Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Death Manual

So many times people have made funny little comments about the fact that babies don't come with manuals. Well, neither does widowhood! In fact, it seems as though there's more books on how to raise children, all kinds of children and all ages too, than there are books on how to make money and surely more than on dealing with death!

When I went to the funeral home a few weeks before Vinnie died and Vinnie and I decided with the funeral home and our pastor what we wanted done when Vinnie was gone, the funeral director told me that I'd need to get the deed to my house settled with the county for taxes and I'd need to do something or other with Social Services. But so much happened between that day and the day he died, and so much happened after that day that everything got so cloudy, I didn't remember what I was supposed to do or why or when, or any of that. I could have used a manual then!

And then, there's the new level of friendships - couples don't want to hang out with you anymore because three is a crowd, not a fun mix. And singles don't really consider you single. If I joined a widow group I'd probably be one of the youngest in the bunch and some might be in it to find a new spouse. Though a second income would sure help, I am not sure I want to start over again with someone. So there's this lull that lingers...where do I fit in, what am I supposed to do with myself.

Mind you, I have so much to do! It's taken me weeks to get all my tax stuff together for instance. ugh...I had a hard time figuring out where files are and remembering all the places I would find the papers I needed to get my taxes done. I hate that stuff! And Vinnie always did our taxes. I never gave them a thought except to ask when the checks were coming! So that's been another change. And as for friends...I have a lot of friends, but they are all busy with their families. Oh God, where do I fit in?

I must say, I do fit in well with my GriefShare group. I love that there are ladies in the group who have lost husbands and others who are experiencing the family fallout that hits like a tsunami after an earthquake after a significant family member dies. I am thankful for the questions that help me think through the losses I am experiencing from week to week because loss of a significant family member is not just a single loss, but layers and layers of losses. Many things can reveal those layers like the loss of a tax preparer which I didn't experience until January, or the loss of a handyman which I am experiencing now as I am trying to get tasks done in the home I am trying to sell. It is also helpful to look back and see the progress I've made since August 29. Sometimes it's easy to forget there's been more than a spinning of the wheels in one muddy pool.

I wish I could write a manual for other widows but we all travel the journey differently. One thing I could say though is to keep a journal along the way to look back and see the progress along the way. Yes, it may take a couple of years to recuperate from the loss of a spouse, but it will happen, it will. It's a tiring journey but we don't have to travel it alone. Telling others what I'm thinking, feeling, and experiencing also helps. It helps because it makes it less awkward for others to know how to relate to me and talk to me. I want people to know that they can talk about Vinnie and they haven't upset me if I cry sometimes. It's part of life on this side of Heaven, not a part I life very well, but one I think everyone will experience in one way or another in their lifetime. This being the case I cannot help but wonder why more people don't talk about it or that there isn't more teaching about it so we are a bit more prepared with what we might face if we lose a loved one. It doesn't have to be a manual but it would be nice to be a bit more prepared.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lots and Lots of Grace

I am awe struck tonight thinking about the amount of grace my Vinnie gave to me over the years. Can you see it in our last photo of each other here? I am so thankful that this picture was taken because this picture captures the grace we learned to have for each other. We drove each other crazy at times and we loved each other like crazy too.

This refreshing thought comes after another one those moments when I think twice about conversations that I've had with Vinnie. It is sometimes agonizing because I never got the chance to ask him if I understood him right, or he got what I meant, or if he agreed, or did he know I agreed with him...and the list of questions goes on. It's agonizing because now, there are no answers; there's no one to ask as I second guess the conversations of the past.

When Vinnie was sick, especially in the last month when dozens and dozens of people would come to see Vinnie, we never had the time I so badly wanted to have with him in the end. But here's the bottom line...I would never been able to think of every conversation we'd had in the past, I'd never be able to think of all the questions I have now. The reason? Because before he was gone, we understood the grace we had for each other. I didn't question past conversations. It's easier to question our past conversations now because he's not here to affirm his grace for me. It's just my questions and empty space.

But after shedding tears and begging both Vinnie and God to me being a wretch, for anything I did or said in the past that was stupid, mean, ugly, thoughtless or selfish, I am OK. That is when I remember his grace for me and mine for him.

I write this tonight because I know someone reading this now, or in many years from now, will be able to relate to what I'm saying. Let me encourage you, girls (and guys) to remind your spouse, without them even asking, that you love them, the real "them" and all the sin and bad stuff is just to be expected because we are sinners. Remind them that the bad stuff is gone, gone to hell where it belongs and you've let it go because you never know when you will suddenly rethink a conversation and it will be too late to ask about it. Have grace, lots and lots and lots of grace.

If you are married, have grace, lots of grace. Give it and ask for it. If you are single, practice having and giving lots of grace to every relationship you have with friends and family. The more you do it, the more you will be a pro at doing if you do get married. Grace - it's the crux of what allows us to have had our sin removed from us and put upon perfect our Jesus. Grace - it's the crux of what enables us to live with others peacefully and peacefully live when others have to leave us.

