The Ring

When do you take off your wedding ring? That was a crazy hard question. I felt attached to it, and I also felt a little weird wearing it…like, I was lying or something. I couldn’t find any Emily Post advice. Friends and family all said “Whatever you want or feel like.” There was no Scriptural rule for wearing it or not. I needed a rule, a closure moment, something that would make sense.

On February 14, I woke up, knowing it was Valentines Day. And then I had my answer. Today was the day. I would wear it all day, remembering the joy of our 43 years together. Being grateful for his love, his faithfulness, and for my own love and faithfulness toward him. And then, I would take it off.

Which I did. It was perfect closure for a love well lived.

The Guilt Begins…and Ends

The adrenalin finally began to wear off.  At exactly the one month mark, I began to feel guilt.  Deep, weighty, pounding guilt.  Guilt over the choices I made.  Guilt over the choices I didn’t make.  Satan truly is seeking to steal, kill, and destroy.  And he went after my peace. He attacked the one thing I had always been confident I was doing my best at:  being a good caregiver.   The accusations had just enough truth in them to give me great pain.  I was reminded that I could have had a feeding tube placed to help Daryl be nourished to regain his strength.  I could have had an IV put in to give him fluids. I could have called a doctor in and asked for more help in saving his life.

Every.  Statement.  Was.  True.  

Maybe I shouldn’t have let him go.  Maybe I didn’t fight hard enough at the end. 

I had the good sense to run these thoughts past others.  Matthew and Amy invited me over that afternoon.  As I confided my distress to Matt, he assured me that we had all made the decisions together.  That Dad would NOT have wanted to prolong what he was going through.  That I did the right thing.  

I confided the next day in our friend Rocky, who had been through similar challenges with Sue.  His insights soothed my troubled soul.  He reminded me of God’s sovereignty and goodness.  And how ludicrous it is to think that we have anything to do with God’s perfect timing in taking one of His own home.  He reminded me to keep my mind in heaven where Daryl is, not on earth where he was.  To take my thoughts captive to Scripture and to what I know of God.  

The next day Daniel affirmed what I had been told.  Once more, to remind me that we all made these decisions together, and that they believed that I was making the best decisions possible.  That I did the right thing. 

You see, I let him go.  There was at point at which he stopped eating.  A point at which he stopped being able to swallow.  A point at which I could only give him strawfulls of fluids (Coke of course!) in the side of his mouth.  And a point at which I took my hands off of trying to save his life, and allowed him to gently go Home.  That was a moment in which I knew I was supposed to stop.  To turn loose.  My job was complete.  I had loved, advocated, fought, served, taught nurses, persisted, and generally stayed by his side through all of this.  I had the respect and admiration of the nursing staff of several hospitals and doctor’s offices.  And now, it was time to let go.  

I was holding his hand quoting his favorite song verses and Bible verses to him as he was ushered home.  He let out what I thought was a final breath, then suddenly inhaled, startling me!  I laughed and told him he pulled a joke on me.  Then he did breathe his final breath and was gone with a little “puff”.    

I calmly let the nurses know that I thought he was gone.  I think the calm surprised them.  My task as Daryl’s helpmeet was done. 

I’m grateful for people who are walking this beside me.  I’m thankful the weight of the guilt was resolved.  

It wasn’t my fault.  

It was God’s goodness.

I’m Not Having To Do This Alone

A lesson learned before, during, and in the days following the funeral, was that I did not have to do this alone.   These are some of my “Peeps”.  In the midst of all the trials Daryl and I endured, this is family.  The picture just shows my immediate and extended family.  And not all of them were there.  Add to that neighbors, friends, church family, my work family….it was and is amazing to have so many people come along side me, and Daryl and I while he was alive.  

I’ve heard people say I’m strong.  Well, I am discovering a very wimpy, excitable side of me that Daryl helped me keep grounded and in check.  I will say that the Lord is strong.  I will say that the strength of family and friends creates a strong base of support that I stand on.

I don’t think I had to go more than 24 hours without a breakfast, lunch, or supper invitation of some sort for the first month.  I think one of the kids has contacted me every day to check on me. Mom and my sister check on me faithfully.  My neighbors text me if the van isn’t parked in the driveway at normal hours. People at church joke about getting to say hello to me “before the line forms” of people who want to know how I am.

I am doing a study of what God’s word says about the widow.  It’s interesting to note that the widow, the orphan, and the sojourner are linked in most references to widows.  God has a lot to say about His protective heart toward these groups.  His care of me (often through His people) is deep and satisfying.  I truly am not alone.  

And I am so grateful.

Hope and Loneliness

The next lesson, I believe, was Hope.  I really plugged along pretty well for a few weeks.   I was riding the adrenalin, which I’m sure people watched and waited for the crash, which I’ll post about later.  I was continually glad for Daryl being Home, away from the pain and not having to experience the next level of pain.

One of his favorite topics was Hope.  The Hope verses were very near and dear to him.  One day we found one of those painted rocks at Texas Oncology, and it simply read, “HOPE”.  Needless to say, I brought it home!

I knew I shouldn’t make big changes in my life.  I also knew that I had a fresh opportunity to make a new start on my own health, diet, and exercise.  I really wanted to do this living thing well.  And as I read  verses on how we as believers grieve, but not without hope.  I always perceived that hope being for the deceased, the confidence that they were with our Lord Jesus. The hope that we would see them again.  But for me, the meaning expanded.  I believed that I was grieving, but not without hope for what the Lord wanted to do in MY life, too!  That although I had to move forward without Daryl, there was hope of a future in which God would lead me to do His next chapter for my life.  That was really encouraging.

