Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Last Words We Shared

I’ll never forget the last conversation I had with my precious Joel. Those words will both forever bless me and haunt me.

The conversation was beside his bed in the ICU. He drew me in close. We both knew the ventilator would be inserted soon, and we didn’t know how long it would be before we’d be able to exchange precious words again (little did I know then…those would be the last words we’d ever share this side of eternity).

He told me a few housekeeping type things that would be helpful in case he were in the hospital for a few days…little did we know. Then, he started to pray…with tears streaming down his face. I won’t go into the details of his prayer, because that will remain forever between the two of us. However…some of the things he included…(1) asking God to spare his life to be available to me to help parent our newest adopted children, (2) asking for forgiveness of all his sins, and (3) asking God to be ever by my side.

Soon after he prayed with me, one of the surgeons walked into the room – a man he knew from working with him in the same hospital system. I’ll never forget the words spoken between the two of them:

Joel: “Doctor…please do all that you can to save my life. We have four little children back home, in addition to our older children. I need to be here for them and for Leah.”

The doctor: “Hey buddy…keep your chin up. It’ll be okay.”

Very few words were spoken between us after that. The ventilator was inserted. Tubes were run all over his body. Medications were administered as often as they could.

And…a little over twelve hours later…my beloved was gone.

This picture was taken looking into the very room where my husband and I last prayed together and where his spirit departed for his Heavenly home. The exact time of this photo was shortly before the failed attempt was made to move him to a larger hospital facility. They were getting him ready, but he coded and was no longer a candidate for transport.

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

I Never Thanked You Enough

Joel – you were one of the hardest working men I knew. Not just for our family but in each area of our lives. You took care of virtually everything, especially after I started making the commute to/from Asheville for work in these most recent of months. While I might have made the meal plans and went to the grocery store…you did it all…laundry – starting supper – cleaning up dishes – helping with baths – bedtime routines – paying the bills – handling the outdoor yard work – taking out the trash – dealing with sibling fights – helping with homework (okay…maybe I still did that too) – picking up meds at the pharmacy for the kids – taking the children to their doctor appointments – negotiating car insurance rates whenever it was time to renew…the list goes on. It makes it kind of look like I never did anything anything doesn’t it? But, we just switched roles, in many of these areas. You once handled the 75-mile one-way commute, and I did the majority of the other chores.

Even so…I never thank you enough.

When you carried little Austyn up the stairs to bed at night after he had fallen asleep in my arms, because you wanted to protect my knee…I never thanked you enough.

When you daily went to the grocery store and started a relationship with the butcher so that you could be “in the know” with the timing of meat markdowns in an effort to keep our large family fed well…I never thanked you enough.

When you taught the children to make their beds and enforced it each morning (even on the crazy mornings) to show them good habits, discipline, and consistency…I never thanked you enough.

When you took time to write long messages in cards you gave me (or our children)…messages that were very thought through and from the heart…I never thanked you enough.

When you accepted my own biological daughter as your own when we married…never thinking for one second that she didn’t come from you too…I never thanked you enough.

When we agreed to foster 3-8 year-olds, primarily, and I begged you to take on a little 6-month-old desperate for a placement, and he’s now our 3-year-old SON…I never thanked you enough.

When I asked if you were up for the challenge of biking the Virginia Creeper Trail, zip-lining, and horseback riding ALL in the SAME DAY – you didn’t bat an eye, and….I never thanked you enough.

For what it’s worth now…thank you for EVERYTHING my sweet love! We lived so much life together in our few short years as husband and wife. But that short time has given me a lifetime of beautiful memories and an expanded beautiful family…yours, mine, and ours. THANK YOU! I’ll never stop loving you. Until we meet again…

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Monday, February 27, 2017

The Angers Melts…Back Into Sadness

I learned this during Widow Journey #1. Grief is not linear. I had the naive idea I would simply walk through the steps of grief, check the boxes off as I completed each one until I reached the end of the list. It surprised me (initially)…it doesn’t work that way. Grief is so much messier (and less patterned) than that. I have been reminded of that again.

The anger I’ve been dealing with as of late seems to have dissipated quite a bit and morphed back into sheer sadness. All I have to do is look around this house we recently purchased together, and the tears start to pour. We never had the opportunity to finish settling in. There are numerous unfinished projects in every room just screaming for Joel’s hand to touch each one in his perfect, creative ability to do so. I’m sure I can tackle some on my own, but I truthfully don’t want to. The sadness wins out.

I hear the children talk about daddy amongst themselves, and the tears well up in my eyes.

Katerina: “I talk to Daddy. He’s with Jesus.”

Benjamin: “You can’t talk to Daddy. He can’t hear you.”

Josiah: “Daddy died. He’s in Heaven with Jesus.”

Katerina: “He’ll come back soon.”

Benjamin: “No he won’t. He’s never coming back.”

Austyn: “I miss daddy.”

These are snippets of conversations they have over and over with themselves. I pipe in to correct what needs correcting, but for the most part…I let them talk. Austyn, on the other hand, knows that daddy went to Heaven but is expecting him to return soon. He doesn’t grasp the finality of it all.

Friends…while I might be angry at times, very sad at other times, full of “why” questions continually, exasperated, exhausted, and feeling isolated and alone…one thing I know to be true, and I will say this until God calls me Home:

GOD IS GOOD!!!

