It’s in the Bag

Posts 04

The blue duffel bag sat unattended and unnoticed in my husband’s office for a solid week. He is notorious for taking his sweet time unpacking suitcases after a trip. I’m the person who immediately takes bags to the bedroom and returns toiletries to their rightful place so that everything is in order. My husband has a different system. As a guy, he doesn’t require all the things I use when I travel. No moisturizer, no cosmetics, no hair dryer need take up space in his bag. He is a master last minute packer. It’s actually rather brilliant. In every travel bag he owns is a set of his necessary items: toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, hair brush, razor. When he needs to travel, he selects a bag and throws in whatever clothes he might need for a few days and then he’s good to go. I must admit, I’m a bit jealous. The downside, for me, is that he has no pressing need to unpack upon returning home. He has left suitcases sit, unopened, for weeks. WEEKS!


This used to drive me crazy. I would feel irritated every single time I set my eyes upon the offending luggage. I tried being patient. I tried dropping hints. “Do you have anything in your suitcase that you would like me to toss in with this load of laundry?” I tried asking if he had ever watched the episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where Debra and Ray have a ridiculous fight over the suitcase Ray left on the staircase for weeks. In the show, both think the other one should be responsible for unpacking it and they go to ever increasing and ridiculous lengths to force the other into action. Unlike Debra and Ray, I was not prepared to wage war over an unpacked bag.  Eventually, I realized that he really didn’t care about unpacking the suitcase and I really did, so I have generally taken over the task of unpacking. It’s a decent solution. Married life is full of compromises, large and small, and this is just one of them. I have made peace with the suitcase situation.


This new system of mine has worked fairly well for the past few years, but we hit a snag last week. My husband chaperoned a trip for our son’s high school robotics team. It was just a 2 night stay and didn’t require a real suitcase. He used his favorite blue duffel bag. He did, however, add one unusual item to it. The man took leftover pizza with him! Which was fine, until our unpacking system fell apart. You see, he took pizza with him, but brought the flu home. It wasn’t a very fair trade in my opinion. Not only did he bring flu germs home, but he shared them with the entire family. Right about now, everyone who knows my family is nodding their heads and thinking: of course he did. My family can’t seem to do anything the easy way. We apparently haven’t yet nailed down the art of doing things in moderation.

The fun truly started on Saturday when the dog got very sick. I didn’t get much sleep Saturday night as we do not have a doggie door, and  he was constantly needing to be let outside. He seemed worse as Sunday afternoon rolled around and I ended up at the emergency veterinary hospital for an hours long ordeal. We thought we had him situated, but he went rapidly downhill upon returning home and I had to take him straight back to the vet. Turned out that he had a partial bowel obstruction. This meant that my dog was now hospitalized.  I made it back to the house just before my husband and son got home from their trip. I was up most of the night on Sunday listening to my poor husband coughing incessantly. Monday morning dawned with my son in worse shape than I expected. I went to check on my husband and discovered that his oxygen was low. (I have 3 children with asthma, so I have equipment to check oxygen levels).


With a nursing license in my back pocket, I don’t get excited by illness very easily. But looking at my lethargic, pale husband and reading the pulse oximeter at 88% lit a fire under me. Ok! Off to  urgent care we go! As it turned out, the doctors shared my concern. His oxygen was even lower by the time they got him in an exam room, which earned him a ride in an ambulance. The diagnosis was type A flu. So, now I am stuck at the urgent care. The love of my life is in an ambulance, I am waiting on a chest X-ray for my son, who is also positive for type A flu, and and still waiting to find out if the dog will require surgery. Meanwhile, my phone is blowing up with texts from the college kids wanting to know the status of all the things.

