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…

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It’s Gonna Be Worth It

The Video says it for me….I can’t add much to what the song says.

Everyday, as I, in fear and trembling, leave the sacturary of my home to face new people with serious illnesses, it is this song that comes to my mind.

When I am so tired that I don’t know if I am going to be able to force myself to get into that old car and drive an hour to my first stop, I have to recall that “It’s Gonna Be Worth It”.

When I look into the faces of children and into the faces of the aged, my heart breaks for them and the betrayal of their bodies that bind them into a shell of the life that they once knew, I hear the melody and words that says, ” I don’t understand Your ways, but I give you my song, give You all of my praise…”

I especially don’t understand the pressure cooker of events that seem to befall me as I deal with the greatest loss my heart, mind and soul has ever known. I just know that I must not fail to live. If I fail, then who would take my place to tell of this man who was taken too soon from those who loved him.

But, most of all, there is only one way that I know that I can survive this crushing pain that consumes me body, mind, and soul. It is through my faith that I look past the hurt of my heart and cry out to my Lord…

I especially identify with the lyrics that says that He is using my pain to pull me closer into His ways….and if I must walk the rest of this life alone, I want to see His face. I want to see the Mysteries that my husband now knows.

He would quote the verse that says, “I would see Jesus”.

That was his goal. He wrote in one of his prayers that He wanted NOTHING between him and his Lord…I saw with my own eyes the smile on his face when he left this earth. The only thought I had was that he must have just seen Jesus…

I would see Jesus and I shall give him my “song” and all of my praise…because He is pulling me closer and bearing my pain…

For today, that is all that I need. I no longer live in my tomorrows because my days are full of bringing a little hope to those who are hurting in ways that my heart can understand. It is my hope that I am a “light” into their world and that they are God’s light in mine…

So as my weary heart, soul and body cries out in pain, I play this song and remind myself that Heaven is a little sweeter because my husband is there, but more than that, Heaven is my Hope and seeing Jesus face is worth it all…

In that I have absolutely no doubt….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even In The Shadows, God Is Too Kind To Be So Cruel

I can’t remember when I heard these words. Maybe it was from something that I read, or a sermon on the TV, no matter, these words impacted me profoundly. Especially in the face of cancer, MS, traumatic brain injury, Downs syndrome, and the miseries of divorce, and child support, it is a work of faith to still believe this statement as true.

But, I do. My world view has changed as I lived this life. It was never a life that was easy because I never chose an easy path. I refused to conform to what others said to do. I suppose that makes me a rebel in someways. For me, it was a statement that I wanted to live.

That desire was one that my mother expressed in her final year of her life. She expressed this to my sister and me. She relayed how our dad was given a survey as to whether he was satisfied with his life. He answered that he had a very good life and he was pleased with how his life turned out. When it came to my mother’s turn, her response was the exact opposite. She said that she didn’t feel that she ever lived her life. She also said that the main reason that dad was satisfied with his life was because of her sacrifices. She felt like she gave so he could get. That was her feeling to her dying day.

This was quite a shock to my dad. He had no idea that Mom felt this way. He assumed that if he was satisfied, she was satisfied. I think that it is a generational thing (WWII era) and it shows how much he didn’t know the person that he had lived with for over 50 years.

Mom directly told my sister and me to not wait for our turn to do the things that we wanted. She said that satisfaction through children’s lives will not be satisfying. Satisfaction through  spouses life will not be satisfying. She stressed that she waited for her turn and after our sister’s birth(She was born with Downs Syndrome) Mom knew that she would never have the her dreams. All of her plans were cancelled with that one life event. An unplanned pregnancy with life changing complications erased what she had patiently waited. She showed to the outside world that she handled this situation very well and to the outside world, she had a good life. To her inner world, she never lived her life and she was embittered by her life’s disappointments. Now her life was over and it was too late for her to realize her dreams. All because she waited her turn and it never came.

After reviewing the choices I made and the risks I took, it would appear that I took my mother’s advice to heart. After living a life some would see as difficult, they would question my choices. And many would really wonder why I could still believe this statement concerning God as being too kind to be cruel.

How could a loving God allow so many difficult and hard situations in my life? It would be a valid argument if your views on life were based on this world values…nice home, nice cars, nice careers..good health…  It would be implied that living rightly is equated with an absence of  “trials and tribulations”. That way of thinking implies God’s blessing keeps you from experiencing any of life’s painful and trying situations. I don’t agree.

It isn’t taught in scripture or in Christ’s example that life will be without hardships or pain.  After reading the book, “The Road Less Traveled”, I was introduced to a principle that is rarely taught in our western civilization. One of the first statements of the book is that “Life is hard”… This is in opposition to our western world view. We are surrounded by the implication that life is for us to spend, rather than life is a gift. It seems that we find things less than satisfying when we “buy into” this idea.

