Michael Is No Angel

Several weeks ago I wrote about the many things that people have said to me since Michael’s death.   There was one thing I didn’t mention because I felt like it deserved a discussion all its own.

Numerous people in recent months have told me and my kids that Michael is now an angel in heaven, watching over us, our guardian angel, etc.   I know all these comments were said out of compassion and a desire to provide us with comfort.  But let’s be clear.   MICHAEL IS NO ANGEL!

Michael was a man.  He still is a man, though he now resides in heaven rather than here with me.  Just because he is no longer alive on earth doesn’t mean he’s somehow become an angel.  And I’m so thankful!  Let me explain …

God created angels.  He created them before he created Adam and Eve, before original sin, the Flood and the nation of Israel.  There’s lots to be learned in Scripture about angels, but for time’s sake I’ll just mention a few things about angels.  They are almost always mentioned as males.  They do not die.  They are spirit beings and have great power.  And they do not have the power to reproduce.

Also I can tell you that God obviously created angels with the same freedom of choice that He blessed man with.  I know that because the Bible records the fall of angels, led by one in particular, Lucifer.  Lucifer and his followers apparently decided they would usurp God’s place and elevate themselves above Him – the sin of pride.  As a result God banished them from heaven.  Interestingly, God did not provide for their salvation.  In fact Scripture tells us the fallen angels will spend eternity in the lake of fire (hell).

Then along comes man – Adam and Eve actually.  God creates them with the freedom to choose also.  And what do they do?  They decide they know better than God – the sin of pride.  Sound familiar?  Yet God, in His infinite love and mercy, immediately has a plan for their redemption.  He decides to send Jesus (who is in fact Himself, God) as a sacrifice so that our relationship with Him can be restored.  Rather than banish us, God moves in love for us to provide a remedy for our rebellion.

So, back to Michael.  Michael is no angel.  God created him a man. And dying on earth doesn’t change him to an angel.  Praise God Michael is a man!  Because he’s a man he fell short of God’s plan and sinned.  Because he’s a man he made the decision to accept this act of God’s love to cover his sins so he could have a restored relationship with God.  Because he’s a man he continues to live – now he just lives in the continual presence of God rather than here on earth.

Thank You!  Thank You God!  Thank You for making Michael a man!

Michael is a man.  He’s MY man.  He is no angel.  But he is a saint!

Black Friday

For much of the nation the term “Black Friday” brings up visions of waiting in long lines at ungodly hours of the morning to take advantage of super savings on whatever the must-have gift is for this Christmas.  Well, I’ve actually never done Black Friday shopping personally.  And the term Black Friday has developed a completely different meaning for our family in recent years – usually involving a trip to the farm, a calamity, blood, x-rays, stitches and often a trip to the hospital emergency room.  Let me explain.

In late 2009, Michael and I bought the farm.  Literally.  A beautiful stretch of 250 acres near McComb, MS.  And with that purchase we began taking a trip up there every year on the day after Thanksgiving.

In 2010, the girls wanted to go horse-back riding.  So Michael arranged for one of the local men to bring three horses for Christy, Emily and I to ride. Now these turned out to be not your average trail horses, but specially trained cut-horses (which we soon discovered react to very small movements of your body or their reigns).  It didn’t take long for Christy’s horse to take off running.  When she pulled the slightest bit on his reigns, he made a quick left turn that sent her sailing like a Frisbee off into the back pasture.  While Emily and I are trying to control our horses and gather her runaway horse, I am also calling Michael on my cell phone to get help, as Christy is still laying on the ground and unable to get up.  This is when I discover that Michael has taken my parents on a ride in his Hummer through the woods and the Hummer will now only go in reverse.  So he is having to drive backwards out of the woods to try to find us.  To make a long story short, my brother and I had to transport Christy back to NOLA in his truck for ER and x-rays while Michael waited on a tow truck to find his Hummer in the woods and tow it back to NOLA.

In 2011, the kids decided they wanted to go fishing in the ponds on the property.  By now we had a tiny cottage with the minimum needed to survive.  Naturally we went up to the farm that day only to discover it was 30 degrees with a stiff wind.  But the kids braved it and actually caught a few, though we were frozen to the bones.

