Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Rested, Refreshed, and Reset

Last week the kids and I joined my mother on a vacation.  We escaped the cold winter weather for a week in the sun, sand, and ocean.  It was a much needed week “off the grid”. 

While away, I quietly experienced the 2 year anniversary of Tim’s head and neck cancer diagnosis.  It was February 2012 when we received the call that his tonsil biopsy was cancerous.  So much can change in a few minutes on the telephone.  Instead of entering the battle over his 3 year old leukemia diagnosis, as we were anticipating, our lives took a completely new course; a journey unknown to us but known in perfect detail by our Savior.  

I pondered about these past two years on this anniversary day, but didn't mention it to the children.  There are so very many milestones for us to cross over; it seemed senseless to drill yet another date into their young minds.  It still hurt.  The memories are incredibly raw and my emotions are just right there under the surface of my resolve, ready to burst forth at the slightest opportunity.  Alone in the elevator, my mom caught glimpse of a tear and knew the dam was about to break.  I simply said, “Today is the anniversary of his diagnosis” and she knew the depth of my pain.  She and my father walked this road with Tim and me the entire journey.  They never once flinched at dropping everything in their own lives to fill in as parents to our children while we were in various hospitals for treatments over extended periods.  They are incredible individuals and we are blessed to have them as parents/grandparents. 

While I crossed through this anniversary and experienced intense sorrow, something quite amazing happened as well.  I found glimpses of pure joy in the horrible memories that flooded my mind.  JOY?  You might be puzzled by this declaration, which is understandable, so please let me explain.  I have run the gamut of emotions since Tim’s passing last month.  I have had deep depression, sorrow, anger, frustration, and fear; along with peace, understanding, calmness, gentleness, and laughter.  The pendulum of grief swings wide.  This past week, I experienced the joy that puts a smile on your face, a song in your heart and a bounce in your step.  

The main thought that God keeps putting in my mind is focused on Tim’s freedom.  

He is finally free of the mental stress from 26 years of dealing with cancer or the fear of its return.  He is completely free from the frustration of the many changes his earthly body endured throughout this 2 yearlong battle.  He is absolutely without the burden of pain that cancer brought him.  He doesn't have to worry about being brave anymore.  As much as I want Tim back right here by my side for years and years to come, simply knowing that he is in the presence of our Lord brings tears of joy to my eyes!  

I am so happy for him (and a wee bit jealous to be honest).  2 Corinthians 5:8 tells us that, for Christians, to die is to be “present with the Lord” or another translation reads “at home with the Lord”.  I love this!  As much as I treasure creating a comfortable, safe haven within the walls of our home for my family, God has created the BEST home for each of His children.  Tim is at home with his Lord.  {sigh}
My Tim was curious by nature.  He always wanted to know the full story.  He liked having all the details and facts.  He was an explorer, always eager to have fun, and full of intrigue and laughter.  I smile thinking about his elation in finally being able to see the whole picture.  The story of his time here on earth has been revealed to him.  He was often puzzled by how some people were allowed to beat cancer and others weren't.  Now, he has the ability to see the purpose behind his suffering and he is no doubt, discussing the ins and outs of the details with Jesus with a fresh, new perspective.  He has had his “aha” moment.  I can almost hear him whispering for me to “Hang on, babe” because heaven is better than we can dream of with our limited earthly minds.  I can see his brilliant smile and know he will be so excited to show me around when it is my turn to join him. 

I have mentioned before that life just keeps going, regardless of the stage of grief one is in.  I mean, I guess I could curl up in a ball and deny its existence for a while if I really wanted to, but eventually I would have to get up, go to work, pay the bills, buy the groceries, cook the meals, etc. again.  So I don’t really see a purpose in shutting down.  However, I believe my mother-in-law stated it best when I was visiting with her on the phone today about my recent vacation.  She said, “It must have been good to get away and reset.  You have been going a million miles an hour and needed something to just reset you, didn't you?”  She hit the nail on the head.  That’s exactly what this vacation did for me.  

It was time away from the constant managing of details, the dealing with death and its aftermath, the juggling of so many decisions.  It was a “reset” button that has allowed me to slow down my pace, breathe deeply again, refocus my attention, and re-prioritize my agenda.  It was needed more than I could have ever imagined.  

And now, I feel as though I can make clearer decisions and really drink in my satisfaction with my Lord.  Colossians 1:11, "May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy,"  

My deepest desire is to glorify His name.  After all, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” (John Piper)

So I continue on this path trying to walk in obedience to my Savior and trusting Him with my future.  I am a long way still from liking the journey, but with my rested, refreshed, and reset mind I am continuing to move forward and am finding some moments of joy…much sooner than I anticipated, and welcomed just the same.
God is good all the time!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Valentine's Day....My 1st Holiday as a Widow

How does one prepare to celebrate their first holiday as a widow?  Oh the irony of this milestone being Valentine's Day.......

