Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Day 147

DIARY OF AN UNWILLING WIDOW

October 30, 2013

 

Day 147

 

It’s raining.  I don’t mind rain in the fall, actually – it’s kind of cozy, a foretaste of darker and colder days to come.  I do mind getting poured on running to my van when the skies decide to open up as I am leaving the dentist.  That wasn’t fun! 

 

Fortunately, the dentist visit went fine – no cavities.  In fact, the hygienist said my teeth have never looked better.  That’s odd because my flossing has been more “miss” than “hit” since Paul’s death.  Maybe it’s just another one of God’s graces during this time.  Or, it could be like last spring, when I had a good dental visit and then two weeks later developed agonizing jaw pain (over the weekend, of course!).  I remember that Sunday vacillating between sticking it out until Mon. when I could get into the dentist or going to Urgent Care in case it was an infected ear.  Paul convinced me to wait and he was right – it was my tooth.  A nerve had suddenly gone bad.  I ended up getting the tooth surgically removed right there in the chair.  The dentist wanted to send me to a surgeon but I begged him (well, as much as I could beg with a mouth full of Novocain) to just take care of it instead.  He did, but had to take it out in pieces.  Agony.  I couldn’t talk for a week because my tongue was so mangled after that.  But that night Paul brought home a “Get Well Soon” balloon and that made all the difference – just cheered me up immensely.

 

So hopefully, I won’t be going back to the dentist for six more months, anyway!  They all knew what had happened.  I think half the people in that town are related anyway.  The staff was really sympathetic to me.  I commented to my hygienist that Will had decided to delay college by a year because of Paul’s death and she said, “Oh yes – I had heard that!”  Small town living…

 

Actually, we have really benefitted from that.  I wrote this on Facebook the other day, so I won’t be-labor it, but Sunday, Will’s former football coached showed up at our house.  He handed us a check and a couple of football posters, explaining that the team had felt so bad when Paul died that they had decided to have these posters made up, sold them around Pleasantville, and gave us the proceeds.  I was completely flabbergasted!  It isn’t even like Will is still part of the team – he’s graduated.  And he was homeschooled, to boot, so he wasn’t at the school all the time.  But they cared enough about us to do it anyway.  God is so good to us.

 

The other day I asked Will if he thought I was doing a “good job” with this whole widowhood/single parenting thing.  I just don’t know.  Most days I feel like I am merely existing and I wonder if there is more I should be doing in order to do it “right” (as if there is a checklist for proper grieving!).  Will shrugged and said, “I don’t know – I guess so.”  Yes, well…not so reassuring there!  I guess I’ll have to look for my accolades elsewhere!  I want to do it right, whatever “right” is.

 

Sara and the girls came down Friday.  She even brought stuff for a little “party” to celebrate the girls’ adoption.  And she brought us another care package, stuffed full of goodies.  She has certainly endeared herself to the kids with those things!  Then we went out to Jordan Creek, of course, six kids between us.  I wanted to find a new winter dress.  I didn’t have much luck at first but I finally found one towards the end of evening.  I had a $50 coupon which would actually make it somewhat affordable.  But the coupon wouldn’t work for the dress (I hate Younkers coupons).  But the clerk smiled at me, opened her drawer, and said, “Here - let’s try this one” and scanned a different coupon.  It worked.  I got my discount, thankfully!

 

I met up with Sara later and showed her my purchase.  She dutifully admired it and then asked, “Is the first one you’ve bought since Paul?”  It was.  He always liked me to dress up.  And now he will never see me in this dress.  When I got home I showed it to Will and David.  I should have known better than to try to get their attention during the high school football wrap-up after the news.  Will grunted, “Why do you think you need a new dress?”  David, always more diplomatic, responded, “Um, it’s nice, I guess” and immediately turned his attention back to the tv.  Sigh…I’m just never going to get from them what I got from their dad.

 

Seriously, though, this all is a reminder to me that my emotional needs have to be met in God, now.  I looked to Paul for so much of that and the way that he viewed me was largely how I viewed myself.  It’s a whole new dynamic now, but I need to find my worth and value in God and not rely on my kids to make me feel good about myself.  Because we know that's not going to happen!

 

Today, Will and I are working on the basement.  Last night he and David stayed up until midnight putting up the rest of the panel board.  We decided to cover up the cheap stuff Paul had bought with some nicer board (Will’s idea – he’s going for “man cave” look down there).  It really looks nice.  Now we’re just trying to figure out how to arrange everything down there.  Our neighbor called, needing Will to come put a kitchen drawer together for her, so he’s doing that at the moment and I am typing.  It’s progress and I am grateful.

 

Of course, David is tired from staying up late last night and has been having mini meltdowns all day long about how we make him work all the time and he is so under-appreciated, and how the Littles won’t obey them and he can’t “escape” them (even in his dreams, he says).  Not quite sure what to do about that kid…I reason with him, praise him, but nothing seems to last very long.  Maybe he just needs to turn 15!

