Friday, August 30, 2013

Day 86


August 30, 2013

Day 86

The last two days have been painful…really painful.  There’s nothing I can point at to give me a reason as to why that is – no significant date, no unearthing of some treasure belonging to the two of us – just two, very ordinary days.  But I’ve felt like a raw nerve ending again.  This is the thing I am discovering about this type of grief.  I can have times where I feel like I am making progress.  I am able to pack away Paul’s things, I laugh, I find myself beginning to envision a future that doesn’t include him – and I’m ok with all of it.  And, then out of the blue, I am sucked back into a vortex of grief and pain that takes my breath away.  All over again, I feel like the wind has been knocked out of me.  The only other significant loss I ever experienced was the baby we miscarried in ’01.  All four of my grandparents died in the last decade and while their deaths made me sad, I was not inconsolable.  They had lived long, healthy lives and made considerable impact on mine.  It was their time.  When we lost the baby it hurt a lot.  But as time went on, I truly did feel better.  It wasn’t that I never cried again after the initial loss, but it was only briefly and usually related to the miscarriage date.  Now, I rarely even feel a pang anymore when April 20ths roll around.  I imagine a lot of that is because I know that without that miscarriage I probably would not have any of my Littles today.  But this pain of losing Paul is different.  I know while it has been 12 weeks, I’m still pretty early into everything, especially if I end up widowed for the rest of my life, which may be another 40 years or more.  12 weeks isn’t long compared to that.  It’s just odd to me how I can feel fine one day and then devastated all over again the next.

I ended up starting school yesterday with the kiddos.  I found out, right off the bat, that two of my purchased curriculums weren’t going to work.  I bought this new math program for David that sounded really good, but in reality is just weird.  It involves teaching math  using these complicated finger movements.  How did I miss that in reading the description?  Ugh.  So – back to the drawing board to find a program that he won’t get bored or frustrated with.  And then I bought a reading program for Sam off Amazon that the seller said was in “Like New” condition.  Um – not so much.  The pages are falling out of the book and the teaching dvd is missing, I discovered!  Fortunately, they are going to refund me my money.  Sam was so excited to start kindergarten, though.  He was bouncing in excitement the night before, asking me, “Mom, what’s a healthy breakfast for boys who are starting kindergarten?”  I told him pop tarts would make an excellent breakfast…I know, I’m such a bad mom, but I like pop tarts because they require minimal participation on my part!

And then we couldn’t do school today because we poured the basement floor.  Well, I didn’t do it (thankfully).  But several guys from church showed up and did it in a 104 degree heat index, bless their hearts and sticky bodies.  It was so hot that the concrete was wanting to set up too fast and I guess the driver was a real jerk.  We’ve used Ready Mix out of Knoxville for all our concrete needs, but never again!  Not that I anticipate ever needing a concrete delivery again, really…

While all this was going on, I had company and then our new mattresses got delivered.  The poor delivery guy accidentally backed over a street sign, which caught the ire of one of our elderly neighbors (who happens to be on the city council).  He was bound and determined that the truck company would pay for the new sign pole and went and fetched his son, the mayor, to back him up.  Will and I were just mortified but the driver was really nice about it all.  What an afternoon!

Ellie has started changing her own diaper the last couple of days – even the dirty ones.  Suppose she is ready for potty training? J  If only I had more energy and want-to for this project!

I have mentioned my latest widow book several times lately.  This book is really ministering to me.  I don’t know if it’s because it’s written by a fellow young widow and that makes the difference or if it’s because the book strikes the right balance between addressing the spiritual and emotional fall-out of widowhood, along with some of the more practical aspects.  Speaking of which…the author makes the comment that a wife will need to have her husband’s driver’s license canceled.  Why is this?  I’ve never heard of this before.  I assumed it would just be allowed to expire.  I really don’t want to cancel it because I would be afraid the DMV would want to hang onto license and that is something I want to keep.

