My Passenger

I recently had the privilege to serve on an Ordination Council for a lovely young lady in our church.  But on the same day as one of the meetings some of my dear friends were scheduled to come to the beach house.  We made plans that I would go to my meeting and as soon as I was released I would make the three hour drive to the beach house.

The meeting ran into the late afternoon, but I left as soon as I could. As it got dark, I was motoring along, listening to and singing to the upcoming Easter Cantata on a CD so I could know my part. I was really looking forward to getting to the beach and seeing my friends.

About 30 minutes into this trip I hit horrible wind.  At first I thought I had a tire problem because I was having trouble keeping my car on the road.  Then I realized that my car gave me messages if I had a tire problem so it must be something else.  I soon realized, I had hit a bad storm. The rain came down in sheets and I was holding on for dear life to keep the car on the road.

I reduced my speed.  That did not make me happy since I was determined to hurry to the beach to begin my visit with friends.  I knew I had to be safe.  So I became alert, held on for dear life and kept going.

All of a sudden I smelled the most wonderful sweet smell in the car.  It was a strong odor. It was not to be missed.  I sniffed and sniffed and tried to figure out what it was.

I did not have any deserts in the car.  I did not have any perfume in the car.

What was this marvelous smell?  It took my mind off of the danger on the road and I focused on the delightful smell.  Then it hit me.  The smell was a strong version of my dead husband’s cologne.  He did not wear it everyday.  It was “Cool Water” for our special occasions.  It was that intoxicating smell of love, romance and caring.

My car was still being buffeted by the wind but I was now somehow comforted and less anxious. I knew that I was going to be fine.  I felt that I could see better in the dark through the rain and I took my car back up to a reasonable speed and went on as if it was a clear Sunday afternoon adventure.

About forty five minutes later the weather cleared and I noticed the smell had gone away.  Later, after I got through Florence and was on some very dark and lonely country roads the weather came back.  I had hit another pocket of this weather system.  The high winds returned along with the pelting rain.  Once again, I reduced my speed and started white knuckling the steering wheel.

Yes. You know what happened.
The strong smell came back.

It was overpowering and so enticing.  The car seemed to be driving itself.  I relaxed, felt so calm and knew that I was going to be fine.

OK, once again, you know I am just a little left of center.  As you go through this journey with me, you have found that I talk to birds, I see my husband in squirrels and now I am telling you that I had a mysterious passenger helping to drive my car.

I do not know if this was my husband, a guardian angel or the Holy Spirit.  But someone let His presence be known by the sweet smell and the calming spirit.

I truly believe God was letting me know once again that his promise the night that my husband died was being carried out.  He told me that night that He would care for me.  I would never have thought that He meant He would help me drive through a storm.

God is Good.  God is ever present.  Praise always to my God.

Another Sunrise

A few days ago my wonderful granddaughter reminded me of our time together right after my husband died.  She began to sleep with me.  It was very comforting for her and for me.  We would spend a few moments before sleeping talking about Poppy and how great he was.  We would share a few memories and things we were thinking about.

Each morning, as she reminded me, we woke up to a gorgeous sunrise.  My bed faces six large windows looking over the lake.  The summer sunrises on that lake is a sight to behold.  The glory as it beams into your eyes and into your heart is just marvelous. Summertime on the lake is great and summertime sunrises are glorious.

Each morning we would hug each other and pray our morning prayer.  We would thank God for sending us such a strong message that He was there for us. We thanked Him for the sunrise.  We told Him that we knew it was a new opportunity to be a servant for Him. We praised Him for creating this beautiful world and allowing us to share it.

That was a special time for the two of us.  It helped us as we both had to deal with losing our wonderful Poppy.  It helped to be able to snuggle close and hold each other.  It was comforting to talk about how much we were going to miss him.  We soon stopped sleeping together.  She needed to get back to her room and get prepared for the school year.  I needed to move on and learn to sleep without a sweet person next to me.

Even after returning to “real life”, we still had our sunrises.  We were still able to see God’s handiwork as soon as we opened our eyes. The sunrise is God’s way of telling us that he has given us a gift.  It is the gift of another day on earth. Another day to be vertical and breathing.  Another day for us to take to the task of living and helping others.

Another opportunity to serve Him.

