It’s Raining Tears as I learn to Walk and not Faint…
October 16, 2019
We just celebrated Thanksgiving this past weekend. I can’t say it was especially horrible. Honestly everyday feels like a victory when I make it through to the end. Yet with the end of each day comes the going to bed part. Going to bed has always been a bit of a difficulty for me because I have SO much trouble sleeping so why go to bed? Flawed logic I am aware, yet I dawdle even more now at bedtime than I used to. When Glen was here he would call from bed very patiently, “You planning on coming to bed soon sweetie? I’ve got some kisses for you.”
Of course that got me to bed with a little more speed. But really, what’s the enticement now? Glen isn’t on his side of the bed anymore. He’s in his room in the mansion that God prepared for him. I’m happy for him. I’m just so dang sad for me…
So this Thanksgiving I was teary. I don’t think that anyone else has noticed but I notice. My boys and me spent Thanksgiving not only without Glen but also without any of our extended family. My Dad and Step Mom went back to Manitoba because she’s not doing very well… My brother lives on the Island and is coming in November (when I’m back from my trip to Greece!) so I’ll make a turkey then even though I don’t feel like cooking… Glen’s family is in Alberta and Saskatchewan… so we had a very pleasant Thanksgiving Sunday lunch at our long time friends Rob and Iona Snair. We weren’t the only extras but it was so lovely to be invited and included. I do have so much to be thankful for it’s just hard to see it when I miss my Glen so very much and feel his void so deeply.
There has been a lot going on with many compounding losses in my life and God has had to lead me through to a place where I can still say, “It is well with my soul.” Why is it well? It is well with my soul because I am choosing for it to be well with my soul. I am choosing to believe truth. Truth that God is in control of everything including the good, the bad and the ugly. I am believing the truth that I can trust God even though I don’t understand and I certainly don’t see the big picture. I am believing the truth that Satan continues to try to mess things up and that God does work all things for good according to His purpose, yet that doesn’t mean that we see that good immediately. That good may not be seen until we too are called by God to come home.
The loss of a spouse is one of the more devastating losses to move forward from. (Notice I said move forward, not move on because we do move forward, yet we always grieve the loss because the loss and the love do not ever go away.) With “God is in control” in my mind I also know that He has numbered each of our days.
Psalm 139:16 “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed” (NLT)
And… Isaiah 57:1-2: “The righteous pass away; the godly often die before their time. And no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from evil to come. For the godly who die will rest in peace.” (NLT)
I know that God has numbered Glen’s days and that I heard what I wanted to hear. I also know, and I don’t say this tritely, that I heard God’s whisper into the deepest part of my spirit, “I’m calling him home child.” I didn’t want to hear that. I didn’t want to write about that. In fact I renounced it because I was so stubbornly hanging onto the miracle that I wanted for Glen – healing on earth. God did give Glen and me exactly what I asked for – healing. Whole and complete healing like we can’t possibly experience here on earth. Healing that only eternity can bring to us mortal souls. And it is in that healing that I rejoice for Glen, and am so bitterly in a state of tears for me, the one left behind. We all long for a miracle, yet we don’t recognize when that miracle actually happens. Glen got a miracle. Did you know that God takes his beloved to spare them from more suffering just as he did for Glen? And I ranted and raged against it begging God for more time, not comprehending that I will get more time eventually – I will get eternity with Glen and Jesus and all my loved one’s eventually. Though that “eventually” seems to last FOREVER here on earth, once we get there, to eternity, we will realize that life before, life on earth, was just the beginning chapter, or even perhaps just the introduction to our lives. (As CS Lewis points out in the last Narnia book). It is then that we go, “Oh!” for all the things we just don’t understand now.
Right now, God is telling me to live part two. And I am. I am choosing joy every day, even when I am not blessed with sleep and wake up in massive pain. Yet joy does not equal happy. I have happy moments, yet I also have sad moments because I don’t ever stop missing Glen.
This quote from the book, Let Me Grieve, But not Forever by Verdell Davis, might sum it up just slightly. When we are looking for the big miracle we miss the small one…
“Then there are those times in life when there is nothing we can do to change the situation, nowhere we can go to get away from the loss, no one who can make things better. The darkness engulfing us makes it impossible to see a way out. All we can do is survive the empty moments as best we can and keep putting one foot in front of the other because we can do that automatically. Whether there will be a tomorrow is inconsequential; indeed, death often seems like a welcome end to the pain of living with the hole in our hearts, or with the guilt, or the shame, or whatever abyss the particular loss opened up. Then we look in vain for a miracle….
Little do we know that the greater miracle in the midst of our grievous storm is when God gives us what we need to simply “walk and not faint.” At first glance this hardly seems like a miracle at all. But then we realize that soaring is out of the question, and there is no more running to be done. The only thing left is the helplessness of a reality that has forever changed the shape of life as se have known it and loved it. Now come the “keep on keeping on” stage, when all we want is to go somewhere so we can coddle the gaping wound we have been left with and trying to survive the unbearable pain. In the darkness of the tunnel, merely “keeping on” becomes a miracle.” Pg 59-60
So perhaps, right now, in this stage of grief that I am in, the miracle is that I am keeping on. I am keeping on in the midst of not only losing my Glen, but also other devastating losses that cause me to rethink my life and what it will look like. Losses that compound the main loss – the loss of Glen.
In the week before Glen passed from here to eternity I was sitting in one chair and him in another in our living room. I honestly don’t remember the conversation that we were having but I know he asked me something and I gave him a short remark that was tinged with anger. I had not done that at all through our marriage and I was as surprised as he was.
“What’s going on?” he asked. “What are you angry about?”
I didn’t know what was in me was going to come out…but it did and I’m glad that it did so that we could grieve him going together.
“I’m watching my husband go to skin and bones in front of my eyes! I’m watching the one I love the most in this entire world die in front of my very eyes and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it!” was my response as I burst into a flood of tears. “Of course I’m angry!”
Glen burst into tears with me and told me to come sit on his lap. I shook my head no and kept crying. “I don’t want to hurt you more than you are hurting already Mon Cherie.”
Glen would hear nothing more about that! “Come!” he ordered gently. “I don’t care if it hurts!”
I needed no more invitation and slid onto his lap – him holding me while he was literally a skeleton and me holding him with both of us sobbing tears of deep heart wrenching anguish.
I am so thankful that we could cry together and spend time together in the last months of his life. I am so thankful that we were able to go to Mexico and Santa Barbara for treatments for him because then we had time to just be us…and it was precious and treasured time that no one, not even the devil, can steal from us.
When we were home, again around a week before he passed, he said to me, “I can’t do this much longer.”
I looked up at him and said, “I know….I know. This too shall pass Mon Cherie.”
He looked at me in complete confusion so I continued.
“We know that either you will be healed here on earth, or you will be healed in heaven. Either way we know that you will be healed.”