One thing the author mentioned in this week’s reading is that death was never part of God’s plan for mankind – not exactly a newsflash to someone immersed in Christianity since birth.  But she went on to say that Satan, however, intends death for destruction and evil.  But God “provides a way,” as she says.  My mind immediately jumped to the story of Joseph, who upon confronting his brothers after their return to Egypt tells them how what they intended for evil, God intended for good.  In reading this book this week, that thought kind of excited me.  Satan intended Paul’s death to be something that would not only hurt our family, but destroy it, along with our faith.  But God (how I love that phrase, “But God”!) takes that same event of death and, if we allow it, turns it into something from which good can grow.  In fact, I am coming to believe that someday I will look back on this time and say, “I am so thankful Paul died because this came out of it, and this grew from the ashes, and this fruit blossomed from a bitter vine” and so on.  And while I will always be sad here on earth over losing my husband I will have things that come from his death that make me immeasurably thankful. 

The author later talks about the souls of our children and how Satan is after them.  That’s true regardless of whether or not the father has died, of course.  She points out that this kind of death, though, leaves a child vulnerable and unless their mother is diligent, Satan will creep in to the broken places in that child’s heart and attempt to steal him. He may not succeed in turning the widow’s heart from God, but he knows he stands to have better success with the children.  Scary stuff for a mom who feels vastly unprepared to be the new spiritual head of her home…

So, keeping that in mind, I drove David to youth group this Wed. even though it had been a wretched allergy day for me and all I wanted to do was go to bed.  Having him go to youth group meant an hour round trip for me and no help with Ben and the Littles all night long.  As we were driving, David brought up once again how it really bothers him that he had not seen his dad that entire Wednesday of his death.  Paul left for work that morning before David was awake and David had gone off to work in VBS before Paul got home that night.  But I guess David had returned and was in the basement when he heard Paul come in.  He says that he thought about going upstairs to greet his dad but was too tired and went to bed instead.  And then when he woke up the next morning he was informed that his father had died during the night.  He still struggles with that, too – feels like I should have awakened him.  I still think I made the right decision to not do that.  As he hurriedly brushed away an errant tear, David said, “I don’t know if you’ve noticed how I’ve been hugging you every night and been telling you ‘I love you’ (Yes, but he’s always been a more emotional, demonstrative kid, so I didn’t think a lot of it) but that’s because if you die some night I want to know that I told you ‘I love you’ one last time.”  Oh, David…

I’ve been working my way through a little devotional guide on grief put out by the Our Daily Bread people.  My pastor gave me two of these in the days following Paul’s death.  I’m going through one of them with the kids right now in our family devos, too.  But the last two mornings have had Scripture reading that has been particularly meaningful to me.  Yesterday it was in 2 Corinthians 4.  Verses 8-9 say,

 We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.

This is the thought that I have attempted at times to explain to others this summer when they have asked how I am doing.  I am hurting, I am devastated, I am “hard-pressed” as it says, but I am not forsaken and I am definitely not destroyed.

Today’s reading was in Joshua 1.  Moses has just died and the Israelites are pretty concerned about what is going to happen to them now.  I am guessing Joshua probably felt a very heavy mantle of responsibility and wondered if there was any way he could possibly lead and protect these people the way Moses had done it.  I can relate!  But God assures him in several verses of the first chapter that he will not be doing this alone – God is with him!  He then wraps up His pep talk to Joshua with verse 9:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

I have always loved that verse.  In fact, I remember when I transferred to UNI from Bible college being scared spitless those first few days.  It was so bad that I actually took a 3X5 card and wrote down this verse.  I would pull it out of my backpack many times throughout the day to reassure myself of God’s promise.  After Ben’s birth I found great comfort in it again as I wondered what his future held and just how on earth I was supposed to parent a handicapped child, of whom our NICU nurse told us to “not expect much” from.

And now – I find comfort once again.  I am in the greatest test of my life with more responsibility than I have ever held before and with more at stake than I’ve ever stood to lose before.  But this test is God-ordained. 

He will lead me through.  He will give me strength when I have none.  He will lift me up when I am weak.  And He will even dry my tears since He is also my Comforter. He will hold my heart and those of my children.

