We are in the midst of planning my daughter’s wedding. She’s picked her dress and the colors. The bridesmaids and groomsmen have been asked. The venue and date have been booked. We are working on the decorations, guest lists, menus and other details for her dream day. But there is one element that will be missing and there’s nothing that can be done. Her daddy will not be there to walk her down the aisle.
The apple of her daddy’s eye, my Gracie had Terry wrapped around her little finger. He doted on her. My son loves to tell the story of his “favorite day”. Normally, if there was a difference in what Zac or Gracie wanted, Gracie was known to come out ahead. And, she had this little refrain that she would sing quietly to her brother “I always get my way. I always get my way.” On this day, she must have been a little louder and her dad heard the sing-song tune. That was the day that Zac got to pick everything they did. He got a pick of any treats. That was the day Terry realized how easily Gracie could manipulate him. She was daddy’s little girl.
Gracie was fourteen when her dad died. She’s lived longer without him than he was on this earth. Both Zac and Gracie have tattoos to honor their dad. Zac’s is a cross with Terry’s name and dates under it. Gracie’s is a brightly colored sugar skull owl. Terry embraced a phrase from the Radio Music Theatre in Houston: “Cute as a little baby owl!” A stuffed toy owl sat on the dash of his truck. This toy was known to find its way onto the stage when Terry was involved in a skit at church. You never knew where you might see it. He would howl with laughter when it was discovered. The owl has become our symbol for Terry.
So, as we plan this wedding, I keep thinking about all the things Terry would be doing. I try to find subtle ways to include his memory in the event. And, I have a charm for her bridal bouquet with a picture of Terry and Gracie sitting on my mom’s sofa. Gracie was in elementary school at the time. Terry may not physically walk her down the aisle, but he will be there as I walk her to the altar. On each table during the reception, there will be a small owl charm. Most won’t know why, but those of us that loved Terry will. Gracie loves brunch (just like her dad) and her wedding cake will not be as much cake as it will be waffles. This day will be filled with laughter and love and a few quirky moments. The daughter of Terry Benson would have to have those. And, there will be a few tears as we remember and celebrate.
This November, when my beautiful red head walks down the aisle to her new husband, I suspect I will hear Terry’s voice say “She’s just as cute as a little baby owl” and maybe a little sing-song child’s voice chanting “I always get my way. I always get my way.”
New Year’s resolutions are a norm in our society. January 1st is a good time to “draw a line in the sand” and make life changes. Unfortunately, those changes often don’t last as long as the month of January. I know that goal setting is an important part of a successful life. So, how to we set goals that are attainable and that make it through the ENTIRE year?
“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”
I can’t begin the journey into the New Year without looking back. Actually, there’s a part of me that looks back every day. When I awaken in the morning, I see my husband and am reminded of the life we share. But, from my bed, I can also see a photograph of my life the way it was in 2005. It’s a photo of Terry, Zac, Gracie and me taken just a few weeks before Terry’s death. Each morning, I have the opportunity to give thanks for what I had yesterday as well as what I have today. Most goals begin with a look back.
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
While memories can be seductive, I cannot live in the past. There was a time when all I wanted to do was live in the past. I didn’t want to move forward. January 1 was a horrible day that marked another year of loss. Setting goals for myself was the only way to move forward. Simple goals were all I could handle: going to work every day; walking around the block; journaling every day. These very simple things were things that I could accomplish and enabled me to move forward with my life. I couldn’t change the past, but with God’s help, I could live in the present and influence my future.
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?”
Some of the most common resolutions concern losing weight, getting fit, saving money, etc. The first quarter of the year is known as “the fitness season”. It’s during this time that people are most interested in getting gym memberships, buying fitness equipment, hiring trainers and other avenues of getting fit. It’s easy to set lofty goals. When you are trying to lose weight, seeing the scale drop only a pound in a week is discouraging. Yet, the healthiest and best way to maintain your weight loss is losing an average of a pound per week. Some weeks, the best you can achieve is not to gain weight. But, I know I get discouraged when there aren’t BIG changes to see.
Money Management is another good place to goal set. Its probably not be realistic to set a goal of saving a $1,000,000 this year. (Especially if you don’t have a net income of more than that!) But, there are ways to save. Having money taken immediately from your paycheck to a savings account is a no-brainer for me. I don’t have to think about it and the savings will add up. For me, I need a savings method that I can access, but not too easily. I have a small investment account that is accruing interest and dividends. The money is deducted each paycheck and I’m often surprised when I look at the amount I have saved.
