Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Deep Sorrow Times Three

I was going to write my next story about my girls, Amy and Shelly tonight, but it was also the night I was thinking about what the small memorial service for Michael will look like tomorrow. Michael's wife, Stephanie, is still in the hospital and cannot get out to do a service for him. His sisters and I feel the need to have a smaller, quieter service for him now to hold us over until she can have the service for him that she wants. It's hard to go to work and school acting as if nothing happened. So I've been listening to music and looking at a multitude of pictures of Michael, Michael and his wedding, and Michael and our family. A friend told me the other day in an email that Micheal's death for our family would be so much harder now because he is like losing Vinnie all over again. Mikey was so much like Vinnie in so many ways! They were always the life of a party. I can picture them making a few souls rolling with laughter in their new home! I'm sad that someone in heaven gets to laugh with them and we won't be for a while. I can't help but think of what our holidays will be like this year without them. (The picture above is Vinnie goofing around with his mother visiting from Italy.)

When Vinnie's father was dieing, he died of a failed liver, he'd been in a coma for a few weeks. His mother was grieving terribly and Vinnie wanted to make her laugh. He set his dad up in bed, put his reading glasses on his nose and the newspaper in his hands. He then yelled for his mother to come saying that Daddy wanted her to come see him! She wasn't laughing then and she may not laugh openly now, but I can't help think that she chuckles when she thinks of that day, especially now as she remembers her late son.

We are family full of tradition. I grew up with traditions and let me tell you - Italians have a million of them! When Vinnie and I got married, we created some of our own. As the kids got older, we shifted and made adjustments to these and as they've gone out on their own, we made some new ones. One thing you could say without question about Vinnie and me - we were always adventurous and flexible. Some people don't like change - not even our kids, but we've always liked change. It mixes things up and adds spice to life, we always thought.

Anyway, we have always had a traditional Thanksgiving at my sister's house. Dinner includes turkey, bean casserole, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, mashed rutabaga, gravy, rolls and a variety of pies. Sometimes we've added a ham in the mix too. The Christmas feast was always at my house on Christmas day. It became the tradition to serve Chicken Cordon Bleu for that holiday - always made by Vinnie. Everyone loved his Chicken Cordon Bleu.

I started a new tradition last year when each of the kids were either married or engaged. They were having such a hard time deciding who to have holiday meals with - us or their in-laws/future in-laws. I came up with a great idea - Vinnie and I would have Thanksgiving with my sister like we always did while our kids had Thanksgiving dinner with the in-laws. Then our kids would gather for our feast on Friday! Pretty cool idea, don't you think?! Missing two men in this mix this year, plus our Christmas chef changes everything. For someone who's always been so open to change, even in traditions, I sure don't seem very open to the changes coming this year. The picture above is of Vinnie, Chris who is finally my son-in-law, and my nephew Gary. The guys loved sitting around by a fire while they waiting for a holiday feast!

As I think about these things tonight and look at pictures of Michael and Vinnie and family photos of us over the past 13 years we've been a family here, I can't help but fall into deep sorrow all over again. My friend was right. It's like losing Vinnie all over again. Grief is so much sadder than breaking up with an old boyfriend (what I've experienced of lost love before I met Vinnie) because it is so final. The final-ness of death of a loved one is creepy. It's just creepy. Other times when a good friend moves away or perhaps a spouse leaves a marriage (I am guessing here because it's not happened to me) there could be hope that the person will be seen again or will come back to the relationship again. With death, it's over - it's completely over, final. It will not happen ever again. In the situation with Mikey, at least for now, it's especially hard because we don't know or understand how he died. We are still waiting to hear the results of the autopsy report. It was also so unexpected. There were no warning signs what so ever!

It's strange to me that I can go all day at work feeling like I've put my life back together, for the most part. Oh, I admit that on occasion, a glance at Vinnie's tiny picture on my desk makes me get teary eyed (yes, at my desk - but only when no one else is around!) And I can hang out with a friend or two and talk about Vinnie and life when we were together and life without him without shedding a tear. But then there are moments, especially now as I look at pictures of him and Mike and the family, and it's like a truck runs over my heart. I've never cried from such a deep pit of sorrow before in my whole life. I am never going to stop being sad. I've heard some older ladies at the church I work at that I will never get over becoming a widow, it will simply 'get softer'. I think it might become more like getting more comfortable with the sorrow, or at least more expectant of it, more used to experiencing it's reach at the depths of the heart. I felt it when my daughter was filled with sorrow for her dead babies. Experiencing her sorrow that night was the first time I'd really felt the wrench of sorrow myself, both for those babies and my daughter's broken heart. I felt it when my husband stopped breathing yet his heart still beat for another minute or so and then stopped and he was gone. And deep sorrow visits my heart again tonight as I remember all the times we were together as a family. I can only find comfort in a simple song I've been playing over and over again tonight, Give Me Jesus. There is nothing or no one that can fill the hole in my heart these days except the One who promises to satisfy. If I complicate my situation, it is just that, when in fact, it's easier to keep it simple. I can only ask for Jesus. Here are some of the promises I am leaning on as I seek comfort, yet again, from deep sorrow for the third time this year.

From Psalm 139:1 O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. 5 You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. 7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, I settle on the far side of the sea,10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. 13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well....16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be...18b When I awake, I am still with you.

From Jeremiah 29:11-14a 11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back from captivity.

From Psalm 91:1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."


carol said...

The silence of death is so loud and so empty it is like a physical force.

May our God continue to fill the silence with Himself.

with sorrow and hope...Carol

StaceyC4 said...

Gail, What a blessing you are! I know that writing is a good release for the writer but your words are touching many. I am so sorry for your losses - and please, please, PLEASE forgive me for not contacting you sooner. You and Vinnie were always so kind to our family and know that we have thought of you and prayed for you. You are inspiring because you are showing so many that God is with us even when we feel most alone. May you always feel His presence and His peace. We love you and continue to pray.

Love, Stacey

Gailie said...

It looks like my writings are blessing many, including me, because it's not only wonderful to put my thoughts on paper, but it's a blessing to receive such encouraging notes! Thanks, Carol and Stacey. I am so blessed to have such a huge Family! You are right, Carol, the silence is loud sometimes!
PS: Of course you are forgiven. No apology is required, really, Stacey. I've enjoyed reading your blog too. Hope you are keeping off the pounds!