Whether it is a sun filled day or a rainy day, it is a gift.  As the sudden loss of my life partner taught me, we are not promised another day.  It is a gift to wake up and be alive.

Each day we need to take that gift and do something with it.
It is not given frivolously.
It has meaning.
It has purpose.
It needs to be used.
We need to accomplish something.

After my morning thanks to God for the gift (my mother said to send a thank you note for the gift), I get busy with thinking about my to do list.  I always list more than I can accomplish and I always list things in detail.  The longer the list and more detailed, the more things I get to cross off.  The more things I get to cross off, the better I feel about all that I have accomplished.

Getting up in the morning with a purpose is important.  It gives you energy and a reason to tackle life’s issues.  I always feel good at night when I can say to God, “Thank you for my gift.  I tried hard to use it well”.

One day at a time.  Be thankful for the gift of another sunrise.  Use the gift wisely.  Know you may not get another one.  Rejoice with God for the opportunity to live for Him.

The Good Wolf

I have a mountain house that is in the boonies and the electricity is furnished by a Co-op. I get their magazine called the Tennessee Magazine.  There was an article in this last one written by Debra Gibson Issacs that said a lot about what I see in life.

She told of an old Cherokee story of the wolves.  It goes like this. “A grandfather was teaching his grandson about life.  A fight is going on inside of me, he told the boy.  It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.  One is evil-he is anger, envy, sorry, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.  The other is good- he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.  The grandson thought for a minute.  He looked up at his grandfather and asked, who will win?  The grandfather replied, the one I feed.

When my husband died nine months ago I had a night with God.  I was up all night. God and I had a real session.  I was angry, upset, bewildered and emotional.

I questioned God and His motives.
I questioned God and His love for me.
I questioned all of the days that I had been so devoted to Him.

I knew the reality of death.  No one is alive after being in the water for three hours.  So I knew it was a done deal.  But I was mightily upset.  I had been a good person, a true Christian, a devoted wife, a loving mother and a hard working professional.  I was a follower of the rules; a product of the fifties.

As I have written before, the morning came and there was clear cut information from God.  It was not your choice, it was mine.  I am more powerful than you.  I know you are hurting and in pain.  But I will always carry you and care for you and be with you.

So God gave me a choice.  Deal with it, continue my love for Him, enjoy the memories and have an intimate relationship with Him so that he could help me through everything.  Or I could be angry, sad, in denial, feel guilt, have regret and turn against Him and all other people as I refused to accept it and move on.

Many, many people look at me and feel that I am in extreme denial.  They are watching for they know I will fall apart soon.  They are bold enough to say that this is going to happen, but that when it does they will be there for me.  These are my friends.  I can only imagine what others are saying that are not as close to me.

I believe the story of the wolves.  We do have choices in our lives.  I believe that I could feed the evil wolf.  No one would blame me.  It was a traumatic event.  It was life changing.  I meet many people that choose to feed the evil wolf.  I think Satan rejoices when he leads people in that direction and they choose to embrace the evil wolf.

I choose to feed the good wolf.  I intend to praise God for each sunrise and ask what I can do to serve Him on that day.  I work hard at peace, love, serenity, benevolence, kindness, compassion and faith.  I put effort into feeding the good wolf.

I am rewarded each day.  God walks with me, helps me, guides me and allows me to have peace and joy.  Everyone of us has the same choice.

Wake up with gladness in your heart and feed the good wolf that is inside of you.

 

Trust Your Instruments

The other day I drove past the Ocean Isle Beach airport.  It is an airport for small, mostly single engine, planes.  As I drove past I started thinking about the times that my husband and I would spend time flying in small planes.  Ray had a private pilots license and we were members of a flying club so that we could use planes they owned.

When we would go on flights and approach mountains there would be an optical illusion of being too low to clear the mountain.  As I was looking out and we were approaching, I would get tense because it looked like we were going to go into the side of the mountain.

My sweet husband would say, “Trust your instruments”.

He would tell me how high the mountain was and he would have me check the altimeter only to see that we were hundreds of feet above the mountain.

No worry; trust your instruments.

As I continued this thought I realized that as a Christian, I also had to trust my instruments.  God has given us aids to keep our faith at an intense level.  These instruments are to be used to keep us intimate with Him.  If we use our instruments, we will be in His presence.