We can become disillusioned should we believe that every one of  our dreams for our life should be fulfilled. How do we handle life when our dreams do not come to fruition? I believe our life isn’t intended to be lived according to our wants and wishes. These ideas will inevitibly set us up for disappointment and it becomes the gateway for bitterness to attached itself to our lives.

We are not born with guarantees and life does have hardships and problems….The reality is that life does bring more trials sometimes than anything. Then we must added the difficuties that come from own choices. Most major events come into our lives for no other reason than because it is living. There is no one or nothing to blame for them coming to us. It is a part of life.

Cancer is not God’s plan for our life, yet God will use this as a tool for the person who suffers its pain and for those who suffer with them. At times, it feels that we have been chosen to walk this path for reasons that I cannot understand, yet I still believe that God is too kind to be so cruel. I refuse to lay blame at God’s feet. I do not believe that He causes this, however, because it is a part of our life, I believe that He walks this path with us. He crys when with us. He knows what it is to have sorrow and physical pain. He also asked, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” I know that He hears us when we cry out with questions and I know that He gives peace when there is nothing to be peacable over.  Cancer is a part of life because it is a part of death….Death is a part of living. And death comes to everyone…it is the circle of life.

When I stop blaming God as I have stopped blaming so many other things that can cause death, I have no one or nothing to blame. I wish that I could find the place or the person to blame, maybe it would help me to vent my pain and frustration. When I am finished venting my anger and hurt, the cancer will still be there. I suppose the idea is that, should I find the person who caused this cancer, I could make my presentation. No matter how good I could present my argument regarding the unfairness or its cruelty, the cancer would not be removed…unimaginable.

So what is so kind with cancer that it cannot be called cruel…Not much. The kindnesses that I have found have been in those people who have been with us as we walked this hard path. They are God’s kindnesses that come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. God’s kindnesses are in the faces of the celebration, the uplifting emails and cards that are sent, the gifts of goat’s milk and eggs and most importantly, the never ending prayers. They may not seem like a lot, but they are those small blessings that show us that God is too kind to be so cruel for us to be left alone on this journey. He knows just how hard this walk is and he has sent us many many blessings in the form of those who are willing to walk each step. Step by step, day by day….

As a burden, we are too heavy to be born by one person or by just few people. Human nature and its natural kindness runs out long before this journey is completed…This is not theory. This is my observation as I have watched many family members die with this disease. This is also my observation as a nurse who has attended many at their time of death. I have watched the weariness of families when they have denied the small “helps” that were offered. I have seen the toll that their pride has cost them. It was in addition to the toll of the cancer.

Call it charity or kindness, I call it God’s blessings when others inside and outside of family have offered to do what they can to help us during these dark shadows. For each and everyone who has done the smallest to the largest of things for us, I have prayed that God would bless them as they have blessed us…To not accept their kindness would cheat them of a blessing that God has in store for them…that is what I believe.

God is too kind…he has extended my husband’s life longer than medically is expected. Even his last hospital stay is evidence of God’s kindness. Every one of his care providers were wondering if this was the beginning of his the last days. Each one knew medically,  he should not be returning home, but he came home. His journey on this earth is not finished. However, all of the things that are necessary to end his life are in place.

The tumors are crowding out every conceivable inch that was achieved by the December 2005 surgery. Nothing should be functioning, yet they are….what a kindness in the face of such certainty….

Yes, my God is too kind to be so cruel and he does provide everything in our lives. He does this in spite of all of the mistakes that I and my husband have made in the choices that we made in our lives. We should not expect these kindnesses, but they are given.

As I look back on some trips that we took and other things that we have done when most our age would have saved all of those things for “retirement”, I know that it is good that we didn’t wait. In our lives, waiting would have meant never living…

He has blessed us with provisions of love and kindness and they are unmerited…I believe that when we see God’s kindness, when our choices should bring us only cruelty, that is when we see unmerited favor. That is my understanding of Grace. God’s Grace is renewed every morning and we are blessed as we walk this Valley of the Shadows….He is too Kind to be so cruel….I believe…

Update to Life Verse

As I was reading, “In the Light of Eternity”, my husband and I ran across this scripture, “We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” 2 Corinthians 4:18.

The truth in that verse seemed to jump off of the page to my husband. He has fixed his eyes on the unseen. It is the eternal that is more real than not. The unseen things are the memories that have been made over the years.

The birth of his children, the time spent with his Grandma Watson, Grandma Rosie and the Russell farm, the first love and now this love that is shared between us…these are things that are intangible. They will last for eternity with him. He is the source of love in the lives of so many. He is now closer to the things that are unseen than to the things that are seen.

That is the way of the spirit. He has one experience that will best explain what his spirit, or the unseen  brings to him. When we first began seeing each other, I stayed the night with him at his house. About 5 am, I woke to find him crying and holding the outside door open. I noticed a faint scent of lavender and vanilla in the air and I saw that he was crying as if his heart was broken.

