Words and Remembering Can Be Wonderful Gifts

An old friend, a new friend, a friend across the miles I have never personally met, my mom, and a neighbor.  All these different parts came together this morning – all remembering.  All making me aware that there are people who surround us who support, who love, who honor.  Today is the day Jim died three years ago.  In some ways, it feels like a few months ago and in other ways, of course, so much has changed.  All I have to do to remember that one is look at how much our two children have grown and changed over the past several years.  But to think that people, some of whom I know only distantly, would remember this day and would think to honor Jim by remembering him – well that frankly is such a surprising blessing. 

Last night I was watching a television show that related to my winding and wondering thoughts on this anniversary day.  The show had a scene in it where a teenager died while texting and driving.  The grieving parents were sitting with the main character of the show and a pastor.  They were both recalling the need to try to make something beautiful out of things that don’t make sense, that are horrible and sad.  As so today, I realize the beautiful that comes from Jim in the children we had together – Jim’s son is a sweet, pensive, and athletic boy (just like his daddy); Jim’s daughter is a spitfire who likes to charm a room and knows what she wants (just like her daddy).  I also realize the beautiful that comes from Jim’s far to early departure from this world – that love is still here and friends and family will always be touched by Jim and I by their love back. 

The “why” Jim left so soon and “how” he could have been taken from his kids too early in life cannot be explained now, but for now I remember Jim and his kindness, his smile and laughter, his generosity, his perseverance, his perfectionism, and his love for his family and friends.  And I can find peace knowing he is hanging out with the coolest person who has ever lived on this planet (as the kids and I say) – Jesus. 

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The Ring and the New Year

I guess the new year always brings in the good and the sad.  The reflection of what is not great compared to the wonderful.  This was reflected in my day both physically and mentally.  As my kids are back in school after the break and I am getting ready to head back to work, I am trying to finish some tasks and tend to matters that I have decided are important now. 

The day started off misty and rainy damp.  The sky was gray, but then gave way to the sun and the temperature rose.  For January, it was a perfectly lovely day.  I had to put on my sunglasses and take off my coat.  As I was driving to the jewelers, I noticed road signs that stated de-icing efforts were underway and, sure enough, minutes later I saw a truck putting salt on the roads.  This struck me as so odd.  The temperature was in the 60s and yet we were preparing for snow several days later. 

In North Carolina, even if it does snow, it will be sunny and warm within hours to days and the snow or ice will melt and the temperatures will again rise into the 50s.  A downward blip to make you rest and reflect followed by an upward surge of sunshine and activity.  And so is life…..

Once I made it to the jewelry store, I rang the doorbell and was buzzed inside.  It was as if I was stepping into the past.  I hadn’t been to this store in years and the memories flooded.  I pictured my late husband returning to this store week after week before he proposed to find a flawless, perfect diamond.  I recalled the stories of the people there trying to convince him the ring he was considering was perhaps not the best choice since it wasn’t a typical engagement ring (it was the perfect choice for me – Jim was right).  I looked around at the style of the store, the fanciness of the décor, the dress of the people who worked there and it was so my late husband.  It made me smile, and, of course, it made me sad at the same time.

After Jim died, I continued to wear my engagement ring on my left hand for a long time.  Then I decided to not wear it for an even longer time.  Recently I have decided I want to wear it again, but this time on my right hand instead (and thus the need to get it resized at the fancy jewelry store).  I am excited to get my ring back and to wear it again.  Jim did an excellent job selecting a ring he knew I would love and it will always remind me of him.  Wearing it again will be lovely.  The gloom of the past many years is trying to give way to a sunshine upsurge. 

As my life continues to change and morph into the new normal it is, I know I will continue to have periods of misty, damp times.  The new year reminds us of this.  The new year always brings this chasm – excitement for what is ahead, the possibilities and also the tension that comes from expectations not being met or conditions not being what you want them to be at the moment.  Patience is definitely needed as I wait for the sunshine to penetrate through the mist.  This past year has been sad and frustrating at times but also very wonderful in so many ways.  The promise of the future and the new year is great however and I know my sunshine is on the horizon.  

