Just Me

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Revisiting THAT day...

Grief is a psychotic beast. Things are smooth sailing then the wave hits and knocks you off your feet. 

Yesterday, more than a year later, I walked into 2 funeral homes for viewings and also attended a funeral for the first time. I knew it could stir some things. But I didn't know it would stir so much. 

The first was for my aunt. I went alone. I walked in knowing many faces, but not sure which would remember me. Those situations take me out of my comfort zone. But I pressed forward because I know what it meant to have people there for me in those moments. 

The second was for a wonderful, loving, funny, Godly man from my church. I first met his wife, Betty, 4 years ago in my "Breaking Free" Bible study. I fell in love with this sweet, Godly, wise woman! I even told her she was my "adopted church mom" and she continues to refer to herself that way! Virgil, her husband, as well as Betty are the face, hands, and feet of Jesus in human form. He served in many ways in our church. He greeted before the service frequently and always offered a hug and his beaming smile! And as a bonus, since I have lost my weight, he referred to me as "skinny lady"...not gonna deny how much I loved hearing those words! A couple of weeks ago, Virgil had a stroke, and like Dave, the Lord decided to give him the ultimate healing and took him home. 

Virgil's viewing was held at the same funeral home as Dave's. I dreaded walking in. I would be lying if I said, there were not multiple times I wanted to turn my van around and drive back home. But I know retreat is not the answer when we battle. Even if it is just a battle of our comfort. And when I got there, I couldn't just walk in, pay my respects, and walk out. There was a line...a LONG line. A line that required me to wait and look around, and walk through, and stand, in the same room Dave was in for 80 long minutes. I was alone again. I couldn't get out of line and go chat with someone I knew, because I would lose my spot in the line. So I stood the majority of the time in silence with my thoughts and emotions. I watched Betty, standing by her husband, and remembered. I remembered hugging so many. Saying the same words, "We know where he is....his life's work is done...I will see him again." I was revisiting THAT day. I thought about her all day, the time she spent in front of a mirror preparing to walk out of the door to go see that face that she loved. How hard it was to make the drive to the funeral home. How much you don't want to get out of your car and walk in. If you could just fast forward to the day it doesn't hurt any more. The psychotic beast of grief then takes you to the flip side of the beautiful hope we have in Jesus. Just knowing what he is experiencing! The joy that is in front of him. The fact that he gets to worship at the feet of the One who is Worthy. As I stood in that line, so many thoughts went through my head. It was hard and I wanted to retreat, but I knew I couldn't. And truthfully I wanted to be there for Betty. I know. I have been there. And I did it. Steps forward yet again...

This morning was the funeral. And just like Dave, it was held in our church. I walked in alone. I sat in the back. I hoped someone would sit with me or I could find someone I knew to sit with through the service. I really didn't want to be alone. God brought a sweet man who is a pastor locally to join me. He and his wife prayed for Dave and I and have followed my journey some since Dave passed. We were able to chat and it was a time for me to rejoice and share how God has provided so greatly for me through the past year. It was a sweet time of testimony to God's goodness in my life.

As I sat, I also watched. I watched as Betty took her seat. The seat of honor as I referred to it. The seat of the widow. The one who loved that man like no other person has loved that man. I remembered so vividly when it was my turn. I remember feeling the strength and presence of the Lord so closely. How in that moment of the deepest pain a soul carries, being able to also rejoice and worship in awe because we know where our husband is at that very moment. The service begins and words are shared. We laugh. We cry. Then we worship. We stand in awe of our loving Jesus who has made the way that we don't deserve. I watched Betty and remembered exactly how I felt that day, as she stood and lifted her hands in praise of our Savior, I remembered. I felt again, all I felt THAT day. Such sorrow, but such hope. Such sadness, but such joy. Such peace...that passes our human understanding. 

Then it was my turn to walk by the family. I hugged her close and I told her. I told her I felt her heart. And I did because I have that widow's heart as well. I remember. I don't think you can ever forget. 

I know I have been called to minister to women. I had no idea that one I would reach out to as a new widow would be one I admire so much. And my heart aches for her and for the days she has ahead of her. I love her dearly and I hurt for the pain she has ahead. But just like me, she knows the Prince of Peace and I know Betty will walk through this process and rest in her Jesus.

I shed a few tears through the funeral. Touched by the love of our Savior and the love others had for Virgil. I shed some tears knowing the pain they are experiencing. As I left and drove away though, the dam broke and the tears poured. They poured because I was there just one year ago...and I was there again today. But I was there with the eyes of one who's heart has been touched with the salve of healing that only our loving Jesus brings. I sat in that psychotic moment of one who is grieving and healed at the same time. It was a bizarre, painful, beautiful moment. As wordy as I am, I don't have the words. It was as if I was in two places at once. I sit now, with tears streaming because of it all. 

As much as this has touched my heart and life, today is not about me. Today, I honor Virgil Haynes. He was a light in this dark world. His smile brightened the room. He loved those that Jesus loves. He was the hands and feet and heart of Jesus to the world around him! (and he called me skinny lady!) So, Virgil, do me a favor and say hello to Dave for me. Tell him, I am good. I am really good! God has blessed and provided and healed! I am embracing and living life and it is GOOD!!! Virgil, you are loved. My life was blessed because I knew you.