 

Better scoot – lots to do, as usual.  Tomorrow Lizzie turns 5 and Sat. Will will be 19.  He’s having some friends over that night for pizza and a bonfire.  That’s part of his motivation for getting the basement done this week.  But he’s excited – Hawkeye football on tv in the afternoon and his friends that night.  It will also be his first birthday without Paul.

 

He is of course, “in a better place!” as the dental hygienist chirped to me today.  I told her, yes, that was true, but I would have preferred that he remained with me, just the same. I suppose my honesty isn't always appreciated.  All right – I’m going to wrap this up before I get too depressed!

 

 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Day 146

DIARY OF AN UNWILLING WIDOW

Oct. 29. 2013

 

Day 146

 

Speaking of songs, I’ve got another current favorite.  It came out this summer – called “Oh, Sweet Lorraine.”  There was a lot of hullabaloo about it when it was released.  The story behind it is sweet.  A 90 something year old man lost his wife last April.  He wrote a short song about missing her, entered it in a recording contest, and they ended up recording it for him.  Once the story behind the song was released it got all kinds of hits on youtube and was downloaded a lot off itunes (yes, I was one of the downloaders!).  It’s been making me cry lately. 

 

Oh Sweet Lorraine
I wish we could do
The good times
All over again

Oh sweet Lorraine
Life only goes around
Once
But never again

Oh sweet Lorraine
I wish we could do
All the good times all over
Again

 
The good times
The good times
The good times
All over again

But the memories always
Linger on
Oh sweet Lorraine
No I don’t wanna move on
Oh the memories
always linger on
Oh sweet Lorraine

 

I just identify, you know?  Paul and I only had two decades; the author of this song had seven with his wife.  But I get what he’s saying.  He misses his other half.  Probably nearly everything good in his life had to do with his Lorraine and now it’s over.  I feel the same way, although, realistically, I know that I have enough life left to live that it is possible I may find happiness again someday without Paul.  I don’t quite believe it yet, though.

 

And maybe this has to do with the feelings of regret that have been crowding in again lately.  I know that neither God nor Paul holds me accountable for sins committed in my marriage, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things I wish I could go back and correct or not do in the first place.  I would have been a happier wife.  I wouldn’t have nitpicked so much.  I would have accepted him more for the person he was created to be, rather than trying to re-shape him into the one I thought he should be. I would have been content.  I would have taken more joy in the little things with him.   I read what I write here and it sounds like we had a miserable marriage.  We didn’t.  It was actually a very, very good marriage – the majority of the time, anyway.  But I could have done better.  I would have done better if I had known our time together would be so short. 

 

All the things we did – living life, vacationing, hanging drywall, running errands, date nights, birthday parties with the kids, their births, the long talks, the sex,  the illnesses…every single little thing was a memory in the making.  And we didn’t even recognize it.

 

That’s why I cry when I  listen to “Oh, Sweet Lorraine.”

 

 

I had a horrible dream this morning.  I’m still puzzling it out to see what deeper meaning it has.  There may not be one.  I dreamed it was the girls’ adoption day and it was too cold to wear the sun dresses I had had made for their special day.  So, at the last minute, I am scrambling to find decent, long sleeved clothes for them to wear to court.  And then I can’t find their shoes.  I finally end up with some black jelly sandals for Ellie but they’re really too big for her.  Sam is wearing a pair of overalls that Will wore when he was about 3 years old.  Why I dreamed about those, I don’t know.  They were cute – white with multi-colored little animals all over them. But I haven’t seen them since the older boys were little!  And then in my dream it’s 6:48pm and we’re supposed to be in court by 7 and I still don’t have the kids in the van and it takes a good half hour to get to the downtown.  Sam comes down the stairs in his overalls wearing a pair of Lizzie’s purple dressy flats (that she doesn’t have – showed up in the dream, though) and I decide it doesn’t matter – he can just wear them.  I woke up just panting and frantic.  Is this a reaction to my current life – feeling so far behind and out of control about everything? Lately, through this Bible study I’m currently doing, I’ve begun to finally recognize that I have some perfectionist tendencies (which surprises me, given the usual state of my house).  So maybe the dream is tied up with that.  Whatever it is, it  was one disturbing dream, that’s for sure!

 

 

I’ve had several really nice things happen in the last few days.  Last Thursday was a banner day.  I had a visit from a couple of widow ladies at church.  They’ve been out before since Paul’s death and I appreciate talking with them so much.  They understand my current obsession with death and dying.  They encourage me to talk about Paul.  Then, just a little bit later our old licensing worker (“old” as in the past; she’s actually younger than me) stopped by – just to see me because she was in the neighborhood.  What an encouragement that was!