Your Secret Super Power a Few Years Down the Road

I wrote a piece several years ago for a wonderful website called “Inspire Me Today”.  I wrote it while my now deceased husband was still alive and we were fighting for his life.  It is being reposted today and I hope you will revisit it by clicking here

As I reread the piece it made me reflect on how much as happened since I wrote it and how my view of the world has sharpened over time.  Even though Jim did not survive, our collective belief in ourselves, our family, our strength, and our knowledge that Jim would be healed in some way has not changed.  Our resilience got both Jim and I through some incredibly hard times.  Jim had chronic neurological Lyme disease that expressed itself with overlapping ALS-symptoms.  It got to the point that Jim could no longer walk, move, talk or breathe on his own.  Yet through these years Jim managed to touch people, to smile when friends showed up, to be present for our children.  His will was incredible and he survived longer than many physicians thought he would because of his belief in himself.  I juggled a job and raising children, managed to keep our family functioning as a family, and spearheaded Jim’s care because of my belief in self, lifted up with God’s help, and supported by many loving family and friends.

During the end of Jim’s life a friend said something profound to me that helped me realize that regardless of whether Jim would be healed while on Earth, it was guaranteed he would be healed after death.  In heaven, Jim is healthy again.  Our belief in self and our belief and faith in God supports that inner resilience and can make reality happen here or after in heaven.  My super power is still found within – it has taken a beating, but the joy I can feel for life and my children has been highlighted more brightly because of the pain of what we went through.  Not in spite of, but because of….. the secret super power is still present in full force – helping me carve a new path of my own choosing.

 

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When Details Are Important

As we all know, time can go by so quickly and yet so slowly at the same time.  Painful times that seemed to last a lifetime in some sense could be flagged by fleeting moments where it is hard to believe years have passed already.  Two years since my late husband was here with me, two more years in which our children have grown and transformed into their own persons, two blinks of an eye where it seems sometimes that Jim might still be at the house when I return from work but at the same time two long years where so much has changed.

Jim’s heaven day was two years ago.  Another widow introduced me to this term and its name is powerful and appropriate.  Rather than thinking about a death anniversary as a sad event for me and many others still here, it is right to remember that Jim is in heaven and marking that as a wonderful event for him.  As I reflect on Jim and try to remember him as the person he was – his good qualities, his not so good qualities, his quirks, his personality, his style, his essence – I know remembering the details is important.  I remember his smile, the way his eyes would sparkle, the way he looked when he wore a blue shirt, the way he said my name, his laugh, the way he walked, the jokes he told, the gentleness he expressed to strangers, our vacations, the way he meticulously mowed the lawn, the countless camera shots he took of our kids to capture all those precise moments, the way he drove his car, the expressions he would use that I never completely understood until he explained them to me.  The list goes on, but when I am in survival mode or busy mode trying to get it all done, I don’t take the time to remember the details.  But the details are so important.

The details provide the substance, the gift, the life that Jim was and gave.  Recalling these details for my kids helps to make their daddy a real person rather than a photo in an album.  Remembering the fine points, the nuances, the details, the private interactions – all this honors Jim and his memory.  These details help me remember healthy Jim, rather than sick Jim.  They help me see the good in people, despite their flaws.  They release emotions and remind me that Jim mattered, our life together mattered, and every person has value.

That being said, when considering my future, I also have come to appreciate that fretting over details is one of my worst enemies.  Where there is real value in recalling details of the past, there is danger over obsessing over details as it relates to the future.  Instead, I have learned the future must be met with broad strokes.  Considering goals and visions is necessary and then trusting and working to make these a reality is appropriate.  If I try to consider too many details and/or control things, I lose.  This doesn’t mean I am laxidasical about my future or that I do not plan for it.  It does mean that I have stopped trying to control the happenstances along the road.  I have learned to accept what happens and consider that setbacks or changes in directions are alright.  This isn’t necessarily easy either – I can cry with the best of them; however, it is liberating to give up the control and know and trust that God will handle things such that my kids and I will be alright. 

So critically analyzing the past and mulling over details – yes; but using this same strategy for the     future – no.  Instead my new mantra has become to move forward with confidence without controlling every detail, but I do know that this is alright.  Moving forward with confidence with that general vision for the future but knowing things will change and morph and not go the way I envision completely.  And knowing too that this is alright as well.

There have been several scriptures over the years that have spoken to me and have helped to get me through some difficult, dark, and frankly horrible days.  This one again speaks to me and reminds me to let go of the control and the details when it comes to the future:

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”   Romans 8:28

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Is Skiing akin to Life?

It was one of my late husband’s favorite activities. The exhilaration of moving with ease quickly down a mountain, the challenge of a steep section of terrain, the beauty and peace of nature and the rush of crisp air.  He wanted to share this experience with his children.  He wanted to teach them to ski.  He wanted to laugh at their successes and celebrate their improvements over the years.  But it was not meant to be.  Jim died before the kids were old enough to start their training.

