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No Reply from Heaven

  I received a response yesterday to my post “Tears in the Closet”.   My friend reminded me of the “extreme separation”, which are the words...

Heart Broken

Thursday, March 31, 2011
In one of my posts, or several, I have used the words "heart ache", or "heart aching".  About two weeks ago, I was just sitting there with thoughts of Michael when I realized that, for the first time in my life, my heart was broken. I believe I must  have lived a charmed life by not having my heart broken before now.  My heart was preserved and whole when I gave it to him on our wedding day in 1987.  I gladly gave it to him knowing that he would protect it... and he did.  I think there are different levels of having your heart broken depending on the maturity of the relationship, the reason for the heart break, and what we do with it when it is breaking.  

The more mature the relationship, the greater the pain because a broader sense of intimacy is lost.  You are not just losing some one to have a date with on Friday nights or some one to kiss on New Year's Eve, but you are losing the one that holds and shares your most intimate thoughts, dreams, and memories. I think of that little necklace, that I used to think was kind of corny, that holds half of a broken heart on it, and your boyfriend or girlfriend was supposed to wear one which held the other half of the heart.  In reality, for Michael and I , this is true.  I, literally, had part of his heart and he had part of mine.  My heart is breaking by not having my other half with me.

 Trying to get my mind on other things for awhile, my sister and my niece took me and my girls out shopping on my birthday weekend.  We separated in a little gift shop and I was alone for a few minutes when I came across a print on the wall that said, "To my heart, You hold the key." The tears came suddenly up and filled to the brim.  I took a deep breath and soaked in that thought for a moment.  Not everyone allows their heart to be unlocked or ever finds the person with the right key.  I held Michael's key and he held mine.  It can also be called the gatekeeper, because we made sure that nothing got in that did not go through us first.

Losing someone that shares memories with you is heart breaking too.  Several weeks ago, I was talking to someone and was sharing a memory about one of the kids when they were little.  I was suddenly overcome with the thought that I am the only one who has that memory now.  Just to be able to sit with the family, look at Michael and say, "Remember when Mia would run, not walk every time she went to her bedroom?  You could hear her feet speed up on the hardwood floors as she turned the corner."  "Remember  when Julia would love to lay in her baby bed and look at magazines, a whole stack at a time?"  "Remember when Michael Anthony would climb out his crib every night before the door was even closed behind you?"  There is no one to say, "remember when", with anymore.  I am the keeper of the memories now.  I plan on sharing them continually with our children so that they can always be in on my memories.

Some times I feel like the words "broken heart" or "widow" are hanging in front of me like the scarlet letter.  Even though every one cannot see it, I feel like they do.  Several times over the past month I have thought that I was getting a sore throat.  I realized one day that I was experiencing something new.  There was an ever present lump in my throat ready to cry at any second. It is large and sometimes stuck down in the bottom of my throat, as if I have just swallowed a big, hard air bubble.  Where does that lump come from anyway?  Why can you sometimes cry with a lump in your throat or without? I have had a lump in my throat for a little over 5 weeks now.  I keep swallowing and crying but it does not seem to go anywhere.  Its a broken heart.  It swells before it can heal.

The part of my heart that I gave to Michael will never return, but I know my God can heal my wound.  Again, He has provided a promise to me to fit my exact need.  I have everything surrounding this scripture underlined, but this verse is not....  because I have never needed to remember it before now.

Psalm 34:18 "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."
... and then again
 Psalm 147:3 "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."

I know He is there for me and I know that He will heal my broken heart.... but hearts take a long time to heal and the healing process is painful.

A Safe Place

Wednesday, March 30, 2011
I have spoken of how Michael and I gave each other super powers, but the contrast of that is we both allowed our relationship to be a place where we could be weak... let our guard down, expose our pains and  inabilities, and ask the questions of life without judgement.  The art of being able to do this is knowing when one needs to be the strong one and when it is time to be the weaker one.  If we were both weak at the same time, insecurity would try to sneak in the door.  Encouraging one another through those times of weakness was crucial to the advancement of our marriage relationship.

To the world, and even with my children, I am strong on a continual basis, but I drew comfort from the ability to be weak in Michael's strength.  He loved it when, in my weakness, I would turn to him for strength and advice.  God put him in my life for that purpose.  I loved that safe place.  He was my protector, and when he was feeling weak, I was his. Protectors of the heart.  It is an interesting truth, but by me allowing him to fill that need, it gave him more strength from which to pull when he was down.  He knew I desired his protection and looked to him in that role.  We always said we were each other's checks and balances.  If I ever was overwhelmed and was having a hard time saying "no" to a project or thinking through a process, he could easily step in and help make the decision for me.  It reminds me of when I was a child.  I might have had a friend invite me to do something, of which I really did not want to do.  It would be hard to say no to them if the "no" was coming from me.  I would ask my parents and they would clearly say no for me..... then I could say, "My parents said I can't go."  It is allowing someone else to be the heavy once in awhile.  An example of this had just happened the day before his accident.  I had joined a tennis team last fall for an outlet of fun and exercise, only because he encouraged me to do so.  I was needing to decide if I was going to commit to play again this spring.  I called him because I was having a tough time with the decision.  I told him that it just did not feel right.  I felt like my spring was too "up in the air" to make a commitment to the team.  He said, "Babe, this is something you are supposed to be doing because it is fun, and if it is going to cause you stress in any way, just don't do it. But don't stop getting out to play or exercise because it is so good for you, and you know you feel better when you do."  I sent the email to my team captain immediately, and was relieved.  The next night my whole life changed.  It is a safe place having someone look out for your best interest.

Yes, I am going to God with all of my moments of weakness. "Lord, Jesus, I need you to come into this place of weakness right now," seems to be a daily prayer, but being able to expose that weakness to another human being is also a necessity.  I have had lots of friends and family who have allowed me the opportunity and the security to be weak in their presence.  God has also used my pastor as a safe place for me to share my fears and weaknesses.  I feel like a burden has been lifted after having talked to him.  

I miss that feeling of constant protection that I received from Michael.... physical, mental, and spiritual.  He was constantly looking out for me and the children.  His prayers, his presence, his actions, and his words gave us a sense of security.  He had our back at all times, in all situations.  I have always known that God does all of that for me too, but now my faith is going to new heights as I must lean on Him for all of it and am not able to see the physical presence of that security any more.

Things Are Not What They Seem

Tuesday, March 29, 2011
I know it is only natural for us to look at someone and make a judgement call on how they are doing.... they look nice, are dressed sharp, nice hair, smile on the face, can converse about the details of dailyness, and even answer "good"when asked how they are doing.  Things are not what they seem.  In everyone's lives, there is so much going on sub-level. We have all learned how to show the side which we think people want to see.  We can become, what John Eldredge refers to as, a poser.  I have never wanted to be a poser and work hard at being transparent, but, lately, I have found that putting on a face is really my way of surviving "outside of the box".  Don't be fooled... beneath the surface, the kids and I are still "inside the box".

We must go about our daily activities, have conversations about other topics, speak when spoken to, smile back to people, and even ask other people how they are doing.  In spite of my outward appearance and actions, on the inside I am feeling like my whole insides are on fire.  It is such a strange sensation.  Sometimes it feels like a heavy weight is being pressed on all sides of my body.  Breathing sometimes feels shallow.  Other times, I can be listening to someone talk to me and my stomach will begin to burn and then the heat will spread to my entire body.  My ears will begin to feel it and all of the background noise will be shut out and I feel like I am in a room without noise, but yet everyone is talking and carrying on with their conversations.  Sometimes it is just an ache or an empty feeling, while other times it is just plain painful.  If the kids and I laugh, the laughter is real, but when the laughter is over, the void, and the pain are still there.  If you look hard enough into our eyes, you can see it.  I see it in their eyes.  It is under there but they are surviving and so am I.  We are walking against a strong tide or wind.   It is a slow walk, but we are progressing, in spite of the force and the sand and dust that is getting in our eyes.

 I just turned to some verses in the book of Psalm that speak directly to these thoughts. (I am forever amazed how God does that.... meets all of our needs.  "....My God shall supply all of my needs according to His riches and glory by Christ Jesus.")

 Psalm 116:1-9
"I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy.  Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him for as long as I live.  The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.  Then I called on the name of the Lord: "O Lord, save me!"  The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.  The Lord protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, He saved me.  Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.  For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living."

I believe His word is true and that it will not return void to us.