I asked him what was wrong. Why was he holding the door open and who was he calling to? He said that his Grandma Watson had come to him in a dream. She was holding the hands of his daughters. The oldest one was on the right and the younger one was on the left. He said that his grandma told him to not worry and that she was caring for his daughters. When Grandma turned to leave, he cried for her to take him with her. He was pleading with her to not leave him behind, but to take him too. He had followed her out of the bedroom and watched her go out of the door.

He cried like a broken hearted child. He was undone by the whole experience. As he calmed himself, he tried to talk himself out of believing that anything out of the ordinary happened to him.

I explained that I believed that God had allowed his Grandma to come and bring the message to him. I believe that these kinds of experiences are precious moments for the purpose to comfort and these are wonderful experiences to be cherished when we are able to see or have contact with those who have passed over to heaven and they are sent back to us for a reason.

Of course, it spooked him for a while. It was beyond his comfort zone. Then I asked him if his grandmother wore a scent of lavender and vanilla. He said that she always wore something like that. I told him that what he had experienced was real because I could smell the scent.  After I told him this, he was more comfortable with having the experience. He was more afraid of what others would say if he told them. He was especially concerned what his mother would say if he told her.

I said that it wasn’t her visitation and nothing could be said that would take this wonderful event away….That is the things that happen when the spirit, the world of the unseen, comes close to the tangible world.

Now, I think that he is taking even more comfort in seeing his destiny. I think that he will look more for the unseen, the intangible. I think he will be looking for his grandmother to come to him and take him to heaven.

I think that this is the verse that will be placed on our wedding cake because now, the unseen is becoming much sweeter and longed for in our hearts. It is the spirit things that will become more of a reality as these days pass….

Our Life Verse

In preparation for the Wedding/Renewal, my cousin asked me to think about a life verse that best describes my husband and I. This is to be attached to the flowers on the cake. When she asked me yesterday if I had given the verse any more thought, I said that  nothing particular had come to mind, but I would get one to her in the next few day.

The first verse that came to me was the Mizpah, “The Lord watch between thee and me until we meet again.” I can’t remember where the verse is, but I know that it is when Abraham and Lot split their flocks and it was a blessing given to Lot by Abraham. I thought to myself, that is our parting verse. That is what I want when the time comes for my husband to leave this earth, for the Lord to watch between me and him as I am left here to walk alone. But, that is for the next life and not this one….

I will have to think more on what verse of scripture that best suits the occasion. I just can’t seem to put a finger on it. I know the first marriage, I had the verse from Ruth where says to Naomi, “Whether Thou goest, I will go and wherever thou lodgest, I will lodge, Thy people shall be my people and thy God, my God.” That was because I was entering into a marriage with someone who not an American and I always was conscious of the possiblity that I may be living in England or Europe with my British husband. I was willing to go if that was where he would be happiest. But, I never made him happy and he didn’t want to go where I went, so that verse was of no use.

Maybe I need to look in the Song of Songs for the verse. It is the Love Song of the Bible and that is what I believe that my husband and I have found. It is the love that can be experienced on this earth that filled my heart. It answered what I longed for. He  became my whole other half and that is why his leaving is so devastating and that is why I have such fear for myself when he is no longer here.

Something will come to me. I hope that it comes soon so that this minor detail of this preparation is taken care of. We are coming down to the wire. The ceremony is this coming Saturday at 5:30. I am looking forward to the candlelite service and I am hoping that I can wear that dress without busting the zipper….I don’t want to think about a wardrobe malfunction. *smile*.

Shadowy Dreams of the Sunset

 “Wispy dreams that come in the night are vaporous shadows that follow in the daylight.”

This dream has lurked in my memory for twenty plus years and with my husband’s diagnosis of cancer, it became my reality. The dream stopped being elusive when the doctor repeatedly said, ” I am sorry. I am sorry. I am so so sorry”.  The doctor was expressing his regret when he informed my husband of the diagnosis. Cancer. Finally,  I understood this dream.

The moment wasn’t an epiphany, or an “aha”, it was a moment of “knowing”. It was knowing something was tangible, a reality that it is yet to be. This knowing was as real to me as knowing my name or that I have a son. In that moment, this vapor of a dream changed from wisp to weight. 

This dream was the beginning of my relationship with my husband. It was the second stage to a romance that was begun 20 years before. In the years before he physically walked in the door of my work, he came to me in the dream. I always knew that it was a warning. A warning that he would be leaving me.  It foretold my future with him.

I’ve tried to write about this dream many times and, each time, I could not encapsulate the imagery in this black and white reality. It was like trying to catch a moonbeam or a bit of starlight, a mystery,a vapor. This vapor, this wisp of smoke was foreshadowing  the sunset of days.  Unless powerful prayers impact the Heart of God, this cancer is the sunset in which he walks; he is leaving and I cannot follow, at least not now….

