Posts Tagged ‘death’

The Rain Feeling

Today is one of those days where multiple things have occurred that cause me to think.  To pause.  To reflect.  Today it is not so much a specific topic that is on my mind, but a feeling.  The items that are causing me to stop and reflect are all stirring an emotion that I can only equate with remembering.  The remembering is good, but it brings sadness too.  Let me try to explain.

I gave an interview this morning centered on how to celebrate a special occasion of a loved one who has died (my late husband Jim’s birthday is coming up in a few days).  Then I read a blog from a friend who has ALS about the purpose of trials and seeing the good that can come from such adversity.  Again this caused me to remember Jim and his fight and our trial as a family trying to navigate through some really hard years.  Then the weather.  It is cloudy and rain is headed here any time now.  It makes me feel calm in many ways – no need to rush around in the rain – and at the same time it changes my mood to one that is more contemplative and in some ways it makes me feel more melancholy. 

black-and-white, hand, person

So the “rain feeling”….

Gloomy in some ways
Reflective in others
Pensive in mode
Slow in pace
Leading to discovery


The rain itself makes me remember the sun.  Makes me appreciate the sun.  The rain is good for the plants and recharging rivers and aquifers.  The rain holds much value.  But of course, most of us, including me, get a little sad when the rain does come, even though we know it is temporary and even though we know it is good in the long run.

And life is so much like this in general, isn’t it?  There are rainy periods that we know will end soon enough.  We know these rainy periods are good in that they bring perspective; they can offer us insights into situations because we sit longer and contemplate things.  We know these rainy periods can be sad and sometimes frightening (especially if they come with compliments of thunder and lightning), but at the same time the rain session itself will still have some good to it.  I mean who doesn’t like splashing in puddles on a hot summer day in the rain? 

So the rain feeling is inevitable throughout our lives.  The rain feeling is one that offers us benefits if we embrace it when it comes rather than trying to pull out umbrellas and run to drier locations.  Let the rain come, learn and remember some of those good times and know the sun does always return.  Eventually.  After the rain is over.  And that sun, that wonderful sun, will shine down on you and make you smile. 

So here is to the sun.  And to the rain.  Both offer value. 

Image result for rain and sun free images pexels

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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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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.  

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.

What Had Death Done To Me?

What has death done to me?  This was a question posed by another widow who wrote an article about change and moving forward several months ago.  This question was buried in the middle of that article, but it popped from the screen and seemed to etch itself in my brain from that moment on.  I thought about how I would answer that question.  Became overwhelmed and unsure.  So I did what made sense – I pushed it to the back of my mind only for it to resurface again a few days later.  This pattern continued for weeks until I finally decided to try to articulate what death has done to me.

It is so complex and hits on so many levels that trying to succinctly state something seems disingenuous.  It is almost like if I summarize in a paragraph what Jim’s death has done to me that I would somehow be dishonoring my husband.  But still when I am honest and I consider the pattern that I see in much of my attitude since his death, I recognize that much of what has happened to me is ironic.  As a result of Jim’s death I find myself being more open, more out there in terms of connecting with friends, expressing my thoughts, not wanting to dwell on the trite but to be open and honest.  Many people have the opposite occurrence.  They become more reserved and sometimes even closed.  For me, things (events, happenings, people) are more raw now.  They hit at a different level which is hard to communicate.  There is a boldness in how I approach things that is different from what it was before.  And the openness to it all is apparent.

This open quality is not something my oldest friends or family would say has been with my for the long haul.  In fact, I believe I was very much the opposite.  A private person by nature and happy to be open with loved ones, but it took time to reach this point when first connecting with someone.  When Jim started getting very ill years ago, we wanted to help educate other people about Lyme disease.  As Jim’s voice left him physically, I took on the charge.  It was not within my comfort zone, but I did it because it felt like the right thing to do.  Upon Jim’s death, another floodgate opened – this one even further.  Now I find that I tend to answer a person’s question fully and honestly.  I don’t stop short.  I am wide open most of the time.

As I have come to appreciate this new view of life that I seem to have acquired, it brings a smile to my face.  You see when Jim and I got married 16 years ago one of our favorite songs, one that we played all the time and sang at the top of our lungs and danced to in the late hours of the night, was “Wide Open Spaces” by the Dixie Chicks.  The song deals with wanting freedom and wanting a new life and wanting to become the person you were meant to be.  So in a strange way, there is a circle that seems to have been completed.   The rawness and the boldness of the future unknown.  To be open to it regardless of where I have been in the past and to be fully immersed in the now.

 

(below:  Valentine of Milan Mourning Her Husband, the Duke of Orleans,
by Fleury-Francois)

A Year After the Death

I’ll try not to complain
About the things I have lost
Cause when you have something great
That just means there’s a greater loss
So when you look at yourself
Tell me who do you see
Is it the person you been
Or the person you’re gonna be
Don’t take your life for granted
Don’t take your life for granted
Why don’t you hold on tight
To what you’ve been handed”

—-From the song “Hold on Tight” by Greg Holden

I have been listening to this song a lot lately as the one-year anniversary of my husband’s death is here.  So many emotions bubbling to the surface – many of which I thought I had dealt with, maybe rearing their face again as other sad moments unrelated to Jim’s death come – reminders of the “makes no sense” and the lack of control.  The ripping away of something good when it is good and without a choice, a voice, or the ability to change the course of events.

Listening to this song reminds me of two things that should be shouted out as I reflect on my late husband and the gift that he was to me and to so many others.  Jim and I had a great life together.  We produced two wonderful children to remind me of this everyday – part of the reason why the loss is so great.  But as the song states –  I don’t complain.  I try to appreciate.  I try to give back some of that kindness, grace, and love that Jim showed every day.  If his life is to mean what I believe it did – in part his reminder to us all is that life should not be taken for granted.  Life is wonderful, but it can be short and taken away prematurely.  And regardless of how much time we have left, we should not take our lives for granted.

The second “hit home” portion of this song is about me as a person – who I was and who I will be.  When you have such loss, when you see such suffering, when you witness such horrible things, and feel the betrayal of institutions, friends, and family, your perspective and outlook on life changes.  How could it not?  Part of this maturation comes with age and experience in general but there is something about the extreme loss that shoots those of us in this camp down a different path altogether – a diversion along life’s main highway.  There is a crispness in what we see, an intolerance for fluff, and an instant deep connection to those who are also traveling on this path, shaking their heads and trying to make sense of it all.  I do not know who I will become, but I do know it is different from that which I had envisioned before Jim’s health started to fade.  Before Jim’s death.  I will continue to pull on my resilience and force myself to take some power back by deciding what to do rather than letting the event dictate to me.  And I pray that I can enjoy the new path and focus on the new, unexpected, but good things that wait for me along the way.  And as the song says I “will hold on tight to what [I’ve] been handed.”  It is good still.

If you are interested in the song and/or video, click here

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