Friday Favorite: I’ve Learned…

Preface: This was written just over a year ago. I have always liked this piece. For me, it is simple and to the point. When we grieve, we go back and forth between emotions (stages) and we get sort of lost and stuck. We have to take a little time to remember how to redirect ourselves. This is the way I stayed on the right path–this was my roadmap of sorts.
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I was 25 years old, thought I had my life figured out. I had dreamed of these days since I was young and now, after some hard times and a lot of growing pains, my dreams were coming true. Randy and I had the family we always wanted, his new job provided more than we had hoped for, and to top it all off, we were happy. Couldn’t ask for more than that. We knew there would always be challenges in life. Challenges that we couldn’t predict, but that was okay, because we always had each other. We never dreamed either of us would have to face life alone. 

I was thrust into a new life. This new chapter, unlike the first, came with no one to guide me. Growing up, I always had my parents guidance, this time, I was the leader. While sifting through the ashes of the life I once knew, I learned many things.

Life Doesn’t Knock
I learned very quickly that life doesn’t knock. This uninvited guest walks right in and makes itself at home. Sometimes, life brings wonderful surprises that we never could have imagined. Other times, it brings our worst nightmares to life. This time was worse than any nightmare.

Losing him in a car wreck ripped my future from my grasp. Every dream I had ever dreamed, gone in a flash. Everything I thought to be true was now under a microscope. How I felt about God, my future, and even my past scrutinized every single day. Nothing made sense anymore. I quite literally had to accept my past and redesign my future.

At first, I took life step by step. Often it felt like I was walking on tiny stones across a  wide angry river, hoping to get from one shore to another. One mistake and I’d drown. Over time, with help, the stones became larger and closer together as the angry river quietly receded. I made it to the other side. I built a different life, never forgetting the old.

 “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.”  –Joseph Campbell

Life is Undetermined
There is no way to know when our uninvited guest will show up again. All we can do is live the best we know how with whatever surprises have been thrown our way. There is no shame in falling and no absolution for standing up again. There is a time and season for everything.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, And a time to die;
A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill, And a time to heal;
A time to break down, And a time to build up;
A time to weep, And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain, And a time to lose;
A time to keep, And a time to throw away;
A time to tear, And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, And a time to speak;
A time to love, And a time to hate;
A time of war, And a time of peace.

Life is Best Lived With an Open Heart
When life is full of happiness and rainbows, we let the world in. We live life outloud. We want everyone to share in our light. Maybe we even want to make sure they know our light is as bright as theirs. Living in the best of times is easy.

When life gets us down, we close ourselves off, sometimes we give up. We place blame and get angry. We shut down. No one likes to feel vulnerable and no one likes to be looking up to see someone elses light shining bright while their own barely flickers. Those gloomy, dark times are when we should open up. Open ourselves to possibilities and blessings.

When my grandparents started slipping mentally and physically, it was hard to reach out and ask for help. We wanted to close ourselves up, hide, and handle it the best we could. It came to a point where we felt like we were going to drowned if we didn’t get help. We hired a home helper. A friend of a friend. Recently, I learned that she was in a bad place before stepping in to help my grandparents. She was losing weight, had no money, and was slipping into a serious depression. We knew hiring her would help us. We knew she was in need of a job and it would help her. What we did not know was the depth our help would reach. She smiles now, she has gained some weight back, and she has found love. All of that might have happened without us. It seems from this viewpoint that both of our lights were flickering and when we combined them, it gave us both strength and our lights were shining brighter. To be honest, she would never have been my first choice, but we opened up and gave her a chance. Who knew the good that would come from that decision?

I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. –Maya Angelou

Life Continues
Our lives cannot stop because we have lost someone or something. We can’t quit going forward because we hurt or because it is difficult. We have to keep living. We have to face our fears, stare them in the eyes, and walk right past them without flinching. Once you have faced that fear and conquered it, what is there that can hold you down?

           You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really step to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

We need to keep living for the things we have lost and living for the people and things yet to come. Life is meant to be lived moving forward.  I don’t mean to make that sound easy, because it isn’t. It is something that is possible and things that are possible deserve a chance. There are amazing and wonderful adventures and wonderful endings for those who take a chance. 

“The great courageous act we must all do, is to have the courage to step out of our history and past so that we can live our dreams.” –Oprah Winfrey

So, take that step, keep moving. Day by day things will get easier, dreams closer. Life is definitely different now, but it doesn’t have to be over. Live life, heal your wounds, and reach your dreams. 