The first instrument is the Bible.  Reading it daily and using the words to fortify us each day is very important.  It is not a book to sit on the shelf or just carry to church. Sometimes it can be hard to understand.  Although parts of it reads like a novel, some is more difficult.  A good study Bible can give us clues to the meaning of passages and help us. We must use it as an instrument to guide us.

The second is our prayer life.  I am not very formal with my prayers. I tend to talk to God all during the day as I would a good friend.  I thank Him when I am late for an appointment and I make all of the stoplights.  I see a pretty bush and I thank Him for our beautiful world.  I pray for my sick friends as I am driving the car.  Prayer is a wonderful instrument that allows me to communicate with God.

A third instrument is the involvement at church.  People say, “I don’t have to go to church.  I can worship God while fishing on the lake”.  Of course you can.  I don’t disagree with that.  But my granddaughters favorite Bible verse gives me a clue about this instrument.  Proverbs 27:17. As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.  The relationship of Christian to Christian calls us to grow and be sharper with our God.

One word on Sunday can challenge my thinking about my life.  One thought from another person can make me consider things in a different  way.  The support I get from my fellow Christians cannot be gotten from a solitude activity.

God took my husband away but He gives me daily assurance as I reflect on the life I had with my husband.  He sends me messages that reminds me of great memories and links me to His love.

Just like the altimeter in the small airplane, I must use the tools that God has given me to keep my focus and be sure that I am safe in His arms.  I must use the tools to feel His presence and know that I am close to Him each day.

I must TRUST MY INSTRUMENTS.

Talking to the Moon

I am working long hours trying to get houses ready for the beach rental season.  So, after a particularly hard day the day before, I slept til 7 am one morning.  (Normally I am up by 6 am.)  Suddenly I hear my Echo Dot playing a song.  I did not ask it to play a song. I am in the house by myself so I know that no one else asked it to play a song.

I am stunned and bewildered.

I listen to the song.
It was “Talking to the Moon” by Bruno Mars.

I listen to the lyrics.  “I am talking to the moon because you are not here and I want you bad.  You are all I had and I sit by myself and talk to the moon trying to get to you and hope that you are on the other side talking to me too.  Do you hear me calling because every night I am talking.”

I immediately remember all of the years spent traveling with my job. Every night my husband and I would talk to each other.  Many, many nights we would do this while we were looking at the moon.  We knew it was our connection.  Both of us were looking at the same thing in spite of the fact that we were thousands of miles apart.

As I was enjoying this memory I was trying in the back of my mind to figure out how my departed husband could get “Alexa” to play on my Dot.

I knew God could do this.  
God can, in my belief, do anything.  

But I did not think God would really turn “Alexa” on.  And It was kind of spooky to think that my husband could do this.  But I have seen him dance in the body of a squirrel so maybe this was just another message from the other side.

Oh, yeah.  This is getting weird.
I mean I have a lot of faith.

I am so intimate with God that I would not hesitate to believe it could have been another “God Wink”.  But somehow my logical and rational brain would not let it be that way.  I had to figure it out.

The night before I had noticed the amazing moon.  It was almost full.  The sky was clear and the moon was so big you felt you could reach up and touch it.  It was glorious.  I had texted two of my daughters to ask them if they had noticed the moon.  I wanted to share the beauty of the huge globe in the sky.  They had both noticed this magnificent sky gem.

Then, my logical and rational mind kicked in.  I called my daughter and asked, “Can you control my “Alexa” from 200 miles away?  She said she could.  She said, “How did you enjoy ‘Talking to the Moon’ ?  I admitted it was beautiful and it was sweet of her to remember me in this way.

I did not let her know that I thought my dead husband had sent it to me as a love message.  I really do not want to give my children any more reason to file for guardianship papers.  But just between you and me, I will tell you a secret.  It was my husband that put in her mind to do this.  He was always such a romantic man.

I bet he and God are having a lot of fun.  They are up there finding lots of ways to keep me on my toes and loving both of them.

Thank you Ray for your love message.
Thank you God for taking care of my sweet husband and making me so comfortable in your love.

You are holding me in your arms and helping me know it is all OK.