 

  In the mail that same day was a card addressed to me with only my name, city, state and zipcode – no street address.  Another advantage of small town living – our mailman and the lady at the post office know who I am!  It was from one of my high school teachers.  In fact, she is the reason I can write today.  I waved the card at the boys and told them, “This lady is the reason you call me a ‘grammar nazi’!”  They just rolled their eyeballs.  But it’s true.  I always spoke well because that’s what I grew up around.  But I struggled with language as a subject in school.  I didn’t know grammar, despite being able to speak it.  In fact, I think I got a “D” my freshman year in that subject, I was so terrible at it.  But my junior year, this lady taught it.  I don’t know if it was her teaching, or it was just my time, but that year, English “clicked” for me and I ran with it.  I learned so much from her that year – thank you, Mrs. Skillen!  She’s also an adoptive mom so she wanted to both console me on Paul’s death and congratulate me on the girls’ adoption.  It was nice.

 

And then Ben’s vocal concert was Thurs. night.  Those always make me nervous.  I worry how Ben will do on stage.  I usually dread the fall one because it’s a variety show and it traditionally goes SO long.  But we were out of there in 40 minutes!  They have a new, just-graduated, teacher this year.  I saw her tonight at parent/teacher conferences and thanked her for the short program last week.  They did have a couple of freshman girls doing hip-hop dance routines, which was something new.  Personally, I could have done without them, particularly the second one because her moves were rather um, attention getting.  In fact, I thought to myself, “Well, at least none of the boys are here tonight!” And then I remembered that Ben was there and watching.  Sigh…  Lizzie attended with me, though.  At one point she laced her fingers through mine and I couldn’t help but admire the small brown fingers wrapped around my large white ones. I pointed out to her that our hands were symbolic of our life – tightly bound together now.  I reminded her again that she was now mine and no matter what happened – what she might do, where she might go, I would always be there for her.  She huffed and sighed, “Mo-o-om!  I know all that!”  So much for sweet mother/daughter moments!

 

I do have one sweetie, though.  Ellie has begun blowing kisses to nearly every one she sees.  I have no idea where she learned this, but she has the moves perfected.  Of course, everyone thinks it’s adorable and that they are special when she does it.  I’ve had to tell a few to not read too much into it because she’s also blowing kisses to the clock repair guy and store clerks!

 

Well, I’ve got more to write but it will have to wait.  Despite crying to “Sweet Lorraine” and the afore-mentioned nightmare this morning it’s been a good day.  As of two days ago, I now have an actual laundry room to do my laundry in, which is wonderful (thank you, Will and church guys!)!  I got quite a bit crossed off on my to-do list, I had great parent/teacher conferences this afternoon at Ben’s school (he is adored, per the norm – I hear the exact thing from every single teacher!  It’s either a conspiracy or he truly does shine at that school), I made a hot dinner for the kids, I got the last of the summer clothes packed away,  and I didn’t feel quite as consumed by the grief today. 

 

Tomorrow may not be so good, but that’s ok, too.  There will be other good days.

 

 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Only One Name

DIARY OF AN UNWILLING WIDOW
 

October 27, 2013

 

I’m going to write about a song that is really touching my heart right now. 

 

Music was created by God – for our enjoyment and to bring glory to Him.  That said, I’m not a total purist when it comes to music.  I like a good beat.  The kids and I have been known to dance around the kitchen to a few artists who have probably never darkened the door of a church in their lives. 

 

When we first started dating, Paul’s and my music tastes were far, far apart.  I remember he informed me on our first date that it was wrong to listen to any secular music.  I remember raising my eyebrows on the inside, but I was so crazy about the guy that I just decided to keep my music tastes to myself.  As the years went on, we kind of met in the middle.  I grew up and my tastes matured.  I developed a real appreciation for hymns and my musical tastes are now what Will referred to the other day as “boring.”  Paul, on the other hand, learned to tolerate my less-than-sacred musical choices and would occasionally belt out the lyrics to songs I didn’t even listen to.  I don’t know where he heard those!

 

One thing we both agreed on was the deplorable state of today’s Christian music.  We began noticing a trend probably in the early 2000’s in the Christian Contemporary Music movement.  Songs were becoming very, very worldly sounding.  But most disturbingly, were the lyrics.  More and more, they were no longer focusing on Christ and our indebtedness to Him.  Instead, songs seemed to have a repeating theme of how worthy we are and how we’re good enough for Jesus to save, how we are capable of overcoming any and all things that come at us, and so on – it’s a trend that is reflected in the philosophy a lot of today’s churches.  Paul and I used to attend quite a few Christian concerts when performers would come to town.  But I don’t think we had been to one in at least a dozen years.

 

But every so often, a really, really good song will be recorded and I’ll happen to catch it on the radio.  Such is the case with the song, Only One Name by the group Big Daddy Weave.  I heard this a few weeks ago and it caught my attention.  I ended up downloading it and have listened to it numerous times since.  Lately, I cannot hear it without tearing up.  The words are so powerful for me right now in the situation in which I find myself.