Isaiah 40:29-31
"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;  but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

Someone To Talk To

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sometimes after I write about certain remembrances, or emotions I am having, it allows me to talk about  that particular thing to other people, without it stirring up quite as many emotions. It is kind of like I have faced that particular area, cried about it, meditated on it, cried some more, recognized it for what it was, and then am trying to carrying on in agreement with that emotion.  My kids even recognized this positive side benefit of blogging daily.  Today my daughter said, "Mom, I think you do better when you are blogging everyday."  The other two agreed, and so did I.  It has been a great outlet for my tears and grief.  The act of writing out of my feelings each day has given me strength and allowed me a daily grieving time.... focused grieving. I was out of town over the weekend and did not have a wireless connection, which is why I have not put out a post in several days.  I can tell, as well as my children, that the emotions have begun to simmer like in a pot with the lid on it.  It will eventually bubble over if I leave the lid on too long.  Even though, most of the time, the writing helps me move on in certain areas, there are, also, now areas that I appear to be in neutral.  Think of it like driving a car in second gear speed, but your car is stuck in first gear… grinding, holding you back, even painful sounding.   

I have talked about texting with Michael, but one of my favorite paragraphs about our phone conversations was somehow deleted from my, Walking the Dog, post.  One night, when he and I were having a business dinner with about seven other people, somehow the conversation turned to how often  we talk to our spouses throughout the day on the phone.  The people shrugged their shoulders and said something like, “I don’t know….maybe once.”  Or it might have been none.  The question turned to us and we looked at eachother and began to giggle.  We admitted that we talked, easily,  close to seven times before he walked in the house for dinner. (He would sometimes even call me during a bathroom break while at a business dinner.)   Everyone was shocked.  I am sure the men were thinking, “Gee, thanks Michael!”  If we had tried to explain it, I don’t believe anyone would have understood. 

We were a great team.  As it says in my poem,”Missing Parts”, we were like two notes in harmony. If you are listening to just the melody, it is nice, but when there is a harmony along with it, there is much more richness to the sound and it connects with your emotions on a different level.  We could make it through the day without talking that often to each other, but why try when we both drew even more strength from just hearing each other’s voices.  I always called him if I was walking the dog before dinner.  We would talk about the day, what the children were doing,  where we saw God in our day, what He was saying about it, what business deals were now on the front burner, what I was cooking for dinner, did he need to stop for wine, was there a child to pick  up on the way home, and then he would say, “I’m wrapping up here.  I love you!” 

I often feel very lost, almost wandering, at night without him to call or to be able to receive his calls.  When I was out of town this past weekend, each night I was still automatically expecting that conversation at the end of the day, and then would be stricken with that awful feeling in my stomach when I realized that it was not going to happen.  It feels so complete to be able to talk to someone that you love at the beginning and the close of the day.  I feel like a fish out of water gasping for air.  The level of communication I had with Michael brought life and a deep love to our relationship.  It is having someone to care about the details of your life... really care.  "So, did you have a good day today, what did you do, how do you feel, tell me about the kids studies, how did they do, did you have any problems, did you get to exercise, did you rest, can I help?... I am so proud of you, Babe! You are amazing!"  I was blessed to have someone care for me, talk to me, and better yet, listen to me. We were all made to commune like that with one another.  God created us to commune with Him first and for each other second.  They are both necessary.  I miss his voice.  It was one of the first things I fell in love with... not his singing voice, but his soft spoken voice when he was talking just to me. I am missing my someone to talk to .... my best friend.

First Birthday

Friday, March 25, 2011
I dreamed of him in the early morning hours this morning, for the first time.  I was asleep on my back and had a pillow on top of part of me.   In my dream,  I thought his knee had dropped over on me and that I was holding his knee.  The dream lasted for what seemed like five seconds before I realized that it was my pillow.  I felt very alone lying there on my back with the ceiling fan churning.  Thankfully, I was able to fall right back asleep, but then I had another dream.  This one was without him.  It was a gathering of some friends serving up a very special birthday brunch for me.  Since it was a birthday without Michael, they were trying to make it extra special.  As I was walking to the gathering of people, they were singing, Happy Birthday, to me.  At first I grabbed my stomach while I was walking to fight back the tears, but then I just doubled over with tears from deep down and began to stumble.  I awoke at that point.

Today is my birthday.... it is harder than I thought it would be. I allowed myself time to just lay in bed and feel it.  I have been getting up as soon as I wake up in the mornings, but today I just wanted to be awake in the silence and think about it.  I heard my son turn off the house security alarm and slip outside to walk the dogs. My heart began to miss Michael in a heavy, deep, longing way. I began to cry and catch my breath, like little children do after they have had a hard cry. The photo you see to your right under, "About Me", was my favorite place to be.  In his arms, with my head leaning on his chest.  It was a very safe place.  I miss my soul mate.

 In our home, we have always had the tradition of birthday breakfasts.  I would cook whatever special breakfast was requested by the birthday person.  I would stay up the night before to set the table then place all of the wrapped presents in the middle of the table like a flamboyant centerpiece.  They would come in the kitchen in the morning and it would feel like Christmas. Michael always made sure that it was done equally for me on my birthday.  Last year he made organic spelt flour blueberry scones.  He had never baked anything before but had researched a recipe online and was so excited to make something that he knew I would love. They were fabulous and, of course, there were lots of presents.

We had another tradition for lunch.  We would always meet together at Brent's Drug Store to eat in their Soda Fountain diner area. Michael would drive there from work to join us.  Everyone ordered hamburgers with cokes or milk shakes and I always ordered a tuna melt or an egg and olive sandwich... you have to experience it to know how good it really is!  I always allow the children to "skip" school on their birthdays, which makes it even more special.  Today for lunch we are changing everything.  A group of some friends of mine are taking me to lunch, Mia has a college Algebra class and a haircut, Julia is eating lunch with my brother, and Michael Anthony is eating lunch with our Youth Pastor.  My friends are taking me to a restaurant that had been my and Michael's favorite for about the last 20 years.  I knew I would have to go again some day.  I thought it would be best to experience it for the first time without him at lunch, instead of dinner, and with a group of friends celebrating.  We always had the same waitress, and I am sure she will be waiting on us today.... sweet, funny, and fabulous Janice.

As I type this post, I hear all of my children working together downstairs in the kitchen to cook my birthday breakfast. They have each peeked their head in on me, at different times, to give me a hug and a sweet birthday wish.  Breakfast will be hard and beautiful all at the same time.  Hard, because Michael will not be sitting across from me, encouraging me and looking at me with "that look" that he had been giving me since we met. (My 25 year old neice said, that if she was ever in the room when he gave me that look, with our eyes engaged, she would feel like she was interrupting something.) It will be beautiful to watch the children try will all that they have to make it special for me.  The girls asked me earlier this week what I wanted for breakfast. I told them waffles...I love pure maple syrup.  I can smell the waffles cooking.... they are using freshly ground spelt flour! They are amazing children and I am so proud to say they are mine.  God has their precious hearts in the palm of His hand.

My first birthday..... without Michael.  I awoke feeling alone and heart broken, but am encouraged with the sounds of my children, the smell of love cooking, and the hope of Christ.

Looking for a Text

Thursday, March 24, 2011
Michael and I enjoyed texting each other.  Sometimes, it was like passing love notes in class. "Date night tonight? :) Yes?" or "thinking of you" or just a simple "I love you" all by itself.  When he was out on a business dinner, an evening meeting, or out of town, I would always get texts from him, in addition to his calls.  If I had gotten busy in the house or was somewhere away from the house, I would come back to my cell phone after awhile to see if I missed a call from him or had received a text.  Last Sunday night, some friends had the children and I over for dinner.  It was a great time of fellowship.  There were lots of smiles, conversation, and games.  I made it through the evening without crying, in spite of the heaviness I was feeling. When I got in the car to go home, I instinctively pulled my phone out of my purse pocket, (because Michael had not spent the evening with us), and checked for a text update from him.  I was just about to pull it out of my purse, when I realized that the evening "Michael's out of town" habit had kicked in and there would not be a text from him.  I was shocked at myself and the human body, which is able to respond with such deeply ingrained habits, no matter what the circumstances. When I had reached for the phone, my thoughts were, "I just spent an evening without him.  I want to share with him and see what he is doing. He has probably sent me a text to check in with me."..... then I caught my thoughts and actions.  I felt foolish, for a moment, that my brain could actually automatically do that in spite of the reality. After the initial shock at my actions, I felt that familiar weight drop down on my stomach.  I began to cry as I realized that part of our relationship was over too.  I was thankful that my friend was with me and was driving that night.  I suddenly missed him desperately and was yearning for just a little message from him.