He will be with me wherever I go.



































































Monday, August 26, 2013

Daddy Bye-Bye


August 26, 2013

Daddy Bye-bye

I had not intended to write again so soon, but something has just happened that I want to remember.  I don’t want to forget any details of this moment.

For as long as I knew him, Paul always wore a silver digital watch.  They were the kind that would beep every half hour and hour.  When the bands would wear out, he would write to Timex and they would send him new ones.  In recent years, though, he found that it was actually cheaper to just purchase a whole new watch when the bands broke.  As a result, he had several working watch heads in his bedside table drawer.   Remember, he was a guy that struggled to throw things away!  I found a couple of these watch heads the other day when cleaning out his drawers and set them up on top of the bedside table.  It’s comforting to me to hear their reassuring beeps – reminds me of Paul.

Ellie turned 2 the first of July but her speech has lagged a bit.  I have not worried (after as many kids as I’ve had, I’ve learned to not get too excited about any perceived developmental delays; children have a way of gaining skills when they are supposed to) although I have had numerous people ask me, “Does she ever talk?”  But in the last couple of weeks, her vocabulary has just exploded!

Just now I was changing Ellie’s diaper on my bed and the watches went off on the hour.  Ellie’s eyes got huge and she exclaimed, “Daddy!”  I smiled and told her she was right – those were Daddy’s watches.  She hopped off the bed, ran through the house, and then came into the kitchen where I had moved and excitedly told me, “Daddy bye-bye, Daddy bye-bye!”

  My heart cracked.  I had hoped that of all the children, Ellie might be spared the pain of losing her Daddy.  Since she has appeared to be perfectly unscathed since Paul’s death, I assumed all was good – she was just too young and Paul’s importance in her life was probably minimal.

Ellie began making “steering wheel” motions and kept jabbering, “Daddy bye-bye, Daddy bye-bye!”  Oh, blessed baby…she thinks her daddy drove away from her (after all, his work van disappeared the same day he did).  We all explained to Ellie that Daddy didn’t drive away, but went bye bye to Heaven.  But she stubbornly made her steering motions, making a “vroom, vroom” sound, exclaiming “Daddy bye-bye, Daddy bye-be!”

Death is not particular in who it hurts.  Its sting touches even the smallest of hearts.



Day 82


August 26, 2013

Day 82

A Facebook friend of mine is noting today the one year death of her husband.  She took pictures of his grave with a garland of fresh red roses placed atop the marker.  Pretty.  I wonder what we’ll end up doing next June 6?  The only idea I have had is a balloon release.  However, the day in question may be a bit tricky.  There is a good possibility that all 3 of the bigger boys will be up at camp that day and two of my Littles will have VBS that night.  I have 9 months to figure it out, but maybe we’ll have to celebrate (not the right word) another day.  Or maybe I could drive up to Camp that day and the 7 of us could at least be together for a couple of hours while we think about Dad.  I kind of like that idea.

I may have figured out what we’re going to do for Paul’s birthday, too.  I know I want to go out of town because Paul loved doing that kind of thing.  He was such a hard worker and would work, work, work.  And then he would lay down his shovel, look at me, and say, “I’ve got to have a break!  What do you think about blowing this popcorn stand?”  And we’d take off for the weekend.  A few years ago I “kidnapped” him the day before his birthday and drove him to Moline, Illinois with the kids who were just as bewildered as he was.  The John Deere Museum is in Moline.  Paul mentioned that trip repeatedly in the months and years afterward.  It meant so much to him that I had planned ahead and done that for him.  I’m so thankful I did!  So, because of those things I think it will be a good idea to leave town the weekend of his birthday.  It just happens to be on a Saturday this next year.  It’s not until January, though, so I have plenty of time to plan things! 

The first row of blocks has been laid in the basement addition!  This coming Friday we’ll pour the floor and then the rest of the blocks can be laid.

One thing I have decided we are going to do on Friday, over in a corner that won’t be covered by a wall or rugs, is to write the name, “Jehovah-Jireh” in the wet concrete.  That very addition is a testament to the fact that “God is my provider.”  As I told (well, texted) my pastor this afternoon, as painful as this time in my life has been, I am pretty sure that for the rest of my life I am going to also be profoundly grateful for these days.  Never has God been so real, so close, and proved Himself so mightily to me.  Every single need I have, He has provided, above and beyond what I could have imagined or requested.

