Lamentation

My God

You have not forsaken me, but I have lost my way to Your Heart.

My soul has lost its refreshing dew and I thirst for Your Love and how I once knew it.

My body is weary and worn. It cries out daily for renewal and refreshment. My bones ache with the weight of sorrow and my despair only deepens.

My heart is shattered as a pane of glass. It is scattered by the winds of loss. My emptiness consumes like a moonless night.

“How long, oh Lord, how long?” is the echo of my lamentation. Hourly, the losses in my life mount higher. It seems as if they are as tall as the highest peak and as deep as a  fathomless ocean

I seem to labor to keep body and spirit together yet, I find no harvest…no reward. It is an internal battle that has a fierceness that desires to destroy me.

Relief is my physical cry. Refreshment, my soul’s plea.

I know that my heart’s lament is not lost in a sea of deafness. I know that my name is on Your lips. My life is seen by Your all-knowing Eyes.

It is my heart, oh Lord, that is shrivelling within my breast.

I cannot save myself.

It is You, my God, the Lover of my soul, it is to You whom I cry.

I surrender my life, my self , my all to You and Your will.

I shall be restored to Your Master Plan.

I shall look on my life and rejoice for I have seen Your abundant Grace, Your Unmerited Favor on my life in this land called Living.

I shall stand.

I shall stand on Your solid Rock.

It is the Rock called Hope.

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New Years Eve…an Outside Looking In Kind of Moment

New Year’s Eve, again. I know that sounds like it occurs often. Maybe, it is because I am becoming older and it seems that this holiday occurs quicker than I remember, but, since Dan’s death, it seems to come before I am ready.  It always feels like I have unfinished business and it is too late to complete it because a new year is beginning.

This New Year’s Eve, I had one of those surreal moments. You know. The kind where you step outside of yourself and see your life from a small distance. It is the kind that is a glimpse of yourself and you wonder just who is that person that is standing there.

The last time I did this was a Christmas Eve when Dan was in ICU in IU Medical Center. He was in 6 ICU due to complication from the massive debulking surgery. They had removed all the tumors and pronounced him cancer free. Then, two days before coming home, he began running a temperature. The next thing we knew, he had a body shudder and the young resident ordered a series of tests in the imagining department.

After 30 minutes, the charge nurse on the post op floor came into Dan’s room and began gathering all of his things and instructed me to do the same. Dan was going directly from the imaging lab to 6 ICU. He had 2 blood clots in his lungs. This was a common but critical complication of abdominal surgery. The primary risk was that the clots would break loose and go to Dan’s brain or heart. Dan was facing death again.

I spent the next sleepless 48 hours in his ICU unit. No sleeping was allowed for the visitors staying with a patient, so, if I wanted to stay with him, I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t. I sat next to his bed, holding his hand as he slept. I had to touch him. I had to know that he wasn’t going to leave without me. As I watched every part of his face and body for a sign that the clots had dislodged, I kept telling myself this wasn’t happening to him or to me. This was just a bad dream and I would wake up soon.

I knew the next 48 hours may hold the moment in which I became a widow or a wife of an incapacitated man who required more care than I could give. No matter, I was not going to leave his side. If it was going to happen, it wasn’t going to take place without me there. Finally, I was ordered by Dan, my son and the doctors to sleep. The only place to do that on the ICU floor was  in a bleak, overcrowded and smelly waiting room just outside double doors which held the gateway to my future.

That Christmas Eve, my son walked me to the waiting room and tried to help me find a recliner that would allow me rest. I was one of the late comers and all the decent recliners and chairs were occupied by the ‘regulars”. These people had loved one in the ICU. Many had been here for weeks and some for months. They already had staked out their territory. There wasn’t much left to choose from for a new comer like me.

I had to take the least damaged recliner. My son tried to help me into a chair that was a little skewed when the foot rest came out. The chair itself was broken on one side so, when the foot rest was extended, the whole chair bent like a pretzel. Regardless of  my son’s help, I still had a very uncomfortable bed. It was all that was left.

After positioning myself into the chair, I closed my eyes. Sleep was the farthest thing away from my overly tired body. My mind wouldn’t shut off. I replayed the events of the past 48 hours and it was in the midst of those reoccurring scenes that I found myself looking at my life as if I was someone  peering through a window on the outside  looking in on what couldn’t possibly be me and life as I knew it.

I remember wondering how this could be. I had seen these scenes many times. Throughout my nursing experience, I watched very critically ill patients and their families. Families trying to find a way to sleep in the ICU waiting area, watching them consume gallons of coffee. I saw worried looks on lined faces and I tried to dry the inconsolable tears that fell from the faces full of fear and grief. Now, it was my turn to not sleep, consume gallons of coffee and cry inconsolable tears. How could this be? On that Christmas Eve, I asked the questions of ” Where had life as I knew it gone? How could this be me? How could it be Dan?”

So, this New Year’s Eve as I sat in my own broken recliner watching the old movie on the TV, again the pondering over my life as it was and as it is came again. The questions began again, ” How could it be the second New Year begun without him? How could it be my life as a single person….again? How can I live without him and most of all, Where is my life without him?”  And, again, I didn’t recognize this existence as mine. But, it is.

It is a life that is consumed with making enough money to afford heat, lights and food. The basics. It is a life that is lived as a peripheral part of others, a caregiver. It is a life that is very small in the terms of being a requirement to  anyone. I no longer am someone who is in the life of my son, my daughter in law or my grandsons’.  I am not an essential part of anyone’s life anymore.  It is such a small life. ( this is not an exaggeration) My present life  is the result of how people change when the process of grief is not understood nor is there a desire to understand the details of grief and its deep scarring on a life and heart.

