Just Me

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

26 Days Later...

Here I sit, last hour or so in my hotel room in DC. I have reflected much during this trip. I have had moments of sitting along pools of water over looking the beauty that man's hands have made in these huge monuments. I have read words of faith, determination, remembrance. I have loved every minute of seeing the beauty and history of our great nation. 

But, the most memorable times of this trip are not what I saw, as much as who I saw it with and the things we shared together. Sometimes I think God just oozes his goodness over us because He loves us that deeply! He doesn't have to give us extras, He is enough! But He does...and I have been on the receiving end of a tidal wave of His love and goodness! (Beauty in the ashes, mourning into joy, praise instead of despair! Is 61:3) 

I got off the plan in DC and hugged a "stranger", well to a degree. We had never spoken on the phone, we had only messaged through facebook and a few texts on our phone. But our bond was strong. We have the bond of understanding the pain we each have experienced. We have the bond of a passion for our loving Father. We have the bond of Jesus! And the first night, we stayed up and shared our hearts for our God late into the night (or maybe it was early in the morning!)

We have walked slowly through the streets together. We have laughed and cried together. We have sat and listened to worship and sang together in our room. We have shared our hearts together and we are sisters through eternity! All because of Jesus.

Yesterday, I had the added bonus of meeting one of my friends from college. We have not seen each other in about 15 years. She and I went to lunch and did a little sight-seeing then on the way to the hotel she said she wanted to treat us to dinner and anything else we wanted to see! Such a bonus on a trip that I have been lavished over! 

So the three of us went to see a few of the things we had not seen yet. She took us to Georgetown to an INCREDIBLE restaurant! We sat out on the patio overlooking the Potomac River and the Kennedy Center! AMAZING view!!! Delicious food! Sweet company! And our talk almost the whole night was on our Jesus! I love the way God orchestrates our lives and I KNOW Sonia was blessed as much as I was by Cynthia's company! I love when God blesses us with people who relate and can truly bear each other's burdens because they have walked that path! Cynthia was that for Sonia! SUCH a gift! Both Sonia and I said our trip could not have had a better last night!

As we went to bed last night and I looked through the photos we took, one struck me. I FEEL like it has been forever since I last saw Dave's face and held his hand. But I saw my face in a way I have not seen it in a while...or maybe it just truly struck me differently...

I was smiling...

Not that I haven't smiled or laughed up until now. I was even smiling and laughing with sweet friends the night he died! But seeing that picture and knowing the love of Jesus that has been poured over me. The sweet fellowship with dear sisters in Christ. Knowing that God has a plan for me and it is good and FULL of His hope, (and I am walking daily in that hope) I was able to say...

"Life goes on!"

I think every time I see that picture of me and my dear sisters, sitting on that wall, experiencing all that God has poured over me in the recent days and weeks, I will be drawn right back into that hope and thought...

"When life seems to stop, 
When the rug of hope is pulled out from under you, 
With Jesus, 
Through the hope of God, 
With the arms of his family and the Lord himself wrapped around you..
We can live an abundant life! 
It does go on!
His plans are good!
Our future is FULL of HIS HOPE!
And I can smile and laugh and LIVE full of His love for me!"

So, to end this trip and to end this blog today, a note to my dear friend!

You have lavished me with the love of Jesus! You are a gift straight from His heart to mine through the toughest days of my life. And you have given me a sweet time of fun, fellowship, and much needed refreshment after those hard, hard days! You are an incredible, Godly woman and He IS using you in ways that I truly can not pen. His circle of goodness in my life includes you! My heart is forever knit with yours and I am so blessed to call you my sister! You are loved, not just by the perfect love of our Father, but by me and many others that truly know you and see you! Sister, God has such amazing plans for you! Your passion and zeal for Jesus is truly contagious and has been a joy and treasure in my life! I love you dearly!

God is SO, SO, SO, SO good! I am truly blessed! Jer 29:11

Monday, July 29, 2013

Flowing Tears...

Tears are freely flowing this morning. I am sitting in my hotel room in Washington DC alone this morning. And I am reflecting on the past few weeks. 

It has now been 24 days since I said good-bye. I miss him. As I have walked around DC, I have seen so many things Dave would have enjoyed. I wish we could have visited here together. But I carry him in my heart and my mind. I miss him. Every day I miss him. Some days I miss him so much I ache. But my tears today are not because of my ache for him.

My tears today are because sitting here, only 24 days after, and I see God redeeming in my life. I see him redeeming in ways I never expected. I knew he WOULD redeem...He said he has a good and perfect plan for me...and it is full of hope! But I didn't expect to be poured over so quickly.

How I came about this trip is nothing short of a miracle and gift from God. Last March, one of my friend's from church put a post on Facebook. It went something like this:
"I have 2 friends from 2 very different places in my life. And they need to meet.
Stephanie meet Sonia. There I introduced you. Now start chatting.
You will figure out why I thought you should meet."
So we did. We friended each other and started chatting. We have spent hours chatting on Facebook since. We have tasted very similar loss in our life. Both of us, the man we loved, and we have both lost because of cancer (although hers was her mom). As I have walked through this "Valley of the Shadow of Death" Sonia has walked with me! (All the way from Colorado) She KNOWS caregiver, final good-bye, the beast of cancer, missing someone so much it hurts. She knows the loss of losing the man she loves. She relates. 

She is here for a conference for work, And she gave me the invitation to join her. So, I ordered my plane ticket and flew out to meet her. Both of us wondered, "Will this be awkward? I'm sharing a hotel room with a stranger (Well kind of)!" But as I walked toward her in the terminal, I couldn't wait to hug my precious gift from God! It was so natural and I was thankful! 

