for each other never wavered, even through severe health challenges of the past few years.  They shared so many interests and values—medicine and healing, compassion and generosity, a love of books and learning, a passion for music, and delight in their three fine sons and their families.  They also extended that love to hundreds of medical students, welcoming them to their table for supper and conversation, modeling the holistic compassionate care their patients should also receive. They opened their hearts to anyone in distress or need.

I enjoy cooking and preparing meals for friends and family—and Lewis was always a delightful guest!  He loved eating and talking, and was generous in his praise for the food.  He always sat at my right—in his special seat. We celebrated birthdays, holidays and many other times of sharing a meal together. This photo was from a birthday lunch for Heather one year, when we were joined by Tim and Tracy Coats—also honorary family members.

This morning Lewis quietly slipped from this life at age 90, leaving behind such a wonderful legacy and memories of the ways he blessed so many of us.  One of my favorite memories is from Christmas Day, 2019. I was preparing a special holiday feast for Heather, Paul, Charlotte, Judy and my friend Mary Jo.  An early morning phone call from Paul brought the news that Heather had food poisoning and wouldn’t be able to come.  Then a few hours later, he called again to say that Judy had to stay in bed because of chronic back pain.  Each time he called, I took a place setting off the table.  Then he called to say that Lewis had said he would like to come!  He was struggling with Alzheimer’s and seldom left his assisted living apartment except for appointments and drives with Paul. What a great surprise!

It was so wonderful to see him here and sitting in his regular place at my table after being unable to come for a year or so!  Frail as he was, he thoroughly enjoyed every bite of the holiday meal and asked for seconds. Tiring easily, he left shortly after lunch—but not before stopping in the kitchen to scoop up one more bite of the dessert!  I think his unexpected presence with us that day was the best Christmas gift ever.  His life itself was a beautiful gift.

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