 

Yours will be the only Name that matters to me
The only One Whose favor I seek
The only Name that matters to me

Yours will be
The friendship and affection I need
To feel my Father smiling on me
The only Name that matters to me

 

And yours is the Name the Name that has saved me
Mercy and grace the power that forgave me
And Your love is all I’ve ever needed



The only name.

 

The chorus.  I love this part:

 

When I wake up in the Land of Glory
And with the saints I will tell my story
There will be one Name that I proclaim

 

 

When I hear the chorus I think of Heaven that is waiting for me.  I imagine a bunch of us sitting around, sharing our earthly stories.  I had never thought about that scenario before this song, but I’m positive that must happen.  There are all the Biblical heroes, of course, whose stories we already know.  But still – how cool to hear the same stories from those that lived it!  But there are the rest of us, too – normal, everyday people who simply loved God.  I’m going to have a story to share.  I can talk about my ordinary upbringing, brought up by parents who came to know Christ as adults and then determined to raise their kids to know Him too.  That takes guts and determination to change generational patterns.  I’ll be able to talk about attending a small, Midwestern Bible college and the cute, socially awkward blond who decided I was the one for him and pursued me until I agreed to be caught.  I’ll share the work of grace that began on our wedding day and the many lessons we learned as we figured out what it meant to be yoked together.  I’ll share my gratefulness to God for giving me such a loving and Godly husband for so many years. 

 

I tell about our children, about Will who was born possessing maturity beyond his years.  I might share the story of how, returning home one day, I found him on a roof with his dad when he was just a year old and how I nearly beat Paul to Heaven in the process (a heart attack).  Of course, Paul would not have been far behind me – he did not have a happy wife in that moment (“What?!”  he exclaimed – “I had to get this roof done!”).  But those toddler Daddy/son times translated into having an 18 year old who had the skill and desire to finish my house for me after his dad died.  I’ll tell about Ben who changed our family forever, who gave us a passion for the disabled, and taught us how God views us, His helpless and damaged children.  I’ll tell about David, who brought the laughter back to our family and Sam, whose birth caused his Daddy to cry in the delivery room because God had heard our plea for another child.  And then I’ll tell about our little girls – damaged by selfish parents who chose to continue generational patterns of sin and neglect, but miraculously given to us to love and nurture when we sensed our arms weren’t quite full yet.  I’ll wrap my arm around the little one we never met on earth and share how his life tenderized our hearts for the remainder of our earthly days.

 

And then I’ll tell about Paul’s Homegoing and the shattering of my peaceful, happy, and contented life.  That story has just begun so I don’t know what all I’ll have to say about that.  But I know it’s going to be good!

 

But above all, this is what I’ll say.  I will breathe a single name and all those around me will smile and nod their heads in understanding…

 

Jesus

 

He was all I needed.  He was enough.  It was His name I uttered in the darkest night when anguish twisted my heart until it bled.  It was that name I cried when new responsibilities pressed upon from every side, to the point I could no longer even think clearly.  When further hurt was added to my already aching heart, it was His name that sustained me.  When the loneliness crushed me His name filled the empty spaces.  When I couldn’t see, when I wanted to die, when life was too much to bear, the whisper of His name brought peace.

 

The only Name

 

All I Need
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

        

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Day 140

DIARY OF AN UNWILLING WIDOW

October 23, 2013

 

Day 140

 

It’s another Wednesday, but I can’t remember how many weeks it has been now.  I guess I could go figure it up, but it’s really not that important.  I only keep track of the days because of my blog.

 

I’m still freezing at night.  I started wearing my long pj’s, that I normally only wore on the coldest of winter nights.  Of course, it doesn’t help when I discovered that the thermostat was set at only 62 last night!  I told Will he needed to bump that thing up to at least 65.  He shook his head like I was dumping bucketfuls of money out the window, but I’m not going to freeze, either.

 

You know what’s really cold at night?  Having a child wet the bed beside you…Early yesterday Sam crept into bed with me again like he normally does.  It didn’t take me long to realize the sheets were damp, but I rolled over and went back to sleep.  Sam, himself, woke up a short time later and told me he was wet.  I suggested he go back to sleep and not worry about it (my maternal instincts shut down when I do).  An hour or so later he woke up insisting he had to take a shower now.  It was 5 in the morning.  I grunted my assent, knowing he was capable of starting the shower himself.  Just a few moments later I heard, loudly, “Mom!  Fix the shower!”  Ugh!  Our shower head offers a variety of sprays and the last person to use it had used what I call the “bullet” setting.  Sam didn’t appreciate that.  I didn’t either, at five in the morning!

