Lord, can you just hold me?

Epiphany! 

1. a Christian festival, observed on January 6, commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi; Twelfth-day.

2. an appearance or manifestation, especially of a deity.

3. a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.

1 Peter 1:3-12

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.

January 6, 2009…it was a “normal” Tuesday afternoon.  Larry was done with chemo and radiation, and we were hopeful that he was improving.  The steroids that he was still on made it difficult for him to sleep though so Larry had decided to go to bed and try to nap.  I was upstairs in the office getting caught up on the book work and trying to keep the dogs quiet so Larry could rest.  I didn’t have the slightest clue as to what was happening in our bedroom just below me while I worked.

About 30 to 40 minutes later Larry came up the stairs.  I was so disappointed for him because this meant that sleep had once again eluded my exhausted husband.   However, when he sat down in his desk chair and turned toward me I was instantly alert.  Something had happened. His face was red, but glowing.  There were tears flowing down his face.  I’ve never seen such amazing humbleness and awe.  While he was lying down God had come to Larry and gave him his own Epiphany.

Larry told me that as he’d been laying in our bed he physically felt God’s hand under his own elbow, holding him up.  Larry said that he had felt as if he were lying on water and God’s hand was keeping him afloat.  God told my husband not worry anymore about the company that we owned, HE would be taking care of it.  God also told Larry that everything was going to turn out just the way it was supposed to.

I don’t remember the exact words anymore, just the look on Larry’s face ~ the look of all-consuming love.  For days afterward Larry would say, “I don’t want to lose this feeling.  How can anyone experience what I did and not be changed?”

Eventually the glow left and the nightmares of his disease returned in the form of a seizure while driving us home and more surgery followed by more chemo.  The glow returned weeks before Larry’s death when he could no longer communicate with us.  Instead he communicated with angels who were sent to comfort him.

Everything did turn out as it was supposed to of course, just not how the rest of us wanted it to.  How comforting to me it is though, that my beloved husband experienced moments that I can only dream of.  Moments that I cherish.  Moments when I could not comfort him, but God could.

We are never ever alone.

Todd Agnew ~ Sit With You A While

I’m not sure you heard what I thought you were saying….

I’ve always loved to read.  I also love to write.  Grammar… not so much and I’m very thankful for Spell Check.  Something else I’m not so thrilled with is the way modern technology creates an environment for misunderstanding.  As if we didn’t have enough trouble with that already.

Email is a wonderful invention.  Instant letters, what could be better than that?  Except that sentences get shorter, words get abbreviated and thoughts misinterpreted.  Rather than the long, wonderful letters of the past that described in great detail the life and thoughts of the sender, emails are getting shorter and shorter.  Long emails are usually skimmed at best and to make matters even more complicated the FWD: junk emails cram our virtual mailboxes so full that important emails can get deleted in a mass ‘delete’.  SPAM used to refer to a canned meat (?) product – now it’s the majority of the emails in my inbox, equally unappealing and often carry computer viruses and malware.  Don’t think you can eat with malware.  Emails have also left my physical mailbox filled with nothing more than junk mail (tangible SPAM, but not the meat) and bills.  Yuck!

Texting has degraded the art of writing even farther.  Now whole phrases are reduced to a mere few letters.  LOL used to be the only thing you could say when a giant sucker was stuffed in your mouth and the word lollipop was impossible to say, now it means you are ‘laughing out loud’.   How many of us are actually ‘laughing out loud’ when we type that into our phones?  A chuckle maybe, but real laughter?  Too many of us ( I’m really guilty here ) have come to prefer texting to actual conversations.  I’m phone shy, always have been.  For me texting is easier, safer.  Except that it is way too easy to misunderstand texts and blow them way out of proportion.  (again, guilty)  Arguments can arise out of a few misplaced words.  Intentions and mood are rarely expressed properly in texts.  It takes real words and real sentences to create communication, both of which are usually missing in texts.  And don’t get me started about vowels!

