Monday, May 22, 2017

Nurse Tonya

Last week, I had a minor procedure done in conjunction with a series of tests to rule out some issues I’ve been having with severe nausea and eating difficulties. I know grief can cause a host of things to take place in our bodies, and I just assumed that’s what was happening. However, I met with my nutritionist a couple weeks ago, and she was a bit alarmed after some lab results and referred me to my doctor’s office for further evaluation. And…thus the tests began!

I was in the outpatient area of a hospital in Asheville, being prepared to be put to sleep briefly. My nurse, Tonya, was extraordinary…on so many levels. I could tell she spent more time than normal with me, and I couldn’t put my finger on the “why”, however at some point in our conversation…the fact I lost my precious husband in February came up. When I shared the news with her, you could see she was genuinely touched and her eyes welled up with tears.

She knew I was traversing a difficult journey, as it was, but to add in medical testing compounded the problem. He should have been the one there with me that day…my driver to take me home post an anesthesia appointment. Instead, a lovely new friend volunteered to be at my house at 5:00 am that morning to drive me to Asheville and stay at the facility until time to take me home. What love from someone I barely know! And yet…I grieved my Joel that much more, knowing it should have been him.

As a result, I was weepier than normal. I was in the prep room with my nurse and not my husband, and when she got the story of my husband’s death…we both cried. But that wasn’t the end…she asked to pray for me. That happens a lot in hospital settings from chaplains and visiting pastors but from my nurse…that was a new one for me! She was interrupted twice by medical professionals needing to talk with me prior to my procedure, but she pressed on, and eventually she prayed the most beautiful and powerful prayer over me! I was so blessed that day to be her patient, and I commend her for trusting her instincts and the Holy Spirit guidance she received that morning to spend more time with me and to ultimately pray with me.

Last week was “Nurses Week”, and I was blessed by Nurse Tonya. She’ll probably never read this, as I don’t even know her last name. But, she impacted my day in a large way, and I pray God blesses her mightily for her obedience!

As for the tests, I know nothing yet. So, I’ll keep on keeping on…

#HeIsStillGood

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

I Want Off!

I love rollercoasters. There’s just something about the thrill of speed, twists and turns, and the abrupt ending that excites me. I’ve been this way my whole life. I get carsick so easily, but put me on a rollercoaster, and I can ride it over and over with no ill effects. Strange, but true.

The grief “rollercoaster” is another story, however. It makes me sick. Emotionally, mentally, and physically. Sometimes, the twisting and turning of this type of “ride” literally has me on my knees in front of a toilet. I’m not trying to be graphic or disgusting…just real. Last night was one of those nights. My mind goes into overdrive with memories and lost dreams, and it has the power, at times, to make me physically sick. I hate it. I want off this rollercoaster!

I have no idea why I can do so well for a few days and then get saddled with deep, intense pain all over again. It’s just the non-linear aspect of grief. Sometimes I can see it coming…my motivation to do anything drops off, my appetite is virtually non-existent, I spend my days wanting to just sleep…simply put, depression increases. But there are the times I am blindsided by it too. That was last night. I was doing okay and…bam! I felt like I had just been run over.

I can’t stop the increasing painful heartache. It feels like my heart is being shattered all over again. Pictures from the night Joel went Home keep flashing in my brain. I start thinking…could I have done anything differently? What if… That’s when it overwhelms me to the point of physically getting sick.

There is nothing I can do to make the pain go away. I just have to ride it out. This is when my prayers turn into two-word mumblings again, “Help me!” Thankfully, I know the Holy Spirit is interceding for me (Romans 8:26). I know these days won’t last forever, but they feel so incredibly long when they come.

“We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the things happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.” ~C.S. Lewis

Friday, May 12, 2017

Three Months

Hard to believe Joel took his last breath on earth and his first breath in Heaven three months ago today. And…the pain of watching that with my own eyes will never go away. The precious respiratory therapist (who happened to be a co-worker of his) was so gentle and sweet with him as she removed the ventilator. As the ventilator came out, so did his last breath. That was it. His time here on earth was over. I had one hand on his chest (begging God for more breaths) and one hand on his head, caressing his hair.

As protocol, two nurses have to check for a heartbeat before calling time of death. They walked in and did their “duty”. I saw the look on their faces, and I knew…his life here was over. And…in that moment, I felt mine was too.

I laid my head on the side of his bed, and I have no idea how long I was there, but I was told by friends I remained in a trance-like position for quite awhile. I was in shock. Literally. I just couldn’t stop staring at him. MY HUSBAND HAD JUST DIED!!!! And, I honestly wasn’t ready to believe it. I think, subconsciously, I prayed things would miraculously change. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead…I never doubted ANYTHING was possible. But in Joel’s case, He went Home to Heaven in the first hour of February 12.

Eventually I rose from the side of his bed, and I walked to the ICU waiting room, and I knew it was over. Just like that. Joel’s life was over. My marriage was over. My children were fatherless (some of them for the second time), and I had no idea how I was going to survive this. But…I know my God, and with Him all things are possible.

Now, three months later…I’m still grieving…some days pretty heavily. Joel’s absence has left a hole in my heart that might never be repaired. I physically ache over his absence. I struggle to sleep at times, because I so badly want to talk to him about my day, my dreams, the things the kids are doing, decisions I need to make and prefer to discuss with him. But…he’s not here.

I often repeat, in my mind, those days in the hospital. Could I have done something differently that would have allowed him to still be here? The enemy constantly plays those games with me…games of condemnation (which I know are NOT of God). It was Joel’s time to go home, but it doesn’t stop my mind from wondering…what if…

I want to be better. I want to heal from the oppression of grief. But, I know – realistically – it’s only been three months. I expect too much, but the pain hurts so badly…I just want it gone!

