The First Anniversary

I know you’ve heard people say, and I’ve certainly said it myself, that the first year is the hardest.  All the firsts – birthdays, anniversaries, holidays.  Well, following that stream of thinking I should have been looking forward to this week.  Cause if the first year is the hardest then the hardest part would be over.

What nobody talks much about is the seconds.  What is the second year gonna be like?  And what nobody tells you about is what to do on that first anniversary.  I’ve spent most of this last week with a knot in my stomach anticipating this day.  Wondering what it would be like and what I would do.  I had a few thoughts.  My first inclination was to stay in bed all day.  But then I remembered that this day coincided with the day my housekeeper would come to clean my house.  And I never pass up the chance to have someone come clean my house.  (It’s like one of my life philosophies: #1 – Never wake a sleeping baby. #2 – Never pass up the chance to have someone else do your housework for you.)  So I couldn’t stay in bed.

My second thought was to run away from home.  But then I remembered there was nothing here to run away from.  (This was something I used to threaten my children with, but it seems to have lost its value now.)  My next idea was to buy flowers and go to the cemetery, probably camping out there all day until they threw me out.  I just wasn’t sure what I should do.

So my plan was to leave it up to God to show me what to do.  I told God I was going to get on my knees and pray and I wasn’t going to get up until He told me what to do.  Now, in times past when I’ve gone to God asking for a specific message from Him, it usually takes some time for all the voices in my head to quiet down so I can just be quiet and listen.  (Don’t judge the voices in my head – they have a lot to say.)  But this time was different.  Before I could even get to my knees, as soon as I told God I was going to kneel down and stay there til He told me what to do, I heard him say this:  “Live”.  It was short; it was sweet; it was right to the point – “Live”.

So no staying in bed all day or running away from home.  “Live”.  No camping out or picnicking at the cemetery.  “Live”.

So what did my day look like?  I did buy some flowers and visit the cemetery.  But I bought the flowers for me, because that’s what Michael always did.  I bought sunflowers because that was our last trip together – to Tuscany where we saw acres and acres of sunflowers.  And I bought some colorful flowers, because he always “liked lots of color”.  I went to lunch and dinner with some precious friends (exactly what Michael would have done).  I’ve had phone calls and messages and deliveries.  I’ve had cards and gifts and people who shared memories with me.

When Andrew called he said “Dad would probably be saying ‘Look! Y’all made it through the year! I knew you could do it!’”  I told him I woke up that morning thinking “I hope you enjoyed your first year in heaven. Ours hasn’t been nearly as much fun as yours.”

While this last year hasn’t been what I would call fun, it has had many fun moments in it – travel, weddings, babies and celebrations.  I’m sure I’ve gone way over my limit of laughter for a grieving widow.  I’m so thankful for the friends and family who have come along side me to keep me busy and to include me even though I’m no longer part of a couple.  My kids have been incredible in supporting me while dealing with their own heartache.

Most of all I’m impressed by the faithfulness of God.  Not that He hasn’t always been faithful, but maybe more the way I’ve seen His faithfulness manifested.  He has taken away fears.  He has disposed of properties that were overwhelming me.  He has given me strength when I was slipping into some bad habits and thought processes (more on that in future posts).  He has replaced my anxiety with His peace.

I do hope the first year is the hardest.  I do hope the second is easier. Either way, I’m trusting God.

Divine Moments

One year ago I sat beside Michael’s bed as he died.  Before that day I had only been present two times as people had died.  Both times were quiet and peaceful.  I think back to the night Michael died.  It was a long day.  We knew it was coming.  It was a decision that he had made – at least as much as we are allowed to decide on these things.  The kids were all gathered with me in his room.  It was quiet.  It was tender.  We listened for his last breaths.  Finally the machines and monitors told us it was time.

Two weeks ago I stood next to my daughter’s bed.  Besides my own deliveries I had never been present at the birth of a baby.  It was a long night.  We knew it was coming.  Having a child was a decision my daughter and son-in-law had made – at least as much as we are allowed to decide these things.  All our family was gathered in the room.  But it wasn’t quiet.  Finally the monitors and machines told us it was time.

As I look on both of these events I am amazed.  These are divine moments that God allows us to be a part of — when a life enters or leaves this earth.  It seems we are somehow especially close to the presence of God in these moments.  But I also look at how we struggle to get here, with pushing and great effort, with cries and great shouts of triumph.  And I see how we leave, with quietness and surrender, yielding to God’s plan for an end to our time here.

And then there was another divine moment.  At the very same time that this new baby was being born, there was another birth taking place, a rebirth.  A precious friend has been battling cancer for over two years.  The doctors recommended he have a stem cell transplant and a donor was found.  And on the very day, at the very time that my grandson came into this world, our precious friend received his stem cells and got a new birthday.  They knew it was coming.  It was their decision to have this transplant – at least as much as we are allowed to decide on these things.  I’m told there wasn’t much fanfare.  But I know the presence of God was there with them and I’m sure it was another divine moment.

How great is the Father’s love for us that He would allow us to be a part of His great work and plan.

