A post that was written but never published…until now

I was up early today and thought I’d write something about my time in Haiti. But then I saw this draft and for some reason I feel like it needs to be published.  Maybe someone who reads it will know why…….

Written April 22, 2015 at 12:49AM:

It’s been such a long time since I’ve been able to find words that express what life is like lately.  My last blog post was about one year ago. One long year ago.  My journal has gaps in it. Days, weeks, and months with not a single word to be found.  This post is full of pauses, wrestling to find a word, swirling thoughts.  It is work.

“Do you ever feel like life is flying by for others and you are standing still?” This was a question asked by an acquaintance who suffered a terrible loss almost two years ago.  Yes. I get it.  Sometimes I feel as though I am wearing Mike’s big waders schlogging through waist deep water, heading upstream; pulling a barge behind me…filled with coal.  Get the picture?! But it’s been 2 1/2 years! I should be “over it”! Life moves on!

I started a few posts about “the second year”. After a loss, the first year can be a blur. You have all those “firsts” to anticipate and get through.  But then the second year comes and the numbness of the first year has worn off. Now you get to go through the realization that the loss is permanent. And you start to wonder how you want to recognize each milestone.  Or not. You continue to work through the practical pieces of life without your loved one. Life goes on for those around you. Grief becomes more private. More internal. And then the “third year” comes. I had glimmers of this new life. There were some moments of familiarity. Something I had not felt in a long time.  I even started to feel that I was going to “make it”. Whatever “it” is.  And then the next shoe dropped.  Another loss.  Someone who was a mentor, father figure, and friend. I never thought another significant loss would come so soon.  It has rocked my world in a way that I do not even have words to describe.  There is silence. A very quiet time. The quiet I relished a year ago, the quiet that gave me rest, is not the quiet of today. It is a reminder. It is an empty quiet.

There is a tremendous desire to look back. To relive days gone by; what it was like. There is a tendency to look ahead. To imagine what life will look like. Neither helps. Both are overwhelming and evoke

And that is where the post ends.  It is fitting that the sentence was never finished because that is what life feels like sometimes. Words are elusive.  And I’ve learned that it’s ok.  For me, it is important to feel within that moment; to be willing to go to that place where it hurts, because I know that unless I feel that sorrow, I cannot experience the full depth of joy that life brings.  It is this work that I am committed to. It is a willingness to be uncomfortable and to have faith, believing that healing and strength will come from the momentary pain. I can say this with confidence because since this post was first written, I’ve experienced greater strength, joy, and peace than I ever thought possible.

Press on, friends.  You are not alone.  You are loved.

Life is Short I Wanna Live It Well

This time tomorrow, I will be in Haiti.  I have the privilege of traveling with six others who have been there before.  They are fun, kind people who are helping me be brave.  Last week I was getting a bit anxious about the reality of this trip. The shots, meds, and rugged living are enough to make anyone think twice about going.  And yet, I think about all of the people who have given so generously to this Living Water project.  And I think of Mike and his desire to do something like this in his lifetime.  He had the vision and now I have the opportunity to see his vision become a reality.  How can I NOT see this in person?

Life is short; I wanna live it well
One life, one story to tell
Life is short; I wanna live it well
And you’re the one I’m living for
Awaken all my soul
Every breath that you take is a miracle
Life is short; I wanna live it well

 

Live It Well

 

 

 

No Expiration, Part Two

I like to make sense of things.  I like to look at life in a linear fashion.  With a beginning, a middle, and an end.

blank-timelineI am coming to the realization that my life is a bit more like this timeline. Heading in a general direction but with lots of turns and twists in the journey.