He smiled. It brought him hope. What I didn’t say out loud because I wanted to be encouraging to Glen was this. If you are healed here on earth, we will both rejoice. If you are healed in heaven you will be happy, though I think in some different sort of way you will miss me too… if you’re healed in heaven I will be devastated and for the rest of my days I will be tinged with sadness living out my life without you. Trusting that God has this yet grieving my loss …
So what am I learning in this rant that is hopefully understandable to those of you who read this? I am learning that my trust in God is chosen. My trust in God is because He has proven Himself over and over and He knows what He’s doing. My trust in God doesn’t depend on my limited understanding of the situation or situations but rather on my “willingness to believe when all the evidence of the moment asks, “Why should I?””
“We can pour out our screams of unfairness to God until we are empty enough for him to begin to teach us his absolute faithfulness.
We can come to see God, ourselves, and our faith journey with new eyes as we simply hold out our hands and allow him to lead us into a greater awareness of his wisdom.
We can allow him to teach us from the depths what we could never learn in the ecstasy of soaring or the exhilaration of running.
Truly, “to walk and not faint” may not only be the greater miracle, but it may well be our greatest discipler.” (Verdell Davis, pg 62).
So with God carrying me I am learning to walk and not faint. (And if you know me at all you will know that I am more naturally a sprinter through life!) I am learning to trust Him again and again as from day one I chose to say, “I glorify You God and I trust You even though I don’t understand, nor do I like this plan…I trust You. Thank you for walking beside me and allowing me to “walk and not faint.”
Honestly I feel right now like throwing my fist in the air and shouting, “For the KINGDOM!” I’d say that’s a win.
September 11, 2019
Let the Little One’s Lead us…
It’s been awhile since I have written in this portion of my blog. The grief journey…it’s intense. I have lot’s to say but little time to write it! The month of August was very busy and a bit of a blur for me. I launched into the “fast” mode that I know, even though God had told me to rest. I was taking time off from work – wasn’t that rest? Though it was all good stuff that I did, I came out on the other end of August absolutely exhausted. My sprinting pace caught up with me and I am now paying the price – extreme fatigue but back at work. Yup…learning ever so slowly to pace…to say “no”. Man that two letter word is hard for me to use!
What has been prominent on my heart since my time at Camp Squeah is to share about how children have touched my heart so dramatically. I made it my mission to try to engage with as many staff at Camp Squeah as I could. I was there for them and though my personality is smack dab in the middle of “introvert/extrovert” I pushed myself to be brave and try to sit at a different table for every meal so I could converse with and meet each person and their cabin of kids. That lasted until day two…lol. I got to the table with a little eight year old who was self described as “sassy”. Agreed! I loved it as she engaged me in conversation or just sat quietly beside me. (Mostly not quietly though). The other girls in the cabin also talked with me and it was really great. The little sweetie asked me wonderful questions such as, “How old are you?” with a penetrating look. I couldn’t fool her! Her cabin mate joined in the game as I said, “Guess,” feeling a little sassy myself. We finally got to my age and she warmed my heart with, “You don’t look any older than late twenties”. Love it! Then she looked at me and asked if I would join their cabin at every meal. Hmm…How can one say no to that? I felt loved and accepted by the child and her cohorts. I agreed to join them at least once a day for a meal and they were happy with that.
Every time I saw this little group of girls they were excited to see me (and I them!) It is heartwarming to be included, to be “adopted”, to be accepted for really no particular reason except that they like you and you like them.
At one particular meal we were outside having a BBQ. The girls kept eyeing my necklace where Glen’s ring hangs from my neck. They didn’t ask any questions – yet the inquisitive eyes said it all. I held it up and told them. “This was my husband’s wedding ring….” They quietly looked at me as I took a breath and continued, “He passed away in January…” I finished quietly. The one beside me gave me a long empathetic look and then simply leaned over and gave me a big hug. No words. Just a wonderful hug. The one across from me (as it was just the three of us this particular time) gave me the same empathetic look and then quietly asked, “What was he like?”
I smiled. My heart swelled. That was two of the most perfect responses one who is grieving could possibly receive! A hug, and wanting to know all about Glen. An opportunity to talk about my beloved is valued. To share with these wonderful girls who Glen is to me is priceless. Who they need to hold out for in marriage when they get there…someone of intense value who will love them and treat them as the Princess’s that they are… They listened well and asked questions well. It was beautiful and I will always treasure that!
Back at home when I have little one’s over (with their parents), they will inevitably climb onto my lap and gather around me. I’m sure it’s because I love them all so much and they feel it that they come to me. One asked me, “Does DeOrro help?” (with the grief was the conversation as they were asking me questions). “Yes, he sure does,” I responded. And looking at four wonderful children surrounding me I added, “And so do you guys.” They smiled.
Last Sunday after church I dropped in on my wonderful friends who have a toddler. I was really tired and have been fighting a migraine again all week. The toddler struggles with eczema from head to toe so one of the parents (my friends) has to sleep with him for nights and napping in order to keep him from scratching himself to bloody. It’s pretty sad. The toddler is a trooper though. When I walked through the door he was supposed to be napping with his mom. He heard me (oops!) and walked out. He grabbed my hand and led me to his room saying, “Auntie Lolo nap…” I smiled. I could use a nap! So we said, “I love you” to mom and dad and settled in for almost two hours cuddling in a nap. Wonderful! God knew exactly what we both needed and gave his parents a break as well. When this sweet toddler awoke the next morning beside my dear friend he said with his eyes still closed, “I love Auntie Lolo.” He’s a little heart breaker already! ☺
Moral of the story? Be innocent like these wonderful children…Let the little children lead us!
Thursday, August 8, 2019
And God rested…
I have been at Camp Squeah since Sunday at 5pm. When Glen passed away I knew that summer would be difficult so I determined to fill it with things that would give me joy. Camp gives me joy. My boys give me joy. My boys are always at camp so the logical solution for me was to volunteer at least a week at camp. When I talked with Dustin, the summer camp director, I got the regular answer that I was expecting – “We always need volunteers in the kitchen”.
Ugh…No thanks for a few reasons. Right now the kitchen is still a trigger for me. I spent so much time in the kitchen trying to make things Glen could eat and many hours juicing so when I go in the kitchen and try food prep – well – I just don’t want to be there. At all. Also, I have spent decades cooking for family and extended family dropped off at my house so I’m just plain revolting. For now, the least amount of time I spend in the kitchen the better. So I countered with, “How about you allow me to use my gifts instead? I speak, teach and counsel – how about that?”
So, I taught four hours during their staff retreat on anxiety, depression, who we are in Christ and spiritual warfare a tad, and listening/communication skills. The rest of the days I have stayed on as a resource for anyone who needs me. I have been used by the staff here in varying degrees of need of someone to talk to or ask advice from (which I enjoy doing); connecting with the campers a bit (ages 8-9 this week – I forgot how loud that age group is!); and being able to see my boys in action a bit. I even led the staff girls devotional pod at 7:30am yesterday and this morning and enjoyed being there even though I am far from a morning person. And the really good part? Well, there’s a few good parts. One, I don’t have to cook. In fact, I am being absolutely spoiled with different options for food because of my allergies. I even ate tofu. And my own room is handy. When I’m tired I go lie down. When my head hurts really bad I go laser it in front of the mirror (a weird laser trick that helps your cells want to go into place – legitimate chiropractic treatment really!) and then lie down again with a migraine pill. Some of the campers have connected well with me too not even holding it against me that I’m 50! I’m not complaining about time in the pool either. In fact this afternoon I stayed in the pool for a good two hours waiting for the camper group that wanted me to see how well they could swim. It brought me joy. And it made my hands look like prunes for a bit!