The other night Will came to me, paper in hand, and showed me a diagram he had made of the new addition, detailing where walls and pipes would go.  This is exactly what his dad would do every time he did any type of addition type work on the house.  It made me smile.

We’re going to go ahead and get started on Will’s bedroom upstairs.  The carpet has got to come out.  He has such a dust problem in that tiny room and I know it’s because that carpet probably dates back to the time wall-to-wall carpeting was first invented!  David is going to take Will’s loft for his new room and Will is going to build a twin-sized platform for his new mattress.  We’ll move Sam’s toddler bed temporarily to Ben and David’s current room.

Will has also volunteered to build bunk beds for the girls.  I was looking on Craig’s List the other night for some.  He saw what I was doing and quickly volunteered his woodworking skills.  So, we’ll see how that works.  I’m not in any real hurry – just thinking ahead.  It’s all I can do to keep Ellie in her crib these days – not too crazy about the idea of moving her right now to something that would be even easier for her to escape from!

I have signed David up for flag football (homeschool). As the school year drew closer and I was trying to figure out if I needed to fill out a CPI form or not, I asked David what, if anything, he’d like to do sports-wise this next year.  When Will was in 8th grade, he began to play football at the  school.  David had always been kind of wishy-washy on that idea for himself, which is fine. As much as I loved watching Will play, I worried some, too.  He had expressed an interest in running track, but as this past spring unfolded into an insanely busy time, I had asked David to delay that by a year.  But by the time summer got through, he wasn’t even too sure he wanted to do that.  So I ran through the list of homeschool sporting options our regional area offers.  He wasn’t too excited by any of them until I got to flag football.  His eyes lit up and I said I’d take care of it.  It sounds like it’s all pretty informal.  The guy who runs it even told Will that he is welcome to play and he’s out of high school!  I sure hope he doesn’t go hurting some home schooled kid whose parents put him in the game only because they were too scared to let him play real football! (Remember, Will is the kid who gave a counselor a concussion at this past January’s Winter Melt-down up at camp while playing floor hockey…he gets rather, uh, competitive).

Last Friday I got dressed, did my hair, hauled the kids to town, met with a couple of different friends, had a long lunch with one, stopped at a store,  and that evening discovered that I had never put on any make-up!  Apparently, I’ve been overestimating the power of make-up all these years since I managed to go all day long before I realized my face was naked.  On the other hand, my friends did not gasp in horror, either, so I guess it’s not all bad…

I am so thankful for the books that have come my way since Paul’s death.  My mom ordered a stack of them for me and I’ve had a few others given to me, as well.  I’m a reader.  That is how I learn and it’s been tremendous for me to gain the insights of others during this time.  My current book points out that the stages of healing from loss is outlined in Scripture.  I never knew that!

Romans 5:3-4

Tribulation brings about patience, and patience brings about experience, and experience brings about hope.

1 Peter 5:10

But may[d] the God of all grace, who called us[e] to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.

I find this really encouraging to understand that I am involved in a God-ordained process here.  God doesn’t intend for me to suffer this degree of pain for the rest of my life. He has a plan for restoration!

Matt (my brother) visited this weekend.  He had a business trip in WI and was able to detour back through Iowa on his way home.  What an encouragement his presence was.  The kids were all so excited.  He helped lay blocks, nearly killed himself playing basketball with Will, talked money with me, called and threatened a sexter who inadvertently sent a nasty picture to David’s phone (so thankful Matt was here when that happened – what a horrible world we live in now!).  He also played football with Will, David, Ellie, - and, surprise, me!  I’ve never played that game in my life and I’m not so sure I ever will again.  This old body hurts!  But it was kind of fun…

After church I took everyone to my new favorite restaurant, Jethro’s.  The kids all agreed that their dad would loved that place.  Will ordered something called “The Jethro.”  I have never seen such a sandwich!  It was stacked with so much meat that I doubt Goliath himself could have gotten it into his mouth.  It was something that would make all vegetarians and vegans cringe in horror, I’m sure.  It was a good time.

