My mother tried her best to teach her children to see danger. To always be prepared for it. To never let it catch us unaware. To be ready at any minute to run.
It was a waste of time with my brothers. Joe was blind, couldn't see anything, not even danger. And my baby brother, Denton, never met a risk he didn't love.
She tried especially hard to drill the fear of danger into me and my big sister, Bobbie. We'd be women someday, she said, and women needed to be extra wary. We didn't know what we needed to be extra wary of, and we were too afraid to ask.
Bobbie never bought the "be wary" business. She'd stick out her chin and stand her ground to any threat that came our way.
Whenever I got scared, she'd tell me not to worry because she would always be "there" to protect me. We shared a room, a bed and a lot of late night talks. Then I would fall asleep at peace listening to Bobbie breathe.
If you ranked my mother's children for bravery, Joe would be first. It takes courage to live a life that can't be seen. The daredevils, Bobbie and Denton, would tie for second. I'd be last for bravery, but first for fear.
As I grew older, I got better at hiding my fears. Or maybe I got tired of carrying them around.
I thought I was pretty brave to move to California, marry and start a family. But one day, I heard my oldest child, who was then about 8, say to his friend, "What's the safest thing you can think of? My mom will tell you 12 ways it can kill you."
Something clicked inside my soul that day. I wish I could say my little boy's words changed me instantly. But I've always been a work in progress. I still see danger if I look for it.
But I began that day to make a conscious effort to keep my eyes open wide to everything in life — not just danger and suffering, but beauty and grace and peace and joy. To fear less and trust more. To laugh more and worry less. To expect the best and leave the rest to God.
For months, I've been praying for rain. After a summer with nonstop wildfires, Lord knows we need it. But lately we've had clear blue, 80-degree, gorgeous weather. My husband and I sit outside every evening to watch the sun go down, the moon rise up and the stars fill the sky.
I wish you could see it.
I can't make it rain. But I can enjoy the gift of a beautiful day.
Yesterday my friend, Martha, who lives next-door to my sister in South Carolina, called to say Bobbie had a bad fall that may have been caused by a stroke, but didn't go to the hospital.
My sister is a retired ICU nurse. She hates hospitals. I called her right away.
"Hey, Sissy!" she said, "I was just thinking about you!"
"Martha told me you fell and I can hear that you are slurring your words. Will you call 911 or do you want me to do it?"
"OK," she said, "I'll call."
She ended up in ICU after it was confirmed she'd indeed had a stroke. When I phoned her today, her speech seemed to have worsened. She sounded like our daddy, after he suffered a stroke that nearly killed him.
Suddenly I saw danger all around my sister. The threat of another stroke. The risk of getting covid. The thought of being on her own without me.
The last time Bobbie had a stroke, years ago, I took the first flight I could get to be with her in the hospital. Then I brought her home and took care of her until she was back on her feet. This time, I felt so helpless.
"I wish I was there," I said.
"Don't even think about it, Sissy," she said. "I want you to stay home and be safe. You're my best friend in this world. I don't want to lose you."
I needed to see the beauty in those words, to let them quiet my fears and give me peace. So for a moment, I didn't speak. I just listened to Bobbie breathe.
"Sissy? Are you there?"
"Yes," I said. "Always."
Sharon Randall is the author of "The World and Then Some." She can be reached at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley CA 93924 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.