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Prunes and Pink Hats

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She was young, ambitious, determined to make her mark. The only woman on the executive team at a major Christian publishing house, her job was to keep authors happy, sales staff informed, and marketing running smoothly. This young professional knew when to pull strings and how to make things happen. She'd been at it for six years, and she was good. Her drive dictated long hours, frequent travel, and demanding deadlines. But the frenetic pace only served to get her blood pumping and adrenalin going—she loved her job, the perks, the contacts, the mission. She was a player in work that made a difference.

The phone call came at the worst time, two days before a week-long national sales conference.

"Dee, your grandmother has had a stroke, you better try to get here." Her dad's words left her numb. "It's pretty serious…we're not sure she's going to make it . . . " His voice cracked. He was fighting to maintain control.

This grandmother was her biggest champion, her strongest advocate. An iron-willed woman barely five feet tall, she was a Southern matriarch in the best sense. This grandmother had given her that make-it-happen mindset. This grandmother believed in her when she was struggling to believe in herself.

She was on the next plane to the Gulf Coast.

The hospital room lighting was cold, blue fluorescent. Sterile. Harsh. Tubes connected to blinking monitors and digital indicators dwarfed her grandmother's waif-like body. The 83-year-old woman barely made a bump in the covers. Thoughts and memories were competing for brain space in Dee's mind when her brother spoke.

"Remember when Nana wore that awful pink hat at her 80th birthday party?"

"Yeah, and didn't get the joke about the salesman until half an hour after Daddy told it," she said. "Then she started laughing after everyone else had wandered into the kitchen."

They both laughed softly. Dee's dad looked up from the blinking monitors and smiled.

"The worst was when she used to try to pay us to eat prunes. Even the promise of cash couldn't make me eat those disgusting things, but that didn't stop Nana from trying," Dee's brother said.

In the hospital room, the harsh drone of life-support machines gave way to human voices and a lifetime of memories. Nobody tells stories like a Southerner, and Nana's family well knew the art. As the stories unfolded, Dee looked at the cell phone and palm pilot tucked neatly in a side pocket of her briefcase.

This is what makes a difference, isn't it, God? When I'm old and lying in a hospital bed, I won't remember sales conferences or how many authors I pleased. I'll remember the relationships I invested in. God, when I get back, I think I'm going to need to change a few things.

Most of the material on The High Calling is available for reuse under a Creative Commons 3.0 license. Unfortunately, work by Debra Klingsporn is not available for reuse. If you are interested in reprinting work by Debra Klingsporn, please contact her directly.

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