We got to our hotel on Friday night and decided to go sight seeing a little We are right on Capital Hill, so we walked to the capital! I have never been to DC, so this is all so new and exciting for me. I am in awe as I walk around and see history. It really is a beautiful city! We went back to our hotel room and began the night of talking! We wept and laughed together! The thing I loved most about our conversations is that our favorite topic is Jesus! We cry over his work in our lives! We cry over the fact that he is so good and blesses us with so many things we don't deserve! We were up till 1:00am talking and it was hard to turn off the light and sleep! 

Saturday we got up and went to Arlington to see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the changing of the guard. If I had to pick the one thing I have always wanted to experience, this was it. I walked through the cemetery and enjoyed standing in silence at the changing of the guards. I couldn't help but think of my husband and my loss, but not with pain in my heart, but rejoicing that He is home and no longer suffering. We walked back to the mall and visited the Korean War memorial, and the World War II memorial. We sat with our shoes off and put our feet in the cool waters there for a bit. Again, a time of reflecting on God's goodness to me. 

It is really hard to describe what those last weeks were like. Please don't misunderstand me when I say I felt trapped. I felt like I was on a deserted island. (It was truly an honor and privilege to care for Dave during this period of time.) But, I sat there, free, no having to hurry back, no wondering how he is doing, I am free of that part of my life. And Praise God, so is Dave!!! It has been so refreshing to be free from it all. No responsibility. Just free. I am still adjusting to this part of my life. And it seems to be one of those things that hits in waves.

We got up and left and went to the White House. We then decided to go back and rest up for a while before venturing out again! I was told that I have to see the Lincoln Memorial at night. He is my favorite president, like the Solomon of the United States! Full of wisdom and love for God. So, we ventured down to the Lincoln Memorial. WOW! I was blown away! As we stood and looked at this great man from history, sitting in his seat, overlooking the Washington Monument, I couldn't help but think how much more amazing it will be to stand before my God sitting on his throne, surrounded by angels! The grandeur of that room blew me away! BUT someday...and Dave already knows! We sat on steps of the Lincoln Memorial for a while, reflecting. Enjoying our moment. Two women who know great loss, but an even greater God! So thankful!

Sonia has a friend who has a daughter living here in DC and she offered to pick us up at our hotel and take us to church with her. I was thankful I was going to church, but I was also really missing my home church. I HATE missing a Sunday at my church! As we are driving, she asked if we knew anything about National Community Church. We didn't so she proceeded to tell us about how they operate. She then says, "Our pastor is Mark Batterson, author of 'The Circle Maker'...and he is preaching at our service today!" I was so excited. I was given a booklet that high-lighted the ideas of that book over a year ago and I have wanted to read it! So cool to attend his church today! Just a little gift from God. We get to church and the people are so friendly and welcoming. I am so thankful for the family of God. Instant connection with others is a gift! We begin to worship...SO much like my church...as we go through the way they do things, and the feel I get in that room, it was as if I was at my home church! I felt SO blessed! Another gift from God. Then, they announce that visitors go to the table in the lobby and they have a gift for us, it includes a copy of "The Circle Maker"! HOW GOOD IS GOD???? He sees me...He loves me....He gives me bonuses that tell me I am vital to Him. Our new friend invited us to lunch with her and her boyfriend, so we went to her apartment for lunch with her. It was really neat to see what those little apartments in the city look like...and it made me very thankful for my house and mortgage payment in Urbana, OH! Our time around the table was sweet, sharing our God stories, talking about the work the Lord has done in our lives. God gives an instant bond! 

She walked us to the metro and we boarded for the Smithsonian! Since we walked over 10 miles on Saturday, I think both of us were ready for a little less movement...and the AC was much enjoyed. Although, God has blessed us with a nice breeze and lower than normal temps! (Another little gift!) 

My favorites at the Smithsonian?? The First Lady exhibit with all the beautiful inaugural gowns! Then of course, the Ruby Slippers and Kermit! (still a kid at heart I guess!)

We came back to our hotel and spent time talking again. We have shed tears together, but I don't think any have been tears of heart ache. Only us being so overwhelmed in God's goodness. 

Today, she has conferences, so I am sitting in our hotel room alone. I have thank-yous to get done from the funeral. And I never complain when I have down time to reflect and pray! My sweet friend, fixed me coffee while I was still in bed this morning. And she left me a gift as she was leaving. As I opened it, one by one, it was not just her, but Jesus giving those gifts! Books, some I have been wanting and some I didn't know I wanted! Tears flowed not just because I could see the fingerprints of Jesus on this gifts in the bag, but because God's fingerprints are all over our friendship! 

When I planned this trip, I knew the timing would be good. I knew it would be a time that God worked. I knew we would be blessed in meeting each other and sharing face to face talks and tears (and coffee!). BUT, God has poured himself out in so many ways on me. I sat, feeling very isolated at home, little fellowship, trapped, through those hard, hard days. He is redeeming those hours. I sit now, weeping over how GOOD my God is! I worship in praise that God is so good, that he took Dave home to heaven! Death was completely defeated, not just when Christ rose again, but when a believer breathes their last breath and they are forever with Jesus! 

GOD IS SO GOOD!! Thank you Jesus for every good and perfect gift! 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

19 Days Later...

It has been 19 days since I said good bye. That sentence stops me in my thoughts. ONLY 19 days...

Much has happened in the past week. My days have been pretty busy. I have squeezed in some time with family and friends. My two oldest are in Chicago with the team from our church on the annual mission trip. My son has had his cousin here for several days since his sisters have been gone. We have been non-stop. 