I have a feeling these good times are going to creep up on us with more and more regularity. I know the hurt will never fully subside.  For the rest of my life I will live with the horror of Paul’s death imprinted in my mind and the sorrow of losing his presence in my life. I have lost my best friend and that will hurt forever.   The kids will miss their dad until the days that they die.  When they become parents I suspect that hurt will even increase for a time.  But our lives are not going to be the bleak, barren landscapes that I could only envision just a few weeks ago.  Here and there, happiness is going to sneak in and surprise us.  More and more, we’ll smile and sometimes erupt into fully belly laughs.  

We will find that joy has come to stay.




































































Thursday, August 22, 2013

Day 78


August 22, 2013

Day 78

Eleven weeks ago today…

My allergies have finally decided to put in an appearance.  Normally they start wreaking havoc right around Aug. 9th and don’t bid me good-bye until sometime in October.  I was wondering where they were and then they showed up yesterday with their friends – Drug-induced Fatigue, Red, sore Nose, Blurry Brain, Sore Throat, Itchy Eyes,  and Drippy Nose.  Someone told me it’s going to be an early frost this year, based on when they first heard the locusts this summer.  I hope so!  I am thankful, though, that Paul didn’t die in the midst of ragweed season.  That would have been terrible to have that fresh grief on top of feeling so miserable, physically.

Even without my allergy drugs, my brain is still not firing on all cylinders.  I spend nearly every waking and many sleeping moments dwelling on the fact that Paul is dead.  But last Sun. night I was reading the paper and saw the obituary for one of our college professors.  My first thought was, “Oh, I need to show this to Paul!”  Oh yeah…Paul probably knew he died before I did. He probably already talked with him!  And then on Monday morning as I was re-heating a muffin for my breakfast, I had the thought, “I wonder if Paul ate one of these before he left this morning?”  I suppose it’s just habit.  I don’t think it’s denial, anyway.

Sam came to me the other day, lip quivering and said, “It’s just, it’s just – everything is different now!  And, I’m not sure I remember what Dad looked like…”  Poor little guy.  I showed him the nice picture frames that were sent to us in June and how soon we’ll be picking out a photo of he and his dad to enlarge and put in the frame for his bedroom.  That did seem to cheer him.

I’ve done some shopping in the last week.  Kathy came down a week ago and then Monday Dan and Sara came and we hit the mall, like usual.  I find myself so discouraged now, though, by the thought of shopping.  I didn’t realize just how much I dressed for Paul until he wasn’t here.  Even though he, himself, was not exactly a fashion maven (think “farm boy”), he had definite preferences when it came to what I wore.  Over the years, I molded my wardrobe – outer and under - to fit those.  It was important to him that I look nice at all times, so I did (well, I like to think I did, anyway). I just have a hard time motivating myself to do much more these days than throw on a t-shirt and a pair of shorts.  Who is going to appreciate my efforts now?
I’m working on packing up Paul’s personal things now.  Some stuff I’m pitching, some I’m giving to the kids, and I have a pile for stuff I’m not sure what to do with yet.  I found the last Sunday School lesson Paul taught – his notes.  I was just going to throw them away but it occurred to me the boys might appreciate having those.  Perhaps they would be especially meaningful to Will or David as both boys are contemplating full-time ministry as careers.  For some reason, I cannot bring myself to throw away Paul’s drugs, though.  It’s so dumb.  They are a continual reminder to me of the reason he died.  I have had them setting out since June and I know that’s not the safest thing (they are in the hope chest now, though, away from little fingers).  They’re not going to last.  Eventually, moisture will get to them and they’ll crumble.  We don’t need these drugs at all.  But yet…every single time I go to pitch the bottle, I can’t do it.  I cannot throw them away.  I could see this kind of hesitation for something big – love letters, clothing – but prescription drugs?