“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.”
One area of goal setting that is often overlooked is tithing. One of the hardest things for me to implement was tithing from the “first fruits”. I wanted to be sure that I had enough money to cover the month BEFORE I made my tithe. What I have learned through the years is the importance of making the sacrifice and tithing first. My husband is very conscientious about tithing on every bit of income we have. Being able to make an online payment has made this much simpler. We give the first part to God. Period. I truly believe that tithing should be an integral part of every believer’s budgeting plan.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
As I look at the possibilities of 2021, I have set a few new goals:
Daily goal setting and journaling. I’m not good at this. I’ve been through several classes that taught the importance of handling each day as an investment. This year I have invested in a Christian planner to use and I hope that it will keep me on track.
Read through the Bible again (or more precisely, listen to the Bible). I have started an audio study that will take me through the Bible in a year. It’s amazing to me the new things I learn each time I do this.
Find new ways to serve others. I will continue to serve on my church’s prayer team. I am also in discussions to begin a grief support group. I want to help support others who are dealing with the death of a treasured family member.
Build the “artist” in me.
Refine my watercolor painting skills with on-line classes, etc.
Continue to quilt and sew to create usable pieces of art
Learn to use my embroidery machine
What goals/resolutions have you made for 2021?
Have you subdivided your yearly goals into manageable monthly (or weekly or daily) pieces?
Will you be a more complete person at the end of 2021 by reaching your goals/resolutions?
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
I have heard different versions of the idiom “fish or cut bait” for as long as I can remember. If someone is dragging their feet in a situation, fish or cut bait was a way to tell them to get busy or get out of the way. There are so many times when it’s easier to stay busy or “fish” without really committing to anything. For some, it’s hard to understand why it’s so difficult.
Change is hard. When change is thrust upon me, I have been known to dig in and do my best to stay put. It’s not always possible to avoid or to predict change. When my husband died, my brain knew he was gone, but my emotions were in denial for a very long time. I went through the motions of moving forward. I put on a good show. The reality, however, was that I just chose not to face things that were too difficult. My house fell apart around me. I spent money on things I didn’t really need. I buried myself in my kid’s activities. I refused to really engage in moving forward with my life. And, I did a pretty good job of fooling everyone, including myself for almost ten years. That’s when I realized that I wanted to live again. Love again. And to do that, I had to commit to pulling my life together.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11 ESV
The decision to love again was a simple one for me. The reality of opening up my heart and confronting ALL of my feelings was a lot harder. I had to admit that I loved Terry with all that I had for a very long time. I had to face the pain that comes with that kind of love. I had to sort through the various emotions and process them. My husband had been gone almost ten years, but allowing my heart to love again felt dishonest, disrespectful. Again, my brain was very logical about it all. It was my emotions that were struggling. I had to make the decision to move forward. I had to decide where and how I wanted to live my life: in the past full of memories or in the future adding new memories to my list. It kind of sounds like a “no brainer” as I type these words, but the struggle to fish or cut bait was very real to me during that time. I could continue to sit and watch my life as a spectator or I could commit to accept the joys and the pain that come with actively participating in life.
There are people everywhere that struggle with making similar decisions. And, unfortunately, many of those people are in an unending cycle of martyrdom. The need for attention, support and even adoration from others because of their ordeal (real or imagined) is more important than living, changing or progressing. Have you ever had a friend that keeps reconciling with an ex? There may be a list a mile long of the problems that come with that particular relationship. All logic is superseded by the need to have “someone”, even a bad someone in their life. For a while, things may go well. Life is great. But, those bad behaviors resurface. And, it’s now your responsibility to sympathize with your friend, to encourage her to be strong, to relieve her of any blame. The cycle will continue, over and over, as long as the game is played. It’s easier to sit on the bank and pretend you are fishing with a knotted and tangled line than it is to cut the line and move to another spot.
“One who has isolated himselfseeks his own desires;he rejectsall sound judgment.
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding but only in disclosingwhat is on his mind.”
Proverbs 18:1-2 NEV
Our world is more interested in the sob stories than in the happy endings. Check out what you watch for entertainment. I grew up watching Gunsmoke and Bonanza. There were sad story lines, but the good guy always triumphed in the end. There was always an upside. In every episode, decisions were made and life moved forward. In some of my favorite shows today, it’s sometimes hard to decide who the good guy is. We root for the anti-hero; the brooding, suffering guy that’s just doing “the wrong thing for the right reason.” We adore and celebrate the darkness. And, we seem to need to emulate it.