It is the first time of living a “small life” for me. My circle of friends are made of quality people, but the numbers are few. My working life is limited in the small number of people I care for. The majority of my professional contacts are with people who I have never met  face to face. They are voices on the phone or an address in my inbox. My work interactions are done from 60 miles south of the main office of the company. I work remotely and the distance makes things quite impersonal.

I have stopped going to church. Not because I have lost my love or interest in God, but primarily because I cannot deal with the look of pity in people’s eyes. To be pitied is a little more than I can bear. It grows tiring to be the shadow of the foreshadowing that is in literature. I know and others perceive me as their life that is to come.  I represent loss, the  pain of loneliness and grief. 

I realize that I am pulling within myself more now than the first year since Dan’s death. There are some finds this kind of withdrawal as alarming. I am not. I see this as a time for me to reassess my life and what I choose to do with it. It is a time that I take an inventory of sorts so as to know that I am living my life according to my choices and not according to my circumstances.

I must face and accept that I lost an essential part of myself, but not all of me. I lost  my other self; the person that helped me  feel alive and secure. I know that this thing called grief is a process and it is one that cannot be hurried. I also know that I have come to an understanding about something that has never been before.

For the first time in my life, my life is about me.  No longer is my life about maintaining a marriage, raising children, finding a career or making sure that everyone around me is happy. I realize that I  lived the majority of my life ensuring that others are cared  for and happy.

Now is the time that I rediscover my original self; the average yet unique person that God created me to be. It is about me learning and uncovering what Dan meant when he said that he was in my way and that he had to leave so that I would fulfil my destiny.

Of course, there are those who don’t understand, nor do they want to understand. They want me to be as I have always been. The change in me causes confusion. The by-product of being the one who maintains the emotional balance in relationships causes a dependence of sorts and when this discontinues, people can get quite angry. These changes not only confuses them, but their reaction can and does confuse me.

I was a person before I was married, had a child, divorced and remarried became a step mother, mother in law. I know for a certainity that I am not the same person I was when Dan was a part of my life. Nor, will I ever be that person again…Death changed me.

The most astonishing realization is that I do not choose to be that person any longer.   Life is about me.

My mother would not have tolerated this kind of thinking or behaving. She would have considered it selfish and self-centered. My mother was very clear that, if you loved someone, you placed their wants, wishes and needs above your own. She taught that you loved everyone more than yourself and you loved yourself last.

My mother was wrong.

It is true that you love others by meeting their needs, but it is not at your own expense. That isn’t love. That is co dependence. That is unhealthy. Learning to strike a balance is the hard part. It isn’t all or nothing. But, it is learning that wanting and doing things for yourself isn’t being self-centered. It is finding how to have life and not just existence.

Life is about me. It is about finding a way to love again. It is about finding what is my purpose and design. It is about being happy and doing so without making others miserable. I wonder if there is a book about this? Most likely, but why would I want to read about someone’s journey. I have my own book of life to write and this is the beginning of the first chapter of the last section.

I cannot continue to live as a shattered fragment with the majority of myself missing. Yes, I am in pieces, but isn’t there beauty in a mosaic creation?

I am on the outside of life looking inwards and wondering what it is that I am seeing….What is the meaning of this New Year and will it hold a new kind of happiness or will I be looking from the outside in again next January 1st and wondering just whose life is this?

Another Beginning, A New Tradition…

In light of the missing desire to write, I realized that the lack of writing has retarded my recovery from Dan’s death.

My heart is empty so why am I surprised that the posts are missing? My grief counselor noted that my writing helped me with loosing Dan on a daily basis.  Now, that I do not attempt to write, my recovery from loss is at a stand still.

I don’t know just how much I can squeeze anything out of my emptiness, but I do know that my lack of desire to write doesn’t indicate a lack of issues in my heart.  I need to write more now than ever.  It is the same pain and that seems to tranlate into the same words. I don’t write because I feel that I am redundant.

The Basement experience continues to reveal more things that I hid from myself and it took that event to help me understand that I was content to live my life “underground”. That is definitely not where I want to live nor do I have the luxury of living in a withdrawn state of mind.

The quote from the movie Shawshank Redemption has taken on a daily reminder. “Get busy living or get busy dying.” I believe that I was only wanting to hold still. When I do that, my circumstances always take the initiative and makes choices for me. Realizing my lack of action has left me without any satisfaction, circumstance becomes my decision maker and the frustration within myself builds.

I know better in my head. It is my heart that wants to keep any forward motion at bay. I know that I will not like what inertia brings to me.  My life experience has taught me that  non action  leaves me in a miserable state of mind.

So, what to do now?

I need to make a new tradition regarding the holidays. Recent events will change Thanksgiving. My dad’s family has always gathered on Thanksgiving. It was a feast and a time to see aunts, uncles and cousins that would not be seen until next Thanksgiving or at a wedding or a funeral. I can’t remember a Thanksgiving with my immediate family. It has always been the extended family and, with that, my cousins became  as brothers and sisters to me.

This past Thanksgiving, an aunt and an uncle were diagnosed with cancer. The prognosis for one is better than for the other. One family will be devastated by this time next year. The disease is very advanced and palliative care is the only treatment offered. The other has a brighter prognosis and another family will gratefully give thanks for being spared the heartache.  The health of the dwindling few will chang the  way that Thanksgiving has been celebrated for over 60 years.