One life on earth ends.  One life on earth begins.  One life on earth is re-born.  All three are named Michael.

Two By Two

I had the chance to go to the movies this week with a girlfriend.  We saw a movie called I’ll See You In My Dreams, about a widow and her girlfriends.  (Sound familiar? Spoiler alert!)  As a result of the movie we had quite a discussion, the conclusion being this:  I need to buy some mouse traps, learn to drink more, never speed date and get a younger pool guy.  Oh, and I don’t want to get married.

Now I want to preface what I’m about to say with this.  I love/loved Michael and loved being his wife.  I made promises to love and honor for as long as we both were alive.  And if I had my choice I’d still be doing that.  I’d keep on doing it til I took my last breath.  But I don’t have that luxury anymore.  With that being said, I don’t want to be married now.

I don’t want to rearrange my time and schedule.  I don’t want to do somebody else’s dirty laundry or cook their meals.  I don’t want to keep track of somebody else’s appointments, medications or possessions.  I don’t want to learn about somebody else’s bad habits or have them learn about mine.  I don’t want to have to explain my life style to anybody or have it judged.  I don’t need somebody to support me, pay my bills, or raise a family with.  (I’m beginning to hear Helen Reddy sing “I am Woman, hear me roar.”)

This isn’t a feminist rant.  But as Blythe Danner said “I’ve been married.”  I guess 6 weeks of living on my own have made me selfishly independent or independently selfish.  I like being able to decide when and where I go and with whom.  I like being able to make decisions about my finances and investments (though I still hate making decisions about insurance).   And it’s not as though I didn’t do most of those things when Michael was alive, but it’s just different now.

So what do I want?  So glad you asked.

I want FRIENDS.  I want people who will go to lunch and go to dinner, who will go to the movies or the theatre, who will explore museums, classical music and opera.  People who will have discussions with me about news and opposing views, about faith and God and family.  I want new friends to go along with my life-long friends, guy friends and girl friends.  And I want young friends as well as older friends.  I want friends to take a walk with or ride my bike with and friends to travel around the world with.

So to my girlfriends, you don’t need to set me up, fix me up or hook me up.  And to my guy friends, you don’t need to think that I want an involvement.  It’s just nice to have people in your life to share ideas with and to spend time with in any variety of experiences.  Because most of this world expects you to carry on two by two.

Oh, and if Sam Elliot happens to come by and ask me for lunch … I’ll take that too!


TV Preacher

I don’t usually find myself watching TV preachers.  (In fact I don’t watch much TV at all.  Michael was the TV watcher in our family.)  I usually attend my own church’s service during the weekend.  But since I was traveling last weekend I found myself flipping through the channels on Sunday morning.

I settled on a preacher I hadn’t heard in many years.  He’s grown up a lot.  I always appreciated what he had to say in years past.  Last Sunday he made two particular points that have stayed with me and caused me to think a great deal.  (I think this is probably what most preachers would hope for — taking away just one or two points and spending some real time dwelling on how they apply to your life.)

The first thing that impressed me was this: “In your lifetime you’ll only have one or two roles that are unique to you. So why trade what’s unique to you for something that somebody else will do.”  He said this in the context of how we spend our time and what we focus our energy on.  I think he’s right.  There are just a few things that are my roles and mine alone.  I am/was Michael’s one and only wife/widow.  I, and only I, am the mother to my children.  No one else can have these roles.  For some reason God has chosen them for me alone.  So why would I trade something that is unique to me for something somebody else will do?

It set me to thinking about these roles.  I guess my role with respect to Michael is mostly done, except perhaps for how I represent him from now on.  But I am still the one and only mother to my children.  And even though they are grown, I’m still their mom.  They don’t need me to bandage knees or check homework anymore; or to read bedtime stories or help them get dressed.  But, thankfully, I think they still need me.  And I need them.  The role looks different now – it’s more of conversation and advice that goes both ways.  It’s hugs and kisses and prayers and encouragement.  It’s laughter and tears and being there for one another.  And just as I have a unique role to each of them they too have a unique role to me.  Another thing the TV preacher said was “you’ll never be happier than your relationships.  You will never be happier than the relationships of those most precious to you.”  How thankful I am for my unique role and for the relationships I have with my kids.

The second point I took away from my TV preacher was this: You don’t ever want to look back on a season of your life and wonder, “What would God have done if I had just trusted him with that? I wonder what God would have done if I had not let fear be in control.”  I confess that I can look back and wonder what God would have done if I had just gotten out of the way and taken the chance to follow His lead.  But I don’t want to add to that list of looking back and wondering any more.  I don’t want to wonder what it would look like to not worry about tomorrow (like Jesus said) and to do what I know God wants me to do, while I trust Him to do what He’s promised to do.

So at this junction in my life — where I’m not sure what the future looks like and I’m trying to figure out what God wants me to do, but I’m always worried about failing — I am more impressed than ever to trust Him.  I don’t want to look back and think “if I had trusted Him with ________, I wonder what God might have done through me.”

Why look back on this season and wonder.  Instead, trust God.  Fear not.
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