Monday, March 2, 2009

My Wonderful Home

The pictures today are from my front and back porch (and one of my Vinnie shelf - do you see Vinnie's pic?). What a beautiful view I have here of God's beautiful and wondrous creation!

When Vinnie died I was renting an apartment which I quickly realized I couldn't afford. I guess I was so busy taking care of Vinnie and then feeling like I was just barely coming up for air everyday after that for awhile, that I hadn't paid much attention to finances. So when I found this great little house on the street behind my sister's neighborhood, I jumped on it. It's a perfect house for one (or maybe two or three if they are all tiny, but that's it!).

I never thought I'd mind being alone in a house and the first week here I really wasn't OK with it. But over time, I began to look forward to the safety and security of being here where I can spend time reading, listening to music, watching TV, sitting on my amazing screened in deck overlooking an acre of forest, or play on my computer (and of course, blog). I am also looking forward to doing things in the yard when the weather gets warmer. And in spite of this gorgeous snowy day, I am tired of being God, bring on the warm weather!!!

I LOVE spring. I love fall too because the cool air is refreshing after the intense heat and humidity we have around here 5 months of the year, and of course, fall is beautiful. But there is something about spring that gets me recharged. It reminds me of Christ because He came that we might be born again, becoming new creatures in Christ,
(2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!) and the season of spring is a perfect example of just that...everything coming back from the "dead" and being reborn. The sudden dashes of yellow daffodils, purple crocuses, pink azaleas and dogwoods, it's breathtaking. And if you watch real close, the leaves in the spring are a green like no other time of year - I call it "new life green".

That is what we are promised, a new life in Christ when we put our faith and trust in Him. When I became a Believer in 1994, I knew instinctively that my life would never be the same again. My past was wiped clean, white as snow and I was given the opportunity to live a new life (from white snow to new life green! Whahoo!. But like the leaves a week or so after being new life green, they just become regular old green and it easy to forget where I was before my new life - like dead of winter on a cold dark day going nowhere. I love the spring because it is a reminder of what Christ did for us on the cross - gave us the opportunity for a new life - one that will eventually lead us to Heaven where the sights and smells will not even compare to what we have here on this side of Heaven. Just thinking about it, even on this cold, wet day, makes me feel revived and "new green" all over again! And I am so blessed to see God's beauty through the windows of this lovely little home surrounded by it on all sides!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

It Must Be Amazing

Photos are of our wedding day, 7 years later, and at 24 years.

It is hard trying to figure out who I am now that Vinnie's gone. When we are married, we become one and after 25 years of marriage, tearing two who have become one apart is like taking the laminate layer off an old coffee table. It just doesn't want to all come off!

That is old coffee table. Well, it seems that way at times, especially when it seems like I am going forward and I get stuck on an old piece of crud - cruddy laminate. Ever notice how people treat an old coffee table? We used to have one..all scoffed up, dented, and scratched. No one cared what they did to the table. We all dumped stuff on it because we didn't care if it got scratched up; it was already a mess. Well, it sure does seem like I have big old piles of junk get dumped on me these days. I take few steps forward and suddenly there's a big old pile of junk, the same old junk, dumped right down on my path, right on my head! Ouch! It hurts every time.

I was thinking the other day when more old junk got dumped on this old table, (me) that what ever it is I sense God calling me to do must be absolutely amazing! And as I was thinking that the other day, my friend sent me a copy of a devotion. It was from 1 Peter 5:8 "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. It seems like my enemy wants to devour me." He (the enemy) must know more about what God has in store than me than I do because he is sure working hard at holding me back!

But in my walk with the Lord over these past 14 years it has been proven to me that God's not usually just up to one thing when He is at work either. God only not only has me in a time of trial for His ultimate glory and my ultimate future ("Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." James 1:12 - THAT doesn't sound like an old table, does it?!), but He is using the struggle of the trial to get me to see some patterns of my past - patterns that cannot come with me into the future! He's making it clear that much of the patterns of today's trials are the result of past sin. Sin is not always a deceitful, intentional wrong. Sin is when we just jump to conclusions and run ahead of God. We can't be too careful... EVERYTHING must be covered in prayer, even the seemingly "dadhh" moments...the "who needs to think twice about what to do here" moments. What scares me is that I wonder if I'll ever get that right! Scarier still is to think that if I don't get myself praying even about the little things that I think are just "no-brainers", I will keep getting hit in the face by it and bearing the heartbreak of not doing the right thing.

So while I am wrestling with God today to understand His will for tomorrow (literally for tomorrow), and repent of the things that were done yesterday, I am also kind of secretly excited to know that God has a plan for my life, a "plan to prosper and not harm, a plan of hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11) I can't help but wonder, with all the opposition I am getting in my efforts to move forward with my life, that what the enemy is prowling around trying to destroy me from doing must be amazing! I am praying for strength and great discernment to make choices and decisions in these difficult times according to what I believe God wants me to do, not out of guilt or manipulation that tends to entangle me, so that God can be honored and glorified, I can be set free from another layer of sin patterns, and move forward with God to the amazing days that He holds ahead of me.