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.

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.

 

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.

Multi-Generational Living

When my husband and I started to design our house many years ago, we wanted a large house that many people could enjoy.  As the design progressed and the days moved on we realized that we wanted to have a place that we could be assured living our lives out with those that we loved.

Now most people do not understand multi-generational living.  And I would be the first to say it is not for everyone.  Basically, it is when more than one generation lives together in a cohabitation arrangement.  That means that everyone has roles that are clearly defined and everyone pitches in to make the living arrangements comfortable for all persons.

That being said, there are some guidelines that must be followed for the living to be successful.  Expenses are shared.  This is not a “let’s move home and mooch off Mom and Dad”.  It is assigning certain expenses to each person living there so all people carry the burden of the cost of living.

It also means everyone must share in the chores.  This is not a situation where mom does the laundry or picks up after a lazy adult child.  Mom might be retired but she did not retire to be a slave to others.

Everyone has chores that they prefer to do.  Some people are talented cooks.  Others don’t mind cleaning.  Some people are responsible for carrying out trash, watering plants or doing yard work. You get the picture.  All general living chores are divided up between inhabitants.

A major component of multi-generational living is knowing how to communicate. If you can’t talk subjects out, best not try living together.  In some homes there are subjects that are just not touched.  Politics and religion are off limits in some homes.  We happen to be of like minds in our house and can talk about almost anything without getting upset.  But you have to be willing to set limits.

One other consideration is parenting.  We go with the thought that “It takes a village to raise a child”.  So we all sort of co-parent.  But I know other folks where only the parents do the parenting.  You have to communicate about the roles persons need to play as you all live together.

A final area is respect.  You have to respect everyone’s personal property and the need for everyone’s privacy.  Sometimes we love to be together.  Other times, we need our space.  Understanding that each person is an individual and should be respected is essential in living together.

I love living multi-generational.  It keeps me young.  I know the latest fads, slang and dress of the teens.  I understand the issues of the forty somethings.  I listen to music, ideas, philosophies, that I would not be exposed to if I lived among only my generation.  I eat foods I would not touch without the encouragement of the younger people.  I venture into activities I would not be invited to if not for the younger ones.

But most of all, I have been saved since my husband died because I have people that are with me almost 24/7.  I do not have to be alone unless I choose to be.  I am cared for and kept busy by my wonderful live-ins.  I am a social person but I am also a private person. But I cannot imagine having to go through this tragedy without my roommates.  It may not work for everyone but it is the wave of the future and it is a wonderful way to face the real world.  Love you guys.

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.

 

 

Happy Birthday, Ray

My dear sweet husband was a New Year’s Baby.  I have a small ceramic shoe that he was given when he was the first child born in 1941 in Santa Monica, California.

On New Year’s eve each year, the family would watch the ball drop in Times Square, toast with champagne or similar liquid, sign Auld Lang Syne, kiss each other and then turn to Ray and sing Happy Birthday.

Many weeks ago we began to get concerned about how to celebrate New Years without “Poppy”.  I knew it was going to be tough getting through the holidays.  But we felt like New Year’s would be even harder than Christmas.

As a family, we committed to keep things positive.  We would talk about Poppy,  but we were not going to let it get to us.  We would think of something funny and bring the conversations to a upbeat level.  But what to do with his birthday?

The following was our plan and it worked well.  At 10 minutes after midnight, when we had watched the ball drop and we had hugged and toasted the new year, we had a birthday party.  We sang “Happy Birthday” to Poppy.  We had ice cream and cake.  Then we had a birthday gift exchange.

Instead of re-gifting or using a “white elephant gift” we each brought a gift that “Poppy” would have enjoyed.  Whenever Ray received a gift, he always said, “Oh, this is just what I always wanted”.  So saying that when we received a gift was a funny and respectful way to remember him.

When we sat down to have the gift exchange, we drew numbers and Cheri, the daughter in charge would call out a number and we would either choose a gift from the stack or “steal” one from another person.  We were all amazed at how clever people were in their gifts.

It seems that each year, “Poppy” got socks or underwear for his birthday and this was no exception.  Athletic socks were there as a gift.  He loved, loved, loved to play cards and so it was no surprise that two gifts included playing cards.

Although he became a teetotaler and hadn’t had a drink since the 90s, the kids remember how he loved his bourbon and coke.  So there was a salute to his drinking days in two of the gifts.  Because we traveled so much and had long, long drives, Ray would mix cans of trail mix to nibble on as he drove.  So, of course, trail mix was one of the gifts.  There was an Ocean Isle Beach hat, which is the island he loved so much.  There was even a fidget spinner.

The gift that brought us the most joy was a hammer.  Engraved in the side of the hammer was the statement, “I love building memories with you”.  We all knew Poppy well.

We have decided that this is a fun way to respectfully remember Ray on his birthday.  We look forward to continuing this tradition.

My hat is off to all of my children for helping us keep the spirits high and remember Ray.  It was good memories.  Happy Birthday, Ray.

The Children’s Memorial

When my husband died he was playing in the lake with children, grandchildren and neighbors.  Playing with him was a thirteen and seventeen year old granddaughters.  It was sudden.  It was a shock.  One moment they were playing and the next they turned around and he was not there.

Poppy was greatly loved by his grandchildren.  He knew how to play with them.  He had great wisdom he shared with them and on their level.  He never got angry with them.  He was always there for them.  He was a great granddad.

So we were concerned about our thirteen grandchildren.  Especially the ones that were still at home and involved so much with him.  We were given the gift of using a Victims Advocate to come and talk with all of the grandchildren.  She did it in small groups.  One of the suggestions that she made to them was to have their own memorial service.

The adults were planning a memorial service but it was geared more for adults.  So we set about doing a informal memorial service geared for the children.  It was held on Saturday evening the day before the adult service.  We gathered at the lake edge with lawn chairs.  There were lots of our friends that had traveled from long distances and neighbors who had walked down from their houses.  It was a large crowd and we had a period of being social and enjoying each others company.  There were lots of children and it was a time for them to run and tease and have fun.  It was not solemn nor sad.

When everyone was comfortable, I welcomed them.  It was for the kids so I did not talk much except to say this was their celebration of Poppy’s life.  Then each girl, grandchildren and any other girl that knew Poppy was given a long stem rose.  They took turns telling about Poppy.  Stories and fun things that they remembered.  One sweet, sweet child said, ” I did not know his name.  I just always called him my BFF”.   At the end of the stories all of the girls went to the edge of the lake and threw their roses into the lake.

Then it was the boy’s turn.  My adult sons had gone to the fireworks store and bought beautiful fireworks.  We all sat there as the sun was setting on this lovely lake that had been a party to my husband’s death and watched as the boy’s of all ages set off bright colored fireworks over the lake.

As we sat there and watched, it was like being in a cathedral.  The beauty of the lake, the glorious sunset, the colors of the fireworks and the gathering of family and friends.  It was as lovely a tribute to Poppy as could ever been imagined.  It was the start of the healing.  It gave us a point to move from the shock to the love of remembering.  It was designed to be the children’s memorial but it was as meaningful as the adult memorial the next day.  A tribute to the man we all loved and respected.  We called him “Poppy”.