 

Things I Miss

It has been seven and a half months since my husband died.
I miss him so much.

I worry that as time passes I will forget the most endearing parts of our relationship.  I take notes on what I miss most.  I look at pictures each day. Surprising to me, I do not miss his image as much as I miss his actions.

I miss cuddling.
He was a great hugger.
He would spontaneously hold me.
At our age, and with his physical being, sex was not the great part of intimacy.  It was holding me.

I miss his presence next to me.
The way he would look at me and let me know that he was in love with me.
We fell in love the first time we saw each other and it never stopped

He was also good at verbalizing his love.  He would tell me each day that he loved me.

I have recently gone through a lot of paperwork to get rid of the stacks of things that need to be gone.  I found his cards that he had given me for birthdays and Valentines and Mothers’s day and anniversaries.  I read each one and the wonderful words he would add to the already lovely message of the card.  He was great at expressing love.

I really miss affirmation.
I have no one that tells me that I am doing a good job or I am an OK person.
I have no one that lets me know that I am a hard worker or that they appreciate me for all that I do.

Don’t get me wrong.  I have wonderful children.  I know that they love me.  But there is just something about having someone who tells you that they appreciate you…frequently. My husband did that for me. I knew he admired me for what I did and he let me know that my mind was sharp and my actions and hard work was in concert with him.  I felt good about myself.

I miss the little things he did that showed he cared.  He bought the gas.  I did not have to be concerned about a car on empty.  He took care of that.  He carried the garbage and the recycling to the center.  He wrote the checks and paid the bills.  He bought the groceries. The list could go on and on.

When I start looking at these things I begin to wonder what I did.  But we were good partners so I did the laundry, the cleaning and making the grocery list.

He loved to run errands.  I would make the list and he would run the errands.  He could spend all day running errands.  He love to interface with people when he ran the errands.  If I do the errands I make a list and try to do it with as much efficiency as I can. Not Ray; he enjoyed running errands and would dilly dally and backtrack and enjoy each person and each experience.  That is why he is missed by so many people.

To say that there is a void in my life is not doing it justice.  There is a huge hole.  As good as I feel I am doing without him, I cannot seem to fill this hole.

They say that time will heal.  I don’t want time to take away my memories or to replace missing him.  But there are some things that hurt so much I don’t think time could come close to repairing.

Be My Valentine

Since I was fourteen years old I have had a boyfriend give me something special for Valentine’s Day.  Even before that we had boxes in our classroom where each student would put a paper valentine in for all other students.  We coded our names by putting numbers for the letters in the alphabet so it was fun to figure out from whom the valentine was sent.  Valentine’s Day has always been a special day for me.

This year I decided to ignore Valentine’s.  I knew that my true love was not going to be here.  I knew that I would not get that special card, those flowers and that extra long hug. I had prepared myself for the fact that my husband had died and Valentine’s Day for me would be just another day on the calendar.

I did great.  I was rocking along getting my chores done and my “to do” list was getting checked off in the speed of lightning. I was proud of my moving along and ignoring the special day of love.

Then my wonderful daughter comes up to me, gives me a great big cuddly long hug and says, “This was sent to you from heaven from Dad”.  That was it.  I looked at her and lost it.  My big bravado heart broke wide open.  I could no longer ignore the day.  I loved him so much while he shared my life and I love him now in all of my many memories; I could not act as if it didn’t matter.

Valentine’s Day is a special day to acknowledge our love for our special people.  I know it is usually marked for the romantic love in our lives.  It is designed for dinners out, flowers, candy in heart shaped boxes and expensive jewelry.

But shouldn’t it be a time that we say “I love you” to all of our special loves?  I, as much as I tried, could not get past the hole in my heart where my true love had lived.  I ached as I let myself release those feelings of emptiness, loneliness and sadness.

I was on the way to church for Ash Wednesday services and the radio seem to play every song that my husband and I had called “our song”.  I cried through everyone.  Then the next song would play and it was, once again, another of the songs that we loved.  Those songs reminded me of many special moments that only the two of us shared.

By the time I got to church I was a basket case. Probably, for the sake of others, I should have turned around and gone home, gone to bed and cried through the night.  But I didn’t.  I sat through a very moving service and thought about repentance and the sacrifice of Jesus and how I was going to ponder that for the next 46 days.