 

grief mess

Have you ever felt like you were not really “getting anywhere”? And the follow up question to that is “where is it that you are trying to get to?” From a young age, there always seems to be a “next step”. Elementary school to high school to college to career, to developing relationships; always looking ahead. When I look ahead, this is what I see:

foggy window

I desperately want to wipe away the fog so I can see clearly. But even if I could, the only point of reference I have for my life is the past. I am now a different version of myself.  I am the kindergartner learning how to make new friends; the self conscious teenager in social settings; the twenty something who is transitioning from the comfort of a predictable life to one that is unknown and full of challenges.   But I am also a woman who has experienced life in all its abundance. In the last year I sat on the beach in Naples, FL, took a trip on Thomas the Tank Engine, attended a conference in St Louis, MO, relaxed at the NJ Shore, visited the Guiding Eyes puppy training center, worked with dozens and dozens of young volleyball players, had an incredible trip to the Canadian Rockies, traveled New England with the Conn College Camels Vball team, adopted a rescue dog (Xander – more on him another time), sang and danced on the Polar Express, attended a conference in Hartford with my girls, spent a weekend in Newport, RI, and traveled to Durham, North Carolina twice.  In less than two weeks, I will go to Haiti to see firsthand the work that has been done with the proceeds from Mike G’s Living Waters golf tournaments. And then back to Durham one last time.  I’ve celebrated graduations, new babies, and lives well lived.  I applied for and received health insurance through Access Health CT without too many issues this year (yay!).  We ran Sound volleyball club and in my other job, I continued to grow in my knowledge of how to run a family foundation. After much thought, I began the process of applying to grad schools for a degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. I continue to learn how to encourage and support my grown daughters through the challenges they face and to celebrate their successes.  Every day, my two grandchildren grow  and I am amazed at the miracle that they are even here. I thank God for them and the life and joy that they bring. With twists and turns, I experience my new life; sometimes moving forward, sometimes stagnant, sometimes it feels like I am going backwards.

I remember the first time I went to the grocery store after Mike died. It was “just” the grocery store and I had minimal things on my list. It took every ounce of courage I had to walk in there. And the whole time I prayed that I would not see anyone I knew. I remember telling myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other and just do it. With each of the things I mentioned in the first paragraph, I had to tell myself to put one foot in front of the other and just do it. It is only with great intentionality that I am able to do these things. It requires energy in the anticipation of the event, courage in the action, and patience in the recovery. There are flashes of melancholy and sadness.  Sometimes tears come at awkward times. And then there are moments of pure joy when I feel alive and brave and strong and I can hear Mike cheering me on, “You’re doing it Trish! I knew you could!!”.

And then I stop.

And stare.

And wonder what happened?! How did all of this happen?  To me? To us?

And so I sit. Sometimes for a minute. Sometimes much longer, until I am ready to choose to be brave and have hope that today I may be able to see through the haze; just a bit. But even if I can’t, I remind myself to take one step.  And life slowly swings back to the present where I do the next thing and the next thing after that.

foggy window 2

 

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

 

 

When Your Adult Children Grieve

Today my daughter runs.

She runs to honor her husband, Keith, who passed away nine months ago.  She runs because he loved running.  She runs to represent the struggle of her grief journey.  She runs because her two young vibrant children do not afford her much  time to grieve.  She is running with the community that was Keith’s professional community; which was also their family’s community. And she is running with friends.  They come from all over the map.  They trained for this day for months and now they are running together. With her, for her, for Keith, for the children. Today.  300+ miles away in Washington DC. she runs.  It is the Navy Air Force Half Marathon.

And I am not there.

And I am struggling with that.

A lot.

I woke up early. I am signed up for athlete tracker.  I stare at my email account.  No updates.  My imagination runs wild.  Where is she? How is her body feeling? Is she buoyed by race time excitement? Is she shedding tears? Most likely yes and yes. Although I was able to support her by watching the kids while she trained, it just doesn’t feel like enough.

After my husband passed away, another daughter wanted to hike Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park. One of the ways of grieving her loss was to bury some of her Dad’s ashes at the top. This was a hike they wanted to do together, but he was physically unable to. Determined to support her, and battling total fear I completed the task with her.

