"A Very, Very, Very Fine House"

Just to set the mood... play this!

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Yesterday, when visiting a friend in my old neighborhood, I paused for a couple minutes in front of our old home.  It looks pretty much the same even though it’s been sold again and has new owners.  It’s been almost 8 years since Gary and I stood in front, and said good-bye to the place where we spent our wedding night, brought home our baby girls, and sat around the table with our little grandchildren.  When Gary’s Alzheimer’s progressed to the point where we could no longer maintain our home, we downsized and moved to a condo. 

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Last night I dreamed about that home of 34 years.  Crazy… I dreamed that I walked into the back yard and saw that the koi pond was nearly drained and the fish were flopping around, so I called out to Gary, and he came running from the front yard and got the water up to the normal level.  Then I dreamed that the new owner asked me to give a tour and explain the sprinkler system, and how to care for the garden.  I loved seeing Gary and his garden so clearly, even if only a dream.  I take it as a sweet grace from the Lord to remember.

I guess I still grieve the loss of our home a little.  I know for a fact that it was a necessary move, and that no house, no matter how dear, is truly home.  You’ve heard, “Home is where your loved ones are.” Or “Home is where the heart is.” I agree with that but it’s even more than that, because, now in my condo for several years, 2 ½ of them without Gary, I am “home” but even THIS home is temporary.  The eternal “home” that awaits me, where Gary is now, is truly HOME.  Moses said, “O Lord, You have been our dwelling place for all generations.”  (Psalm 90:1) And he said that after wandering the wilderness for 40 years, never having a permanent home. 

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Someday, someone will tear down our old house to make a larger one, or fill in the fish pond, or cut down the big Buckeye tree in the front yard.  Owners have every right to do so.  If that should happen, and I'm around to know about it, may it remind me that it was never my real home anyway.  As I sat there on our street, remembering, I thanked God for so many years of His faithfulness to us in that house.  Satisfied, I left, and had a "fantabulous" day (as my friend, Diane, says) with her and my other friend, Lori, as the three of us worked together on Lori's photo albums preserving memories of her own.  Life goes on, and so does Joy, Peace and Love.

 1974 - Moving IN

1974 - Moving IN

 2010 - Moving OUT

2010 - Moving OUT

Hollow Air

The air was hollow today.

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Gary used to announce hollow air at some point every fall when the dry air came.  I’m not sure why he called it hollow, except that it had something to do with how sound travels, like in a tunnel, or through a tube.  In the fall, when there’s less humidity, sound carries better too.  Over the years, when the air was “hollow” it was a fun little thing between Gary and I that was stirred up every year as the hot, muggy, smoggy days were replaced with October’s Santa Ana winds.  I loved his yearly proclamation, “The air is hollow today!”

In our previous home, on hollow-air-days, we could hear the Verdugo Hills High School marching band practice from over two miles away.  In my current home, on a day like today, the distant train does not sound so distant. 

I don’t know about you, but along with autumn's clear air, comes a season for clearer thinking, more structure in my schedule, and renewed energy as I settle into the fall activities.  But in spite of the busyness, I hope to be listening intently for the Lord’s promptings like the less hindered sound waves on a dry day. 

It seems impossible, but this is my third October without Gary.  I miss him so, but today was one of many good days.   Feeling the warm, dry wind today, brought his voice right back to me when I noticed the hollow air. 

“There is an appointed time for everything.  And there is a time for every event under heaven…A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance…He has made everything appropriate in its time.”  Ecclesiastes 3
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Goin Home - Part 2 - "Always"

It was a misty morning and we were on a special “assignment.”  We had special instructions, and watched the odometer carefully as we drove.  When we arrived at the spot the special packages which I brought from California, were placed into a backpack.  We looked up the hill and decided we were in the right place so we snapped a family photo.  There was no trail, and being in my 60’s and recovering from bronchitis, I huffed and puffed the 150 feet up the hill, to find the bear paw meadow per my dad’s instructions.  I checked the photos he had given me 30 years ago.  The trees were much smaller then, but the mountains looked the same.  It was a puzzle to solve.  The mission: Find the area my parents described in their wills so we could fulfill their wishes.  Dad and Mom both wrote the same thing, 

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“…that my ashes should be scattered in a tiny part of Jackson Hole, Wyoming…I refer to this location as ‘Paul’s Place’ for that is where my son, Paul had requested his own ashes be placed, and where thy do indeed rest.  Erect no marker or locator where my ashes lay for the natural flora and fauna will do just that.” 