Social networking is another wonderful creation.  I love Facebook!  Twitter I haven’t quite figured out yet, not enough space.  Facebook has been my lifeline for nearly three years now, ever since my late husband got sick.  When we were in Germany for his alternative cancer treatments I don’t think I could have survived without Facebook.  The link to my friends and family, their prayers communicated to us through this magical thing called a wall, kept me going everyday while I watched my husband get continually sicker day after day.  Facebook can also be evil… those little games will draw you in and invade your mind, sucking the life out of living.  (Did I say guilty yet? If not I need to.)  Facebook can also get you into debates, arguments and misunderstandings when you try to read between lines that aren’t even there.  The posts of others can rile emotions when they should be ignored.   ( um, guilty).

Our lives will never be the same with the technology that continues to make the world a smaller place to live.  Lives that once intertwined with family and neighborhood now sit in isolation and surf.  The art of handwritten communication is being replaced with typing and poor abbreviations.  Our children may never know the excitement of receiving a long-awaited letter or card being hand delivered by a postal carrier.  The skills of personal communication are being reduced to electronic communication.  I wonder if we will eventually forget how to write with a pen, maybe even forget how to speak altogether?  Thank God that we can still go to Ken Davis’ Dynamic Communicators Workshop to brush up on speaking!  You really should check it out!  I had a wonderful time there!!

http://www.dynamiccommunicators.com/

Now, if you’ll excuse me I have a text to answer and I really must check my emails… LOL!

The beat goes on and on and on and on……..

The rhythm of life.  We each have our own beat to this dance called living.  Some of us are a waltz, others a cha-cha-cha.  Still others dance to a syncopated beat that no one else can quite catch on to.  The beat will change many times, flowing with the changing seasons of our life.  No matter what season you’re in or even if you’ve asked the drummer to stop, the beat goes on.  Life does not stop just because we have no desire to continue the dance.  The beat will go on, day after day, year after year.

This has been a season of change for me.  Not unwelcome change at all, but changes that must come as the beat continues.  Changes that remind me yet again that I am physically alone.

May 14 was a very special day of change.  My oldest son graduated from Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA.  My husband’s parents tagged along as Noah and I drove the 15 hour trip from Michigan to Lynchburg.  This trip was not a comfortable one for me, I’m not used to being the person in charge of the trip.  That’s Larry’s job.  We got there safely in spite of the torrential rain, car rattling thunder and lightning that made you flinch when we were in southern Ohio.  We found the hotel, we found Drew, we found the stadium where graduation was held.  It was a beautiful day in spite of the nearly constant drizzle that threatened to release the rain.  Liberty had purchased 30,000 rain ponchos to hand out though, so commencement proceeded as planned. What a wonderful day it was.  We found Drew in the lineup and exchanged ear to ear smiles as he walked past us.  Pride threatened to beat a hole in my chest as I watched this handsome young man walk up to receive his diploma.  Pride that co-mingled with an intense sorrow.  Once again I asked God, “Why?”  How is it that I came to be the only parent present on this, the most important day of his life so far?  My heart screamed, “NO!  His Mama and his Dad should be here too!  This isn’t right God, it’s not fair!  He deserves to have all of his parents here to celebrate with him, not just me.  I’m a poor substitute for all that he’s lost in his short 22 years.”  God was silent, he’d heard it all from me before.  Drew followed us home after graduation and one week after he received his diploma, I drove my son to the airport so he could fly to India for the summer.  A small taste of what it will be like when he moves there after graduating from grad school.  Not quite the same as putting him on the bus to go to school.  Change.

June 10 was another very special day of change.  On June 10 my other oldest son (both 22) got married to his beautiful Katie.  After a week of 90+ temps, the wedding day gave way to pouring rain.  All day it rained off and on.  I spent the day getting ready with all of Katie’s bridesmaids and her mother.  Laughter, hair, makeup, a bit of champagne… lots of fun!   I was okay until I put my dress on and couldn’t get the zipper up all the way.  Extreme contortions were required to finish the maneuver.  A moment that always causes me to miss my Larry.  At the chapel I went back to spend a few minutes with my handsome son Wade before the ceremony started.  To say he was nervous would compare to  calling a bald eagle a mosquito.   I wanted so badly to be able to impart some last words of wisdom to him, but all I could think about was the little boy who tentatively called Larry, “dad” the day after we were married.  The boy who grew up with 2 dads, but came to know not long ago that great love made this dad his father.  I was so happy for Wade and Katie, starting their new life together and my heart was breaking, … again.