While here God has been convicting me about rest. I’m not good at rest but I know that I am in desperate need of rest based on my still exhausted form. I had booked in twenty clients to see in the three days that I was going to be home this August (as I really booked up August with stuff to do). That was just too much alongside horse chores and getting ready to go to Saskatchewan to Glen’s sister and brother in law’s fishing resort along with Glen’s brother and sister in law and all of their families. I’m anticipating that trip to be absolutely amazing and filled with the bittersweet of missing Glen and the boys more than some moments will allow me to bear. It’s been really hard having not only Glen never coming earthly home again, but also having an empty house because the boys are both at camp all summer (Donovan since April). The feeling is akin to everything dear to you being violently ripped from your bosom very suddenly and being left with open bleeding wounds but expected to stand up and get back into the battle with sword swinging and a smile on my face. I’m not sure whose expectations those are but I feel them. Perhaps my own. Only a few have said, “Still not doing well?” I try not to take that to heart! As I’ve mentioned before, grief doesn’t go away with the person. Grief comes in the person’s place and though it changes colors it stays a lifetime in varying degrees moment by moment. That is a normal and natural part of life. But I digress…
Rest. One of my devotionals was the familiar passage that says, “If you know to do something good and don’t do it, that’s sinning.”
Yes, I nod my head silently affirming what that says. In my mind so far it means to reach out, to help when there’s a need, to rarely say no to counselling another person because by the grace of God and with His help perhaps I can be of help. God smiled down at me, graciously and kindly. With love and gentleness He stated the verse to me again. This time He gave me a picture of rest. “If you know to do something good (and that I am telling you to do) and don’t do it,” He said directly to my heart, “You are sinning.”
Bulls eye Lord. Got me. I am really bad at resting. My mind doesn’t rest. My body is restless and jittery. In fact there are many days when it takes will power to sit still in a counselling session and even then I’ve had my observant clients remark on how many times I change position…But at least I’m not shaking my legs rapidly up and down! For me, that’s an accomplishment when the restless leg syndrome hits… So, yeah… really bad at resting.
Then I looked at my overbooked schedule for next week. Twenty clients in three days was five too many. “Cancel it,” the Lord said.
“But!” my heart cried back. “They need me!”
“Oh my child,” He said though not unkindly. “They’re my children. I’ve got them until September. You have just barely lost your beloved and I know the emotional pain that has brought you, on top of the physical pain that has increased since Glen came to my realm. I’ve got them. Now let Me take care of you. Rest.”
That’s pretty hard to argue with. I hope I’m hearing Him correctly on seeing just a few that needed some checks because I don’t want to obey partially. I want to obey fully. My heart is yielded fully and deeply. My body doesn’t always co-operate…
Obedience to rest is perhaps one of the single most difficult things that we who are called to people helping can do. This week and this month, though busy, is one of rest, even in the midst of helping a bit. Feeling useful is something we all need to do. Feeling cared for and rested is a gift. I am praying for each person here with sincerity. I am here if they need me and are able to break away from their duties. In the meantime, I am resting, though imperfectly because I’m not really sure what that means for me yet…maybe, just maybe, I’m learning. By the grace of God go I. What about you?
Sunday July 14, 2019
There is a story in Matthew 12:41-44. Jesus is sitting there in the synagogue watching people. He watched many rich people drop large sums of money into the offering box. Then a poor widow came and only dropped in two small coins. Jesus called His disciples to Him and explains the faith of the widow. He says, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.”
Maybe it’s a jump but I think it relates to faith. This morning I heard the miracle story of a young man diagnosed with stage four cancer. Sounds familiar, says my entire memory. This man and his wife loaded up their newly renovated camper van and headed to Issels, the exact same place that Glen and I went for our healing miracle. They had the same faith as us. They went all in and trusted in God for healing him. The cancer was in his liver, a mass on his lungs…It looked dire but they were still trusting in God to their last penny. So far the story is ours – mine and Glen. The similarities end there, thankfully. The treatment is working for this young man and he is granted more years with his wife and family – and praise God for that! I am super excited for them! The man relating the story continued on saying that this young couple was glorifying God no matter what the end result would be.
I concur. How many times in our story have I reiterated that no matter what we will continue to give God the glory? It just seems harder when you’re on what feels like the losing end of the battle… and I continue to choose faith. Faith that God did what had to be done in order to fulfill His plan. Faith that though I don’t like the seeming “no” answer we got to maintain Glen’s life here on earth, that God is in control and we are continuing to live out our lives according to God’s ultimate purpose, plan and story. Faith that our little thread of the story line will become a part of the greater whole creating that beautiful tapestry, that never ending story of our gracious and loving God. So who has the greater faith? The one’s who gave all and got the answer they wanted or the one’s who gave all and got the “no”? I don’t think that question can be answered in full or even in part. I do believe that perhaps the faith is the same and it is in the continual choosing that it grows.
My mind goes a million miles an hour on many things. One of those things is prayer and faith. I have poured over what I thought was from God and concluded that it was indeed from God – but my interpretation was lacking. When God said, “I will heal Glen fully, trust” (paraphrased from the many conversations from God) I heard what I wanted to – that Glen would be healed here on earth. I do believe that my mind, though knowing that Glen could die, refused to believe that a good God would do that to us. How can a good God take a good man who is doing good things for God here on earth? How can a good God leave a faithful woman who is in partnership with the good man as a widow? If God equals good then the resulting emotion from the actual turn of events doesn’t add up.
So here’s the real scoop. God is a good God. Period. I have reminded myself what I have taught others for years – that God always answers prayer. Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes it’s no, and sometimes it’s wait. With Glen we got a clear answer. The answer was a resounding, “Yes! I’m healing Glen! I’m bringing him home to fulfill the greater plan!” Though the answer of “yes” feels like an answer of “no” here on earth, the answer is still yes – and no in a way. Either way, Glen is healed. Either way, God is a good and loving God. God is pure love. Radiant love. Shining love. God made a way for us to come home. Yes, I want to go home. No, I don’t want to leave my boys as orphans. Yes, I want to see Glen ASAP. Yet, the Lord tells me there is more for me to do here. Yes, I am exhausted with fighting my body and grief. No, I will not give up the fight. Yes, I still choose faith – and maybe it’s a stronger faith because it is definitely a faith without sight. I didn’t get the answer I want yet I know that God is a good God who is suffering with me. God is not a God who is just standing there watching me suffer. He is all in. How do I now this? Jesus died for me and took everything on himself so that “everything” includes the suffering I now endure living without my beloved. That “everything” included the suffering that Glen went through with his body being wracked with cancer. That “everything” includes those victories the young couple is experiencing. That “everything” includes all that is good and all that is bad. God does not delight in making His children suffer and cry. He is a good Father who gives good gifts.
We are in a world that is filled with evil yet Jesus has overcome the world. We too have overcome the world if we believe. That’s the bottom line. Belief. I believe and I give God glory for healing my man more completely than I even realize. I believe and I give God glory for sustaining our boys and me as we continue to sojourn in a foreign land and wait for God to call us home. We will all be called home at some point and we know not when. In the meantime I believe and continue to do the work that He has prepared before hand for me to do for His glory.