This was a precious time for us in that bear paw meadow, facing the Teton range, as we laid beloved parents, grandparents and great-grandparents to rest.  Ryan read Psalm 23, and Jon thanked God for their lives.  They passed away in 2014, so it felt really good and satisfying to bring their bodies “HOME” to the place they loved so much. 

Goin' Home

Home.  What is home really, anyway?  For me, home is where my loved ones are, or were, or the places that hold sweet memories.  Going back to a childhood home or vacation spot, teaches that these places are not really home.  Recreating an experience from the past is not possible.  You can’t really ‘go back.’  Things change, loved ones go, and time marches on.  But this is not sad.  Home is not really here in this world. 

Our Dwelling Place

In Psalm 90, Moses called the Lord "our dwelling place in all generations." 

Moses and the Israelites wandered around in the wilderness for 40 years.  They pitched their tents and packed them up over and over.  That generation never had a permanent home.   Moses said “Lord, You have been our dwelling place…”

Home Sweet Home

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Because of Gary's illness, we had to downsize, leaving our beloved home where we thought we'd spend the rest of our lives.  It was sad, but good for us.  We were forced to cling to God instead of a place and lived in the love of our Savior who loves completely and unconditionally.  He helped us face the very scary unknowns of the future with courage rather than fear.  The most important "comforts of home" went with us, because Jesus lives in Gary and I.  Jesus said, "I will never leave you or forsake you."  He meant it.  For a Christian, "true" home is a person, not a place.   It's Jesus Christ, who loved me first.  "We love Him because He first loved us."  He paid the penalty for my sins, dying on the cross, and made me one of his own children, while I was His enemy.  Then He went rose again, and went to Heaven where He has building a home for me and Gary is already there! 

“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also."  John 14:2-3

Someday my family will take my ashes to the Central Coast, per my wishes.  What’s left of my body will be “home” in the same place as Gary’s.  But we will not be there.  Not really.  We will be at home with the Lord, in heaven, because home is where God is.  The days go by so quickly.  Before you know it, you're within the waning years of your life.  Moses had such a wonderful perspective as he prayed.  May we value the days as Moses did, and look to God for His favor, in light of what we truly deserve. 

Psalm 90 - a Prayer of Moses

Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were born
Or You gave birth to the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

You turn man back into dust
And say, “Return, O children of men.”
For a thousand years in Your sight
Are like yesterday when it passes by,
Or as a watch in the night.

 

You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep;
In the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew.
In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew;
Toward evening it fades and withers away.

  My last post was filled with sweet m  emories, formed over many decades, and new experiences too as our family “road tripped” to the ‘Wild West.”   Click here, to read Part 1.  

My last post was filled with sweet memories, formed over many decades, and new experiences too as our family “road tripped” to the ‘Wild West.”  Click here, to read Part 1. 

For we have been consumed by Your anger
And by Your wrath we have been dismayed.
You have placed our iniquities before You,
Our secret sins in the light of Your presence.
For all our days have declined in Your fury;
We have finished our years like a sigh.
As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years,
Or if due to strength, eighty years,
Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow;
For soon it is gone and we fly away.
Who understands the power of Your anger
And Your fury, according to the fear that is due You?
So teach us to number our days,
That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.

Do return, O Lord; how long will it be?
And be sorry for Your servants.
O satisfy us in the morning with Your loving kindness,
That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Make us glad according to the days You have afflicted us,
And the years we have seen evil.
Let Your work appear to Your servants
And Your majesty to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us;
And confirm for us the work of our hands;
Yes, confirm the work of our hands.

My Grief Diary: A Happy, Grieving Heart

Next Friday will be the Anniversary of our last goodbye.  Over the last year, as a recent widow, I have sought to understand my new and different life.  After forty plus years with my husband, I find myself alone.  For all those years, and right up until Gary died, I knew exactly what I would and should be doing each day.   My life with my sweetheart was good and fulfilling.  In the months following his departure, adjustments have been made in my life and are still happening.  I suspect the future will hold more changes, and growth for me as well.  That’s ok.  The changes are sometimes hard, or painful, but I'm seeing that there is good on the other side.