Day 47: 365 Days of Motivation for Widows

English: Mustard seeds by David Turner Februar...
Mustard seeds by David Turner February 23, 2005

I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move.
      The Bible
      Matthew 17:20 

Almost every ounce of you is screaming I can’t do this. You can do this. You can make it through this, and if you trust in your faith, you can come out the other side a whole person. Find that piece of you–the piece that thinks you just might make it through. Once you have it in your grasp, don’t let go. 

A little faith in God, and some determination from you, and that little tiny seed can grow. Even a seed knows its path. First, all seeds must take root; building a foundation to support the rest of its journey. Once the root system has developed enough, the plant starts making its way to the surface. Eventually, it will burst though the soil and face the world around it. Let God grow within you; let Him nourish your soul.

It is easy to pull away from your faith when your world is upside down and inside out. Just keep in mind, with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). Take that teeny seed and nourish it through your faith. Lean into your faith instead of away from it. If you do, blessings will abound.

Who’s in Charge?

As soon as I realized I Randy was gone, I wanted to know: who do I blame? I was stunned, hurt, and angry. One minute I was shaking my head and sobbing; this couldn’t be my life. This isn’t how my life was supposed to go. The next, searching for answers and blame.

In my case, I knew a driver, presumably drunk, had crossed the line and struck Randy’s car head on. I knew the other driver was in worse condition and life-flighted first. At first they told me that Randy was unconscious, but it turned out that was not true. That was the police and EMT’s way of protecting me. That didn’t protect me because life-flight team told me the truth. That’s all enough to make a person angry. I would like to sit here and sound noble, tell you that I understood why they sent the other driver first. Tell you that I appreciated the effort to protect me. The truth is, I was mad. Logically, I understood the worst patient goes first and the ethics that go with all that, but in my heart I had trouble coming to terms with someone being saved after they just killed my husband. Intellectually I knew their actions were well-intentioned and absolutely towards helping me. In my heart and my head, I had to reprocess those feelings and come to terms with the fact Randy quite possibly knew he was alone, that the other driver was saved, and that he was going to die. I chose not to know the extent of his injuries, but I have a lot of common sense and put pieces together to create my own picture of what happened. I knew in my heart (and head) that he probably would not have lived either way. Most likely, his chest was compressed and he bled out into his chest when they extricated him. That would have happened either way they did it. All of that information was neither here nor there, I was angry furious and frustrated with everyone involved. 

I eventually came to terms with reality of why things were the way they were on scene. I worked through knowing the truth: he was conscious. I really understood he was probably going to die either way and that living might have been worse for him to tolerate, because of the extent of his probable injuries. Those were hard words to think, harder to say. My focus switched, I focused on being mad at God.

How can a loving God do this to someone? Why would a loving God do this to a couple who had been to their breaking point and back again, happier than ever and then rip their lives to shreds? Does a loving God do that? Only as punishment. God would only do that if someone had to be punished. What could I have done to warrant that punishment? I went to church, we had just been baptized together. I chose to believe that I didn’t deserve that, that my kids didn’t deserve that. My God wouldn’t do that. That only left one person to be mad at–the drunk driver.

I decided that sometimes terrible things happen to wonderful people and if anyone was responsible it was the man who was drinking and driving. How could anyone else be to blame? It was hard to be mad at the drunk driver. Hard because he was still recovering himself. He had two broken legs, blood on his brain, and a few other injuries. He spent months in a rehab facility. I think it was partly to avoid the charges his family knew were waiting for him and partly because he had some rather severe injuries and lasting effects from the accident including amnesia. So, I blamed myself. 

I know it seems strange to blame myself. I had nothing to do with the accident or rescue efforts. I blamed myself because I felt like I had wasted all of my time with him. I had finally discovered what an amazing man he was, or perhaps he had finally grown up and revealed himself, and then he was gone. He finally was the father I always wanted him to be. We had the relationship I always felt we were meant to have. We had the family I had dreamed of. He had the job he had dreamed of and we were starting to live the life we had worked so hard to make for ourselves. How stupid I was for wasting that time! All those months, and even years, wishing he was someone else or that he would do this or be like that. Stupid, stupid me. It was rather easy to forgive everyone else, but it took a very long time to forgive myself.

I finally cut myself a break. The fact is, life is a process of growth. It comes with its own set of growing pains, failures and successes. You can’t have success without failure. No one gets it right the very first time. It’s a process. You fall down and you get up. Eventually, if you are doing it right, you stand up enough times to reach your destination. We met our destination.  There was nothing to be mad at. It took work, but I understood.

