Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The antidote...


My earthly home.
Want to know what I’ve done this week? I’ve toured five lake homes and one condo. When I walked into the condo, the walls felt like a slow-moving trash compactor.  Each lake house I toured had small yards (which pleased me) but they also had their oddities. Like, who builds a house and puts two bathrooms right next door to each other but none on the second floor? Of course the one thing they each had in common was the million-dollar view out the front window. Ain’t nothing like the calm lapping of water on a shore, unless it’s the calm lapping water on a shore that you own. 
The Hubs has been gone almost eleven months now and I thought it was time to start researching what’s out there. I have questions that will someday soon need answers. The biggest is do I stay in this house that Gary and I shared, or do I sell and move on? I’m not ready to answer that yet, but in order to answer it with any discernment at all, I needed to know what the housing market was like these days. I live in a log house on three acres and a pond. I have a two-car garage, and a barn. Oh, and did I mention I live on three acres? Three acres that begs to be mowed every four days?
Gary and I loved this place. We made our home here. We were a family here. A couple here. Our grown kids love coming here with their kids. It’s the family gathering spot, the old homestead. But truth is, I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to move from here either. Actually, I don’t want to be anywhere. Not here. Not there. Nowhere. I don’t want to be here, on this planet, in this universe, this galaxy. The sun gives me no warmth and the moon’s light is wasted on me. For the first time, I can sing the old hymn with my soul bare and my fingers uncrossed. “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing thru, My Treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue; The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door, And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”
Nothing fits. Everything is either too large, too small, too nothing. I’m an alien, a two-headed zombie, a giant trying to sit at the kids’ table; I’m wearing stripes with plaids and white shoes after Labor Day. I do not belong here anymore. I don’t speak the language. The air only bruises my lungs now.
This world is not my home. My home died.
Wait!  Yes, I truly feel this way. But I can’t trust my feelings. My emotions have wrecked my compass. I will not get through this grief journey obeying my emotions. They can’t be trusted. Had I listened to them for the last eleven months, I would have shaved my head and disappeared. Sorrow is like a snakebite and unless you have the antidote... you die.
The antidote? Well... it’s a splintered cross.  It’s an empty tomb. It’s a risen Savior. It’s the whisper in my heart that comes from somewhere not of this world. And, it’s the indescribable flood of the Holy Spirit who wears me like a coat. It’s not feeling like I’m not alone, it’s knowing I’m not alone.
“O, Lord you know I have no friend like you; If heaven weren’t my home, O, Lord what would I do?”

Thursday, August 21, 2014



Papa & Nellie Rose
Today, I ran across an old pair of Gary’s hiking boots hanging on a nail in the garage. Before I knew it, I was clutching a mop for stability and weeping. As I stood there, all I had to do was turn in a circle and see parts of Gary’s story. On a top shelf was a miniature, remote controlled speedboat I’d bought him for one of his birthdays. A saw blade hung on another nail, no telling what he used that for, but it must of meant something for him to give it it’s own nail. A soccer trophy sat on a shelf beside his fishing pole. He learned to play soccer in his late twenties and taught and coached our boys through their school years. His blue canoe seat sat on a ledge over the dog kennel, a kennel he had built for our sweet lab, Dooley, at one point. The sighting of the canoe seat hit the projector button as I saw the two of us on our last trip down the Wisconsin River a couple of years ago now. That was the summer we had gotten some promising news from our Mayo doctors that the cancer had not shown up in the latest PET scan. We decided to celebrate with a summer of fun. We canoed, went to Door County, enjoyed counseling at our summer church camp and simply enjoyed our family. Today’s float down memory lane was almost unbearable.
I gave in to the emotion of it all as I allowed the memories to wash over me.  I’ve found that when these moments sneak up on me, I simply go with them. No holding back. I let the yearning be. I don’t try and talk myself out of it, or lecture myself into a better state of mind. I just let it run its course. So, from the top of my head and straight out my toes, I oozed with sorrow, and I almost cursed God.
My mourning and longing takes me to the brink. I don’t know yet what’s exactly ‘over the brink’. I’ve never gone over it. Close though. I imagine it could be a place of no return if no one is there to reach out and save you. Fortunately, a family member, a friend, even a grandchild has been there for me when I’ve come close to losing my grip and sliding toward the abyss. Today, it was three grandchildren: Two short-legged boys with sticks wanting to hunt for turtles in the pond and Nellie Rose, pacifier in place, toddling towards me, curly top bopping and dimpled hands reaching for me. God knows when I need someone and who that someone should be for that particular moment. I almost lose it, suddenly, there they are! Sometimes He just comes Himself. Other times, He sends angels, the winged kind or the human kind. Both are Spirit led.
I can handle almost. Almost is do-able. I can live through almost. I’m able to walk away after almost. God continues to amaze. He continues to stay the course with me. He continues to stand between the edge and me.
Almost reveals God’s mercy and His impeccable timing.
I can live with this. I can.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Point and shoot...