My sister is also one that has limited holidays left. Her dementia is advancing at an alarming rate. What to do with her health and insuring a quality of life for her has become a priority for me and my older sister. We will have difficult decisions to make regarding her care as the disease progresses. The holidays will never be the same without her.

For Christmas, my tradition was always on Christmas Eve. It has always been a magical time. As a young girl, I loved being in church at midnight on Christmas Eve. It seemed to make Jesus’ birth the center of everything for me. Christmas in church made the meaning of gift giving more than commercial success. Remembering His Advent made Christmas and the joy of it real to the very depths of my heart.

Unfortunately for me, the church denomination in which I was raised did not have Christmas Eve services. The times when Christmas Eve fell on Sunday evening became my favorite Christmas’. Being in church satisfied my soul hunger. It satisfied my need  for a time of quiet contemplation. It gave expression for the joy that was rising up from my soul. I knew the meaning of the word, “REJOICE!”.

As an adult, I have tried to follow this soul hunger, but I have not been faithful to find a place to worship on that special night. More than ever,  I feel that I must find a place that has services on Christmas Eve so that my Christmas can come back into my heart.

In Christmas Past, when Dan and I were first together, our holidays were dictated by everyone’s schedule. After my divorce from my son’s father, my son usually left on Christmas Eve day and did not return until after New Year’s. That was very hard on me to be divorced and alone for all of the holidays. There was no reason to try to change anything. My son was 15 years old when we divorced. When he began to drive,  did what he wanted. It hurt to know that he didn’t want to be with me.

When Dan came into my life, that empty, lonely time changed. Dan had young children and I filled the void with him, his children and the crazy non custodial parenting routine.

 Dan’s children were not available until Christmas Day. Because he had children with both of his former wives,  Christmas Day consisted of him traveling in one direction and I in the opposite to pick up his children. We would drive back to our house, empty out the vehicles,  reload everything into one vehicle and we continued driving for another 2 hours to his mother’s house.

After years of this and my son’s marriage, I realized that my son and I were deprived of time together. He was in the Marine Corp and his time back home was precious. This crazy exhausting tradition was  unfair to him. I am sorry to say that I have many regrets for not seeing how            lop sided things were in regards to him when I didn’t get to see him on the Christmas holiday. I finally put my foot down and said that I was not going to drive away this holiday any longer.

Dan agreed. He had driven countless miles for visitation and holidays and it was time that we made changes. Of course, it wasn’t a popular decision with his family. We always invited them to come to us. A few times they made the effort, but most times not. Whatever concern I had in keeping the “Peace” with the in-laws faded. Too many years of misuse of Dan’s time with his children helped solidify our resolve. It was time that we protected the boundaries of our home and we made it a safe harbor for all of us by not driving 6 hours on Christmas Day.We began the tradition of picking up the children and having an afternoon dinner. This was much more enjoyable and it was more fair to my child.

As the kids grew up, having driving options and personal commitments outside of family, we again altered our tradition to accomodate everyone’s obligations. Now, they were driving the miles and the court could not dictate how the our holiday was celebrated. We began to have Christmas Eve as our time of celebration. Christmas Eve services was possible again. It was a most special service when we could attend with most all of our children. Those are the most precious memories.

After 9 pm and after having  Christmas’ with their extended families, the kids would begin coming in the door. Usually, my son stayed with Dan and Ime when he would come home from California. Even after eating a late supper, everyone was hungry or just couldn’t keep themselves away from the buffet that I would prepare. Eating and Egg Nog were in order. “Eat, Drink and be Merry…” was celebrated.

Everyone would stay up watching movies, playing cards or just “hanging out”. The house was full of laughter, music and a special memory in the making. Dan and I would finally give up and go to bed around 2 am. In the morning, everyone took their leave with a smile and a kiss. On to the next household where they were obligated. It was such a relief to not have to travel.

Those were the best years. It was a time when Dan (he was a great cook) and I would cook  for days. He helped me with the decorating of  Christmas trees and any other thing I needed done. He made everything easier for me. As in all things, we were a team. Preparing for Christmas or any holiday was great because we did all of these  things together. I miss him so as I try to put up the Christmas tree and bring out all of the things that have so many good and wonderful memories attached to them.

I miss those days when the house was full. Our hearts were full of joy. And, with the grandchildren, the memories would have only become richer. It is in remembering those Christmas’ that the pain of loss deepens.

Dan’s illness and death altered all of the former traditions. After his death last year, my son began his own tradition and he has Christmas Eve dinner at his home. He was weary of all of the “appointed rounds” and this seemed an appropriate time for a change.

His children get to open their presents in the presence of their NanNan. I don’t have to cook and his wife is a much better cook than me. She can do all of the British foods, i.e. sausage rolls, cheese sticks and Christmas trifle better than I ever did.

Yet, for me, it is an empty reminder that Dan is gone and my time of founder of the feast has gone with him.  Christmas Day is so quiet. I have no one to share it with. It is as if life and reality stands still and empty while everyone’s is full and busy.

This year, I am beginning a new tradition. I haven’t a notion as to what and how, but I am not going to continue to feel empty on that magical eve or on the following day.

I may have my own little party after my son’s dinner. Or, I may have others who normally would be alone to join me on Christmas Day. I haven’t decided.  My decision to move on without Dan must include a new tradition or I will spend the whole of the holidays missing him more.