As Mother’s Day is coming up…followed by Father’s Day…I dread the absence of His presence. Nobody will understand the pain of that absence but me. I’m sure others will grieve, especially family members…but, he was MY husband…the father to my adopted children and my step-children and the step-father to my own biological daughter. And…he’s not here!

Pardon my anger! Pardon my grief! Pardon my loneliness! Pardon my heartache! I just hurt, and I’m trying to keep it real and not tie every post up in a pretty bow. Even so…nobody, and I mean nobody, can shake my faith. God is good…all the time! His plans are always better! And, He has never failed me yet!

#HeIsStillGood

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

It’s Tough on the Body

A couple nights ago, my little Austyn asked me to lay with him while he went to sleep (in my bed, mind you) and single a few songs. I usually ask if he wants singing, humming, or just to be quiet. On this particular night, he wanted one song and then quiet. I held him in my arms as we went through this little routine. I told Damaris (our precious gift of a nanny) to just let herself out if I wasn’t back in the living room before she was ready to go.

The next thing I knew…it was 4:00 am. I was fully clothed, had jewelry on, my hair still up in a ponytail (sort of), and the lights were still on in the living room. Just as I thought about getting up to turn everything off, put on my PJs and climb back into bed, I was already asleep again. I must have been exhausted and needed the sleep.

I’m sure some of you might be wondering how in the world I could be so tired when most of my days are filled with sitting in a recliner with my foot elevated on some pillows. It sounds like a cushy job to me too. But, that’s not what’s exhausting me. Pure and simple…it’s GRIEF!

GRIEF is like fighting a terminal illness, in which I have yet to reach a point of remission. There will be those points of reprieve along the journey, but the grief illness will never go away, in and of itself. Some days will feel easier than others. Down the road, some days might even feel a bit normal, but each will still have the potential to be one of great battle.

Right now, I’m in the throws of deep war. Since, Joel’s death on February 12, I have experienced three foot surgeries (two unexpected and emergent), and I survived an almost head-on collision (that I accidentally caused). There have been other smaller defeats and setbacks along the way, but those named have been the biggest in the battlefield.

Additionally, I’m trying to parent these four small, newly adopted children of ours without neglecting our biological older children and grandchildren, and I feel I’m failing at both. I am deeply fragmented and a pitiful representation of a mother / Grandma right now. But, I feel God has given them a measure of grace to extend to me right now, and they are doing so with both a beauty and a patience not typical of children to exhibit.

This past weekend, some of my dearest friends were in town visiting, and I kept struggling to keep my eyes open. I had a full night sleep the night before, but I honestly felt exhausted…again! As the day went on, exhaustion turned into an outright cruddy feeling…almost like I was coming down with something, but I simply couldn’t pinpoint it. The end result…I lost the battle and ended up going to bed early again. I feel robbed, of sorts, when this happens, as I want to spend time with these precious people. However, I just can’t fight the battle that wages within. I know they understand, but I still struggle with the overwhelming desire to spend precious time together rather than sleeping it away. This too shall pass (I hope…).

#HeIsStillGood

Friday, April 14, 2017

It Used to Be My Favorite Day of the Year

As bizarre as this may sound, Good Friday used to be my favorite day of the year. I always felt I truly couldn’t celebrate Easter without having experienced Good Friday. No Resurrection without a death…right?

I always found a Good Friday service to attend, which would help set the mood to usher in the rest of Easter Weekend. I loved the somberness of the day…not in a morbid sort of way. Simply, I wanted to try to experience even a fraction of the pain the followers of Christ felt on that Crucifixion Day. And, I wanted to rejoice, even among the sorrow, when Christ said “It is finished” shortly before his final statement and final breath. I knew the end result…the pain of the day would lead to rejoicing on the third day when the grave was found empty! Death had been conquered forever! I knew the end result…the followers on the day Christ was crucified didn’t. I knew victory was around the corner…but, they had to wait for that major pronouncement. I’ve always appreciated the beauty of the darkest day in history…the day death died.

Today…Good Friday…doesn’t provide quite the same emotion for me as many from prior years. I’ve lived in a “state of somber” for nearly nine weeks now. I still know the truth of what this day symbolizes…

  • Christ paid the ultimate penalty for my sin, allowing me the opportunity for life eternal with Him
  • His ultimate death ushered in the day eternal death died
  • Easter is coming!
  • Because of His ultimate sacrifice, I have the promise of spending eternity with both Joel and my previous husband (Chris) who went to Heaven already – along with many other believing family members and friends
  • I no longer fear death!!!

For me, however, the beauty of the “somberness” of this day simply invades the broken spaces of my soul in a new way. I know the truth (like I mentioned above), but the feeling it evokes (which used to bring me peace) just makes me sad today. Does this make any sense? I’m having a hard time even understanding my own feelings, I think. The best way I can express it…I am weary from being sad all the time. I long for joy to return and happiness to fill those empty crevices of my soul. That being said, today feels so sad. I want to just skip ahead to Sunday. But, that’s impossible…we can’t have the Resurrection without the death. The same was true for Joel. He couldn’t reach Heaven without dying first. I just wasn’t ready for him to go…

Forgive me Lord for not being able to allow the sadness of the day evoke feelings of everlasting joy for what you’ve done for me on the cross. I am eternally grateful. Today, however, I’m still aching, and the hurt is so heavy. Show me a glimpse of the joy you have prepared me for eternally. I need to see hope today.