Last Friday, I was able to pick up the death certificate. I remember the way I felt when I looked at my children's birth certificates...so many hopes and dreams for that life. I wondered what it would hold. This time, I looked at my husband's death certificate. That's it. No more. At least not here on this earth! (THANK YOU JESUS for that sweet, sweet HOPE and assurance!) But for me, my husband is gone. I am sure you have heard that the dash is what matters...December 29, 1967-July 5, 2013. Dave lived his life. He worked hard. He laughed. He was celebrated. He loved the Lord. But I held in my hands, the end of his earthly life. It is really weird the things that go through my mind in this process. These were just a few of the thoughts that day. 

On Monday, I was able to pick up his ashes. The funeral director met me at the door and went to get them for me. He walked out carrying a blue velvet bag with a gold cord ribbon. He carried it so respectfully and gently. I signed the proper papers and then he asked if he could carry them out for me. Again with such respect and honor for the life that was now in his hands. I drove away with my husband. Sobering. I am not one to display his ashes as the focal point of the home, so I cleared a shelf in my bedroom. I placed our wedding photo, a plaque with Jeremiah 29:11 (my verse for this phase of my life!), a wedding gift we received (the willow tree angel called "promise" of a couple dancing) and his ashes in the blue velvet bag. I really don't know if I will keep them. I really don't know if I decide to scatter them, when that will be...but I know eventually I will know what to do. But for now, they are mine and will be with me. 

Tuesday, I got the call that his boss had the money for Dave's tools and tool box. It was such a blessing that I didn't have to go get that huge tool box and then have men involved in helping me sort and sell all of that. I walked into that office upbeat and happy. Just thankful for this blessing. Then when we were done, his boss said, "We thought so much of Dave. It really saddened us to hear about him." I told him, "You were the best boss he has ever had, no one else in the business ever treated him with the dignity and respect that you did..." tears poured as I told him what a blessing this job had been in our lives. That it was truly a gift from God and we were both so thankful for it. I walked out with tears streaming and they continued to pour as I cried out loud for quite a while. Another taste of the finality of my husband's life. 

I got home and decided I might as well go take care of more on the to do list. I went to the bank and again, "My husband passed away, I need to take his name off of our accounts." Words are so painful...usually they hurt the one that is hearing them, these hurt the one speaking them. It was so simple...that doesn't seem right. That quick, just a piece of paper and his name was gone. 

I came home and decided, might as well deal with more. So I went to the title department and took his name off the titles to our cars. More of those words, "My husband passed away so..." I will be glad when I don't have to take care of more of the business side of this and can just share my heart and story that God is writing in my life.

It felt so good to get those things accomplished. I have DREADED those moments. I still have a few more items of business to deal with concerning his passing, but the list is shrinking. I am so thankful for the strength God gives in those moments. And I am truly thankful Dave was willing to go with me in March and make sure this would be as simple of a process for me as it could be. SO SO thankful for that!

This journey has been so hard. I am STARTING to feel like I am settling into life without him...although I know it will be a while before I am completely there. I guess it is more like the house is beginning to not feel so odd. Baby steps forward...some healing...I am starting to adjust...and I am thankful!

For weeks, I was in a position of not being able to leave Dave alone. I was stuck here at home day after day. Only leaving for brief periods of necessary time. I am very social! I love time with my friends and being out of the house. This period of time was so hard for me. I felt so isolated and lonely. And at the same time, I was dealing with watching my husband fade away...

But...I know a Great Redeemer...and he is GREATLY REDEEMING...

Friday, I have the HUGE blessing of flying to Washington DC to join a friend on her business trip! Only expense to me is my airfare!!! WOO HOO!!! I was introduced to her through a mutual friend. We have only met through months of messaging on Facebook! So, in a sense, I am meeting a stranger...but I'm not. I am meeting a dear, sweet friend/sister in Christ! She lost her mom about 2 years ago to cancer...she has walked that road. Through this process, she has been a support, encouragement, someone I could ask questions about cancer and hospice care, she is truly a gift that I will cherish the rest of my life. And I get to meet her! I will be there until Wednesday next week. 

Then, on the 3rd, my mom and I are taking my kids and heading to Dave's home state and hitting Mackinac City, MI. We are going on a mini vacation and going to Mackinaw Island for a day. Spending time on the beach, doing a little sight-seeing, a whole lot of relaxing...and some good memory making! 

I get back on Thursday and then on Friday and Saturday I get a big ole dose of Jesus and I head to Women of Faith! Someone paid my way a while back and now I get to go soak up some fellowship, encouragement, challenge, and worship! I can't wait! 

I think you could safely say that God is redeeming the time I spent in our home caring for my husband. (and there's more, but I will save that for another time!) 

God is giving me a whole lot of beauty in the middle of such a hard place in life. I sit back and think about everything and feel his love pouring out all over me! In the middle of it all, I can say, I am blessed!

I have mentioned that God gives me songs...I think I have found my theme song for the year ahead...I know with His help and me walking through this process in a healthy way, I am an "Overcomer" no matter what is ahead. 

I am so thankful for the words of hope in the word of God...

Psalm 30:5b & 11
"...weeping, my remain for a night,
BUT rejoicing comes in the morning....
You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy."

Ephesians 3:20-21
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more
than all we ask or imagine, according to his power
that is at work within us, 
to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus
throughout all generations, for ever and ever!

God is good!!! ALL the time!!! No matter what!!!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Ocean of Grief...

Grief is something I have never really experienced. I have lost people that I love, but none as close to me as my husband (what relationship is closer?). The past 12 days have been so busy. I have had moments when life is SO hard and I feel like I can't do it...and I have moments of laughter and feeling normal. I have gone on a few quick evening walks with my dog...I don't stay gone long, only circling about 2 blocks and I walk very slowly...it is a time of processing. I can't begin to tell you all that goes through my mind during those short outings...just me, my dog, and my thoughts...

