Letting Go….Again

This picture sums it up.  A couple of years ago, we wanted a new family picture; .  Red squeezed his way in; right in the middle. That’s where he wanted to be.  You can see how happy he was.

We go to the world’s greatest veterinarians. So kind. Their gift of mercy gave me the courage to take the step to let Red go. When all was said and done, I got in my car with his leash and collar.  This was exceptionally hard. You see, after Mike died, I took the risk to love this dog. And he loved me right back.  Yesterday, my heart broke.

As I drove out of the parking lot, this song came on. I do not believe it was a coincidence.  It reminded me that there is hope. My heart takes hope that one day I will be reunited with all those who have passed on; with all those whom I’ve loved.

And on that day, we will walk along the streets of gold.

 

Be brave.

 

31(+ 1) Days of Thanks – a True Team

TEAM

“A group of people with different skills and

different tasks, who work together on a

common project, service, or goal, with a

meshing of functions and mutual support.”

http://courses.washington.edu/ie337/team.pdf

A group of different people, who “work together” and offer “mutual support”. This is one of the most comprehensive definitions of the word “team” that I have ever come across.  Having worked as a coach for many years and as an employee of one of the nation’s military academies, I have always been on the lookout for how to be better at developing the team concept. One thing that is particularly important to me is to teach athletes how to care for their teammates. It seems like it should be a simple thing to teach, but that is not always the case. And I wish I could say that all of my teams were known to be caring and selfless towards one another,  but that is not the case either. But I have a recent example of what can happen when coaches and teammates invest in one another and care for one of their own. It is life changing.

This is a picture of our daughter’s college volleyball team taken August 2012. This was the day that the athletes and coaches went through their team building process to set the tone for the season. This was also shortly after Mike’s surgery in Boston and diagnosis of liposarcoma. Our daughter was a sophomore on the team at the time. She is second from the right in the back row. You can see a smile on her face but as her Mom, I can see the pain in her heart.

Mike’s cancer battle coincided with the volleyball season. Due to Mike’s physical limitations, he was no longer able to attend the matches. And so we watched many on line from home. When possible, I went to as many matches as I could. It was hard to take those first trips alone and to walk into the gym by myself. But it was always made easier by the bright smiles and hugs from players, coaches, parents, and the college staff. I felt welcome. Mike received cards in the mail from the coach weekly. Her daughter became Mike’s pen pal of sorts, sending him all kinds of pictures and notes to brighten his day:

Photo

These pictures were hung where they were easily seen and the inspirational messages were enough to make us smile and carry Mike through another day. In the meantime, our daughter was suffering much anguish in being away from her Dad during this challenging time. She came home on Sundays to visit and returned to campus with a heavy heart for another week. In the gaps, her teammates and coaches reached out to her and reassured her that they were there for her. In time, she learned to allow them to care for her with the kind of support that only true teammates can offer.

Mike’s health continued to decline throughout the volleyball season. Sadly, he passed away in the hospital the end of October, the last week of the regular season. It was a chaotic time. The day that Mike died, the state was facing the after effects of super storm Sandy. There were power outages, trees down, flooding, and destruction. But we had been  kept safe within the hospital walls. We literally had peace within the storm.  After our final good byes, it came time for us to leave the hospital, but we didn’t know where to go. Molly, and I did not have the energy to go home to a house without power or heat; and to the oxygen tank, walker, and hospital bed. So we ended up at our place of quiet – the lake. There was power there. And peace. We were so tired. I went to the bedroom and fell asleep immediately. I woke up to the sound of voices and dishes, and smelled food. Molly’s teammates and coaches had arrived. They made dinner. And since it was Halloween, they handed out whatever candy they could find in the house, eventually giving out granola bars. I laugh when I think of the whole scene. A couple of teammates stayed over. And stayed close to Molly. I don’t remember those days very well. But I do remember waking up at various times, always to the sound of the team. They returned again and again, to feed us and to show us that they cared. Sometimes I didn’t even get up to greet them. And that was OK. They came in, cooked and visited with Molly, and then left quietly. Always leaving a plate of food for me. I honestly don’t know if we would have eaten anything that week had they not been there. I have never experienced fatigue like that before. And this all took place at the busiest time of the volleyball season. A time when coach’s minds are on preparing their team for post season play and doing a whole lot of paperwork. It certainly was not convenient for the coaches or the team to make the time to care for us.