At the reception there were still more reminders of the incessant beating of the rhythm of life.  The most touching and perhaps the most painful of all were my parents.  It took a lot for my father to get here.  He doesn’t get around too well these days.  Watching these two people whom I love so dearly, I was touched with overwhelming love and heart stabbing jealousy at the same time.  I watched as my mother tenderly raised the champagne glass to my father’s lips so that he could toast the bride and groom. I watched her feed him first before ever touching her own meal.  Jealousy would seem to be a misplaced emotion here.  My mother and father have been married 57 years and this is an achievement that I will never reach.  Larry and I had a goal of 50 years, we made it to 14 1/2  before cancer stole him from me.

Watching my parents brought to mind the changing beat as well.  My mother and father have always loved to dance, and I have always loved to watch them.  They would glide across the floor so effortlessly, as if they were one being.  This is also something that I have never achieved.  Through the years their dance has slowed some, but now that my daddy can only get around with a walker their dancing days are over.  This too caused me moments of sorrow.  These days they dance to the rhythm of doctors’ appointments and rehab.  A pretty slow beat.

Today is Father’s Day.  I’m at home alone with my youngest son.  He’s understandably angry at the calendar for allowing this day to roll around again now that his dad is gone.  He’s kneeling on the couch with all of the dogs, collectively looking out the window for signs of life,  jealous of all the celebrations going on around him.  The beat goes on, even though he’s yelling at the drummer to stop.

Reminds me of one of my favorite Matthew West songs:

“Stop the world I wanna get out, I need an escape away from this crowd just to hear you, talk to me.  Stop the world I’m ready to listen, show me a sign,  just give me vision of heaven, that I can hold on to.  Stop the world I need some time with You.”

The beat does go on, we can not stop it, we can not change the rhythm.  All we can do is learn a new step to work into the dance.  Perhaps one that includes some knee time… away from the crowd… listening to the One who provides the dance.  The One who never allows us to be completely alone.

The View is Pretty Good From Both Sides of the Hill

My daddy always says that you can tell you’re over the hill when you double your age and don’t expect to live that long.  That being said, I’m pretty sure I’m at the top – or maybe just a wee bit over the top – of the hill right now.  I’m 47.  Pretty sure I won’t live longer than 94.  If I don’t get my behind off the couch, I won’t get close.  My husband died at 47.  We didn’t know that he was at the bottom of his hill though.

I’m not sure how I got to the top of the hill.  I sure don’t remember the climb, I’m no good at climbing.  Ask my daddy.  My days of mountain climbing ended the last time I said, “Carry me daddy!” and daddy said, “I can’t pick you up any more, you’re 12.”  He had to walk back down with me and miss the rest of the climb.  He wasn’t happy with me that day.  Needless to say I wasn’t invited to go along after that.  The climb to the top of the “Life Hill” isn’t very steep, I didn’t even break a sweat and that doesn’t take much.  But here I am, at the top and officially MIDDLE AGED.

I don’t feel ‘Middle Aged’.  I don’t feel 18 anymore either.  I was looking at some old photos the other day and ran across some from my High School graduation.  What happened to that optimistic girl with stars in her eyes and the whole world in front of her?  She had such wonderful dreams… she would marry Prince charming, live in a charming cottage, raise loving, adoring children, and live happily ever after… Nothing bad would ever happen to her because those things only happen to other people.

Wrong.  She wasn’t expecting things like divorce, abuse, single parenthood, second marriage, blended family, cancer, widowhood, single parenthood again, money issues… Bad things do happen.  They happen to everyone, not just other people.  But she (I)  have some positives that grew and blossomed out of all those bad things.  A stronger relationship with Jesus Christ, a deep reliance on my heavenly Father, a strength born of surviving experiences, resilience, compassion, mercy, I’m sure there are others that I haven’t even discovered yet.  I know that the road that led me to Larry was necessary to mold me into the woman who was perfect for Larry.  I know that the road I’ve had to travel with Larry’s illness and since his death is necessary to mold me into the woman who is perfect for the purpose that God has for my future.

I’m on the top of the Life-Hill and from where I stand, the view is pretty good from both sides.

Romans 2:3 (The Message)

God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.