In 2012, we began building our farmhouse.  So once again on the day after Thanksgiving we rode up to the farm.  This year was for some shooting and riding the Kubota four-wheelers.  Things were going well, until Michael fell near the home site and his knee hit the concrete brick ledge.  By the time I got to him there was blood everywhere!  One of the workers took his shirt off and made a tourniquet around his leg to try to stop the blood flow.  Andrew raced us over to the local hospital ER while I held Michael’s leg up and tried to keep pressure on it.  He left a trail of blood from the entrance all through the waiting room.  Eventually they got the bleeding stopped but didn’t know how to deal with such a large wound.  So we loaded Michael up on pain killers, packed him in the car and drove back to NOLA where they were at least able to close a portion of it with 24 stitches.  It took 2 full months to heal.

Last year, we decided we would celebrate Thanksgiving at the farm.  It was a wonderful day.  All the family was willing to come from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas.  We figured at the time that it would be my dad’s last Thanksgiving, but we didn’t know it would be mom’s last Thanksgiving too.  And no one would have guessed it was Michael’s last Thanksgiving.  It was a sweet time together.  Only to be followed a week later by diagnoses of cancer for both mom and Michael on the same December day.

This year the kids wanted to go back to the farm on Black Friday again.  We drove up the night before and the day was beautiful – brisk and clear.  We built a fire in the fireplace and in the fire pit outside too.  We grilled burgers and steaks.  And the kids had a great time skeet shooting.  No blood this year.  No stitches or trips to the ER.  We nearly escaped calamity entirely except when Emily decided that one of the Kubota’s should double as a swamp buggy and got it stuck in the mud.  And she did a real good job too because she had to call for help which I know she hated.  I’m fortunate to have one son-in-law who is an Eagle Scout and one son-in-law who is in the Coast Guard.  But she managed to do such a good job that she had to call on her SuperHero Keith to pull her out!  Well at least there were no lasting scars.  And by now everybody’s arrived back home safe and sound.

This has been our first “big” holiday without Michael.  We’ve tried our best to maintain the family traditions.  But everywhere we look there’s an emptiness.  I am thankful.  I am nostalgic.  And I miss Michael.

 

Emily stuck

The Twenty-First

Michael died on July 21st.  As the days and then weeks passed, there it was looming ahead – August 21st.  I guess it was the first evidence that time was passing without him.  On August 21st, one month after he died, it was hard to breathe.  The kids and I all knew it was a difficult day.  Friends marked it as well.  Many called to check on us.  There was still unbelief that this was our life.  I gave platelets in the blood bank that day.  And as much as I thought I would be able to be strong, the irony of it made me cry through the procedure.

On September 21st, Michael had been gone two months.  It was Sunday and quiet.  The night before, the kids and I went to Emeril’s for dinner, a place filled with lots of memories of special occasions and “no occasions” spent there.  The day after, I gave platelets in the blood bank, complete with tears, though fewer than the month before.

On October 21st, Michael had been gone three months.  It was a Tuesday with business to take care of and lots of things to do.  I was scheduled to serve dinner at a ministry of our church that night.   But out of nowhere that afternoon the emotions came.  Try as I might I just couldn’t get it under control and had to cancel.

This last week I knew would mark another 21st, four months since Michael’s death.  Throughout the week I knew it was coming on Friday.  Always on the horizon.  Getting closer each day.

On Saturday morning as I put my shoes on I realized that Friday had come and gone.  The day had gone by without a breakdown of emotion.  Without weeping and depression.  In fact the kids were here with me that day and several times we laughed until we cried about silly things.  But I never once thought – “It’s been four months!”

What’s wrong with me?  It’s not like I don’t think about Michael 187 times a day.  It’s not like I don’t miss him with every breath I take.  But how could I get through the day and not once realize it had been exactly four months?  It somehow feels like a betrayal to not have stopped for that moment of recognition.  How could I possibly have gotten through the day without realizing it?  It’s not like I didn’t miss him 372 times that day.  But that day I missed it.

I’m not sure what it means.  I’m not sure why I feel guilty about it or why it makes me sad.  Is this how it happens?  How you go on?  Does the twenty-first of each month pass and soon you don’t even notice it?  I don’t want it to be that way.  I don’t want the twenty-first to come and go without me marking it in some way.  I miss him 731 times a day, every day.  Why is it different on the twenty-first?  And what will the 21st of December be like?  And January?  And February?

From Wife to Widow

As a wife I was a partner. I was part of the discussion. I was listened to and could listen for his ideas. I don’t want to be a widow.

As a wife I was part of a couple. I was part of “we”. I had someone I could call mine and I knew I was his. I don’t want to be a widow.

As a wife I had a travelling partner. Someone to fly with, ride with, cruise with, take a picture with, sit with, check-in with, share a memory with. I don’t want to be a widow.