This mama bear wants to do anything and everything to protect her cubs.  How desperately I want to take away their pain from the deep losses they’ve experienced in their young lives.  After my husband’s death, I made a choice to grieve well; whatever that means.  I was determined not to run from the grief and all things associated with my husband,  but to allow the waves of sadness to come. To trust in the process of grief, having experienced it before. But it is so different when you see your adult children suffer.  Often times as Mom’s, we feel like we are doing a good job when we “make things better” for our children regardless of age. It cuts deep to know that I cannot do anything to fix this for my daughters. I cannot mend their broken hearts. I do not know how to ease their pain. But I do know Who can. He can provide constant help, love, and healing to my girls just as continues to do for me.

Mourning into Joy

As a parent of grieving adult children, there is no right way to do this. It is important for me to continue the work of adjusting to life as a single woman. And there is a balance to caring for myself and being available to care for my daughters and grandchildren.  I have not figured it out. Not even close.  But that’s OK.

And so I encourage Rebecca to run like Keith. And Molly to hike like Mike. I can love them through their struggles.  I can stand back and allow God and others to comfort them. And I can know that being present is enough.

 It is enough.

baby and camel

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” Prov 31:25

The Second Year – Let Not

Lately, my mind has been flooded with  memories of Mike’s clinical experiences throughout his illness. In particular, our challenging trips to Dana Farber in Boston. From our first trip, every bump in the road caused extreme pain for Mike. When I saw one coming, I warned Mike to brace himself. And when I hit one unexpectedly we both cried. These trips became increasingly difficult as time went on. Not only on the day of the appointment but days prior as we anticipated our next journey.

As I prepared for yet another trip to Boston, fear and anxiety gripped me. I didn’t know if Mike could handle the four hour round trip drive in addition to the sitting and waiting at DFCI. I was afraid of what the Doctor was going to say. I feared the results of the scans. It was agony. I pleaded with God for help. I came across this verse:

“Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”  John 14:27

My first reaction was ,”God, are you kidding me? You know what is going on here. You bet my heart is troubled and yes, I am afraid.  Can’t you see how hard this is??!” And again,

“Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

I didn’t want to be afraid. Really. I wanted to be brave and confident and overcome all that we were facing. But I am human. So I started to really look at the words in that verse. And the one little word that jumped out at me was the word “let”. I took it a step further to learn more about the meaning of that little word:

let1
let/
verb
  1. 1.
    not prevent or forbid; allow.
    “my boss let me leave early”
    synonyms: allow to, permit to, give permission to, give leave to, authorize to, sanction to, grant the right to, license to, empower to, enable to, entitle to;
    antonyms: prevent, prohibit

The fear and anxiety were controlling me it was clear. But then I realized that I was allowing that to happen. I was in a sense giving permission and even authorizing those emotions to completely take hold of me, and in doing so I was paralyzed spiritually from receiving the strength to be strong and take courage. So if I was allowing this to happen, I could prohibit it from happening as well, I could “let not”….even in the most dire of circumstances. But I could not muster up the strength on my own. I was so weary and overwhelmed.  I asked God for help – to help me learn how to recognize when I was letting my heart be troubled and afraid. And so our journey began. the journey of “Let not”. Even today, it is moment by moment as I learn how to lean on Him and allow Him to carry my worries and cares. But the end result is always the same.  I experience a renewed peace and hope. Peace that I can focus on and live for this day and hope that one day I will see all of this clearly and have answers to the “why”. I still plan for the future but it is with a looser grip now. I am a work in progress. But I trust the One who is leading me.

Is your heart troubled? Are you afraid? There is hope that even in the midst of life’s tragedies, we can have peace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27

The Second Year – Living Water Well Update

This is a message I recently received in regards to the new well at Thomonde, Haiti.

This is a picture of the new well at Thomonde, one of the Living Water wells.  Notice the water on the ground–it works.  The man in the brown shirt is Etienne Rolzaph, the pastor of the church in Thomonde. The well is the anchor of the church’s dream for a new church building. I included his email to me when he requested a visit from us to give a “proper thank you.”  