I believe. Our sincerest desire and prayer for all who bear witness to our journey was just this – that no one would walk away from our good and loving God if Glen went home early. Don’t let what you may consider unanswered prayer stop you from believing – even if you’re basing that unbelief on our story. Choose today to believe. God is worth it. This life is brief and hard, yet still filled with joys. We can endure suffering because HE is suffering with us and holding us. Eternity has already begun here on earth. Lord, let your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven…
July 2, 2019
A Bit About Grief…
The days are going by without my beloved and each day I miss him tremendously. I walk past the large picture of Glen that my friend took and stare at him. His eyes follow me as I move, but then again, his eyes always did follow me in life so this is not much different. Except he’s actually not here. I find that really weird. His passing to the next realm is still beyond surreal for me. I’m sure that I could convince myself that he’ll be home soon; that he’s just on a really long trip and there’s no wifi (just like when we were dating and I was in Europe)…but it’s not true. The true part is that this is a normal part of grieving. In many ways I do believe that he’s just on a trip that is unbearably long. The other true part of it is that he really went somewhere and he is more alive than we are here…and certainly happier than I am for sure.
I have come to some different conclusions with losing someone this important to me. These conclusions could be right or wrong – honestly I don’t know and right now I don’t care. (Although psychologically speaking…they are the norm…just saying…) The conclusions are getting me through the day. I know grief. I am well acquainted with suffering, loss and grief. I have many losses in my life through people I know dying (friends and family – a rather long list including my Mom who passed away from cancer in 2010); illness most of my life (contracting Lyme disease at age 10 but not knowing what is was until 2015 and then my son getting it from me through pregnancy); and other losses throughout life. There are many losses throughout life. Losing a spouse is hard. Really hard. Our love was pure, strong, radiant. We both rated our marriage at a 9.5/10 at the very least and that was only because we were trying to be modest. As one of my very understanding clients said today, “The deeper the love, the deeper the hurt and the pain.” Agreed.
So one of the conclusions I have come to about grief is that those who are grieving grieve hard. When a person dies, and then another person dies, and then another, the grieving can become more complicated. Each grief triggers the other losses and we grieve another layer of pain.
Those grieving are grieving their past, their present and their future with the loss of spouse or child. It all feels empty and we are not even sure why we need to keep doing the mundane things of life. We certainly don’t care to pay bills, wash dishes or in my case even eat. When I grieve I can hardly get food down because my stomach just really hurts. (Though, just to clarify, I am eating!) Others want to eat all the time for comfort and to numb the pain. There is a loss of discipline in life around food, family, exercise…just because we don’t really care and really, does it matter? I’m not saying it doesn’t matter, but the feeling is that it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters – yet it does. One doesn’t care – yet one does care. Deeply.
With grief there is an exhaustion that runs excruciatingly deep. Sleep is extremely difficult to come by. Most of us can’t sleep at least for the first year without the aid of sleep help in some form or another. For me, already struggling with insomnia since I was born and Lyme Disease robbing me of the rest of my ability to sleep – let’s just say that if I didn’t take something (herbal and zzquill or allergy pills or something!) I wouldn’t sleep at all no matter how tired I am.
There is also an increase in pain. Whether one is already dealing with a disease or something wrong or not it magnifies and increases the pain. Every symptom becomes aggravated and excruciating. When my Mom passed into Heaven’s glory I had forty people over three days in a row. When the week ended I collapsed and every fiber in my being was in mass amounts of pain. I was sure I had been hit with a Mac truck. With Glen passing…it’s still that way…except the pain is massively bigger. Unlike other losses, significant losses like losing Glen make the pain linger…longer…
One walks around with a litany of emotions. The dominant emotion is an underlying cacophony of sadness. It doesn’t mean that one doesn’t enjoy life. We still laugh and choose to live. We still have joy. We can still go whale watching (which I did on Saturday to help my friend celebrate her 49th birthday!) and have a blast going fast on a zodiac, totally enjoying every minute of being outside and seeing the magnificence of whales, but it doesn’t mean the sadness is gone. It co-exists and mingles with the joy of life.
Here’s an odd thing that’s happening…crazy or not I really don’t care…I talk to Glen all the time and most of the time I hear him answering me. Whether it is the Holy Spirit speaking for him or him speaking to me directly I do not know. I think it’s a combination. Perhaps it’s just what I think he would say to me because I know him so well. It doesn’t matter. What I have come to believe, through prayer and seeking the Holy Spirit on this matter in earnest, is that we are still bonded together as soul mates. The Lord has told me to lay aside what I think I know of heaven but still rely on biblical principles for my beliefs…and in all honesty I think we’re all going to be pleasantly surprised when we get there. I do believe that Glen and I have much more to accomplish together throughout eternity and that we will always be partners – this is just a lull in the partnership – my goodness I miss him! And just to make a note here, I don’t hear my Mom or friends, or aunts, uncles, grandparents respond to me like I “hear” Glen. I am bonded to Glen in a different way. “And the two shall become one…”
I did some premarital counselling tonight and was surprised I didn’t burst into tears while talking about my relationship as an example. The advice I was giving was to make sure you tell your spouse daily how much you love them. I’m a words person – I know, surprising. I told Glen so often throughout the day how much I loved him and he told me back. I didn’t want him to think I was being trite by saying it many times so I told him that too. Often, it was the only thing in my head. I would look at him and think, “God, I love him so much! Thank you…” so I would tell him that.
One more thing coming to mind. “I guess it takes a few years…” I hear people say. Yes. It does. Grieving someone you love, primarily a child or a spouse takes “a few years” and then some. Grieving is a LIFE LONG PROCESS. One does not just “get over it” so don’t ever say that to anyone who is grieving. We will continue to miss the person. Grieving just changes colors as the months and years go by. At first the pit of grief is dark and black. As we sit in it, as sit in the suffering, as we must do if we will ever climb out of that particular pit, we look around for the treasures and gems that we will find. We become stronger and emerge as different somehow. We don’t even know how we have done it but we slowly find the color of the pit of grief changing. It becomes a dark grey, then slowly a dark blue, and continues to lighten. There are still times of intense darkness and blackness and overwhelmingly missing the person as we are thrown into tears. I would trade all of this for having Glen back…all of us in grief would. When in grief we still keep living and choosing life. We “move forward” but we don’t forget and we don’t stop loving that person. Those people. Ever.
Grief is not something we choose. Grief is the result of a fallen world. God didn’t choose this for us either. God allows it because He has a bigger plan than we can even imagine. God calls His people home when He knows it’s their time. Their story is not finished yet. Our story intermingling with their story – those already called home to that realm just beyond our reach – it’s not finished yet. God is still writing it. Perhaps we need to get out of the way and let Him write… I know that God grieves with us because in Jesus’ death He suffered and took on Himself EVERYTHING that we have ever suffered. So we really are not alone, even if it feels that way.
God, keep writing…and come soon Lord Jesus. Come.