Now, this is the type of situation in which I typically tell myself to “pull it together” as I can fall apart later. Right now I need to be strong for everyone else! I made a different choice this time. I reached out to my community. It can be hard to ask for help, especially for those of us who are natural caretakers. I was scared. My husband was NOT ok, and I was frantic with worry. I sat in the waiting room feeling helpless as I texted my pastor and asked for prayer. This one small action set things into motion. His wife immediately called me. They were in the car with a friend of mine and were traveling across town for a funeral. I was actually supposed to be at the memorial service, as it was for the mother of one of my dear friends. I felt so discouraged and pulled in too many directions, but these friends that were traveling together in the car prayed for my husband right then and there. Then they prayed for me.  Just when I could have been the most frightened and felt the most alone as I was not able to see what was happening, they reminded me that I was not alone. Word spread quickly among my friends. People were reaching out and asking how they could help me. “What do you need?”

In asking this question, they gave me what I hadn’t realized I needed, a reminder that I am part of a bigger community. They offered me their strength and their compassion and invited me to lean on them. It was a precious gift. My parents physically came to the rescue. They retrieved the dog from the animal hospital. Thankfully, he did not need surgery. They went to the pharmacy to pick up medications, and they met my daughter as she arrived home from school while I was at the hospital. My husband was discharged within a few hours, allowing him to continue his recovery at home. For this I was grateful.

Later that evening, I developed a sore throat and then a cough. The fever came next. I now had the flu. Our daughter came home from school the following day with a sore throat. It was crazy. We went down like dominoes! We have had our fair share of germs run through the house. None were as efficient and as brutal as this flu virus. We were all very ill for most of a week. I was so sick, in fact, that unpacking from the prior weekend’s trip was not at the top of my to-do list. I had actually looked for the blue bag so I could take it to my husband. At the time, I was convinced that he would be in the hospital for a while. I couldn’t find the bag anywhere. It wasn’t in the closet where he keeps it. It wasn’t anywhere obvious in the bedroom. I didn’t think about it again until the end of the week when I happened to notice it in the office. I felt a good bit better by this point and decided to unpack it for him. I wasn’t even irritated that it had been left undone. He had a really good excuse.


I unzipped the bag and came upon an unexpected object. What? What is this? I pulled the gallon sized Ziploc bag out of the dark abyss of the bag and my stomach turned. It contained the pizza. The now very gross, very old, meat laden pizza. It was adorned with multiple types and colors of mold. YUCK! This quickly turned into an animated discussion as to why you unpack your bags immediately! His reply was something to the effect of, “hey, at least it was in a sealed bag.” I guess I should be thankful for small favors.

I also learned that sometimes the things that seem like small favors are really the important ones. The kind neighbor that got my Tamiflu for me, gifted me with something greater than my medication. She gave me her time and her care. Her actions demonstrated that I’m part of her community, as she is part of mine. I will never forget the feeling of fear as I watched my husband struggle to stand and to breathe properly. I will also never forget how I felt when I reached out and asked for help. I was both blown away by the response and not surprised at all. Deep down, I believe most people are good and kind. We are made to be interdependent. We are called to love one another. Love shows itself in many ways. It can come in the form of a prayer, a dinner dropped off for a sick friend, or a phone call. It can even come in the form of throwing away moldy food.


“What does love looks like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.”   – Saint Augustine


I learned a lot this week. I learned about myself, my fears, my hopes, my weaknesses. I learned about those around me. I learned that their love for me and for my family is even larger than I imagined it to be. I probably shouldn’t be surprised. Trials and tribulations are known for teaching lessons. I hope and pray that I do not forget these feelings. I feel strengthened, and empowered to help others in return. I invite you to join me in this lesson. Let us go forward, not just with random acts of kindness, but with intentional acts of love.



Heavenly Father, we thank you for giving us hearts that are made to love others. Help us to recognize the needs of those around us. Help us, LORD, to reflect your love, mercy, and grace to our communities as we walk through our daily lives. Let us not lose sight of of the vulnerable among us, even as they may appear strong.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.





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  1. Debbie Lionetti says:

    I read this as if you and I were having a phone conversation. You are so strong, so loving and kind, which is no wonder why so many love you. Count me in that too. Your writing is so real that it makes the reader want to keep reading more and more. I am beyond proud of you my friend. Love you always.

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