IT IS JUST ME

It is amazing.  I grew up knowing I should be married. I fell in love with a wonderful man. I shared a life with him. Fifty-four years we were together.

As God said, “We became one”. Then one day he left. He joined God. But he left me behind.

It is just me.

I feel so alone at times. I am sad that he is gone.  It is as if I have lost my being. I have lost my understanding of life. I don’t know what is expected of me. What is my goal for the rest of my life. I don’t know what God wants me to accomplish. What is my purpose?

I carry on each day.  I try to work on the dreams that we built together. I work hard to stay busy and to finish projects that were important to the two of us. But I wonder, does it really matter? Were we living out a dream of things that were important to us but not important to God? Should I just give it all up and stop trying to complete our dreams?

I sometimes feel so alone. I have a very loving family. They are so good to me. They care, they are concerned and they try to be sure to care for me. I have friends that love me, communicate with me and want the best for me.

However, I find that I am alone.

It is just me.  

In the midst of all the love of my  family and my friends, I am still alone. The eighth month was very hard. I am feeling my alone-ness more than ever before. I miss my best friend. It is as if part of my body was amputated that day in July. Whether it was my limbs or my spirit, it has disappeared. I feel so alone.

When I am with others, I laugh and joke as part of a social group, but I am still alone. I know when I am interacting that I am playing a charade because I feel that part of me is no longer there. I act as though I am still all together but I am really alone.

God promised that He would care for me. I know that promise to be true. He has cared for me. I am making it financially. I am existing in the world. His presence is with me as I go through each day. I cannot say that God has forsaken me. He has kept His promise and has cared for me. But I sometimes feel so sad and alone.

Maybe I am selfish. Maybe I feel that I need more than is due me. I don’t know. I just know that there is a void. There is a deep hole. There is a part of me that hurts so hard it takes my breathe away.

I was not prepared to deal with the depth of this hurt.

I pray hard for forgiveness of my selfish spirit that I should expect happiness. I pray that God will understand the bottomless pit of my hurt. I pray that He knows the agony of my loneliness. That He will not hold it against me. I trust Him. I love Him. I know that He has a plan and that I am in His hands. Also, I know somehow that this deep hurt that I feel has a meaning and will be used to His greater good.

I know that from the moment we met, my husband and I were meant for each other and we were God’s children. We loved Him, served Him and lived for Him. Therefore, I know that in the overall plan of God for our lives, my husband was called home and I was left to be here for Him. It is just really hard. I hope I am doing it the way my God would want me to live.

Even if that means that I feel so alone.

Deuteronomy 31:8 The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

Gifts

One morning recently while at the beach house, I noticed while I was dressing, there was a female cardinal sitting on the post of the porch and looking in the window.  I am sure it did not see me but I watch it as I dressed.  It was fascinating.

Later while eating my breakfast I once again noticed the cardinal. I watched once again at the beauty of God’s creation.  But also because it was so unusual.

At the beach we see seagulls, pelicans, sandpipers, and grackles (a member of the raven family).  We do not see song birds and the pretty colorful birds of the woodlands.  So it was unusual, shocking really, to see this beautiful cardinal sharing its life with me.

Recently I was given a book by a very dear friend of mine.  It is written by Ann Voskamp and the title is One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.  Ann Voskamp is the wife of a pig farmer that lives in southwest Ontario, Canada.  She and her husband have six children.  She lives a busy life although may not as exciting as some.  I have been to that area of the world.  It is not for me.  But her book is about a dare, given to her by a friend, to live fully right where you are.

one thousand giftsThis dare is to list one thousand gifts each year.  Amazing the gifts she finds.  The rainbow that you see in the bubbles of the soap suds while doing dishes.  The way your child’s hair curls to one side. Laughter. Wind coming in the window as you drive and so many more.  It is the same gentle gifts that God gives us each day.

The point is not just to make the list, but rather to make the list, say the gift out loud and give thanks for the gift.  The point is to become one with God by recognizing and acknowledging the smallest of gifts that we are given.  The point is to be in communion with God as we carry Him in our thoughts each moment of each day.  Living our lives to the fullest because we see him in all the wonder of His world.

Now Ann Voskamp writes deep.  It is not a book for a surface reader.  But the message is so profound.  Seeing God in our simplest pleasures.  Opening up our eyes to see the beauty all around us.  Like standing in awe last night at the big tall trees that were swaying heavily in the wind and yet able to stay rooted to the ground.

I am convinced that I never saw the world the same way before my husband died.  And I do not want others to go through the trauma to get to see what I see now.  But I wish for all persons to have this special walk with God.  It is different.  It is direct closeness.  It is intimate.  It is marvelous.  I feel chosen.  I feel special.  I feel humble.  I am reverent.

I dare all who reads this.  Go with me on this journey.  Get a pad, a pencil and start writing down all of your gifts.  Seek out the small pleasures.  The way the sunbeam hits your windows.  The fact that you made three green lights in a row.  The way the clerk at the store smiles at you. The pleasure you feel as you give your basket to the next shopper at Aldi’s without taking their quarter.  The song of the birds as they chatter in the yard.

