The Hole of Grief

I found this quote and really like it: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” ~~ Dr. Seuss

This is where I truly believe I am in my grieving process. When visiting a high school dear friend in Dallas a few weeks ago, she shared her thoughts about grief. Her husband lost his battle with cancer a few years back. She said grief is a hole in your life. It can never be filled and your life moves around the hole. Wow–that is profound for the way I am feeling. My 50-year marriage to Jerry was a huge blessing to me. The hole he left could never be filled by anyone except Jerry. Does that mean I can never have a relationship with anyone else? Not at all. It just means the relationship would be different totally from what I had with Jerry.

I am truly smiling because I had a 50-year marriage with Jerry and even because I had the amazing 22 months in his caregiving. Yes, I did say I am smiling because the 22 months happened. It was such a blessing to be able to end my marriage with a special time of loving and pampering my sweet guy.

This does not mean I don’t cry at times over his death. Of course I do. However, I choose to focus on all the good of our life together rather than on what I am now missing in my life. Jerry’s hole is always in my life and always will be. What a blessing he was not only to my life but to the lives of so many others. I am smiling Jerry and I know you are too (between songs!).

God also gives me my garden to smile at His creations every day. Here is a picture of my garden this year.

God’s Beauty at it best!

I Peter 5:7 – “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” God knows my grief, loves me through the grief, and is giving me a new life along with the grief. He is the one who helps me smile because I experienced life with Jerry and holds me while I cry through the difficult days. How marvelous to know He truly does care for me.

Today I am thankful for:

  • The beauty of my garden.
  • Smiling because of the joy of my life with Jerry.
  • Living my life around the hole Jerry left.
  • Enjoying the time spent with my boyfriend as he lives around the hole left by his wife.
  • Sunshine coming after being in the monsoon season here in Oklahoma.
  • Memorial Day dinner was great for about 18 at my boyfriend’s house.
  • Enjoying my roommate for the summer, 18-year old Isa, a student intern at Tim’s coffee shop this summer.
  • Delicious mashed cauliflower last Friday night, a new dish for me to make.
  • Also delicious chess pie, another a new dessert for me to make.
  • God’s care for me every day of my life and wanting to take my anxiety on His broad shoulders.

Pray for my sister’s family. She passed away May 11 in Boerne, Texas. It is still hard to imagine she is no longer in my life.

Grief Stones

One of my friends in Master Gardeners just lost her husband in early January to suicide. They did not have a belief in God so how do you comfort someone like that? Her niece sent her a small bowl with these stones in them. I found them inspiring for me and wanted to share. What a simple gift for someone who finds themselves in a position of grief. How much more powerful these would be if these were combined with scriptures!

Saturday, I attended the funeral of a good friend from church. She had suffered a very long battle with cancer which gave her irreversible heart problems. The heart finally gave out after many hospitalizations and much pain at the end. She was a marvelous example of sacrificial giving in her life. Her celebration of life was just that–a celebration and joy in her now being in heaven. She was only 47.

Our Iranian student who was baptized last week wanted to attend. I asked him afterwards what he thought of a Christian funeral service. His response was, “It was so full of hope.” Wow–what an amazing tribute to our Christian faith. The Moslem faith does believe in an afterlife but their funerals are full of lots of mourning and weeping rather than celebrating the life lived.

II Corinthians 5:1 – “For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands.” As a Christian, there is great hope knowing this body will decay and eventually die but that is not the end but JUST THE BEGINNING. What a blessing to have this hope.

My next big trip is planned. November 1-10, I will be joining our church’s Medical Mission to Ecuador. We will be in a small village on the equator in a rain forest. It takes a 3-hour motorized canoe ride to get there from town. On Sunday mornings, the church members come in their canoes to church. I am very excited to be planning to join the team for this trip. I will be taking a road trip back to Wisconsin the middle of May as well.

Today I am thankful for:

  • My garden and all the spring growth there!
  • The excitement of a new brother in Christ in our Iranian student.
  • His total commitment as his family will probably continue to persecute him for his beliefs.
  • Having a college student, Isa, live with me this summer. She is working as an intern at the coffee shop this summer.
  • The beauty I am already seeing in my garden with God’s magnificent eye for beauty.
  • Many visitors to church who want to find out about us.
  • My salvation.
  • A trip to Dallas today for the week to see relatives.
  • Sweet memories of Jerry every day.
  • The hope of heaven to keep us going through great loss.

