… And, once Halloween came and went, there was still more scary stuff.

Like a trip to the dentist on Tuesday morning.  Does anyone actually look forward to something like that?

My daughter goes to a church school on the other side of the valley, but she wouldn’t make it there until lunch time because of the family’s dental appointment.  As four out of our five family members (you thought I was gonna say four out of five dentists recommend [enter toothpaste plug here], didn’t you?) rode together in our van – our oldest, a college student, was taking the car so he could make it to his first class that morning – we listened to the radio which was tuned to a classic rock station.  Knowing all too well that I’m familiar with so much classic rock, my daughter quizzed me along the way on “naming that tune” that was on at that particular moment, like she’s done many times before.

“’Time of the Season’ by The Zombies,” I answered immediately, not skipping a beat.  My knowledge of classic rock is like an encyclopedia.  My knowledge of most modern music … not so much.

“The ZOMBIES???!!!” Alicia replied, with my wife also giving a puzzled look.  “What kind of name for a group is that?”  I just chuckled.  We had a fun ride to the dentist’s office.  I named every tune after that as soon as the first notes started.

When we got to the dentist’s office, the real “fun” began.  My daughter and wife were fine with the condition of their teeth, aside from precision-like cleaning needing to be done.  When I heard that my oldest son had three small cavities and would need his wisdom teeth pulled at some point, I started talking to the receptionist about how much our dental insurance would cover.  She knew from me telling her the day before that I had lost my job, and she had said that her husband – a real estate trainer and agent – had been without work since May.

She could sympathize with our situation.

Then I went in for X-rays and cleaning, and when the hygienist started poking around a tooth where I’d had two root canals years before, she saw that there was a problem there again, and a root canal would be needed on another tooth on the other side of my mouth.  To add to the “joy,” while I was sitting in the chair waiting for my cleaning, I heard that our youngest son would need his wisdom teeth pulled at some point as well.

My heart was sinking, dollar signs flashing in my head.

The dentist knew my work situation as well and was very understanding as he explained our options to us.  Pulling my one worst tooth, where the tooth with the prior root canal work was now cracked and deteriorating, was priority No. 1.  Getting a root canal on my other tooth was priority No. 2.  Filling my oldest son’s three cavities was priority No. 3.  The sons’ wisdom teeth getting pulled could possibly wait until I had another job.  I swallowed hard, and we made an appointment for the following Thursday morning for my oldest son and me.

I dropped my wife and youngest son off at home and drove my daughter to school in time for her to eat her sack lunch there.  She’s a big fan of the K-Love radio network, so that’s what we listened to on the way to her school.  I dropped her off, thought for a bit about going to our church nearby to do something (I’m the head deacon there, so that’s not unusual for me to do something at our church) and actually started heading in that direction.  But then I thought against it and headed for home instead.  I made a U-turn on a busy street and headed for an onramp to go onto the I-215 loop.

Immediately after getting on the onramp, I could see a small white pickup truck sitting sideways in the road and slightly blocking the way with its rear end along the left guardrail.  An SUV was stopped behind it and then started moving up and off the side to the right nearby, and when I could see that it was a woman getting out of the SUV to help the young lady driving the pickup – which had smoke coming out from inside the cab – I pulled behind the SUV to see if I could do anything to help.

It had been wet and rainy that morning with a touch of snow that hadn’t started sticking to the ground yet, so the young lady had skidded and lost control of her vehicle on the slick pavement.  When I approached her pickup, I could see that her airbags had been deployed, which explained why the stench-filled smoke was coming from the cab.  The driver managed to get it started and move it out of the way of traffic, and about that time a police officer came up to the scene and started checking things over.  I asked him if he needed anything from me and he said no, reaching out to shake my hand and thanking me for stopping to help.

As I started off again to head for home, the radio was still tuned to K-Love.  The Matthew West song “The Motions” came on.  It’s a song that was played during a memorial tribute video for Daniel Harper, a young man from our church who died at the age of 25 of a brain tumor a few months before, leaving behind a lovely young wife who would need to go on without him somehow.

This young man had always impressed me in the time I’d gotten to know him with his ferocious energy, his deep faith and his ministry even in his hardest times as he relentlessly battled the tumor and the corresponding violent convulsions.

Daniel Harper - Courtesy Harper Family

He had such a positive attitude, a wildly adventurous spirit.  He lived a life much bigger than most people 25 years old.  He never struck me as being that young in the time I knew him.

His own blog here, which gave painful details of his fight with brain cancer and deep personal insights into his faith, was an inspiration for my blog.  I guess you could say that, in a way, I’m trying to carry on the spirit he put into his blog with my own.  I only hope I can live up to the standard that he set himself.

As the Matthew West song played, I thought of Daniel and the loss that so many people felt as a result of his death, and I thought of my own situation.

This young man impressed me because he never did just “go through the motions” from what I could see.  As the head deacon, he would come up to me to see if there was anything he could do to help, which can be somewhat rare.  After all, most people don’t like to volunteer for things.  He was always wanting to take on more, to help in any way he could.

It impressed me because that’s the kind of person I’ve always tried to be … someone who doesn’t just sit back and let others take on difficult tasks, I want to help in any way I can and do my best in the process because it makes other people’s tasks easier and lighter.  That’s how I try to be no matter what I’m doing, whether it’s at home or at my church or at my work.  I am my own harshest critic.

Pulling over to help that young lady who’d spun out on the onramp was an example of trying to help others in a time of need.

How was it that I was put in that position that morning of heading toward our church and turning around instead at just the right moment to come upon that scene at a time when help was needed?  I can’t say for sure, but I followed my instincts and I felt good about being there.

As I was driving on the west side of I-215, all the thoughts of Daniel Harper, his death, his wife trying to go on without him, and my own situation swirled around in my head as a result of that song on the radio.  Tears came to my eyes.  I’m talking HEAVY tears.

The thoughts and the pain were pouring through me full-force.  I don’t want to go through the motions.  I want to give it everything I’ve got.

So how did I end up in this situation?  Is there something much better for me and my family in store that I don’t know about yet?

I knew I needed to watch for signs, even the most subtle.  I knew I needed to pay attention at all times.  I knew I needed to look at any and all options for my life – continue the task of pursuing regular work, but seeing what other options there might be out there.

I need to follow my heart, and nothing else.


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