Purchasing my bow.
At age 63 I bought a bow and a quiver full of arrows. Why? I’m not sure I can answer that. Maybe it’s something in the grief process that causes one to go temporarily insane.  Or, it’s me trying to connect with my inner-Robin Hood. I don’t know. Do I hunt? No. Never have. Never will. It’s just that all of a sudden I felt this urge to point and shoot. I can almost hear Gary laughing. And, I can’t wait for my grandchildren to see MeMe strap on her arm-guard and quiver. Call me Grandma Katniss.
Actually, I’ve named my bright red bow, Katniss, after the main character in the book/movie, The Hunger Games. I have this silly obsession of naming objects of affection. Hence, LuLu, my pink bike.
Grief and mourning are twins of sorts. They may look and feel alike at times, but they have different personalities. Grief was born first, with Mourning following shortly after. Both are intense and relentless. Grief comes sudden and is akin to a lightening strike. Its nickname is Lament. Mourning is a hatchet to the heart that slowly pries it open a little more each day. Both can sometimes make you do weird things... like set up a big yellow target in your backyard, count off the paces and turn and shoot.
I love the sound of the arrow penetrating the target. It’s swift and almost smacks in a whisper. I love the pull of the string and that quiet moment right before I let go. I take a deep breath; draw the bow, focus, and release.
It’s almost like a prayer.
Does that sound silly? If it does, well, humor me. I’m in mourning. With each release I can feel myself relax a bit more. For that brief nano-second as I’m peering down the shaft of the arrow a calm comes over me. I am totally alone, nothing else matters. My task is simple. Point and shoot.
Simple is my quest these days. After three years of doctors and hospitals and losing, fretting, and being scared, one bow, a few arrows and a target is heavenly. Simple, to the point and no one dies.
As it turns out, I’m not half bad. No wild arrows have punctured Atticus’ rump... yet. I haven’t broken any windows or lost any arrows. My neighbors don’t seem afraid of me... yet.
Grief and Mourning take you down many paths and left turns. And, sometimes they can even show a little compassion and lead you to a small oasis of respite. God knows. He gives. His timing. His way. For me, it is a bow and arrow.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How am I doing?