Moving Forward With Grief

Last week, I listened to a TED Talk titled, We don’t “move on” from grief. We move forward with it. I am including a link here to the video for you to watch if it interests you. For me, it was fascinating and so describes my grieving process. I also discussed it with the gentleman from my Life Group I am dating, and he agreed as well that it says a lot.

Moving on indicates you have gotten over the loss of your loved one. That will never completely happen nor should it happen. Henry (my gentleman friend who has been widowed for 2 years) and I both talk freely about our spouses. They were a huge part of our lives for many years and helped make us who we are. Jerry and I experienced 50 years together–that cannot and should not be forgotten or moved past.

Moving forward with my grief indicates I am not stuck in a position that is unhealthy nor am I putting my life with Jerry behind me. I am taking the sweet memory of his presence in my life with me as I form a new life. There are times when tears flow freely and will continue to do so. We take our grief with us not to be a burden or depressing but to appreciate and honor their memory.

Genesis 35:3 – “Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.” My grief can be compared to building an altar to God to keep the memories alive. I keep the box of Jerry’s ashes on my night stand and have pictures of our stroke days throughout the house. His memory is alive in my life and is a constant reminder of God who helped me in my day of distress and has been with me wherever I have gone. I am so blessed to have been his wife for 50 years. And now I am blessed to have someone to share memories with as he talks about his wife and their memories together.

The picture I am sharing here is when I was coming out of the garden tomb. Because Jesus rose from a tomb similar to this, I can look forward to rising some day as well to be reunited with Jerry eternally. This is especially appropriate with Easter coming this Sunday.

We rise to walk in the newness of life. (Romans 6:4)

Today I am thankful for:

  • My experiences in Israel/Egypt.
  • Spring time with the garden I enjoy so much.
  • One of our Iranian students plans to be baptized Easter Sunday! Praise God.
  • So many wonderful memories of Jerry in my life.
  • Moving forward with my grief to honor the memory our our life together.
  • Sharing those memories and my life with Henry as he shares memories of his wife.
  • Our church that is excited about sharing the Gospel.
  • Tuesdays with David, my grandson.
  • Having granddaughter Kinsey here this weekend and I will have time with her on Friday.
  • God’s answer in my distress and continuing to walk with me every day.

Please pray for Aman, our Iranian student. His baptism will alienate him from his family and country. We have been his family here already but will be even more so now. We love this sweet young man and his driving desire to seek the truth.

Finally Recovered

Jet lag is very real! Going over, there is such excitement, you jump right into the trip and enjoy everything you see. Coming back, the exhaustion sets in on the trip home. We got up on Saturday, March 23 at 2 a.m. Cairo, Egypt time to ride the bus to the airport for a 7:30 flight. They insisted we arrive 3 hours early when things weren’t even open yet in some areas. After two flights and the 9-hour difference, we arrived in New York City at JFK at 4:30 in the afternoon. This was the middle of our night in Cairo. My roommate and I went to a Holiday Inn and were sound asleep by 6:30 p.m. We boarded a shuttle the next morning at 4 a.m. to catch our 6:30 flight to Dallas and then finally to Oklahoma City by 11:30 a.m. Then the fatigue really set in. Unpacking is not nearly as much fun as packing! It took me this long to be awake long enough to write a blog entry.

Was it wonderful? Absolutely! Was it a life-changing trip? Absolutely? Was it marvelous to be at some of the exact places where Jesus, the apostles and Moses stood? Absolutely! We saw so many wonderful sites and read scriptures at many of them of what happened there. The highlight of my trip was climbing Mt. Sinai as Moses is my favorite Bible character because of the relationship he had with God. That could be another reason I was so tired. The morning I climbed with 2 others from my group, we left the hotel at 1 a.m. on March 21. The first 2 hours of the climb were riding camels before walking to the last 750 very steep rock steps to the top. It is 8,000 ft. altitude causing oxygen supply to be limited. We summited at 4:50 a.m. in a full moon and then started down. The sunrise was at 5:50 a.m. and was absolutely breathtaking. I slept well March 22 but then was up at 2 a.m. March 23 for the trip home.

Sunrise on our way down from the peak of Mt. Sinai. As you can tell, it was very cold at that altitude.