Today I stood and looked out my back door...my thoughts, "Death is so final." Profound, huh! But these thoughts, these realities hit like a brick wall and you don't know when they are coming. All of a sudden they are there. This is it. It is me and my kids. He is gone. Life is different. I can't hug him. I can't kiss him. I can't look at his face. I can't go to dinner with him. I can't ask him to fix my van. I can't count on him to work hard and bring home a paycheck so I can make the house payment...I can't...I can't...I can't...

You would think after months of preparation for the end, months of him being inside our home, months of his health declining in front of me, months of mental, emotional, spiritual preparation, I would have been better prepared for this. But the truth is, like so many warned me, I had NO clue how it would hit or what it would be like. I feel so lost at times. Almost like I don't know how to act. Life is different. It is strange. And tonight, the tears are flowing and I just want 5 more minutes with him. 

But I can't...

I have been starting to work on the mounds of paper work and phone calls that I have to take care of. I find myself feeling angry that I have to do all of this. Can't I just grieve?? Can't I just try to take care of my kids?? Can't we try to start our new normal?? Why do I have to do all of this?? Time is a factor for me, I need to get it done quickly so I can start working again. People have offered to help, but this is stuff that I have to do. And I don't want to do any of it. I just want to fast forward to the day it is all done and start life then. But we all know, that is not reality.

Grief...the best way to describe my 12 day experience...it feels like I am standing about knee deep out in the ocean...I am strong and I am free (the relief from Dave's suffering being over, the relief I have in not having the responsibility of his care) my arms are outstretched and my face is looking at the heavens, the warm sun beating down on me...then a HUGE wave crashes in on me and knocks me off my feet. Salty water, tears, cover my face as I do my best to stand to my feet again. I struggle, but I manage to gain my balance and get back on my feet, again steady and strong, arms outstretched, then another tidal wave hits me and knocks me down. I don't know when they will hit or how hard they will hit, but they just continue to hit, over and over. Waves of sadness! Waves of more load than I can bear, crashing down on me. Over and over and over and over...

But this is a journey that I have to walk through...I don't want to...but I have to. "Death is so final" there is no way around this journey. As I stood looking out my back door today and that thought came to me, I thought "If I didn't love him so much, it wouldn't hurt this bad." I hurt because I loved...would I really want to change that?? If the only way to not hurt right now was to turn off my heart towards my husband, would I do it? No way!!!  So because I love, I walk this painful, excruciating path called grief. I face the tidal waves of emotions, thoughts, and tears. I will finish the mounds of paperwork and somehow find a way to be mom at the same time. And I will cry. I will cry a lot. I will cry more than I have ever cried before. 

Tonight, I miss my Dave. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

He was Loved...

Yesterday was Dave's memorial service. I woke up with a knot in the pit of my stomach. I dreaded walking into church and being "done". I worried about everything going well and I wanted to make sure he was honored the way everyone that loved him would want him honored. And as much as I wanted everything to be behind me, I didn't want this to end.

I walked into the church with the worship team practicing...it was SO uplifting to my spirit! I knew that the pastor and I had met and when we were done, I was pleased with everything. He had input on how to make it flow smoothly and also had suggestions on how to honor the person that Dave was. I knew on Tuesday, I had peace about it all...but yesterday was a different story. Add emotions to the mix and I felt like I was having an "out of body" experience. It just didn't seem real. 

Pictures of Dave flashed across the overhead...a lump rose in my throat as I looked at the memories with him! I took my seat, front center aisle, across from his mom. I sat and thought, "This is it. Savor the coming moments! Cling to them, don't forget them." I was in the seat of honor. I was the wife. I am the widow.

The pastor opened us in prayer and began by reading the obituary. He then proceeded to share memories that people had sent in. Some were funny, some were sweet, some made a tear fall. They were honoring. He was loved. Then he read my letter. I didn't think I would cry. I wrote it. I knew what was ahead. But as I sat and listened and reflected, the love poured out in the form of tears...

To my husband~ 
8 years wasn't enough. I remember when I first saw your bio on Christian Mingle. 
"I'm not your typical knight in shining armor. I had to put my horse down 
because the kids needed school glue. The castle is a mess with piles of laundry 
and dirty dishes. And my armor is a little rusty!" Your humor and creativity 
drew me in! We spent hours that first night instant messaging and even before I 
first met you, I had feelings for you. I remember on our second date, looking 
across the air hockey table at you and knowing I was falling in love with you! 
We knew it was crazy! The 2 of us and our 7 kids...our own Brady Bunch, except I 
didn't get an Alice! 
On June 17th, 2005 we went to a little wedding chapel in Clarkston Michigan. We 
both knew how hard marriage was...we had been down that road before. And we knew 
this one would have new and more difficult challenges. That night I stood there, 
and pledged myself to you, in front of our Father. "For better or worse. For 
richer or poorer. In sickness and in health. To love and to cherish until death 
do us part." I meant those words that day. I took them very seriously. And I am 
thankful we lived out those vows. 
You were such a talented, gifted man. I loved sitting in the garage watching you 
work. It always amazed me that you could look under the hood of a car and figure 
out how to take it apart and put it back together AND make it work. I loved the 
way you smelled when you came home after work. That was the smell of my hard 
working hubby! I don't think you ever realized how truly gifted and talented you 
were. If it broke, you could fix it. If you thought up the plan you could build 
it. And I think of that every time I sit at our computer desk! I look around and 
I see your fingerprints in our home. You are everywhere I look. 
I am thankful that we were able to spend time alone and go places. I cherish our 
trip to Mackinaw Island that you took me on right after we were married. We had 
so much fun exploring Civil War sights in Nashville together. And I enjoyed 
hiking in Hocking Hills with you. I will always be grateful for the weekend we 
spent in Columbus in December this past year. We both knew that would be the 
last time away together and God blessed you with some really good days. 
I think the thing I most appreciated about our relationship was our humor. I 
always said our love language was sarcasm! I loved laughing with you. I think I 
will miss that the most. 
I loved your passion for studying the word. When you were teaching Sunday School 
you would spend hours preparing each week. And it showed! It was such a 
privilege to lead youth group with you. I was thankful to have a husband I could 
serve the Lord with. 
Our marriage has been hard. We have met many trials-many that would break a 
marriage apart. But we made it. One of our greatest challenges was the fight for 
your life. You fought long and hard for 3 1/2 years. Many prayed for healing for 
you. Some would say that God didn't answer. But I know he lovingly did. He 
decided that you had had enough. Life has been hard for you Dave. You have met 
more challenges and heartache than most. And I think God lovingly said, "Son, 
come home to me. You fought a good fight. You finished your course. You kept the 
faith. You are done." 
As your wife, I am heart broken and I miss you. I missed you the moment you left 
this earth. I am so grateful that I was able to hold your hand in that last 
moment, when God took the other hand and welcomed you home. You were, and are 
still, loved deeply and unconditionally. It was my honor and privilege to walk 
through the journey of cancer with you. It was hard, but I would do it again 
with you. 
I wonder what you are doing right now. Are you sitting and talking to some of 
the greats of the word? Are you sitting at the feet of Jesus in awe and wonder 
at the gift he has freely given you? Are you standing and worshiping with the 
angels and saints that went before you? Are you running freely without your foot 
brace, on the streets of gold? My heart aches with how much I miss you, and yet, 
it rejoices and praises our Savior knowing that you are done with this life and 
have just begun to live! 
Dave, I am thankful that God brought you into my life. I am thankful for our 
laughter, our dreams fulfilled, for the opportunity to walk through the tough 
things in life together. I am thankful that I was able to be with you at every 
appointment. To sit by your bed and be with you. I am thankful that I get to 
carry on your name. I am so glad I was able to call you mine. I am thankful that 
I was given the gift of loving you and being loved by you. 

