Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Surprised Missing Role



She had surgery today. 

Our girl. 

It wasn’t massive, only an hour or so under anesthesia, but my heart still felt anxiety.

Tears stung my eyes as I prayed over her last night and this morning.

Will medical events; however minor, ever feel normal again? 

I sat in the waiting room with her boyfriend and my mom, journaled a prayer into the prayer book I keep for her, and thought a lot of you. 

I’ve spent far too many hours in waiting rooms petitioning our God for safety and healing.

Today brings back the flood of memories from being your caregiver for our 19 years of marriage.   

Never a year passed where we weren’t at one specialist or another concerning your health; countless surgeries, dozens and dozens of them. 

We are home now.  She is resting as comfortably as possible.  I am caring for her, changing ice packs, explaining where she is to her as the anesthesia continues to cause confusion.  And a lump forms in my throat. 

I miss being your caregiver.  I didn’t realize until now how much I miss that role.  I miss YOU the most, obviously, but I miss expressing my love to you through tenderly caring for you all those years. 

As I read through all of the pre- and post- surgical instructions last night and organized all of her medications on the bathroom counter, I had so many memories of doing the same for you.  It had become a part of who I am.  Another consequential loss compounded by your departure to heaven.

I am tired.  So very weary lately.  No particular reason.  Life is good.  We continue to engage as a family and laugh daily.  But I would love a week to not get out of bed.  Although I fear if I ever take such luxury, I may never return to living.  So, we press on.  We put our feet on the ground each morning and we do our work, love each other, look for ways to serve others, and keep making the next right choice.

And we try to enjoy the process of figuring out who we are now, without you by our side.  Three and a half years into this “newness” and I’m not sure any of us have fully found ourselves yet.  And that’s okay.  We will get there eventually. 

Our one constant, the solitary that has remained unchanged in your absence is the presence of God.
He is enough.  I trust Him to redefine each of our roles in this life in His perfect timing.

For today, I’m allowing the missing and the sorrow to wrap itself around me for a bit.  Then, tonight, I will fold it up and tuck it away until the next time.  It’s how I do this life now.  And that’s okay too.   

Monday, January 9, 2017

Three Years



The presence of this week’s anniversary is palpable.

A simple date on a calendar that rolls by year after year; yet it evokes such deeply emotional triggers and vivid memories.

There is no ignoring its approach.

And yet the truth is he isn’t physically here anymore.  He isn’t going to be here on the 10th and he isn’t going to be here on the 12th.  So why does the 11th feel so hard?  I can’t answer that, all I know is every fiber of my being aches in anticipation of this Wednesday.  Three years.  Just, wow.    

So we brace.

Emotionally, physically, spiritually…we try to anchor ourselves down into Christ and we ride through the week doing our best and trusting that He will fill in the gaping holes of ourselves as we put on our brave faces and weather yet another milestone.  Tears leak a bit more, voices tremble without warning, thoughts run deep, and memories flood us.  It is part of the journey and we are better for acknowledging the emotions as they come and pushing through them. 

I am prepared with things to do and people to spend my time with.  (Thank you to the friends who have reached out.  Thank you for remembering him.)  But more than just outward preparation, I am spending time following Tim’s example of leaning hard into Christ.  I am choosing to praise God for the years we had.  I am turning my hearts trembling cries into shouts of thanksgiving.  

I am grateful.  Blessed with the life we had together; proud to have been his wife; honored to have shared two decades with him; and joy filled to be rearing our children with his example of bravery, love, and dignity.

Our God is the Forever Faithful One….Even If…

Monday, January 2, 2017

Christmas Miracles

ONCE UPON A TIME...a wife spent most of an eight month period beside her terminally ill husband at their "vacation home" on Mercy Hospital's 4th floor oncology wing. 

Excursions were rare but when able, the two would walk the hospital halls and grounds hand in hand.

The hospital had a nice little gift shop on the first floor that the couple would pass by in route to fresh air and sunshine.  Sometimes, the husband would become too weak on the journey and they would have to pause for rest beside the gift shop window.

A large display of Brighton jewelry was just beyond the glass.  The wife was drawn to a pretty necklace. Something about it made her smile. 

One day the husband felt stronger than normal and asked his bride if she would escort him and his iv pole into the shop to point out the exact necklace she liked so much.

The husband was a great provider for his family and a generous man.  The wife expected to receive the necklace as a gift from him maybe on her birthday or for Christmas.  But as is the case with terminal illness and chemotherapy, the husband's thought processes became cloudy.  The necklace was never mentioned to anyone other than the husband and the gift was never received.

In August of 2013, they wheeled the husband out of Mercy Hospital as he completed his final life extending dose of chemotherapy and returned home to die. 

He passed away in January of 2014.

In December of 2016, the wife sat in her living room flanked on either side by their two precious children, now sixteen and seventeen years old. They presented their mother with her Christmas gifts.  As she opened the first gift, a luxurious throw, a Brighto

As the mom reached into the bag, the very necklace that had brought smiles to her face during some of the darkest days of her life fell into her hand.  Tears fell from her face as she whispered the story to their children.