June 7, 2019
Help in Unexpected Places… For the Love of Animals
I arrive at the barn and sit in my truck gathering my stuff, gathering my emotions, gathering… I am overwhelmed with missing my Glen. There are moments where it seems slightly more distant but those moments are far and few between. Even when I sit in my counselling room there is still a part of me that thinks he is sitting upstairs in his chair watching sports or in the bathroom. He couldn’t do much else for years and when he could he did. When I need some administration thing done or computer thing done (the kind of stuff that rarely goes well for me) my first thought is that I will just ask Glen for help…and then remember that he’s not here. Strange, I barely turn on the television now probably because it reminds me of Glen. When Josh turned on the Raptors basketball game I watched with him because I am excited that Canada is in the finals but it was also etched with deep sadness because Glen would have loved it. He’s probably got front row seats in heaven beside an American – that picture makes me smile.
I hear dogs barking as I sit in my truck and pluck up the bit of energy that got me here to get out of my truck. I genuinely smile because I know those barks and whinnies from the horses I hear are for me. Animals have a special way of knowing who loves them, and who is in pain. I open my door and instead of going straight to say hi to DeOrro I walk to the barking dog tied to the other barn. It’s Lexi. Lexi is a boxer who I assumed just loved on everyone because she loves on me. I walk straight to her and bend down to her height. She immediately climbs up my body and wraps her front legs and paws around my neck in a strong embrace, licking my face as I try to turn my head away a bit. I can’t help but laugh. She loves me so much and honestly the feeling is mutual. Lexi belongs to my friends who lost their son and Lexi and Kahlua, their other dog who is a lovely labradoodle (I think) always greet me warmly. Lexi, especially warmly. Almost always with a doggie hug and kiss. My friend tells me that she doesn’t actually do that with just anyone, only special people and people that she senses pain. She is trying to help. It blows my mind.
Then there’s Aussie. Aussie is a shepherd cross and is just lovely. She is shy and when she trusts you she loves to be pet. She is so purely loyal to her owner, who is also just lovely. They all come to say hi.
Quincey is there that day too. I know she has blue heeler in her but can’t remember the rest of the mix. Super hyper and super affectionate when she holds still long enough but always comes to greet me. Her owner is another one I am especially fond of…like all my friends at the barn. I get so much love and support there I feel incredibly blessed.
I slowly make my way into my barn and am greeted by the cats Molly and Sally. They are extremely unusual barn cats. These cats will not let me just pass them by. They literally seek me out if I’ve walked past so that they can love on me too. They will try to climb up my leg if I don’t pick them up and cuddle them. They will cuddle right in and hold on just a tad too tight with the result being mini cat scratches all over my shoulders and legs but the love they give and receive is worth the scratches.
As I make my way down the stalls to the end I say hi to every horse in there. Shorty, the pony, is always super excited to see me. Most of them are but I’m pretty sure Shorty is especially happy because I will often come at the time that it’s ok to let him out to pasture so I have become special to him. He’ll poke his head over the stall door – no small feat for a horse of his small stature – and perk his ears up ready for a kiss. Adorable.
Finally I make it to my big D – DeOrro. By this time he is waiting expectantly with his head looking over at me, ears perked forward, looking handsome as ever. He is a beautiful palomino and quite the ladies man. He has a long flowing white mane and a beautiful straight nose. He has a way of looking innocent, though I know he isn’t always innocent. I greet him and he nods at me. I open his stall door and step in, first holding his face in my hands, trusting him to not bonk me in the head, which he doesn’t – he is very cautious of my head as per our agreement! I told him early on that I have constant headaches so he needs to be very careful of my head. He seems to honor that, which amazes me. Horses understand so much more that we give them credit for. He rests his head in my arms this day and relaxes that big heavy head, trusting me with his own health and well-being. I step in and give him a big hug. He stands very patiently while I linger. He wraps his head around me for a brief moment, then lets go. He has been very patient and wants into the field but he knows I need his love. He has been there every step of the way through Glen’s cancer journey and Glen’s journey from this realm to the next. I know he understands.
This horse has been a huge part of my best therapy. I have learned much with him about the ways of horses and the ways of people. He struggles with pain too. He is lame with navicular (degeneration of the navicular bone which is located in his hoof). I knew that he was in pain before I bought him but it was too late to turn back. The horse had won my heart. I love to gallop and so does he but he can’t. When he does even a canter there are many times now that he will give me some bucks because it hurts (and probably a bit of attitude but I truly believe most of it is pain). I don’t ask him for a canter anymore. If he wants to give me a canter I will often tell him no because I know it hurts if he continues and it will lead to bucking and really, let’s face it, I’m not exactly twenty anymore!
The other day he looked especially in pain but I needed some therapy so I cleaned seven stalls. I was stiff by the end but as I scooped poop I meditated and prayed. With each scoop of poop I scooped I was giving God the “crap”. By the end I finally grabbed DeOrro, put on my helmet and his bridle and hopped on bareback, which lately is how I prefer to ride. There are various opinions on saddle versus bareback but I happen to enjoy bareback riding and believe it gives the horse less pain too. I could be wrong but that’s where I stand. It was going to be a short ride as I had spent most of my allotted barn time cleaning stalls. I was simply headed down the 200 or so feet stretch of road to get to the small riding ring. Halfway there we encountered a tractor barreling at us at full speed. Any horse would be afraid but DeOrro seems especially terrified of tractors. He worked on a ranch and perhaps he had a bad encounter with tractors before but I really don’t know. I stopped him and held on knowing this was not going to end well. I spoke to DeOrro trying to calm him. I held out my hand and yelled at the tractor driver to slow down all to no avail. Just like everything we did for Glen seemed to be all to no avail. There was no stopping the disease that stole my husband from me and there was no stopping the tractor. As the tractor was about ten feet from us DeOrro whirled around on a dime and galloped the fastest he’s ever taken me. There was electric fence two feet to my left and tractor about four to five feet to my right. Hanging on and praying was literally my only option. “God, please don’t let him buck!” “God, please don’t let him veer to the left or the right!” “God, please don’t let him jump the fence!” DeOrro continued to bolt in a straight line. I made a quick decision and made a half second pull on the reigns to the right in the direction of the tractor just to distract DeOrro a bit and slow him down. By the grace of God my horse slowed to a stop and the tractor, who by now had finally clued in and slowed down, continued on his way. I was angry! Raging mad, which is completely unusual for me. The man had put me and my horse in mortal danger. This was a life and death situation. If DeOrro had bucked; if I had fallen off in his quick turn; if DeOrro had veered to the left into the electric fence or the right into the tractor – we would have been dead or very badly injured. I shook my fist at the driver and yelled, “Slow down!” He looked remorseful and sheepish and kept driving.