The worship band proceeded to make their way to the stage...
We were going to celebrate the HOPE we have in Jesus!

Blessed be your name
In the land that is plentiful where your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be your name
And blessed be your name 
When I'm found in the dessert place though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be your name
Every blessing you pour out I'll turn back to praise
And when the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord! Blessed be your name!
And blessed be your name
On the road marked with suffering though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be your name
You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say, 
Lord, blessed be your name
Nothing can separate even if I ran away
Your love never fails
You stay the same through the ages
Your love never changes
There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning
And when the oceans rage, I don't have to be afraid
Because I know that you love me
Your love never fails
You make all things work together for my good
You make all things work together for my good
Amazing Grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now I'm found
Was blind but now I see
Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
My chains are gone, I've been set free
My God, My Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood, his mercy reigns
Unending love, Amazing Grace
The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, who called me here below
Will be forever mine
Will be forever mine
You are forever mine

Then the pastor shared the reason for our hope. The reason that we can sing and celebrate at a memorial service. The hope that we have because we know Dave is with the Lord because he placed his trust in him. He made it clear, the only was to experience life with Jesus is to place your trust in him! I am so thankful for our hope of heaven because of Jesus! 

I am thankful this was not good-bye, but see you later!

Then we sang a song that I have said I wanted played at my funeral..little did I know it would be played at my husband's. It is a perfect end for celebrating the life of a believer who endured so much in the end of his earthly life.

I can't think of a better way to end a funeral of a Christian, than to focus on those thoughts...Worthy is the Lamb...all because of Jesus, death is overcome! And Dave is alive, he is just starting to really live!
It was done. And I felt like shouting! The love for Dave poured out in the words and memories that were shared. The love of God and his offering of salvation was declared! We worshipped and praised the one who made it all possible! 
God did something to my heart through that service. He poured himself over me. He has allowed me to rejoice in the midst of such sorrow. His hope is what I cling to in this process of grief. He is holding me and carrying me in the midst of it all. Once again, I am blown away at his goodness! I know I will have days of sadness in the future. I miss my husband. I miss the man I love! 
But I also know the Comforter! 
I know the Redeemer!
I know my Jesus!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Assured Hope...

This week is a blur. I have been so busy and yet I feel like I have accomplished little. My mind is numb and busy all at the same time. I have good days and bad days. Today has been the latter. 

Sunday I took the kids to lunch at Texas Roadhouse. I wanted it to be a positive, family bonding experience. I was a mess. I thought about the last time Dave and I sat at Texas Roadhouse together....

It was in December when I took him away for his weekend. It was a time of sweet togetherness and he felt pretty good while we were there. He ate a huge steak, a 23 oz Porterhouse! He took very little back to our hotel. As we were getting ready to leave the hotel. He sat very somber on the couch and I asked if he was ready to go. He said "No." We both knew this was our last time away together. Our last date night.

...so as we sat there I thought of looking across the table at my husband. But he is gone. I told the kids "Do something funny quick, I'm gonna lose it." I thought I was going to have to cancel our orders and leave. I didn't, but I also didn't enjoy what I hoped to be a time of refreshment and togetherness. I was sitting there with my broken heart beating hard. I cried so easy off and on all day. Church was sweet, but a fog. I cried often. I think I will for a while. 

Monday was better, but Monday was also meeting to discuss the final details of the viewing. My friend offered to go with me. I agreed, although reluctantly. I didn't think I really needed someone with me. But it brought such comfort to have a friend, so close to my heart, sitting next to me in those minutes. The funeral director has been such a gift. I walked into his office, plastered with pictures of his family that he obviously adores, and worship music was playing in the background. He is so gifted with compassion and grace. He opened us up in prayer and was so encouraging to me through the process. There was some laughter as well as the difficult task of initialing and signing the papers needed for Dave's arrangements. I didn't want to give him permission to do those things to my husband...but I had to. Then he ended our time with worship. I had never heard the song before and it was perfect. I could envision Dave there at the feet of Jesus... 

