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Shinn column: ‘If you need me, I’ll be right here’

I had a terrible dream the other night. Fortunately, I was not home alone. I was at our church camp, and when I bolted from my room out onto the porch, I saw my friend Mike sitting there, reading.
Clutching my robe around me, I dashed over and sat down next to him in the rocking chairs.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“I had a bad dream,” I said.
“Do you want a drink of water?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said.
I could barely breathe because my heart was pounding so hard.
He got up and went to his fridge ó he is the only person I know who brings his own refrigerator to summer camp ó and grabbed a cold bottle of water for me.
We sat and talked for a few minutes while I drank some water and calmed down. I was still terribly disoriented, but in a few minutes, I felt better, and got up to go back to bed.
“If you need me,” he said, “I’ll be right here.”
My friend Sabrina has heard that phrase countless times this week.
Her daddy, Glenn, died on Sunday.
We talked early Sunday morning and I reminded her I was out of town.
She told me not to come home, but we promised to meet one another on Thursday.
We had lunch at Gary’s yesterday ó there is no heart so broken that a meal or two at Gary’s won’t cure ó and we had a good long visit.
“People so want to do something when you are hurting,” she said.
There was an endless supply of food, along with offers to keep her children. She and husband Andy had mused on how they could farm them out for the rest of the summer.
While we were eating, Mr. Coley came up and told Sabrina he’d plant her mother’s blueberries this fall.
Sabrina explained that her daddy had a huge screened-in encasement built for the plants. They went to Darrell Blackwelder to get the soil just right. Now the blueberries are in pots, and some are dying.
But Mr. Coley told Sabrina he’d take care of it ó her mother, Pat, was not to worry.
Sabrina’s parents are surrounded by men who have become like sons to them. These neighbors will take care of Pat.
If she needs them, they’ll be right there.
Sabrina’s parents have always done for others.
Now Pat is learning to let people do for her.
Sabrina had to learn this lesson when Andy had cancer.
Death is overwhelming on so many levels, she told me in the booth at Gary’s. But the outpouring of love and support is overwhelming, too.
And so on Thursday, we spent the most precious commodity there is: Time.
We talked about living and dying and laundry and barbecue. About how the pictures they’d had made of the whole family 10 days before her daddy died are priceless. About how he was so crazy about his recently refurbished 1951 John Deere Putt-Putt tractor. About how they painted his vault John Deere green, trimmed in yellow.
Was it tacky? Not a bit.
When you say the words, “If you need me, I’ll be right here,” there are few gifts greater than the gift of self, the gift of a shared meal, the gift of cool water.
It’s a blessing to be the recipient of that gift.
It’s a blessing to be the giver, too.

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