More amazing grace

There is a Funky Winkerbean cartoon taped to the file cabinet next to my desk. I look at it every day. Les Moore lost his wife to cancer and he is driving with his daughter Summer. She asks, “Dad … Do you still miss Mom?”

Next frame, Les responds, “There hasn’t been a day. But after a while, you begin to understand …” Jump to frame three. “That you can’t let your grief become the substitute for the one you love.”

It took me a while to take that in, to understand it, to make it make sense.

Everyone grieves differently and at a different pace, but the commonality is grief has a way of muddling life. Your perspective becomes clouded. Every day activities look and feel differently. Often, it takes all your energy just to get out of bed. There is no such thing as a routine. Life looks more like a jigsaw puzzle straight out of the box. Emotions are raw and unpredictable.

That was me. Only through the amazing grace of God did I get through it.

Literally, after the kids went home and things started “quieting” down, the numbness set it. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I didn’t want to go out of the house and I didn’t want to stay there. I thought I was losing my mind.

Fortunately, my faith kicked in … and kicked me into proactive action. These are the steps I took. Others may have different journeys.

First, I recognized I needed help. I was floundering on my own and needed a fresh perspective. I wasn’t sure about it, but I joined a bereavement support group just starting through the spiritual care department at a local hospital.

I was the “rookie” in the group. My wife had died less than a month prior. The others had been walking the journey for three, four, five, six or more months. The experience was invaluable. We started with a river of tears and ended with hugs and even smiles. Somehow recognizing others are going through the same struggles brings us closer. I was no longer a “victim.” As sad as that time was, I was fortunate to be have been able to say goodbye. Others in my group did not have that opportunity.

During our memory walk, Karen had told me how much she loved the sunrise we had seen in Florida. She told me she was sad we wouldn’t see another. We had planned on going to the Jersey shore to see another one, but we never got around to it. So, one weekend in early November, I packed her up {one of the advantages of cremation} and we watched the sun rise over the ocean. It wasn’t the same, of course, but I felt her presence on a crystal clear, albeit chilly night.

Then came Thanksgiving. Again I placed her in the truck and headed to Illinois for Thanksgiving dinner. It was bittersweet, but it gave the grandchildren from the west a chance to say their goodbyes to Grandma. We placed the urn on a mantle and they respectfully visited with her.

The turning point of the trip, for me, though was a comment my then four-year old grandson made. To set the scene, our urns sit side by side encompassed by intertwining rings. Our names are on a plate in front of our respective urns. My grandson said he understood about Grandma, but was confused. “How can you be in there when you’re here?” he asked. We explained that would be my FUTURE home, but what resonated to me was I was still here and God still had something for me to do. Don’t know what it is, but out of the mouth of babes …

That was the tipping point. I decided to start living, albeit with a hole in my heart that has since scabbed over, but has not and probably never will be filled in.

I also wrote a memory book, detailing our life together. 40 Years of Memories … In the Blink of an Eye was written for my kids and grandkids. It included anecdotes, photos, birthday, holiday and anniversary cards and even some love letters chronicling our 40 years together, from our first meeting through our wedding, our moves and stages in life, right to the end. I had intended it to be a Christmas present, but it turned into a six month project. While I hope they treasure it, it was a catharsis for me. Despite the tears, I was able to rebuild the memories … and those memories have helped to salve the hurt.

Finally, I surrounded myself with positive, grounded people. In particular, we had a family friend who lost her husband to cancer six years ago. She had an editorial background, so I sought her out to help edit 40 Years of Memories. She turned out to be more than an editor. She became my mentor, walking me through the minefield of grief and lifting me up whenever I drifted back toward the dark side. She still does.

In a way, I am glad Karen died first. I would do anything to get another day, hour or few minutes with her, but I also would not have wanted her to go through the grief process. She was the strongest woman I ever knew and would certainly have survived, but I would not have wanted her to go through the turmoil.

We had something special. No, we had 40 years of something special. We didn’t agree on everything, but we agreed on the important things. And there was nothing more important to each of us than each other. We always had each other’s back.

We all have some regrets. If I had it all to do over again, I probably would change some of my reactions. I would have listened more, talked more, communicated better.

But I don’t think I would have changed anything substantively. I loved Karen just for being her … the way she was. And I know she loved me for just being me … the way I was … faults and all.

It was a great ride.

We always kidded each other. I would say “You’re going to miss me when I’m gone” and she would respond, “No, no, no. You’re going to miss me when I’m gone.”

Once again, she was right.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: If you have people in your life to love, you are rich.

About wisdomfromafather

I'm just an ordinary guy walking along the journey of life.
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5 Responses to More amazing grace

  1. Overwhelmed By Joy says:

    What a touching, beautiful post. The last sentence says it well.

  2. Deanna says:

    You guys gave us a great example of love!

  3. Pingback: We Had So Many Moments | Father Says…

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