We took an unusual path and we did the best we could. It was bumpy, but those bumps made us grow up. I came to the understanding that God is all-knowing. His plans often not understood. I know now that God knew Randy’s life was going to be short. He brought us together early, He tested our wills, and He let us grow up together. He forced us to grow into each other instead of growing apart. We did exactly what we were supposed to: we fell in love. We stuck together through the puppy love, solved our problems that could have ended us, and fell in love. His death wasn’t my fault. His death wasn’t a punishment. We didn’t do anything wrong. We were rewarded with our time together. Our love was the reward, his death was just our goodbye. Everyone has to say goodbye. God let us fill our time here, together. That’s an almighty and loving God.

So, never doubt someone is in charge. It may not be easy this way. It may leave a lot of questions and uncertainty, but there is a plan. Trust in the path, live the journey.

I’ve Learned…

I was 25 years old, thought I had my life figured out. I had dreamed of these days since I was young and now, after some hard times and a lot of growing pains, my dreams were coming true. Randy and I had the family we always wanted, his new job provided more than we had hoped for, and to top it all off, we were happy. Couldn’t ask for more than that. We knew there would always be challenges in life. Challenges that we couldn’t predict, but that was okay, because we always had each other. We never dreamed either of us would have to face life alone. 

I was thrust into a new life. This new chapter, unlike the first, came with no one to guide me. Growing up, I always had my parents guidance, this time, I was the leader. While sifting through the ashes of the life I once knew, I learned many things.

Life Doesn’t Knock
I learned very quickly that life doesn’t knock. This uninvited guest walks right in and makes itself at home. Sometimes, life brings wonderful surprises that we never could have imagined. Other times, it brings our worst nightmares to life. This time was worse than any nightmare.

Losing him in a car wreck ripped my future from my grasp. Every dream I had ever dreamed, gone in a flash. Everything I thought to be true was now under a microscope. How I felt about God, my future, and even my past scrutinized every single day. Nothing made sense anymore. I quite literally had to accept my past and redesign my future.

At first, I took life step by step. Often it felt like I was walking on tiny stones across a  wide angry river, hoping to get from one shore to another. One mistake and I’d drown. Over time, with help, the stones became larger and closer together as the angry river quietly receded. I made it to the other side. I built a different life, never forgetting the old.

 “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.”  –Joseph Campbell

Life is Undetermined
There is no way to know when our uninvited guest will show up again. All we can do is live the best we know how with whatever surprises have been thrown our way. There is no shame in falling and no absolution for standing up again. There is a time and season for everything.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, And a time to die;
A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill, And a time to heal;
A time to break down, And a time to build up;
A time to weep, And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain, And a time to lose;
A time to keep, And a time to throw away;
A time to tear, And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, And a time to speak;
A time to love, And a time to hate;
A time of war, And a time of peace.

Life is Best Lived With an Open Heart
When life is full of happiness and rainbows, we let the world in. We live life outloud. We want everyone to share in our light. Maybe we even want to make sure they know our light is as bright as theirs. Living in the best of times is easy.

When life gets us down, we close ourselves off, sometimes we give up. We place blame and get angry. We shut down. No one likes to feel vulnerable and no one likes to be looking up to see someone elses light shining bright while their own barely flickers. Those gloomy, dark times are when we should open up. Open ourselves to possibilities and blessings.

When my grandparents started slipping mentally and physically, it was hard to reach out and ask for help. We wanted to close ourselves up, hide, and handle it the best we could. It came to a point where we felt like we were going to drowned if we didn’t get help. We hired a home helper. A friend of a friend. Recently, I learned that she was in a bad place before stepping in to help my grandparents. She was losing weight, had no money, and was slipping into a serious depression. We knew hiring her would help us. We knew she was in need of a job and it would help her. What we did not know was the depth our help would reach. She smiles now, she has gained some weight back, and she has found love. All of that might have happened without us. It seems from this viewpoint that both of our lights were flickering and when we combined them, it gave us both strength and our lights were shining brighter. To be honest, she would never have been my first choice, but we opened up and gave her a chance. Who knew the good that would come from that decision?

I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. –Maya Angelou

Life Continues
Our lives cannot stop because we have lost someone or something. We can’t quit going forward because we hurt or because it is difficult. We have to keep living. We have to face our fears, stare them in the eyes, and walk right past them without flinching. Once you have faced that fear and conquered it, what is there that can hold you down?

           You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really step to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

We need to keep living for the things we have lost and living for the people and things yet to come. Life is meant to be lived moving forward.  I don’t mean to make that sound easy, because it isn’t. It is something that is possible and things that are possible deserve a chance. There are amazing and wonderful adventures and wonderful endings for those who take a chance. 

“The great courageous act we must all do, is to have the courage to step out of our history and past so that we can live our dreams.” –Oprah Winfrey

So, take that step, keep moving. Day by day things will get easier, dreams closer. Life is definitely different now, but it doesn’t have to be over. Live life, heal your wounds, and reach your dreams. 