💞🎄💞🎄💞🎄💞🎄💞🎄💞🎄
n bag slipped out of its folds.

The Beginning of Her Life

I think I just finished my first book to read all the way through (other than a Bible Study) in three years.  Maybe I am wrong and just can't remember, which is highly likely.  Regardless, the completion of this book took me several months, but it concluded with this:

"She's been told that it takes ten years to figure out what you're doing.  Ten years.

She takes a breath, smiles.  She's ready to get started.

With the beginning of it. Her life."

In January of 2009 Tim was misdiagnosed with terminal leukemia and our world shook.  What we thought was our future was quickly stripped away.  For three years we lived in limbo waiting for the corrected diagnosis of non-terminal leukemia to require the onset of a lifetime chemotherapy regimen. 

This coming February will mark five years since my life came crashing down around me.  His diagnosis of throat cancer hit us out of nowhere. 

Five years of turmoil and unknown; stress and exhaustion; fear and brokenness.  A walk through horrific treatment, surgeries, and suffering.   A slow dance to death's doorstep and the whirlwind aftermath of such loss.

But over these past eight years, I have had a faithful God gently leading me.  Ninety-six months of complete and utter dependence on Him.  He has captured my tears and planted fresh springs of healing.  He has been my comfort through anguished sleepless nights.  He has been my strength and my shield. 

Yes, there has been tremendous heartache; there has undeniably been immense pain.  But there is beauty in my brokenness.  There is glory in His presence through my journey. 

So while the main character of this book has been told "it takes ten years to figure out what you are doing", I am looking with hope to my new year as I complete year eight of topsy turvy uncertainty.  May my year nine be one where life settles.  I am beyond ready for a season of calmness and joy.  And if that isn't possible, I'll be okay anyway, because my God has proven Himself as faithful and steady.  He is constantly present.  He is enough.

Friday, November 11, 2016

I Will Give You Rest

“My presence will go with you and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14
Sometimes I am just tired.

Wiped out.

The exhaustion is typically fleeting; I know better than to allow myself to camp out in the negative thoughts of “woe is me”. My mind is trained to focus on the positive when I get tired or lonely.
But every once in a while I am so busy I fail to realize how tired I really am. When in a period of unacknowledged weariness, as I am chugging along with my daily responsibilities, oblivious to the time needed for true rest, tears will unexpectedly leak.  I am so distracted trying to be the best me I can be at work, in our home, with ministering to others, I can fail to pause and really feel those under the surface emotions.  Driving down the road, on my millionth errand of the day, not even thinking about him or the reality of widowhood…tears randomly fall from my eyes.  It is strange.  I am not sobbing.  I wouldn’t even classify it as crying, really.  Yet my eyes drip salty liquid of their own accord.
 
It’s as if my body is begging me to slow down and rest.

For the first few months after his passing, I suffered intensive physical grieving. There were sharp pains with each intake and exhale of breath, deep cutting twinges in my chest (doctors clinically describe this as a broken heart), full body joint aches, and a lot of fatigue.  It was excruciating and surreal.  I’m unsure of when the attacks subsided, but with time they did.  Just like my body knows when the 11th rolls around each month, even when I am oblivious to the date on the calendar.  He passed away on the 11th and since then I have found myself being more easily frustrated and on edge each month during that time.  It took me over a year to connect those dots and learn to control my responses; but like my body responds to dates subconsciously, so too does it know when I am overdoing it and need rest.

I was driving yesterday and my eyes did their odd little leaking thing.  Then again this morning as I was on mile four of a ten mile training run, they briefly started back up.  Stopped and reoccurred around mile seven.  I am void of emotion when this happens.  It is typically when my mind is free of detailed thinking; which is one of the reasons why I run in the first place, to clear my mind and just exist.

We speak a lot in this ministry of moving forward, walking in grace, choosing to really be alive and present in this life we are blessed with.  And we should.  We should absolutely be actively working towards all of those goals.

But we also need rest.

Our bodies will tell us when we are pushing too hard.  But are we listening?  We do ourselves a disservice to be stuck in a cycle of pity, refusing to do the work for self-improvement; likewise, we also do ourselves a disservice when we neglect resting.

We are in this for the long haul. Our loss will never be left behind.  It takes its toll on every portion of our being.  It affects us spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically.  Consequently, we must remember to tend to our physical needs.  Exercise and fresh air are important.  Strengthening and stretching are vital.  Daily time sitting still in God's presence and listening for His voice are crucial. 

And rest is necessary.

However you find it.  Whatever it looks like for you.  A nap, soaking in a bath, sitting alone in silence...find what works for you and let Him give you REST from the inside out.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

34 Months...


Dear Tim,

This week marks thirty-four months since I last kissed your forehead goodbye. 

Thirty-four months.

I can't process this reality.