One Step Forward, One Step Back, and a Little Shuffle to the Side

I’ve been wondering lately why my mind won’t remember the 13 1/2 wonderful years that I had with my amazing husband.  Why is it that my mind is obsessed with that last year, the year when I was forced to watch him slowly decline into a shell of the man that he’d once been.  The ironic cruelty that he, of all people, would get brain cancer.  Why can I not remember the happier years instead?

Yesterday afternoon Noah & I were in Mt. Pleasant, running errands.  When we were done we hung around to have dinner with Wade & Katie, my second oldest (by one day 🙂 and his fiance.  The wedding is in June!

Mt. Pleasant is where we lived for the first year and a half of our marriage.  There was a lot of turmoil in those first months of our marriage.  Eight months after we were married, Larry’s first wife died very unexpectedly of pnuemococcal pneumonia.  She dropped the boys off for New Year’s Eve Weekend and never came back.  Blending a new family with a cloud of grief and fear was not easy, but in the end we managed to do it.  Even with all of that, while driving the familiar streets of Mt. Pleasant, those memories came flooding back, and with them came a glow of  warmth and longing.  Suddenly that oddly designed little house in the rural subdivision, that had never been quite big enough for all five of us, seemed like the most perfect place in the world.

How I wish there were a car that could go “back to the future” to fix what’s gone wrong.  I would love to be back in that kitchen again, where Larry first started taking over dinner when he would come home from work.  At first I thought he didn’t like my cooking, but then I realized that cooking helped him to relax and unwind after a stressful day at work.  He never used a recipe and sometimes it wasn’t quite edible, but he loved to cook … and I don’t.  I can cook, quite well when I want to, I just don’t like to cook.  Perfect match.

I’d forgotten about the dishwasher too.  The one that Larry thought was broken, because he didn’t know how to run it.  My brilliant corrosion engineer husband… I loved it.  I showed him how it worked and he decided that we were going to use it that night, because neither of us enjoyed washing dishes too well.  We didn’t have any dishwasher detergent, so Larry put dish soap in the both cups in the dishwasher.  We laughed so hard as the kitchen proceeded to flood with millions and billions of tiny soap bubbles.  There was no way to stop them, they just kept coming out of the dishwasher.  It was like something out of a Steve Martin movie… maybe for the next Cheaper by the Dozen.  Or I could write my own sit-com?

And then there was Lady… our little white Spitz/Chihuahua puppy.  Not sure what you’d call that…Chitz?…Spichi?…yeah, nothing works there.  Picture a white Chihuahua body with freakishly long legs and bat-like large ears.  That was Lady.   She started out so tiny and guaranteed not to shed; Spitz don’t shed.  Chihuahua’s shed.  Lady shed, 24/7/365.    Lady got carsick from they day I brought her home and everyday after that when we attempted to take her anywhere in the car.  Lady’s first act of adapting to her new home was to walk over to the heat vent and take a dump, on it!  Good thing she was so cute!  That little Lady brought so much healing to our family.  She could jump vertically and land in Larry’s arms.  When you told her it was time to go to bed, she would hide her head behind a pillow so you couldn’t see her.   And her favorite thing was napping with her daddy!

The boys were younger then than Noah is now.  I can barely remember them being that young, except for Scott.  I spent more time with Scott because he wasn’t in school yet.  Drew was already so grown up when I met him, he’d taken over being the man of the house for his mama.  I’d missed most of Wade’s little years because I’d had to work.  I remember pulling over to the side of the road by a farm once with Scott, so we could watch the miracle of a calf being born and the calf’s first wobbly steps.  I worked with Scott on how to spell his name one day,  going to pick his brothers up from school.  The next thing I knew he’d taught himself to read, and he was only 4!

As crazy as those first years were… I’d go back in a heartbeat if I could.  But that is not possible.  Nor is it part of God’s plan.

Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)

1 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, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Praying for the day when the future glows as brightly as the past.  Good Grief!

How Far Is Heaven, Exactly?

I’ve been struggling today with flashbacks.  Very vivid, very strong, clear, painful flashbacks.  Perhaps this is due to the fact that I’ve been packing up boxes of books and CD’s from the bookcase that sits in the corner where Larry’s hospice bed was… the corner where Larry died.  I’m not sure.  At any rate, I felt compelled to post this piece that I wrote last fall near the one year mark of Larry’s death.