Give thanks for these small gifts.  Eucharist is the word for thanksgiving. According to Alexander Schmemann Eucharist is the state of the perfect man.  Eucharist is the life of paradise.  Eucharist is the only full and real response of man to God’s creation, redemption, and gift of heaven.

Thank you God for the beautiful cardinal that you sent to visit me and let me be aware of your presence in my life.  I am so thankful for how you care for me.

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.

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.

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.

Distractions

Busy, busy, busy.

That is my new motto.
Stay busy.
Keep moving.
Keep doing.

Wake up with a things to do list and don’t stop until it is finished.  There is lots to do and I need to get it all done.

I believe that distractions are the key to keeping sadness at bay.  If you don’t have time to think about the loss in your life you will not have time to focus on the sadness.

My children have been great to help me with this plan. In less than four months, I have traveled to Boston for a week, Seattle for a week, Phoenix for a week, the beach three times, the mountains one time, Ohio one time and (at the time of writing this) am in Healy, Alaska.  I have cleaned, organized, learned new things, visited the sick, written lots of letters, worked puzzles, painted walls and generally stayed busy.

I have found that when my “things to do list” gets done too fast, I have time to think. Having time to think is my enemy.  When I am not busy I begin to travel back in time and remember when my husband was alive and when we were having fun and doing things together.  I miss him greatly and that leads me directly into sadness.

They say that time is on your side.  As time goes forward you will heal.  You need time to move so you are further from the loss.  I am not sure what the words “closure” and “healing” really mean.  But when I am not busy, time stands still.  When I am not busy, time drags and the days are long.

I believe that your mind controls your thoughts and your thoughts control your moods and your emotions.  So if your mind is focused on your “things to do list”, you do not have time to let your thoughts go to the things that will make your mood get sullen and your emotions become sad.

Others say that you need to process for “closure” and “healing” to take place.  But when I think about processing it takes me back to thinking about my loss and thinking about my loss takes me into sadness.

Maybe I am all wrong.  Maybe someday I will wake up and find that I have just put it all off.  I may see that I have locked everything away in a trunk for another day. I may find that I totally fall apart.  Maybe I will someday become a basket case.

But I don’t think so.  I have made my peace with God.  I have processed the death.  I have reviewed my personal thinking about life and death.  I have come to terms with my new life.  I can talk about my sweet husband without being sad.  I can remember our fun life and reflect on the past sometimes without being emotional.

I really believe I am doing OK.  But I know that I am better on the days that I am busy, busy, busy.  When I was doing grief seminars (yeah, imagine that) I taught all the theoretical concepts of the grieving process.  I studied the experts and I, as Dr. Priestino, presented the information as if it were the tried and true.

But if I were to do that today, after I have lived the experience, I would have a different story to tell.  I believe you need to process, think, review and then stay very busy to get through it.  Yes there is shock, denial, etc. but essentially it is acceptance and stay busy, busy, busy.  Thank you God for giving me caring children and good friends that will keep me distracted.

 

 

CRYING

When there is something hurtful, either physical or emotional, the natural response is to cry.  Obviously, tears were shed when my husband died.  It was the display of a horrible event.  It was the natural thing to do when the hurt was so deep.

As the days went by I was encouraged to cry.  “Let it out” I was told.  “It is helpful to cry”.  “You will feel better if you cry”.  “Crying will cleanse your soul”.

I am here to tell you that I don’t agree with any of those statements.  But to be honest, I have made the same statement to many people.  I really believed it to be true.  I thought there was something therapeutic about shedding tears.

Now I put these statements in the same category with those other myths my wonderful mother said to me.  You know, things like “If you cross your eyes they will get stuck like that forever” and “If you go outside without your coat you will catch a cold” and “If you swallow seeds they will grow in your stomach”.  We grow up and figure out that these are myths.  Now I believe that ‘crying is cleansing’ is yet another myth.

Don’t get me wrong.  Crying has a place in our lives.  Babies use crying to tell us something is wrong.  They are hungry, uncomfortable, sick or distressed.  It is a way to alert us that someone needs to pay attention.  Older children also use crying to let us know that they are hurt or need attention.  You fall off your bike, skin your knee and need to cry to alert someone that it hurts.

But crying does not make the hurt go away.  It is a way to get attention and to alert people to a need. But to me, crying is not cathartic.  It is not cleansing.  It is not therapeutic.  It gives me a headache.  It makes me more sad.  It deepens my despair.

I realize that I may feel this way because I see crying as a loss of control and…

let’s face it…

I am a control freak.  

There.  
I said it.  
I know it.  
I own it.  

I don’t know why or how I got this way but I do not want to let myself be out of control. Therefore, I do not like to cry.

I know all of my friends are trying to help me the best they can when I get emotional. After all, they heard the same myth from their mothers.  And they want to help me.  So I do appreciate them when they say I should cry it out.

I am trying hard to be rational, logic, sane and non-emotional.  I try to block all of the sad thoughts.  I try to put myself in control mode and think happy thoughts.

But just in case I am not successful, I will announce to you now…

My red eyes and sniffling nose is because I have bad allergies.
And I have lots of headaches these days.