It reveals the desperate soul of my husband and it speaks of his deepest desire. It exposes his futility and my naked, bare love for him. It also foretells the price that I will pay for this love. Unless the power of prayer alters the outcome, for this love, I will be left destitute in all ways, emotionally, spiritually and financially.

If I had this warning, why did I choose to enter into his life or allow him to enter into mine? My heart would let me do nothing less than love him.

In the midst of all of this pain, I have been blessed. I know of many who live a lifetime and  never loved or known love like this, but I was given a second chance. I took it. 

Once, I asked my husband if it was better to love or to be loved? I think most would answer that it is better to be loved. I have known love from others.  I did not return their love and I would have been a parasite to accept them for loving me. I could not lover return their. But, with this man, this time around, I wanted to love. I wanted to give totally, 100 percent, to love with total abandonment. He is and always will be the only man that I can love like that…. When he came back in to my life, how could I turn away? I couldn’t. So, knowing the end from the beginning, I entered this love with a choice. Even if he didn’t love me as much as I loved him, I chose to love him and be satisfied.  I chose this in spite of this warning. This is my dream.

The Sunset Dream

I am observing a man and a woman inside a glass dome like structure. A dome is the best and only way that I can describe this enclosure because it was unlike any thing with which I was familiar. In this dream, I was  observing what transpired with in the dome from a higher position, as if from a tree… 

In the dome, the man ( my future husband) was desperately pleading with a woman without a face. Even without a face, I could see that she was very upset and angry with him.  He, on the other hand, was on his knees, begging and pleading with her to love him. Standing with her back to him and refusing to face him, he continued to declare his love. The intensity of his pain and desparation was palatable.

In exasperation, he got up from his knees and looked up at me. When he realized it was me, he looked relieved and he started toward me and he hurriedly came outside of this dome. By the look on his face, I had hope that he had realized that I loved him and it was me who truly loved him. With these realizations, I believed that he was leaving this faceless woman and making his way to me.

As he approached me, I was hoping to hear him him to say that he realized that he loved me; instead, he asked me for $100.00. A hundred dollars was all that I had in the world and I remembered thinking that if I surrendered it, ithis act of selflessness would show him the depth of my love for him.  It was my total value, my worth, it was everything that I was. With joy in my heart, I gave all that I had to him.

Much to my surprise, he took the money from me and I watched him re enter the dome. Once he was inside the dome, he offered my worth to the angry faceless woman. My heart was shattered into a million tiny pieces. I felt as though I was scattered to the four winds. Each tiny piece of me was lying alone without hope or value.

I continued to watch him go down on his knees, once again, pleading for her to take my gift as a symbol of his love. He emptied himself of  what was mine and gave it to someone who was so undeserving of his love and my worth.

In the next moment, the woman turned and walked away from him and left the dome. He followed her with his arms outstretched begging her to take everything. I was being sacrificed so that he could love her completely, yet his love was given without it being wanted or returned. I continued to hope that he would somehow realize that all of this was futile and that she was not going to love him. Instead, I watched him continue this sad dance of love as they began to walk downward on a rough and rocky path.  

I followed them. As the day began to slip away, I noticed that the path was leading into the sunset. The last rays of the light were slipping under this horizon to where I could not follow them any longer. They were walking further into the sunset.  I stood there watching them grow smaller and smaller to the point that they almost disapeared from view. 

I stood there watching my hope of being loved by him fading into the glooming and I could no longer watch. With my heart broken and feeling a great emptiness I had to turn from this sunset and go back from where I had been….he was forever gone.

I woke up.27715869e1.jpg

Now, I realize that we are at the sunset of his life. It isn’t a faceless woman with whom he is leaving. It is the face of Cancer with which he walks. How can I compete with this disease? I know that it isn’t cancer that he loves. It was the woman before me who he wanted. He chose to love an impossibility. It was her mental illness that was a glass dome. Bi polar disorder prevented her from loving anyone.

What he received in spite of his love was anger, bitterness and failure. All of these became the cornerstone for his cancer. (I have medical research articles that substantiate this theory. The article states that cancer co relates to people who have terrible emotional shocks or wounds.)

When my husband returned to me, he was badly wounded. He was so angry and full of hatred for women I was afraid that he would hurt me or any woman until they were as full of pain, anger and bitterness as he was. Yet, I willing gave all I that had in every way to him. I loved him. I always loved him.

Regardless of his prayers for forgiveness and his changing heart( Love truly a heart; not only my love. He came to know God’s love and that changes every mans heart.) No matter with all of the changes, the cancer refuses to stop growing. Cancer continues to fill every physical void that is in his body with its mutinous poison. Just like the bitterness in a heart, cancer consumes a body.

