Sharon Randall: We all need prophets sometimes

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 4, 2019

Who are the prophets in your life, the people who remind you to be true to what you believe and practice what you preach?

Just before Christmas, my brother took a bad fall, hit the floor hard and couldn’t get up.

Joe lives alone, having lost his wife to cancer years ago. Totally blind and severely impaired by cerebral palsy, he wasn’t sure how badly he was hurt. So, he tried to stand, and fell again.

Given a choice, Joe would rather eat glass than ask for help. But he swallowed his pride and started yelling. Luckily, a neighbor heard him and called 911. That’s how my brother ended up spending Christmas in a hospital with a broken ankle.

I learned this from Bobbie, our sister, who lives 30 miles from Joe in South Carolina. I live in California, thousands of miles and three time zones away.

Long ago, after our mother died, Bobbie became Joe’s backup, the first person he’d call with good news or bad. She’d drive him to appointments, take him out to eat and make sure he spent holidays at her house.

But, lately, she’s had health issues that make it hard for her to drive. So their visits are limited to phone calls.

“It hurts me that I can’t go see him,” she said, “but we still talk on the phone most every day.”

She gave me his room number and I called it. No answer. I kept trying for three days. Finally, I called the nurse’s station.

“Maybe he can’t reach the phone,” said a kind Southern voice. “I’ll go hand it to him.”

Seconds later, I heard a click and “Hey, Sister! I wanted to call you, but I can’t call long distance on this phone!”

Joe gave me the full report on his ankle: “Yep, it’s broke.”

“Does it hurt?”

“Not much.”

“Can you walk?”

“Not really.”

“How long will you be there?”

“I don’t know. They plan to move me to a rehab place to get some therapy to help me walk.”

Then I asked the big question.

“Can you get the game on TV?” I asked.

Clemson was set to play in the Cotton Bowl. Joe is a huge fan.

“Yes!” he said. “I can’t wait!”

Never mind his ankle is broken, he may not walk again and he might need to move to assisted living. All the fears that clutched at my heart were surely clutching at his, too. He chose, instead, to count his blessings.

“This is a nice place,” he said. “It’s not home, but it’s nice. I like the food and there’s plenty of it. And the nurses and other people here are really good to me. I just thank the good Lord for looking out for me. That fall could’ve been a lot worse.”

The last time Joe was in a hospital, he was 7 years old, recovering from surgery on his legs that doctors hoped would help him walk. His nurse told my mother, “Some of the kids in here cry all night, but not Joe. He just sings “Love Lifted Me” at the top of his lungs until he gets tired and falls asleep.”

For a moment, I closed my eyes and pictured a little boy, totally blind, lying in a hospital bed with casts on both his legs, belting out a song about love.

“Are you still there, sister?”

“I’m here,” I said. “Do you still sing yourself to sleep?”

Joe laughed. “Sometimes,” he said, “not every night.”

My brother is a prophet. He takes each loss, each heartache and each disappointment that life brings and holds it up in total darkness to see the light and the grace and the love of God.

He makes me see it, too, even if I try to look away. He shows me by his example that I have the power to choose gratitude instead of self-pity; kindness instead of indifference; hope instead of fear and despair.

We all need a prophet once in a while. You’re welcome to use mine any time. If you can get him to pick up the phone.

Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 416,
Pacific Grove, CA 93950, or at