Discovering (and dealing with) the new me!

I’ve been learning about “the new me,” the “me-without-Gary.”  We were one flesh for 40 ½ years and I’ve been shaped by him.  Being alone, and being in the grief stage, I've found some things in my heart that need to be repented of.  I've also found more depth in some of my interests and creative side.  There are brand new and faith stretching opportunities to explore and I plan to do so.  (Specifically an upcoming trip I'll be sharing about here.) The Lord has used Gary to help me grow, as a Christian and as a woman.  I am still “me” but I am finding new ways to grow. 

Saying "yes" to everything - well not EVERYTHING, but too much!

One thing I’ve noticed is that after nine years of having certain restrictions on my life, (because of Gary's health needs), I began to say yes to everything.  Well maybe not “Everything” but lots of things.  I kind of went crazy with going here, going there, doing this and that, and taking on a lot.  Nothing bad here, just LOTS.  I was wondering how the Lord would direct me, and unfold what He wanted me to do.  I’ve been able to see more clearly now certain things that are more important than others and great ways to enjoy life.  I don't think I will EVER really get a handle on time management, but I've noticed that I need to be on guard against being greedy.  For instance, I like to put many intriguing things on my list of "to-dos" but sometimes it's better to do fewer things, and do them better.  There will never be enough time or opportunity to do everything.  It's ok to dream, but when something can't be done, I must not get frustrated, but rather be thankful for what I AM able to do. 

Changing roles is not easy.

My sorrow for Gary, has been ongoing for many years.  When he departed, I was already kind of used to missing him.  What I was NOT used to, however, was feeling the loss of my main “occupation,” being his helper.  This has been the thing that brings the most tears.  I miss Gary, I miss being his other “half.” It's a slow process, but God is steadily healing this part of my heart.  I've been able to study about the beautiful role that widows have in the church.  I'm excited about that.  We widows, have a special place in God's heart and He has much for us to do.  "...so that they (older women) may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored." Titus 2:4-5

I’m almost through the first year of being on my own, and all the first holidays without Gary are behind me.  I’ve been up and down with emotions as I approach the anniversary of Gary’s home going in a few days.  Mostly happy for Gary, but sad when I think about the final goodbye, and missing my role of helping him.   Through this entire first year, God has been at my side, drying my eyes, giving me things to laugh at, and love, and reminding me of wonderful memories with my sweetheart.    I hope you are all expressing your love to your dear ones and treasuring your days together.  We are only guaranteed the breath that is in our lungs at this present moment so make your day a good one.  May we all feel and think deeply, and give ourselves completely to Jesus Christ so that our lives will count for eternity. 

 

 

 

 

Sorrow is better than laughter,
For when a face is sad a heart may be happy. 

Ecclesiastes 7:3

 

I've read a couple of wonderful books on grief.  The most recent was The Undistracted Widow, by Carol Cornish.  I highly recommend it!  (Click HERE for my review.) 

My Grief Diary - Gary's Joy

Today is the nine month anniversary of Gary’s exit from planet earth after nine years of suffering with dementia.  (Read more HERE.) May 13, 2015 marks the end of his silence, weakness, and loss, in this life, and the beginning of his perfect life in heaven.  There is a special memory from that day that I am ready to share.  Recalling this event, from the very end of his life, turns sorrow into joy for me.  It is my gift of love and encouragement to you, dear friends.  In order to explain, context is needed.

 Gary’s body had been shutting down for several days, and on Wednesday morning, there were signs that the end was approaching soon.  Thankfully, Gary had no pain or agitation, and therefore, needed no morphine or other medications.  His hospice nurses concurred that he was resting comfortably.  Our family had been with us all week, and that morning, we had been reading favorite bible passages to him, singing hymns, telling him we loved him, and praying at his bedside, in between repositioning him and swabbing his mouth with water.  He was extremely weak, but restful this day, as he had been for months really.  If you recall, he had been sleeping/dozing for 20-22 hours a day for many months.  

As far as other forms of communication, Gary hadn’t spoken in sentences since 2013.  In 2014 he said “Hi” or “Ok” every few weeks.  Moments of eye contact were few and far between for all of 2014 as well, mostly because he so rarely opened his eyes.  I believe he was still somewhat aware of things, right until the end, because when Pastor MacArthur had visited us a few days before his death, Gary squeezed his hand while Pastor John was praying for him, but his facial expressions had been “flat” for several years. 