I, of course, have saved all of our texting conversations.  I discovered one in particular  that he had sent me on December 31, 2010.  As soon as I had read it that day, I handed to my sister, who was standing nearby in the kitchen, and said, "I have such a great husband!"  His text read, "This year will be a year of renewal, discovery, and satisfaction!  You will shine this year and I will be right there to polish you each time you grow dull.  I love you!! " 

I will leave you on that thought.  I am crying and speechless.

Post Script for Discipline

Wednesday, March 23, 2011
I was talking with a friend of mine, after having written my last post about Michael's disciplined life, when I had a sudden realization. I forgot to say that there was one area where he had absolutely no discipline.  He had no discipline when it came to giving me gifts, whether they were needs or wants.  If I had asked for the moon, he would have marketed all over the world to find the best way to get there, pulled some strings with someone he knew, obtained the miracle, wrapped it in the most creative and beautiful way he could find, then pull it out and give it to me with the comment, "Oh, I have one more gift for you."..... like it was some afterthought.  His generosity towards me was unbridled. It did not matter how much money we had or did not have, he always wanted to give me the best of everything.  One of our Christmas morning traditions is to open our presents one at a time while we all watch each other and talk with excitement over each gift.  Most years, everyone would be finished, and I would still have about five more presents from him to open.  He took great joy in watching me and the children open gifts, and took just as much interest in the hunt for the gift itself.  He would call me while he was out shopping for me on any occasion just to tell me how much fun he was having shopping for me.  If he found a great store where he had never been, he would say, "Babe, I've hit the jackpot!"  He inherited this beautiful trait from his father.  I remember being at his parents one night to celebrate his mother's birthday.  His dad had countless presents, custom wrapped, in a back room and kept coming into the room with one, grand presentation at a time.  It was lavish and beautiful.

 He loved to give gifts to the children with as much forethought and abundance as he gave me.  He loved to spoil them at Christmas.  He could find us gifts that we would have never dreamed of or seen before then tell us how he "happened" upon them.  Just when you thought he had gone over the top, he would give something more.  He was also all about the presentation to make the greatest impact. One Christmas morning before we had children, he had created a beautiful setting with all of my gifts displayed for me to see as I walked into the room.  It was a lovely vanity table with a lift up mirror and two side drawers. The drawers were open with pretty items coming out of them, and sitting on top was a silver tray with new perfume, earrings, chocolates, and many other things that I do not recall.  Next to the vanity table was a full length, free standing mirror to match.  Draped over one side of the mirror was a night gown.  He was undisciplined in his love for me and the children.  He was undisciplined in his desire to give to us. He was undisciplined in his efforts to meet our wants and desires.  He gave as much as he could and whenever he could... there were no rules.  He did not want to control it.  It was a joyous ride for him. He was disciplined to be undisciplined in his love towards us.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011
One of Michael's favorite scriptures, which he quoted to me and the children all of the time, was Hebrews 12:11.  He would remind the children of it over schoolwork, sports, music practice, getting up in the morning, doing chores, and more.  In fact, we had it printed with his picture on the handout that was available at the visitation.  It reads, "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."  His life was about discipline.  Discipline of character, discipline of time, discipline of thoughts, discipline of maintaining relationships, discipline of using his gifts, discipline of work, discipline of keeping commitments, and the discipline of prayer and praise.

This morning I thought of him and this scripture, as I was trying to wake myself up while sitting on the edge of the bed.  It took him a few minutes to step away from the bed in the mornings.  He would sit on the edge of the bed with his hands resting on the mattress, on either side of his legs. He would then push back his unruly curls with both hands and look up to stretch his neck. Next came putting on his stylish glasses, and then he would stand up to begin his morning routine.  Because he consistently did this for our entire marriage, I always thought he was a morning person. One morning, a few weeks before his accident, we were talking about his habit of setting his alarm about 15 to 30 minutes before the time he wanted to rise.  It did not always wake me up from a deep sleep, but sometimes it would.  I set my alarm for the time that I need to get out of bed.  It makes me move out knowing that there is no margin.  He, on the other hand, told me that he was not a morning person either, and it took him that long to get to a point where he could sit up and begin to move.  He said, "Babe, you don't know how hard it is for me to get out of bed in the morning."     I assumed that because he could get up so early to pray, read his Bible, praise, exercise, and the walk the dog, that it was easy for him to do it.  I was shocked.  I realized that he had been doing it because of his belief in the truths that lie within this scripture..... discipline reaps a harvest and the harvest was worth it to him.

 I have never been a morning person, but I can be if necessary. This morning was my first morning that there was not another adult in the house to help get things going.  Julia and Michael Anthony are taking Stanford Achievement Tests this week and need to be out the door at 7:15.  I have begun to be able to sleep more in the early morning hours, so waking was not as easy today.  Knowing that I was solely responsible to make things happen for them was a great awakening.  It was still dark outside as I sat on the edge of the bed, as Michael did all those years.  My thoughts immediately went to him.  I pictured him just sitting there, gearing himself up, as I was now doing.  I thought.... what amazing discipline he had, how did he fool me into thinking this was easy for him?  I was proud of his discipline at that moment and in awe of his steadfastness.  I suddenly realized that this was a new beginning for me. In the past,  I had always risen before the children to have my tea and prayer time in my bedroom.  By then, Michael was stepping into the shower and we were discussing our day or sharing our thoughts from our prayers.  I am now going to need more time than what was required before.  I will need more time in the still of the day for my thoughts and prayers to fill me with continual strength. I will need even more discipline than I have ever had.  I have great discipline in most all areas of my life, but some of it pales in comparison to Michael's. His discipline produced a great harvest..... mine, too, is producing a harvest, I am just overwhelmed with this truth and how he lived it out each day.... like a good soldier.

The Garden Seat

Monday, March 21, 2011
Yesterday I was going through some of my files in order to create new files and purge old ones.  Everything was moving alone fine.  I was quiet and focused, with just a small lonely ache in my stomach.  I came across a file entitled, Written Gift.  Inside, I found copies of several things which Michael had written for me on different occasions.  I smiled on the inside,with tears on the outside, as I read a few of them that were cute and/or silly.... then I read this one - The Garden Seat.   He printed it out onto a paper with an old scripted font, with the first letter of the first word of each stanza being over sized black, and the rest of the letters were in red.  It was the toughest thing I have ever had to read.  I had to stop periodically and sob... yes, tears dripped onto the pages. It made me desperately miss him, miss our times together in the garden, wonder what was going on in heaven at that moment, and feel, with great pain, the separation that was now between us.

The Garden Seat

The Garden Seat waits patiently
Beside the ivy wall,
Calling us to come and rest
Before another fall.

Its measurement was made for two,
But like the nearby vine,
The garden seat sees only one
Whose hearts are intertwined.

It sits among a sacred place
Where both our hands have sowed,
Where memories will never fade
and new ones daily grow.

Not far away, the fountain sings
A faithful lullaby
And from the garden seat we hear
The years go swiftly by.

It listens as we laugh and cry
And seems to understand
The conversation of our hearts
Beyond this place of man.

There must have been a garden seat
In Eden long ago,
Where Adam sat with his first Love
And watched his garden grow.

And so, my love, come sit with me
And share with me your dreams
What time has stolen, do not fear
The Garden Seat redeems.

I believe that there's a Garden Seat
For us in heaven too
One day you'll find me patiently
Waiting there for you....

One day you'll find me patiently
Waiting there for you.

I love you, Babe........... Michael
Happy Valentine's Day 2005

For Such A Time as This

Sunday, March 20, 2011
This phrase, spoken by Mordecai to Esther, in Esther 4:14, ".... for such a time as this," has been spoken in my heart these past weeks.   The full sentence is, "Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"  My Bible has a foot note that explains it a little further.  What Mordecai is saying, is that if she is silent (and does not go to the king to help the Jewish nation), she may miss the opportunity, purpose, and privilege for being where God has put her, in relation to their nation. Another note says, "... the lives of Esther and Mordecai are a classic example of successful teamwork.  Their relationship vividly portrays the unity that the Lord Jesus prayed for His disciples to experience(John 17).  The success of their individual roles , even their very survival, depended entirely on their unity.

For such a time as this.... being placed in the right place, doing the right thing, having surrounded myself with the right people, and at the right time, for such a time as this.