 

Well, Will’s best friend, Nathanael,  is now engaged.  Will helped him do the deed last Thurs. night.  It was quite a production, involving video cameras, hundreds of candles and jars, and a lighted arch.  Oh, and my mini-van, driven an hour and a half away!  Little did I know that I would be surprised, though…I went to scrapbooking Friday night and had a marvelous time – did not get home until close to 1am.  I walked into my kitchen and it was sparkling!  I could not believe it!  I got about 4 hours of sleep before I had to go collect David from church, where the youth group was after an overnight event.  I rolled out of bed and threw on a sweatshirt and crummy gray sweats – no bra, ran a brush through my hair, which is never very effective, and prepared to leave.  It was then that I realized Will had also done the dishes.  I simply could not believe it.  What did I do to raise such a wonderful child?  I did think it was a bit odd Will was up at 8:30 when I was leaving.  He is never an early riser.  Since my brain was foggy, I didn’t dwell on it too much, though.  As I drove over to church I was mentally writing a Facebook post on my surprisingly cleaned kitchen and what a blessed mama I am.

 

I ended up sitting for 45 minutes at church, waiting for the kids to eat donuts that their youth leader brought.  If I hadn’t looked so horrible, I would have gone into the church basement and collected David, who, apparently, was oblivious to the fact that I was waiting and waiting outside!  Finally, my friend, Jason, took pity on me and collected David for me.  I had been in Jason and Deb’s van, talking with them and missed my phone ringing twice.  Will was wondering where I was, which was odd.  He never cares about my whereabouts unless I’ve been sent to collect food.  Eventually, David and I got home, I walk into the house, intently mentally organizing my day.  Ellie popped outside and after one look at her scary head remembered that I needed to add washing the girls’ hair to my list.  I walked into the living room – and Nathanael and his new fiancĂ©e are sitting on my loveseat (appropriately)!   At first, I didn’t think anything of it, assuming that Nathanael had come for the video Will had and all his candles that were now in the back of the truck.  My major concern was how terrible I looked at the moment, along with the girls who had witch hair and had, obviously, dressed themselves.  But I sat down and began chatting with them and then it slowly dawned on me…the clean house, the fact that I hadn’t seen Nathanael’s truck…this was planned!  They got me!  Oh, those boys!

 

And one of those boys will be getting married next June, and the other – mine- will be standing up as his best man.  Time is not my friend anymore.

 

I started working on my will this week.  Actually, I’m just waiting to hear back from my attorney about filing it and setting up a special needs trust for Ben.  He can’t actually inherit much money and keep his waiver that pays for everything (medical, respite, SCL, etc) so a trust has to be set up instead.  I got confirmation from some friends I had talked to about potential guardianship for the girls, which was a relief.  I just need to get everything filed and then I envision myself creating a “death” envelope.  I’m going to put this in my lockbox and it will have all the information needed when I die.  I don’t want anyone having to make the decisions I had to when Paul died.  Absolutely everything will be spelled out.  All they’ll have to do is bury me and start spending the insurance money!  I’m even going to write my own obituary and update it periodically.   I hope that my kids and others understand this to be an act of love, not an attempt to control from beyond the grave. 

 

But I have lots of living to do before my death envelope will ever be needed.  Lots of living, lots of loving, lots of working…this week, though, I could do without the work!  I have this tiny little job as city clerk.  Normally, it’s not a huge deal.  I prepare all the govt. paperwork that goes with being an incorporated city, do office detail and get ready for meetings, and I do all the water billing.  It’s never a big deal – until someone doesn’t pay their bill!  And this week I had to order a water shut off for a family with small children, including a two month old.  Their oldest boy comes up quite frequently to play with David; for awhile he was even attending church with us.  But, they didn’t pay their bill, even after being repeatedly warned.  So, I get this sputtering phone call the other night from the home owners, wanting me to turn it back on.  I wavered, knowing their circumstances.  But I quickly began to sense the homeowners were not upset that they had neglected to pay their bill, but were upset that I had the audacity to shut them off.  I refused and was promptly hung up on.  The next day I got another phone call.  Oh, I hate this!  I’m to blame for others’ poor choices, apparently.  I got hung up on again.  Needless to say, the home owners are still without running water and I – well, I am the bad guy, I guess.  I struggle to find the balance between compassion and doing what needs to be done.

 

Yesterday was Sam’s 6th birthday.  I was just thinking the other day how the arrival of autumn always makes me think of babies.  I can’t help but smile.  I so clearly remember the fall of 1994.  What a happy, happy time that was.  I have this memory of driving through some neighborhoods on the west end of Council Bluffs in late afternoon.  I must have been on my way home from work since we lived over in that area then.  The pretty, fallen leaves and Halloween decorations that year meant one thing – my baby would soon arrive!  Those were happy, anticipatory days.  Of course, Ben was born in the fall, as well,  two years later.  He arrived later in Nov, though, and came early, so I don’t recall being as excited by the arrival of fall as I was with Will. 

 

And then there was Sam – our miracle, “fleece” baby.  I remember the day before my scheduled c-section Paul taking me outside to the front yard and having me pose for pictures with my big belly – all kinds of leaves laying around and this smile that wouldn’t leave my face!  His ended up being a more difficult birth and that first month was rough, but I would have gone through so much more, just to have him.