Hello my dear pastor, I greet you in the soft invaluable name of Jesus. I am Etienne Rolzaph pastor of the church Baptist Jerusalem of Thomonde. how is – that you go? We have so much to pray for you and your group. How was the journey? On my behalf staff and of the church we are anxious to say to you thank you and thank you still for this big gift(donation) how much important for the church not to say the whole community (for the well of water). The committee of the church wants to thank you face to face. When can we to hope you and your group in Haiti still more exactly has Thomonde?
I remain at your disposal to give all the information necessary for this demand(request) and ask you to approve, my brother, the expression of my distinguished consideration.

Below is a map of Haiti. You can see where Thomonde is located.

Thomonde Location Map

And here is another map that shows you how remote this area is.

How thrilled Mike would be at this news! He would truly be humbled and in awe at the kind generosity of all who have contributed to this worthy project in his memory.

Beauty from Ashes

 

31 Days of Thanks – Community

Twenty-four donuts, a bunch of middle schoolers, one talented 20 yr old leader, some parents, hot chocolate, a pile of coal and a whole bunch of wood.

That is how my day started.

The kids showed up in twos and threes. Once they all arrived, the leader got them organized and all that youthful energy became focused. The job was to move the wood from the side yard and stack it by my basement door. They were like a swarm of locusts. And then I blinked, and this is what I saw:

Wood Pile 10192013

 These are very talented little wood stackers!

A little over a year ago, Mike found a “good deal” on coal. We have a coal stove in the basement that we use to heat the house with in the winter. The price Mike found was so good that he had a ton delivered. It is stored in our makeshift coal bin in the  side yard. (The wood was stacked around this bin before the kids got to it)

Coal10192013

The kids were ready for their next task. They were set to work with shovels and buckets. Once again, the swarm started and when I blinked, this is what I saw:

Coalbuckets10192013

I am amazed at the work that was done in a short period of time. This group knows how to get things done!

WooandCoal10192013

They are part of our church body at Groton Bible Chapel. I am so fortunate to be part of a community who truly cares for one another. And they do it with joy.

And that is not all. This afternoon a friend of mine came and helped me clean off our porch. We put away the plants, the fig trees, and the furniture. We cleaned a bit of the garage to make room for everything and then swept the leaves off the porch. But they came back…

Now it looks like this:

Side porch

Front porch

My friend is part of our church family too. She also teaches pilates and does amazing therapeutic work with people.  She makes a great cup of tea and is a wonderful listener. I am blessed to have her as part of my community. She brings me joy and gives me a safe place to be myself. Even when my world is turned upside down and I don’t finish my sentences.

I was just reading through my file of “comfort” and came across this little segment written by Emily Freeman:

Don’t insist your encouragement should come from a particular person or group of people. Be open to receiving God however (and through whomever) he may want to show himself.

Sometimes it’s good to let them see you sweat even when it feels awkward. Fear seems to grow in the darkness of isolation. But when you expose it in the light of community, it tends to lose power. Sharing my fear is often the path that leads to courage.

One of the biggest lessons I learned through Mike’s illness and even into grief is the importance of allowing myself to be vulnerable and open to others. It is a constant. CONSTANT battle. I want to be independent, to know what my future holds, to be fully confident and self sufficient. ALL the time.

THAT IS NOT POSSIBLE. IT IS NOT REALITY. IT IS NOT HEALTHY.

I will be brutally honest. Today, I felt a bit anxious about having people I don’t know well come to the house and move my stuff around and see my piles and messes and disorganized garage. And so I told God that I don’t like being in this position. I don’t want to have to depend on others to help me do the things that Mike used to do. I want him here so he can do them. And as I was having this conversation, the middle schoolers started arriving. I couldn’t send them away.  So I allowed myself to be vulnerable. And then I had peace. I enjoyed meeting new people and the projects got done that I would not have been able to accomplish on my own. Today I learned, yet again, that the God of “all comfort” cannot give me healing and help if I am not willing to get a bit uncomfortable and give others (including Him) the opportunity to care. It is a hard lesson to learn but the blessings are truly wonderful.

And for this, I am thankful.