My intent with this piece is not to cause anyone to have anxiety or depression as a result of reading it, but rather to know that questions are a normal part of the grieving process.  It’s okay to wonder things like “where is heaven” and “do you miss me too”?

I would also like to emphasize that each time I have questioned God on the location of heaven I have received an image… a picture in my mind of Jesus.  In one arm Jesus is holding my beloved Larry and in the other he is holding me.  I know this is true!  In this way the Holy Spirit is reminding me that even though we are apart, we are still connected in the love of Christ.  And it doesn’t really matter where heaven is… only that heaven is!  This I also know is true.

This image of Christ’s embrace has gotten me through almost every day since Larry died.

How Far is Heaven?

By Shelley Ann Brandon  October 12, 2010

I was there.  I wasn’t just in the room, I was there!  No one was closer to Larry physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually than I was.  I was there.  I held him in my arms for the two plus hours that it took for his body to labor through the delivery of his spirit into the hands of our Savior.  I was there.  But I still don’t get it.  My husband died literally in my arms.  My head was on his chest; I felt each and every body wracking breath that shook my soul as well as his.  I heard every heart beat no matter how faint, even the last one, struggling to hear just one more – oh please God just one more – even though I’d been praying for God to please stop Larry’s suffering – Please God no more, don’t make him go through this anymore.  I can’t take it… I can’t take it. I was there when Jesus stopped the suffering and took Larry home.  I was right there, breathing in his last breath, but I don’t understand… where did he go?  I know he went to heaven.  Larry’s relationship with Jesus was his greatest source of pride, his comfort and joy.   Even though his right side was completely paralyzed, he was reaching for heaven with his left arm just that morning when Noah and I woke up.  Noah even asked me why daddy’s arm was in the air.  I know where he went, but where is that?  Where did he go?

How can someone who was so full of life one year before, someone who was larger than life, someone who brought brightness to life wherever he went, how could he just not be here anymore?  What happened?

How can this man who I love more than my own life be gone? We promised each other that we would never leave, that we would grow old together, how could he leave me?  Larry was everything to me, he was my husband, my best friend, my business partner, my ministry partner, my lover, my dreams, my future, the father of my sons. How can he just not be here anymore?

After everyone had left the house and the hospice nurse and I had washed Larry’s body and put him into some clean pajamas, I let the dogs back into the house.  These wonderful poodles that had so faithfully guarded their dying master would no longer go near the empty body of their dead master.  The dogs had figured it out, but I was still holding on.  Where was he, where had he gone?  Where is heaven, anyway?

I finally allowed the hospice nurse to call the undertaker to come get him.  I didn’t want them to come get him because I knew that when they took him away I wouldn’t see him again this side of heaven, and I don’t know where that is.  While we were waiting, Layne (the nurse) and I were talking, and I was holding Larry’s cold, lifeless hand.  I had to keep pushing down on his fingers to keep them curled around mine.  My hands were already starting to feel empty and lonely.  I tried to kiss his lips, but they were cold and stiff, he wasn’t there, he’d already left.

I was there.  Oh my love, I remember the moment you left, but I just don’t get it.  Even now, a year later, I still don’t get it.  If I close my eyes I can hear your laugh.  Certain songs can bring back moments so real that my body aches to touch you one more time, to lay my head against your chest and feel your arms around me.  The scent of your cologne on my pillow each night,ummmm , yummy.  Oh, how I long to smell your neck again. Where are you?

Where is heaven?  Is it beyond the stars? Or is it all around us on the other side of a mirror that we simply cannot see through?  Are you millions of light years away?  Or are you as close as my next breath?  Each and every one of us is only one heartbeat away from God, so does that mean that you are only one heartbeat away as well?

I miss you so much. When is the pain supposed to go away?  Scripture tell us that there are no tears in heaven, so does that mean you don’t miss me?  Where are you?  And where am I supposed to go from here?

————————————————————————————————————————–

Where do I go from here?  I go to the cross.  I go to the embrace of Christ… one arm around Larry and one arm around me… apart and yet still connected…

And questions are okay with God… after all, He’s the only one with all the answers!These pictures where taken at the Compassion International Headquarters in Colorado Springs on our last vacation together before Larry got sick.  We were both sitting in the lap of Jesus… a life size bronze sculpture they have in their lobby.   Coincidence?  I don’t think so…

Single White Female Seeking…. Motivation.