I believe that we can grow and mature through our trials and mistakes. In an attempt to reconcile ourselves with the flaws that come with being human, we too often elevate these very flaws and venerate them as favors. We become enamored with the cracks that appear in life due to the struggles we endure. We seek the compassion and tenderness that is provided by our support system rather than strive to advance and perfect our own lives. It’s not easy to admit mistakes and correct the path forward.
When we are told to fish or cut bait, it doesn’t mean you have to walk away and start over. It just means you have to be committed to the path you choose. Invest fully in life choices. Stop complaining and looking for sympathy. Embrace your decision and don’t apologize.
So what will it be? Do you fish where you are; or, do you cut bait and move forward?
“Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.”
It’s been almost 14 years since that awful November day when my life was turned upside down. The memories of that day will always stay with me. In an instant I was no longer married, but a widow. Our happy family of four was now a single-parent family of three. Dreams that were so exciting became dull memories. I struggled to get from one day to the next. My story now had a definite divider: before he died and after he died. Everything in our lives is gauged by that one event.
Losing my 47 year old husband was devastating. It wasn’t supposed to be that way. Why would God allow such a thing to happen? I cried and begged God to let me wake up from that horrible nightmare. But, it wasn’t a nightmare. It was my new normal; a normal that I hated with every fiber of my being.
I spent hours agonizing.
Prayer was not a comfort. The
only request I had was for the pain to stop.
I questioned everything I thought I believed.
Does God really exist?
And if He does exist, is God really good?
Does He really love me and care about me?
Is there really life after death?
What do I believe about Heaven?
Is eternity really a gift for the believer?
Through the days, weeks, months and (yes) years, I got my
Yes. God does exist. And, He withstands my doubts and questions.
“Before anything else existed, there was Christ, with God. He has always been alive and is himself God.” John 1:1-2 TLB
Yes. God is good. Fortunately, He’s not fair or vindictive. He treats me with Grace and Love beyond my imagination. I’m often too selfish to understand His caring and love.
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.” John 3;16 MSG
Yes. God really cares about me in particular. He carried me through the darkest days. I saw His care and love through friends and family that stood by me.
I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. Jeremiah 29:11 MSG
I do believe there is Life after Death. It is my hope and the only reason I could get through each day.
And now, dear brothers, I want you to know what happens to a Christian when he dies so that when it happens, you will not be full of sorrow, as those are who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and then came back to life again, we can also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him all the Christians who have died. I can tell you this directly from the Lord: that we who are still living when the Lord returns will not rise to meet him ahead of those who are in their graves. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a mighty shout and with the soul-stirring cry of the archangel and the great trumpet-call of God. And the believers who are dead will be the first to rise to meet the Lord. Then we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever. So comfort and encourage each other with this news.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 TLB
I’m still learning about Heaven. It’s a place prepared for me, not a floaty place in the clouds. Heaven is in the presence of God.
“Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I’m taking.” John 14-1-4 MSG
The promise of Eternal Life is a gift given to those that have finished their “assignment” here on earth. Death is not a punishment, but a reward for those of us who believe.
“The world and its evil desires are passing away. But whoever does what God wants them to do lives forever.” 1 John 2:17 NIV
I finally stopped focusing on what my late husband was missing and accepted that he was EXACTLY where he wanted to be: in the presence of God. He wasn’t missing anything. It was ME that was missing sharing life with him. His death wasn’t a punishment. It was his reward for a life well lived.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
2 Timothy 4:7 NIV
I still grieve for my loss. I grieve that my children no longer have their dad. But, I don’t question God’s plan. I know He is in control. I believe in His sovereignty and His plan for me. My faith keeps me on track!
“Though the cherry trees don’t blossom and the strawberries don’t ripen, Though the apples are worm-eaten and the wheat fields stunted, Though the sheep pens are sheepless and the cattle barns empty, I’m singing joyful praise to God. I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God. Counting on God’s Rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength. I run like a deer. I feel like I’m king of the mountain!”
I learned a lot from grief.
I learned that my identity was as a wife, a mother and a daughter. When I lost my husband, and later my dad, a lot
of what made me feel whole seemed to disappear.
For years, I submerged myself in my role as “mom”. I needed my kids as much as they needed
me. As they grew up and moved on with
their lives, I again lost my touch point, my anchor. Where did I belong? How would I make a difference? It was a struggle. I forgot what it meant to be just “me”.