As a wife I had someone to talk to. First thing in the morning. Throughout the day. And most of all at the end of the day. I don’t want to be a widow.

As a wife I had someone in my bed. Someone to keep me warm. Someone to feel safe with. Someone to hold hands with. Someone to fill up the empty places. I don’t want to be a widow.

As a wife I had someone who loved me, who knew me, who grew up with me. I don’t want to be a widow.

As a wife I sometimes looked forward to having a day by myself. Some time alone. Now that’s all I have. I don’t want to be a widow.

As a wife I had someone to plan with. For trips and projects and finances and the future. I don’t want to be a widow.

As a wife I had someone to share my triumphs. A few pounds lost. A milestone with the kids. I don’t want to be a widow.

As a wife I had someone to share my failures. An embarrassing mistake. A hurt. A struggle. The death of someone close. I don’t want to be a widow.

As a wife I had a dinner companion.   Table for 2 or 4 or 6. Never worried about being the odd man out. I don’t want to be a widow.

As a wife I had someone to look out for me. Always checking in to be sure I was OK. Taking care of me. Being sure I had everything I needed. I don’t want to be a widow.

As a wife I had someone to care for. Someone to dote on, to take pleasure in taking care of. Someone I could please by making him comfortable. I don’t want to be a widow.

As a wife I had someone to call me dear. To smile lovingly at me. To be comfortable with just by being in the same room. I don’t want to be a widow.

I wrote these words a few months ago.  They are still true.  I don’t want to be a widow.  But I am.

I still miss all those things, though most of the time the pain is a dull ache rather than sharp and piercing.  I still have unanswered questions, but I don’t ask them as often as I once did.  I still cry, but sometimes it doesn’t show up in tears on my face.  The world goes on with seasons and milestones.  Births and deaths, celebrations and sadness, good health and bad.

I’m learning that society has certain expectations of widows, much like there are expectations of wives.  Expectations of how I should behave, where I should go and when, even what I should wear and look like.  Some expectations don’t really bother me and others seems to bump up against me pretty hard.

I know it’s cliché, but I wish for those around me, couples in particular, to love each other fully each day.  I thought that every married couple had what Michael and I had.  That “I wouldn’t rather be with anybody else” kind of love.  But I’ve learned that isn’t the case.  Figure out what it takes to make that person the major moving force in your life together and hang on to that.  Don’t let it slip away lest you don’t have the chance to get it back.

Thanks for following along.

 

Theatre

When I turned 18, Michael and I had only been dating about 3 weeks. (I already knew I would be spending the rest of my life with him by then, but that’s another post.) He took me to the Beverly Dinner Playhouse, a very hot ticket at the time in New Orleans. It was the first theatre I saw other than a school play – and I immediately loved theatre.

Think of me
Think of me fondly, when we’ve said goodbye
Remember me Once in a while, please
Promise me you’ll try

We never said Our love was evergreen
Or as unchanging as the sea…
But if you can still remember,
Stop and think of me

Think of all the things We’ve shared and seen,
Don’t think about the things Which might have been

Think of me
Think of me waking, silent And resigned…
Imagine me, trying too hard to Put you from my mind…

Recall those days, Look back on all those times,
Think of the things We’ll never do…
There will never be a day when I won’t think of you

Nine years later Michael and I went to New York City for the first time. In true Michael fashion, he had the concierge at our hotel arrange for tickets to my first Broadway play – Phantom of the Opera. But of course not just any tickets. We were seated on the second row. Straight over my head was this huge chandelier. Little did I know at the time that at a crucial moment in the storyline the chandelier comes crashing down. At that precise moment the huge prop (which I thought was part of the theatre) fell from the ceiling and just in time was swept onto the center stage. I was in awe. Amazed.

So I guess it’s no wonder that theatre, and Phantom in particular, brings back so many memories and even a few tears for me. Why is it that words set to music can have such an affect on me? When the orchestra plays and the melody swells it makes my heart so full my eyes overflow. It’s not just the story being played out on stage, but the memories that come back of that first time and the special person that shared the story with me.

Say you love me every waking moment,
Turn my head with talk of summertime.
Say you need me with you now and always;
Promise me that all you say is true,
That’s all I ask of you.

Then say you’ll share with me one love, one lifetime;
Let me lead you from your solitude.
Say you need me with you, here beside you,
Anywhere you go, let me go too,
that’s all I ask of you

Say you’ll share with me one love, one lifetime;
Say the word and I will follow you.
Together
Share each day with me,
Each night, each morning.