All the saints and angels bow before your throne
All the elders cast their crowns before the Lamb of God and sing

You are worthy of it all! You are worthy of it all!
For from you are all things, and to you are all things
You deserve the glory

Day and night, Night and day, let incense rise
Day and night, Night and day, let incense rise
Day and night, Night and day, let incense rise

You are worthy of it all! You are worthy of it all!
For form you are all things, and to you are all things
You deserve the glory

As I sat and cried, with hands laid on me and friends praying for me, I wept hard. God is worthy of it all...Dave is with him for all of eternity and it is all because of God's love for him! I have peace about my husband because of my loving Jesus. The thoughts of God's goodness to me and to Dave flooded my mind and heart as I sat and praised my God in midst of my brokenness. He is worthy of it all.

Tuesday was his viewing. Do I really have to do this? Is this REALLY where I am? Our youth pastor came over that morning to plan the funeral. I dreaded that moment. But by the time he left, I was thankful for the celebration that we will hold on Saturday for Dave. I put off my shower and getting ready all day. I waited till I had to do it. As I stood in front of our bathroom mirror, I kept thinking of the many times I stood there preparing for a night out with my man. This was it. This was the last time I prepared myself for him. 

I had 4 friends gather and pray over me before we got the evening started. It was precious and sweet and the Lord made his appearance in their words. Dave looked wonderful! I was so surprised, they had done such a great job. I prepared a songlist to be played and debated on it for quite a while...but I had more than one person tell me that the atmosphere was wonderful. They walked in to worship and laughter. There were tears, but there was also HOPE! We can rejoice when a believer passes away because we hope like the world does not hope! 

But then the time came to walk away...how do you walk away?? We stood by him and wept. I said my good bye and walked away, but my girls lingered and wept. I didn't want to walk back up there but I knew I had to. I reminded them that he is not here, that is just the shell he used for his life on this earth. He does not need it any more. We all left, so heavy hearted. It was so hard to start my van and drive away from him, knowing that was the last time I would look at his face in this life. 

The days this week have been filled with checking off the to-do list. Calling and cancelling insurance, his disability, etc. "Hi. My husband passed away last Friday, so I need to..." It is hard to get through a call or a stop without breaking down and crying. It really happened. He is really gone. I had months to prepare...and like so many told me, there is nothing that can prepare you for these days.

I had the privilege of sitting with sisters last night and being prayed over. The Lord spoke and moved through each of them in his own unique way. I was able to share testimony of how I see God's hand. No matter what heartache I am experiencing, I see the goodness of my Jesus! He is making himself very real to me. I am blessed even in the middle of the brokenness...ONLY JESUS!

It is really hard to put into words where I am. I am devastated. I am aching. My heart is breaking. BUT, I have an ASSURED HOPE...Dave is no longer suffering in any way! And the word tells me that my Redeemer wants to give me beauty for these ashes! His word promises that He has a HOPE and a GOOD FUTURE for me! And I believe that! It says that he will work it all out for my good! I know the grief journey is a long one. I don't want to rush it, but I want it done at the same time. This is part of his plan for me. He wants me to learn to allow the Comforter to do his work. To hold me close and let me weep on him. 

Do you remember the push puppet from one of my early blogs? My mind is busy, my heart is broken, I am tired, but my core, my foundation does not move. 

God gives me songs. He gave me one today as I once again was on my way to say those words, "My husband passed away Friday and I need to..." I think I could have written the lyrics myself. It is my hearts cry and prayer right now. 

My delight...even in the depths of mourning and heartbreak...is in you Lord! On your word I set my heart  (Assured hope of those promises!). You are peace, you are calm....you light my way through the dark. I want to know you even more. Holiness is my desire! You refine me in your fire. 
Here I am! Open arms! Draw me close to your heart! You're my life!  You're my refuge! My delight is in you!  
My delight is in you Lord. You're the treasure I have found. YOU'RE THE ROCK WHERE I STAND, I WILL NOT BE MOVED! All my life is in your hands.

I like to think that every tear I cry is a little pain being washed away. There is a lot of pain, and I know there are a lot of tears coming. I still covet your prayers! Pray against the attacks of the enemy...he has been prowling! Pray for healing and redemption for our pain. Pray for God to be honored and glorified! Pray for our memorial services on Saturday as we honor Dave and worship the goodness of God and what he offers each of us...an eternity with him!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

His Last Breath...

I knew the day would come. I braced for it. Got advice on it. Prepared the best I could mentally, emotionally, spiritually, but as I was warned, NOTHING could have prepared me for that moment and the hours and days following his last breath. I have wanted to write before now, but I have been non-stop. 

Last Friday, June 28th, things changed drastically for Dave. He started showing signs that he was progressing and his body was beginning to shut down. Our nurse left that afternoon and an hour later I called her back to the house because his breathing had changed. When she came out of the room, she told me that she didn't know if he would make it until morning. Adrenaline kicked in and thoughts and emotions flooded. She said if it was important for me to be with him when he took his last breath, I should stay at the house until this was over. She stopped all his medication except pain pills and meds for nausea, "This is really happening. I have prepared for this moment for months and yet, I can not believe he is going to die." His mom, sister, and brother all came in that evening instead of on Saturday like they had planned. The house had a quiet, somber, sad feel to it. There were tears and moment spent in his room-each of us at times alone with him and also together. I sat all night by his bed, watching, waiting on the last breath...morning came and he was still with us. 