Have you ever felt the effects of too much caffeine? That jumpy, panicky feeling became normal for
me. Most days, I felt like I need to
crawl out of my own skin. On the days when my kids weren’t around or I
didn’t have to work, I stayed in bed. It
was easier to sleep than to face my reality.
I didn’t keep up with my house or
my yard. I avoided being at home as much
as I could. I didn’t know how to ask for
help. I didn’t know if there was any
help. I was overwhelmed. I was supposed to be strong and I was embarrassed
to admit that I was failing in every area.
I just tried to keep my head above water.
I lived this way for almost 10 years. I knew I had to get used to my new “normal”
and believed that I had dealt with my grief.
I helped with grief recovery groups.
I put on a good face. I didn’t
realize that I was living with depression.
All the things that had given my life meaning seemed to be
disappearing. My son and daughter didn’t
need a hands-on mom. I had accepted that
I would live out the rest of my life alone.
It had been long enough. I had to get over it all. I had to close the door on the part of my
life that wanted to be loved and accepted.
But, I had a friend that listened to me. A friend heard what I said and what I didn’t
really want heard. He asked questions I
didn’t want to answer. He probed into
areas that were off-limits. He
recommended counseling. He encouraged me
to trust again. He challenged me to open
the doors that I had closed and sort through those emotions and dreams. He waited patiently to be allowed into all
areas of my life.
There are many that question the choices I’ve made over the
last four years. And, there are those that frankly, just
disapprove of the life I now have. I’ve
heard the whispers and I’ve seen the looks.
I don’t have any doubts that I am
exactly where I need to be. I married my
dearest friend. I have never felt safer
or more secure. I am loved deeply and
completely. Our life is not without its
challenges and frustrations, but we face them together.
I have learned that grief is love turned upside down. I will never give up the opportunity to
experience a deep and passionate love in order to avoid the pain of grief. Love is worth EVERYTHING!
Decisions are an everyday part of life. And every decision results in a consequence of some kind, good or bad. If I decide to turn off my alarm and sleep an extra 30 minutes, the consequences are rushing to get ready for my day and leaving the house a later than usual. For every 5 minutes later that I enter the freeway, I reap an additional 10 minutes in Houston traffic. Was that extra sleep really worth the added stress to my day and drive? Honestly, it depends on the day. But, usually, I regret that decision to stay in bed. And yet, I have this conversation with myself every single morning.
We all make decisions. We decide to do the dishes tonight or wait until later. In school, it was when (or maybe if) I would study for a test or do my homework. Every interaction with others begs a decision: will I be kind and respectful, distant and unattached, or pushy and rude? Sometimes a decision to NOT decide becomes your decision by forcing another to make the call. At least that way, I have plausible deniability, right? It’s not really my responsibility, because YOU decided this one. Why is making a decision so daunting at times? Even when it’s a “good” decision, we seem to fear the consequences of our very actions. Why?
Maybe this is what we fear: ME. My “personal preference meter” isn’t a very reliable source for making decisions. When MY happiness, MY comfort becomes more important than how it affects the ones that depend upon and trust me, the consequences may be difficult to live with on a long term basis. Our society has become more and more focused on doing what is makes “me” happy as the optimal decision bias. Even though reality proves that the “happiness” is fleeting and this temporary enjoyment could very likely lead to long term misery.
We’ve seen evidence of this all throughout the Bible: Eve chose to eat the apple; Abraham had a son with Hagar; David gave into his desire for another man’s wife with Bathsheba. There are examples in our lives every day: telling the “white” lie to cover-up; condoning gossip and back-biting in order to be accepted; sneaking around outside of your marriage to get some “excitement”. We have come to believe the absolute lie that we deserve happiness. Truthfully, no one deserves happiness. Happiness is a daily choice, NOT a destination. You can chase happiness, but you will not find it. And when our decisions are based on finding happiness, the consequences will be empty and quite often painful.
So, in this carnival we call life, when we choose all the fun and exciting regardless of personal morals or conscience, consequences can be overwhelming. Much like too much time on the Tilt-a-Whirl you are left off-balance, dizzy and maybe a little ill. When the excitement wears off and the happiness is no longer palpable, guilt moves in to fill the void. You can’t go back and undo your actions or unsay the words. You can only live within this moment. Eve chose the apple and mankind would forever have sin in our lives. The consequences of Abraham’s choice to have a son with Hagar are still being played out in our world. In an attempt to cover up his wrong decision, David would go on to commit murder and saw his own son eventually turn against him. But, in each case, these people continued to seek God. They were now on a different path in life and God would use them anyway.
