Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Who am I now?
I am a widow. How strange to write that out loud. I grew up doing various service projects for the widows of my home congregation. My mother was a wonderful example of this and taught her children well. Every Christmas my church youth group would make fruit baskets and deliver them on Christmas Eve to all our widows, along with a few carols as well. Mom always took me to the nursing home to visit a widow here and there. I watched her sing, massage feet and bring gifts to these little, old women who had lost their husbands years and years before. My favorite widow was Sister Parks. She was from England and I could listen to her for hours as she told story after story of her life across the pond. She was a rather large woman, so when she told me about her life as a ballerina I was enthralled. I used to help clean her house and wash her windows while my dad and brother mowed her lawn. When Gary and I first started dating, after my parents, she was the first person I wanted him to meet. She adored him immediately. Her first words to him were, “You have such luscious lips!” It became one of my favorite things to remind him of over the years.
In those days, church folks took seriously the admonition of James’ inspired words: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress, and keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27) Since I lived in Florida, there was never a short supply of widows to look after. So, it is so strange to me, that now after all these years I am one, a widow. Back then those women looked so old to me. Some had been widowed for more than thirty years. They were always short, always had blue hair and always smelled of rose water. I remember being drawn to their fragile hands and the wedding rings they still wore. The gold bands had worn thin from wear and age, but were as much a natural part of the finger as the knuckle. To remove them was unthinkable. The ring represented a life not forgotten. The ring was a testament to a love cherished still.
I don’t know where I fit in this. I’m younger than the widows I knew back home. I don’t think I have blue hair… yet. And, I smell more of sweat from my excursions on LuLu, the pink bike, than rose water. So who am I now? How am I supposed to act? Because I have no husband does that mean I have no voice? Am I now someone who needs others to look after them? I don’t know this role. It is as unfamiliar to me as my now empty house. I shared a mission and a ministry with Gary for forty-three years. What happens to my mission now? My ministry? Will I be forced to surrender my talents and calling because I no longer have a husband? We were a team, a whole package. Our strengths and weaknesses complimented each other. He was left-handed. I was right-handed. He could sing. I could write. He could preach. I could teach. We both loved, and gave, and served, and… now what?
I am a widow. Half of me is missing. Should I just wait for someone to bring me a fruit basket?
wid·ow ˈwidō/ 
1. a woman who has lost her husband by death and has not remarried.
2.  a last word or short last line of a paragraph falling at the top of a page or column and considered undesirable.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


The Hubs & me

The good news is that I am healing. The bad news is that it is slow going and quite painful. However, I am hopeful. I’ve experienced little glimpses of reflected light as if Someone has run their hand along a thick curtain, parting it ever so slightly. Just beyond and out of reach, I briefly catch a sliver of color and feel a small breeze. Just as quickly the curtain closes and it’s gone. But I saw what I saw and it brings promise.
Other things have begun happening that have given me an indication that life, my life, will proceed. Silly things really. But you see, silly and ridiculous, have always been a part of who I am, who we were. Gary and I shared a life that was not only lovingly, but also full of fun and oddities. Like the time an eleven dollar roast disappeared from our freezer. One day it was there, the next day it was gone. I accused our sons of swiping it for some special effect for one of their home movies. They denied it. I accused friends of sneaking in and taking it just to mess with us. They denied it. The mystery of the missing roast has never been solved—even after I reported it to the police department (much to the embarrassment of my sons). Or the time Gary and I were in the car when we spotted this fiery balloon-like thingy floating in the sky. We followed it through town, chasing it down streets and avenues until suddenly, it just disappeared. It was like we were the only ones who saw it. No mention was made on the news or in the paper. But we were convinced we saw a bonafide UFO. That’s our story and we sticking to it.
Well, yesterday, my puppy, who has developed a naughty habit of jumping up and grabbing things off the counters, swallowed my contacts, case and all. Later in the day you should have seen my optometrist’s face as I tried to explain to him what happened to my contacts and why I needed an appointment right away. I could have done without his smirk and the eye rolls. Don’t worry Atticus was fine. Everything passed on through, if you know what I mean.
I’ve lost my husband. My life is unrecognizable to me. My compass hasn’t been able to settle upon true north yet. I’m trying to jump start my emotions and to feel less foreign in my own life. It has been three months and seventeen days since I last heard my darling’s voice. I miss our life together. I miss the tenderness, the conversation, and I miss the silliness. We laughed a lot.
Yesterday, I laughed all by myself. My dog ate my contacts. Gary would have loved that.
It’s something familiar. I’ll take what I can get.