 

And yesterday we celebrated him.  I never, ever would have dreamed that he’d be fatherless before he turned 6.  It was a hard day in some ways.  Ellie had her birthday shortly after Paul’s death, but friends came over to help us through that party, so it didn’t seem so hard.  The boys had their last football game and then we headed to Pizza Hut.  We used up the last of the gift cards Paul’s grandma gave us last Christmas.  They had a deal where kids had a free buffet with the purchase of every adult one – that worked out well for our gang!  Their food just did not taste as good as I remember it normally tasting, though.  Maybe it’s me.  Then we went home and Sam frosted his own cake and opened his gifts.  There were plenty – I made sure of it.  Of course, I can’t give him what he wants most.  As he was opening each gift I would tell him who it was from.  Twice, I made the mistake of saying, “This one is from Mom and Dad!”  The second time I caught a stricken look on David’s face and made sure I didn’t make that mistake again.  For a number of years now, Paul had been giving me flowers on each of the kids’ birthdays.  I would usually forget he was going to do that and so would be pleasantly surprised each time the kids reached behind their backs and handed me a bouquet.  I didn’t forget this time.  That  hurt.

 

David took his bike up to the cemetery the other day.  He had a solar light he wanted to put up there and a couple of Paul’s small tractors.  He came home and mentioned that it had actually been quite awhile since he had spent any time at the cemetery.  And before I knew it, this gangly teenager who now towers over me was sobbing in my arms.  There is no pain as sharp as the one you can’t take away from your child.

 

We have driven through the cemetery at night twice since, just to admire our light for the grave.  I had no idea just how many graves had those until I did that.  It really makes the cemetery pretty.  I think we’re going to get some more lights, including the LED multi-colored ones.  Death is the darkest experience there is, but the tiny lights pierce the darkness, just as Jesus breaks through the dark days of our current existence.

 

But the pain…oh, the pain.  I feel like the painted mimes who pretend they are in boxes.  Their hands scale the invisible wall in front of their face.  They turn, only to discover that a “wall” exists on every side of their body.  Every where I turn, there is a wall of hurt and pain.  I cannot escape.  No matter what I do, where I go, it is there.  It’s bad enough that I have to live without Paul forever, but how long will I hurt like this?  Pain is such an incredible burden.

 

I cleaned out the coat closet today.  It was a horrid mess.  It’s one that was added after-the-fact, underneath the steps.  So it’s not really big enough.  Paul’s coats were all in there.  I threw away a couple of them.  Will asked to hang onto Paul’s good winter coat and his camo hoodie is still hanging on a hook.  Will has claimed that, as well.  Although, today I snuggled into it to run out to the mailbox.  I could almost imagine that I felt Paul’s arms around me once again.  Hanging on a nail in the closet are Paul’s John Deere stocking hat and his good winter gloves (these were his grandfather’s gloves – after his death in ’03, Paul’s grandma gave them to him and he had worn them every Sunday since).  I couldn’t bring myself to do anything with them, so they’re still hanging.  They’re going to collect dust, but I’m hoping just the sight of them will make me smile whenever I open the closet.  Someday, I’ll pack them away, but not now.

 
Yes, that is Sam, sticking his tongue out...rotten kid!

Sunday night our church had an adoption celebration for the girls.  It was perfect.  I was initially approached about the idea of having a “shower” for the girls, but the idea made me uncomfortable.  I just feel like our church has done so much and given so much to us this year.  I am reluctant to “take” any more from these wonderful people.  Besides – the girls have all they need, possessions-wise.  So we just had a fingerfood fellowship.  Friends made cupcakes and there were balloons and even a few small gifts.  I think my kids thought the best part was that we got to go first in the food line! J  It was a sweet time of fellowship and way to officially welcome Lizzie and Ellie as Heywoods at last.

 

A few days later, Lizzie was talking about the party.  She asked me, “Does this mean that now Ellie and me are part of the church family?”  Oh, I just melted…the truth was, those little girls became part of that family long before they ever arrived.  On a Wed. night, two years ago, Paul stood up and announced our intentions and hopes of adopting.  I wasn’t in the auditorium when he did that and found out he had done this when people started approaching me later with questions!  From that night, our church family was praying for us.  When the girls finally did arrive, they were embraced with open arms and hearts.   They are definitely part of our church family!

 

They’re blessed, as are their big brothers, and their mama.

 

 

 

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Day 133

DAIRY OF AN UNWILLING WIDOW

October 16, 2013

 

Day 133

 

It is firmly fall now.  Summer has completely faded away.  If Paul were alive, he would have built the first fire in the woodburner already.  That event, the first of the season, always filled him with glee for some reason.  All the credit card offers and Ben’s Social Security statements that I’d been stuffing into the woodburner for months would be gone with that first fire.  We’re going to heat with wood this year.  But since we’re about to move it to the basement, we’ve decided to just use the furnace for now – set at a ridiculously low temperature.  If I didn’t know better, I’d think Will is eyeing my life insurance policy and hoping that I’ll freeze to death in my bed some night soon…Life is too short to be this cold during the duration.  I’m going to have to figure out how to set that thermostat myself – at temperature levels more suited to the warm blooded than  to amphibians.