I had hope of continued friendships as people invited me to do breakfast and lunch and even a few suppers.  I was encouraged that I wasn’t being excluded from my friends’ lives just because I was suddenly single.  People brought meals to me, as well.  I hadn’t cooked since October, since I lived at the hospital and the Carlyle with Daryl, and I don’t think I had to cook much in the next month either.
I started reading grief notes from a class that Michelle Jackson took. It’s actually been helpful.  I could see myself all over the place on the “grief chart”. I did a lot of my grieving during Daryl’s last year, especially the last two months. Several people ask me where I am in the grief cycle. I could see where I experienced many of the steps over the last few months before he died. Some things, I don’t see. For instance, I don’t feel any anger, and I don’t expect to. Who am I going to be mad at?  If I had lost him to a wreck where someone was careless or texting and hit him, I think there would be a target for angry feelings that I would have to deal with.  But the cancer, and his ensuing death, was all in God’s hands.   I trusted Him to be loving and wise, and I trusted in His sovereignty, so there is no place to direct anger if I did feel any. On the other hand, I did have a LOT of questions for the Lord as we walked through this journey…I asked Him if he was watching his servant Daryl suffer….and why didn’t He think it was a good idea to heal Daryl after all the people He healed in the Bible.  I had LOTS of those types of questions.  It also surprised me how many of the emotions described in the grief cycle that I did experience.  I asked Daniel to ask Kent Kloder what he thought of the grief cycle.  I’m always so wary of behavioral lists…and he said that psychologists make many accurate observations of general human nature.  And that a large part of the grief cycle falls into that category.  However, it tends to be in the application of those observations that they fail sometimes….omitting God’s work in our hearts, and excusing “camping out” in some of those emotions, when we should be taking some thoughts captive to the Word of God.

So, I am trying to be honest with myself about the emotions that are marching through my heart right now, and making sure that the whiny ones are not allowed to be something I park on .  For instance, when I hit loneliness. The loneliness is a very real emotion, and a very real fact.  I realized I’m lonely and admitted it is a very real fact of my life.  I miss Daryl’s companionship, and his company.  Even on a bad day, we would sit in the recliners and hold hands and enjoy watching TV together (or, in most cases, falling asleep holding hands).  But it was still sweet companionship.  One day, I found myself rolling it around and around in my head, camping on it, sinking deeper and deeper into the sadness of the emotion.  I realized that I had to take that thought captive and examine it in light of Scripture.  Yes, I’m lonely.  That’s valid.  Now, what is next?  What does the Lord have for me to do?  How can I take that loneliness and deal with it, and use it for His glory?  I should think about how I can serve Him, and use this time wisely.  I should take care of my body, get rest, diet, and exercise.  Now I have time to pay attention to that.  I can get back involved in ministry, back into the library.  I can reach out to the family, and the kids and friends, and see where I can serve them.  I can work more efficiently, and please my boss.  Taking those lonely thoughts captive led me back into hope, seeing things I can do to utilize this new freedom and potential. I’m still lonely, but I’m not letting it sink me now.  

The Journey Begins

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

I am well known as “Pollyanna”.  My husband of 43 years depended on my Pollyanna side. As long as I was happy, he felt like life was okay.  The few times sadness overtook me, he worried.  My sister, Teresa, asked me the other day if I have any dreams I want to fulfill.  What are my dreams, she asked.  I don’t have any, I replied.  Astounded, she said, “No wonder you’re a Pollyanna!

Daryl was the dreamer for us.  He thought about things, planned things, asked me what I thought, and I was always happy to go along.  He took me fun places, and gave me a great life.  After an 11 year battle with Multiple Myeloma, and a one year battle to recover from bladder cancer’s effects, He went home to be with the Lord Jesus on December 26, 2018.  

That leaves me in the odd position of being a widow.  I don’t look like a widow.  I don’t feel like a widow.  But I am one. This is now my calling.  To be a widow who glorifies the Lord, both in how I grieve and in how I live. 

After Daryl passed on, I asked myself how I could make even grieving something that could glorify the Lord.  I want this new life to be a testimony to the Lord’s gracious kindness in my life.

And so, I am embarking on this new journey.  To find out how to live again.  The Lord has been teaching me things gently, which I am calling “The Lord’s lesson of the week.”

The first lesson was the week of Daryl’s funeral.  The lesson was, that the funeral process was not about me.  Despite the fact that I loved my husband dearly, I didn’t cry much.  Serving him was a joy in my life, and I actually geeked out with all the medical knowledge that I gained and got to use.  We had a long year, an intense, horrible last two months, and I was relieved that the Lord in His mercy took him home.  I expected to be weeping in sorrow, but instead, I was joyous that he was free of the pain, the misery, and that he did not have to experience the next level of pain.

The night we did the receiving of friends, I was astounded. I expected to find myself weeping much, and being consoled.  Instead, there were two solid hours of grieving friends, neighbors, co-workers, and church and personal family.  And they were all grieving. They weren’t as prepared for his passing as I was.  My job was not to play the sad widow, because I actually wasn’t.  My job was to comfort, console, and to assure them how very very loved they were by Daryl.  And they were.  His joy in life was helping other people achieve their best.  To disciple them and teach them.  He was an humble man who never believed himself worthy of all the kindnesses people showed him.  He loved deeply and he was loved. 

The funeral was a beautiful testimony of Daryl’s walk with the Lord, and a desire to call the living to see the Savior.     

I hope to use this blog to record the Lord’s lessons in my life and the lives of others as I live this first year without Daryl.  May the Lord bless His lessons, and may I not waste my grief.  May God be glorified for all His wondrous kindnesses!