Slowly we turned back and had a little ride in the riding area. I thanked God again for a horse that calmed down fast. I thanked God again for my years of riding bareback that gave me the muscle memory to not even be dislodged in the least. I thanked God that it was me encountering the tractor and not any of the other ladies at the barn who have been trying the bareback thing…it could have ended so badly yet God gives me extra angels and takes care of me. I am reminded now that if I get hurt it’s just me. Glen is not here to come and pick me up. Glen is not here to hug me with the amazing enveloping presence that was Glen that made me feel so…safe. So loved. So secure. Yet God, in His great love for me has given me extra angels. Angels in the form of real angels from heaven. Angels in the form of dogs, cats, and horses. Angels in the form of people who come into my life along the way. I thank God for my horse, my therapy in the form of DeOrro, who even in his pain, walks me slowly back to sanity and life here on earth with the clippity clop of the hoof beats that lull me to peace when I feel that all around me is insanity. Though I still don’t understand the plan or like the plan of Glen not being here, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is watching over me and loves me. He has a plan. I surrender to the plan of God who sees the world in greater detail than I ever could. May my thread in this tapestry reflect the majesty of my Creator, even in the midst of my intense pain.
May 18, 2019
Never Vs. Eternal
This particular piece has been on my heart for a few weeks but I have had a hard time sitting down to write it….
My friend Leanne and I said goodbye to her husband Jeremy and walked into the Abbotsford airport together. We were off to Alberta to see our good friends Ray and Cassandra. We are closer than sisters and able to pick up the friendship even with time in between. That part was exciting. The next part was also good yet incredibly intimidating and terrifying to me. I was going home. Glen’s parents’ home to be exact for our niece’s wedding. I was excited about this, but without Glen the thoughts threatened to take me away. I pushed them all away with a prayerful word and continued steadfastly in, “It will be ok. I will be ok.”
The visit with Cassandra and Leanne, and Ray and the kids was fantastic. I crashed massively. I didn’t have to think about what new thing I needed to learn – at least not for a few days. I felt safe and secure for probably the first time in many months. We laughed. We cried. We rested. Cassandra kept asking what I wanted to do and I honestly didn’t want to do anything. I was tired of doing. I was just plain tired. The tiredness has not left. The exhaustion accompanies my every breath. I have always been a poor sleeper but now…it’s all but impossible to sleep. A miracle is that I discovered that some people don’t produce something called GAD and therefore never get a restful sleep and/or have trouble sleeping at all. I am one of those people so I have started on GAD nightly alongside my herbal sleep remedies and zquill and am sleeping somewhat better. There is much improvement needed yet I am hopeful that I am on a good track.
With my friends we went out for coffee (tea in my case). We walked a bit outside but it kept on snowing so that wasn’t very appealing. We shopped because I needed a dress for the wedding. My only other option was the dress I bought for Glen’s service and that would be…massively difficult to put back on again. We danced to the Wii until we were stiff and laughed ourselves silly because we are not dancers (at least not good dancers!). Cassandra curled my hair. We gave each other massages. It was good. Leanne left earlier than I did but I knew I would see her in BC soon. And then it was time for me to go to Mom and Dad’s. Home. Without Glen.
Ray and Cassandra, along with their daughter Alyssa, drove me to Didsbury. We got there and Mom and Dad met us at the door. Unbidden as usual the tears leapt to my eyes. Mom and Dad gave me hugs with tears in their eyes too. I kept thinking that Glen would surely walk through the door. He must be coming with Donovan and Josh who were driving my truck up from BC that day. But he wasn’t. He wasn’t ever going to come home again. Not to his parents home. Not to his earthly home. Not ever to be with me and the family again. Never.
I was led to the upstairs bedroom. I’ve never slept in the upstairs bedroom before. For the twenty years that Mom and Dad have been in this house after moving into town from the farm Glen and I have slept in the downstairs bedroom together. I felt loss, yet grateful at the same time. Already the familiar was being replaced. It made sense as my sister in law Donna and niece Melanie would share the downstairs room. It had two beds – though of course Glen and I shared one so we could cuddle on the double bed and fall asleep in each other’s arms. That will never happen again.
Donovan and Joshua arrived safely and I felt massive relief as they walked through the door. These two are now grown men. They are young and can of course still be goofy (which I’ve never outgrown either thankfully!), but they have been forced to grow up rapidly with the losses in their lives. The biggest loss of course being losing their Dad…He’ll never again be able to speak into their lives and show them how to do things.
Friday came and we spent the morning with Mom and Dad visiting. They are incredible people whom I love so very much! They instantly became Mom and Dad to me when I met them. We had stopped in at Glen’s place on choir tour for a break. I think the bus needed fixing too but that part is hazy for me. I just saw wide open farm and welcoming people. The rest of the choir went inside because it was chilly outside but I saw a black lab named “Sarge” and decided to remain outside and get some air. Sarge led me all over the property with excitement and soon we were in the barn while Sarge hunted for birds. I felt free here and loved playing with him. Then I spotted the trampoline and on I went not realizing that it was soaking wet. My pants, of course, got soaking wet! Mom, then Mrs. Hildebrandt, laughed at me kindly and gave me something to wear while she threw my pants in the dryer. I joined the rest of the choir who were all sitting on the couches and floor downstairs watching the video that I’m pretty sure Glen had something to do with the making of (choir and bus memories). That was my introduction to Mom and Dad – kind, loving, giving and gracious people.
Friday afternoon the boys and I hopped in our truck and drove out to Crossfield to help set up the reception area. It was disconcerting that after all these years I still really don’t know my way around out there. I know general directions but save for maybe one or two times this was Glen’s territory and he did the driving. When Glen drove we went a different way almost every time. All the country roads look similar to me so landmarks are difficult so I felt lost and insecure with directions. I really don’t have a built in navigation system in my brain either like Glen did…So we relied on Siri maps. At least now we know how to get to Crossfield!
The next day was the wedding. I’m pretty sure that the boys and I may have been holding our breath most of the day. I kept telling myself to breathe. Here we were in Glen’s home church, at the wedding of our niece whom Glen loved very much and dearly wanted to be there this day, with Glen’s family and extended family – all without Glen. He will never be there again. I will always be there alone without Glen knowing that my boys can’t always come with me. A spirit of sadness was definitely upon me yet I was desperately trying to smile. Our niece Alana was absolutely gorgeous walking down the aisle. Both her and Levi, our new nephew in law, were glowing and had eyes only for each other. My mind flitted back and forth between the reality of witnessing the beautiful ceremony and remembering the day Glen and I got married. We saw no one but each other. We sang to each other. We had a fly interrupting the vows Glen was speaking to me which made me laugh in our ceremony. We had Glen’s unity candle go out and refuse to light again…but we still held the candles together and as the fire became one, we became one. Tears flowed down my face. We were still one. We always would be yet never will I walk beside him again.
Levi’s Dad officiated the service, just as my Dad officiated our service 27 and a half years ago, and near the end he called up Brian, Glen’s brother and father of the bride so the Dad’s could pray a prayer of blessing on their newly united children. Tears flowed again especially as I saw the reactions of my sons. Never would they have that prayer of blessing in physical form from their Dad on the day that they get married.