That night turned into a day, then a night, then another day...Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday...each day, expecting it to be his last. The nights I had a nurse here, I went to bed wondering if they would come and get me in the middle of the night, "Hurry, he is close!" But I would wake up to my alarm each morning and hear the same thing, "He is still here, still hanging on." And then the emotions and thoughts come, some disappointment that he is still laying in there suffering. Some relief-I didn't miss it. I have been sleeping in the basement when I was able to and I would hear the footsteps in the kitchen through the night, I would wake up and think they were coming down to get me. The adrenaline would kick in, then my brain would start spinning and I would lay there wide awake unable to sleep. 

Thursday morning I woke up and came up to check on how the night went. There were changes. I could see it. It is so strange that as his body weakened, it was still able to get weaker. We had a nurse come at 8:00 to begin her shift. At this point, they are by his side almost the entire time they are here. She did her evaluation on him-she couldn't get a blood pressure reading. His lung sounds were very weak. And she could barely hear his pulse. She said it wouldn't be long. But she didn't know my husband...around 1:00 that afternoon it was time for his meds and he was able to tell us that he was in some pain. We tried so hard to understand him and couldn't. He was frustrated and slapped both of his hands on the bed. I felt so bad, "I am so sorry honey, we will make sure you are comfortable." At that point, we started giving him his pain med every 2 hours.  From then on he was asleep. 

That nurse finished her shift. She was shocked. She shared that she keeps a journal on every patient she has been with when they passed away...she was sure he would be #386. He wasn't. Our night nurse came on. I just knew I would be woken up during the night. Every step upstairs I was wide awake, adrenaline pumping, waiting for her to tell me to come upstairs. I slept very little. I have thought through a lot of this process, what I would need to do, how I thought I might feel, or what I thought I might think. But that night, I was flooded with lots of things I hadn't thought of before. It was awful. It was happening. My husband was so close to his last breath. 

I woke again that morning to my alarm clock. I could hardly believe it. I went upstairs and she was in his room checking on him. She told me he was close. I quickly went and woke up my kids and we all went in and sat by his bed. It was 7:20. I sat and held his hand watching his chest rise and fall, pause. Rise, fall, pause, Rise, fall, pause. Adrenaline pumping again as I waited for the bomb to drop. We called my mom and she turned around to come back home. We sat over an hour. The same signs that it was going to happen any minute. I finally decided I needed to shower. I knew when he passed it would be a whirlwind. I knew if he went that morning, I would be meeting that afternoon with the funeral director. So, I quickly showered and came out and he was still the same. The last two days, I sat by him. Watching his breathing. Wondering if I should leave his side. I wanted to hold his hand when he breathed his last breath. It was hard to walk away and not just sit hour after hour. Minute after minute. The nurse we had on Thursday, came back on Friday and she could hardly believe it. She said she had NEVER seen anyone hang on  like this. I know she didn't expect him to make it through her shift. At 2:30, I was in the dining room with my mom and she hollered, "Stephanie, you need to get in here!" I got up and practically ran to his side. His breathing had changed, the moddeling had worsened-you could see it on his face, his toes were dark, it was in his hands, the last breath was approaching. So we all sat. We watched. We waited. I held his hand. I was going to hold his hand in that moment. But he was fighting. He was not letting go. It wasn't quite time for him to go. My sister in law came to the house. I was thankful she could be with us. I did finally get up and walk out of the room, but not for long. Sitting. Waiting on that awful, dreaded, moment. I felt like I had been sitting in that chair forever. I wanted it over for him. I plead with God to come and take him home. 

It was about 4:55 and we were all gathered in his room-me, my kids, my mom, and my sister in law, and the nurse. A friend had sent me a song through facebook. It just showed up as a youtube video link with no info. I decided to play it to see what it was and to let it minister to my heart in this hour. So, I hit play on my phone and let the worship fill the air. "Mighty Breath of God" 
Blow Mighty Breath of God
Move upon this place. 
Blow mighty breath of God
Won't you move in power and grace
Streams of mercy flowing down
Light of heaven all around
And it's falling to the ground

Then his chest stopped moving. I sat holding his hand. Waiting. After about a minute, his chest rose again. Then stopped. I couldn't stop holding his hand. The nurse came over and listened. She heard nothing. The music filled the room.

Blow Mighty Breath of God
Move upon this place. 
Blow mighty breath of God
Won't you move in power and grace
Streams of mercy flowing down
Light of heaven all around
And it's falling to the ground

Tears started falling, she handed the stethoscope to my sister in law who is a nurse, she listened and shook her head, nothing. 5:01, he breathed his last breath. The tears poured. Loud crying filled the room as we knew he was welcomed home. "He's done! He's done! He's done!" Those were what each of my tears were crying out. 

I had sat by his bed holding his hand for 2 days. I wanted it over for him so bad. In that moment, I couldn't let go. The tears poured. I didn't want that moment to end. I didn't want to get up. I wanted to sit there for as long as I could. I didn't want to move and I knew very soon I would have to. But I wanted to stay there and hold his hand and savor that holy moment. I began playing my song list that I have made through this process, "Songs for the journey". Tears poured. I couldn't stop rubbing his hand. Running my fingers over his fingers. This was my moment with my husband. And as terribly painful as it was, I wanted to remember it. I wanted it engraved on my mind and my heart for the rest of my life. This was my honor. My privilege. This was my husband. And I wanted this moment. 

Phone calls were being made for me. I received some and chatted briefly. But I couldn't move from my seat. I couldn't stop holding his hand. We had a wonderful nurse throughout his care and she happened to be on vacation. She had told me to call if we wanted her and she would come. I knew she would want to know so our nurse called her. And she came to be with us. She took over his care, getting him dressed so the funeral home could take him. She hugged me and cried with me. She allowed me to stay in the room while they dressed him and got him ready. 