He has done all that he knows to do. Both, spiritually and emotionally, there is nothing more to do. There are no more apologies to be made. There are no more sins of which to repent. He has done all that he can do and yet, the cancer grows.

I just stand here, watching him wrestle with this monster and I am helpless because I have given all that I am and all that I have….The sunset beckons and I can not follow him.

Because of the dream, I know that prayer and a miracle are the only things that can divert his path. It is inevitable. As I did in the dream, I will to stand as if to keep watch. 

Scripture says “After you do all that you can, then you stand.” (my paraphrase). I am still standing. I haven’t turned away; I can’t.

I believe that God gives us dreams and they can foretell what will be. I also believe that prayer can alter these events should it be God’s perfect will. It is in the prayers that Hope lives. That is why I must pray. But, like Jesus prayed in surrender to His Father, I too must say, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”01d077c531.jpg

Living In the Shadows of Grief

     Today, on Fox News, I viewed a video of Rick Warren, the author of a Purpose Driven Life, answering a question from Alan Combs regarding counseling people who had lost their homes in the wild fires of California.

     Warren had previously written something about the The Seven Steps of Grief  or something along those lines. Warren made the comment that you have to talk it out. He said that you have to talk to your Heavenly Father in prayer about the losses and then you need to talk to others about it. He said that if you don’t talk it out, your body will take the grief inward and it will work itself out in the body.

     That isn’t a news flash, but it made me stop and think about things a minute. The loss of a home and everything that embodies a lifetime is similar to death. The destruction of pictures, family heirlooms, and other favorite things erase a life as if it never existed. Yet, this loss can be regained. Never to the same level or a total replacement of objects, but insurance monies will be distributed, people will help in sharing of photos and the heirlooms will be lost but are retained in memory. The grief can be a scar, but the injury is recoverable.

     The losses in my life are not recoverable. The losses to death are not able to be minimized. The loss of a future is totally not recoverable. How do you overcome this kind of grief and how can this loss from fire be compared to the loss from cancer?

     It is the losses that mount up to a height that overwhelms a soul and can overcome the living. That is the issue that I want to consider. Personally, I know that my body is taking the grief inside of itself. I see it in the aging that is on my face. I feel it inside my body. I am not dealing with the impending loss of love, my husband. The idea of loosing him after waiting over 25 years to make a life with him adds an element to the grief. I believe is the element of anger.

     Anger toward the feeling of injustice is something that I won’t allow to surface in my mind very often. The anger is toward God. Why towards God? Because, I believe that my God has control over everything that emerges in my life. One of the principles in the Purpose Driven Life is that God knows you and your life from before your birth. The scriptures tells us that God knew David while he was being formed in his mother’s womb.

     I remember discovering this principle when I was a young adult. I didn’t have to have someone write a book for my discovery of this idea. I read the Bible and I made this conclusion, ” God, my Heavenly Father, knew that I would be born into the family that I have. He knew that my sister, who has Down’s Syndrome, would be coming into this world after my debut. He knew that I would have to live with unintentional neglect by my parents. He knew every issue that would come forth from this situation in my family and all of the good and not so good effects that it would have on forming my personality.

    Later, I realized that having my sister born with Down’s Syndrome would be a tool to reshape a father who loved on conditional terms. He judged everyone in comparison to himself and his work ethic. He valued no one who was not like himself. With the birth of my sister, he had a choice. He either would love her without her ability to perform, or he would reject her and walk away from all of us. He tried the later option first, but my sister had her way of creeping into his heart. For the first time in his life, he loved without expecting performance from a person.  Did it make a difference in my life? I am sure that it did. My father was a hard task master and his approval was never fully realized by any us other children. But, I am sure that it was better because my sister came into our lives. I believe that it would have been a much harder life had he not be in touch with someone like my sister.

     Embracing this principle that God knows the milestones that come in and out of your life, I look to my present situation and ask, “Why” I have a lot of “Whys” in my life. Why are these things occurring in my life?

     I will list my Whys      Why is it that:

  • my older sister has MS
  • my younger sister has Down’s Syndrome
  • my son has a brain injury, not just one, but two (my son was injured while in the Marine Corp. A year after his discharge, he was hit by a car. His diagnosis is traumatic brain injury x 2. He suffers from terrible headaches that are manifested in 3 different kinds of brain pain and he experiences these headaches 6 times or more a day )
  • the failure of my three businesses
  • the loss of my home and loss of my inheritance
  • my husband’s parents, both, are afflicted with dementia
  • my husband’s brother also has cancer
  • my husband’s brother lost his church due to lies and deception of his wife
  • the loss of contact with my husband’s youngest daughter due to the mental illness of bi polar disorder and I am blamed for the destruction of the relationship. With this loss, my husband has two granddaughters that he has never met. It isn’t like he will ever see or know these children
  • the loss of my oldest friend, a 26 year relationship, due to lies and deception

     All of these whys are stresses that my body internalizes because there is no answer from Heaven. To talk to anyone about all of this is overwhelming. Someone who has never felt the loss of a family member to death or a loss of a job, a home, a friend…..how can they empathize or understand?

