Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Grief Revisited

I want so desperately to be a guiding light for other widows. My widow support system has been such a huge part of my own healing that now I want to give back. What I find, however, is that because I have remarried---my sage guidance seems less significant. I think what I have to bring to the table is discounted because I am no longer a member of the “club”, but that is so far from the truth. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t still mourn and deal with some aspect of my grief. There is a section on the YWBB for those “Beyond Active Grieving”. Recently, there was a post about this very topic.

To which I responded:

I think this section of the board just may be THE most diverse. As a group, we seem to land all over the place on the grief spectrum. Some have seemed to move on quicker or more smoothly--others seem stuck and are fighting to move on--others are stuck and perfectly willing to stay there--some have seemed to move on only to realize they have NOT. It is difficult to put into words that we STILL, and forever will, live within the parameters of our grief. I find it more difficult now to put what I am going through into words. On top of that, I worry that I will offend someone who is not at the same place, or make someone feel bad about where they are on the journey. I rarely start threads anymore and perhaps that is the reason. I never thought much about it until you posted today---interesting isn't it.

Or is it….or is it simply God’s way of continuing to connect us as members of a community? One thing I want to make PERFECTLY clear is this fact---we ALL still grieve. Those of you who are in the peripheral of a widow(er)—know this—grief does not cease to exist because our life circumstances may change. It continues, perhaps in a different form, but it continues…

This I know for sure…

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Chance for Grace

I wrote this piece several years ago---I post it today in memory of Chance 1996-2008

I need to confess up front that up until this particular day, I wasn’t fond of the dog. I mean, he is was too big to cuddle and was a bit unattractive; but Chance belonged to my youngest brother, Evan. He was a greyhound that Evan and his wife, Julia, adopted from greyhound rescue. Needless to say, I was pleased that upon their Thanksgiving visit to Decatur, Chance would not be staying at my house, but at my parents.

On the Friday following Thanksgiving, everyone in my family came to our house for Thanksgiving dessert. Because of my ungraciousness, Chance was not invited. Looking back, I should have set my feelings aside, been more hospitable and invited the dog, too. Perhaps none of this would have happened if I had been more charitable.

As the evening progressed, my parents decided to take my grandmother home. Evan and Julia planned to stay and watch a movie with us. You see, they had moved to Kansas City a few years and we rarely got to spend time with them. I was especially looking forward to our time together.

It wasn’t long after my parents left that the phone rang. On the other end I recognized my father’s anxious voice announcing that Chance had somehow escaped from his kennel and deposited his doggy-poo in the basement and wet on my parent’s bed. To make matters worse, he had eaten the entire bag of grandma’s biscuits.

Evan jumped up, set down the phone and headed for the door. Grabbing my gallon pail of Oxi-Clean and a coat, he was on his way, obviously ready to make restitution for the good dog gone wild.

As for me, I was infuriated. Chance’s naughty-doggy behavior had stolen precious time that I was to spend with my brother. I decided that I would not stand by and let this happen. I headed out the door straight to my parent’s house. I was determined to spend time with my brother, even if I had to clean up doggy-poo to do so.

I arrived at my parent’s house thirty minutes behind my brother. By the time I reached my destination, the excitement was over. Everything was cleaned up. All seemed calm. Chance was lying in the corner pensively reflecting on the day’s escapade.

What I saw next astonished me. Evan was sitting next to Chance, petting him, soothing him, and telling him what a good dog he was. There was no mention of the awful consequences of such destructive actions, no lecture about how his behavior affected other people in a negative way, and no lasting punishment for disobedience.

My attitude softened toward Chance that day. Suddenly, I saw this dog through the eyes of the one that loved him most. I saw grace pure and simple.

When others make a mess of things; when people are destructive with actions or words, I hope my love is great enough to grant the same amount of forgiveness that was afforded to a naughty greyhound. We all deserve a “Chance” for grace.

This I know for sure...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Human Heart

I lead our church book club. This was a reluctant “ministry” for me. Our Women’s Ministry Director recruited me for over a year before I finally relented—basically because I had read little “good” Christian fiction (besides the classics of course). I had a real “attitude” about this particular genre. I wish I could say I have changed my mind.