Looking back through photos, I think the last true smile from Gary was at the end of 2013, in response to something Becky said, and even so, it was not his typical “Gary” grin.   

 

So, that morning,  as the signs of impending death increased, we were all gathered around.  We didn’t know exactly when he would take his last breath, but we all wanted to be there.  Sarah had explained to the children that it is not a sad or fearful to see a Christian die because they will go straight into heaven to be with their Savior.  We would know this to be true very soon. 

At a little before 11:00 Gary surprised us.  He was laying on his side, and his eyes popped open, he craned his neck, and his frail, thin face broke into a huge smile.  We hadn’t seen him smile like this in literally years.  Silly me, I tried to engage him by asking him, “What do you see Gary?”  I was hoping he’d talk to me, or look at me, but it was obvious that he was looking right past me, still grinning from ear to ear.  I was shocked because I didn’t know his face was capable of smiling anymore.  It was an excited look…truly happy with eyes wide open.  I stepped back, so as to get out of his line of sight, and let him fully experience whatever it is that he was seeing.  We all saw him looking so happy, and later surmised that he continued in this joyful state for about 20-30 seconds.  It was long enough for the whole family to get around on our side of the bed to see him.  Then he closed his eyes, and took a couple more breaths, about 30 seconds apart, and breathed his last. 

I do not know what Gary saw while his body was dying.  He could have seen Jesus welcoming him into heaven and saying what we all long to hear…”well done, good and faithful servant...enter into the joy of your master.”  (Matt 25:23)  Maybe he saw God sitting on his throne in indescribable glory.  (Revelation 4 & 5)  For sure, he was leaving his body, and going into the presence of the Lord.  (2 Corinthians 5:8)  I will never know what Gary saw, until it’s my turn.  We are sure, however, that while he was dying, he saw something amazing that made him happier than I have ever seen him. 

 “You will make known to me the path of life;

In Your presence is fullness of joy;

In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” 

Psalm 16:11

Not everyone is conscious, and unmedicated when they die so those standing around may not see an outward expression when a soul passes from earthly to eternal life.  No one is exempt from dying, however, so perhaps you will use this little account of Gary’s happy face, to pause and think.  Will your first view of the afterlife be as joyful as Gary’s was?  Gary placed his entire life in Jesus’ hands because he knew he was a sinner in need of salvation.  It is impossible to be good enough to get into heaven on our own. The bible speaks to this.  I wrote more about it in this older post HERE.  

 

 “His glory is great through Your salvation

Splendor and majesty You place upon him.

For You make him most blessed forever;

You make him joyful with gladness in Your presence.”

Psalm 21:5-6

 

NOTE:  Our Pastor, John MacArthur has written a great book, called “The Glory of Heaven.”  It addresses the BIBLICAL description of heaven and the UNBIBLICAL accounts of near-death and other “heaven and back” experiences.  You can get it on Amazon HERE.

More from God’s word...

 “For momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”  2 Cor. 4:17-18

“Whom have I in heaven but You?  And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  Ps. 73:25-26

“Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for you loved Me before the foundation of the world.”  John 17:24

 

 

Facing Grief - A Book Review

Saying goodbye to loved ones is nothing new.  Death is as sure as life.  Three hundred and forty two years ago, in 1674, a little book was written to help some parents who lost a beloved child.  It has helped me too and I want you to know about it. 

The title, “Facing Grief: Counsel for Mourners” perfectly describes what this little book is about.  The author, John Flavel, a minister in the south of England, had already buried two wives and his parents when he wrote these pages.  Facing Grief is not an autobiography, but his own tragedies, give legitimacy to the hard but helpful truths he put down on paper.  There are minimal stories, or personal examples, but if you want to know how to mourn in a way that glorifies God, Flavel brings Scripture to bear on grief.  The language is in the “old English” style, but this did not deter me.  I soaked up the pages. 

Everyone’s path of grief is different, and yet, for Christians, there are certain things we need to remember. 

Here are a sampling of quotes from each section…

  • The difference between “moderate” and “immoderate” sorrow and the biblical parameters of both. 