We’ve all heard the saying “You made your bed, now lie in it.” The consequences will be there, even after forgiveness. We must choose to make better choices and decisions. Decide to move forward toward God’s will and plan for your life regardless of the current situation. Avoid getting caught up in the endless whirlwind of running toward the next “ME” moment. Accept the consequences and work through them. Look out for those who depend upon you and put their needs first. Make the decision to be happy today, where you are, even if you can’t understand how that could possibly happen. You won’t make an instant difference, but you will invest in the future.
Consequences, both good and bad are what we reap. Make your harvest one of which you are proud.
“Well, you’ve made your bed – now lie in it; you wanted your own way – now, how do you like it?” Proverbs 1:31 MSG
Today is a day of remembrance for me. Thirty-one years ago, I married my first husband, Terry Benson. The memories of that day are happy if a little bittersweet. In sixteen days, we will note the 13th anniversary of Terry’s death.
Terry and I loved each other very much. We laughed, cried, fought and loved a lot over the 18 years we had together. We watched our kids grow into teens and enjoyed their activities both together and separately. I loved him so much that I struggled with how to let him go
If you have never experienced widowhood, it’s hard to explain the emotions that go with it. There’s the obvious loss of the person. But, there is also a loss of identity. I had been part of a couple for so long and it was hard to be “just me” again. I was not longer Terry’s wife. So, I took refuge in being Zac and Gracie’s mom. I missed all of the things that I had come to take for granted. No longer would Terry drive me to work and drop me off at the front door. He was no longer there to pack my lunch. When I got really irritated at work, I couldn’t call and hear him tell me it would be okay. When the kids activities conflicted, I had to choose which one would have to go it alone or figure out how to be two places at once. When the car broke down or had a flat, I now had to deal with it. I had to figure out what bills had to be paid and when. And, I had to figure out how to sleep at night without the sound of his breathing.
I managed the life of a widow for almost 10 years. I thought I was pretty well adjusted and capable as a single adult. I had even learned to enjoy life again. And then love came knocking. Love in my fifties was a bit different that in my twenties. We both had a history and the baggage that goes with that. We had different experiences from our previous marriages and quite honestly, different expectations because of that. And, we had five children who all had an opinion.
As I admitted my love for Tim, my new husband, I had to question how I could love both men so deeply. I struggled with feeling like I was cheating on Terry. Even though he had been dead for almost a decade, my heart still ached to hear his voice. I had promised to love him until “death do us part” and I had yet to release my heart from that promise. As well as I thought I had handled my grief, there were lots of things that I had never addressed. I had buried my depression with activity. I was so accustomed to “putting on a brave face” that I almost forgot what it was to be honest about my feelings. So, ten years later, I was in counseling trying to sift through all of these emotions.
I am still amazed at how deeply I love now. Tim is very gracious and we share many sweet memories of Terry together. I am so grateful that he is not threatened by my memories. God allowed me the double blessing of loving completely not once, but twice. I will never forget the life that Terry and I shared. I will tell our grandson, Joshua Terry about his Papa Terry when he’s older. And I will continue to be grateful for both of my husbands. God has truly blessed me in so many ways
“But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
In 2005, my husband died. It was unexpected and it was devastating to me. Many well-meaning people shared scripture that were meant to be comforting. But, at the time, I didn’t find much comfort or even any semblance of truth in many of the verses shared.
“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,” Joel 2:25a
“then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you.” Deuteronomy 30:3
“God blessed Job’s later life even more than his earlier life. He ended up with fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand teams of oxen, and one thousand donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters.” Job 42:12-13
I didn’t understand how some unknown thing in the future would ever replace what I had lost when my husband died. How could the years we lost together be restored? My husband was dead. Nothing could ever replace him in my heart. Nothing new would replace what I had lost. I couldn’t accept that any of these promises was meant for me, personally. I was in pain. I grieved the loss of my life as I knew it and as I had dreamed that it would be.
But now, I see. I have a new marriage and with it a new extended family. My new husband is not a replacement for the one I lost. I will always grieve that death in some way. One doesn’t love completely and then forget that relationship. But, this new marriage has taught me that I can love again, that my life did not end. I have been given a chance to experience a deeply passionate love, once again.
