Living Through Loss

“…weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

The Difference Between a Busy Life and a Fulfilled Life

broken heartWhen I retired from my day job, I didn’t have time to think about the change this made in my life. My mother had just passed, my husband was terribly ill, and my job became one of caring for him, and pushing back the grief of how these events changed the direction of my life journey.

The quiet times of sitting with my hubby in the living room watching his favorite shows were filled with crocheting prayer shawls through a new group formed in the church I attended. We stitched together one afternoon a month, sharing new patterns and techniques, while making beautiful shawls filled with prayers for those who were stricken with illnesses, suffering losses, or even celebrating new life.

I was still writing, too. And President of one of the writing groups in my city. The hours of my days were filled, so retirement meant nothing to me, but having time to pursue things that gave me pleasure.

My husband’s condition continued to worsen, even to the point where he couldn’t attend church with me on Sunday mornings. God had answered a prayer the week before I retired by allowing my husband to remain with me for a few more years. During these three years, I watched his decline and knew God was going to call him home at any time. When that happened, it came suddenly, and I felt in my heart when the ambulance rushed him to the hospital, he wouldn’t come home again. He didn’t.

The following three years were a time of adjusting to a new life. A life where I had no one to care for. A life where I couldn’t find a purpose for being left behind. I still crafted prayer shawls, spent time with friends and family and wrote. I had more hours to spend in God’s Word. I attended Bible studies and church. But there was something missing. Something I couldn’t define. I prayed a lot. Cried some. Healed some. And still felt a little lost.

Then came a nudging from God to apply for an advertised position as part-time secretary to a new Pastor at my church. I’d been considering looking for a part-time job hoping to fill the “void” in my life, but I hadn’t really committed to doing anything about it. The position remained in the bulletin for several weeks. And God kept nudging me to take action. Finally, after a time of prayer, I grabbed my phone and texted the person in charge of hiring. Things went super fast after that. I interviewed three days later and received the news that I had been chosen that Sunday morning before church service.

There were a few hitches regarding start date and I began to feel maybe this isn’t what I should be doing. Yes, Satan, nudges me, too. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish the difference in the voices because Satan is very good at deception. So I prayed. And God humbled me by telling me He called me to the position at church, not to bless me in the way I’d expected, but to bless others and through that blessing to bless me. Wow.

This was so clear to me and I looked on the position He’d opened for me in the way He expected. As a ministry. God doesn’t make mistakes! That missing something in my life has been filled in exactly the way God planned all along. He gave me time to heal from the immediate grief of loss, then moved me along the path He’d chosen.

I am truly blessed and grateful.

Why Dishonor the Graves?

tulipsYesterday I learned the angel and plaque I placed on my husband’s grave three years ago have disappeared. Why would someone do this?  What kind of satisfaction can one get from taking something off the gravesite of another person’s loved one?

My heart breaks to know someone dishonored the resting place of my husband’s earthly body. This violation goes even deeper than those times my home and vehicle have been invaded. I can’t even express the emotions I’m experiencing.

However I am called to forgive. I’m not sure I can forgive right now, but I can pray for the person or persons who did this. I don’t know the circumstances. Perhaps some widow is grieving and she didn’t have the funds to secure what she saw was a heartfelt tribute, so she “borrowed” them. Or perhaps it was just vandals with nothing better to do. These items would not be worth anything for resale. Only God knows what happened. And God is the ultimate judge.

I am going to pray for the souls who dishonored the memory of my husband, and I will pray for God to help me forgive and give this over to Him. This, I know, is the only way I can find peace with what has happened.

In the near future, I’ll be searching for another angel and a new plaque which says just the right words. I realize my husband isn’t in that grave and it is just a marking place for his earthly body. He is in heaven far above the things of this world. But God created him and his grave deserves to be honored.

 

This is Real Life . . . When I Can’t Sleep

DSC02387This is real life. This is the man I loved with all my heart. The man I still miss so deeply. It’s late, or early, however you look at it and I should be sleeping. But I’m not.

When the saddest memory of my life returns, that moment when a nurse tapped me on the shoulder calling my name, and I woke to hear, “He’s gone,” comes calling when my head is on the pillow, and the tears fall, I need to pour out my pain somehow.

So I grabbed my laptop, and here I sit, propped up in bed, to look at his picture and cry. This is real life. The virile, strong, honest, trustworthy man I loved was brought to weakness by a disease called COPD. He had to breathe oxygen from a tank 24 hours a day, tethered to it like a dog on a leash. He wore a Breathe Rite strip to help keep his nostrils open enough to get the life support. Yet he smiled at me every time our eyes met.