              “We must allow the mourning, afflicted soul a due and comely expression of his grief and sorrow in his complaints to both God and men….There is no sin in complaining TO God, but much wickedness in complaining OF Him.”  Flavel sites David in the Psalms as an example of the right way to grieve…”I poured out my complaint before Him; I showed before Him my trouble.  When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then you knew my path.” Psalm 142: 2-3

  • Sorrowing can cross the line and become sinful. 

              “Our sorrows may then be pronounced sinful when they deafen our ears to all the wholesome and seasonable words of counsel and comfort offered us for our relief and support.”  I myself have been guilty of this.  On more than one occasion, I’ve said to dear ones, “You don’t understand!”, hurting them, and missing out on the comfort I needed and would have truly helped. 

  • For the unbeliever, sorrow can be a good thing.

              “This affliction for which you mourn may be the greatest mercy to you that ever yet befell you in this world…Why this is sometimes the way of the Lord with men: ‘If they are bound in fetters, and held in cords of affliction; then he shows them their work, and their transgressions that they have exceeded.  He opens also their ear to discipline, and commands that they return from iniquity.’ Job 36:8-9

  • There are many, many comforts for believers.  (This is the largest section of the book.)

              “Always remember that, however soon and unexpected your parting with your relations was, yet your lease was expired before you lost them, and you enjoyed them every moment of the time that God intended them for you…Oh, if this had been done, or that omitted; had it not been for such miscarriages and oversights, my dear husband, wife, or child had been alive at this day!  No, no, the Lord’s time was fully come, and all things concurred and fell in together to bring about the pleasure of His will.  Let that satisfy you: had the ablest physicians in the world been there, or had they that were prescribed another course, as it is now so it would have been when they had done all…He who appointed the seasons of the year appointed the seasons of our comfort in our relations; and as those seasons cannot be altered, no more can these.  All the course of providence is guided by an unalterable decree; what falls out casually to our apprehension yet falls out necessarily in respect of God’s appointment.  Oh, therefore be quieted in it.  This must needs be as it is.”

“Call to mind in this day of trouble, the covenant you have with God, and what you solemnly promised him in the day you took him for your God… Now Christians, make good to Christ what you did so solemnly promise him.  He, I say, HE has disposed of this your dear relation, as pleased him, and is thereby trying your uprightness in the covenant which you made with him.  Now where is the satisfaction and content you promised to take in all his disposals?  Where is that covenanted submission to his will?  Did you except this affliction that is come upon you?...this day it is put to the proof.  Remember what you have promised him.”

“Be careful you exceed not in your grief for the loss of earthly things, considering that Satan takes the advantage of all extremes…When it is dark night with men, it is noon-day with Satan; that is, our suffering-time is his busiest working-time; many a dismal suggestion he then plants and grafts upon our affliction, which are much more dangerous to us than the affliction itself…desponding thoughts…hard thoughts of God…murmuring and repining…irreligious and atheistical thoughts…By these things Satan gets no small advantage on the afflicted Christian.”

“If God be your God, you have really lost nothing by the removal of any creature-comfort….God is the fountain of all true comfort; creatures, the very best and sweetest, are but cisterns to receive and convey to us what comfort God is pleased to communicate to them; and if the cistern be broken, or the pipe be cut off, so that no more comfort can be conveyed to us that way, he has other ways and means to do it by, which we think not of; and if he please, he can convey his comforts to his people without any of them.”

  • Excuses and pleas for excessive sorrow AND practical ways to restrain oneself from it are answered in the final chapters.  These hit hard and get right to the point. 

Facing Grief is not an easy “feel-good” book.  But good theology is comforting.  As a Christian widow, I find my greatest comfort in my relationship with Jesus, my Lord and savior.  I always have.  This book has reminded me of His wonderful love, and comforts that come in many forms.  Sorrow over losing a loved one is normal, but because of Jesus, I can sorrow with HOPE!  Not “hope” meaning “I hope so.” But HOPE meaning “SURE of God’s promises.”

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Lest anyone think I’m not grieving about Gary, don’t get me wrong, I am still sad at times.  But this very good book has cautioned me to be careful as I grieve.  My loss should not be a source of sin in my life.  It should drive me to a closer walk with the Lord.  Peace and Joy are the beautiful byproducts.  Just as King David knew he would see his son again, I know I will see Gary too,  He's not coming back, but someday I get to go where he is!  

