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.

Processing with God

There was not to be any sleep the night of my husband’s death.  Oh, I went to bed.  I did everything I usually do before bed.  I prepared to sleep but sleep never was to be a part of my night.  I had to make my peace with life and death.  I had to process with God.

And process I did.  I thought about the last few minutes before my husband left to walk down to the lake.  Was he in a good mood?  Did he seem sick?  Did he seem confused?  Were there symptoms of illness that I did not pick up on?  Was I in tune with his moods, his needs, his physical and emotional facets?

Yes, he was in a great mood.  We had laughed and joked and our relationship was in a good place.  No, he did not seem to be sick.  There were no symptoms that I could have noticed.  He had been weed eating which he loved to do.  He was going to play in the lake with children and grandchildren which he dearly loved.  Life was good.

So what went wrong?  If he was not sick and not depressed, what went wrong?  He was a good swimmer.  He was in eight feet of water.  What went wrong?

I tried to walk through the scenario all night.  I visually put myself there at the scene.  I, in my mind, was playing with them in the water.  We were splashing and laughing and making a train with rafts and noodles.  We were teasing and joking and having fun, as only family can do.  We were being responsible and caring, but relaxing and staying cool in the heat.  We were enjoying the lake that we love so much.

Then I visualized the final moments before he drown.  I lay on the raft with him.  I watched as he watched the kids and looked at them at play.  How he saw with pride each of them.  How precious they are and how much he loved them.

And then he rolled over and left this physical world.  There was no pain.  There was no discomfort.  There was no panic.  It was a simple movement from this world to the next.  God reached down and quietly lifted him out of his body and took him to the next world.  It was easy, and smooth and a comfortable transition.

Non-believers will say that during the night I justified his death in my own mind.  And non-believers will find their own explanations in all things.  But I know what happened during the night.  I was there.  I had the presence of God with me.  I talked to God as if he were sitting on the side of my bed. And we argued some.  I told him about my shock and my anger.  I asked why I was not allowed to be more prepared.

But when morning came,  I knew that God had been with me all night.  He had tolerated my anger.  He had carried me through the scenario many times.  He allowed me to question and he had provided me with the strength to get through the night.  But most of all, God provided me with his peace.  He let me know that He was with me and life was going to be OK.  My husband was fine and I would be also.  What a great God I have that would allow me this night of processing and would take me into His heart and grant me grace and peace to live through death and life.

How to Rate a Neighbor

I had never thought about whether I was a good or bad neighbor.  I have always been friendly, tried to mind my own business, spoken to everyone, waved and smiled and when asked, I would try to accommodate requests.  Was I a good neighbor?  I don’t know.  For most of my adult life, I lived on acreage and did not have neighbors that were 20 feet away.  But was that just an excuse?

I have been exposed to neighbors that are unbelievable.  When my husband died they all appeared.  They did not stop at the door and ask to come in.  They opened the door, came in and took over.  They never came to me to ask advice about what they should do.  They took over.  They never asked me where I kept silverware or glassware or tupperware.  They took over.

I have never been cared for so well and and with so much love by those outside the family.  They were the host and hostesses for my house.  I was left to deal with my loss and the necessary decisions of my loss.  I was free to go to my room and lay down if I needed to.  I was free to go to the funeral home and to visit with the constant numbers of people that came to the house.  They took over.

They bought food and water. They organized food.  They greeted people.  They cleaned areas of the house. They held hands with us. They cried with us.  They planned with us. They processed with us.  They took over.

My husband died on Saturday.  They were there on Saturday.  They were there on Sunday.  They were there on Monday.  They were there on Tuesday.  They took turns and seemed to organize their schedule.  By Wednesday, they let us know that they were dropping by less because we needed less.  We now had lots of relatives to be there.  By Thursday they would check in but not stay long.

It was like a choreographed dance.  They could sense what we needed and when we needed it.  The never pushed into my business but they gave off a sense of being available.  They worked in the shadows but let their presence known when there was a need.  I am a very independent and private person but I did not feel they interfered with my privacy.

I often have wondered if they took a course on “How to be a Good Neighbor” because they were experts in the field.  I am not sure that I could ever do a neighbor job as good as these folks did.  I just hope that I have learned some things that I can use when it is my turn to be the good neighbor.  Right now I can just say, “thank you, thank you, thank you”.  You were so wonderful because you took over.

Invasion

My house was full of neighbors and the porches were full of neighbors.  I knew all of these people and I knew that they were sitting in my space because they cared for me.  But then, I became engulfed with uniforms.  These were not neighbors.  These were not people that I knew.  These were deputies from the sheriff’s department,  firemen and persons from the Department of Natural Resources.  They were strangers and yet they came as if they should be welcomed.

I have always lived a very calm life.  I am the opposite of a drama queen.  I have never been involved with emergencies.  I have never been a party to a burglary or an automobile accident or an assault or anything else that would cause me to be associated with uniformed persons.  My naive picture of the uniform is that of the kindergartener when the policeman is my friend.  I did not associate this invasion of the uniforms as dangerous, intimidating or bearing bad news.