After a lot of discussion and prayer, Noah and I have made the decision to move.  After the decision to move was made, the next decision was where?  Several options were tossed about in our talks, but what we decided was most important to us was staying close to family, or more precisely… staying close to where Noah would be able to grow up knowing what it means to be a Brandon.  This is very important to both of us.  Noah needs to know who his daddy was and what kind of man he was.  With all of this in mind, we finally settled on moving to Allendale, MI, the same town where Larry’s younger brother lives with his lovely wife and their three sons.  This is the best solution to an unhappy situation.

My house is a beautiful house.  We have totally remodeled the house cosmetically and it looks wonderful.  New triple pane windows with a transferable life-time warranty, same with the sliders and front door.  New oak floors through out, finished the basement, new cabinets, new appliances, & granite counters in the kitchen, new oak interior doors & trim… this house looks good…except for the clutter!  I need to box up the chachkis and knickknacks, I need to take the pictures off the walls (which I just finally got up before Christmas) and I need to get the unnecessary “stuff” out of here.  I’ve done this before – many times!  We’ve lived in this house 7 years, that is the longest that I’ve lived anywhere since High School graduation.  I know how to get a house ready to sell.  I just can’t get motivated.

Part of this may be due to health issues.  I’ve been dealing with kidney stones for the last month.  Part of may be due to grief issues.  I’m not sure.  The fact is that I want out of this house as much as Noah does, so why do I do nothing about it day after day?   I tell myself each morning exactly what I’m going to accomplish.  By noon I have to accept that I’m going to accomplish nothing.  I look at it, the stacks of stuff, and do nothing about it.  I can’t really blame it on needing to do it alone, I’ve had to do it alone before.  Larry was always busy supporting the family, and I packed up, de-cluttered and staged the house before I even knew what staging was to save money and get the house sold.  This feels different though.  Overwhelming.  I’ve never gone through the whole process completely alone.  I’m not sure what to do… where to start… how to begin.  I don’t have Larry to talk to about everything.  I have Noah and the dogs, they mess things up as soon as they are cleaned.  None of them pick up after themselves.

I don’t know how to do this.  I don’t know how to be single, I don’t know how to sell/buy a house by myself, and I don’t know how to find the motivation to do it.  Any suggestions?

When We Becomes Me….

This is a piece I wrote a year ago.  I’m still facing the same emotions regarding Valentine’s Day, not as overwhelming in their strength this year, but still sad… perhaps more melancholy now.  I would like to encourage you to make everyday a celebration of your love for those special people in your life.  Don’t wait for one  greeting card day, that day may be too late…

Valentines. They used to be lopsided hearts cut out of pink and red construction paper and messily glued on to a homemade card with paper doilies and glitter. Or little cards with Be Mine sayings attached to candy, placed into the sacks of each classmate and then eagerly scoured for the sweets and perhaps a special note while eating sugar cookie hearts and red kool-aide.

I can still remember the first Valentine I received from Larry. We had known each other for 3 weeks, but we were already very much in love. The card was very simple, the front covered with pictures of the little candy hearts with phrases on them. Right in the middle of the card was a yellow heart with the words ‘Marry Me’ on it. Two weeks and three days later Larry asked me to marry to him. Every year after that Larry gave me roses and a Valentine card that expressed his love for me and I gave one to him. We always gave cards that expressed our thankfulness to God for bringing us together and our joyful anticipation of the many years ahead. We never anticipated that those years would be cut short by brain cancer.

This year I’m facing my first solo Valentines day in 15 years. I decided a few weeks ago that even though I would not be receiving a Valentine from my dear husband, I could still take one to him… sort of. I had a Valentine wreath made up and took it to the cemetery. It hasn’t made this Hallmark holiday any easier to deal with emotionally though. This was not a day that I was expecting to bring this much pain. To be honest, I hadn’t even thought of Valentine’s day in the list of dreaded firsts. I’d skipped right over it.