One thing I do NOT do is pre-read the books I select. I want to read the books along with the rest of the group and be fresh to discuss each one. I rely on book reviews at different sites and then compile a list for the club to read over the year. What amazes me is that no matter how poorly the book is written, it still stimulates great conversation, which-I think-is the entire point of a book club.

This month we are reading a book entitled “When Crickets Cry” by Charles Martin. From the start, I must say that this is one of my most favorite books that we have read. What I realized early on, and was again emphasized in this particular book, is that loss; whether it is of a spouse or a child or a father or a mother, is fodder for fiction. This book follows the pattern.

The protagonist is a widower and a doctor who is attempting to come to grips with his life following the death of his wife. Of course he leaves the practice of medicine because he can’t “save her” and enters an entirely different life crafting boats. Well into the story he begins to have a relationship with another woman who is the caregiver for her niece – who happens to have a similar heart problem as his departed wife. The new “girl” seems to “get it” and here is the conversation that she has with her niece one evening:

“Do you think he likes you?”

This time Cindy responded, “Honey, I’m not sure. Grown-ups sometimes have a lot going on inside their hearts and…I think Reese has a hurt heart.”

“Like mine?” Annie asked.

“No,” Cindy answered, “not like yours. More like he gave it away a long time ago, and when his wife died she took it with her.”

“Oh,” Annie whispered. “Can he get it back?”

“I don’t know,” Cindy said. “I don’t know if he wants to. Sometimes the memory of love is so strong that it edges out most everything else.”

Wow—I had to set the book down for a while. This is insightful. I have read over and over on the widow board how folks want to find love again, but do they really WANT to? Is the memory of love too strong? I never thought of life on these terms because my experience has been much different.

I, on the other hand, maintain a different attitude. I believe IF you have had a great love, than you long for, even are destined to, have another. The greatest memorial I can give Don is to love again—not to find someone to “distract me from the pain”, but to truly search out and find one to share my life with. I was fortunate to have found such a person.

Having said that, I also understand how difficult it is to be open to new love—to put yourself out there when rejection can wound an already fragile self-esteem. I understand how, at times, it feels as if you are “cheating” on the one who has departed, but I go back to the fact that if the tables were turned (and fortunately Don and I discussed this), I would want him to love again.

The human heart is more complex than we will ever be able to understand.

“Who could refrain that had a heart to love and in that heart courage to make love known?” William Shakespeare

OHH—if it were that easy…
This I know for sure.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Complaint Free----ME?

I am rereading Positive Words, Powerful Results by Hal Urban. I read it for the first time several years ago and it challenged me to think more thoughtfully about the words I say. The author provides challenges throughout the book to practice positive word choice. One of his challenges early in the book is to go 24 hours complaint free. Can I do this? Can I go 24 hours without complaining about ANYTHING? I have always looked at myself as being fairly upbeat and positive, until I began to consider how difficult it might be to avoid complaining totally for 24 hours.

SO—here it goes. No complaining about the student who doesn’t ever turn in homework, comes to class unprepared, or seems to underachieve. No complaining that the trash isn’t at the curb, or dishwasher isn’t unloaded, or that the kids play too much XBOX. No complaining about my job, my hair, my weight or my health. No complaining…..period.

This is going to be difficult.
This I know for sure…

Monday, April 07, 2008

Friendship: Penn and Teller Style

Kent and I were given tickets to see Penn and Teller as a wedding gift from a few of his co-workers. It was a wonderful gift. Kent is a bit of an amateur magician and was looking forward to the show. I expected glitzy tricks and scantily clad assistants, what I got instead was an intellectual magic show filled with a few astonishing illusions, but mostly an extreme amount of information about magic in general.

We purchased the program to add to Kent’s collection (guess he has a David Copperfield program as well). Inside the program, Penn introduced Teller and Teller introduced Penn in a rather voiced autobiographical prose. Now, I don’t normally read through an entire program (an ADD issue), but this one intrigued me. The men themselves are fascinating. Both are highly intelligent and verbose (yes, even Teller). I found I longed to know as much about their friendship as I wanted to know about their magic.