This marriage is different from the one I began in my twenties. This marriage is founded on a long-standing friendship and maturity that I lacked 30 years ago. I can love more completely because I understand the fragility of life and relationships. I have learned to give all now, because I do not know what tomorrow holds in this life. I try not to miss a chance to say “I Love you” for I have determined to never again regret words not spoken. I cherish the quiet breaks, the silly moments, the busy times and even the heated, uncomfortable times; for they represent all the things that form a lasting and loving relationship. I vow to speak positively about my husband and to honor him in my words and actions. I am aware how important it is for my all of my children (both through birth and marriage) to have a model of stability to use as a pattern in their own lives.
This marriage of almost 3 years will never replace the 18 years of my first marriage. This marriage is new. This marriage is a blessing of restoration and joy. I can truly say the God has blessed my later life even more than my earlier life. He has restored my joy.
“You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights, Each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book.
God, you did everything you promised, and I’m thanking you with all my heart. You pulled me from the brink of death, my feet from the cliff-edge of doom. Now I stroll at leisure with God in the sunlit fields of life.”
Charlie Brown was known for saying “Good grief!” when he was frustrated. There a very few of us that would consider grief “Good”. But, I’ve learned that grief is a gift.
My first months after my husband’s death were dark. I remember functioning on some level. The pain of grief was numbing. The colors weren’t there. The sun seemed to have disappeared. I felt as if I was trying to swim through mud: exhausted but getting no where. I spent hours in the darkness of night walking in circles and asking God “WHY?”
Many people would tell me I should be happy that my husband was with God. When the tears would start, they would try to make things better, to encourage me to be strong. I had read 1 Thessalonians 4:13 many times:
“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.”
1 Thessalonians 4:13 KJV
Unfortunately, I took this verse to mean that I should not grieve. I felt guilty for grieving. I tried to hide my pain. I struggled with my faith. Was I just not strong enough?
I was blessed to have friends that understood grief. They walked beside me. They allowed my grief to bubble over into their lives. They didn’t try to “fix”me. They just stood with me. They allowed me to learn what a gift grief can be.
Most of us try to avoid pain, to avoid grief. We don’t talk about death. Too often children aren’t exposed to the sorrow of death and funerals. We “protect” them from seeing our own grief. And they are not prepared for tragedy when it occurs.
But death is a reality. Sometimes it comes too early and the questions keep coming. I found myself pointing out people that I didn’t think deserved to be living and asking God why he took my husband and left them. I screamed and begged to have him back or to be taken to be with him.
But one day, I realized that Terry’s death was his reward. He was exactly where he wanted to be. He wasn’t missing a thing. I was grieving for what I had lost. And that was ok. I didn’t have to feel guilty or hide it. I missed my husband. My kids missed their dad and the tears were a symbol of our love for him. I had a new understanding of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14:
“And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 MSG
When one loses a great love, grief is the result. It’s our last connection to that loved one. The grief will not always bring tears. The grief will not always be paralyzing. Grief will not remain acute. As you move through the process, it becomes chronic: enduring and sometimes recurring. You come to accept the dance with grief. It is bittersweet. A gift of love and memories.
I’m an introvert. I draw energy from being alone. I need time to process information. Interacting with people, whether family, social or strangers results in my need to withdraw and to spend time alone to re-energize. Small talk and pointless conversations are exhausting to me. It doesn’t take loads of alone time for me to recharge. Just a few minutes in the evening or a Saturday morning just “piddling” in my office will suffice.
An extrovert won’t always understand the need for “alone” time. Extroverts often equate being alone with loneliness. Being alone doesn’t have to be lonely. Loneliness is painful and sad. Depression and remoteness are the results of loneliness. Alone time is energizing and breeds creativity and calm. Being alone allows the introvert the opportunity to process the days events, the ability to download and file away the day’s emotions and make necessary decisions.
I have been lonely. I was that person who seemed to have it all together, but would eat take-out in the driveway rather than face the quiet of the house. I am the one who spent entire weekends in bed. Sleep filled the loneliest times. I’ve done the things that had to be done on my own, because that was required. I’ve sat through numerous family and social events all alone, surrounded by happy couples. I’ve been forgotten on the way to a family funeral because everyone had someone else to consider and besides, I’m very capable.
For ten years, I was the lonely person coping with doing most things alone. A few years ago, I was rescued from the loneliness. I have a partner in my husband. I believe we bring out the best in each other. There are still things that I have to accomplish alone. And there are days that my extrovert husband questions my need to be alone. But, I’m no longer lonely. I refuse to be the lonely person in the midst of the couples. I can admit that I don’t have it all together and trust that there is someone upon whom I can depend. I am no longer lonely.
“God said, “It’s not good for the Man to be alone; I’ll make him a helper, a companion.” Genesis 2:18 MSG