Monday, August 6, 2018

Brother Time

July was a wonderful month for me, as I got to reconnect with my sister and then my brother, who both live miles away, not only from me, but from each other. One of these days we will have to plan some quality time for the three of us together, like I've enjoyed with each of them separately this summer.

The Outer Banks of North Carolina may be advertised as a quality vacation spot for families, but the only attraction for me was my family who lives there. Isn't family the greatest attraction God has created for us? Of course, it is. And I took full advantage of it during my always-too-brief visit with them.

Of course, we did have our "token" beach time in North Carolina, bringing back childhood memories of splashing in the waves, sinking our toes in the sand, and soaking up the sun. I have lived in the glorious, mountainous Northwest, and now enjoy the green, rolling prairies of the Midwest, but I also love the sandy, white beaches of our country's shorelines.

Maybe it's the sounds and smells of the seashore that make it so special as part of God's creative handiwork. You can't hear the mountains or the prairie, except for occasional bird calls or insect sounds (although one is attracted to the peaceful silence there). But when you find yourself on a beach, your senses are instantly engaged fully. The sight of water as far as the eye can see, the roaring sound of waves crashing, even the salty smell from the ocean water, wash over and engulf you, drawing you close to God.

However wonderful my time in nature was though, I still felt especially close to God by the opportunity to spend time with my brother and his family again. My mind is filled with thankfulness and yearning to be with them more. I can't wait for heaven, where we'll have an eternity to enjoy each other's company. I have faith that, not only will my husband be there, who I miss dearly, but also many of my loved ones. Now, there's a vacation/reunion I don't want to miss!

My brother Everett--missing you again already!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Sister Time

I've been looking forward to July all year. My sister from Florida came for a visit--that was the first highlight I knew was coming. It was sweetened for us both by getting to attend her youngest son's wedding in Omaha. It was a simple affair, but rich with tradition and beauty, with just a few family members and friends in attendance. They got married by a judge on the back deck of the bride's mother's house. Then we all went to a restaurant for dinner. Low key, no fuss, no muss. It was a delight to be there for the event.

The next item on my agenda is another airplane trip to see my brother and sister-in-law in North Carolina's Outer Banks. I haven't seen them for several years, so am really looking forward to our visit. Also hoping for another look at the ocean which I miss, having grown up with the Atlantic Ocean literally across the street from us!

It seems odd to make plans and visits like this without weaving Dean's care into the picture. Thoughts of previous trips, with and without him, keep tumbling into my mind. But I refuse to let them sour my adventures. Life with Dean was such an adventure, and I'm discovering that our experiences together only served as an enrichment to life that I still have the privilege of enjoying.

So long as the good Lord provides the opportunity, I will seize it and will try to let the blessings flow. Because I know Dean would want it that way. I carry him in my heart, right next to the God who joined us in the first place.

Sisters forever!
...til death do us part...thinking about in particular

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Beauty of Laughter for Ashes

It wouldn't seem right not to include all the milestones of my life, following Dean's passing away last February. My first birthday, Easter, church camp meeting, etc. without him.

Perhaps a real biggie should have been our anniversary on June 6th. But up until June 5th, I hadn't even given it a single thought. Just been keeping busy with other things, and it wasn't on my radar. I'm sure I would have thought about it when the actual day came, and hopefully it wouldn't have been tainted with too much sadness.

My two granddaughters remembered though. Yes, only 8 and 10 years old, and they recognized the day's significance. Perhaps their mom, my daughter, initially mentioned it to them.

Both girls were quite secretive with their plans that day before our anniversary. It was my assigned day to "watch" them while mom and dad worked. It wasn't until their mom came to pick them up that afternoon, that I got to see what was behind their whispers all day. They had evidently come up with a scheme to make Grandma happy, instead of sad, on her anniversary.

A skit, featuring Grandpa, gave me some powerful laugh medicine. They dressed up like him (using one of his flannel shirts and sweatpants still in his closet). "He" came sauntering down the hallway with his cane. All I saw was Julia's face, hidden behind a "beard" they had created out of cotton, glued onto a white piece of paper and held onto her face with bread ties.

Funniest of all was what gave her the height she needed to be like Grandpa. She was cleverly sitting on top of her big sister Jenna's shoulders, underneath all Grandpa's clothing. "He" was truly a sight to be seen, even though I couldn't actually see Jenna. Obviously, I couldn't help but laugh at their accurate portrayal of him.

Then, the funniest part of all. This "apparition" standing before me began to talk. "He" said all the things Dean would have said in a little girl-deepened voice! "Let's go for a hamburger. Can I have a Coke and a candy bar? What's for supper? When's supper?" It was just too funny. They had heard those lines almost every time they were around Grandpa.

I was definitely going to remember their skit, just as they were going to remember Grandpa. And both memories will have a tendency to bring laughter and joy to our lives, rather than tears.

Reminding me of this verse:
"To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning..." Isaiah 61:3

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Everything for my Happiness

Today as I participated in a yearly church event, known as camp meeting, I actually experienced so much joy and freedom that I almost feel guilty for enjoying it so much. Recently widowed, I would have thought the experience would bring me more pain and regret since Dean isn't here to enjoy it with me. And, of course, there was a touch of sadness with his absence, but nothing like one would expect.