There has been tremendous progress made on the house since I last wrote.  I go outside, peek under my back room, and shake my head in wonder.  We’ve had crews of church guys here for several nights and it is completely dug out now.  Concrete is being delivered tomorrow morning and then they’ll start laying blocks.  It would have taken Paul weeks and weeks to do what these guys did in just a few days.

It happened yesterday.  I knew it was just a matter of time.  I wondered how I would react when I did and as a result, kind of dreaded it.  I finally saw a Lozier truck while driving.  I was on I-235, headed west, and there it was, just ahead of me.  I took a deep breath.  I had finally seen one of their trucks and I had survived the sighting.  And then – my breathing constricted and I began to sob.  Rivulets of tears streamed down my face as I drove.  I was quiet because Sam was in the seat behind me.  But my heart was splitting in two all over again.  It took awhile to recover from that.  But I have a feeling that the next time I see a Lozier truck, I may be ok.  Or maybe not.

A Christian writer’s group for our part of the state is being formed.  A multi-published friend of mine posted a query on Facebook the other night, trying to gauge interest.  I thought about it.  Right now I don’t really feel like writing, other than my journal here.  But I cannot shake the feeling that writing is definitely going to be a part of my future once I get through this time.  So the next morning I wrote to her and told her I’d be interested.  Her response was reassuring and encouraging and gave me hope for better days, for days when God takes this hurt and turns it into something that gives hope to other hurting hearts.  I start that in November.  I’m actually kind of excited!

I started my last widow book the other night.  I have not finished the other one I was reading (by the English pastor) but I can’t find it!  I laid it down somewhere and it is nowhere to be found right now.  This is why I like my kindle with its bright red cover!  It will show up.  So I started this last one.  To my surprise, it’s written by a mom of 4, who lost her 46 year old husband in ’05 when he was jogging.  At the time, their kids were between the ages of 2 – 15.  I’m getting to a point here.

One thing that I’ve thought often about is Paul’s arrival in Heaven.  I don’t know if arrivals are a quiet thing, where you just check in, are given your mansion key, an itinerary, and your job assignment. You’d probably get a guided tour, I bet.  Maybe you finally meet your guardian angels before they are reassigned.  Then, you gradually and slowly make your way through the golden streets and here and there run into people you used to know on earth.  But maybe it’s completely different.  Perhaps each arrival is a greatly heralded and celebrated event.  Maybe alarms went off and God’s booming voice ran out the morning of June 6th, “Here is my beloved child, Paul Heywood – he’s finally Home!”  And all of Heaven cheered and clapped and Paul walked onto a golden dais and casually waved at the throngs, while gaping at the beauty of all around him.  I don’t know.

This is what has bothered me: Paul would never have chosen to do this to us – to leave us alone, hurting and scared.  He had a very strong sense of responsibility.  He wasn’t the only one.  I’ve had visions of him running into his Aunt Barb up in Heaven.  She died on New Year’s Eve the holiday I was pregnant with David – almost 15 years ago.  Actually, she was only a couple of years older than we are now.  She had cancer.  I assume she’s in Heaven today; I believe she had made a profession of faith at some point.  She was a loud, out-spoken, and very opinionated woman.  I still liked her, though.  I could just see her encountering Paul up in Heaven and beginning to scold him, telling him he had better get his kiester back down to earth to “take care of your wife and babies!”  But I know that’s not how it works.  There is no sadness in Heaven.  So, I know Paul is good with him being there and us being here.  He has to be. This is where the finiteness of my human brain frustrates me.  That is not the Paul I knew.  But I only knew him when he was constrained by the shackles of earth’s cares and emotions.

To my delight, this new book I’m reading addresses this very subject in its first few pages.  She says:

You might be asking what I was thinking: How can he have fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore without his whole family? We were such a huge part of his joy here! And how can he be at perfect peace? Certainly he must be worried about us!  We must understand that we receive our promises through the Word, whereas our loved ones get to have God Himself – face to face – assure them of His unfailing love and care of us.  That’s the only way they could have complete peace.