Tears of Men

Life is a series of moments. Moments shape our lives. Some moments more than others. Randy’s death unleashed moment after moment after defining moment. As hard as death is, there is a certain inevitable grace and beauty that comes in the process of healing.

If you would have told me that in those first days or months after Randy’s death, I never would have believed you.  It’s hard, unbearable at times, to walk the path of a widow, or to walk through any storm. Moments created in grief, uplifted my soul and carried me through to a time when I could stand on my own to feet.

Some of those moments are unexpected. When I arrived at the funeral home for Randy’s visitation, I was broken. The anticipation of walking through those doors was torture. The thought of seeing him and the final goodbyes were more than I could comprehend. Every step closer to the doors made the tears fall faster. By the time I arrived at the casket, I was almost inconsolable. Then something happened that I had never imagined.

By 4:00pm, the scheduled time for the viewing to begin, the room was full. Not only was the chapel full, but  I was getting reports from people in the line that it was wound down the hall, back up the other side, through the other chapel, outside to the steps, through the parking lot, and down the sidewalk for more than a block. The chapel was full of flowers. In fact, the flowers, gifts, and statues also overflowed our chapel into the next.  A response I could never have expected. I heard the wait time to see me was about an hour and a half.

Person after person entered that room, made their way patiently to the front of the chapel to greet me. Each one played a special role in his life, my life, or a family members life. The longer I stood there and the more people I met seemed to push my tears further and further away. It wasn’t that I was happy or even relieved. I was astonished. I felt loved. I felt supported. And more than anything, I was completely amazed at the number of people who wanted to be a part of this day.

I stood at the front of that room, without moving, and greeted people for close to five hours! I could look down the line of people and see the constant wiping of tears and dabbing of noses. The room filled with the muffled sound of soft conversations and quiet sniffling. I looked up to greet the next person, and instead I saw an empty space. I saw a church friend partially bent over, holding onto a chair. He was sobbing. The rest of the room fell rather silent. People were trying to act as if they weren’t watching, but they couldn’t help it. His chest heaving and tears streaming from his eyes, he fell to his knees. Randy’s dad leaned on one knee to console him. Together they stood. I watched, speechless. Tears silently fell down my cheek. The pair gradually made it to me. Our friend could barely speak through his tears. I hugged him as he wept. I wanted to help him. I rubbed his shoulder and softly said, “You don’t have to say anything; I know its hard. I’m just glad you are here.”

He was the first person to just weep. He was the first man I had ever seen cry like that. He was the first of many men I saw weep just as deeply that evening. And with each one, I cried. I didn’t cry because I felt their grief, although I did feel it. I cried because it touched me. It touched me in a way that nothing else could have. The honesty shared through the tears of men was beautiful. That instant, that moment in time, shaped my healing process. It carved my path. I believe God was showing me what I needed to see to move forward with life.

We get caught up in ‘me, myself, and I’. Where I want to work. How much money I want to make. How big my house is. My car is better than your car. My husband works harder. My kids are smarter. What you can do for me. It’s all garbage and all of that garbage, in time, fades away.

Sometimes, we forget about other people. We forget that maybe money, houses, and cars aren’t the real blessings in life. We forget that we all set out to do the best we can, and some of us might need help learning how to achieve it. Everyone’s husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, friends, and children mean just as much to them as yours do to you–even when they aren’t perfect. Maybe, we should focus on what I can do for you and not what you can do for me. That is where the blessing is.

None of us will be here forever. And, as life with Randy showed me, some of us are gone way too soon. The things people remembered about Randy wasn’t our pitiful house, or the fact we did things backwards by getting pregnant and then married. They remembered he was young, smart, and dedicated. He was a good father and worked hard to support his young, ever-growing family. He loved Jesus, his family, sleep, hunting, and sports (in that order). He followed the rules and expected others to do the same. He helped and protected people and animals alike. He was a friend to everyone and an enemy of none.

Seeing tears of men shaped my life.

I walked into that building feeling broken and defeated. I left that building knowing that life is important and amazing. I went home knowing that everyone’s life is connected and affects others on a scale impossible to fathom. That night proved to me that life really is about something bigger than me. The instant our friend fell to his knees, helped me put away the ‘why is this happening to me?’ question and start asking, ‘why should it have happened to someone else? Why do I think someone else should suffer instead of me?’ Had I not experienced that night, those little moments, I’m not sure I would have healed, ever. That instant made me realize how much of an impact I have on others, especially my children.

I think about that night fairly often. I’m not stuck in that moment, but it still means so much to me. Sometimes, when life is pulling me down and I’m not sure how I am going to climb back out, that night comes back to me. It reminds me what really matters in life.