My Grief Diary: Patina

The sparkle is not gone.  I polished them this morning since today would have been our 41st anniversary.  I'm still wearing the rings Gary made for me.  He hammered 50 cent coins into bands and then had a jeweler set his grandma's diamonds on them. On the inside you used to be able to see that they were minted in 1953 (my birth year) and read "In God we trust." but the words and numbers have long since worn away.  Because they have been on my hand for so many years, and subjected to all of my activities, the prongs have needed adjustments, the bands have needed straightening, and a diamond was even knocked loose and replaced.  I don't mind.  I love that Gary made them for me and I still enjoy seeing them on my finger.  They remind me of my loving husband, and our faithful God who enabled us to love and forgive for so long.  

My ring has changed.  So have I.  Marriage changes things.  Especially people.  Gary's influence in my life has shaped me, and moved me towards Christ.  I recently listened to some audio tapes of him when we were dating.  (He didn't like to write letters so he sent me cassette tapes.)  We were silly, in love, and immature in many ways, but one thing stood out so clearly.  Jesus was the most important person in his life.  I loved him for that.  Over the years, God was kind to grow us both.  Gary is now with the Lord, without any sin.  One day I'll join him.  I am grateful beyond words for the time we had together.

Yes, I miss him every day, but marriage is temporary.  That is a good thing for all of us to remember.  It is a constant temptation to make an idol of our spouses and let them become more important to us than God.  When I am reunited with Gary it will not be as his wife.  It will be as two grateful and amazed sinners who have been rescued from eternal punishment by their Savior and once shared a life together in "time." The following quote, from a book I'm loving right now, was written to parents who had lost a child, but as a wife who's lost a husband, I too have been blessed by it's weightiness.

"A husband, a wife, a child, are great, very great things, as they stand by other creatures; but surely they will seem little things, next to nothing, when the Lord shall set himself by them before the soul.  And how know you but God has bidden these earthly comforts stand aside this day, to make way for heavenly ones?  It may be God is coming to communicate himself more sweetly, more sensibly than ever to your souls; and these are the providences which must cast up and prepare the way of the Lord.  Possibly God's meaning in their death is but this: [Husband], stand aside; you are in my way, and fill my place in your [wife's] heart." (Facing Grief, by John Flavel)

I'm halfway through the year of "FIRSTS"...First Father's day, first Birthday, first Thanksgiving, first Christmas, and first Anniversary...without my Gary.  Tonight I have a special dinner planned with my daughter's family, so I have something to look forward to, and a new kind of special memory. 

LIVE - REMEMBER - ENJOY

Antique appraisers and collectors use the term "patina" to describe the color change on a metal object that results from age.  Patina typically increases the value.  My rings cost very little, even by 1974 standards, but they are precious to me because of the promises they represent, and the memories they carry.  They grow more beautiful to me with age, because they carry a story with them.

 Tonight I went to dinner with April and Jon and the boys to celebrate God's faithfulness to Gary and I.   God is attentive to my loss and is filling the void with other comforts so I'm in good hands.  My prayer is that the loss of Gary will drive me even closer to the Lord.  As I venture into the second half of the year of "FIRSTS," I pray that my love for Jesus will increase, since He is, and always will be, more than enough for this widow.  There will be more layers of wear and polishing to be done in my heart as God continues to sanctify me. 

 
"And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.  To him be the dominion forever and ever.  Amen."  1 Peter 5:10-11

My Grief Diary: Crystal Clear

It's been an emotional week, just thinking about Gary, missing him, and remembering how special he was to me.  Something broke the other day, that was special to him.  It's a big crystal (2") that refracts the light beautifully.  Gary bought it back in the 70's and hung it in our bedroom window.  Every sunshiny morning, it cast rainbows on the walls.  When we moved to our condo, it made rainbows here too.  He'd say, "We have to get up when the rainbow gets to the doorway."  He would sometimes stand in just the right spot to get the colors right on his mouth, or nose to be funny.  Our girls remember too.  He LOVED that crystal and we loved that he loved it.  Well, finally last week, the wire broke and it fell on the tile, leaving some big chips in it.  I need to rehang it, and hopefully it will make even more of a light-show now.