Of course!  This explains it perfectly.  I immediately thought of 1Cor, 13:12 which says, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then, face to face.   Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I am known.”  No matter how much we study God’s Word and how closely we walk with our Savior, there is always going to be a wall of “dimness” separating us.  There are things we cannot understand until Heaven.  But as I think about it, if I were the one in Heaven and the God of Universe was there, assuring me that my husband and kids, still on earth, were going to be cared for even better than I could have done it, and not only that, but that their present sorrow was being worked for their ultimate good, I would rejoice.  I’d be thrilled to know that Paul and the kids were in God’s loving and capable hands.

The more I think about this, I kind of get goose bumps.  Definitely awed and humbled…




















































Sunday, August 18, 2013

Day 74


August 18, 2013

Day 74

Summer is officially over now.  Tomorrow morning I will be up before 7 to get Ben onto the school bus.  It will be another couple of weeks before I start homeschool with the others, but Ben’s summer seems to determine the official start and finish of the rest of ours now that he attends school full time and has for several years.  We didn’t have a summer, I don’t think.  Although, it will be one we will never, ever forget.  Ben’s last day of school was June 3 and his dad died in the early morning hours of June 6, altering all the rest of the summer and, indeed, the rest of our lives.  We were going to relax this summer.  There was going to be camp for the boys, Paul counseling Will’s cabin for the last time, South Dakota…and I’m sure Paul would have snuck in a camping trip or two (maybe the summer we ended up having wasn’t all bad? :).  Instead, we buried Paul and spent the rest of the time trying to figure out how we were going to live without him.

I seem to write on Sunday nights a lot.  It’s because Sundays are harder days for me – lots of things to remember.  Today, it was Paul’s singing I missed.  I even stood in our pew, trying to pretend I could still hear him.  Paul was blessed with a really nice singing voice.  I remember when he was trying to work up the courage to sing publicly the first time.  We were just dating.  I encouraged him by informing him he had the best singing voice in the history of all mankind (young women in love tend to be a bit effusive) and that said mankind would be blessed to hear him.  He eventually did it and got better with time.  He loved to sing and there were many times in church I wished he would sing more quietly.  But if it was a song he particularly liked, there was no stopping him – he was going to belt it out.  He always embarrassed me when he’d put his own little spin on certain songs with the melodies and such.  He felt my elbow in his side a lot.  Whenever he’d miss a note or his voice would crack, I’d always look at him sideways and he’d grin sheepishly at me…I miss him.  And I just wish I could have him sitting beside me one last time in church.  I wouldn’t care what he did at all with his singing, as long as he was with me.

I looked down our pew today and it was with a certain amount of satisfaction that I noted 6 heads – all the kids were there together.  But that realization also came with the painful reminder that there will always be one missing from our pew – forever.

I was doing some reading on another widow’s blog last night.  I have to read it in small doses, I am finding.  She commented that God never intended we humans to bear this kind of grief.  Well, really, any grief, I suppose, if you think about it.  Death was never part of His plan for us.  So our bodies and emotions aren’t even equipped to handle this kind of pain.  That said, God enables (otherwise, anyone who has ever dealt with any sort of grief would not survive themselves) and, as I can bear witness to, He carries.

The author also likened grief to a box in a room.  I liked this analogy.  There are days that box can be kind of moved aside, pushed to the corner, so that we can get around it and do the things that must be done.  I’ve experienced that plenty already.  I’m doing what needs to be done.  I’m not doing it well, necessarily, but it is getting done.  Most days I am not a weepy mess, at least outwardly.  But then, the author said, there are times that box swells in size.  It sits in the center of the room and the contents spill out and there is just no getting around that box.  And I’ve been there, too.  Moments of grief completely overwhelm me and I have to drop whatever I am doing and simply succumb.  I remember at camp a couple of  weeks ago laying on my bunk.  I had been reading awhile before and my kindle was still nearby.  Will walked in and asked, “Reading a sad book?”  For a brief moment I thought about nodding, but instead I was honest and said, “No – I’m just missing your dad.”  I cried a lot that day.