Aisles of cards, heart-shaped cookies and cakes, bouquets of roses, TV ads featuring loving couples exchanging cards and beautiful gifts of sparkling jewelry… Everywhere I look I see reminders that I am once again on the outside looking in. I’m no longer the unpopular girl at school who didn’t receive the special valentine or the special note, but I’m no longer part of “we” either.

This holiday is for children and couples. Being torn out of my status as a wife – half of “we” – makes this even more difficult to cope with. This was not my choice. Every reminder that I no longer qualify for couples only events brings back the loneliness of my widowhood. No Sweetheart Dance for me, no card with the tender words of love from the man that I love and miss so much that I ache with it.

Valentine’s Day may seem trivial as holidays go.  A day made up for sole purpose of spending money. I disagree. The money isn’t the purpose of Valentine’s day. What is important about Valentine’s day is that you are intentional about taking the time, finding a meaningful way to communicate to the most important person in your life…. the other half of your “we” that you love them, that you love being married to them. Everyday should be Valentine’s day.

Are We Friends?

I recently read a wonderful post by Randy Elrod titled In Search of Heroes – Where Are The Female Mentors.  You can read this and his other fantastic blog entries at http://www.randyelrod.com.  His posts always make me think.  This particular one also made me respond.  I ended my response with a the statement, “I don’t know why women feel they are too busy to be more than friends.”   I went back to his post again today to read some of the other responses and the last line of mine hit me squarely in the chest, why do I pretend to be too busy to be more than a friend.

I have a few – a very few – very close friends.  Those friendships are held close to my heart and I cherish every moment spent with these women, whether in person or on the phone.  Age isn’t part of the equation in my friendships, neither is status or economic situation.   I can’t even explain what brings this little group together other than our mutual love for Jesus Christ and our off the wall sense of humor.  When one of us hurts, we all hurt… so pretty much we are always hurting, but we always manage to laugh til we cry when we are together.  That’s how we ‘self-medicate’, because after all, laughter does good like a medicine… These women are more than just friends to me.

I also have a larger group – thanks to Facebook a much larger group – of women that I love and communicate with.  I cheer them on and chuckle with them, and I call them friends, but what is the dynamic in this?  I do truly love these women.  A lot of them are friends from my childhood.  Some of them are women I would never have gotten the chance to know at all if it weren’t for social media.  But do I, or even can I make a difference in the lives of these women?  Will we ever be more than friends?

Randy was talking about mentoring.  There is a vast need for mentoring among females and not just for young women, but for women at all stages of life.  We need to come along side each other and say… “I’ve been where you are, let me help you through this.”   We try to do it all, don’t we?  I’m a good one for buying books about the stages I’m in.  When Larry got sick I bought every book I could find… but I was so busy with everything that was going on that I had zero time to read the stupid things.  They all got donated after he died.   I’ve been friends with young women and continue to be.  It’s nothing formal, but they know I’m here and they can come hang out or call or email or whatever whenever they need me.  Having 4 sons, I love this!  If they wanted something more formal, I would be open to that.  But I’ve never thought of it as mentoring until I read Randy’s blog.  I’m not a hero, but I think there is some untapped hero in each of us that we need to share with each other.

I challenge you ladies, this week…. find one woman to reach out to and say, “I’ve been there, let me help you through this.”  Let’s be more than just friends, o.k.?

The Wild Ride of January 24th, 2009

This is an older post that I wrote about two years ago.  January 24th is also the anniversary of the day that Larry and I met in Casper, Wyoming at a Corrosion Control Conference.  It’s been two years since the accident and 16 years since the day we met and yet both days seem like yesterday….

We discovered that my husband’s tumor had begun to grow back when he had a grand Mal seizure while driving us home from his parent’s house on January 24, 2009. The seizure started on County Farm Rd at the entrance to Pearl Lake. Larry’s right arm flew up and back, his head jerked back to the right and his face became very distorted. I could hear Larry try to tell me something, it sounded like, “okay.” I told Larry to pull over and hit the brake, instead his right foot pressed down fully onto the gas. I yelled repeatedly for him to hit the brake, but he couldn’t respond. He had lost consciousness, his eyes were rolled back, and his mouth was foamy.