Before I left, I was telling Jerry how sad I was that I couldn’t take him with me. Then I thought, “Why not?” I filled 10 tiny bags with about a tablespoon of his ashes and packed them. Here are the places I left Jerry:

  • Caesarea Philipi in Herman Creek which flows into the Jordan River
  • Sea of Galilee
  • Synagogue at Capernaum
  • Dead Sea
  • Mt. Moriah where Abraham was willing to offer Isaac
  • Garden tomb
  • Mt. Sinai on the trail up (he was a mountain climber)
  • Mt. Sinai at the peak
  • St. Catherine’s Monastery where Moses’ well is
  • The Great Pyramid
  • The Sphinx

Of course, Jerry didn’t need to be left all over Israel and Egypt, but I wanted to experience it with him. When I told one of the older men I had left Jerry’s ashes all over, he said, “You are going to make it difficult for the second coming for Jesus to find Jerry.” I responded, “My God is powerful and it won’t be difficult for him at all.” Some day, his box of ashes will be willed with empty little bags labeled with where he is.

There were other widows on the trip and 25 all together. Yes, I would go again. It is a strenuous trip with about 10,000 steps a day of walking and not necessarily over smooth, concrete paths. The 8 weeks of preparation I had done to climb Mt. Sinai served me well for the rest of the trip. My 83-year-old roommate, Anne, was a trooper and did almost every step the rest of us did. She was an amazing partner for the trip. As we got to know each other, we discovered we had a great deal in common. I barely knew her before we boarded our first plane together.

My roomie, Anne. She was a wonderful partner!

Exodus 14:13-14 – “Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.'” This has totally new meaning to me now, of course, after standing on the places where Moses did and also seeing the landscape where all this happened. The Sinai Desert is barren and rough terrain. All the land where the Israelites spent 40 years wandering were not pleasant places. Living there alone for 40 years would have been punishment alone for not believing in God’s deliverance. They obviously did not listen to Moses letting them know God would take care of them and deliver them from their enemies. He will still do that today for us BUT we have to be still. That is the difficult part for me.

Today I am thankful for:

  • A great trip to Israel and Egypt.
  • Safety along the way traveling by air and bus.
  • The many sites we visited from the Bible.
  • My physical stamina.
  • Anne, my amazing and funny roommate.
  • The many scriptures shared at the sites helping to see the site’s place in scriptures.
  • Leaving Jerry scattered all over Israel and Egypt.
  • God blessing me financially to allow me to make the trip.
  • A week to recover from the fatigue of the trip.
  • God fighting for me if I will just be still.

I have 2 prayer requests for you please. My cousin, Joetta (2 days older than me), passed away last Tuesday from a long battle with cancer. Prayers for comfort for the family. The second is a gentlemen on our tour, Duane. He arrived in Nashville at 10 p.m. after our long day of flying and turned down invitations to stay with someone overnight in Nashville. He fell asleep at the wheel and crashed. He has had neck and back surgery and is now in Rehab in Cookville, TN. He is single but has lived there all his life so will have a support group.

The Trip of a LifeTime

Tomorrow morning I get on a plane at 7 a.m., fly to Chicago, then to New York City, then to Germany, and finally to Tel Aviv for my 2 week adventure to Israel and Egypt. I am sooooooo excited. As I was telling Jerry yesterday how I wished I could take him with me, I thought to myself, “Why can’t I?” I now have 10 little baggies of his ashes packed to spread in various places on my trip. I will write on each baggie where I spread those ashes to have a record. It will be a great trip.

John 21:25 – “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” I will get to step in the places where all these things happened. It will make the Bible come alive for me. It will be a great trip. Please pray for my safety, no illness, and no injuries.

Today I am thankful for:

  • Leaving tomorrow at 7 a.m.
  • Hearing David’s concert yesterday.
  • Having a lovely Iranian dinner with my special friend, Henry, yesterday.
  • Rain today.
  • Our new Iranian students coming consistently to church with us.
  • Kinsey being here for spring break (even in my absence). She will enjoy being here with the family.
  • All the marvelous things I am planning to see.
  • Being able to make the trip financially.
  • Having a fun roommate–an 83 year old from church.
  • Walking in the places where Jesus did.
Sea of Galilee!

Grief Changes

Found this on Facebook today: “Grief never ends . . . but it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith. It is the price of love.”