Thankfully my friends are sweet, caring people and they accepted my quiet sobs.  They knew my distress because they knew how much my husband and I were in love.  They understood my pain.

I made it home and the next day I was moving on with life.  But I learned that as hard as I tried to ignore the love that is expressed on Valentine’s Day, it has to be acknowledged. I hope that everyone could have a Valentine in their life as dear and loving as mine was. He was a true romantic. We fell so deeply in love that it is hard to imagine living without him.

So now in my memories, I think of him and want to say, “Please be my Valentine forever”.  I love you and miss you.

Alone

I had an epiphany the other day.

I. Am. Alone.

I guess as you read this you would say, “Really, you are just realizing that?”  But yes, it just became so apparent to me that I am all alone.  I realized that we are all traveling through this world alone; as an individual.

We come into this world as a single being.  Although we have relationships, we are still individuals.  Some of us have very good relationships.  We have close friends with which we can share both the happy times, as well as our sad times. In fact, some folks share every intimate detail with close friends.  Some of us never have close friends and we are only comfortable sharing a limited amount of our lives with others.

In retrospect, I had a great relationship with my parents.  I don’t remember having many moments that were trying with them.  They were reasonable, flexible, and easy to get along with all of my life.  My mother died at 98 1/2 years old and was a good friend the entire time.  My brothers were younger and different from me, but we always got along.

I left my parents home after college and married my best friend. We had 54 1/2 years of great friendship.  It was such an amazing journey through life with him. We enjoyed years of goal setting and accomplishments.  We were partners in raising six children and fulfilling our mutual desires.  We dreamed our dreams and worked on them through the years. We sort of melted into one person, instead of two, living together.

Then, life happened, and he left me abruptly.  I now realize I came into this world as an individual…I traveled these years as an individual…I will leave this world as an individual.

I cannot expect anyone to be responsible for me.  I don’t have to get permission from anyone to do something.  Sometimes there is no one that actually knows what I am doing or cares what I am doing.

I am alone.

As this concept occurs to me, I find that there is some good and some not so good things to this.  The good is the independence.  If I want to eat chocolate all day I can do that.  I am the only one that is accountable.  But eating chocolate alone is no fun.  As a person that always had a partner, I really prefer the connection to another person.  I want someone to know where I am and what I am doing.

There are lessons to be learned here.  First, I think we have to appreciate the persons with which we are connected.  With all of their faults or irritations, we need to stop and consider that if they were not there, we would be so lonesome.

Second, I think we need to prepare ourselves for the alone-ness.  What will you do if you find yourself alone without people around you. Do you have hobbies? Do you have projects to do?  Can you amuse yourself enough to be alone? Do you feel comfortable reaching out and starting over to find new relationships?

I am very alone.
I am experiencing major loneliness.

My comfort so far has come as I am experiencing a great joy in my relationship with God. I am trying to deal with this new individual life.  It is God’s will and he will give me the courage to be alone. Then someday, as an individual, I will return again to God just as I came alone from Him.

The Return of the Squirrel

Do you believe in reincarnation?  Do you believe that persons are sent back to earth as animals?  I don’t know.  But the little light grey squirrel has returned.  You may have read the story of the light grey squirrel that got my attention by dancing for me on a Sunday morning shortly after Ray died.  He looked just like my husband with the shaking of his bootie.

I distinguish him as the light grey squirrel because most of the squirrels in our yard are dark grey or black.  This stylish thing is very light grey, so I think he is unique.  He certainly is different.  And he certainly does different things from the other fuzzy creatures in my yard.  He is bold, knows no boundaries and pushes the limits.

I was in the keeping room the other day and looked out to find this creature on my porch.

ON MY PORCH.  

How dare him to come up on my porch.  My husband and I purposely cut down some gorgeous trees on our property so that no tree would be close enough that a squirrel could jump on the new house.  I HATE SQUIRRELS.

I have had experience with squirrels.  They can get in your attic.  They can nest in your attic.  They can chew through lines in your house; electric lines and water lines.  They can urinate and do other things that are disgusting in your house.  And ultimately your house will smell from all of the things that squirrels can do there.

So, I’ll say it again, I HATE SQUIRRELS.