I began to read about the friendship between these two men. Several insights resonated with me. Penn on Teller “We don’t need no stinking affection. We have respect. From the moment I met him I knew he was the best in the world at being Teller.” What if this was the way we looked at our own friendships? What if we loved and appreciated those closest to us for simply being who they are?

I had, what many call an “AHA moment”. This is the way I feel about my closest friends and hope they feel about me as well. I think that’s why our friendships are so strong and why we have stood the test of time and circumstances. We have “respect”. We come from different backgrounds; we are on opposite ends of the political spectrum; we represent different religions and have different socioeconomic status; yet, there is an amazing bond because we are comfortable enough with ourselves to not only allow, but encourage each other to bring these differences to the “friendship table”. Little irritants aren’t blown out of proportion because we know each other’s heart and know that nothing is ever said or done with malice. We love each other for WHO we are—not what we think the other should be. Ginny is the best in the world at being Ginny. Rosanne is the best at the world at being Rosanne. Kathy is the best in the world at being Kathy and Lori is the best in the world at being Lori and I, well----couldn’t fake myself if I wanted to.

“We don’t need no stinking affection”—but we have it---that and respect as well. I am so blessed---

This I know for sure…

Sunday, April 06, 2008

In All Things God Works for the Good----oh Really?

Disclaimer: I am not sure why it has been so difficult for me to craft this post. I started on it well over two weeks ago and have anguished through the revision to final publishing--yet I know I was meant to put it out there for you...

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

How do we find God's glory in difficult situations? In the midst of pain, where is the "good" for those who "love him, who have been called according to his purpose"?

The dichotomy of the heartache, pain, and struggle that plagues our lives is that one is totally within our control, and one is not. Simply because we live in an imperfect world tragedy can assault our lives. We did not cause the pain, it just happened---death and illness are examples. Sometimes; however, we create our pain. Through poor decisions, even sinful actions we make a mess of our lives and are left with the fall out. In these situations we are forced to take personal responsible for the misery in our lives. It matters little in the long run HOW heartbreak enters our lives, we are still broken and bruised; left wondering how these life tradgedies can possibly ALL work for the good?

Honestly, the “good” may be extremely difficult to find at first—the hurt is too raw. For those of us who have experienced tragic circumstances beyond our control, I believe God can comfort and give strength as we (and those connected to us) begin to work through our heartbreak. The "good" that comes from such tragedy is that we can become stronger people with invincible faith. As our faith grows, we have the opportunity to "pay it forward". Do I think God creates tragedy in my life because I ask for a deeper walk—NOT AT ALL? But by being open to spiritual growth, I allow God to work the miracle of healing in my own heart and to guide me so that “good” can be accomplished.

Likewise, blatant acts of sin are just that---evil and contrived. Sometimes seeing “good” in sinful consequences seems impossible, but God is capable of changing one’s heart and mind in miraculous ways and yes, even turning evil into something “good” for His glory. In my opinion, from conception to death ALL life has Godly potential. God’s grace exceeds what the human mind can fathom.

When examining my own condition, I realized that if “good” didn’t come out of our tragedy then Don’s death was in vane. All I know is that following Don's death; God worked something equal to a miracle in my life. I struggled to redefine my existence without Don and my familiar role as his wife. I didn’t like anything about my new existence. I hated being a single parent, homeowner and person. I couldn't have faced the situation; let alone grown from it all on my own. Hopefully God has been glorified in the aftermath and some “good” has come from the pain.

Through faith, I accepted my plight (at least most of the time) and continuously pursued ways to thrive within the parameters of my new identity. Even as I type this, my words seem trite and simple. It has been the hardest thing I have ever had to work through in my entire life. I am not the person I was before Don died and at times I have a difficult time even finding fragments of who I was before, but slowly I am seeing that God can take tragedy and make good come from it. Not only that, I WANT desperately to “claim” that “goodness”.

There is hope that that life’s tragedies won’t be in vane and that despite great sorrow—all things CAN work for the good.

This I know for sure…