     And people want to believe that their loss from fire is a travesty. It is. No doubt that it feels like the end of the world to them. Compare these losses to the losses of relationships.  In light of the loss of relationships, the loss of homes and things becomes like loosing tooth picks or splinters. If these people who lost their homes to fire emerge from the smoke and ashes with their relationships intact, they have gained from their losses and they come forth with life. They survived intact.

     I don’t know how to gain through my losses. I don’t know if it is possible to learn anything other than knowing the pain of loss. I know that this scenario is over the top for the average person, so I keep it to myself. I suppose the reason for not talking about it to others is why I began this blog. With a blog I can share these losses yet I know that I am throwing the whys out into cyberspace. I know that there are millions of people out there. Yet I realize that there is the possibility that no one will ever read these words. I also realize that the same possibility exists that someone will read these words. Am I trolling for sympathy? I don’t know. My self analyzing becomes a burden sometimes. I don’t understand it but writing this blog has a healing effect of some sort. 

     I didn’t hear the other six of the seven steps for dealing with grief…..I doubt if they can encompass my griefs and loss……or maybe, I am trapped in my own self pity…….I can’t help to wonder if I will survive??? Stats suggest that I won’t survive and if I do, I will be unwell, or morbid…..Wow, this is really getting dark…..but that is the level of light when someone lives in the shadows of grief…….

When Rain Comes To the Valley

Tonight the rains are filling the skies and  I am listening to the drops on the house. It has a bittersweet sound. We need the rain. The summer with its blistering heat has dried and cracked the ground. The grass had an unfamiliar crunch as I walk on it. My feet find no joy. The grass has withered and left it with a straw like quality. My heart knows this feeling. My heart feels the dryness and the deep cracks that the burden of this cancer has left me. 

All of this summons my thoughts of fall and the melancholy feeling of knowing that in the Autumn’s splendor there is a promise of biting winds, frosty mornings and bone chilling cold. It is on it’s way. The doctor today tells us that his days are approaching the coldness of death and the end of this journey is on our horizon. My heart feels numb from the bone chilling reality as these words tell of a changing season. A season of loss, of mourning, os change, all of this begins to seep deeper into my consciousness.

Fall time has always been a time for mixed emotional anticipation. As the with the beginning of Fall, the hues of brilliant leaves’ color captures me in a moment of wonder at the Creator’s artisitic creativity. As the autumn progresses, the joy of the crop’s harvest, is anticipated. It becomes a time of frenzied labor. Working day and night to bring it in, the days are full of busy preparation for the rewards of the hard earned planting of spring. Fall is concluding and a longed for and hard earned rest is awaiting. The earth needs it’s rest as does the laborers. With this rest comes the Fall Festivals and the holiday of Thanksgiving. And then it is the promise of Christmas’ coming and it’s lightening speed approach.  Fall should have a subtitle; Season of Change.

Tonight, the melody of the rain, causes my thoughts of change that is coming for my husband and for my life. For my heart, it is fast approaching  winter in this Valley of the Shadow of death. Tumors are becoming like huge pumpkins. Their size are encroaching onto every organ. These giant “space” monsters are crushing him from the inside out. They are consuming every inch of the abdominal cavity and no one can stop their growth. They are bringing a harvest of death.

The family doctor asked if our oncologist discussed the ending of days. This discussion has not happened. So far, we have found the oncologist forthright and always compassionate, yet she seems unable to broach the details of “The End”. Our family doctor has proven to be a true friend and he knows my husband well enough that he  proceeded to give us the unwanted but needed details of this journey’ conclusion. 

I tried to appear strong for my husband’s sake. Inside, my heart was trying to close my ears to the words of conclusion. I cannot bring myself to think about this horizon without another dawn. All of our years together will yield a premature harvest without the reward of comfort in my “golden years”.

Tonight, I am filled with thoughts and sleep doesn’t come to me. I am caught up in the details of the approaching end of this journey. I suppose I am not ready to view the final destination even though it is in sight. Somehow, I have grown accustomed to this Valley. Cancer has brought us a lifestyle that we didn’t want, but we  adapted to CT scan, tests, blood draws, pain management, office visits….it is surpising how this kind of living slipped into this way of life.

In the days after the diagnosis, all I wanted was a normalcy. Any glimpse of the life that we once lived was welcomed and appreciated. I wanted conversations without cancer as the topic. I wanted to go for a visit and see friends that did not have this sad pity that I saw in their eyes. I longed for simple things like going to dinner and enjoying it as a  “date”. 