 

I feel kind of bad that it is autumn.  Paul isn’t here.  Just like when I turned the calendar over to July after June, now we’ve rolled into a new season – without him.  For the rest of my life this will happen over and over again. 

 

Today the pain is sharp – like white hot daggers poking at my heart. Other days it’s just a presence located in the pit of my belly.  Today it migrated north, though.

 

But God (there’s my favorite phrase again!) sends encouragement when I most need it.  I had just typed those words when my friend, Don, arrived at my house.  I remember writing about the chairs Paul had brought home the night of his death.  They were old 1950s fan-back metal chairs – severely rusted and coated with numerous layers of paint.  Paul was so tickled at his find, though, knowing how pleased I’d be and promised me that he’d sand them and paint them whatever color I liked.  After Paul’s death, Don implored me to let him take on that project.  I was more than happy to agree.  Tonight Don brought me the first completed chair – new bolts, sanded, and now a cheerful fire-engine red.  His wife sent me a goody bag full of scrapbooking supplies and a sweet card…and a Willow Tree figurine which made me smile.

 

It made me smile because I’ve always loved the simplicity of the Willow Tree line.  But I don’t have a single piece.  It’s never bothered me.  But just a couple of weekends ago at the craft fair one vendor had Willow Tree pieces and I found myself admiring them once again, even wondering if they had something for someone in my situation.  I didn’t buy, but laughingly thought to myself, “Well, maybe sometime, someone will buy one for me!” and thought nothing more of it.

 

Until tonight.

 

 

Well, what else is going on in my world?  I now have 40 lbs of chicken in my new freezer.  Today was my first Zaycon pick-up.  A friend of mine in Arizona first told me about this company that sells bulk foods below retail price.  I was interested enough to look them up and to sign up for their news alerts.  But at the time they didn’t come to Des Moines.  But a month or so ago I got an email from them letting me know they were coming!  So today I got up at 6 (horrible time of morning) so I could drive up to Ankeny to get my chicken.  They had called me Mon. and asked if I would be willing to help with the distribution.  In return, they’d give me some credits to use toward my next purchase.  That’s why I had to get up so early.  Only – they didn’t need my help.  And that’s good because I discovered that a 40 lb box of chicken is really heavy!  My hip started causing me some severe pain a couple of days ago, although it is doing better now.  I’m really dubious I could have handled lifting those heavy boxes.  I was so tickle by my chicken though!  As soon as I got home I got out a heavy duty knife and started whacking up those breasts and dividing them into 3 lb bags.  I’ll be interested to see how long they last, if one box is enough to last me until the next chicken event in 6 months, or if I really need to be ordering two at a time.  Next Friday I get my bacon.

 

The other day I overheard Sam complaining to Lizzie after she had simply asked him to get her a straw off the counter, “You just want me to be your slave, don’t you!”  So-o-o…we had a little talk about what service to one another really means…

 

I have some new shoes that I love.  But I think I am the only one.  I have noticed in recent months that my feet hurt.  I thought maybe it was because of my summer sandals.  But I wore my sturdier loafers to the craft fair a couple of weeks ago and I knew within just a short amount of time that it wasn’t just a sandal problem.  My feet were killing me all day.  So I went to the Naturalizer store this week and bought some really expensive shoes.  The brand is called “Walking Cradles.”  They’re wonderful.  I tried on several different pairs, and I explained to the clerk that I was trying to avoid anything too geriatric looking, but I needed some relief for at least when I am doing quite a bit of walking (I think I can wear my other, cuter shoes other times).  She laughed and said she has 95 yr old women come in there and reject certain styles as looking like they are “for old ladies!”  But I found these.  They’re really padded and come up around my foot and I don’t think they look elderly one bit.  I got home and David opened them up out of curiosity and commented, “Hmm – it’s a good thing you didn’t ask my opinion about these shoes!”  So, yes, I bit and asked him his opinion.  Without missing a single beat, he spat out, “They’re old lady shoes.”  I object.  They are not!  Yes, they may have Velcro closures, but they don’t look like white Velcro tennis you see in nursing homes (that stuff can actually be quite dangerous – Paul’s grandma broke her wrist a couple of years ago when the Velcro on her shoes became stuck to a blanket that got entangled around her legs).  They’re black and sleek looking.  But now even the Littles are calling them, “Mommy’s old lady shoes.”  Thank you, David!  At least my feet won’t hurt – mission accomplished, even if I have to endure the kids’ wretched opinions.  They just need to wait until they’ve been walking around on their feet for 42 years!

 

Speaking of old…the other day Lizzie informed me, “When you get old, Mom, I’m going to help you a lot with housework!”  I hope she doesn’t wait that long!  Not to be outdone, Sam chimed in, “Well, when you get old, Mom, I’m going to visit you every day!”  Now, I can see myself holding him to that promise!