Today marks one month without my Tim.

It was on Valentine's Day 2000 when we found out we were expecting our second child.

This would have been our 20th Valentine's Day together...

...which means our 19 year anniversary is coming closely on its heels (March 11th).  That day will fall on the two month anniversary of his death and will be followed closely by Tim's 46th birthday (April 3).  Talk about "ripping the band-aid off".


I feel paralyzed just thinking about each "first" that will occur this year.  But these three...they are way too soon and spaced entirely too closely together for me to wrap my brain around.  And then boom, our oldest will turn 15 in May.

I read a list titled 5 Stages of Grief this morning and thought, "Stages?????  Really?  I feel like I am experiencing EACH and EVERY one of these in a sharp, jagged-edged, kaleidoscope of jumbled emotions.  They are supposed to be stages???"

Oy vey.

Stages would be nice, then I would know where I am and what to expect next.  I prefer "neat and tidy" in all areas of my life, emotions included. Grief is everything BUT neat and tidy.

It's odd really.  When you stop to think about it.

The fact that life goes on for those of us left behind.  Whether we want it to or not; 
it    just    does.

There is school and there is work.  There are friendships and activities. There is church and Bible studies.  We have chores and responsibilities. In many ways it is good for us to be busy.  In some ways it isn't.  The balancing of it all is difficult and exhausting and then suddenly another day is over.  Throughout every day I am constantly thinking about Tim.  What he would think.  How he would react.  Sometimes horrible flashes of his suffering enter my minds eye and my heart aches all the more; but there are also thoughts that bring smiles and laughter.  The recent Facebook movie of a friend brought an onslaught of beautiful memories to me.  This (slightly blurry) photo (taken by a kid) of Tim and I going on a date night was in her video.
Our friends had come over to watch our (three at the time) children so we could go on a romantic date to one of our favorite restaurants.  I even remember what we ordered.  (Oh how we loved that lobster bisque and don't even get me started on those button mushrooms!)  We treasured our date nights together where we would sit and visit about our goals and dreams.

That is one of the things I miss most.

Our easy conversations about anything and everything.  The comfortable way we could share our hopes for the future with one another.  The trust we had in each other to be "secret keepers" when sharing our fears, failures, and frustrations.  How he would listen and offer advice or guidance for me when I needed it.  How he valued my input in his decisions.  I miss being his sounding board and having him be mine.  Oh how I long to hold his hand and pray with him again.

When Tim passed away and I began cleaning out drawers and closets, I found three cards that he had purchased to give to me.

He never even signed them, but they made me cry just the same.  I envision him standing at Target with his soft hair growing back over his bald head that was tucked into his Thunder stocking cap; his wool hunting socks pulled up to his knees underneath his blue jeans that were belted tightly (because "fat matters" and he was always cold after losing 80 pounds in the battle).  I see him with his sweatshirt on under his black jacket, perusing the cards for the perfect message to give me, his "bride" (that's what he still called me pushing two decades into our love story).

Regardless of the stabbing pain the tumor constantly caused or how self-conscious he felt now that it protruded from his face and bled often....he took the time to slip to the store, and knowing his days of driving were coming to a close, he selected multiple cards to tuck back and give me in the months to come.

I miss his selfless love.

I miss sneaking encouraging Scriptures onto his pillow for him to find at night.

I have no idea how to survive these upcoming milestones, but I DO KNOW that I will.  By the grace of God, I will walk through these months and come out stronger on the other side.  And somehow, simply knowing that God will guide me (and even carry me if need be) through this season, makes me willing to keep moving forward with my eyes on my Lord and my thoughts on eternity.  Because, you see, life does keep on going and I have to choose whether I will participate in it or lock myself away in this grief.  Tim loved life and lived it large.  He would want me to choose to live for Jesus and to lean deeply into Him for my strength and comfort.  This doesn't mean I can't cry or miss him (which is a good thing, because I could strap a bucket around my neck to catch the unexpected tears at this point).

It means that my grief is intermingled with hope.

It doesn't necessarily make the process easier, but it does make it different from those who grieve without the hope of being reunited with their loved ones in the presence of a Savior.

May I be honest?  It still stinks.  I'm incredibly lonely and longing for my Tim.  I am certainly not at a point where I can paint a rosy picture out of this mess, but I know the One who can!  And truth be told, I am eagerly anticipating what my Lord and Redeemer will continue to create in my future from the love Tim and I shared in my past.  A love that lives on through our children.  A love that I will treasure until the moment I see him again.