 Without even realizing it,  the past two and a half years introduced us to a new normalacy such as chemotherapy, CT Scans, blood draws, pain management, office visits. Doctors and nurses became our new circle of “friends” Of course they are no substitute for the social activities like going to friends houses for cards or even general conversation of grandchildren and the their latest antics. We have lost the joy of planning for the holidays with Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas shopping. Somehow valley has overshadowed the simple pleasures. It has become a strange kind of “home”.

Now, the end of the Valley is not far ahead. We just don’t know if the coming to the finality is a falling off of a cliff into a endless abyss or is a plateau the leads into the last sunset. Is is climbing a precipice and leaping into the unknown. The Valley always seemed to stretch forever before us.

When the doctor said that the end would be kidney failure or occlusion of the bile duct in the liver, he didn’t hint if there would be loss of consciousness, days of intense pain, or a morphine induced semi conscience state of existence. Will my husband be aware of those around him? I believe he will hear everything but his body will become a trapped state of existence. I want to stop right here because I know that he will be upset to think that he may not be able to respond. It is the unknown that is hard to bear in this suspended animation.

My husband believes that to be absent from the body is to be present in the presence of Jesus. It isn’t fear of death that causes him concern. It is the final steps to this journey that causes him concerns. No one can tell him how painful kidney or liver failure will be. I can’t answer his questions because every one is so different. I don’t know.

I have held onto hope for his healing and I have envisioned his waking up and discovering that the protrusions in his belly to be down with a gradual shrinking taking place. That was my summer season. Laboring in prayer and standing on the “substance of things not seen”. But, today the words that were spoken became the reality this has been the season of drought. The desert like conditions ensure that there is no harvest for the labor. All of the treatments, surgeries, alternative therapies, all are drought with no hope of harvest. We are in a famine and starvation of hope is progressing.

How will I deal with the realization that this fall, harvest, autumn is without hope and the realization that the chill of the winter is approaching quickly?I am not prepared. I don’t know if I can ever be prepared to be without the love of my life. The bigger question is will I find the desire to go ahead with life without him? Will I be able to call this “living” or just trying to fulfil my numbered days? I have little desire to live without him in me right now and I know that is dangerous. Because we are one in almost everyway, I am experiencing a death inside of me; my heart is failing to thrive.

Approaching death manages to cause us to take an inventory of our living. We must live with our regrets. Even though  he and I dated when we were young and married other people, we have always been the bonded as one life. It took 25 years for us to find each other again. Regret over the wasted years of giving undeserving people the years of our youth to those unappreciative people is a hard regret. Our only harvest for those lost years are the children produced by those unordained unions. These children will be good fruit of those terrible mistakes…..again, it is the thoughts regarding the children and grandchildren that bring the melancoly. These grandchildren are the seed for the spring harvest. These seeds of the future are the true harvest of our lives. In them, there are no regrets. Now the fall rains have come and this change in season is signaling that our harvest is lacking, other than our children.

Fifteen years is not enough for our lifetime together. I feel the full definition of the word melancholy, depression of spirits : dejection . I truly feel cheated and I want time to stand still. But like the fall rains that strip the trees of their brilliant colors, I am loosing my glory and the summer of my days. I am being stripped of the love that only he brings to my life.

I feel like my tears are the drops that are falling outside of the window on this cold dark night. I am not ready for the change of this season, not the end of this Valley of the Shadow…..I am not prepared.

I am mourning the days ahead. It is the verse in Isaiah that brings me small comfort, but I will take the smallest comfort right now. This is my personal paraphrasing, but it is my hope.

” To all who mourn….He, my Heavenly Father, will give a crown of beauty for ashes, festive praise instead of despair….

I will be like great oaks the the Lord has planted for his own glory

My heart will rebuild the…. ruins…

My God will revive me though I have been deserted….

Instead of shame and dishonor, I will enjoy double share of honor…

for the beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning…”

 

 

 

As A Shade of Sheol, A Deep Shadow

I don’t know the proper recognization when you copy and past someone else’s blog, however I wanted this to be a part of my journey. It, in it’s sad way, brought comfort. To see that this Psalm may have been penned by someone who finds the same things that I am finding on this journey thawarts the lonliness. Isn’t that what this life is about? Walking together is better than walking alone. We first walk it with ourselves. We walk it with our God, but the burden is lighter when we walk it with someone. I find that this journey is too painful for friends. They want to fix the humanly unfixable. They begin strong as if they are going into battle, but like any long and drawn out conflict, desertion seems to quickly descend and it isn’t their fault. It is uncomfortable to daily watch prayers go unanswered. It isn’t pleasant to re-affirm daily “Even though He may slay me, YET will I trust Him!!!” It is a definately a place in the shade and when the lonliness sets in, it is a deep shadow.