Just another beginning in the process of new beginnings…I will still miss him. He loved Christmas.

Changes….Part I

A Work of ArtAs some may noticed, I haven’t been posting as frequently as I did in the past…there are several reasons.

At first, it seemed that what was in my heart was already written. I have found that grief can be a continuous “loop” of emotions and images in my mind. There have been days when I wished that I could hit the “Stop” button and take a rest from my tumultous feelings and intrusive thoughts of Dan’s death.

But, unfortunately, there is no such button and the continuous play of these ever present memories wear me down both physically and emotionally.

Weariness is a thief to the body, mind and soul.

I didn’t post as much because I felt that writing and re writing thoughts and feelings that I had expressed here was a redundancy that no one should be subjected to, not even me.

Also, in the past few months, this old computer has made quite a few unnerving sounds that only supports my fear that it is about to take a major and expected full stop. It  is getting “old and moldy”. I have spent many hours at this keyboard that  resulted  in loosing all that I wrote. It has become a frequent occurrence.

When this happens, I don’t know whether it is a part of grief or my natural “red head” reaction to frustration because my next thought is to take a hammer to this churning box of circuits and make a permanent “adjustment” in its motherboard. Thank goodness reason returns  and I count the cost…close to a thousand dollars to replace it…and I don’t have the money for that, so I put the hammer down and start over.

Much of my lack of posting  has its base in my “technical difficulties”….there are other reasons….

AmazingAs the months and weeks approached in marking Dan’s death, a restlessness began to “boil” inside of me. I talked with my grief counselor and found that everyone has different reactions when this milestone is reached. Some become more emotional; I, on the other hand, became more anxious which results in a lack of patience and a relentless need to keep moving.

She asked how things were going at work. I replied that I had a few frustrations and I told her about  things that had happened that was leading to my discontent. The majority of my differences are with personalities. I assured her that it was  nothing that I couldn’t handle and I expected some of this kind of frustration as I have employed people when I owned my own companies. I find that I do not enjoy working with an all female staff…I prefer working with men… male clients, male coworker…I am not the sorority sister type.

I also told my counselor that I had a “knowing” that I would not be with this company for much longer. As I explained this intuition, I demonstrated what I was feeling about my job by placing my hand to the outer perimeter of my peripheral vision to show that I knew that a change in employment was coming soon. I also said that I felt that it would be better for me, yet I was relunctant to make any change because of not wanting to leave my clients.

I explained that, in April,  I had been offered a position with an Indianapolis based company who provided home care for children and that, even with the offer of more money, I decided to stay with my present employer. I continued to explain that I believed that my clients gave more to me than I could ever give to them. My loyalties lie with my clinets over any loyalty with the present company.

Yet, in my heart of hearts, I realized that I just could not face changing anything as the first anniversary of Dan’s death loomed before me. I suspected that my decision to stay rather than accept the new position was one that was rooted in grief and anxiety.

Little did I know just how accurate this forknowledge would be.

In late May, I talked with the scheduler and requested that I have Tuesdays  and Thursdays off. I told the her that I knew that they were having trouble replacing the 22 hours that were lost when one of my client’s grandmother became disgruntled with the company and changed agencies as provider for her granddaughter’s care. The issue that prompted the change wasn’t one of quality of care, but rather, an issue over how her hours were administered by this company.

Since April 1st,  the company tried to replace these lost hours, but 22 hours is a lot to replace in a short time. One of my goals was fast becoming unattainable. I wanted benefits i.e. paid vacation time and medical insurance.

I stated that it was clear that I was not going to qualify for these benefits before my anniversary date and that with having only 25.5 hours/ week, I felt that  I didn’t need to go out on a daily basis. I knew that I could work those hours  in three days and that would help with the wear and tear on my car,on me and was more cost efficient for me.

 After some discussion, she agreed to my having one day a week off rather than two that I requested. The schedule was modified for me having Tuesdays off.

I also discussed with the scheduler that even without paid vacation time, I wanted the week of Dan’s death scheduled off. I explained that I needed the time because I didn’t know how I was going to emotionally process this anniversary.

I was concerned about the financial impact of loosing the weeks hours, but emotionally, I really didn’t care. I would find a way to meet my obligations, even if I didn’t eat…it would not be the first time that I had to do without something. Time is what I needed…more than anything.

It is just another example of how so many health care workers are denied health care coverage and benefits because many home health care companies refuse to guarantee hours to the field staff.

Never mind, that is another post….

Two weeks before the unpaid vacation, an opportunity came that would allow me to pick up 20 extra hours. That would pay for my week off and I accepted the extra hours gratefully.

What it would require is for me to work the extra 20 hours as well as my regularly scheduled 25.5 hours. It would require my regular clients to adjust the times that I normally arrived, but it definitely was able to be done.Lost in the Storm

By mid week, there was a problem….

Untill Then, My Love

It has been a year since I heard the sound of your voice, felt the soft caress of your hands or watched your sly smile and that mischievous glint in your green eyes.

It has been a year since I have felt your warm embrace and felt safely encircled by your strength.

It has been a year since I was able to touch your face and to tell you how much I love you. To reassure you and myself  that we were a team and we could face any adventure together.

It has been a year that I have been alone with my thoughts. Thoughts  filled with tortured memories of your last moments, of  the tears that you cried when you knew that you were leaving me for the final time.

It has been a year since I have felt complete and whole.

