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.

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.

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.

I’M NOT CRAZY

I don’t think I am crazy.  After you read several of my thoughts you may think I am crazy. But I think I am still sane.  Shortly after my husband died I would wake up in the night or early morning hours and look out of my window.  Now my bed is facing a bank of six large eight foot windows.

Early in the morning I would see this brightest of stars.  It was there so big and so bright. It was beckoning to me.  “See me” it would say.  Look at me.  I am here just for you to see.

It was mesmerizing.  It was so bright that you could not divert your eyes.  If there were other stars, this star was so much brighter and bolder you did not pay attention to the others.  So I would stare at this star.

Now I am not a student of the stars.  I remember when I was a Girl Scout and my wonderful leader would teach us the constellations.  I just did not get it.  I am fairly visual but I could not see a Lion or a Bear.  So I do not know much about the night sky.  I do not know if this was Venus or Mars or some other planet or star.

But I do know that it was a heavenly body that begged for my attention.  So I started waking every night to see this bright light in the sky.  In my mind, I imagined that this was my dearest friend that no longer shared the bed with me.  This was the spiritual image of my love.  This was the soul of my lost husband.

He called to me each night to notice him.  To share with him.  To talk to him and to feel comforted by his presence.  So I do.  Each night I love to see him and think of the days activities and let him know of my things to do list.  Each night I feel his approval of how I am progressing without his physical body.

Now, you think that is strange.  It gets worse.  I recently went to my mountain house. Way up there in northern North Carolina on a remote ten acres away from everything. At this house my bed is facing two large sliding glass doors that open onto the second floor deck.

At 6 am on the first morning there I wake up and, you guessed it, the star is there.  It was so bright and in your face.  No other star was visible.  Although the sky was dark, this beauty of a light was so bright it was hard to take your eyes off of it.

So we talked.  We laughed.  We enjoyed our presence with each other.

Later on that day, I started to consider the orientation of my bedrooms in each house.  At the lake I face South/Southwest.  In the mountains I face East/ Northeast.  Am I crazy? Are my eyes and mind playing tricks on me?  Do I miss my husband so much I am seeing things and trying to make them into something real?

I don’t know.  I don’t care.  I wake up to see my bright star.  I enjoy sharing and feeling comfort.  I feel an intimate pleasure in his presence.  Crazy or no crazy.  I love it. If it feels this good and helps me get through the days.  I will just be crazy.

Memorial Service

When a person you love transitions from this world to the next, you need to provide an opportunity to respectfully remember them.  This can be a funeral or a memorial service.  Now I think of a funeral as a respectful remembrance ceremony where there is the final remains of the transitioned person.  I think of a memorial service as a respectful remembrance ceremony without the remains.  Just giving you my definition.  Don’t know if there is really a difference.

But it is the duty or chore or job of the family to put this ceremony together.  Not an easy thing to pull off.  You want to honor your loved one but you don’t want people to feel uncomfortable or create a sea of depression.

And some people attend a memorial service out of feelings of obligation.  Others have no choice because of the relationship such as being a member of the family or a co-worker or a person’s boss.  Essentially it is not at the top of a person’s “I want to” list.  So when you are planning the service, you want people to breathe a sigh of relief when it is a pleasant experience and not a downer.

There are many choices needing to be made.  Who will preside?  What special words do you want spoken?  What type of music and what specific songs should be included?  What should the program look like?

The first decision is to find a funeral home to help you.  This is hard.  You want someone that you trust.  You want someone that will listen and guide you instead of selling you the biggest funeral that they have.  Oh, yes.  It is a product that you are buying, and you are vulnerable so sometimes you spend more money with the encourgagement of the funeral director.  You need a person with reason to help you.

We were very lucky.  My husband and I had talked about dying many times.  We both looked around and realized that this was a natural thing that happened to all people.  So it was smart to think about it and be prepared.  So I knew exactly what he wanted and what I should do.  I knew the funeral home he trusted and I also knew that I could be careful in what I spent.

The program became a group project for the family.  A little bit of serious, a little bit of funny and a comfortable amount of talking about my husband.  Remembering the agenda kept us on target.  We were not preaching to the lost, we were honoring my husband and remembering the good times in his life.

Since we have a large family we got the children involved in drawing pictures and displaying lots of photos of the fun times we had with Poppy.  We quoted Dr. Suess as well as C.S. Lewis and the Bible.  We had modern songs and old favorites.  And we had a flag ceremony to remember his time serving in the Air Force.

I enjoyed the memorial service.  It was a great mixture of his life.  It was not sad.  There were serious parts and there was laughter.  I felt him there and he was enjoying it with us.  My husband was a very loved man and his service reflected his valued life and all that he gave to us.  It was our time to say,” We love you, we honor and respect you and we will always remember you”. He left a legacy and I feel we honored his legacy through his service.