Michael and I had attended a non-denominational, "full gospel" church all of our married years until 5 years ago when, for reasons not completely understood by us, God brought us to Redeemer Presbyterian church.  We served and loved the people of our previous church. Michael was Catholic all of his life until we met.  I grew up as a pastor's kid in the Christian Church and Congregational Church.  There were no Presbyterians on either side of our families.  One of the obvious reasons to us for going to Redeemer was that it was one of our community churches.  It is committed to the community and that resonated with us.  What we did not know, is that very reason would play such an important role in the healing process of me and my children during this time of our lives. We can walk to our pastor's house, the church, or the homes of our close brothers and sisters in Christ.  The structure of the church leadership, and the order which the church has in place, has also met our needs. The honest, real, and compassionate way that they have approached this tragedy in our lives has been exactly what we needed.  Redeemer is a young church, but God brought it about to meet the needs of our community, and the people of Jackson, for such a time as this.  We were placed in this church, for such a time as this.

I have always home schooled my children. We were, of course,  often asked why we chose to do this.  For awhile, I would start giving a long list of the detailed reasons.  We quickly realized that the main reason was the only one that mattered.  This was something that we knew deep in our spirit that it was what God wanted for our lives.  It was what He chose for us. We desired to be in His perfect will in all things in our lives... even if it meant home schooling our children and going against the grain. I received my degree in education, which did not make sense to me at the time, for such a time as this. Our children are gifted, beautiful,  musically talented, highly social, and a joy to be around.  Because I have spent so much time with them one on one, we communicate well together.  Needs are easily expressed or noticed.  This relationship has been priceless, for such a time as this.  By home schooling, I have been able to allow them to rest and pull away for as much time as they need. Their musical abilities have been great therapy for them, since their father has gone to heaven.  There has been lots of guitar playing, piano playing, and singing.  By home schooling, they have always had a little more time to put into there musical endeavors.  Ten years of music and twelve years of home schooling, for such a time as this.

We live in a beautiful neighborhood with people who have beautiful hearts.  I had wanted to live here since I was in high school.  We moved into this home in 1999.  I always told Michael that there is not any place in Jackson where I would rather live.  If we ever moved, it would be to the country for bigger pets, bigger gardens, and bigger sunsets.  It had been our desire for several years to move to the country, but we just could never feel like the timing was right.  Imagine if I was in the country right now, without any neighbors stopping in to check on me or help me at a moment's notice?  We were placed in this neighborhood, for such a time as this.

I discovered I loved to write while taking a creative writing course, during my senior year at Woodland Hills Baptist Academy.  It took me totally by surprise.  I had always loved to draw, but had never even  written in a journal, and drug my feet on completing term papers. After Michael and I married, the writing came out in full force as we would write our feelings for each other.  Letters written to friends and thank you notes became an opportunity to use the gift of the written word for other people.  During my prayer time in the mid 90's,  I  heard God telling me to develop my writing, in any little shape or fashion, on a daily basis.  I could not always find the time, but I became aware of it and used it as a creative outlet in different ways.  I have written 3 books that have copyrights, but are unpublished, and three unfinished screenplays.  I did not understand the purpose of what God was doing with me doing any of this. I am now thankful for the written gift.  Writing is helping me to feel, understand, and grieve, for such a time as this.

The success of my "role" in life, even my very survival, depends entirely on my unity with God's will and the people he has placed in my life.... for such a time as this.

Dirty Laundry

Saturday, March 19, 2011
Most all of the years of our marriage, I have always done laundry on Mondays.  I never wanted to do laundry throughout the week.  This would mean that there would always be clothes to fold and put away.. . and we all know that piles of clean clothes don't always get folded straight out of the dryer.  I did not want to spend every day doing some form of laundry.  By limiting it to Mondays,  the clothes are typically done by Tuesday morning.  The kids know when they wake up on Monday mornings to bring their sorted laundry down to the laundry room. The girls always run their own through the cycles, and I have always done mine and the boys. (Michael Anthony does his own sorting and folding.)  

I was notified about Michael's accident on Wednesday morning, February 23 at 3:30 in the morning.  His accident had taken place about 10:30 on Tuesday night, within minutes of our "good night - I love you" phone conversation.  One of my favorite movies is When Harry Met Sally.  My sister and I compete to see who can reuse a quote from the movie in the most appropriate place of a conversation.  At the end of the movie, when Harry realizes that he loves Sally and does not want to live his life without her by his side,  he tells her all of the apparent "everyday" reasons that he loves her. One of the things he says to her is,  "I love that you are the last person I want to talk to at night before I fall asleep and the first person I want to talk to when I wake up."  When Michael traveled, he would always call me after his business dinner to share with me, check on how my evening went, tell me he loved me and say good night.  He would then call me in the morning before his business day started.  We would talk about our day or he would just say, "I just called to tell you I love you," or ,"I miss you." 

Back to the dirty laundry.... Later in the day, on that tragic Wednesday, I found myself trying to find a crumpled, used t-shirt so that I could smell him.  All of the laundry was clean. I was mad that I could not find anything that showed a sign of his recent life.  I grabbed two of his long sleeved t-shirts, which he loved to wear at night, out of his drawer.  I sat on our bed, wrapped them around me neck, put the arms in front of my nose, and cried like I have never cried before in my life.  I could not control my groans and cries.  The groans came up from somewhere deep inside my soul. I was longing for the comfort of his smell. The softness of the shirt was enough for me, because that is why he loved to sleep in those shirts.  The children and I have slept in them many times looking for even a trace of his scent left behind.  I scanned through his dress clothes looking for any worn looking dress shirts.  Touching them somehow made me feel like I was hugging him for the last time.

We fell behind on washing clothes these past few weeks.  Earlier this week, I washed a load of darks.  At the bottom of our laundry bag, I found Michael's Boy Scout pants.  The weekend before the accident, he had gone on a camp out with our son and their troop.  He typically did not unpack his bag immediately upon returning from camping.  Somehow, those pants did not make it into the wash that Monday and were hidden under a pair of my jeans in the laundry bag. I slowly looked the pants over and dug my hands into every pocket, trying to see if there was any little trace of what he had done while he was camping.  I was disappointed to find them all empty. 

The heavy feeling set into my stomach.  I pictured how cute he looked in his Scout uniform or just his Scout pants with a t-shirt.  Scouting excited him and brought him renewed energy.  How very appropriate it was that the dirty clothes I finally found were his Scout pants.  I miss his dirty clothes.  I washed his last piece of dirty laundry, folded them with tenderness, and hung them with his uniform shirt. He was a Scout to the end.

Wonder Woman

Friday, March 18, 2011
Over the years, Michael, and a few others, have referred to me as Wonder Woman.  To the outside, it may have looked like I was doing many different things with great strength.  It never seemed like it was anything over the top to me, because it all took place within my four walls.  I have always home schooled our children, which keeps me from too much involvement in other activities during the day.  People would say, "How do you do it?"  The answer has always been, "I don't know any other way."  This is what I have always done.  This is our life, how we have chosen to live it, it suits us, and we love it. Since I love to cook, garden, and entertain, these "hobbies" were easily part of my daily routine.... not a chore or something for which I necessarily had to strive.  They were just part of the our daily rhythm. Projects around the house also fell into that category.  Completing various projects around the house was always energizing to me. Michael would sometimes come home from work to find furniture moved, a wall painted, five loaves of bread cooling on the counter, and soup simmering on the cook top.

I coached cheerleaders, choreographed routines and taught hip hop dance classes for 20 years, but I always worked it around the schedule of my children.  Some years, I taught privately out of my house while the children were taking naps or playing upstairs.  I could have dinner cooking while I was coaching, take an hour break from coaching to eat dinner with my family, then Michael would take care of baths, stories, and bedtime while I coached a couple more hours.  He proudly supported me in this all of those years.

I could make firm decisions, stand boldly for a cause, have faith that could move mountains, and never waiver in what was the right thing to do.  I understand, now, that I was Wonder Woman because he was my Superman.  He believed in me, fought for me, supported me, trusted me, and loved me with his whole being.  His belief in me gave me the confidence to do all that I wanted and needed to do on a daily basis.  I remember one night at dinner, when the children were several years younger, I had said to him with disappointment, "I just did not get anything done today." He told me that I had been saying that too often.  I will never forget what he said.  He put his fork down, looked at me squarely, with eyes intently focused on mine, and said, "Babe, you have home schooled our three children, cooked three meals, and met their other needs, as well as mine.  If you never get anything done other than that, you have done plenty." His belief in the life we had chosen to live,  and in my ability to carry out my part , strengthened me.  Now, hear me on this,  I understand that the Lord is my strength and my shield, but we are humans and are made to be loved and accepted.  Just like children are stronger and more confidant and secure in their actions when they have a loving, supportive, and stable home, husbands and wives operate on those same needs.