There is no part in this tragedy, no part in my emotional swings, no part of my faith that disagrees with that statement.

GOD IS GOOD!!!!

And…His plan is always better. He sees the big picture, that I/we cannot see. It’s only been just under six years since I lost my last husband, Chris. Since that time…I witnessed time and again the evidence of the sovereignty and greatness of God, even amongst many, many tears.

The tears have returned…this time for the tragic loss of my prince…my Joel! I’m sure if I’d measured, I would have filled buckets full by now. And yet…God has captured each one. They are not lost to Him. I know He holds me when I scream, when I sob, when I shake, and when I whimper. He knows my pain better than I know it myself. And…so…I turn to Him…the author of life and death. My Comforter.

For today, anger is mostly gone…the tears are heavy, but God is here.

 

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

I. Am. Angry.

I know the emotion of anger is a common one of grief. I probably experienced it more times than I can count the first time I became a widow.

I’ve encountered small bouts of it already in my 11 days on this grief journey. Yesterday, however, beat all. I felt I had “anger overload”. Everything set me off…the littlest of things caused me to short-fuse. I couldn’t point to one thing, in particular, that started this anger ball rolling…then again, YES I could…

MY HUSBAND JUST UNEXPECTEDLY DIED!!!

Friends, I’m trying so hard to be strong, especially for my children. And…just when I think I’m on top of everything, I fall apart and fail yet again. I thought it was hard to single parent one child through the paralyzing effects of grief (as I did the first time). This…this is entirely different. I have to be “on” all the time. I haven’t yet returned to work, but that will happen soon. Even so, my days are currently full with appointments and things related to Joel’s death. My evenings are full of being mommy to my littles, who are so desperate to figure out this “void” in our lives.

I am angry my children’s behavior has turned a bit south, and yet…I understand why.

I am angry I can’t seem to comfort them the way they need to be comforted right now.

I am angry I don’t have time to simply “sit and process” what has just taken place in our lives and think through the next steps, because I can’t stop “doing”.

I am very angry I’ve been asked to walk the road of widowhood TWICE in less than six years.

I am very angry our adopted children don’t have an earthly daddy anymore.

I am very angry our baby Austyn will likely not remember the amazing man who gave him his last name.

I am angry we just moved into this new home that was to be our forever home, and we still have boxes to unpack and never had the chance to make it OURS.

I am angry there are multiple unfinished projects all over this house.

I am angry I can’t seem to intellectually figure out what happened to Joel that led to him leaving us so soon.

I am angry that nothing brings me lasting joy right now.

I am angry my 3-year-old kicks and screams when being dropped off at preschool now, because he can’t trust mommy will come back. (And…while I say I will, the truth is…we never know when we’ll be called home.) I simply want to hold him, assure him, and comfort his broken heart.

Even within this extreme battle of anger I’m dealing with, I still have my faith. I still trust God’s plan is ALWAYS better. Always. I may not understand. I may be angry. Yet…He can see the big picture I can’t see. And…for that…I trust Him.

I also know He understands my anger and can handle it. Please pray for me/us! The pain remains excruciating.

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Back in Deep Waters

Here I am again…somewhere between what feels like a cruel joke and utter insanity. I am in a place of complete shock. Extreme pain. A pit of sadness that seems to have no bottom floor. Twice widowed in less than six years.

I have asked God over and over…how can this be? How can someone be so much alive one day and simply gone two days later? I don’t have the answer yet, and I may not this side of Heaven, but I still trust Him!

For all who have asked, we’re not exactly sure what happened, but my precious Joel got sick, had a successful surgery and at some point in the hours following surgery – he contracted double pneumonia and sepsis. His body went into septic shock, and he never recovered. With his family surrounding him, and with my hands on his head and chest…he entered into His one true home of Heaven at 12:37 am on February 12.

I still lie awake at night, expecting him to come join me in our bed so we can chat about the day and dream about our future. There have been so many times over the last eight days where I’ve had to stop myself from saying, “Let me check with Joel…” I simply can’t believe it’s over. Our beautiful marriage of only 4.5 years, and our life together with four newly adopted little ones. What happened?

I’m grieving like I’ve never grieved before. I’m trying to be strong for our children, but…in doing so…my grief bottles up for a time, and when it finally pours out when their little eyes aren’t looking, it hurts so deeply.

We’ve had an outpouring of love upon our family. Meals coming in daily; monetary gifts through GoFundMe, MealTrain, PayPal, and in cards; car maintenance; house cleaning; laundry; playing with the children while I rest my brain; two meals for our family on the day of the service and burial (in two different towns hours apart) and so much more!! My mind can’t even conceive how deeply we’re being loved on. People continue to ask how they can help, but I honestly can’t think at this point to create a list. As a I told the principal this morning at the school were three of our children attend, “Simply do whatever God leads you to do.” He knows our needs – the immediate ones and those down the road. Allow Him to guide you.

Thank you for your love, your prayers (which are completely sustaining us right now), and your concern. While I’m deep in the darkness of the tunnel right now, I will one day see light again. And…I know He rescued me from these deep waters before, and He’ll do it again. Until then…I hurt…

 

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