FIRST PERSON
Volume 12 Number 1
Wake-Up Call
01 February 1999

Cricket White describes how near-disaster pitched her into working with Hope in the Cities.


At 8 o'clock one night in July 1995, Dr Carney called. She asked if she could come over to our house to talk about the results of the MRI scan my husband Ralph had had on his head two hours earlier.

The next 20 minutes raced by as we cleaned up the house, pretending that physicians often make house calls in the USA and avoiding discussion about what this visit must mean. Dr Carney arrived with a medical book in her hand and hugged each of us. 'Ralph has a brain tumour,' she told us.

It is amazing how five words can change the rest of your life, readjusting your understanding of time, meaning and direction. Ralph and I had just spent over three months going to specialist after specialist, trying to determine why he was going blind. In that period he had lost over two thirds of his sight and most colour recognition. We were frightened of what life might have in store for us.

I had been employed by the City of Richmond, Virginia, for 23 years. Ralph and I had often talked about what we would do when I retired in seven years' time with a comfortable pension. I enjoyed public service. Whether working as a graphics designer or environmental educator or mayor's assistant, I was fulfilled, challenged and felt that I was working for the good of my city.

My husband is the city nature interpreter and park manager. Our lives together focus on the outdoors, whether canoeing, hiking or occasionally cross-country skiing. We are avid birders as well as enjoying wild flowers. Seeing and sharing natural wonders has always been at the centre of our life together. In addition, our combined salaries made us financially comfortable for the first time. We had often talked about being so grateful for a life that we knew was filled with blessings.

'Brain tumour'--the words echoed in our living room for a few moments. Dr Carney explained that the tumour was pushing up against the optic nerves of both eyes. She told us to see a neurosurgeon the next morning.

Four days after Dr Carney's home visit, Ralph had brain surgery. The next day his sight was fully restored and, in a week, he was back at home, recovering well, feeling blessed and anxious to get back to work. His full recovery took six months, but he steadily got better every day. For both of us, it was a loud and clear wake-up call.

After Ralph's surgery, we realized that no one is promised seven more years--or even seven more days--in their life. The finite quantity of time became real to both of us. As I looked after Ralph at home, I began to feel quite clearly that it was time to fully embrace the Hope in the Cities work that had been calling to me for several years. I had always felt that we couldn't afford the drop in income until after my retirement.

But God had got my attention this time! I resigned from the City two weeks after Ralph's surgery. I felt completely comfortable about this--I had no hesitation, no worry and no internal fears.

I have always believed that God speaks to us in the way we can hear best. Since I have been hard-headed most of my life, he had to get my attention loudly or I could have ignored the call.

Ralph and I had to make many choices during this time--how to rearrange our finances, what were the things we didn't really need and what were the things we should keep. But we found it simple to make these choices.

What had seemed so threatening—a brain tumour—today we regard as a blessing. Every day we wake with gratitude for another day.
Cricket White


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