The strength and confidence that I had while he was in my life is tottering all over the place.  I am doubting most of my daily decisions and have had a hard time committing to or making a plan.  He depended on my strength.  He was strong out in the world during the day while doing his work, and needed the security that came from my strength when he walked in the door at night.  The song by Lee Greenwood, which was so popular in the late eighties comes to mind..."Wind Beneath My Wings".  Part of the lyrics say, "I can fly higher than an eagle, with you as the wind beneath my wings."  Michael and I loved to watch each other soar. It was a gift to be the wind beneath each other's wings.  Our love and belief in one another gave us super powers.  I am not spiraling down in flight, but I am definitely flying low, without such a strong force of wind blowing me back up to greater heights.

Waves, Rivers, and Lakes

Thursday, March 17, 2011
Yesterday was a tough one.  I never know when it is coming, why it hits me so hard , or how long I am going to be stumbling on my knees grasping.  I cannot get the habits of natural water sources out of my mind as I encounter all of the feelings that have been washing over me these past few weeks.  Water can have many purposes (or side benefits), and possible side effects.  It can sustain you, refresh you, and clean you, but it can also sweep you off your feet, cause you to stumble,  choke, or suffocate, and, the darkest of side effects, can cause you to drown and steal your life.  Sometimes, I feel like a wave has crashed over me, causing me to get knocked off my feet, take my breath away for a moment, and then I am quickly recovered and back on my feet again.  Other times, it is like I am standing in a river with a strong, rushing, current.  I feel the weight pushing against me and each step that I take is heavy and labored. While in the strong river,  I am not able to withstand the force for very long.  I am swept off my feet and carried away in the current for awhile before I find something on which to grab and pull myself back up out of the water.  Lake water has its' own challenges, as well. The water seems heavier, swimming is harder, its dark, and you cannot see what is under you or lurking around you.

Yesterday, I was in my car with my children heading to a lake to spend some time relaxing with a friend and her children.  The morning had been average...a few waves, but I quickly recovered.  Then, while in the car, that heavy pressure in the pit of my stomach settled in for a longer period of time. It was kind of like lake water.... still, heavy, and unknown.  It is hard for me to breathe, sometimes, in this lake.  I had some overwhelming moments of tears later in the afternoon  with Mia and in the evening with some  friends.  I typically feel the weight and pressure for awhile and then, like a dam, the flood gate is lifted slightly to release some of the force that has been building on the inside.  When the waters have been released, I feel better, but exhausted from the struggle at the same time.

While drinking my green tea in bed this morning, I picked up my stack of note cards with scriptures written on them (Thanks to my friend, Beth T., for giving them all to me.), and I came across a scripture that gave me hope.  Isaiah 43:2 says,"When you pass thru the waters, I will be with you, and when you pass thru the rivers, they will not sweep over you."  God's timing of reminding me of this promise was perfect. One of my favorite children's books, which I read often to my children, is called The Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown.  The young bunny tells his mother that he is going to run away.  She tells him, "If you run away, I will run after you.  For you are my little bunny."  The young bunny says, "if you run after me, I will become a fish in a trout stream and I will swim away from you."  The mother replies, "If you become a fish in a trout stream, I will become a fisherman and I will fish for you."  Later in the book, the young bunny says, "I will become a sailboat and sail away from you."  The sweet and wise mother replies, "If you become a sailboat and sail away from me, I will become the wind and blow you where I want you to go." Finally, he says, "I will become a little boy and run into a house."  The mother bunny then proves there is no way to escape her love.  She says, "If you become a little boy and run into a house, I will become your mother and catch you in my arms and hug you."  What a poignant truth of the love my heavenly Father has for me.  It does not matter where I turn, where I go, or how hard I may be sucked in by the current.  He will be with me, after me, and for me... lifting me out of the waters and allowing me to catch my breath.

Like Never Before

Wednesday, March 16, 2011
A friend of mine was over visiting and crying with me last week. She was encouraging me by telling me how blessed I am that Michael left so much of his written words behind.  She was referring to all of his notes, poems, and songs that he wrote for me through the years.  I realize that many spouses never know what the other thinks or feels,because they never reveal their inner selves or even know how to comfortably go about doing it. Almost every year for Mother's Day or Valentine's Day, he would write something for me in a multitude of different genres.  Following is a poem that he wrote for Mother's Day, 2008. I loved knowing that he could recognize his feelings and, not only put words to it, but made sure I knew what those feelings were.  We kept each other updated continually on where our feelings were for one another... good and bad. If they were bad; such as, hurt feelings, down in the "depths of despair", or feeling forgotten, we would share, then forgive, apologize, cry together, and then it would turn to laughter and refreshment.  If you have never been this honest with your spouse(husband or wife), I plead with you to try.  It may take small steps, but start somewhere.  Your marriage will never be the same..."like never before."  Life is short, God is good, be thankful, walk in love.... "like never before."

Like Never Before

Today I see her like never before
Though yesterday I thought, "How could she mean more?"
If given tomorrow I know that I'd say
Like never before, I see her today.

Today I need  her like never before
Consistent and faithful, supportive and sure.
To know that she hears from the Father of dreams,
Like never before, I need her today.

Today I know her like never before
By listening, learning, and helping her to endure.
A mother to our children, A blessing to me
Like never before, I know her today.

Today I love her like never before
Through laughter and tears, through sunshine and storms.
To know that God designed her for His destiny with me
Like never before, I love her today.
Written by
Michael Anthony Barranco, Sr.
May 2008

Outside the Box or Inside the Box

Tuesday, March 15, 2011
I have been told several times recently by friends, that the grieving process looks different from one person to the next.  My three children are all on different tracks of this process, not to mention me.  I have a good friend who helps counsel at a local grieving center for children.  She gave me a great image of how we must handle this grief.  She said that we must be able to, and give ourselves permission to, put the pain "in a box" and come up for air.  The pain is so great, that we can't physically dwell or stay in that place of pain 24/7.  We have got to come up for air . Then, when the need or desire to go back to the pain arises, we can just open up the box again.  We are all coming up for air at different times and for different durations.  There is not a right way to do this.  Our needs, age, maturity, thoughts, and fears are all so very different from one another. Without being told a magic formula, my children are naturally opening and closing their boxes and swimming up for air when they need the sun to shine on their faces.

My 12 year old son, Michael Anthony, needs more air than do the rest of us.  He prefers to be in a private place, with people who create the most safety for him, mostly in my presence,  when he opens his box.  By nature, he has always been an extremely active child.  In addition to that, he is very social. This explains why his love language is quality time. He has never met a stranger.  Because of his size, which is tall and strong for his age (5'7 and weighs 175), he has played tackle football for 5 years.  Most of the time, except this year when he played center, he has been a defensive tackle.  All season, every year, his father would remind him to hit his man.  He would push his man on the shoulders, when he was clearly large enough to make lunch meat out of him.  When asked why he was not tackling the guy, his answer would be, "But he's my friend!"  We would remind him that he just met the boy, then he would say that they had talked in between plays and had much in common!  They would agree not to take each other down.  Michael then resorted to paying him for each tackle and double payment for sacking the quarterback.. this seemed to work!  These past two weeks he has played lots of tennis, spent time on his drums, gone turkey hunting, fishing, camping, earned an Eagle Scout merit badge, played in the neighborhood creek, had horseback riding lessons, ridden the Ranger in the woods,  worked on target practice using ketchup bottles, and has also had his down time with some video games or dance-offs with his teenage sisters playing Just Dance 2. There is nothing wrong with him doing these things right now.  His personal make up requires him to be active or on a specified schedule.  Because our schedule has been thrown out the window for awhile, it has been good for him to be active and do things that bring him joy.  At night, when just the two of us are alone together, his brain settles down and he likes to having some chats with me as his mind slowly drifts to his life questions and feelings.  Last night he told me that some people who have been here have made him feel like I was the only one experiencing the loss and pain, and he was, somehow, supposed to be able to carry on his daily duties and responsibilities. He said this was not fair to him and I agreed.  I  shower him with hugs, squeezes, and kisses.  We have prayed together and cried together.  Because of his busyness and planning activities, it may appear to those looking on from the outside that he is not grieving.... oh, but he is.  He just can't hold his breath as long as we can  inside the box of grief and pain.