So here is this sassy squirrel on my porch.  I carefully watched him.  He came up to the door.  He perched up on his hind legs and looked in the glass of the door.  He turned his head from side to side looking in the door.  Then he casually walked to one of the windows.  He perched up on his hind legs and looked in the glass of the window.  He turned his head from side to side as he looked in the window. [If you are visual like me, I hope you are actually picturing this as you are reading it.]

By now, I was sure that he was assessing the best way to enter my house.  While he was doing this, I was assessing the best way to get rid of this pest.  I walked around to the door of the porch.  I was certain that he would see me through the glass and run away. That was not the case at all.

He walked casually back to the center of the porch, raised up on his hind legs and looked at me.  Amazing.  Who did he think he was?  I stomped my foot to scare him away.  He just kind of turned his head as if to acknowledge that I was there and to say hello.  I waved my arms to scare him away.  Amazing.  He just looked at me as if he was amused.

After a few minutes of me looking at him and he looking at me, he slowly turned away and SLOWLY walked down the spiral staircase.  Oh yes, this is not a porch on the bottom floor.  This squirrel walked down a twelve foot spiral staircase to get up and down to the porch.  It was as if he felt he owned the place.

When telling my granddaughter about the return of the squirrel, she laughed. She said you have to see the humor in this.  And I replied, “What is humorous about this?” She said, “God has the last laugh.  He sent Poppy back to us in the form of the thing you hate the most, a squirrel”.

Secretly, between you and me, the little light grey squirrel is really very cute. He does remind me of my husband.  Bold, no boundaries and pushes the limits. Thank you God.

One of the many Voids

As life rolls along, we are not very conscious of the specifics of daily actions.  We get caught up in our to do list, take actions and perform tasks and count it as normal behaviors.  We don’t sit down each night and evaluate what was done, by whom and whether the actions were excellent, good or poor.

Most of us live with others and we melt together as each person takes on roles and responsibilities.  Some people fix the coffee each morning, others load the dishwasher, while others pay bills or cook.  The fact is, all of us fall into a routine of doing our thing.

I enjoy cleaning while Ray, my husband, was a lover of laundry.  I did the taxes while he paid the bills.  After 53 years, we were a great team that had divided all chores and did not have to say, “Are you going to take out the trash?”

You may say we had fallen into a comfortable living where we very seldom had to ask each other their thoughts or feelings.  We just knew because we had shared everything and had grown to be almost one.  I think that is a successful marriage.  We never took each other for granted but we had a definite division of labor.

Since July when he died, I find myself overwhelmed with tasks that I never had to do before.  I am at the beach house and we have just survived 8 days of subfreezing weather.  It seems like it was a month.

Dripping water each night to keep the lines from freezing.  Trying to understand what to do with water lines under the pools and how to turn breaker boxes off to protect things.  Figuring out how to turn off water to the house because there are now leaks in water lines because we are finally above freezing.

I had to hire plumbers, electricians, and painters.  I had always been the 2nd in command of our many building projects, but now find I am the leader.

I am not qualified to be the leader.  This is being baptized by fire.  I am using a compressor, a nail gun, buying equipment and making decisions as if I were trained to do it.

Frankly, I would much rather be 2nd in command.  It was so comforting knowing that Ray knew what he was doing and I could just relax.  But there are two lessons in what I am now going through.

  1. Husbands, thank your wife each day for the great job she is doing as she juggles her schedule and does her assigned tasks. Wives, thank your husband each day and hug him for all the things he does in his role and his assigned tasks.
  2. Pretend that your partner might disappear tomorrow and you have to do your and your partners chores.  Pay attention to the details.  How do you care for the car?  Where are the records for the maintenance of the house and the vehicles?

Have discussions on each others’ tasks so you will know how it is done, who needs to be notified, what vendors are your favorite, and what skills you need to be able to take over.

Over and over I say, pay attention.  You are not promised tomorrow.  But as much as Ray and I talked about the possibility, I have so much to learn by trial and error.

Thankfully, I think I am doing pretty good.  But I know that I cannot take the credit.  God is with me every morning as I think of the new chores I have to accomplish.  He is guiding me and helping me and I am so thankful.  It is not easy doing both jobs.  But I am learning.