Love me, that’s all I ask of you

Healing

In the last 18 months of Michael’s life he suffered three different accidents which led to injuries to his legs. Incredibly two of these incidents occurred on the exact same day, 1 year apart. This reminds me that he actually spent his last three birthdays in the hospital.

With each injury it seems like we went through many of the same stages. Initially there was lots of blood and panic. We rushed to the emergency room, sometimes by ambulance, and were met with all the medical personnel. There’s was lots of paperwork to be done on my part. Michael was in severe pain each time as the doctors rushed around trying to determine how best to treat him considering all his other medical issues. But the first issue was always how to stop the bleeding and manage the pain.

Once the emergency was under control, there was the course of treatment so his leg could heal. Surgeons were often called in to consult. Antibiotics were always started, along with pain meds. And the routine of bandaging and dressing the injury was determined. Sometimes he required stitches. Often there was not enough tissue to stitch back together, so we’d embark on a long road of waiting for new skin to grow.

I remember so well how painful these events were for Michael. He seemed to have a high tolerance for pain and was certainly very strong, but the first time he would have to return to an everyday activity was especially hard. The first time he would get up and walk he would grit his teeth and groan. The first time he would get in the shower I can remember he would cry out from the pain of the water running over the raw tissue. And the daily bandage changes would be especially painful in the beginning.

Eventually – gradually – he would be able to do the things without so much pain. He never looked forward to some parts, like bandages and debridement, but he got through them and went on to what he needed to do that day. And slowly the skin would grow back and cover the injury. But even after the skin had completely grown back, he always had a scar there. For the rest of his life he had a scar. And the funny thing about that scar tissue — there were some places on that scar that continued to be incredibly sensitive to any little thing that touched it. And there were some places on that scar that never regained their feeling at all.

As I remember all that Michael went through with these injuries, I’m beginning to feel like I’m following the same path to healing. When he first died it was an emergency. There were medical personnel and lots of paperwork for me to do. There was a sense of panic sometimes as to how I would face tomorrow. And there was lots of pain and crying out. Especially the first time I’d try to do those everyday things. Things like going to the farm or the beach. Like opening a closet door or driving his Hummer. Like going back to the church service we always used to go to. Gradually I’m able to face these things without the pain being quite so severe, and then go on to do what needs to be done.  I continue the course of treatment.  My antibiotics are prayer to keep me from being infected with bitterness and anger.  And my bandages are the many people around me that protect me and soften the bumps in life.

But I think that even when the pain gets to be manageable, I’m going to have a scar. For the rest of my life I’m going to have a scar. And I think there will be some places on that scar that will always be particularly sensitive to anything that bumps into it. Sensitive enough to bring tears and feelings of longing. And I think there may be places on that scar that I will never be able to feel again. Because even though the skin grows back and the scar is evidence that you can heal, it never looks the same.

Things People Say – The Sequel

You know, the things I mentioned in the last blog were just a few of the many comments that I’ve heard in recent months.  And I know absolutely that none of these things have been said with any malice at all.  In fact, I’ve said all these things hundreds of times myself in similar circumstances and have been genuinely concerned when I spoke these words.  But the interesting thing is, I don’t think we know what to say when someone dies.

We know what to say for a birthday or an anniversary. We know what to say when a baby is born or someone graduates. But why don’t we know what to say when someone dies?

I think the reason is because dying isn’t natural.  (Of course this is contrary to another statement that someone told me, “Dying is a natural part of living.”)  I think dying is unnatural for us.  When God made man (back in Genesis 1 and 2) He made him in God’s image. Scripture says He breathed into man the breath of life and man became a living being.  God Himself is eternal and when He breathed his spirit into us I believe He created us as eternal beings.  I believe He has always intended for us to live eternally.  Remember, the only reason we die is because mankind chose to sin (Romans 6:23 – the wages of sin is death.)  Death was not a part of God’s plan for us, but the consequences of our fall.  And as such, it doesn’t feel natural or come easily to us.

Suddenly we’re separated from those we love.  It feels like they’re gone.  Yet deep inside our God-breathed spirit, we know that we are eternal creatures.  So how can we reconcile these two things?  I don’t think we reconcile them by one comment or even one conversation. I think we gradually learn to bring our memories of what was together with what we know by faith will be.  It doesn’t happen immediately.  I think it’s a process.  And I’m processing.