Our 14 year old daughter, Julia, has amazed me.  She has cried her share of tears both publicly and privately. She, too,  loves to be around people but also enjoys to touch base with me more frequently during the day.  The first few days following the accident, we had hundreds of people pass through our home.... literally.  She parked it in the bay window in our front sitting room with a pillow and a blanket, in her sweat pants and sweatshirt.  She would visit with people there, or she would stretch out, cover herself up with the blanket, and take periodic catnaps when she felt the need.  She felt safe around the activities of the house.  While in bed at night, she reads my blog and will sometimes cry herself to sleep.  Her love language is physical touch. With that need, she makes herself "available" to me for a hug and a kiss almost every time she passes through the room.  If a friend is over to visit with me to cry and talk, she will often sit right next to us without saying a word.  She listens intently, and will nod or grin, when in agreement with the emotion.  When I begin to cry, she looks at me with love and understanding in her eyes.  It seems to help her to see me cry and share my heart.  I think it is helping her to sort things out in her own heart and mind.  In the past, we had nicknamed her Velcro Girl because, sometimes, she seems to stick by your side.  Because there were over 2000 people to greet at the visitation, the wait time to see the family was over 2 hours long.  After 3 hours of standing in one place receiving people, it was decided it would move along faster if I moved down the line instead of them walking towards me.  We all split up in order for us to see all of the guests.  My best friend moved quietly along behind me to support me and meet any needs that I might have had.  As I began to move down the line, shaking hands in introduction, hugging people, and receiving condolences, I felt my Velcro Girl appear right beside me.  Michael Anthony had gone to the food room for some dinner, and Mia did her own, adult-like greetings, in her quiet, loving, and compassionate way . My heart was moved with Julia beside me to support me and for me to support her. She patiently met every person there, while holding my hand and walking with me.  She has two levels in her box.  One is just for her when she is alone. Above that is the level where she experiences the pain through my tears and conversations.  She seems to feel loved and safe in that place.  Like Michael Anthony, she will then come up for air to be silly, play Just Dance 2, have coffee or shop with friends, play the piano, guitar or bass guitar, clean, play with her 4 year old cousin, or just hang out.  Doing these things does not mean she is not heartbroken or not grieving.  She is just coming out of the box to breathe easier for a moment.

Our 18 year old daughter, Mia, is mature beyond her years and always has been.  She has always been able to quickly and easily show emotions without any embarrassment.  She has her father's heart and a heart turned towards her heavenly Father.  These past few weeks, she can walk into the room and just look at me, and it is as if her eyes are saying, "I get it. I am with you. I understand." She can hug you without saying a word and her spirit says it all.  She cries quickly with me when my tears begin to flow and will come to me and just hold me until the tears subside.  She also draws energy from being around people, but she prefers one on one and, like me, also needs some pull away time.  The great thing about Mia is that she knows when she needs to be with someone, or when she needs to be alone.  She makes her choices and meets those needs.  This past Sunday, she felt the need to be in the church service... a need of social time, but more intimate because our church is a second family to her.   She sat next to my Dad, who was still in town, and the service began.  Our church choir sang, "I Want to say Thank You," in Michael's memorial service, and blew all of us away with the presence of God which they brought forth and the spirit of worship. This would be her first time to hear the choir since that day. Everyone stood and the choir began to sing, "Bow Down",(which her father had always sung), and,"Our God is an Awesome God."  My Dad told me that she melted on the spot and had to sit down as she cried her way through the song.  She was comforted being within her church family, and yet, at the same time, was able to pull away by sitting down.  By the time she came home, she was relieved, stronger, and greeted me with a hug and her sweet smile.  She goes to her box more frequently than the other children, as do I, because we are stronger, know our limits inside or outside the box, and can hold our breath longer.  When she is out of the box, she is with friends, working at JCrew, playing her guitar, mandolin or piano, playing Just Dance 2, or chilling out with whomever is around. I think she has found a healthy balance of life in and outside the box.

We cannot judge how they have responded so differently to the same experience.  They are unique, healthy, loving children who loved their father with all of their heart.  They laughed when he laughed, prayed when he prayed, loved when he loved. They all had a great relationship with him, spent time with him,  and knew they were special to him in each and every way.  They are missing him and longing for him whether they are inside their box or outside their box.  We have to love them in both places.

Songs from the Soul

Monday, March 14, 2011
It is such a mystery how songs float up to my memory while I am doing something that has nothing to do with that song or the feeling that will follow.  I was pulling some dirty jeans out of the dirty clothes bag to take down to the laundry room.  Suddenly, a hymn I learned in my childhood rose up in me and I found myself singing it.
Holy, Holy, Holy
Lord God, Almighty
Early in the morning, my soul shall rise to thee.
Holy, Thou art Holy
Merciful and mighty
God in three persons, blessed Trinity.

I felt in awe of the "bigness" of God in my little moment going down the stairs. Matthew 12:34 says, "For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks."  I am thankful that the Holy Spirit was in abundance in my heart. I believe, just like the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf, He also can sing for us.  He sang for me today.

A Year of Firsts

About a week after Michael's departure from my life, I was organizing a few things in kitchen with one of my sisters and my best friend from Australia.  I saw a few meaningless objects on the kitchen counter and in the pantry that stirred up a flood of memories and I suddenly began to cry.  I continue to be amazed at the grief can bubble up out of, what appears to be, nowhere. It can also settle back down almost as fast as it rose up.  Fine and focusing on the task at hand, then one little glimmer of a memory that won't be the same without him by my side, and then the tears can suddenly gush. This happened standing there in my kitchen.  It felt like we were just about to enjoy doing this when the rush came.  My sister came to me and wrapped her arms around me.  When she pulled away, she calmly, and reassuringly said, "This is going to be a year of firsts. Just know that ahead of time."  Every time something is experienced without Michael, or some object brings up his memory for the first time, I will most likely experience this flash flood of emotions.  I finished that set of tears, then we moved on to something else in the kitchen.  The next day, something happened which triggered it again and my sister looked at me, touched my arm and said, "a year of firsts" with that same reassuring look. After I experience it for the first time, I have been able to handle it without emotion the next... it is just getting over each initial hump.  Like making coffee.

Several years ago, I prayed and asked God for some specific ways that I could serve Michael  in order to help him in his daily life - to bring more physical peace.  One of the ways was to make his coffee at night with the timer set for thirty minutes before his wake up time the next day. (His wake up time fluctuated within a thirty minute time frame, depending on his day that was waiting for him.)  The aroma of the coffee helped him roll out of bed. The main reason, though, for doing this was so that his movements in the morning could seamlessly flow into his prayer time while holding a cup of coffee.  Having to come down the stairs, stop to measure coffee, and then wait for it to finish would have been an interruption to that morning flow.  I was more than happy to do it because I knew the peace that it would help add to his early morning alone time. It was always just four cups, which is really just two mugs.  I drink green tea, so I only had to make enough for him.  If he did not drink it all, Julia and Michael Anthony would share the little that was left mixed with lots of cream and sugar.  By instinct one night recently, before going up to bed, I started to make the coffee for all of my guests that would be here the next morning.  There I was, crying over the coffee pot.  For the first time in years, I was going to make a full pot... no longer the sweet little pot of four.  For the first time in years, I had to change the timer on it  to go off at a later time than the pot was accustomed to brewing.  A year of firsts.  I have not had any problems with making coffee since that night.

A friend of mine who sells CABI clothing and lives in Mobile, was passing through town yesterday.  I have held trunk showings for her about once or twice a year for the past six years.  On the days that I would host a show, Michael would sometimes come home during the day for me to do a little fashion show for him and he would help me decide what looked best.  Other times, he would come at the end of the day and we would both have a glass of wine while looking at the clothes I had picked and I would try on the questionable ones.  I needed a few things for this spring and summer, so I asked her if she could bring her clothes inside for me to have my own private show. (Shopping for clothes in stores is not something I have ever enjoyed to do.)  She brought in the whole line and we drank hot tea, with my mom, sister, and a friend joining me. With her help, I immediately made a stack of pieces that were obviously "me".  I then tried everything on and narrowed it down to the possibilites.   It was going smoothly right up to that point, then the flash flood hit.  I began to cry.  It was the first time I was picking out clothes without Michael's opinion and his eye for style and what worked for me.  I loved his opinion on my clothes because he had perfect fashion sense, which I realize is very uncommon for most husbands. He knew beauty instinctively when he saw it.  It was because he was an artist, a romantic, and he knew how clothes made us both feel.  He made me feel beautiful at all times, in all places.  I wanted to look beautiful for him.  They sat patiently with me, loved me, and listened.  Then the waters began to recede.  A year of firsts.