As I face this anniversary, I understand, for me, that there will be no relief from this terrible loss of you and of myself.   I realize that I may never heal from cancer’s cruel tearing us from one into two. The wound is still so fresh and it has torn my heart so deeply.

You were the best part of me and I feel that I lost my way when you could no longer walk by my side. I am so much less by your leaving…

How many years will I walk in the shadows of this time?  A lifetime of brokeness seems as long as eternity itself….

But, until, I can see your face again, Until that moment when I translate from this form of existence into the next, may God watch between you and me until we meet again..

Dan  Russell 01

Until then, my love, until then….

My Hope In Easter

Many years ago, I lost one of my best friends in a car/train wreck.

In so many areas of my life, this wonderful woman was my mentor  I was devastated when  another friend told me of my friend’s death. All who knew me realized that I would be deeply impacted by this loss.

After being told of this incredulous accident, I turned without saying a word and began walking in the gentle autumn rain.As I walked, I lost track of time.  On that evening, I couldn’t tell you  how far I walked. I was lost in the night.

I don’t remember when I finally decided to walk back to my home to care for my young son. I just walked and walked. I could not understand how God could take this mentor from me. I  believed that I was not ready to be without her wisdom or her kindness. She was a guidepost to a broken young mother in a bad marriage. I was undone from this lost. It was my first loss of a close friend to death.

I could not speak of my friend’s death. Months later, I finally gathered enough courage to visit her grave. I was unaware that it was Easter week. I drove over 50 miles to the cemetery where she was buried. When I finally found her grave, the flowers from the funeral were still on her grave. Dead and brown, they were a dismal reminder that death was real. Her grave served as a reminder that the earth had not awakened from its winter slumber. It was a cold and gray April day.

I didn’t know that the flowers and the grave were allowed to stay in this ugly state of affairs until the newly disturbed ground had settled. After this settling, the cemetery keepers would fill the it and plant grass over the site so that it wouldn’t look so bleak.

I was so young and death had no understanding in me, so I became enraged that her grave had been neglected. I went to a local store and bought trash bags and returned the her grave site.

In my business suit and heels, I knelt on the cold ground and began to take those awful ugly dead flowers and their cardboard vases and bag them.

As I pushed these  remembrances into the black bags, the tears flowed down my face. I cried, I prayed, I raged at this cloud covered sky…I didn’t understand.

When I quit, I had 5 trash bags full of the symbols of sorrow and loss. I was covered in mud and I had ruined my heels and suit. I didn’t care. I wanted my mentor, my friend. I wanted her back.

As I looked at the grave where the flowers disguised this scar, I saw with new understanding why the flowers were left on the grave.

They were covering a greater ugliness. They hid the sunken ground, the outline of a rectangle that signaled a new grave. It looked like my barren heart. Completely without color or signs of spring, it was hideous.

I couldn’t let it remain like an open wound. Mud and all, I went to a nearby nursery and bought an Easter Lily. I bought a small garden shovel and returned to the cemetery.

By my friend’s small metal grave marker, I dug a hole the size of the pot that housed the lily  and I planted this living plant. I planted it with the hope of Spring in mind. I needed to see the color of hope in this scar.

As I filled the new hole where the Lily was planted, I heard a song. At first, I couldn’t remember the name of the song. I knew that I had sung this song somewhere so I began humming the melody…then the words began to flood back into my mind…

“…I’ve just seen Jesus, He’s Alive, I’ve just seen Jesus, my precious Lord’s alive..And I knew that He saw me too as if ’till now, I never lived. All that I’d done before, didn’t matter anymore, I’ve just seen Jesus. And I’ll never be the same again.”

It was at that moment,  the season of Easter, Resurrection Sunday, came to life inside of me. Because of this, I would see my friend again.

It took the sweat and the toil of clearing the remains of death and planting a Lily that symbolized the Hope of Easter to bring a fresh and deeper understanding of Life and Death. But, most of all, I had a greater understanding of the  reason for that dark day 2000 years ago when Jesus hung on a Cross.

Through the hope of Jesus, I realized that the ugliness of death was just the prelude to the hope of eternal Spring.

The sting of my friend’s death began to give way to Hope and Spring with a new understanding of Eternity.

Now, more than ever, I hold to the Hope of this Season.

My days with Dan in eternity will outnumber any amount of days that I was with him in this life.

I am beginning to feel Spring in my soul again. I am seeing the sky grow brighter in the East. I find myself saying, ” In the summer, I will….” I am planning ahead instead of standing still in this journey.

I am watching the ugliness that a hard winter brought to my soul being gathered like I gathered those dead flowers.  I am feeling the renewing of hope like I planted that beautiful Lily. My heart is coming out of its barrenness and looking ahead and all that is waiting there.

My hope is  in the Shadow of a Cross in-the-shadow-of-the-crossand nothing below or above can keep me from knowing the Hope that this Season brings…

One of Dan’s favorite quotes from Scripture was,…” I would see Jesus.”  With Hope  slowingly restoring my broken heart,I am grateful  that I, too, can say with Dan…” I would see Jesus..” Now Dan does……

Coincidence or Timely Messages?

12_77_57-red-rose_web1Sometimes, the anticipation of pain is worse than the actual pain in and of itself.

I had a neighbor who suffered from kidney stones. He had terrible pain when one would develop and the doctor allowed him to have a very strong pain medication for relief. His wife was a RN so the doctor allowed the medication to be administered by injection while he was home  . It was given every 4-6 hours “as needed”.