So, what should you say?  It’s OK to say “I’m sorry for your loss” and “I’m praying for you” (but only if you really are).   And please be patient with me when I sometimes receive things differently from the way you intended.  My “receivers” are very sensitive.

What would I like you to say?  It’s easy really.  I want to know that you love me and that you’re glad to see me.  I want to know that you still want me around, even though I’m now “flying solo” (thanks Connie!).   I want to know that you miss him too and I want to know the things you remember about him.  I think a lot of people don’t really know what to do with me now.  They don’t want to mention Michael because it will make me cry.  Please understand that I’d rather cry because you still mention him than to cry because I think you’ve forgotten him.  (And it doesn’t really matter what you say, I’m probably going to cry either way.)

PS — When I wrote the last blog entry I didn’t know what response to expect from people.  It’s been wonderfully flattering to know so many people have read that post and I’ve loved all the responses (well, to be honest, I’ve loved almost all the responses).  Some of my friends (you know who you are) are now afraid what they say to me will be the subject of the next blog.  HAHAHA !!   Oh, the power of the pen (or the keyboard, in this case). Thanks for reading along!

 

Things People Say

Where do I begin to talk about all the things people have said in the last few months?  Maybe under other circumstances words wouldn’t be so impressive, or maybe I wouldn’t be so sensitive to the things people say.  But so many things that are otherwise said in innocence elicit an internal reaction for me.

So here goes:

“At least he’s not suffering anymore.” — True.  I know it’s true that Michael is no longer in physical pain and I am so thankful for this. But I do want to scream that those of us that are still here without him are suffering plenty.

“He’s in a better place.” — True.  I have complete confidence in God that Michael is now in heaven.  But he’s left a huge whole here.  And most nights I cannot imagine a place I’d rather him be than on the other side of the bed from me.

“You wouldn’t want him to come back.” — (This is often the second line to He’s in a better place.) — Wanna bet?  Some days I do want him to come back.  Not that I have a choice.  But I’m selfish that way.   I want to hear his voice again and hold his hand again and I want him to help me with the projects and decisions that have to be made.

“God takes the good ones/young ones/etc. so soon.” —  This doesn’t make sense to me.  If he was so young and so good it seems like God would need him to be here on earth more than in heaven.

“You’ll see him again one day.” – I believe with all my heart that this is true.  But it doesn’t bring much comfort now to think I have to wait 20 or 30 years to see him again.

“How are you?” — (This is not really a bad thing because, you know, how else do you start a conversation?)  This is usually accompanied by a look of pity, the head tilted to one side, and the shoulders slumped.  There’s no real answer to this question.  (Most of the time people don’t really want to know because if you told them the truth you’d send them running.)  Sometimes you just say “Fine” or “OK” even though things are far from fine.  Sometimes you say “Some days good and some days bad” which at least honestly acknowledges that things aren’t fine but doesn’t begin to express how empty and lonely life can still be.  But usually I can still manage this response without the lump in my throat taking over.

“You’re so strong.” – Well, I’m not strong.  It may look like I’m strong, but from this side things look pretty weak.  I think the only good take-away is that if I look strong to people on the outside maybe it’s Jesus they’re seeing instead of me.  Because I feel weak. I feel helpless.  I feel pathetic.  I feel a hundred different things, but strong is not on the list.

“You’ll get through this.” – This makes it sound like it’s a 10K and you get to the finish line, walk across and then you can go home, put your feet up and it will all be over.  You don’t just get through this.  I think this is now a part of you for the rest of your life.  I can’t imagine a day when I’ll look back and say “I got through that.”

“How’s Michael doing?” – This is when you run into people that don’t know that Michael has died.  Now you get to tell them.  Plus you get to watch first the shock on their face and then their embarrassment at not knowing.  His obituary was in two different newspapers, it was plastered all over Facebook and 800 people came to his funeral service.  I have a box of hundreds of cards and I’ve received thousands of emails, texts and messages from all over the world.  And, son of a gun, if I don’t run into somebody who doesn’t know.  This is probably the worst.

So what would I like people to say?  I’m glad you asked.  Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Surprise!

According to the dictionary a surprise is an unexpected or astonishing event, fact or thing.  Life is full of surprises.
Like when your daughters come home for a special day with you and you spend the time having pedicures and lunch, with a little wedding planning squeezed in between.
Like when you find a special treat left on your front porch by Precious L.  And no, it wasn’t a puppy.  (Thank goodness!)
Like receiving over 120 birthday wishes on Facebook which makes your cell phone chime all day long as they come in.
Like friends indulging you so you can spend the whole week celebrating your birthday instead of just the one day.