So I have taken up the cause, knowing this was one of a handful of “musts” in Jim’s mind. The kids participated in two days of ski school (or in my son’s case – snowboarding school) and on the third day we went out together.  At the beginning of the trip, things started off questionable – my daughter’s boots were too tight and she wailed and flung her body on the ground; my son had a fall that knocked the wind out of him and scared him such that I wasn’t sure he would get back on the slopes.  But then it all clicked.  After a brief rough start on day three, we were all moving well down the slopes.  I stayed behind the kids watching.  My maternal instincts of “you are going too fast” and “you are getting too close to the edge” had to be kept in check.  I held my tongue and hoped for the best, trusting that everything would be fine.

My worry turned to pride. My doubts turned to confidence.  In the end, all was well.

And then it occurred to me that this ski trip was a metaphor of our life as a family. Shaky starts.  Doubts.  Periods of scary times.  The need to trust.  In the end, with some practice, we are getting it “right” just as with skiing – we are finding confidence, joy, and peace.  Skiing does teach life lessons and is a reminder to look inward as well as outwards – believe in yourself, work hard to accomplish something meaningful, but at the same time, look outward – appreciate nature, look to others for help, and trust in something bigger than yourself.

Needless to say, we are already planning next year’s adventure.

New Book Giveaway

Hi Everyone,

Just a quick note to let you know that today is the last day of my book giveaway on goodreads.  I’m excited for you to read the new book as it has some neat contributions – my 9 year old son wrote some insights, my 7 year old daughter illustrated the book, and a friend’s eulogy to Jim is included in the book.  It is entitled When Miracles Aren’t Enough: The Lessons Tragedy Taught Me.  It has been well received and I’m excited to be giving away 20 books.  Please share the link as well with your friends.  Thanks so much!  Erica

Here is the link to enter the giveaway (again make sure you do it by the end of today – Friday March 4th): https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27314454-when-miracles-aren-t-enough

 

How Death Changes Us

I hadn’t seen her in awhile, many months, and much has happened since that time. A warm smile and a sweet embrace followed.  Then the words, “How are you?”  These were sincere words.  A question from another widow.  Then the firing of questions back and forth between us, trying to get in as much as we could as we knew the time was short – the meeting was about to be called back to session.

This widow is older than I. Her children are now adults and grandchildren stumble at her feet.  My children are in elementary school.  She is now retired but still quite active working in so many other unpaid ways.  I am in a paying career at the moment.  Her late husband was told of his illness shortly before mine died, and her husband died just a few weeks later.  My husband’s illness lasted years.

The opposites that this widow and I shared were direct, but, at the same time, we had so much in common. I knew her.  She knew me.  The knowingness that comes with the transition to this new phase of our lives.

As I was contemplating these two sides of the coin that we shared, I heard her ask “Are you the same Erica?” Of course too much had happened over those seven plus years of struggling to regain my late husband’s life only for it to end in heartache.  She knew the answer, but was looking for a bit more.  I gave her the glance of knowing exactly what she meant and where she was headed.  Then without skipping a beat, she continued “I am not.  How can we be?  But you know what surprises me the most?”  I waited.  I really wasn’t sure what she was going to say.  I was intrigued and wanted to know – I have so much respect for her, and she has so much more experience than I do in her wisdom and walk in faith.  Would our answer be the same or on opposite sides of the coin?

With the twinkle I have come to see often in her eyes, she said, “What surprises me the most is that I have changed and I am happy about that.  I have changed for the better.”

With all the sadness, with the loneliness, with the heartache that can come in waves, so too comes the good. The knowledge that we will see our late husbands again in heaven and that they are great where they are now, free of pain and doing all sorts of things I can only dream about.  The hope that goodness can grow out of sadness.  The renewed people we have become.  The new perspectives we have.  The appreciation for gifts and life and new people that enter our lives.  The joy that can become with honoring and remembering our late husbands always but also carving out a new path for the rest of our journey here.

How my friend is “better” she couldn’t clarify for me. The meeting was being called back to order.  But I can guess.  The better when we realize we cannot control the events that may happen in our lives, but the freedom we gain when we control how we view those events and how we will approach the rest of our years here.   As for me and my family, we will continue to be “better” and grow “stronger” every month and we will continue to love and welcome new people into our lives.  This is important as relationships make life better.  Relationships make me better – they help to heal, they help to grow, they help me become a better mom, they help me become the person God intends for me to be.

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