I cry a lot when I am driving.  We live so far out that to get anywhere is usually a half hour drive.  When I am alone in the van, I am forced to sit still for that long of period of time and my thoughts tend to run around without much distraction.  I have learned to keep the tissue box in the passenger seat.  I cry in Sunday School because I’m sitting all alone and the kids are in their classes.  I cry in the bathtub and I often cry while blogging (there are also tissues on my desk now).  I think it’s all normal.  And even if it’s not, I’m not too worried about it.  Uncoupling is painful work.

I’ve been bothered lately about Paul’s death.  While we waited for the ambulance, I should have stayed with him.  I just left him.  I remember asking Will if he thought we should put his legs down on the floor, but he said, “No!  Don’t move him!”  So I didn’t.  I’m sure he was already gone by then, but why didn’t I sit with him?  I scurried around at first, getting dressed, getting a bag ready with clothes for him.  And help didn’t come and it didn’t come.  I went outside and then I went back in to Paul and then I went back out and Will was hurting so badly and physically shaking with fear that I went to him and held him.  But I didn’t sit with Paul.  But yet, I was convinced we were going to the hospital and I knew I’d be with Paul then and Will needed me right then.  There’s no real right way to act when your life is imploding before your eyes, I guess.  But I still wish I would have sat beside Paul, at least for a little bit. 

This spring I began to experience a real fear that I was about to lose someone dear to me.  I haven’t shared this before because it’s one of those things that only seems significant in light of events that occurred later.  But starting about January I began to have this feeling that I was about to lose a loved one to death.  In my mind, it was a car accident and I was fearful that it was Will – which makes sense, since he drives and he’s young – although he is a very good driver.  At the same time I was beginning to feel honest feelings of grief about Will’s graduation and plans for college.  I hated the thought of our family breaking up, even for natural events like this.  I reasoned that was the source of my scary feelings about impending death, that they were wrapped up with my grief feelings of having my oldest leave and start his own life.  I wasn’t choked by fear because of what I reasoned the true source of my fear was.  But when those feelings would come, the thought of losing a child was so incredibly painful that I couldn’t stand to even think about it for long.

I’ve realized now that I no longer fear death.  The worst has happened. And I have survived.  When I think about losing a child to death now, I am not scared.  Of course, it’s nothing I want to happen, but I don’t experience the crushing pain that used to come with that kind of thought.  I used to be really scared, too, about the possibility of losing my house to fire or tornado (which is a good fear to have when you live in the Midwest!).  Again, it’s nothing I ever hope happens, but if it does – I’ll survive.  I suppose it could be a touch of fatalism – what will be, will be, and I’m helpless to prevent it – kind of thinking.  But I’m not so sure that’s what it is.  Losing my mate has turned out to be the most incredibly gut-wrenching, soul-searing, and agonizing event of my entire life.  And yet…I’m still standing.  How that is, I do not know, because as painful as this is, I feel like I should be curled up in a fetal position, begging for the sweet release of death.  There are moments that that is the position I am in.  But the rest of the time – I’m upright.  Ah, but what is unseen are the invisible hands that are holding me upright…there’s nothing in myself that gives me the strength day after day.  I tried to explain this to the older boys today.  I think I offended David.  I suppose I should sit down with him and explain again that it is not that I “hope he dies!”, as he accused me (the sooner this kid gets through puberty, the better…).  It’s just that if it happens, things will still be ok – eventually, anyway.

For the past two days, I have had this hymn running through my mind.  I think I must have read something in regards to Psalm 91 and it triggered the memory of this hymn.  I can’t actually even remember the last time we sung it in church, but it’s ok, because I actually know most of the words and have been singing them to myself – very comforting.

Under His wings I am safely abiding,
Though the night deepens and tempests are wild,
Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me,
He has redeemed me, and I am His child.
Under His wings, under His wings,
Who from His love can sever?
Under His wings my soul shall abide,
Safely abide forever.

Under His wings, what a refuge in sorrow!
How the heart yearningly turns to His rest!
Often when earth has no balm for my healing,
There I find comfort, and there I am blessed.
Under His wings, oh, what precious enjoyment!
There will I hide till life’s trials are o’er;
Sheltered, protected, no evil can harm me,
Resting in Jesus, I’m safe evermore.