Friday, March 18, 2011

God makes all things new . . .

That's a truth to grasp and hold tightly. I am trying to learn to balance new adjustments with memories. On the way to pick up Jacob at school this afternoon, I noticed a park where Tom and I had intended to have a picnic. It was only an intention--never reality. For a moment it made me sad to be reminded of one more thing that we had intended, but never did. That sadness was replaced by memories of picnics we did take--spontaneous ones and ones we planned. I've tried not to dwell on how we envisioned our retirement and the way it really was. I try to center on the all the good memories and know they are too numerous to count. I try to remember that all of life is meant to glorify God and trust Him to lead my steps.

That doesn't mean it is easy to get redirected after all these years, especially when several of those years have been taken up with caregiving. I have heard it said that one difficult adjustment is knowing what to do with the time freed up when the caregiving stops. Now I know that's true. Today much of my time is consumed with business matters. I should have kept a record of how many hours I've spent on the phone. Monday I went to circle in the morning, ate lunch with friends, got home at two and spent the next three hours trying to unravel a couple of problems. Another day I spent at least two hours trying to locate the marriage liscense, finally deciding it would be easier to send for a certified copy. Insurance was filed with an incorrect number for several claims and that necessitated getting that changed and trying to find out who was responsible. That mystery has yet to be solved. More problems. One important thing to learn from this is not to get so caught up with busy work that I don't deal with the issues at hand. Another thing is to keep good records and know where things are!

Today was a Corinth day for labs and the Avastin infusion. That doesn't take long and we were through with lunch and on the road home by about 1:15 p.m. Sunday Liz, Sarah and I are headed to Hattiesburg, MS on a new adventure. I'll say more about that later.

Tom is always in my heart and on my mind. Everything reminds me of him. Sometimes I laugh when I think of what his response might be to a situation; other times I wish I could ask him where he put something. This is my first March Madness without him and that seems odd. After all, he is the one who taught me to love college basketball. There sits Charles Barkley making comments on the game just played and I remember watching him lumber down the court when he played for Auburn against Mississippi State. Memories are good, but only if we remain alert to what new thing God might be doing.

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Good Days . . .

Last weekend was GLOOMY. Outside the weather was gray and cold, just plain gloomy. Inside, I was every bit as gloomy. I didn't raise the shades all day on Saturday and other than a quick trip to pick up a prescription I didn't leave the house. A friend from the church came by late in the afternoon to bring homemade soup and pimento cheese. That was the day's only bright spot. I didn't feel sorry for myself, but did allow myself to be sad and lonely and tell God just how I felt. He listened, just as He always does. Sunday I woke up too late to get to church on time--it was still rainy and cold. Late that afternoon I went to Tommy and Liz's for supper and the gloom lifted. When I walked in Tommy said, "Mom, you don't look like you feel well," so I told him about my gloomy two days, plus the fact that I felt silly about them. His reply was: "So, you think you're Wonder Woman and get through the stages of grief in three weeks?" Enter Meredith, who gave me a big hug and continued to give me hugs when she thought I needed one throughout the evening. The two of them broke through the gloom.

I have learned that it's perfectly all right, and perfectly natural, to be sad. There would be something wrong with me if I didn't feel lonely. Sometimes I can see Tom sitting across from me and hear him when his wisdom is needed and feel his hand in mine offering comfort in a single touch. After all, he is and will always be in my heart. I remember the message of the story I related in my last blog. God understands the pain of losing a loved one. God loved Tom even more than I; He loves me and He will heal the pain. Those are the facts. I pray that God will make them a part of me.

This weekend is bright and beautiful--no gloom in sight. Yesterday I went to Memphis with two friends. We shopped at a wonderful grocery store, went to Penzey's Spices, had a two hour knitting lesson, ate lunch and were home by four. All three of us declared that we didn't know when we had laughed as much!. I bought veal loin chops with the condition that Tommy create something delicious. He didn't let us down. Last night we had veal chops on a bed of Charleston grits, smothered with a mushroom gravy. What a feast! The only low point in the day was watching Mississippi State lose in the SEC tourney.