We headed off to the reception and kind people hugged me along the way giving me their condolences. Alone. I felt alone in a crowd, which is an unfamiliar feeling for me. The boys and I found our table with Mom and Dad, Donna and Melanie and one of Dianne’s cousins (sister in law, mother of the bride) who was easy to chat with. I made it through the dinner. The speeches were beautiful and the bride and groom still glowing. The dance started. I had been overwhelmed enough. I felt myself falling apart and wanting the earth to swallow me. I told myself to stop it. I willed myself to walk to the bathroom in a pleasant manner, not a frantic run. I walked into a stall and cried. Never would I be able to dance with Glen again. Never again would he hold me in his arms. Never again would I have a date, the Glen date, with me to significant or any events. The word never, though distorted, rang true in my mind and I was grieved beyond words. The familiarity of all that was happening combined with the absence of the one I hold most dear became too much for me just a few days short of the four month marker of watching Glen pass from my realm into the heavenly realm that I can’t quite reach. I cried until I thought I was done, dried my tears, washed my face and walked calmly back out. The boys were bored to tears because they didn’t know anyone and had already informed me that they wouldn’t dance not knowing anyone. I put my arms on their shoulders and said, “Let’s go.”
I found Alana on the dance floor and danced with her a bit, telling her we were headed out and how much we love her. I was so completely grateful that we could be there to see her amazing day. But then she asked how I was doing and unbidden the truth flew out of my mouth, “Lousy.” We both had more tears and I felt so bad! She apologized and I apologized for crying – silly how we think we need to. Of course she is missing her Uncle Glen at her special day. She loved him too.
Josh drove home. My body is having massive trouble absorbing nutrients so my feet keep cramping up so bad that I can’t drive…not just a cramp that cramps and then goes away. When it comes it doesn’t go away for hours. I forget what the conversation was on the way except that the tears came again. It’s like a leaky faucet that I seem to have very little control over. Glen was like that in the months before he passed from this realm to the next. I was too but even more now. I was living in hope then. Now…it’s much more difficult. My hope has been broken to pieces and God is slowly restoring me and my hope to something that will be much bigger I think. But the truck ride home was difficult. Broken. Shattered. “Never’s” ran through my head. Josh reached out and held my hand. Donovan put his hand on my shoulder from the back seat while I wept.
We beat Mom and Dad home and commenced packing as we were headed home in the morning. Donovan and Josh headed downstairs to bed while I continued packing. Then Mom and Dad came home, walked straight to me in my bedroom, hugged me and asked how I was doing. Leaky faucet again. I broke down for the next half hour and cried with Mom and Dad again. “What do you need?” Mom asked. I don’t even know where this came from as I hadn’t thought it succinctly. I sobbed out the words, “I need to feel safe again!”
Mom, so frail and so kind, held me. I held on to her too, afraid I would break her she’s so small. Dad stood by with tears in his eyes. He soon walked out and Mom sat on my bed while I packed and we talked. This is so hard for them too! They have lost their youngest son! Dad soon walked back in and took me into his still strong arms. “We love you Laurel. You are our daughter and always will be. You will never be left out of our family. There is always a place for you here. We don’t ever want you to feel that you are a tag along – you belong. I have never met anyone as strong as you are.”
Of course he brought me to tears again. Those words will always be treasured in my heart and my mind. I love Mom and Dad so much!
Eventually I settled down into bed and turned out the light. Then in the stillness of the dark night of my soul I heard the whisper of my Savior.
“Never is a long time my beloved daughter.”
“Yes Father. It is…” my heart spoke back, breaking.
“Eternity is longer my sweet one. It’s coming,” spoke the Father’s Spirit straight to my spirit.
Yes. Never is a long time. But eternal is longer… My spirit began to slowly wake up again. I will see Glen again. I will dance with Glen again. I will hold and be held by Glen again. Maybe not now…but in eternity where we will be eternally and forever together. Loving, always and forever. To eternity and beyond Mon Cherie Glen. To eternity and beyond with Jesus. Thank you Lord!
April 14, 2019
My mind was spinning with not much in it but numbness. How can a mind spin with utter numbness? I stopped at a friends house to drop off some home made brownie’s for their adorable almost two year old. They were having a rough time so I stayed. Their dog needed a walk. He had not been walked in three days. My friends looked exhausted because they were. Their sweet little guy who calls me “Auntie Rorel” (did I mention he’s not quite two?), is struggling very hard with eczema – head to toe. He is absolutely miserable. It breaks my heart. So I stayed. I prayed with them, I offered to walk the dog and take the little sweetie for a walk. Off we went soon to be joined by my friend who needed a visit. We had a delightful time and I was glad to be able to cheer up my little sweetie with brownies.
I headed from there to the hospital. Yes, the hospital. Yes, the hospital gives me massive creeps. I am thankful for it, yet really don’t want to be there. For one, my Mom died there. For two, Glen was there for two weeks…and now he’s gone too…and I miss him like crazy… Yeah, not my favorite place in the world right now. Yet here I am, at the hospital. I was here to visit another friend. He has severe dementia and fell, breaking his hip resulting in the need for a hip replacement. We almost lost him and hard as this is, I really wanted to see my friend and his wife. I took a deep breath, parked my car and took another deep breath. “Lord help me,” I whispered. “God,” I added, “I hate this place.”
I took another deep breath and walked in to the all too familiar place heading to the car payment machines. From there I headed to the elevators. A young couple ran to the elevators and with not a word, nor a glance at me ran into the elevator. I joined them and snuck a glance their direction. Something horrible must have happened. I get it. I sent up a silent prayer for them and whatever was going on. I punched floor 3. Baker 3 – thank God it wasn’t the same floor as Glen had been on…or so I thought. I got to Baker 3 and asked what room my friend was in. The nurse there directed me to Baker 2. Room 2119. That sounded too familiar. My senses started to prick. The hairs on my arms began to tingle. My head began to spin. I walked through the familiar Baker 2 doors that were usually closed due to wandering patient risk. I stopped as I saw April, one of Glen’s nurses.
“Hi,” I said with heart pounding. “He’s gone,” I mustered out.
“I know,” she nodded. “I looked it up and saw. I’m so sorry. How are you holding up?”
I know she was being kind. I wasn’t holding up very good. Functioning, but miss him so much it hurts. It hurts all the time no matter what I am doing. I get distracted, which is good, but he’s always there. I answer in a vague sort of way. I find myself doing that a lot lately. I look towards what I am fearing – the room.
“I think I’m visiting someone in Glen’s old room,” I say quietly to April.
“Are you ok for that?” she asks with genuine concern.
“No,” I answer honestly. “But these people are important.”
I say a hasty goodbye and walk numbly to Glen’s old room. How can I even describe the heart-numbing walk? How cruel is this? My friend is in Glen’s old room? My heart was beating like mad. My head was spinning. I looked for the old gentleman that always sat outside our room – he wasn’t there. Where was he? This wasn’t right. Everything was wrong. This was wrong. How could I walk into the room without Glen being there? This was wrong.
I stood outside the door for a second and took the plunge. I stopped short in the doorway…There he was. Lying in the bed. Skinny. Beard and slightly balding. It could be Glen…but it wasn’t. It wasn’t me sitting there beside him. It wasn’t Glen in that bed. It was my friends and I felt awful for them because I know what they are going through.
“Mary (name changed),” I whispered. She looked up and immediately her eyes filled with empathy. “This is the same room that Glen was in.”
“Oh Laurel,” she said without getting up. “Is this too much for you?”