He loved me. I loved him. And when God took him home removing his pain, I was left with an indescribable heartache. I said goodbye to him in a cold hospital room while he was drugged to keep him from feeling his organs shut down. I feel guilty that I couldn’t stay awake . . . guilty that I slept while he took his last breath.

And then I felt so alone. I was all alone in a hospital room, my heart the only one beating, my tears falling just as they are tonight with no one to hug me and tell me it was going to be all right.

Sometimes sleeping alone in this bed is unbearable. I listen for the sound of the oxygen machine, I reach across the bed to make sure he is still breathing, and I feel the empty space where he should be. It’s been 3 years, 79 days now. Sometimes I feel a touch on my back and I whisper his name. I wonder if he’s reaching out to me. Once I saw a white shadow in the dark room, a smoky silhouette against the door. I whispered his name and said, “I love you.” And then it was gone.

Sometimes my cat Templeton looks at me with the same intensity and I wonder if somehow he can see my soul.

I’m being brave and facing each day alone, learning how to live as half the person I used to be. I smile. I keep busy. I go on. I live. I sometimes journal when I can’t sleep. This is real life.

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Filling My Jar with Rocks, Pebbles, Sand, and Water

emptyjarI’m sure you’ve heard the story about the teacher holding a jar and filling it with rocks and asking students if it is full or not, right? Yep, she continues adding things and asking the question again: pebbles, sand and then water.

Since losing my hubby my jar has been empty although I thought it was full. I had things to keep me busy. But truthfully, I had only filled my jar with rocks. There were a lot of spaces left to fill, though I didn’t admit it to myself.

I added writing again as the pebbles in the jar and more of the holes were filled. I enjoy writing whether I’m working on a book, writing an inspirational or humorous Facebook post, or pouring my thoughts into a blog like this one.

I had a routine to follow. Friends to meet for lunch or a movie. Church. Family. Reading. Devotions. Bible Reading. Coloring. Knitting. And a few television shows to watch in the late evenings. Oh, and cats to feed and bills to pay. My jar should have been full.

Yet, I felt unfulfilled in some way. I didn’t really feel I was living into the purpose God had prepared for me. That’s when I began working part-time at my church as the Administrative Assistant to our Pastor. I’m learning new things, utilizing my organizational and computer skills, and coming home feeling like I put in a good day’s work in God’s Kingdom. I’ve added sand into my jar.

I know my jar isn’t completely filled yet, but I’m learning how to deal with what feels like a pretty full jar right now. In time, I know God will say, “Hey, you’ve got some room left!”

Life is good and I am blessed. Thank You, Lord.

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Cherish Your Family Each and Every Day – Saying Goodbye is Hard

A family picture with grandparents, aunt, and cousins. I'm sitting on the floor next to my maternal grandmother who is holding my newly born cousin. Family is precious!

A family picture with grandparents, aunt, and cousins. I’m sitting on the floor next to my maternal grandmother who is holding my newly born cousin. Family is precious!

Another holiday passed without the presence of my beloved husband. Each year these holidays become easier to deal with, but there is always a hole in my heart that cannot be completely filled.

I’m so grateful for the Holy Spirt filling me up and blocking any leakage from that hole. I do know some people who don’t have this comfort and their grief  becomes greater than any blessings. How awful to spend all one’s time closed away from the world where blessings are waiting just outside the wall of grief.

Today a dear friend shared the loss of her beloved cat. Oh, I remember the tears shed when my sweet furry children left my life. Every morning when I go outside to feed the two feral cats, I wash the stone covering the ashes of my sweet Sara. She graced our lives with unconditional love for over fifteen years. While we adopted a family of three furry siblings after saying goodbye to Sara, I still remember all the blessing she brought. And now my three are a little over thirteen and I sometimes worry  about how I’ll deal with saying goodbye when it is time to let go.

We suffer many losses in our lives, and all are very painful. My grandparents were my first major losses. Then came my parents. It’s a difficult and humbling experience to realize you are an orphan when your last parent is called home. I still find myself reaching for the phone to share something with my mom though she has been in heaven now for almost six years.

Then came the loss of my husband which tore me apart. The loss of our spouse is extremely debilitating because God joins us together into one. Losing my son came next. A parent should never have to watch a child of theirs be buried.

Life is an ongoing circle and we are to spend each day loving each other as if it is our last day on earth. Only God knows what date is on the end of our dash. Live each day with a grateful heart.

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