It is unexplainable to me how life continues without you by my side.

Minutes tick to hours.  Hours roll into days.  Days become weeks.  Weeks tumble into months.  Months morph into years. 

It is too much to wrap my brain around.

Our son, 14 years old at the time of your passing, has grown in wisdom, stature and favor with God and man...just as we prayed together that he would. (Luke 2:52)  Now at 17, I look up to him, both physically and in awe and respect.  I know you are beaming with pride over his maturity and growth. He exhibits self-control and determination at levels rarely seen in youth these days.

When you died, our 13 year old daughter was standing with me at your bedside.  She has weathered the hell of grief and battled for every glimpse of happiness she can muster since that moment.  She is slowly learning how to breathe again. At 16, your song bird has finally returned to singing regularly. 
When I hear her voice echoing through the halls of this new home, I can't help but smile knowing her singing was your favorite sound on this earth.  You are no doubt proud of her battle scars and the strength God is building within her. 

Life progresses and changes constantly. 

Everything is different now without you here.

Every. Single. Thing.

Losing you has made this life take a sharp turn and not one portion of our existence is unaffected.

And yet time just keeps slipping away. 

We probably now daily come in contact with as many people who never knew you as we do with those who did.  And I don't really know how to comprehend this fact.

I won't lie.  I don't prefer this new life.  I miss the comfort and stability of our old life. It was so close to perfection.  Our laughter, our fun, our working toward common goals while supporting each other's independence.  I miss parenting with you.  I long to discuss politics, religion, and current events with you.  I miss dating you!  You were my husband, but you were also my boyfriend and my best-friend.  What we had was pretty special.

I am convinced that the three of us left here without you can learn to still live life fully.  We can love each other and choose joy.  We can serve others and choose humility.  We can adapt to our new and still cherish our old.  I may never prefer life this way, but I can find things to love in our new. 

Because the time is going to pass, whether we are choosing to be miserable or choosing happiness.  I want us to honor you by living this altered, unplanned, and often awkward feeling life well. 

I love you forever,
Lori

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Being Present in Our Now

 
"Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself."
Matthew 6:.34 ESV
Breathe deeply.
 
Smile genuinely.

Find beauty in every single day.

Be grateful.

Laugh.

Start living in the now.

I know how some days this comes easier than others.  I am walking this very same road myself.

And I am raising children on it.  I recently shed tears with my teenage daughter over how she won't have her Daddy to walk her down the wedding aisle.  She is fifteen and she shared that she almost dreads her wedding day because of what has been lost and who will be missing.

My heart splinters in new places I didn't even know had not previously been shattered.

Life changes suddenly.

We have faced catastrophic loss. We know deep hurt and unrelenting sorrow.

We can choose to remain in the pain, being paralyzed by the fear of nothing ever being good again, focusing on all the events he will be missing from, that are yet to come.  Wallowing in the exhaustion of facing these future moments as our sadness steals their joy before they even have a chance to occur. 

OR

We can start taking steps towards BEING PRESENT IN OUR NOW.

Because, dreading the future without him won’t bring him back. It won’t make the days to come any easier.  What it is guaranteed to do though, is steal us from our now.  It will suffocate the current right out of us as the days will pile upon themselves until we have missed living.

We’ve lost enough. Let’s not choose to give more to death than it has already taken.

So together, let's pause.

Breathe deeply.
{The Spirit of God has made me and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. ~Job 33:4}

Smile genuinely.
{A cheerful look brings joy to the heart. ~Proverbs 15:30a NLT}

Find beauty in this day that is before us.
{This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. ~Psalm 118:24}

Be grateful.
{Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
~1Thessalonians 5:18}

Laugh.
{She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. ~Proverbs 31:25}

Let's make the choice to start being present in our now.

My daughter's wedding day will arrive sometime in the next decade or so.  And yes, her Daddy will be missing from the day.  And yes, we will be achingly aware of that missing.  But dreading it now isn't going to change his lack of presence, it will only steal peace from today.  We will find a way to honor his place in her life and heart, and it will be a beautiful celebration.  He will have the best seat in the house, from heaven above.


We’ve lost enough. Let’s not choose to give more to death than it has already taken.


So together, let's pause.

Breathe deeply.
{The Spirit of God has made me and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. ~Job 33:4}

Smile genuinely.
{A cheerful look brings joy to the heart. ~Proverbs 15:30a NLT}

Find beauty in this day that is before us.
{This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. ~Psalm 118:24}

Be grateful.
{Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
~1Thessalonians 5:18}

Laugh.
{She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. ~Proverbs 31:25}

Let's make the choice to start being present in our now.

My daughter's wedding day will arrive sometime in the next decade or so.  And yes, her Daddy will be missing from the day.  And yes, we will be achingly aware of that missing.  But dreading it now isn't going to change his lack of presence, it will only steal peace from today.  We will find a way to honors his place in her life and heart and it will be a beautiful celebration.  He will have the best seat in the house, from heaven above.