When you have a family member with a serious health crisis, there are people who show up and help with the heavy lifting and there are those who bring gifts in bags with pink tissue paper.

Several years ago, a good friend of mine bemoaned the fact that while her mother lay dying of cancer in a rented hospital bed in her living room, no one showed up to help, no one brought dinner, no one offered to buy groceries or fetch a prescription. Chagrined, I made a pot roast dinner in my dutch oven, a beautiful roast with potatoes, onions, and carrots, and I brought it to my friend. Her mother died just days later. It was late but I showed up. I don’t know what took me so long.

In this most recent odyssey of our younger daughter having her fourth open heart surgery involving the replacement of two mechanical valves and the repair of a third valve (a person only has four valves so this is a significant situation), there have been great heroes. These include her siblings, her older sister and two brothers, who were mobilized in all ways and were entirely and totally ready for the heavy lifting. Their relentless good humor and strength made this incredible situation manageable. And then there was our wonderful friend, Christina, who sat with us through the long surgery, and texted offers of food and relief at all hours of the day for days on end.

I’m grateful for the many people who prayed for our daughter and for us. For the friend who put tobacco down for her, for the other friend who asked her Hebrew name so she could pray for her, for the dozens of people who asked about her and asked us how we were doing. It helped. But I also notice the people who didn’t ask, the folks that couldn’t be bothered sending a kind word to us, of reaching out to ask if they could help. There were some surprises there, i have to say. I’m not keeping score but I am keeping track.

So despite this experience, or maybe because of it, I will keep doing what my friend with the dying mother taught me. I will keep showing up with my modest offerings. I will reach out and rise above to be present. Especially now that I’ve been on the receiving end of people’s many kindnesses. I will take what I’ve learned from this and pay it forward.