But I got to thinking about something really neat.  I was reading in Revelation 4 this morning.  It describes the throne room of God.  In his vision, the apostle John described the appearance of God , in terms of precious gems.   "Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone (clear as crystal in Rev. 21:11) and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance."

and MORE...

"and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.”

Such amazing, heavenly sights and sounds were hard for John to describe.  Right now, Gary's eyes and ears are filled with the actual glories of God.  I'm comforted with the little memory of how he loved the light and colors displayed by his crystal, but thanks to the written Word of God, I get to know just a little of what Gary is experiencing right now, and that is even better. 

 

My Grief Diary - Sorrow Into Joy

A few days ago, I was holding a pair of Gary's shoes, and tearing up.  I was getting ready to put them into a box of his special clothes that I can't bear to part with right now...maybe never.  Most of his clothes have been given away over the last few years as he became more and more immobile, and eventually bed bound, but there were still a few things in the closet, and so I went through them again.  Clothes are personal.  The memories of our loved ones in their "favorites" are etched in our minds.  Shoes are just shoes, but my husband wore THOSE shoes.  The shoes touched Gary and I can touch them.  My sorrow over Gary's absence is never far away.  It is real.  It is fresh and it doesn't take much to pull it up to the surface. 

"...you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy." 

Jesus said this to His sad disciples when He spoke of leaving them.  (John 16)  They had given up their lives to be with Him and now He was going to be departing.   They were confused, and very soon would be devastated as they would see him tortured and executed.  But, their grief would be short-lived because He was going to be raised from the dead and come back again.  Jesus was going to take the VERY EVENT that caused their greatest sorrow, His death on the cross, and use THAT SAME EVENT to cause their greatest joy, their eternal salvation.  (Great sermon on this HERE.

I want to do grief right.  I'm a Christian.  That means Jesus lives inside my soul.  Here's a cool thought.  When I am praying to the Lord, Gary while right now in the presence of the Lord, may very well be talking to Him too.  At the same time.  God has both of us in His hands.  He's in between us and the Center of us.  That is what we always wanted and what we promised when we vowed our vows.  God is my only real-time connection to Gary now.  I can't talk to Gary anymore in this life and would not even try to.  Gary is having his very best possible life, present with the Lord.  Someday I will be there too,  but I just think it's so neat that even though our marriage is over, and we are no longer one flesh, we are each absorbed with our Savior.  Jesus will be our main focal point for eternity.  That's not always easy for me, but it IS easy for Gary now, without the distractions of this life.  It's hard to describe, but in a tiny way it's similar to this:  Do you know how exciting it is to share a great experience with someone?  Taking in the scope of the Grand Canyon, watching your favorite team win, enjoying a wonderful concert together.  It's a bonding that occurs over a shared experience.  Gary and I are both loving God at the same time.  He in the eternal presence of the Lord, and me from the limits of this life. 

Standing there in my room holding Gary's shoes, God turned my sorrow into joy.   He didn't REPLACE my grief over missing Gary with something "happy."  Instead he reminded me that just as God was our Savior and the center of our marriage, He still is the One who receives our worship, gratitude and love.  Because He loved us first, we love Him and we loved each other.  God has repeatedly TRANSFORMED my SADNESS into JOY in the last three months without Gary.  It's not a one time thing.  Therefore, I'm committed to keep on looking to Him for joy and comfort in the midst of the unavoidable grief when it shows up.

By the way, there are still a few shirts hanging in the closet so I can touch them when I want, and remember including the orange shirt he's wearing in the photo.

"Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me; O LORD, be my helper.  You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, that my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent.  O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever." 

Psalm 30:10-12

Gary's Memorial Service can be viewed HERE.

 

 

My Grief Diary - Staying Busy

 

Projects help.  Tackling something I've been ignoring, feels good.  Accomplishing a goal is satisfying.  Being busy is a distraction from the sadness of Gary's absence.  A couple of weeks ago I freshened up my bedroom with paint, a new bed, and pretty bedspread,  I really had fun with this after so long with a hospital bed, and other medical things dominating our space.  Making Gary's eulogy video was a big project which I loved doing.  I guess necessary paperwork and legal things are a kind of "project" too, although, not my favorite.  Social Security had to be contacted, other things had to be cancelled or changed.  The loss of a spouse requires this kind of activity and there's been PLENTY of it.  I've been pretty busy.