My grief has definitely gone through changes in the 14 months since my sweet guy left me here and went home. I still miss him terribly but it is a different emptiness. Now I am used to being alone as so many of my days are spent by myself. However, the lack of his presence some days is huge! He is not there for me to check on, give him his meds, get ready for another day of caregiving, and be ready to love on him all day.

It seems strange how I would miss the stress of preparing for another day of unknowns taking care of a man after a stroke. We had such a sweet relationship full of love for each other on his lucid days. I miss the blessing of taking care of his needs–all his needs throughout the day. I miss the challenges that forced me to lean on God more than any other time in my life. I miss his beautiful vibrating bass voice from different corners of the house. I miss having to keep my ears open at night to listen for anything needing attention. I miss my sweet guy of 50 years of marriage!

No, I am not weak because I grieve. I am paying the price for loving someone like Jerry through the longevity of our marriage, through the struggles: financial, parenting, communication, and health. The climax of my caregiving days will be the highlight of our marriage forever. How amazing that I was able to take care of him with God’s strength for 22 months.

But now I am alone! I sit at my computer in a place that is constantly changing. This is now my office but Jerry is still here in so many ways. Jerry helped make me become the woman I am today. This morning I listened to this song:

This song is what Jerry did for me. He raised me up throughout our marriage. It was his companionship that allowed me to accomplish what I did and mature as a Christian woman. I am who I am because of who I was married to. I shed many tears listening to the song and realizing how special it is to me now.

Psalm 34:18 – “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted  and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” No matter how my grief changes, God will be close to me every step of the way! He will never leave me with my broken heart but will be there to provide healing. What an amazing God I serve.

Today I am thankful for:

  • Working in the greenhouse this morning. What a winter joy!
  • Having lunch with my very special friend, Henry, to help him through his grieving as well.
  • Talking with Mara, a great friend back in Wisconsin (and being thankful I don’t have their 4 feet of snow).
  • Helping take care of the precious twins tonight who are approaching 15 months old.
  • Planning for my daughter’s birthday dinner this weekend with 16 people coming.
  • All of our great international OU students coming (9 of them).
  • Starting my packing for my trip to Israel and Egypt (leaving March 11).
  • My gorgeous orchids.
  • 50 years of marriage that truly changed who I am.
  • God staying close to the brokenhearted.

Anniversaries are tough

Sunday, February 24, was the third anniversary of Jerry’s stroke. Wow, it hit me so hard–much harder than I expected. First thing in the morning, I remembered the day it was. How could I ever forget February 24, 2016? It changed our lives forever! The day of the stroke, I was given a prognosis of certain death within days, weeks at most. And 22 months later, I was able to say goodbye to my sweetheart after taking care of him for that precious time. God was so gracious to me and blessed my life so much with Jerry’s care.

The preacher had a sermon on healing and explained real healing comes in heaven. It was tough to hear. I cried through most of the songs and while taking notes. The day was difficult all day with memories and tears. Yesterday, I had an annual dermatology appointment. The last dermatology appointment was for Jerry and was 12 days before he died. It was another tough day.

Last weekend, I attended two of the performances of Beauty and the Beast, the Moore High School musical this year. Lynn, my daughter, did a marvelous job as musical director. Even though I took 4 OU international students and Henry (my special friend) on Friday night and then Henry’s family on Saturday (his son, daughter-in-law, and 7 grandchildren ages 1-11), Jerry’s absence was so real to Lynn and I. It was a somber weekend feeling the hole Jerry left.

Yes time heals but it does take time. Healing is coming but then there are those set backs like this weekend. God is good and continues to provide many areas of my life to have fulfillment and joy. I just have to get through these more difficult days.

Colossians 3:15 – “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” The peace of Christ is a beautiful thing and I can have it during any troubling time. There is peace in the grieving knowing Jerry is in such a better place. The is peace in God’s care of me every day! God has been truly amazing in my grieving journey.

Today I am thankful for:

  • No snow like my previous home of Wisconsin is having.
  • A great book I read last weekend, Field of Grace, a Biblical fiction about Ruth.
  • Wonderful performances of Beauty and the Beast.
  • Excitement building for my trip in 2 weeks to Israel and Egypt.
  • A good report from the dermatologist.
  • My grandson, David, calling last night to check on me.
  • Henry coming over to let me remember and cry with him.
  • Finding a beautiful butterfly scarf today to wear this spring.
  • A friend at church getting out of the hospital today.
  • The peace of Christ I have in my heart!