How am I doing? I get asked that a lot and it’s okay. I know that those around me mean it sincerely, that they truly want to know, to help if they can. But the truth is, I don’t know. I don’t know how I’m doing from one day to the next. It changes with the wind, or a full moon, or a rainy day, or if I’ve opened his sock drawer (still full of socks by the way). It’s been ten months since Gary’s death and some days are rougher than others... still.
Grief is a nasty friend. As I’ve mentioned before I want to ring it out as tightly as if it were a soggy towel and only when it’s totally dry will I know I’m there, that I’ve gotten all I can out of it. Done. Healed. Over it.
But, how does one ‘get over it’? Can you really? I don’t know. It’s frightening how much I simply do not know.
But here’s what I do know. Let’s take inventory. After ten months of lamenting the loss of my husband of forty-three years, the love of my life, my best friend, my partner, my boyfriend, here’s how I’m doing:
~ I still feel like he’s going to walk through the back door any minute with his backpack and briefcase and kiss me ‘hello’.
~ Every time I pull into the driveway I still get sucker-punched in the stomach with the realization that he’s not here.
~ Going to church is excruciating. He was my preacher. My preacher is gone.
~ At times, this house we lived in is the most comforting place I want to be. At other times, it feels like a ghost town.
With all that said, I think I’m better. A smidgeon better. Why do I say that? Because:
            ~ I’ve laughed a lot this summer. I thought I might have forgotten how by now.
~ I’ve traveled. Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Minnesota, Guatemala and our Christian camp. And while all those trips and experiences were hard, they also did their part to help heal the hole that has been punctured in my life.
~ I can now sit through an entire church service without crying... sometimes.
~ My children are mourning too, yet when we are all together, Gary is here, and it is good.
~ I walk upright.
~ I’ve bought a bow and some arrows, and a big yellow target for the backyard. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’ve now done it.
~ I can mow without crying.
~ When I pray, I don’t always talk about myself.
Those are a just a few of the indicators that I’m not where I was ten months ago. I’m inching forward, to where I’m not sure, but it is forward motion all the same. It’s getting closer to the time when I going to have to start making some big decisions. But I’ll think about that another day. How am I, you ask?
Better. Not standing still. Only occasionally falling backwards. Still have dark days. Still cry. But, I’m laughing more. And not once, ever, not one time, have I felt God leave the room. For now, this is enough.
Thanks for asking.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Four words...

I am a writer.
The above is only a four-word sentence, yet it describes the longing of my soul perfectly. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t think of myself as a someone who sees it as an obligation, a duty, a calling if you will, to lament, struggle, weep, and laugh over putting words on paper. Of course, now days, who actually uses paper to write on? A pen, pencil in hand now seems like holding a foreign relic, an antique of a long, almost forgotten era. Fingertips to keyboard is the most comprehensible mode of communication now. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. I am still a writer.
I am just home from another month of travel. Oh, not the exotic kind that takes one to romantic, far away places. My travel has been ordinary; the stuff lives are made of. So here I sit propped up in bed, laptop on lap and words piled up in my heart pushing against it like cattle leaning into the small confines of a corral. The words want out. They want to be free. Yet, I find myself fighting against all things that keep me from my heart’s desire. The list is endless, urgent, and real.
Suitcase lying on the floor to be unpacked. Dirty clothes needing to be washed. In my living room right now sits a chair that doesn’t belong, on a rug that needs to be vacuumed. The chair comes from my husband’s office. Since his death, his things have started piles of their own searching for a place to belong. Outside is a lawn that needs to be mowed and flower beds that have become a battle zone between weakening blooms and hearty weeds armed with thistles and bees. All want my attention. All want first bidding. They clamor and clang shouting, “Me first!”
But, I awoke this morning in my own lovely bed after a long day of travel and countless nights away with one conviction: I am a writer. I must write. I must write now, today, this very minute. I must ignore the panic buttons going off all around me in the yard and the house and first give myself to the words of my heart. I have decided that from now on, they take precedent. They get the chair in the front row. The words placed in me from something and SomeOne get first bidding. It is time.
Ever since Gary’s death the need to make decisions about this and that have hovered over me like house swallows. What are you going to do now? What are you going to do about the house? Do you sell? Do you move? If so, where? Do you get a job? At sixty-three, sending out resumes seems like precursor from hell, truly. Thankfully, before Gary died, he helped me with lots of important decisions, but we didn’t cover them all, we couldn’t. We simply didn’t know the answers because we didn’t know the questions that would come. Not all of them. Nobody does until ...
However, this morning I woke up with at least one question solved. What am I going to do now? I’m going to write. I am a writer. From now on, everything I do and decide will be built around that one conviction. Being a writer means, you spend time writing. You live where you can write. You budget your time around your writing schedule. You do not allow the noisy and squeaky to displace the calling.
Gary never did. He was a preacher. He preached. Whether it was at church, camp, or on the soccer field, he preached. I write. So, I will go write.