Birthday 2014
And one last one.  Several years ago a sweet friend gave me a beautiful (and large) pad of paper as a hostess gift.  It’s been on my desk all that time and I have used it for all manner of things.  The pages are perforated so you just tear each page off as you need it.  But apparently quite some time ago someone tore off a page, wrote me a message and then slipped the page back into the bottom of the pad.  And this was a wonderful surprise to find.  Just a reminder.  Just a token.  Just a sweet message.

Surprise picture
May all your surprises be good ones.  Love you all and thank you for making today special.

Back to the Beach

It’s been almost a year since Michael and I last came to the beach house. Returning is filled with uncertainties. I always looked forward to coming here. Especially this time of the year – when most of the vacationers have gone home and we have our little beach town back. The days are cooler and it’s like music to hear the breeze rustle through the palm trees.

I remember in 2001 when we decided it was time to buy our own place here. We’d come here every summer for ten years, renting big houses with other families and creating wonderful memories for all our children. That particular trip we decided to spend some time looking at houses for sale in different neighborhoods and spent a long day with friends getting in and out of the car at every open house sign we saw. As we came through this area, only recently developed, we stopped at a particular house for sale. Michael was tired and didn’t even get out the car. When I walked in the house I remember the openness of it but was immediately struck by the view of the little lake in the back. I immediately told Michael he had to come see it.

We tried to negotiate the purchase and couldn’t come to terms with the owner. So in the next few months we decided on a lot around the corner. Michael was sure he could take what we saw in that house and make it better. And he certainly did – 5000 feet of beach house, enough to sleep 22, pool, decks and balconies, wide open den and kitchen with lots of room for laughter and conversation.

From the time we broke ground we loved all that was involved in making this our family place. Friends would drive down here with us every few weeks to meet with the contractor and see the progress. They lovingly nicknamed it the BABH (the Big Ass Beach House – haha) and helped us to think through and plan on colors and furnishings. And then they made the trip with us to move in and assemble all the furniture and accessories.

From the first week we moved in, the house was filled with voices and laughter, kids running in and out and large meals prepared in the kitchen. Nineteen of us were here that first week. And in the years since, I couldn’t count how many people have come through these doors. There have been vacations, spring breaks, bridal and baby showers, bachelorette parties, golf cart parades, honeymoons, family reunions and New Year’s Eve celebrations. During Katrina we moved here for a month, complete with friends and family from both sides, enrolled the kids in school here and saw our family members get jobs here. We set up our office in our master bedroom and I still remember falling asleep at night to the glow of the computer screen as my little sister would be typing in payroll and accounts payable.

Now I return to the house without Michael, and yet he is here in everything I see. There are not as many family pictures here as at home, but so many memories. The giant blue marlin on the wall that he caught off the coast of Puerto Rico and the bill from the marlin he caught in Hawaii. (The tacky blue marlin pillows on the sofa that he bought and I always wanted to get rid of.) The copper fish that line the walls we found at a road side artist shack on a trip to the Keys. The glass sailboat and rainbow fish, both special treasures brought back from trips to Murano glass factories.

And so many other little things. Several of his shirts hang in the closet. His swimsuit lays on the shelf. His shoes are on the floor and his golf clubs stand in the corner. He would have loved the colors of the water today and the wonderful breeze on the beach road. And the lunch at one of our favorite beach restaurants would have been his first stop. The golf cart is there ready for him to check out the neighborhood and shuttle people to the beach.

And already there are changes since we were here about a year ago. A few businesses have closed. A few new ones are opening. A new house is being built around the corner and he would love to go check it out. His prized blueprint of the Titanic is framed and hanging on the wall just where he wanted it, though he never got to see it there.

I’m so thankful for friends who walk beside me in these days to revisit this place with both laughter and tears. While it’s hard to return, I cannot imagine not coming back. This place is such a part of our family and our memories. And every time we came here we talked about how thankful we were that God had provided this place for us. The years to come will not be the same. But I pray that God will continue to make this a place of rest and refreshment for our family and our extended family. As Michael always said, “My dear looooooves her beach house!”

Betrayed

I can’t remember how many times I had this talk with God over the years.  Sometimes I would be driving around by myself or listening to music.  So many times I can remember telling God I was willing to be used by Him and to serve him.  But I just asked Him not to take Michael away from me.  I always felt like I could do anything He asked as long as Michael and I were doing it together.  And so many times during that conversation I’d think, “You know this is just what God will do. He’ll take Michael away because you depend too much on him, rather than on God.”  Nonetheless, I would ask God to show us whatever He wanted us to do, but leave us together.