The knitting lesson was so much fun. I haven't knit in at least twenty years and decided to pick it up again. One particular chemo drug has created permanent numbness in my feet and fingers and off and on pain in my toes. The numbness in my fingers makes most needlework difficult and I thought knitting might be just what I needed to try. I miss not having a project in progress. A customer in the shop told me she had some kind of arthiritis in her hands and fingers and that the knitting actually was therapeutic for her. When I first picked up the needles, they felt like telephone poles in my hands, but once the teacher got me started things began coming back to me. I'm going to love my renewed activity--especially with great friends who will knit alongside me.

Speaking of the lady in the shop who told me of her hand and finger problems, God has brought many women who have either spoken a word or two about their experience with widow-hood or people like a dear California friend who wrote and told me a story that I had never known about her life, her experience with grief and how God has provided for her in every aspect of her life. Sometimes when we share something of ourselves with others we may think we are merely saying words, but the Holy Spirit uses those words in ways we cannot even imagine. I am blessed to have friends who care and who take the time to share with me.

The rest of today will be busy with a little cooking, attending a memorial service at the church and studying for two circles I'm teaching on Monday. There is plenty to keep me busy. I must not forget to be still in God's presence. He will keep me in perfect peace---in the midst of any and everything.

Pastor Margaret

Friday, March 04, 2011

February . . .

Finally, the days turned into March. February seemed four years long, rather than four weeks. It has always been recognized in our family as a month full of joyful events: an Army leave that began on the eighth, leading to an official engagement on the thirteenth, a wedding five days later on the eighteenth and six years after that the birth of a beautiful baby girl. Tom and I had much to celebrate. This year I celebrated without him. He died on the seventh. I wondered if the month would ever end. Would the end of the month and the beginning of another lessen my grief? It didn't. If anything, it seems to grow with every passing day.

A friend sent me book one in Kenneth Haugk's series, A Time to Grieve. Two of the quotes he uses describe a bit of how I feel. When we lose someone we have loved deeply, we are left with a grief that can paralyze us emotionally. . . . When they die a part of us dies too (Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey) and this one from Aldolfo Quezada: My tears are the words with which I tell God of my pain.

Sometimes I feel numb and my mind is blank. Still, little things bring tears, things like sitting in church and suddenly realizing that Tom won't sit with me again. Yesterday I emptied his daily pill container of the dose he would have taken the afternoon that he fell. For the first time since his fall I felt completely exhausted and had to make myself put one foot in front of the other. Back at our usual Thursday Bible Study, I couldn't keep my eyes away from the place where he last sat. He is physically gone and a large part of me has gone with him.

Last night I let the tears flow freely. Maybe it was a part of the exhaustion. I don't know, but that was the first time for that as well. Until now there have been plenty of teary times, but nothing like last night's release. This morning I read the above quote: My tears are the words with which I tell God of my pain.

The peace comes in knowing that God understands the pain; God cares. Several weeks ago I received an e-mail story about a little boy who called into a Christian radio talk show to tell something he had learned. He had been eagerly awaiting the birth of a calf which he would raise as his own and was overjoyed when the big day came. Somehow, in the process of birth and the immediate aftermath, the cow fell on the newborn calf and broke it's back. It was necessary for the calf to be put down and the little boy, sad as he was, said he would do what had to be done. When everything was over he thought about what had just happened and be began to pray. His thoughts turned to God's sacrifice of Jesus for us; he thought of the love God had for His only Son, a love so much greater than any we could possibly feel for another. He thought of the heart of God and how it must have been broken when Jesus was put to death. And then he realized: GOD UNDERSTANDS my grief for this calf. God understands our pain.

That is a truth that brings peace in the midst of grief.

Pastor Margaret