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.

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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

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 – The Lucky Ones

I am a Downton Abby fan. From the very first season I was hooked. If I had a bucket list, visiting Highclere castle would be on it.

Highclere castle

This last week, there was a poignant scene in which Isobel, Branson, and Mary reflected on their great loves:

These three characters are of different age, gender, and social and economic class. And yet, they find common ground in the fact that they all experienced great love…and great loss. Isobel is on mark when she proclaims, “Aren’t we the lucky ones”. That sounds like crazy talk when you realize the heart ache each one has been through. And yet I can relate. How fortunate I am to have experienced great love. Mike and I were far from perfect as a couple, but through life’s trials and triumphs, we developed a deep trust and respect for one another. Our love was forged in the fire of joblessness, infertility, financial hardship, and loss of family, among other challenges. Our joy blossomed in the triumphs and blessings of children and God’s provision at times when we didn’t know how we were going to make it. Oh, how I miss him. It physically hurts at times. Before I was married, there was a time when I would rather have avoided the possibility of lost love than invest in meaningful relationships. Now, I understand and agree with Alfred, Lord Tennyson in his In Memorium 27 poem:

“I hold it true, whate’er befall;I feel it, when I sorrow most;’Tis better to have loved and lost, Than never to have loved at all.”

I believe I have come to a place where I agree with the sentiment that was shared in the Downton Abby clip above. I can now wholeheartedly say, yes, Isobel, we are the lucky ones.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” 1 Cor 13:7,8

 

The Second Year – Miracle of the Moments

Red and I took a walk during the last snowfall. It was that kind of snow that coated the trees and sparkled on the lawn. I am always amazed at how quiet it is when it snows.  Since Mike has gone, I have these moments once in a while – they are fleeting – but they are deep seated and joyful. Filling me with gratitude for the love and life we shared for 30 years. I miss him deeply and the heart ache hits hard. And yet how blessed I am to have had such a loving companion for so long. These are the little miracles of the moments in life that I am so thankful for.

The Second Year – From “WE” to “me”

This morning I woke up with this thought:

I am single.

It was shocking. I am no longer married. I am not part of a couple. I am a middle aged woman who lives alone. I don’t like it. The big Red stinky dog may take offense to that, but it is a fact. This is not an ad for Christian Mingle in any way, shape, or form. But it is a new realization. One that makes my skin crawl to be honest.

When I talk about Rebecca and Molly I am not sure whether to refer to them as “our” daughters or “my” daughters. Is Red “my” dog or “our” dog? Is this “my” house or “our” house; the house “we” built together? “We” wanted to travel to Italy, “we” wanted to build a patio, renovate the basement, host dinners for friends and spend time with family. These were all “our” desires. How do I feel about them now? Plain and simple: I don’t know.

When you spend 30 years with someone, you cannot make decisions unilaterally. Mike and I were sensitive to how our choices would impact the other, regardless of how big or small it was. It was a foundation of respect for one another. We learned over time not to assume what the other wanted, needed, or thought. We learned how to communicate better but we had not perfected it. Who does? We did our best encouraging one another’s strengths and tried not to take shortcomings personally. Again, in our humanness, we did not achieve perfection. We spoke truth to one another and we checked one another when needed. When I said something that was not necessary (and Rebecca, Keith, and Molly, you know full well what I am talking about! Think Grand Canyon…), Mike would shake his head and smile (most of the time) and say, “Trishhhhh….”.  And sure enough, I would replay the tape in my head and most of the time, be embarrassed by what came out of my mouth. And I did the same for him. Now Red just stares at me with those deep brown eyes and gives me a lick. Comforting, but not all that helpful. To go from that kind of largeness of thinking; considering others, to living alone is an adjustment.

Going from “WE” to “me” is a struggle. “WE” is in caps because to me, it feels stronger, more stable. Mike and I made a good team and I believed, with God’s help, we could conquer anything. We had several opportunities to prove that.  “me” is in lower case because I feel small. That’s it. I know that is not true, that it is only a feeling. I know that because I have done things the last year, with God’s strength, that I never thought I could.

Maybe this is what the second year will teach me. How to think differently and identify what is important to me. It will take some time for me to figure all of this out. After all, it took 30 years of working at it for us in the opposite direction! I hold onto this promise from Jeremiah 29:11:

For I know the plans I have for you (Patty),” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you (Patty) a future and a hope.

I cling to that promise as I enter this new season of life. It is still “do the next thing” and “be patient” but I know a lot will happen this year and with this kind of promise, I can rest knowing I do have a future and hope.

Patty_and_Red02