We waited a couple of weeks before having Mike’s memorial services.  Rebecca needed time to heal after giving birth to Caleb and our family in NJ was hit hard by the storm. We settled on the week of Thanksgiving; a busy week for everyone but we had few options. We were deeply touched by the commitment of the volleyball coaches and team to drive down for Mike’s wake. They came. And they stayed. THEY SHOWED UP. They ate with us. And then they drove back to school.  The next morning, they came again; to the church this time. They gave hugs and they stayed. THEY SHOWED UP. All this during a time when they were finishing up projects, taking exams, and making plans to travel home for Thanksgiving. Once again, they offered us the gift of their time, their love, and support when it certainly was not convenient for them.

I have not yet found the words that adequately express my gratitude for all this team has done for us. Their support carried Molly through the first year without her Dad. And they continue to care for Molly on a daily basis, walking with her through the many ups and downs of grief. They are patient, compassionate, and forbearing. And as they care for Molly, they care for me.

This is how I choose to end my 31 (+1) days of Thanks. To the coaches and staff of SCVB, past and present, and to the athletes; may you experience the mutual love and support that you have shown to us over this past year and may you know deep in your hearts how grateful I am to you for standing in the gap. #RollPride

“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12

31 Days of Thanks – the Fog

I’ve been struggling with what to write today. One minute I am happily thinking of Caleb’s first birthday and then wham-o, I picture Mike in his last hours. What a contrast. I feel pretty numb.

For me, the days before a significant anniversary are much harder than the actual day. If you asked, I could give you the details of the last week of Mike’s life. They have been playing over and over in my mind.  It is not the day he took his last breath that is most difficult for me.  It is remembering the days leading up to that moment that cause sleepless nights. The day Mike passed to Heaven brought with it some relief – relief because he was no longer suffering, relief because he knew where he was going, and relief because we are confident that we will be together again one day. Mike said several times that he was not afraid for himself, but knew that this was going to be hard on us. He even went so far as to say that it was harder on us than him.  I am not so sure about that. We are running a marathon; he ran a sprint. Each is challenging in its own way, and can take you to your breaking point. But he was right in the fact that yes, this is hard. So very hard. And this week the fog has settled in thickly, making it hard to see clearly and to know where I am heading. Sometimes I want to move faster, but we all know that going faster in the fog does not make things clear up. In fact, it puts you at greater risk.

So I do my best to slow down. To take care, be intentional in my actions, be aware, and know that this fog is temporary even though I may have to sit in it for a short while. And that is OK. Clearer moments are coming. I never know when, but I will keep looking and I can be thankful that they exist even when I can’t see them.

 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:18.

31 Days of Thanks – Broken Hearts

This morning the sun was shining bright and I noticed shadows dancing on the curtains in my bedroom. These are the leaves from the redbud outside of the window that were casting the shadows:

Photo

I noticed that some of the leaves had holes in them while others were whole:

My heart feels like this one:

Photo

But as I work through these hard days, it will one day be like this one:

And this is the promise that I am thankful for today:

He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds..~Psalm 147:3

 This is day 28 of:

31 days of thanks_2013

You may read all entries by visiting Grief and Hope.

31 Days of Thanks – A Peaceful Place

It has been very difficult to write a post today. My mind is swirling, my emotions are raw, and I am physically exhausted.  All the things that go with grief and everything is turned up a notch this week. I try to be objective about it and remind myself that every day is 24 hours but no matter what I tell myself, the numbness, disbelief, and sadness crash in. When it gets to be too much, I am fortunate to be able to go to this beautiful place.

Lakehouse

This is the lake house where Molly and I went the day that Mike died. It is a lovely home on a lake where quiet reigns. You can go there and stay in your pajamas, fish, go for walks, kayak, and read. Or, like Red, you can sit and watch the squirrels and chipmunks.

Mike enjoyed doing small projects at the lake.  He enjoyed working on the dock most of all. He was always thinking of new ways to make it straighter and stronger. It was fun to watch his engineering brain take over. I doubt there are too many people who visit that house and look at the dock without thinking of Mike.

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I am so thankful for this place. And for this man. How I miss my friend.

Lakehouse

Peace and quiet pictures and quotes | quiet quote, quiet quotes and sayings, quietness quotes, quotes quiet.

31 Days of Thanks – The final week

I am entering the final week of my “31 Days of Thanks”challenge. I took on this task in an effort to keep my mind focused as we approach the one year anniversary of Mike’s passing on October 31, 2012. It has been helpful to be more aware of what I am thankful for as I maneuver through this grief process this month, especially with the one year anniversary date on the horizon.  More and more memories of Mike’s last days are coming to the forefront of my mind and my heart. I am more sensitive to some things and as much as I want to brush them aside and ignore them, I know they are signs of grief that need to be addressed. So for the next week I am clearing my calendar as much as I can so I have the time to lean into the grief and work through those memories.