Our seven-year-old son, Noah, was in the back seat. I could hear him screaming, “I’m scared! I’m scared!” We were headed toward a T-intersection across a highway/main street of Sheridan, MI, at 8:20-ish on a Saturday night, with the gas floored. My normal reaction to anything that I consider a crisis is to gasp and freeze. And what I consider a crisis starts pretty small – like something falling off the kitchen counter. I tell you this so that you see God in what happens next.

God told me to put the car in Park. I found out by watching Myth Busters the following Saturday night that that automatically puts the car in to neutral, which stops feeding gas to the engine.

I then grabbed the steering wheel and turned it to the right as hard and fast as I could. (“Jesus Take The Whee”l) The car finally turned to the right on the sidewalk in front of the building on the other side of the highway – a building that just happens to be a CHURCH. We missed a parked car and went back across the highway heading straight toward a very large tree in the front yard of a FUNERAL HOME.

Before we got to the tree we lightly struck a LIGHT POLE on the front passenger side, just enough to slow us down and we stopped about ten feet later.

The car was not hit hard enough to cause any airbags to go off – nothing hit Larry in the head.
Larry was buckled upright in his seat – he couldn’t fall over and hit his head.
Twice we were headed towards a head on collision – didn’t happen
We crossed a main street/highway twice on a Saturday night – no traffic and no pedestrians
ALL THREE OF US WALKED AWAY WITHOUT SO MUCH AS A SCRATCH, A BUMP OR A BRUISE!

I fished his cell phone from coat pocket, fortunately his right coat pocket, and called 911. I was able to tell them easily where we were and since we were still only a few miles from Larry’s parent’s house his father was able to come quickly to get Noah.

It took about 7 minutes for the ambulance and first responders to arrive. It was only about 1 minute or so before that that Larry woke up. Hearing Noah say, “Daddy I love you so much! Do you remember me?” Broke my heart.

When the ambulance did arrive, the EMTs were the same two women who’d taken us to Lansing the first time in November. I had to crawl out Larry’s side because my door wouldn’t open anymore. After they had him out and onto the stretcher one of them helped me out and when she saw me she said, “Oh I remember you, are you all right?” She opened her arms to me and held me while I cried. She already knew the first part of our story, God was holding out His arms.

I didn’t have my cell phone with me that night and Larry’s phone is filled with business contacts. The only personal phone number in there that I could find was our son, Drew, in Virginia. Our son, Wade, had changed his number the day before – not in there. Our son, Scott, had gotten a phone for Christmas, but it had never gotten programmed in. So the only one I could call was Drew. On the way to the hospital in the ambulance I called Drew and in a near hysterical state asked him to call everyone else for me. And he did. I didn’t know until the next day, but he’d even called my parents in Nebraska for me. He kept everyone updated for me. He’s actually better at that than anyone else in our whole family – even me. He once called us from Virginia to tell us that the high school gym was on fire. I can see the high school gym from my back door – didn’t know a thing!

I was praying all the way to the hospital that someone would be there, I so didn’t want to go through this alone. After we got there and I walked into the ER waiting room, our son Scott and his girlfriend Shanae (who had both been with us at Larry’s parent’s house, but left earlier than we did), and my friend Leslie were there. I went out to get a bottle of water from the vending machine and when I looked up our Pastor was there. A little while later our friends Chris and Tara came to the ER to see how things were going. Chris is an ER Dr. and the one who initially diagnosed the tumor. It was his night off, but he was there. We’re never alone, God is always with us.

The EMTs that took us to Lansing were both Christians and the driver has a son who is a miracle survivor of a heart birth defect. The night nurse in the Neuro ICU was a Christian and one of the few nurses who will pray with her patients. She prayed with us at 1:30am, before she even had Larry hooked up to the monitors. I got to stay with Larry the entire time. Not one nurse made me leave at night.

Every nurse we had was a Christian, the anesthesiologist was a Pastor’s son. Everyone who came in work with or treat Larry left with a bigger smile and a lighter heart than when they came in.

We know that God was telling us that Larry’s tumor was growing back and needed to come out again. It was beginning to grow closer to the right motor strip which could cause weakness or paralysis on the right side. When the surgeon was telling us this Jesus told me, “I’m at My Father’s right side, everything is going to be okay.”

God is so amazing. He is in every detail of our lives and He loves us so much.