As a Shade in Sheol: The Experience of Illness

Filed under: Psalms — Jeremy @ 12:48 pm

As I was reading Psalm 88 this morning a footnote in my New Oxford Annotated Bible caught my attention. The commentator suggests that this psalm may have been written by someone suffering a lifelong illness. This conjecture is based on verse 15 – “Afflicted and close to death from my youth up, I suffer thy terrors.” This puts a new twist on an already heart-wrenching psalm. Here is the text:

O Lord, my God, I call for help by day;
  I cry out in the night before thee.
Let my prayer come before thee,
  Incline thy ear to my cry!

For my soul is full of troubles,
  And my life draws near to Sheol.
I am reckoned among those who go down to the Pit;
  I am a man who has no strength,
Like one forsaken among the dead,
  Like the slain that lie in the grave,
Like those whom thou dost remember no more,
  For they are cut off from thy hand.
Thou hast put me in the depths of the Pit,
  In the regions dark and deep.
Thy wrath lies heavy upon me,
  And thou dost overwhelm me with all thy waves. Selah

Thou hast caused my companions to shun me;
  Thou hast made me a thing of horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
  My eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call upon thee, O Lord;
  I spread out my hands to thee.
Dost thou work wonders for the dead?
  Do the shades rise up to praise thee? Selah
Is thy steadfast love declared in the grave,
  Or thy faithfulness in Abaddon?
Are thy wonders known in the darkness,
  Or thy saving help in the land of forgetfulness?

But I, O Lord, cry to thee;
  In the morning my prayer comes before thee.
O Lord, why dost thou cast me off?
  Why dost thou hide thy face from me?
Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,
  I suffer thy terrors; I am helpless.
Thy wrath has swept over me;
  Thy dread assaults destroy me.
They surround me like a flood all day long;
  They close in upon me together.
Thou hast caused lover and friend to shun me;
  My companions are in darkness.

I have always been healthy; my parents, however, have not. My Mom has had serious bone and joint problems since she was a teenager. And I have watched my Dad suffer from Hepatitis C, an incurable liver disease, for the last fifteen years. He is currently awaiting a liver transplant. So I have witnessed the effects of long-term disease firsthand.

I am reckoned among those who go down to the Pit

The psalmist identifies himself as a shade, the term used in the OT for those who had gone down into Sheol. Shades had an indeterminate existence, a sort of half-life, cut off from the land of the living and, more devastatingly, from God, the source of life. The psalmist, then, is experiencing “hell on earth,” though the phrase isn’t exactly appropriate since it has connotations that would have been unfamiliar to him. He is as good as dead, cut off from the experience of life, his companions, and God.

I am shut in so that I cannot escape

He is cut off from the experience of life. He has been sick for so long that he hardly remembers health, strength, or joy. He is in solitary confinement. There is no escape and no light. Even the food slid in under the door is tasteless, colorless as the walls, and joylessly eaten in silence.

Long-term illness is restrictive. Sometimes literally, as in the case of the bedridden. Taking a drive to enjoy the colors of fall, eating in a favorite restaurant, going fishing – all of these activities become burdensome if not impossible. They used to be means of escape, but when they cannot be enjoyed the effect is detrimental. A source of joy is removed. What is prison if not such a confinement?

Thou hast caused lover and friend to shun me

He is cut off from companions. He has become “a thing of horror to them.” Like the shades, people fear him. They do not understand him and, worse, they see in him their fears for themselves.

Too often we abandon the seriously ill when we are needed most. In cases of long-term illness we sometimes lose interest. We’ll occasionally ask after the person, but we are not actively engaged in supporting them. We are uncomfortable because we don’t know what to say. But simple, caring acts are more important than any words. And, uncomfortable as it may be, it can be good for our souls to face our fear of death by caring for the sick. More importantly, however, it is good for the sick.

O Lord, why dost thou cast me off?

Cut off from God, the source of life. That is the most terrifying thing about the shades. And, like them, the psalmist feels severed from God. He does not feel the vigor of health. He fears death. Why doesn’t God deliver him?

For the believer, this is the greatest torment of illness. The lawyer inside tells us that if we do good, good things will happen, and if we do bad, bad things will happen. “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). The feeling is exacerbated for those who believe in divine healing as the right of every believer. For them, sickness calls into question the very existence of their faith. The sick need to hear from us that God loves them and will sustain them in their illness. Most of the time they don’t need a theodicy. They need the Gospel.

Do the shades rise up to praise thee?

The last nine verses of the psalm are bleak. He sees no rescue from the terrors of death and Sheol. But there is hope after all. In the resurrection of Jesus, God’s wonders have been made known in the darkness and his saving help in the land of forgetfulness. Christ has cast down the gates of Abaddon and broken free, leading captivity captive and giving gifts unto men.

During the Prayer of the Church in our worship services we name the sick. After a while we memorize the list. Yet we sometimes forget that every name represents a soul in turmoil. This is a violation of love, a sin against those people. Let us repent and, like “little Christs,” enter into their suffering with them.