And for you Betty...you are a woman of incredible faith. The road ahead will be not be easy. There is a new normal. You loved deeply and because you loved deeply , the pain is deep. And I know you wouldn't have it any other way. You too, are a shining example of the Savior's love on this earth. I admire you. And I am honored to walk this journey with you. I have been and continue to pray for you. I am only a phone call away. I love you deeply! 

THAT day...that day when you taste what God has so freely offered. The peace of knowing where our husband is because God has chosen to give his son for us. He is worth of it all. 

I saw the funeral director today that worked with me when Dave passed away. I think it is only fitting as I remember the song he shared in his office as I was finalizing Dave's arrangements to share it yet again because He is..."Worthy of it ALL"!!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

1 year....365 Days Later...

One year...12 months...365 days...so hard to believe. 

It feels like forever since that day. 

This week has been one of much reflection for me. I was told on Friday, June 28th last year that Dave would not make it through the night. But he was a strong, strong man, clear up until the end, and a week later, he crossed the finish line of this life. 

One week...

That was the longest week of my life. I have reflected much this past week on what we were all walking through a year ago. I sit today and think "How did I do it? What kept me functioning for an entire week of waiting on such a painful moment?" I remembered the nights of not having a nurse here all night and having to set my alarm every two hours to go see if he was still here or to give him his pain meds. I remember the nights when I had a nurse here and I would awaken with every step in the house wondering if they were coming to get me because it was time. I remember my friend calling me from church on Sunday morning so I could listen in on the worship that morning. I remember friends stopping by with a coffee or just to sit with me. I remember the many hours spent by his bed, holding his hand because I was determined to be there when Jesus took his other hand and welcomed him home. I remember the hours of waiting... I remember so much about that week...

I have also reflected on my year of healing. I think part of what makes it so hard to believe that it has been a year, is because of where I sit today. 
It has been a year of discovery for me. 
It has been a year of deep pain for me.
It has been a year of continued faith walk for me. 
It has been a year of seeing what I am made of. 
It has been a year of setting goals and reaching them. 
It has been a year of days of loneliness.
It has been a year of support.
It has been a year of deepening friendships.
It has been a year of AMAZEMENT at the way God has blessed me and provided for me!
It has been a year of challenges. 
It has been a year of at times, disappointments.
It has been a year of divine appointments.
It has been a year of LIVING!
It has been a year of learning to be content and embrace the journey, even when it is HARD!
It has been a year of God moving and directing.

I am a one year old widow today. One year. I feel like it has been forever since that day. I feel like I have done life alone for much longer than one year. 

But today, I don't walk in sadness. Which honestly has surprised me. I rejoice in knowing where he is today and has been for the past 365 days! I wonder what he has done, who he has talked to, what he thinks and feels. Someday, I will know! 

I rejoice knowing that when life is hard, we have two options...to grow bitter or better. I did not want to sit at the end of this journey of grief and be an angry, questioning, not trusting my Savior person! I wanted to be whole, healthy, and trusting in the goodness of God! I am so blessed and thankful to sit today, embracing this life journey that God has given me! My story is not over, He is still writing it. And I trust that the best is yet to come! 

I thought I would write a letter to Dave today and share it with you, my blog friends! 

Dear Dave,

You have now spend 1 earthly year in heaven. I can't help but think of you every single day. Not with sadness, but with rejoicing for you. There are days I really miss being your wife. I miss your laughter and your smile. I miss the way you shook when you laughed your hearty laugh. But I would never dream of asking you to come back, not even for a minute. 

I had my first dream about you just 2 weeks ago! It was so weird to converse with you. To hear your voice again and see your mannerisms. It really threw me that after almost a year, there you were. As upsetting as it was, it was also good to "see" you again. So strange this grief process...

I am doing well. I think you would be pleased and it would bring you peace to see where I am today with my life. God has taken care of me, just like I told you He would. I am living!! I am embracing where I am right now. And I look forward to whatever adventure He has in store for me. Maybe you already know...

I just want you to know that no matter where my life goes, you will always be part of it. You were a big portion in "The Life of Stephanie Szalla"! Though your part in my story ended one year ago, you greatly affect the plot in the rest of my story! God changed my life through knowing you. I learned Him in ways I never would have otherwise! You were a great tool He used in my life. I am grateful!

I am so thankful I got to walk your last 8 years on this earth with you. I am so glad we lived out our vows!!  I am grateful that I was holding your hand in that sweet moment for you! I am thankful that you "adopted" my kids! They still miss you as well! 

I rejoice knowing you are LIVING in a way I can only guess about, but someday will know as well! I am so thankful that you knew Jesus and made sure I knew you knew Jesus as well...it has brought such comfort and peace through my grief journey!

You are not forgotten...you never will be!


One year...12 Months...365 Days...I wonder what I will be writing one year from today?? I wonder what life will hold for me in the next 12 months?? I wonder what God adventures I will walk through in the coming 365 days?? 

Whatever it is, I am ready! And I am thankful to have known this man. I am thankful that I sit where I sit today. I am thankful for healing because of my Jesus! I am so thankful that God has never left me, even when I FELT like He had, He never did. Not for a moment. 

Today, I reflect, and I look forward as well...
1 year later... 
I still say, "God is good! I am loved! I am blessed!"