Six weeks. It was just 42 days from the diagnosis on December 20, to January 31, the day she got her new body.
When I sat down to write about Pam again, I didn’t want to linger too much on the timing of things, but I kept coming back to it. It stood in the lobby of my mind, arms crossed, tapping its toe on the floor.
Many people described my previous post, “One month” as my tribute to her. I guess it was in a way, but I always meant for it to be only the first thing I wrote. I just had to get something down to stop working on some singular piece that her earthly eyes would never get to read. Little did I know, Pam was on the “fast track to Heaven,” as my brother Andrew mused. “When it’s Dad’s time,” he said, “he’ll have to wait in a long line.” Such humor has always been in the DNA of my family. It was much appreciated this weekend.
Jokes aside, I always knew there was more to my thoughts of Pam. But this one is about inspiration- how inspired I have been by Pam- before her illness, during her illness, and even today, after she’s no longer with us. Here are a few of the many lessons I have learned from Pam Comans.
Walk with God.
Pam was, of course, a devout Christian woman. She was in the pews every Sunday.
Beyond the walls of the church, though, Pam’s faith was apparent to probably anyone who had just chatted with her in a grocery store line. It was that kind of faith that permeates even without words. I’m sure many, many people had lots of deep theological discussions with her, but those types of conversations were rare between Pam and me. We didn’t need them. Just sitting outside with her was enough to feel the hand of God in her life. She bore witness through her actions, through her kindness, and through her courage.
That courage never wavered. Throughout the six weeks, she seemed certain of her course, fearless in her determination to calm the stormy seas around her. The illness was hard on her, sure, but she had felt God’s call, and she was ready to pass onward. The inner peace that she revealed, and her confidence in God’s plan, even to the end, will stick with me for a long, long time.
Do for others.
Is there any fact in all this that is more typical of Pam Wellington Comans, than the fact that blood drives are scheduled around the metro area this month, in her name, which will only benefit others? That’s right. You can donate blood this month in honor of Pam- and if you can, please do- but obviously, physically, the blood you donate will only help others. On top of that, financially, Pam’s account is topped out to the point that donating won’t benefit her family. You literally will be honoring Pam’s memory by selflessly donating life to others.
She was always like that, putting others first. The idea of pushing the needs of others to the side in favor of her own just didn’t seem necessary to her for getting through life. If I can learn to care more for others even just a little bit, I will have learned a great lesson from her there.
Family was Pam’s life.
The Madison Comans Family (Pam, my dad, Andrew, Ryan) has this really neat artistic plaque in the dining room that details important dates, vacation spots, and cool little phrases that are important to them. Almost like a visual way to regenerate their family culture from time to time as they pass by that room.
Family is never as clear cut when you’re dealing with divorces and step’s and half’s, but somehow, my family has made it work. Pam had her family household (those Madison Comanses), and then somehow she also was fine blending the rest of my family in. And I don’t just mean the children of my father. I mean our mother and stepfather too. This is one of the weirdest sentences I can type, but it’s rather astounding, and it’s totally true: My four parents (mom, dad, stepmom, stepdad) celebrated Thanksgiving together last year, and it wasn’t even the first time that had happened. Like, divorced people, with their happily remarried spouses. Choosing to celebrate holidays in each other’s company.
Why? Love of family, and I guess this acceptance of God’s mysterious ways of meshing lives.
Pam was a Black Belt in tae-kwon-do. Did you know that? We got into it as a family! The woman would try anything related to fitness- and excel at it! I remember many Saturdays getting up early so we could go help out with 5K’s near Hoy Road.
When Pam and my Dad were first getting to know each other at First Baptist Church Jackson, they say one particular evening there was a fried chicken supper. Being a greedy little gremlin who had learned early how to pull his daddy’s strings, I piled on several pieces of chicken and poured a big cup of Coke for myself. Pam, aghast at my “meal,” pulled my dad aside. “Why are you letting him get all that?” she asked. “Because he wants it!” shrugged my dad. Pam’s jaw hit the floor.
Years later, she had us eating better and staying more active in her house. But that was Pam- doing little things to stay healthy, and inspiring others to adopt a similar lifestyle.
This piece of advice seems so simple and common. They teach it in kindergarten. Yet Pam really did get it better than I think 99% of us walking around on this planet. She knew exactly who she was, what she was about, and she did not compromise on staying true to herself. Not one bit.
I’ll never forget how often I’d see Pam on her knees in flower beds, elbows deep in dirt. She was born with that green thumb. And it would seem so foreign to me, so odd- to actually enjoy pulling weeds out of the ground and clipping plants with shears. (Or whatever it actually was she was doing in the flower bed- I never did grow my green thumb.) But she seemed so natural doing it that it made sense to me as a hobby.
In other areas of her life, too, she excelled at this. Even at points that would take tremendous courage. Even in her last six weeks, she knew exactly who she was, and she never wavered.
I’m so glad I got to know Pam, and to learn lessons from her that will stick with me for a long time. It will not be easy seeing her go from this life, but she will be here in so many other ways. Her life stands as an inspiration to me and many others.
Here are a few links to others she has inspired:
- The Clarion-Ledger story from March 2014 about her healthy living.
- My brother Andrew’s facebook post commemorating the amazing life she lived.
- My sister Kelly’s blog post recalling lessons learned.
- A link to the blood drive information.
- Pam’s obituary in Sunday’s Clarion-Ledger.