Most recently, the project was a memorial album to contain all the lovely notes, cards and photos from Gary's memorial service.  After taking over my table for a couple of days, it is done.  I enjoyed putting it together and reading some of those lovely and encouraging notes for the first time.  It looks great and if you come over you will see it all finished on my coffee table.

...about staying busy...

It's easy to obsess about finishing something that is occupying my mind and house so sometimes the daily tasks fall by the wayside. 

I am really enjoying my new freedoms and the opportunity to tackle some fun projects but after the project ends, with more time to think, I am sometimes hit with sad moments.  

I am wondering how to balance my time.  When I was caring for Gary, I knew EXACTLY what God wanted me to do with my time.  But now...for the time being, I am "doing the next thing" and praying for direction for the big picture.

I am doing well, but don't feel as though I have found the balance yet.  Staying "busy" is fun and distracting, but I want to be thoughtful like David.  "Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me." Psalm 131  I get that it is important for me to take the time to feel but I want to feel with right perspective. 

an example from last weekend...

I had a fleeting moment of sadness and got misty yesterday in our Fellowship group at church.  I was passing the weekly sign-in list of names to my daughter, Sarah, and noted to her that her dad's name is no longer there.  She made the comment that his name is on a much better list.  That made me smile.  She was referring to the Lamb's Book of Life.  "He (Jesus) said to them....rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven." Luke 10:20.  Good theology is encouraging in a time of grief. 

 

My Grief Diary - A Special Meal

(NOTE:  If you're looking for Gary's Memorial Video, you can find it on the Home page.)

I've been a widow for six weeks.  My encounters with grief have been varied and haphazard.  Sometimes sorrow surprises me, and at other times it builds up slowly.  

I don't have a clear view of what to expect, since everyone grieves differently but occasionally I hope to share a bit of what it's like, for me, and how I'm doing.  Actually, I've been grieving for many years.  Every time Gary reached a new limitation, I was sad for a time.  New losses brought new kinds of sorrow, but once we adjusted to our new situation, I found we could flourish within our limitations.  I'm expecting that process to continue.

Two days after Gary went to Heaven, I suggested that our family go to dinner at Gary's favorite restaurant.  "Damon's Steakhouse" has been a Glendale landmark since 1937, which explains why Gary's dad, Tom, used to go there on dates.  Gary and I used to go there on dates too.  In 1980 because of the Glendale Galleria project, Damon's moved to it's current location on Brand.  (Behind the Center Theater and right next to Porto's) Our family considered it THE place to go for celebrations. 

 

 

Somehow, it seemed strangely important to go there and eat a Top Sirloin, stuffed baked potato, salad (tossed at the table and with amazing dressing) and garlic cheese bread "for Gary."  I wasn't sure how emotional I would be, but I decided to "not care" and go anyway. 

 

 

 

 

 

The fun 50's Tiki-style motif was not lost on the kids.  While we waited for our food, we walked around and looked at the huge salt water aquarium and shell lamps.  There's even an outrigger canoe hanging from the ceiling with monkeys in it.  Once the food arrived and after we prayed, we dug in.  It was then that I was overwhelmed with joy mingled with missing my love.  I looked around the table at our dear ones, and wished Gary was with us, but at the same time I was so happy we were all together in one of Gary's favorite places.  So amongst my tears and smiles, memories flooded back into my mind.  Romantic dinners, anniversaries, birthday celebrations...  Gary, April and I had even had dinner there on our way to the hospital while awaiting the birth of Sarah's firstborn. 

 

The last time we were there was our anniversary in 2010, when Gary was in the middle stages of Alzheimer's.  The evening had a rough start, but eventually he (and I) both enjoyed ourselves, even though I knew at the time, it would likely be our last meal at Damon's together.  see photo ->

 

It's OK

As a grieving widow, I'm learning that it's ok to cry AND it's ok to laugh.  Remembering is a really good thing to do because it keeps the joy in your life along with the inevitable sadness.  I don't feel the slightest bit guilty for enjoying my meal six weeks ago.  Every bite and flavor reminded me of some very good times, and I'm grateful that God designed us with the capacity to enjoy the world He made, and miss those who added to it's beauty.

 

"A merry heart does good like a medicine." 

Proverbs 17:22

If you're in Southern California, and you want to make a memory with a good steak or seafood, click on the photo or HERE for info on Damon's.