It wasn’t too long before the multiple dose vial was empty. The doctor refused to refill the medication because the neighbor went through it so quickly. The neighbor was upset because he only envisioned that the pain would come and he was without anything to offset the excruciating pain.

As his frustrated wife discussed this with me, she voiced her anger that her husband would become totally unreasonable when she tried to encourage him to try a pain pill before having the injection. She also was upset because she knew that the doctor lost trust in her as a nurse because of the quick consumption of the potent pain killer. Once a doctor believes that someone is abusing this kind of medication, there is nothing that will pursuade him to order the medication again.

I suggested to both the neighbor and his wife that it wasn’t the pain that was causing him to reach for the injection, but rather, it was the fear of the pain. The memory of having that kind of horrific pain caused such a fear of its return that a person will want to be relieved of the possibility as much as the pain.  The medication can become a “security blanket” of sorts and the fear had to be dealt. The doctor was not going to allow the fear to become the first steps toward the chance of addiction.

When I said the words “fear of the pain”, my neighbor chimed in that it was the fear of the pain that caused him to become irrate and unreasonable when his wife tried to get him to delay the injection. The fear became more powerful than the pain.

So it seems to be the same with me. I think that the past few weeks of living mountain-in-the-midst-of-a-stormthrough the first wedding anniversary without Dan, remembering in disbelief that the happiness found in the Renewal Ceremony had come and gone and it was just a year ago. And then the first Valentines Day without Dan; all of this was akin to  my neighbor’s fear of the pain. 

My anticipated fear of Valentines Day was more potent and dreadful than the actually living through the day and being reminded of loosing Dan.

Yes, it did hurt to not have the customary card or gift from Dan. Overhearing of everyone’s plan for the special day also was a hurtful reminder that I was alone without love in this world. For a while, it caused melencholy to sweep over me  as I spent the evenings alone.It was the fear of the approaching day that became more intensely painful. That is until I received something special.

I came home on Friday to find a voice message on my home phone. My neighbor said that he found an envelop with a card in it in the ditch in front of his house. It was addressed to me and that he walked the 50 feet to my mailbox and placed it inside. He made the comment that he thought that it was peculiar that the card was so far from my house. He just couldn’t understand how the mail man had lost it so far from my house.

After hearing the message, I went to the mailbox. Inside was an ink smeared envelope. My name and address was barely legible.  On the return address was a familiar name. It was from a friend of Dan’s and mine who worked in one of the doctor’s office.

I stood next to the mailbox and opened the envelope. On the inside of the card, our friend wrote of how much she enjoyed reading this blog and how she looked forward to each new posting. She added how both she and her husband realized how difficult this holiday would be for me. 

She was already familiar with Dan and my story. img_2036She saw us every week for the past year and half. She knew Dan’s personality well. She watched our life unfold around Dan’s  final days. In the card she wrote …”He was so strong and had that certain edge about him that made him so tough-Yet, he seemed so kind and loving at the same time…”  She and the doctor commented on Dan’s will to live and how he fought a hard fight to survive cancer. Inside the card was $25 with the instructions to “treat” myself with coffee and chocolate.

As I stood by the mailbox reading this wonderful card, I marvelled at the special circumstance of receiving this card and I pondered over if this was just coincidence or was this a timely message that I needed to hear???

The Changing Sunsets

It seems that I am surfacing from the overwhelming pain of January, only to realize that the next few months have more pain to bring.

Maybe, it is the anticipation of these things that are more stressful than the time itself.

I am not looking forward to Valentine’s Day. Dan was so good at being romantic. He truly enjoyed the flowers or the gifts he bought  me.

The second time when we began dating, I was seeing a man in Canada. Dan knew about this man and, when the Canadian would call me at work and Dan would answer the phone, Dan would tell the man to stop calling me…what a stinker! He was dating other women, but he didn’t want me to talk or see this guy! Then, there was the time that the Canadian sent me flowers and Dan took the card off of the bouquet and wrote his name…he was so full of it!

I really never needed the candy or flowers on Valentine’s Day. I was content in knowing that he loved me and he never failed to tell me.

In the late afternoon or as we were drifting off to sleep, he would ask, ” Have I told you that I love you today?”. I felt so lucky to have someone who wasn’t afraid to tell me that he loved me. Because I always heard his words of love, these special days were already filled by his love before they got here. He never wanted me to feel that he took me for granted.

I miss hearing those words.

I miss his warm touch and his mischievous grin. I miss his hands. I loved the callousness that hard work placed on those gifted instruments of touch. I loved the way his hands looked when he played the bass. They reminded me of my brother’s hands as he played the guitar.

In those hands were so much talent. He could turn a wrench, pick up a hammer or draw  anything that his mind’s eye could see. I miss watching him draw pictures for my grandsons and their amazement that PapPap could draw dinosaurs and monster trucks.

I miss his arms and the safety that I found within that circle of soft caring.

I miss his eyes. Those beautiful emerald eyes that were the window of his soul.

I remember the family doctor saying that Dan intimidated him the first time they met. I asked the doctor how could that be? Then, I remembered that most fail to look into Dan’s eyes. His eyes told everything. Maybe, that is why he always wore those “Blues Brothers” dark glasses. He was hiding his soul. If you failed to look into his eyes, he could seem intimidating, but once you saw his eyes, you instantly knew that you had nothing to fear.

Each day, I keep looking for the moment when I do not have him constantly on my mind, but, so far, not a day passes when he isn’t the first and the last thing on my mind. 