Unlike other years, when I was consumed with Dean's care and supervision, this time I actually was able to sing in the mass choir, sit with the friends I chose, accept an impromptu dinner invitation with some old friends, and just mingle socially after the services for however long I desired.

It felt like I was breaking the grieving rules. But only another caregiver (and there are many out there) would understand the exhilarating thrill of my full, unencumbered enjoyment of the event. Even being on oxygen didn't damper the joy of the last few days of meetings. It just felt overall good.

And now, being back in the comfort of my home, I have another milestone to contemplate. My granddaughter's birthday is today. And although I'm too tuckered out from church attendance from the past week to celebrate it with her, I am happily reflecting with joy that she has had another year of life.

How sweet to think that a piece of Dean lives on in our daughter and two granddaughters. Seeing them will always keep Dean's memory alive for me.

The Birthday Girl last summer with grandpa
No, I can't be sad, when I realize that God has thought of everything for my happiness, even in widowhood. His decisions are perfect. His timing is perfect. No matter how disruptive my life may seem at the time, I will be glad, knowing that my life is in His hands.

What a great Sabbath!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Casting My Vote

The school my granddaughters attend has gotten out early this year; so this week we have set up a schedule of relatives to "watch" them during the day, when both mom and dad are working. Happily, I am on that schedule, and will look forward to my days of retirement living having more purpose. It is probably the most important job I could ask for.

But today, as election day, I had another important job to do. I told the girls (now almost 8 and 10 years old) they would have to accompany me to a voting site (our neighborhood library), so I could cast my vote. It was a privilege, being able to vote for the candidates of my choice. Of course, in a democracy like ours, I must surrender my choice to the majority. I don't always get the candidates I want.

I have likewise chosen to surrender my life choices to God, and in doing so, I am sometimes shown a different path than I would have voted for myself. But, in the end, I wouldn't want it any other way. God is really the only leader worthy of our support. So, cast your vote for Him every day! You won't be sorry.

Monday, April 23, 2018

A Story That Changed Us

My (I still want to say "our") granddaughters spent the night with me last night. It's so nice that we are in the same town and can do that occasionally. They both chose a book for me to read to them just before they went to sleep.

Jenna, the oldest (9), chose a children's picture book we got from the Alzheimer's Association a few years ago. It was about a grandpa who began to show symptoms of dementia. Both the girls and I were sadly reminded of the many challenges their own grandpa had, and how hard it is not having him around any more. He and his quirky behavior was all they knew. It touched me that she wanted to read again how someone else coped with having a grandpa who was quite different from other adults in their life.

I saw a quotation the other day that said, "It's funny, because we ask God to change our situation, not knowing that He put us in that situation to change us." I wonder how having a grandpa like theirs will change them, and how it has changed all of us.

It certainly will have an impact on how the girls view the difficulties of others. They will not only have abounding sympathy for those who struggle, but a sterling empathy for others that will enable them even more to help those less fortunate.

So, sometimes God's goal isn't just to change us, but to ultimately change those around us. Like He multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed a multitude, He can use our experiences to shape several generations that come after us. We will never know this side of heaven how many people we have fed, whose lives are better because of how we lived, even though it meant almost unbearable trials and sacrifice.

Here's a video of Dean reading a book to Julia a few years ago...

Friday, April 13, 2018

Expressions of Grief

Just celebrated my birthday yesterday. It felt odd making plans that only included me, and me only. To celebrate I therefore made it a solitary affair. After thinking about inviting people over, as I used to do just to get some visitors in the house for Dean, I nixed the idea and opted for spending the day alone. It just felt so good to stay home, relax my always-tired bones (or maybe I should say lungs), and ignore my "to-do" list.

People have regularly been asking how I'm doing since Dean's passing. That is a really difficult thing to answer. If I say great, am I being callous? If I say not so great, am I being weak? I understand the question is posed by friends who are truly concerned about me and want to convey that they really do care, and I do my best to acknowledge their inquiries and answer the best I can at the time. In truth though, my emotions are rather sketchy these days. Perhaps it's good that they ask, so I can take a little self inventory and make sure I am on the path of mental good health, and not headed for a sinkhole of depression.

Today and a few other times though I was confronted by a different kind of response to Dean's passing. It wasn't in the form of a question, which relieved me of the task of an impromptu self-inspection. This neighbor of mine simply stated how much she missed seeing Dean sitting out on the swing in our front yard, greeting all the passersby with a wave or an invitation to chat. This simple acknowledgement of someone else missing my man really warmed my heart. It validated the many times I have felt a sudden gush of emotion when I remember something about Dean that I miss.

Without realizing it, my neighbor had turned a sympathetic, caring comment into an empathetic, supportive acknowledgment. I must remember her approach when confronted with others in the throes of grief. It was simple enough in practice, but the concept was pure genius.

From now on, I'll not be afraid to address someone's ugly emotions directly. But will let it be known that I feel their pain as well--never exactly, but at least to some extent. As a fellow human, we can only carry someone's load with them, not for them. Only God can lift that burden from their shoulders. But we can reduce its weight by lifting it together.