Michael and I loved our life together.  We loved serving God.  We loved growing with people and using what God had given us to help other people in their lives.  We loved being able to share our faith, our struggles, our triumphs, our finances.  We looked forward to using the farm to feed people who couldn’t afford fresh food.  We wanted to build some small retreat cabins for church staff to have a quiet place to retreat and refresh.  We thought there would be so many other things for us to do to serve God together.

So these days I find myself feeling betrayed.  I feel betrayed that God wouldn’t allow us to continue together.  I feel betrayed that we tried to minister and serve together, yet God took Michael away.  I feel betrayed that the one thing I asked God not to do, He did – or at least He allowed it to happen.  God forgive me, I feel betrayed.

In church I hear and sing words about God’s love and His mercy.  And my head knows the words are true, but my heart just cries with this feeling of loss and betrayal.  Everyone around me seems to be able to sing the words and mean them, but to me the words just hurt.  God forgive me, I feel betrayed.

Not long ago I read where someone said, “Don’t trade what you don’t know for what you do know.”  So in the midst of these feelings, this is what I try to do.  While I feel betrayed, I know that God has not betrayed me because God cannot betray me.  I am still His child and He still loves me even though I do not understand why He has let this happen.  I know He has not betrayed me because I know that His word is true and His word says that He loves me with an unending, unconditional love.  I know He has not betrayed me because it is impossible for Him to break His promises to me to never leave me or forsake me.  I know He has not betrayed me because the grace He has poured into my life has allowed me to put one foot in front of the other these last months to do what needs to be done.  I know He has not betrayed me because of the love of my children, family and friends which warms me and comforts me in my loneliness and grief.

God forgive me when I feel betrayed and keep me from believing that it’s true.

Reinventing Myself

Michael is gone.  That is a fact.  I think all I’ve ever thought about through life or wanted from life is to be married to Michael.  To grow old (older I guess) together.  To have another 30 years of enjoying life, all our years of hard work, our grown children and one day grandchildren.  This is the picture I’ve had in my mind for I can’t tell you how many years.

But the fact is my life isn’t going to look like that picture.  Michael is gone.  So now I wonder, “What do I want my life to look like?”  “Who do I want to be?”

I’ve been thinking about what I want to be now that it’s just me.  I hesitate, because I don’t want my kids and friends to think I don’t like what life was like with Michael.  I do.  But I don’t have that anymore.  So, how do I want to go forward?

I want to be more fun.  Michael was always the fun part of us.  He was the one who laughed more, told stories more, teased and made up nicknames for people.  And I was always the more serious one.  I want to learn to be more fun.  I want to lighten up and not always be so serious all the time.  This is an area I really hate for my children, because they lost the fun parent.  I want to be more fun for them.

I want to be more spontaneous.  I’m a planner.  And that’s a wonderful trait to have.  But I want to be able to act in the moment more.  I want to “get my purse” whenever the opportunity arises.  I want to not overthink things and be more flexible.  Maybe this goes along with being more fun.

I want to be more emotional.  Not the crying all the time kind of emotional.  But the live in the moment, feel what life brings, rejoice every day, and don’t think too hard about what everybody else will say, kind of emotional.  I don’t want to hold back on tears and laughter and shouts of joy.

I want to be more devout.  I want my faith to explode in its passion.  I want to leap in faith first and re-think it all later.  I want faith to be my first response, not my alternative.  I want to feel Christ more deeply, pray with more fervor, confess without holding back, praise Him with knees bowed and hands up.

I want to love more.  I want to love in a way that I’ve never loved before.  And this is really huge for me because I love Michael like I’ve never loved anyone or anything and I don’t know how to love more than that.  But I want to love even more than that.  I want to love without reservation, without hesitation, without judgment, and expecting nothing in return.  I want to love like God loves me.

How do you want to reinvent yourself?

For the First Time

For the first time, today I went to church by myself, sat by myself and didn’t completely blubber through all the music.  OK, so there were a few tears during that last song, but no blubbering and it didn’t turn into the big ugly cry.  (There’s something about singing “All I have is in You” that brings me to tears.)

For the first time this week I went out to eat by myself – just me.  Table for one.  It was to one of Michael’s favorite places.  The manager came over and talked like he used to talk with Michael and me.  It’s not as much fun to dine alone.  (But he did pick up my check – thanks Paul!)