Two incredibly talented women from my neighborhood came over Saturday to help organize my kitchen,  which had gotten out of control from so many people working in it.  They arrived at ten in the morning and gave their whole day to me.  The organizing moved from my kitchen to my garage and they served with love and compassion in their hearts.  There are not words to describe my thankfulness to these two ladies.  While one of them worked in the kitchen, I mostly sat on a stool and she would pull items out and ask my opinion on things. It was going smoothly.  I was even a little proud of the way I was holding it all together.  Flash floods hit.  She was sitting on the floor next to an open cabinet and held up a set of brand new baby bottles used specifically for breast milk.  She asked, "What about these?"  Whoosh....it took my breath away.  Two years ago this month, we were all set for a private adoption for a local brand new baby girl.  She was due two days after my birthday.  The mother was about 15-16 years old and went to a local public high school.  We began to pray over this little blessing while she was still in the womb.  We prayed for her protection, safe delivery and over her life. We had hired our attorney and he had privately met with the birth mother and her father.(Her mother had been killed in a car wreck several years before.) Everything looked good.  I had a small baby bed up in my room and a huge stack of pink things.  The children and I had gone shopping so that they could each pick something out for our new baby girl... we had named her Sophia Grace Barranco. (Sophia means wisdom... the meaning of Grace is obvious.)  I had been seeing a breastfeeding specialist so that I could nurse this newborn baby, as I did my other three children. I had bought those bottles from the specialist.  In Mississippi, the birth mother can change her mind right up to the moment she is walking out of the hospital... and this is what she did.   They were supposed to call our attorney to let him know of her birth, then he would pick up the baby from the hospital and bring her to us.  The day came and went with no phone call.  After a week, our attorney called them only to find out that she had changed her mind and they had failed to call us.  Needless to say, we were devastated.  It was like a death in the family.  I kept all those pink blankets and clothes in a neat pile in my room for a whole year thinking the young mother would change her mind and decide she could not handle it.  Those things were finally put away in the attic last fall in a pink and white plastic bin.  A year of firsts.

My list of firsts already could go on and on.  These were several firsts that had more intimate depth to them. I just shared this intimacy with the world....a year of firsts.

Valentine' Day Take Two

Sunday, March 13, 2011
Once again, I lost a paragraph on one of my posts.  I have never used a laptop until I started this blog.  Without wanting to, I have inherited Michael's MacBook Pro.  I always preferred our "old fashioned" family computer with the key pad and mouse.  I am learning how sensitive this laptop is and am working through the frustration of losing thoughts with the swipe of my wrist.  This time, however, I was able to remember what was lost.  I have edited it and added the paragraph...  in case you are interested in learning a little more.

Fear, Love, and Honesty

I just read my sister's recent blog post. It is about the fear of love, the fear of being hurt, the fear of exposing our inner selves, the fear of expressing and sharing those fears, and then the relief and healing that takes place when we face it and are honest in communicating with others these fears that lie within our true selves.  It is exactly where I am right now. 

 Here is a quote, but I encourage you to read the entire post.  

This is what Carl Rogers pointed out when he wrote: “...I have found that the very feeling which has seemed to me most private, most personal and hence most incomprehensible by others, has turned out to be an expression for which there is a resonance in many other people. It has led me to believe that what is most personal and unique in each one of us is probably the very element which would, if it were shared or expressed, speak most deeply to others. This has helped me to understand artists and poets who have dared to express the unique in themselves."

Giving Thanks in all Circumstances

Following the days of Michael's death (it is still so surreal to write those words), a friend of mine would bring to me an index card with a scripture on it for the day.  They were always perfect and would meet the present need.  One morning, while sitting up in bed, I was crying with just general thoughts of missing Michael, feeling lonely, left behind, a little confused, sad, and heart broken. I turned to my night stand to glance at my little stack of note cards.  The one I picked was from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances ; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."  I stopped immediately when I got to ,"give thanks in all circumstances".  I just broke down and sobbed with an overwhelming feeling of thankfulness that, under my present circumstances,  could have only come from heaven.

Through my crying, broken voice, I looked up to heaven, and with spoken words, began to be thankful for Michael's life.

Thank you, God, for having brought Michael to me.  Out of all the women in the world, You chose me. Thank you for giving me that privilege. Thank you for choosing me to be his wife here on this earth.  Thank you for the life we had together. Thank you for the way he provided for our family.  Thank you for the hard worker that he was.  Thank you for his discipline. Thank you for his steadfast love. Thank you for his faithfulness. Thank you for his sweet spirit.  Thank you for the children you gave me.  Thank you for the father that he was to our children. Thank you for his wisdom. Thank you for his guidance for our family. Thank you for his influence.  Thank you for his integrity.  Thank you for his voice...

I felt so lifted and exhausted after pouring out my spirit of thankfulness. I felt so connected to God and Michael's spirit at the same time.  I could breathe again. Ever since then, while taking a shower, I am often overcome with tears and a wave of thankfulness.  I cannot explain it... in the flesh, who would be thankful right now?... but glory to God that He has given me the blessing of being thankful.  When the thankfulness strikes, I feel refreshed with a little more strength to carry on.

A secular song by Taylor Swift, called "Enchanting", keeps running through my head as I think back on my life with Michael Barranco.  All of the lyrics are not appropriate to our situation, but the main idea is where my heart is, as I am being thankful for him having been in my life.
All I can say, is it was enchanting to meet you.
Your eyes whispered, "Have we met?", across the room your silhouette starts to make its way to me.
The playful conversation starts, counter all your quick remarks, like passing notes in secrecy. 
And it was enchanting to meet you
All I can say is I was enchanted to meet you....

Granola girl here

Saturday, March 12, 2011
I have received many comments about my post from yesterday about my health and sleep.  I want to assure everyone that I am okay.  I have been a health nut, granola girl for years.  The good health of me and my family has always been at the top of my priorities in all of my grocery shopping, meal planning, and eating habits. I was extremely tired yesterday.  I recognized my needs, which I think is a very positive thing.  I was aware of my drinking glass all day and made certain it was full again with fresh water.  I ate two helpings of pasta last night.  Today, I will start juicing again, which is a great habit I have had for years.  My green lemonade is on tap for my pre-lunch drink right now.  I also had about 7 hours of sleep last night:)  Thank you for your prayers.

Walking the Dog take 2

I was just looking through some of my previous posts and noticed a computer error.  I was reading, "Walking the Dog" and noticed that the heaviest, most important paragraph was somehow misplaced on my computer and I cannot locate it.  I am crushed that I am not able to re-read those thoughts and feelings.  Pray that I can pull that paragraph up from somewhere.  I did not plan on writing a cliff hanger....

Valentine' Day

Valentine' Day has always been a big celebration in our house.  It was never just about me and Michael.  We always included the children in a big way.  When they were younger, we would go out on a double date with my sister, Jerri, and her husband, Ralph.  We did this during the years that we needed a babysitter. But, as soon as they were old enough, I started cooking a very special meal for the whole family.  Our Valentine's Day started at breakfast.  I would set the table the night before and place the gifts and cards at each person's plate.  Usually, there was a pretty table cloth and an upgrade in dishes from the daily ones.  We would eat our breakfast together and read all of the cards aloud to one another.(After breakfast, we kept the cards on the table by leaning them on the vase of flowers to remind us of our love as a family and for each other.)  The whole day felt special and joyful. My gifts from Michael would always be too big to put on the table, or it would be a continual stack of gifts that he would keep bringing from another room. Often times, we would just write poetry for each other.  This year, he decided to spread the gifts out throughout the day. He was full of joy when he was giving gifts to me or the children.  He would smile all through breakfast.