Food, Eat, Food, Eat

My family is a food conscious family.  That means that we are very conscious of what we eat, when we eat, where we eat, how we eat and what food does to our bodies.  We eat what is called Ketogenics.  And we do not play around with eating.  We are serious about this human activity.  My daughter actually blogs about our daily food.  She makes up recipes and puts them on line.  Her blog is Pink Daisies, which I highly recommend.

When a tragedy happens, we, as a people, show our love and concern by bringing food to the persons involved.  And this food, by definition, is comfort food.  Now comfort food means carbs and sugars all in the form of pastas, deserts, casseroles, and breads.  Yum and yum and YUM.

So when my husband died, food appeared by the truckload. It was wonderful food.  When you bring food to a tragedy, you bring your best recipe.  This is your pride and joy and you know it is good.  So we had the best of the best loaded into our house.  And it is common knowledge that when the best of the best of food is in your house you are required to eat it.  There is the rule that you must eat and eat and eat. Yum, Yum and YUM!

So I followed the rule.  And it made me so happy.  My children would hand me a plate of food during the “smothering mothering” period and I ate.  I never missed a meal.  The food called my name.  It soothed my spirit. Since I was not sleeping much I would get up during the night and roam the house.  At three  O’ clock in the morning I would be roaming around and think, “There is a lemon pound cake in the kitchen.  Yum”.  And then I suddenly would have a piece of cake in my hand and I was eating.  I just don’t understand how that happened but I was so happy.

And, of course, growing up in the home of parents of the depression, you do not waste anything.  So all of the food had to be eaten.  Now this was not a chore.  The food was delicious.  It was the best of the best of some great cooks.  So it was a pleasure to eat it.  And it was the rule.  You had to eat it.  And you could not waste any of it, so you were required to eat it.  Yum.

I am not sure how this happened but I am now fifteen pounds heavier than when my husband died.  And all of the food has disapearred. So now I am faced with the reality that although I did a wonderful thing and enjoyed every mouth full of the delicious food and it made me very happy, I have to make amends.  Just like all of the other areas of my life where I am having to transition, I am going to have to get back to the “healthy” way of eating.  It was a great trip and I was so appreciative of all of the people that brought their food.  My family did not have to worry about how we were going to eat during the tragedy, but it is now time to move on.

So my promise to myself is to go back to healthy and have good memories of the great food and fabulous memories of the people that brought their best of best recipes which I did wonderful justice to by eating every bite.  Yum.

 

Life Goes On

I wrestled with God all night long after my husband died.  I agonized.  I questioned.  I argued.  I disagreed.  I expressed anger.  I visualized over and over and over the event that led to my husband’s death.  I never slept.  By morning, I was exhausted.

But I had made peace with God’s decision.  I was not happy nor was I still angry.  I understood that God had made the decision.  It was no human error not lack of attention to my husband’s well being.  It was simply that God wanted him back in heaven and he had the power to make His will happen.

So I got out of bed and went downstairs for coffee.  I brewed my cup and walked out on the porch.  As soon as I stepped on the porch, I stopped.  It was a typical summer Carolina morning.  The birds were singing a loud chorus of beautiful songs.  So many pitches, so many differences in calls and volumes.  It sounded tropical.  The sky was the gorgeous bright Carolina Blue.  So vivid it looked like a color off of the artists’ pallet.  The greens of the trees were neon with the different hues of summer growth.  The multitude of squirrels were chasing each other and playing tag.

It was everything that you could hope for on a gorgeous summer morning in South Carolina.  But it was all wrong.  It was suppose to be dark.  It was suppose to be gloomy.  It was suppose to be depressing.  It was suppose to reflect my world as it now exists.  This was terribly wrong.

Life was not happy and vibrant.  Life could not be busy and interesting.  Didn’t the squirrels know that my husband had died?  Didn’t they know my world had fallen apart.  How dare they run and play and look happy.  Didn’t the birds know that they should be silent in respect for the great tragedy that had happen in my life.  What was wrong with them singing out loud with their usual choral symphony.

Where were the clouds and the rain and the ugly part of the world.  How dare the sun to shine and offer beauty to the sky.  How dare the lake to be smooth and calm and blue and inviting.  Did it not realize that just yesterday it had been a party to destroying my life?

I sat down and took a few breaths.  I was ready to yell at God again for throwing such a sight in my face.  After all He had caused it all.  At least He could make nature reflect the hurt in my heart.  It was as if my loss was insignificant and not worthy of reflection in the natural part of the world.

Then God gently said to me.  I know you hurt.  I know you are sad.  I know your world will never be the same.  But I promise to take care of you.  I will never leave you and I will never give you more than you can handle.  You can do this. You can be strong.  Your husband is with me and we both expect you to carry on.

So embrace the beauty of the world.  Love it.  See Me in it.  Because life goes on.