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

 

 

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.

 

Trust

“Assurance grows by repeated conflict….When we have been brought very low and helped, sorely wounded and healed, cast down and raised again…and when these things have been repeated to us and in us a thousand times over, we begin to learn to trust simply to the word and power of God.” John Newton

 

Trusting Chickadee



 

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 – An Anniversary

 

I believe in the way God knits two people together when they stand before him on their wedding day. Something sacred happens in that moment, something that will, with grace and intention and faith and hard work, build upon itself and grow in power and beauty and durability with each passing year.  Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet.

 

October 1984

October 1984

Today is our 30 year anniversary.  I am stunned at the thought of it. I remember the anniversary when we realized we had spent more of our lives together than apart. We talked about all the joys we experienced and the challenges we endured. I am not quite sure how to recognize this day anymore.  I feel weird referring to “our” anniversary when one of us is not here. It is one of those aspects of grief that makes no sense and has no answers. It is one of those awkward days when I want to shout and yell that for the past week, I have been remembering the days leading up to our wedding and that a part of me is missing.

As time passes, I realize that every day of remembrance whether it is an anniversary, birthday, or other special occasion, brings a deeper sense of loss, a sharper sense of the permanence of this new life I now have. I still wake up some days and shake my head in wonder. I still get easily distracted and don’t sleep very well. On the upside, I have a much larger capacity for life, but somedays I just need to clear the schedule and give myself time to breathe. I am incredibly thankful for all those family and friends who continue to walk with me through this crazy journey. It is a marathon.

I guess I don’t have to get too hung up on what I call this day. I just know it carries with it wonderful memories of a man who stood with me before God and witnesses and promised that “with grace and intention and faith and hard work” we would build a relationship of power and beauty and durability with each passing year. God honored that promise and I continue to thank Him for the gift that He gave to both of us. Happy Anniversary my friend.

Bermuda 2009

Bermuda 2009

 You Carry Me by Moriah Peters.

The Second Year – another birthday

To Love and Be Loved is the Greatest Joy on Earth.

Mohonk1 Mohonk2

Today is Mike’s birthday. It is one of those dry warm summer days with just the right breeze and puffy white “cartoon clouds” in the sky. I am sitting on our back porch; one of Mike’s favorite places. I have had no desire to sit out here – until today.  Mike has been gone 1 year and 10 months. It seems like so much longer. On another hand, we spent 30+ years together and so 22 months seems like nothing. Grief has a funny way to distorting time.

I am giving myself time and space to experience this day. As I sit here on the porch my heart is full of gratitude for the wonderful gifts that Mike gave me over the years. I am not referring to any specific birthday or Christmas gifts. Rather, the day in and day out gifts of Mike’s faithful friendship and love.  How blessed I am to have experienced this greatest joy in life.

I miss you my friend.

Celebrating Mike today with some of his favorite things – a hike in the woods, coffee ice cream, and his “girls”. (with Caleb of course…)

 

The Second Year – The Value of Hard Places

Angel's Landing

Angel’s Landing, Zion NP

“The pressure of hard paces makes us value life. Every time our life is given back to us from such a trial, it is like a new beginning, and we learn better how much it is worth, and make more of it for God and man. The pressure helps us to understand the trials of others, and lifts us to help and sympathize with them.” A.B. Simpson