 

I called my mortgage company yesterday.  I thought it was a little strange that I sent them my final payment on the house several weeks ago and have not heard a word from them.  The representative asked me, “Well, would you like me to send you a letter saying the mortgage is paid off?”  Um…yes, please!  I would think that would be standard procedure.  They told me insurance is paid up on it for the next 11 months, so I guess I don’t need to worry about that for awhile.  And taxes aren’t due until March.

 

I got my bill today from the monument company.  I knew it would be coming and they did such excellent work on Paul’s stone that I didn’t mind paying it.  As I wrote the check, though, I realized, that is the final “big” payment of any sort I have to make because of Paul’s death.  It seems like I have had all sorts of those in the months since, but now I’m done. 

 

I did my bi-monthly shopping on Monday.  I am definitely not a super-couponer like some of my friends.  But I do clip them out of Sunday’s paper and my All You magazine.  I had $35 worth of them Monday (sorry to the lady in line behind me!) – an all time record.  Paul loved that I clipped coupons (I didn’t start until several years ago – always claimed I didn’t have the time and wasn’t organized enough to do so).  So I would always brag to him about my coupon total when I’d get home from shopping.  Of course, I’d get really mad if I couldn’t use a certain coupon because I had misread the requirements or expiration date.  He’d always laugh at me and exclaim, “Oh, boy – 75 cents is going break us this month!”  As I walked out of Walmart with a feeling of self-satisfaction, I thought, “Just wait until Paul hears how much saved this time!”

 

Oh, yeah…

 

I read a horrible story this week.  It was well-written and kept my attention, but it was awful, just the same.  It was the short story in Good Housekeeping, a magazine I have been faithfully reading since I was about 8 years old.  The story was about a 9-11 widow.  As she is organizing a memorial service for her husband, she goes into his emails for a contact list of people to send invitations to.  And she discovers that he is carrying on a torrid affair with another woman.  It was a fictional story, but it could have happened.  I just found myself so drawn into the widow’s emotions.  What you do in a situation like that?  Suddenly, you discover that the man you grieving is not the man you thought you were grieving.  But he is no less dead.  And you can’t confront him and gain any type of resolution to the tremendous hurt of betrayal – not even an, “I’m sorry.”  My mind is still boggled over that kind of scenario.  How horrible.  How grateful I am that that is one thing I never had to worry about Paul.  He was so committed to me.  I’ll have to remember to write sometime about his “eye-bouncing.”  That always made me feel so good, so protected.

 

 

This is turning into a really long post. 

 

Yesterday I encountered an acquaintance, the mother of one of Ben’s Special Olympic teammates.  It’s such a small world - we actually grew up in the same hometown, 2 hours away.  She was in band with my brother and he once gave her a ride home from practice.  Twenty five years later we have children with disabilities in the same tiny school district.  I don’t know.  Maybe when you live in Iowa, that’s the way it happens.  The entire state is its own small world!  I remember her coming to Paul’s visitation and being surprised and touched that she had done that.  But she told me yesterday that she has been reading my blog, as has her mother.  I don’t even know how she knew I blogged.  She was an incredible encouragement to me as she told me how my words were touching her.  She suggested that perhaps I am ministry-bound.  I don’t see that as a possibility right now.  My hands are so full of “ministry” as I raise these kids that it’s hard to see beyond that at the moment.

 

But I found myself ruminating on her words all evening.  Ministry – me?  Could there be some sort of ministry that arises for me because of widowhood?  I’m not talking about anything in a professional sense, of course.  But yet, there is 1 Corinthians 1:3-4,

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

 

Is this not speaking of ministry?  Just as I have had the ability for years to comfort other women who have experienced miscarriage and infertility  and whose children have been given devastating diagnoses, like it or not, I will eventually have the ability to reach out to other, suddenly single, widows and mothers.  Right now the thought of extending myself seems a bit too exhausting, but the day will come when I’ll be better equipped and ready.  I find the thought of this kind of exciting, really.  How is God going to use this most painful and devastating event?  We are promised in Rom. 8:28 that all things will work together for good.  Could some of the “good” be my ability to minister to other emotionally wounded and eviscerated women someday?  I feel like I’ve been laying face-down on the ground for a long time.  But I’m slowly lifting my head with hope and curiosity.

 

I want to be used.  I want to be able to take Paul’s death and have it be an instrument for healing and hope in others’ lives.

 

In time…on the very last page of that Good Housekeeping I referenced earlier was a short article by author Anne Lamont (I just love that name – it sounds so writerly!).  She concluded her article – which wasn’t even about death – with this quote.  I loved it so much I ripped it right out of the magazine.

 

…you realize the secret of life is patch, patch, patch.  Thread your needle, make a knot, find one place on the other piece of torn cloth where you can make one stitch that will hold.  And do it again.  And again.  And again.

 

But I don’t think it has much to do with my own efforts.  God is doing the patching, stitch by stitch by stitch.