When the funeral home workers walked in my room, I wanted to tell him to leave. After all these months, the past week of WAITING for this awful dreaded moment, I didn't want it to end. I finally got up and left the room. We waited while they came in to get him on their bed. Me and the kids walked out of my son's room, there he was on their bed. He was leaving our home. I didn't want it to happen. But it was. They asked me if I wanted anything from them, I said, "Yes, can I keep him?" My dear friend, and pastor's wife asked me if I wanted to walk out with him. Yes! Yes! My kids said good bye and I followed as they wheeled him out. I walked him into our home the first time, I would walk him out the last. They put him in their vehicle and closed the door. He was gone.

The home was filled with people. Tears. Hugs. I was numb. It was over. "He was done!" Those words kept going through my head. Visitors started showing up. One of our worship pastors brought his guitar and we sat in the living room and sang! We were worshipping...and I am sure so was my husband! The evening was filled with worship and laughter and some tears. I do not think I could have asked for a better way to start this chapter of our lives. It was a sweet, treasured evening. 

All along I have asked and prayed that I would get a great story in the end. That he would reach out or smile when he passed. He didn't. He was sleeping and he just stopped breathing. It was so peaceful. 

But God gave ME the story. I love worship music. It reaches me and focuses me on the Lord and who he is and what he means to me. And as we welcomed the Mighty Breath of God into that bedroom, my husband breathed his last breath and then saw Jesus! He may have even felt the breath of God on his neck as Jesus hugged him and welcomed him home! No more pain. No more heartache. No more brace for his foot. No more cancer. Forever with His Redeemer. 

I was warned that I had no idea what this would be like. And everyone that warned me was right. I have had such sweet fellowship with family and friends. We have laughed. We have cried. We remember him. It was so strange to walk back into the house after they took him out and look and see his fingerprints all over. Things changed immediately. The house felt different. Hard to describe. The hum of the motor on his air mattress for his bed is gone. Light fills the room that has been dark and quiet for so long. Death is overcome in more than one way. 

I am a widow. My life is forever changed. I can be fine one minute and the next, the tears are pouring. I can't sit still. (which might benefit my house!) It never registers that I am hungry. (which could really benefit the weight I have gained in this process!) I am struggling with sleep (I started this entry at 4:00am) which will catch up to me eventually. I wish I cried pretty, because the tears are pouring and there a dam that is bursting in my soul. I have no idea when they will pour. They just do.

I am beginning the next chapter in my life. This one is the chapter of Grief and Healing. It is going to be ugly at times. I am going to need my friends and I have no doubt I am not alone. I have treasured the visits, the coffee, the fellowship that I have missed so much over the past few months. I feel like a parched, famined ground, and water is being poured over the cracked soil of my heart and soul. My friends have no idea what their presence is doing in my life. 

God had an appointment with Dave. God had a plan for Dave to be here on this earth for 45 years, 6 months, and 6 days. And I was privileged to spend his last 8 years, 2 weeks, and 4 days with him. It was my honor and privilege to love him, serve, him, and hold his hand while God took the other and welcomed him home. 

Weeping may stay for the nights, but rejoicing comes in the morning...Ps 30:5

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Another Day...

This is a grueling process. Friday night, I sat by his bed all night long, thinking he would be gone by morning. Then morning came, and afternoon, then evening...and so on...I geared myself emotionally, mentally, and the adrenaline was pumping. The best way to descibe this process is like when I was pregnant. I would go to bed every night hoping that pain would awaken me and I would be off to the hospital to welcome my precious baby. But this anticipation is accompanied with overwhelming sadness and at the same time, so much relief.  I guess I am waiting on a birth, his eternal birth. But also much sorrow for those that love him. 

I was supposed to have a nurse Saturday night, but there was some mis-communication, so I had to get up every so often all night long, to check on him and give him meds. (Friday we stopped all his pills. So he is now getting liquid morphine and meds for nausea.) So, not only have I been drained emotionally and mentally, but also physically. Everyone says to take care of me, but how do you do that in these moments? Sunday I did get sleep...a LOT of sleep and it helped tremendously. Each day I wake up and wonder, will he be with Jesus tonight? I could carry a lot of guilt over hoping to see changes, but I know it is normal and at the core of my desire is that I want his suffering to end! 

I sat by him today and looked at what is left of him, and thought "God why? Why do you allow this man to lay here day after day, suffering? Why do you allow my kids lives to be flipped upside down while they watch and wait for him to pass away? Why do you put me on this 'Caretaker Island' day in and day out, wanting to do something, anything to help him. Watching the man I have loved and served SLOWLY fade in front of me. You could take him home. You could take him home NOW. Please, God, take him now." 

And then I have to remember...God has a plan and a purpose...and someway, somehow, He will use this for our good. I also know that in a few weeks, I will wish I could just go sit with him, one more time. I try to see this as precious time. But I really struggle with that. I am with him, that is the only thing precious I see in this. The rest is horrible. 

I have been gearing up for the days to come. The kids and I have talked about some of what will happen when he does pass away. We are living day by day. I am allowing them to go places, but they know to keep their phones handy so I can call them home if needed. Life for me is on hold. The nurse advised that I stay home if it is vital to me that I am with him. And it is. I want to hold his hand when he breaths his last breath. I guess I want to put his hand into the hand of Jesus. 

I have been pleading that Jesus will take him home. And He will, as soon as Dave has finished whatever work God has had for him. I don't understand why God is allowing him day after day in that bed, but I do know God is good. And his plan is right. And I can trust him.

I am asking that you pray. Pray for Jesus to welcome Dave home soon. Pray that He will welcome him home today. 

And then pray for every heart that will ache in that moment. Pray for the salve of our hope in Christ to wash over those aching hearts and in time, heal every hole left with Dave's absence.

May the God of HOPE fill you with ALL JOY and PEACE as you trust in him., so that you may overflow with HOPE by the POWER of the Holy Spirit! Romans 15:13