Yes! My mind screamed. Yes! This is all too much for me! We were supposed to grow old together. We were just beginning to enjoy life after kids want to leave and give you lots of time together kind of time. He was my life. He was my love. He was my best friend. He was someone I could spend every minute together with and never be bored with him or him with me. We adored each other…why God?…
“Please, just come,” I looked at my friend and spread my arms wide. This was not Glen. This was my friend and I guess I needed some exposure therapy. This room was bathed in prayer. It was fitting. The tears flowed as my friend embraced me in a hug. I think both of us were in tears. I forced myself to focus on my friend. We talked but I don’t think I was as encouraging as I had intended to be. This was really hard. I visited with them both – and he even woke up and recognized me, which was a really good sign. I prayed with them and smiled. I was feeling calmer.
“At least this room is bathed in prayer,” I said to them both. I gave him a kiss on the forehead because he was attached to many things so a little difficult to hug. He tried talking. Mary leaned in and spoke to him.
“Did you say you love her very much?” she smiled. “He’s been saying that to people that are special to him,” she added for my benefit.
He nodded. “Yes, something like that,” he said. He spoke quite clearly too.
I was touched. These were two incredibly special people and I pray that all goes well with them.
I said farewell and made my way out the door. What a day! I know that this all sounded awful…and really it was. But it was also beautiful in a very awful way. I was able to spend time with people that I love. I was able to focus on something other than Glen and paperwork, or my work (though I love it it’s nice to not focus on it.) I was given exposure therapy that I would have never agreed to had I been asked. My friends were in a room that was bathed in prayer. “Okay God. I don’t get any of this. The more I know the more I know I don’t know. You know best. About everything. I submit and I trust. I don’t get it but I choose to trust You again and again.”
I sighed, took another breath and left the hospital.
March 31, 2019 “How are You?”
This morning in church a beloved young man came up to Donovan and me with a question…
“I’ve been wondering how to ask how you are doing without actually bothering you with asking how are you doing…” he started. “You must get sick of being asked that and trying to figure out how to answer that.”
Yes. Yes we do. He couldn’t have been more right. And in the same breath, we still want to be asked. It’s odd. We don’t have a clue how to answer that for the most part and really, in many cases the answer depends on the listener. Do they actually want to know? If it’s a random stranger pumping through my groceries, chances are she or he does not really want to know. At least not in depth. If it’s someone close, they may want to actually know the depth of the pain and sorrow. Sometimes you just don’t feel like talking about it. Grief is a really strange thing. Grief hurts like the dickens – more actually but the monumental pain of it is hard to describe. It doesn’t just “go away”. Grief is, in many odd ways, a life long process.
Grief is a cycle like a hamster wheel that you just keep running over and over on but each time you cycle you end up in a slightly different place. Or, as one friend heard from God, it is like you choose to keep walking through the same revolving door over and over again. Maybe at first you don’t have choice. You are drawn into that grief revolving door with a magnet so powerful that it is useless to resist the pain of it. You want to feel the pain because nothing else makes sense. The sting of death is just too deep to understand. At some point you can choose when you will walk through that revolving door and how long you will stay there in that door that goes round and round.
At times it feels that if you go somewhere else you are betraying the one you love. It’s a feeling that does not point one in the right direction so thoughts need to take over. True thoughts such as, “It’s ok to live because you are still alive. It’s ok to smile, to joke, to have fun because you are still on this earth. It’s ok to be you and be filled with the joy of the Lord as your strength. It’s ok to laugh yourself silly at something funny; to focus on other things besides your beloved; to enjoy the cats at the barn; to enjoy a good horse back ride alone or with friends. It’s ok to live. And it’s ok to step back into the grief door because that magnet is still pretty strong. It’s all ok. And furthermore, the true thoughts need to say, it’s ok because Glen wants you to be happy and joyful. He was sad when you were attacked by others. He was sad and wanted to protect you if you were sad. He loved it when you smiled, when you laughed, when you tried, even if unsuccessfully, to do your hair. He loved you and loves you still even if it is in a different way as we don’t understand heaven – and Glen wants you to keep moving and living and serving God with the passion that is you…. That’s the self-talk that is going on and needs to continue yet it does not mean that there aren’t massive moments of grief that coincide with good and happy moments.
Another dear couple at the barn lost their son a couple of years ago. He was only in his late twenties. It is natural that they are still grieving him for as I said before, grief is a lifelong process. The road just changes slightly along the way to less bumpy. So the question of “How are you?” is one I circle back to. As he says (the man who has lost his son), we want to be asked how we are doing. And in the same breath we don’t want to be asked how we are doing. We want to talk about those we love and have lost. Yet we are afraid that if we start we won’t stop and we will bore the listener. When we are not asked how we are doing we wonder why on earth the person hasn’t asked us how we are doing. Don’t they care? When we are asked how we are doing sometimes we want to shout, and I quote my friend at the barn, “How the hell do you think I’m doing?! Awful! I’ve just lost my …!” Of course we don’t do that because we have filters most of the time. And I don’t normally use coarse language ☺. So we grumble together. We laugh together. We miss them together. We talk about the unfairness of it all and we do it together. Grief, just like depression, loves company. And yet even those of us who grieve need reprieve from the grief.
So how do you ask someone how they are doing without actually asking? How has your week been? It works and delivers the same message. How was your day? Sure. The answer remains the same at this stage of the game – a steady and constant “up and down” or “all right” or “not great”. Every once in a while I hear myself forget about the grief and say, “good”. “Good?” I say in my head. I then know that I am differentiating. I am good in many ways. I am good in just as many ways as I am very bad and not doing well at all. The grief is strong yet it is losing it’s icy claw like grip on my every waking moment. There are more and more reprieves. I also differentiate between what I choose and what I feel. I choose to be joyful which leads to “good” sometimes, even if that is surprising even to me. I know that I am shattered and that my world has been blown apart. I also know the One who puts me back together and I am privileged to call Him “Abba” and “Father”.
A young woman also approached me today in church. She is a good friend and I am privileged to call her a friend. She shared that when I asked for all of you to “storm the courts of heaven” with me to appeal for Glen’s healing she and many others rose to the challenge. She saw us all gathered before the great golden throne of God. She saw a beautiful red carpet rolled up to the throne. The floor was black and white tile in her vision. She felt the power of being in the high court of heaven and felt the pull of God intimately on her heart. Then Glen was taken from us to live in that place – a place that we cannot yet go completely with our spirits. She sought the Lord, as I believe we all need to. Why? We need to hear it from the Lord ourselves. She didn’t get an answer to the why. But she did get these words, “I’m sorry I couldn’t give you the answer that you wanted. I’m so glad you’re here (in the high courts of heaven). Please stay.”
I love that. Of course we both cried together. The words from God are a simple invitation to all of us. “I’m so glad you’re here. Please stay.”
We most certainly do not have all the answers – not even close! We do have a God that in spite of my great shattering I know beyond a shadow of doubt loves me, cares for me, and did not take Glen to hurt me but for some other greater purpose. We have a God that we can trust. A God whom we call “Abba Father” who rejoices with us and invites us into intimacy with Him and then says with a gentleness and love that we cannot completely fathom, “Please stay.” I hope, that along with me and this beautiful friend that we will all enter into that amazing Presence and find hope, comfort, peace, and above all, a place to “stay.”