For the first time next week I will be travelling without Michael.  It’s a girlfriends’ trip – something I would have never done without Michael.  And for the first time I am planning an overseas trip without Michael – that will really take me out of my comfort zone!

For the first time I am making investment decisions and business decisions by myself.  It’s the kind of thing that we would always discuss together, no matter whose idea it was to begin with.  We were partners that way.

For the first time I attended a board meeting in Michael’s place and for the first time I went to a seminary event without him.  I spent the entire time that evening thinking that he should be there celebrating his good friend and when they showed a picture of Michael I lost it.  The tears started flowing and couldn’t be stopped and I had to make a hasty exit.  Sorry friends.

For the first time I went to the farm without Michael.  He wasn’t there physically, but he’s all over that place!  And soon I’ll go for the first time to the beach house.  Another hurdle to face.

For the first time I made bread.  Not banana bread or zucchini bread or cranberry-orange bread.  Not the kind out of the box or in a bread machine.  The old fashioned, from scratch, add the yeast, knead, wait, punch and knead some more kind.  And it was pretty good, if I may say so myself (especially with some homemade peach preserves – mmm).                           homemade bread

For the first time I had to sign a sworn affidavit that I am not married.  It’s like adding insult to injury and made me reach for the tissues.  Yeah, I didn’t see that one coming at all.

Some days I actually feel a little stronger and think there are things I will try that I’ve never done before.  I see a lot more firsts in my future.  Life looks very different.

Wrestling

I’ve been having a hard time lately.  I don’t pray like I used to.  I pray short prayers.  Thank you’s and grace over meals.  Quickly whispered requests for safety.  But not long intense conversations with God.

I used to wake up every morning and say “Good morning God. Thank You for another day.”  Now I wake up and say “Good morning God. Please tell Michael I love him and I miss him.”

My lips sing “Jesus I sing for all that you’ve done for me”.  But my heart cries “Why didn’t You heal Michael?”

My lips sing “I lift my hands to believe again.  You are my refuge, You are my strength.  As I pour out my heart these things, I remember. You are faithful, God, forever.” But my heart cries, “Why wouldn’t You heal Michael?”

Today I went to church and heard an awesome teaching on prayer. On the way Jesus prayed and the way prayer is a conversation where we talk and we listen.  On how prayer is wrestling with God to a resolution.  Well, I’m still wrestling.  I can’t seem to get to resolution.  There’s too much I don’t understand.  I don’t understand why God didn’t heal Michael.  I don’t understand why all the things he planned to do won’t get done now.  I can’t believe he’s really gone.  I can’t believe I’ll never hear his voice.  I don’t understand why there’ll be no more holidays with him.  Why he’ll never know grandchildren.  I don’t understand how I’m supposed to keep doing things that I was only able to do because of his encouragement.  I am wrestling.  I am wrestling with God.  And it’s a battle I know I cannot win because He is greater and more powerful and I know that in the end I will just have to accept that this is where He has brought me. But right now I’m not going down without a fight.  I am wrestling.  And so far I have no resolution.

I’m Learning

I’m learning that every day is a new day.  Not every day is a good day. But every day is new in its feelings and emotions.

I’m learning that not every day is a complete wash-out.  The tears come and go, sometimes when you least expect it, over the most incredible things.

I’m learning that I can drive by myself to the farm and to MC for move-in day for our youngest child.  I can get busy in packing and lifting and sorting and organizing.

I’m learning that I can sleep in the bed by myself.

I’m learning that I can accept invitations to social events by myself.

I’m learning that no matter how many questions go unanswered, my faith in God is still strong – not because of me, but because He inhabits me through His Spirit giving me the strength and confidence in His word.

I’m learning that I can do things that I haven’t done in a long time. Things that I was always able to do, but that Michael always did for me – just because he wanted to.  Things like putting gas in my car and getting it washed.  Things like taking out the garbage and changing light bulbs.

I’m learning that my stomach doesn’t ache all the time anymore and that the headaches are starting to be less intense.

I’m learning that I’m too young and my children are too old to benefit from the social security that Michael paid into for 40+ years.

I’m learning that, in the midst of my whining and complaining, I have so very much to be thankful for.

I’m learning that feeling sorry for myself is easy to slip in to, but not a fun place to be.  I’m learning that I have to fight my way out, pick up my head and find out what life has to offer.

I’m learning that there are projects and plans for things in the days to come – things that will take my time and energy; things that will occupy my time and challenge me to do things I’ve never done before.

I’m learning that I have a lot to learn.