He said that he had to leave so that I would fulfill my destiny. But, my heart still whispers, “You are my destiny. Now, what am I to do?”

Last evening, the sunset was glorious. The sun pillar sun-pillar-at-sunsetwas so high that it tickled the belly of the highest clouds. And, of course, my thoughts said, “Dan, did you see that one?”

He would have loved it…then, I wonder what glorious sights he sees when he looks from the other side of the sunset. How glorious are things from Heaven’s perspective?

I know that things must change. That is my head talking. My heart is so stubborn. It refuses to see the changing sunsets and accept that they are viewed by just me…

Maybe, the day will come when Dan is just another memory, but I can’t imagine it or hurry my heart…it is still with him.

Our First Date…Part II

This was beginning to be a little too much excitement. What was up with all of this? All I wanted to do was enjoy being on a date with a guy that I really liked?  I was beginning to realize that there was more to the Preacher’s Son than I knew. At that time, I was determined to not listen to what was being said about him. I didn’t like gossip and I didn’t appreciate everyone wanting to be in “my business”.

I also was realizing that ”breaking up” with the old boyfriend wasn’t going to be as simple as I thought it would be…what did he yell at the Preacher’s Son?

What did he mean, “I will see you later????”

It took 25 plus years before I knew what transpired regarding those words. After we married, my husband told me that the old boyfriend drove to the parsonage the next day.

The fight ensued. I think that was the first fight that my old boyfriend ever had and I am sure that he will never forget it. How can a boy from Cornfield County know how to fight someone who fought on the streets of northern Chicago? Needless to say, the old boyfriend learned alot about getting into fights over a girl that day.

I was oblivious to all of this. I had no idea what was being said or done outside of my little world. I didn’t know that the Preacher’s Son was told that he wasn’t good enough for me.

After we left the gym, we drove to the next town. There was a new Pizza Hut in Columbus and I was so excited to go anywhere but the old haunts of the home town.

We talked about Chicago and all of the “getting to know you” kind of things. He told me about playing the bass violin and orchestra. We explored our likes and dislikes of  music, family and church.

While we were waiting for the pizza, a song was playing on the PA and the Preacher’s Son began to sing along with it. I had never had anyone to just begin singing and he sang this song for me, just me. I was “smitten”.

I was so impressed with his voice, his easy way with a song that was not the latest hit. He was amazing.

Much too soon, my curfew was fast approaching and we were going to have to go back to my house. I didn’t want it to end…but, I also knew that my mother would be manning that porch light and I didn’t want to have to jump out of the car and go running into the house.

We arrived a few minutes early and we sat in his car. I really didn’t want to go inside. I was so comfortable with him and he with me. As I sat beside him, his arms went around me and I was enfolded in a place of warm and safety. I didn’t understand how someone’s touch could make me feel like “home”, but it did.

The windows on that old Ford began to steam up. The passion that filled that cold car was beyond my imagination. But, the foggy windows was a signal to my mother to start the blinking of the porch light.

The porch light was flashing like a neon light on the Vegas strip and, the longer that I ignored it, the more I knew that I would be punished if I didn’t get inside.

Relunctly, he walked me to the door and we said, “Good Night”. It was over. Our first date was ending. For me,  it was just the beginning of  “something wonderful” …

A Hard Day’s Night-Part II

“As I turned the car for home, I called my sister in law. I was ready for a meal and I knew that the hardest part of this day still laid ahead. The end of 2008, the year of my husband’s death, was fast approaching…

This hard day was entering into night….”rebirth

My sister in law was waiting for me when I arrived at the restaurant. I felt such relief to see her face.

I needed the warm hug that was at the ready for me when she saw me coming in the door. I needed that hug more than I needed food.

The first thing that she saw was the gash on my head. By this time, the bandaid had fallen off and the wound was exposed for all to see. So, the waitress was curious about what had happened and I was too tired to go into detail. I passed it off as a loosing battle with a car door. It was.

Today, the car had the better of the score. Car- 2, Me- 0…

By this time, I was all out of decision making ability and deciding what to order was just too much for me to do. I ordered soup….That was something that I hadn’t eaten for a long time.

Dan had been on a clear liquid diet for over a month and I had eaten what he could eat. Soup was eaten on a daily basis, until that moment of indecision, I hadn’t wanted to see another bowl of soup. Tonight, soup and a sandwich was a safe decision to make.

It was good to sit and talk about the day. She listened and her eyes welled with knowing tears as I explained how I just couldn’t shake the never ending tears. I knew that I didn’t have to hide anything. With her, I could be as transparent as I needed to be.

I don’t think that the average person comprehends just how much of a mask that people in grief must wear. If you allow people to see the deep pain and terrible sorrow, they run away as fast as they can.

They don’t mean to. They are just so uncomfortable with things that are not controllable. They are helpless in the face of such pain and, in their empathy, they become as overwhelmed as your own heart.

Transparency of the heart is like walking in on someone coming out of the shower. Embarrassment seems to be the first response such full exposure. It is the natural tendency to turn your head and leave the room. So it is when people see your breaking heart. You are fully exposured. They are totally embarrassed.

At least, at this moment, in the presence of my sister in law, there was no fear of over exposure or transparency. It felt good to let down my guard.

I finished telling her about all of the vexing details of this day. She shared her heart about her heartaches with her son and his family. It was good to share the things that we hide from everyone.