“When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.”
                                                                   ~ Psalm 94:19

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Loneliness is not temporary...

The Hubs & me


There’s lonely and then there’s loneliness. Lonely is wanting someone to talk to. Lonely is being in a much too quiet house by yourself. Lonely is missing someone who’s gone on a trip. Lonely is a rainy day. Lonely is a bare, leaf-less tree. Lonely gives you the blues. When you’re lonely, anybody will do. However, lonely is usually temporary.
Loneliness is a whole other ballgame. I thought I knew what loneliness was, what it felt like. After all, the Hubs and I had spent some time apart when one of us was out of town. When my kids started going off to college I missed them so badly it physically hurt. But I’m here to tell you, I didn’t have a clue. It’s just as well. Knowing too much too soon is never a good idea.
It’s almost been four months since I lost Gary, and I’ve had some lonely days to be sure. But what I’m experiencing now all these weeks later is foreign to me. It is a lot like one feels when they’ve lost an arm or a leg. There is this phantom nerve-ending thing that goes on that makes you think the limb is still there. Sometimes it’s an itch on the bottom of your foot and when you go to scratch it, you are painfully made aware that you have no foot. Or sometimes a sharp sting jolts through your arm like a lightening strike causing you to almost pass out from the pain. Your gut reaction is to grab your arm, but when you do there’s nothing there. Loneliness is like that.
It lies.
Just when you think you’re going to be all right, a smell, a song, or an item of clothing sends this shutter through your body and suddenly you feel their presence, you hear their voice, their laughter is just in the other room and you run toward it only to find that they are not there. They will never be there again. Loneliness is not temporary.
Neither is it fatal. We only wish it would kill us.
But, this is what I know so far: I will never, ever stop loving my husband. I will never, ever stop thinking of him in the present tense. I will never stop expecting to see him when I walk through the door.
I also know this: God knows that I know that He knows.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalms 147:3

Monday, January 20, 2014

Tweezer-picking shrapnel experience

After a short blackout period, I’m back. I needed to be alone in the shadows for a while. I needed to wander through my house, touch base with my family, and wrestle with God about some things. Grief is an unpredictable journey and there’s nothing about it that I can count on. I can’t say I’ll be done with it in six months and start checking off the days. Monday may be a good day, but come Tuesday I might find myself knee-deep in an emotional mire of quick sand. All I can say about the grieving process is that I hope it will not leave me as it found me.
I have had some small victories though. The other morning after a night of falling snow, I put on my boots, my gloves and my fur hat and marched out to the garage.  On the first try, I was able to start the snow blower all by myself. The Hubs would have been proud.
Over the holidays, I drove almost two thousand miles by myself to visit family and friends. One, long, rainy, icy afternoon I drove up and down and around the curvy roads of the Ozarks. With my pup, Atticus, riding shotgun, I felt Gary’s large hand over the back of my seat reassuring me that I was doing just fine, thank you very much. Real or imagined, I can’t say.
I have spent several weeks now alone in our house. After three months I think I can honestly say there is nowhere else I’d rather be. This is where Gary and I lived our life. This house, this road, this town, this church family. We lived here together. Our home was a true shelter, a place to be loved and to love. Although Gary is now gone, I am happy to say, it still is. Just this weekend these rooms were filled with many tiny feet and little people whose giggles rose like bubbles from the basement on up. Papa was certainly missed, but in those sparkling small faces, he could still be found.
My heart hasn’t learned how to beat properly without Gary. The hole his absence has created may never, ever close all the way. The path I'm on is slippery and ever changing like a moving, gliding staircase. On any given day where I end up isn’t always where I thought I was going, but at least I’m moving.
God hasn’t exactly been cooperative, at least by my way of thinking. You''d think a Guy who in just six days could create an entire solar system from scratch along with the original prototypes of every living creature that ever was or ever will be, wouldn't have trouble mending a broken heart in under fifteen minutes.  During my blackout period I gave the Creator of the Universe the business a few times. Unfortunately, a clinched fist and a few sarcastic eye rolls didn’t persuade Him none. Apparently, we’re going to do this His way. I’m going to hurt until the hurting eventually stops. I’m going to cry until I don’t need to anymore. Loneliness will not kill me, even when I beg for it to. In the last couple of weeks I’ve finally come to terms with the truth that our Father is not a short-cut kind of God. The healing is in the slow tweezer-picking shrapnel experience. Not my will, but His. It’s always been His.

So, I get up every morning and wait on Him to show me how to do this. And every morning I wait and trust that He will come.
So far, He always has…