Archive for the ‘gratitude’ Category

Reflecting on the Opposite Sides of a Coin Philosophy

When I pulled up that Friday evening, I had the same overwhelming feeling that came over me the year before.  There was peace and sadness at the same time.  I looked around and felt gratitude for all the people and noticed how many women were there alone, also dropping off their children for grief camp.  And thus sorrow came along with the gratitude.  It was sunny upon retrieving my child that last day and then the mist and the drizzle came. The memorial service the kids put on for parents no longer with them that last afternoon was sweet and full of laughter at times, and at other moments, tear-provoking. 

And so was the weekend of opposites.  Two emotions and two feelings, opposite of each other and yet occurring at the same time.

And this happens, often really, if I think about it on a deep level.  I can feel loneliness and at the same time, contentment and peace.  I can feel happiness and sorrow together.  I can feel deep pain and hurt along with laughter and joy.  Often these two sides, just like those on a coin, can be turned and looked at from different perspectives.  I can hold one side and one emotion for as little or as long as I would like before I flip the coin and see the other side.  Sometimes I may choose to sit with the uncomfortable side for a while.  It reminds me of sadness or hard times but this is powerful and helpful to me.  I can recall those feelings of genuine anguish and appreciate them for the lessons they taught me.  I can feel that pain and connect with others who are hurting.  I can touch that feeling and appreciate how it carved me into the person I now am. 

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And when the time is right, I can flip that coin and consider the other perspective.  I can appreciate the joy that I have at a deeper level.  I can use the peace I feel to help my children.  I can love more fully and deeply as a result of all these opposites that have come to live and settle in me.

And I hope that these threads, due to tragedy, that are now weaving in and out of my core, find their way to binding me with others.  These threads leave my essence and move through my two children in different ways.  Sometimes I have no idea that my actions or words are touching them in any tangible way, but then months later something is said by one of them and it touches me greatly.  We are firmly connected not only by the parent-child bond, but also by that bond that comes from tragedy.  Sometimes unspeakable, especially with young children who may not be able to fully articulate their feelings, but the bond is there and it grows stronger all the time. 

And bonds can form and grow too with others as well.  As long as we embrace the duality of the coin and sit with the negative feelings as well as welcome the positive feelings.  Both of these sets of feelings have something to teach us and both help make us into better humans as a result.  So instead of trying to flip your coin too quickly to the side that pleases you, consider looking at the uncomfortable side.  Consider the message, the lessons, and appreciate how these unpleasant feelings can connect you to others and help you grow along your journey.

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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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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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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

 

Holiday Reflection Time

This time of year always brings out the glad and the sad at full face value. Not that the sadness is not present throughout the year, it’s never fully gone as a widow, but it is more subtle than during the holiday season. I choose to see the good in life and can push back the sadness that comes when I think about my late husband. During the holidays when there is a conscious direct acknowledgement of family, gratitude, precious time and life, gifts of grace, and joy, reflection is more direct than over the previous many months. Such deliberate consideration of life comes when my young daughter asks me to write down what I am thankful for, complete with justification. It comes when visiting the house of friends for Thanksgiving dinner and watching the interactions of couples and children. It comes with the time off from work and school and the ability to sleep in and have lazy mornings and time for pensive thought.

It is during such times that I am reminded of how grateful I really am for all that I have. It is also during these times that the underlying sadness of what is present consistently decides to rear its head directly and gives me pause. I have now been a widow through two holiday seasons, with young children that would be thriving with my late husband’s attention and love. We have lost much, especially when I think of potential future – what would my children’s personalities be like with Jim in the picture? What lessons are they missing out on that Jim would have given that I cannot? Will they be at a disadvantage compared to their peers because they didn’t have his attention, direction, and love? Will they grieve as they age and feel a gap in their lives?

The ultimate question becomes one of provision – that is, will I be able to give my children all they need to be successful, thriving people? With this mindset, the goal of helping my children do just that takes center stage and sadness once again gets its rightful place as a backdrop. The reminder that there is so much good in the world still overrides the sad card. The holiday months bring out a more direct attention to what is good and what is possible still – not what is lost, as much as what is to be celebrated. My late husband Jim is to be celebrated, the amazing new opportunities that have appeared in our lives are to be celebrated, and the excitement of what is to come is to be celebrated. During this time of year I am reminded of gifts to celebrate – gifts of people in my life, gifts in the form of reminders at the precise moment I need them, gifts in the form of grace, gifts in the form of Jesus coming to earth. And because of this final gift, we are guaranteed that we will see Jim again and that for now he is active and joyful in heaven.  I now understand that Jim wants me and our children to be happy on earth.  I did not know this last holiday season.  I do realize that this holiday season.  And that is a big cause for celebration for us all.

My 7-year old daughter's reminder that life is to be celebrated

My 7-year old daughter’s reminder that life is to be celebrated

Can a 25-minute encounter change your life?

The doorbell rang.  I was impressed on the punctual arrival.  A sweet elderly lady greeted me with a smile.  She had travelled an hour to pick up a hospital bed for her husband.  The same one my late husband used.  We went to the garage and I showed her how to put it back together (it was in parts for easy mobility) and we talked logistics.  Then the question came, “Why are you selling the bed?”  I had to explain.  I was grateful for the question – so many people avoid talking or asking about Jim these days for fear they will upset me.  She looked shocked.  I was reminded how shocking it is that neurological Lyme disease can kill a person.  Then she told me her story.  Her husband had a stroke.  At first the physicians misdiagnosed it as Parkinson’s disease.  Then while he was walking in his disabled state, a car struck him.  I was horrified for her.  We both fought back tears.  We talked about the pain of seeing someone you love suffer and the frustration of not being able to help them in the ways we would want to.  Then she announced, “Come meet him.”  I didn’t realize he was in the car.  We walked over and I opened the door.  Another lovely wide beautiful smile.  A face aged by years of “doing”.  Wrinkles, crow’s feet, and signs of stress and age on the face.  A beautiful face.  We chatted for a bit and then I excused myself so I could get the bed into their van.

After we loaded up the bed, the woman asked, “How much do I owe you?” as she pulled out an envelope of cash.  “There is no need,” I replied, “I hope you enjoy the bed and that it is helpful for your husband.”  Then I paused and added, “I’m happy it is going to you both.  It served Jim well and I hope it does the same for your husband.”  Again, the woman had the look of shock on her face.  “No, I insist I pay you something,” she protested.  I again said no.  Then her tears flowed, she embraced me with the biggest bear hug I’ve had in awhile.  “God bless you,” she said.  “God bless you too,” I replied back.  She stood back and then came to hug me again, so genuine in her gestures.  Several more times she commented “God bless you,” and she meant it.

I approached the man again in the passenger seat.  His wife had told him the bed was a gift.  He started tearing up and then the tears started to fall.  The three of us were all there crying with the connection of pain, blessings of having lived good lives, and the frustration that comes with the knowledge that things sometimes go wrong and you can’t control them.

As the van drove off and I waved goodbye, my tears continued to stream down my face.  This couple, elderly and so full of love for each other, had just blessed my life.  I was saddened in that I had thought Jim and I would get to that point – be the cute elderly couple who still enjoyed each other so much.  I was glad too though to have made a small difference in this particular couple’s lives.

My 25-minute encounter with these two beautiful people reminded me that there are blessings always and that even though we are not in control of events, we are still in control of our attitudes and perspectives.  Thank God (literally) for amazing people to come along and remind us of the important things in life.

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