She shared her heart about missing my brother, the things that she said at Dan’s Memorial Service and how much she loved watching him with his children….it was good to be able to talk about Dan and my brother.

Dan and my brother were very much alike. The two women that knew them best had no problem seeing just how much their hearts were similar. Their personalities were made from the same cloth.

The main difference was where Dan was not shy about his opinions and extroverted, my brother was more cautious and more reclusive with his thoughts and opinions. That didn’t mean he didn’t have them, he just avoided conflict as much as possible.

As we recalled how both men believed that they walked this earth without a friend, we recalled the scenes from my brother’s funeral and from Dan’s Memorial Service.

My brother had people who waited for hours to come to his viewing. The line outside circled the block. Both, my sister and I thought how ironic that my brother thought that he didn’t have a “friend”.

Dan’s inner heart was always looking for a friend, a man, who he could trust to always be in his corner. He had “friends”, but I think he was looking for that bond that he could trust wouldn’t be betrayed.

As we remembered the outpouring of people at the final event in their lives, we wondered how could they not know the hundreds of people who counted them as friends?

I believe that their inability to believe that they had true friends was rooted deeply in their childhood. Each had learned to keep their scars hidden. They both missed having a close father/son relationship. The emotional scars visited upon them from living in the families that judged their own rather harshly had caused them to place  high walls around their willingness to allow people to know them. I saw that it was their way to survive those who they loved.

The day continued in its stubborn and annoying irritations. I asked the waitress if the coffee was fresh. I needed a cup of good coffee. She replied that it was 30 minutes old. She called it fresh. Not in my opinion, but she said that if I didn’t like it she would fetch me something else to drink.

She brought the coffee. I tasted the coffee. I said that it wasn’t fresh. She took it back and brought me something else to drink.

When the soup arrived, it wasn’t warm enough to melt the cheese on top. I sent it back to be “zapped” in the microwave. When she brought out the BLT sandwich, there wasn’t any tomato on my Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato sandwich. I sent it back….

I don’t know why I expected that my string of minor irritations should end just because it was later in the day. It was just a continuation of whatever this “string” of annoyances was all about.

After about the 4th correction of my order, I just started to laugh. It was just a “BAD DAY” and it had nothing to do with me, the waitress or the date. It was just one of those days that the simplest of tasks was accompanied by a complication…

I don’t know how those kind of days occur. Is it a manifestation of the person’s state of mind for that day? Is it just a phenomenon of events lining up that are determined to not go smoothly and like a intricate domino string, once one thing is knocked over, each one sets the other toward a cascading misadventure? I don’t know and I didn’t have the emotional or mental energy to contemplate it.

We left the resturant for home and a wonderful welcome awaited from Mozart. He was so excited to see his “aunty”. He loves my sister in law. She stays with him on the weekends that I have to work.

As she brought her things into the house, he followed her everywhere. He even refused to go outside without her…

I still wanted a cup of coffee, so I fixed a pot of coffee for us. As we drank the warm brew, we talked. We talked about this year, the past years, Dan and his heart, and my brother. Even after 19 years, my sister in law still has the pain of loss and the longing for my brother to be with her.

Yes, everyone says that time will blunt the acute pain that I feel now, but I also know that it never goes away. My sister in law told me of how, not long ago, she passed a place that she routinely passes on her way to her mother’s house.

For years, she has seen the old stock cars sitting in the garage area of the neighbor who still races. But on a day, not any particular day, she passed the location and seeing one of his stock cars,  she burst into tears.

It was one of those unexpected waves of grief that she didn’t know was creeping up on her. Nineteen years later, this kind of pain surfaces out of the blue…grief…

Grief is sneaky. I thought that it is like an amputated limb. Your eyes tell you that that it is gone and you work towards rehabilitation and compensation so that you can go on and live life. No matter how long it has been since loosing that part of your body, you can still feel it. In the middle of the night in a half sleep, you reach down to scratch an itch on a limb that is no longer there. 

The medical world calls this  phantom pain. It can be maddening. You continue to have feeling as if it is still there, then, you remember, it is gone. A part of you is missing, but you still feel as if it never left you.

As I tried to understand why all of this hit me on New Year’s Eve, I realized that it didn’t matter.  A very real part of me is feeling, but I am missing what has been  real, a core part of me. And I shall feel the phantom pain. Always.

By what my sister in law shared, I know that I will never get over being left behind to spend my life alone. I don’t know why being alone is so frightening for me. I think that it is something that reaches back so very far in me. Maybe it stems from being a very lonely child and remembering what it was to find Dan.

There was such a soul tie between Dan and I that, even when we were married to other people, we were still bonded. I don’t understand this kind of emotional tie, I just know that from, the time I was 17 years old, I have been a part of Dan and he of me. I wasn’t alone as long as Dan was in my life.

The night was uneventful. My sister in law and I talked, we “cat napped” to wake up in time to see the ball drop in New York. Then, we slept the first few hours of 2009 away…

New Year’s Day became just another day again. A day that caused our minds to think about the upcoming day of work and I began to realize that the luxury of doing nothing was over.

I know that this month may have more difficult days ahead. It is the month that Dan and I dated for the first time. It the month of our  wedding anniversary and it was just last year that we celebrated our Wedding/Renewal-our last anniversary together.

Three weeks later, it is Valentine’s Day…memories and  milestones in time. That is what is ahead and I must be better prepared and more aware that grief is waiting in these early days of 2009.

Janurary 1st….Dan died 6 months ago today…