One of the uniforms was assigned to me.  It turns out that his son had played at my house years back. He was good friends with my daughter’s good friend.  In my state of mind, I did not remember him.  It turned out he was kind, caring and had my best interest in mind.  In the beginning, however, I did not have a warm fuzzy feeling about the uniforms in my house.  The most uncomfortable moment came when one of the uniforms told me he had to look through my house. He had to do this to make sure my husband had not gotten out of the lake and was in the house somewhere.  I got up to escort him for a tour of the house.  However, he told me I had to remain in the presence of another uniform while he searched my house.  I suddenly felt like I was a suspect.  It was like I was being accused of hiding my husband in the house as I reported his drowning.

As I sat and wondered, reality filtered into my brain.  No one remains living when they have been underwater this long.  My brain started to let me know that there was no longer a hope of recovering my husband to come home and be with me.  It was now finding him so we could confirm what was already evident.  I remember saying to my uniform “keeper” that I understood that it was over, but I needed confirmation.  I could not call my other four children without confirmation.  I was calm; very calm.  I was rational.  I was reasonable.

As my neighbors sat vigil on the porch, they watched the boats of the uniforms searching the bottom with sonar.  They would say, “I think they know where he is”.  They would question, “Why don’t they send in divers?”.  And we sat.  Calmly sat. Our neighbors kept us in cool water as we sat and sat on this famously hot day.  Until three hours later a young uniform came and knelt by my chair.  He looked up at me and I knew.  After introducing himself, (the uniforms all have such good manners), he said he needed to talk to me.  I looked at him and said, “you have found him”.  “Yes”, he said, ” I have him on the boat.”  The invasion of the uniforms had confirmed my new reality.

Panic

I immediately hung up and tried to call 911.  It took me three tries. I kept hitting the wrong keys on my phone.  When the lady answered I explained that I was calling about a possible drowning in Lake Murray.  She sounded disinterested and said she had already had many calls.  I said, “It is my husband”.  She perked up.  She wanted to know his name and his age and what he was wearing.  I gave her the information and she said to hang up, the rescuers were on the way.

Having my hip replaced only three weeks prior, I could not bend over to put on shoes so I grabbed a red canvas pair of slip ons.  I remember thinking, “Ray would be so embarrassed to see me.”  I had on aqua clam diggers, white pressure hose and these red canvas shoes that were half on.  As I hurried down stairs to direct the rescue truck I was screaming at God. “No God, No.  Please no.  Don’t let this be true.  I really need him.  Please God, don’t let this be happening”.  I got to the door as the rescuers were passing the house.  I got out to the driveway as they passed in the other direction.  Even though I waved at them they went on down the road.  But my neighbor was coming home and she asked me what had happened.  I told her that I thought Ray had drown.  That was the beginning.

Before I could turn around my house was full of people.  All, and I mean all, of my neighbors came to my house.  They were in the living room, the kitchen and the porches.  They were the most caring people I have ever known. I am a very independent and controlling person and these people were taking over my house.  They were serving water and waiting on everyone.  I kept feeling like I needed to take care of them.  They were guests in my house.  It was very strange, but comforting. I can never express enough gratitude to these wonderful people who were so supportive in those moments.

Next came the children and grandchildren.  The rescuers had dismissed them from the lake and sent them all to the house.  I will never forget my grandchildren shaking with sobs as they slowly walked up the hill from the lake. Too young to be a part of this horrible tragedy.  Our beautiful day had suddenly turned to be an unreal and unthinkable event.  It was happening too fast.  I could not breathe.  I could not find anything that I could do. My chest was tight. I could not think.  I was in a panic.

Where it began…or ended…

July 22, 2017.  I woke up to a beautiful Carolina day.  The sun was shining.  It was hot; famously hot as we say in South Carolina.  The lake in front of the house was as blue as the Carolina sky and was quiet and inviting.  I could not look forward to swimming this day since I had had a hip replaced just three weeks ago.  But the day started like all great Saturdays with chocolate chip pancakes and bacon with a side egg.  My husband of 52 years made sure I had all that I needed to start the day with a smile.  He was that way.  Always caring that everyone was given what they needed.

After breakfast I went back upstairs to my bedroom to rest.  Ray, my husband, went outside to do some weed-eating.  This was one of the chores that he enjoyed most.  I guess he just got lost in the mindless cutting and it was soothing for him.  I watched him from my bedroom windows.

After several hours of outside chores, Ray came inside to put on his bathing suit.  The heat was demanding that he take a swim in the lake.  He teased me about going to see the ladies in the bikinis on the lake.  Of course, the ladies were all of his grown daughters and granddaughters.  I told him to give me the binoculars so I could watch as they played in the water.  I said he should behave because I would be watching.

And watch I did.  Between reading a book and resting I would spy on the group of ten out in the water.  They had paddle boards, noodles and rafts and they would hook together and make a train or they would drift off in pairs to play.  It was obvious that they were having a great time.  I felt a little left out because I could not join them.  But it was fun watching.  Poppy was relaxing and playing.

About 2pm I noticed that most everyone had left their toys and were diving over next to one of our docks.  I assumed that someone had dropped a phone or keys in the lake and they were all diving for the lost item.  Then I saw my youngest daughter running to our other dock and jump in the ski boat and hustle over to where everyone was diving.  Something told me something was wrong.

I called her on her phone and she did not answer.  Just a few minutes later my phone rang.  It was my daughter calling me.  I answered and she said, “Mom, pray.  Pray hard.  I think we have lost Poppy”.