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.

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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

 

 

 

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 – 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 – Joyful music

A little known fun fact about me. I grew up playing piano. And when I was in middle school I learned to play the pipe organ at our church. Around that same time,  I remember going to Radio City Music Hall and sitting up in one of the many balconies listening to the Christmas music. I saw the organist moving both feet and hands on multiple pedals and keyboards while manipulating various stops as he created such beautiful sounds. Powerful and strong, gentle and tender. I was amazed.

Once a week, I was able to practice on the pipe organ at church in preparation for my lesson. On more than one occasion, I would climb up on to the bench, open up all the stops and do my best to blast the roof off the church building. Oh, what power. And on the occasion I was able to play a piece well (it took a LOT of work for that to happen!) it had an impact on me. Each foot moving in a separate direction, hands on different key boards and eyes taking it all in. Music touches me deeply. All kinds of music.

But one song in particular was Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”.  I came across this YouTube video on facebook. The part I enjoyed most was the transformation of the faces in the crowd…from uncertainty to understanding to pure joy. And you could see the sense of joy in the musicians as well once the piece was done. A shared experience amongst strangers. A gift of song.

A bit about the history of this piece:

The text for the hymn was written while (Henry) van Dyke was a guest preacher at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts.  It is said that one morning van Dyke handed the manuscript to the college president, saying, “Here is a hymn for you.  Your mountains (the Berkshires) were my inspiration.  It must be sung to the music of Beethoven’s “Hymn of Joy.”

The tune is from the last movement of Ludwig van Beethoven’s great Ninth Symphony, “The Choral”.  In this great work Beethoven combines the sounds of the orchestra with a full chorus and soloist.  The choral finale uses Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” as its text.  It is hard to believe that at the time of composition Beethoven was totally deaf.  At the premier in 1824 the soloist had to turn the great man around to acknowledge the thunderous standing ovation, which he could not hear.

Joyful, Joyful we adore thee. God of glory. Lord of Love.