One of the biggest things I am dealing with as we come upon the one year mark is the burning question of “what now?”.  OK, so I made it through all of those “firsts”. And yet, the fact remains that Mike is still not with us. And as I being the year of “seconds”, there is an underlying sense that I must “move on”. I don’t know where that expectation comes from. Everything I’ve read and experienced tells me that grief is so personal and there is NO timeline and yet I don’t think our culture outwardly grants the freedom to go at your own pace. There is a general discomfort with those who are grieving and so we ignore it, run from it, or numb ourselves from it in a number of ways. But it doesn’t go away.  So I anticipate not only October 31 and the memory of Mike’s final hours but also the days, months, and years after without him by my side. What will my life look like? Where will I be? What will I be doing? Will my life look a lot different? Or a little different? Which relationships will be altered?

So many questions. So much unknown.

I don’t like this new lifestyle. Not at all. But I am learning how to be content.

“for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13.

And I have learned that I cannot spend my time trying to figure out the future on my own. Yes, I need to be proactive and plan but that has to be done with an open hand IF I believe the following to be true:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.       Jer 29:11

I cannot spin my wheels in an attempt to figure everything out. I’ve come to accept the fact that I may never have answers to the questions that I have. And so that leaves me with living for today. How will I use my energy? How do I want to approach life during this time of uncertainty? I saw this video today. I love this Doctor’s infectious joy in the work that he does. He enjoys the opportunity to celebrate this wonderful life.  And that is how I want to approach our “second year” of life without Mike. I want to find the simple things that are truly worth celebrating and do it whole heartedly. I know it will take work and it will not come naturally. I will have to seek out others who have the same vision. I will let God handle the burdens that are too heavy for me to carry and I will do my best to keep my focus on taking one step at a time trusting in the God who cares and who heals.

“God never touches the heart with a trial without intending to bring upon it some grander gift, some tenderer benediction.” Streams in the Desert

Today I am thankful for this example of infectious joy.  You can see the video here.

31 Days of Thanks – Time

Time

I have not written in a couple of days. It seems that I just ran out of time. Often I will start writing my blog post at 10:30pm and push to publish it before midnight. But I just couldn’t do it the last few nights. And so that made me think of the concept of TIME.

Several people have asked me “What do you do with your time?”  The nest is empty, I am not currently working outside the home, and it can appear that I have nothing to do. This is one of the hardest things to explain about grief. It absorbs time.  It does not matter whether I am at home, running errands, or with friends.  Grief is a constant companion. And Grief is selfish. It constantly fights for your full attention. And that is tiresome. It has almost been a year since Mike passed away and my energy levels are higher. But I still get worn down. And when I start to feel those waves of emotion, memories, or fatigue, it is a sign that I need to slow down and give myself some grace. And that takes TIME.

It takes TIME for me to get on track in the mornings. To get the tone set for the day.

Quiet time

It takes TIME for me to write down my list of things I need to do and then to prioritize them. And yes, sometimes my list includes things like “take a shower”, “make calls for job inquiries”, “work on the volleyball club website”, “contact IRS” – AGAIN – , etc. Almost every task I take on requires multiple steps due to bureaucracy or tracing Mike’s steps to find something I need. It all takes TIME.

Notebook1

I am sure to spend some TIME with people most days. In person. Even on those days when I’d rather not be social. It is a commitment I made with myself very early on. It is not easy. It is a discipline. Sometimes, I realize it is a mistake to be with others in that moment. I have a hard time being present. But most times it is just what I need. Even if it is for an hour. But I never really know how much time is going to be enough. It sure would make things easier if I did.

I am extremely grateful I have had the gift of TIME this past year. I believe strongly that I need to process loss when it hits –  to the fullest extent I am able to right now. In doing so, I am able to move forward into the new life that is unfolding before me. I know from past experience that if I avoid and bury the hard memories, they will haunt me into the future.  And I do not want to waste one moment dragging junk around with me. I learned that by actively working through grief, eventually the hard memories start to fade and as they do, the good memories come more into focus. But I also know that I cannot force it and I have to be patient in dealing with things as they naturally arise. In short, grief takes time.

And today I am thankful today that I have the gift of time.

“I have come that they may have life and have it to the full” John 10:10b