Valentine's Day this year was just 8 days before his wreck.  It seems like it was an eternity ago.  This year was a little different because of the children's evening activities.  The breakfast and the day went the same, but for dinner, the kids ate together when they were all home, and Michael and I ordered out later and watched a movie together in the den.  The kids were instructed that it was a date and they were to stay upstairs. He said I could choose the movie and it could be any romantic comedy I wanted.  I chose, "Some Thing's Gotta Give".  We had seen it several times, but it is always worth seeing again.  This time we laughed harder than we had ever laughed.  The kids said they heard Dad laughing all the way upstairs.  We loved the fact that the lead female, Diane Keaton, is a writer.  We seemed to both appreciate the direction in which her creative mind would go in her dialogue.  One of her lines, which is really just a spoken thought during a conversation she is having, with a man for which she is trying not to have feelings, is this.  She stops in the middle of what she is doing and says, "Did one of us just say something interesting?"  We would often say things then turn to each other and say, "That would be a great line in a movie!"  One night last month, after an intimate moment in our bedroom, he sat completely still for a moment then whispered to me, "Is that someone coming up the stairs...... or is that my heart beating?"  He paused and then we both laughed and he said, "That would be a great line in a movie!"  I wholeheartedly agreed. What was most amazing about this past Valentine's Day,  was that he stayed awake through an entire movie.  He was always falling asleep during movies at home and sometimes at the theatre.  It was because he had stopped moving, thinking, and creating.  He and our son had two gears, on or off, awake or asleep, first gear or full throttle.  Michael Anthony has been like that since he was old enough to walk.  We would always laugh while watching him fall asleep, even up until now.  He asks a few questions,  yawns in a loud, sighing way, and then he is asleep.  Like father like son.

This year, without him realizing it, he gave me gifts that represent him and will continue to keep my thoughts on him.  The first gift was two great gardening books for us to peruse through together and get some ideas about garden combinations and garden projects.  We always discussed every little detail of the garden.  We dreamed, got dirty, and sweat in the garden together.  Later that day, he gave me a little framed piece of embroidery that reads, "Any time, any place, any where... I will be there for you."  I discovered this still sitting in the den on the day I found out about the accident.  What a precious gift.  What a thoughtful man.  What a simple, small, yet huge gift. The final gift came that night right as we were about to drift off to sleep.  He said, "I also paid for you to have a two hour massage with Marion Carpenter.  You need that. Be sure and do that soon for yourself."  A two hour massage.  I have had an hour or an hour and a half massage but never a two hour one. That was Michael.  He loved to give gifts that were over the top. I am looking forward to the massage and dreading it all at the same time.  To feel the touch of a human hand on my skin will be overwhelming.  I will possibly cry all the way through the two hours.  Without my mate, physical touch will drop to an all time low.  Michael knew my needs and planned ahead.

We always preferred to give one another cards which were blank on the inside so that we could write our own words.  When all of Michael's things from his car were brought back to me, I noticed the Valentine's card that I had just given him was slipped into the outside pocket of his computer case.  He would always carry around with him the most recent card he had received from me.  He would pull it out  and read it over and over when he needed a momentary retreat from the daily grind.  It would transport him to the safety, peace, and love of me, the children, and our home.  This year, on the outside of his card to me , it read, "I want to hold your hand", then in his written words on the inside it read, "and talk less, listen more, hold you, know you like never before, learn with you, laugh with you, cry with you, pray with you, be with you and love you."   On the outside of my card to him, it read, "Together", and on the inside were the printed words, "forever.  Happy Valentine's Day to my husband, the love of my life."  Following, I had written, "There never has been and there never will be another love of my life besides you.  I only always want the best of us."

That was less than a month ago.  I have not opened the gardening books, the embroidery is laying next to me, and I have yet to schedule my massage.  I will get around to all of it someday.  Sometimes I feel like I need to stay in this place where everything is suspended, neutral, a frozen frame, time standing still.  The more days that pass, the further I am leaving him behind... like we are walking down a road and he has paused, but I have to keep looking back to see that he is not coming with me. He is just standing there, and I don't want the distance between us to get any greater.  I know I must and will keep walking, but the distance feels safe right now and it is an empty, lost feeling to keep walking without him.

Walking the dog

Friday, March 11, 2011
Sleep deprivation is starting to be a problem.  My appetite is not like it used to be.  I feel starving at times, but there is no satisfaction after I eat.  I am eating three meals a day, but not as much and sometimes I need to be reminded to eat.  My heart beats a little faster than it should throughout the day and I don't seem to be drinking as much water as I usually do.  I am a big water drinker, so I am probably just hovering around what most people drink on a regular basis.... but I am feeling somewhat dehydrated.  I will try to do better today with the water, since it is the only thing over which I have real control.  My son wanted to sleep in my bed last night, which was good with me. We had some good alone time chats before he drifted quickly off to a deep sleep.

He has dog duty this morning and is out right now walking our male, soft coated wheaten terrier.  We have a female, too, but she does not enjoy to go on walks. My husband always had done the early morning walks. At first he would complain a little, by saying the children should be more responsible by getting up and taking care of it. When we started to set things up for the children to do it, he admitted that he loved doing it and did not want to turn it over to them.  It had become the culmination to his morning time with God... kind of like icing on a cake.  Everything he did in his morning routine gave him quiet, mind time with God to pray and listen.  Drinking coffee in the dark, followed by praying in the dark, then a dim light to read his Bible, next came the drive to the club, thought time while on the treadmill or elliptical, the drive home from the club, and finally, the second cup of coffee while walking Brady in our neighborhood. He told me that he got in his best prayer time while out walking the dog.  He allowed himself to pray from his soul while enjoying nature. When I would walk the dog at times later in the day, I seemed to always focus on training him instead of just enjoying the walk. Most of the time, Michael would let Brady meander all over at the end of his leash, allowing him to take in all of the wonderful scents he could find.  This allowed Michael's mind to drift where God wanted it to go. He would also have periods of just happily walking side by side together.  All of the morning walkers, runners, and other dog people knew his face and his good mornings with a smile.  I had a neighbor tell me that she always knew she was on time for carpool when she saw Michael pass her driveway with Brady.  If he was ever out of town on business or camping trips, I dreaded knowing that some of us had to get up earlier than usual so that we could "do the dogs".

Along with all kinds of bird calls, (He could call in an owl from over 300 yards until it was perched in a tree right next to us.), Michael could "talk" to our dogs and get them to "talk" back.  He would tilt his head back, jut his chin out just a little, and start this series of howling.  They would sit at his feet looking up at him like he was the best thing in the world and happily carry on conversations together.  He would then get tickled at them, or tickled at me getting frustrated, because it always seemed he had those talks with the dogs while I was in the middle of a phone conversation or trying to listen to messages on the voicemail. By choice, he would take both of them to and from the vet, as well as make all grooming appointments. When December hit each year, he would make an appointment for their "Christmas cut', as he called it, so that they would look nice for all of our entertaining.  He was disciplined in all that he did. Responsibilities were taken seriously,but never with resentment.

I think it would be good for me if I could take up that morning walk.... someday.

The Dentist

Thursday, March 10, 2011
 I know I have already posted today, but I have had a heavy morning.  I don't think there is any rule that says I can only post once a day, is there?  I told my sweet friend, Nanette, that if I had the time to get away all day long, I could write every minute of the day.  I have just been posting one portion of the many thoughts, obstacles, and pains that I come across throughout any given moment. I just tried to take a nap with my four year old niece, since I have been up since a little after 3:00 this morning, but I was only able to be still.  My mind and insides are churning.

A simple trip to the dentist to get my teeth cleaned was like climbing Mt. Everest.  We are in a strict habit of going to the dentist as a family every six months to get our teeth cleaned.  We were all scheduled for today and had been since our last appointment, six months ago.  I discussed it with my friends and family if I should cancel, or just forge on through it. They all agreed that it would be good to just go ahead and get it over with...so I did.  In spite of the difficulty, I am glad I went.

Because I have always home schooled, we all go together and take books to read.  They take us in two at a time.  Michael was on basically the same schedule, and sometimes we would see him coming and going near the time we were there.  We absolutely love our dentist (he is a Christian, too), and all of the hygienists are sweet, tender, and friendly people. There was nothing they could have done or not done to prevent my emotions and thoughts from overcoming me while sitting in the chair.  As I sat with my son waiting to be called back, my thoughts went this way..."Okay.  This is a peaceful safe environment.  I love these people and they love me.  I can do this.  It isn't going to be too bad, I mean, it's the dentist office, right?" Once my name was called to go to the back, the heaviness began to set into my chest and stomach.  When I sat down in the chair, I felt like an elephant was in the tiny room sitting on me and stealing all of the oxygen.  You could have heard a pin drop, in spite of the Christian music quietly playing in the background. I sat and stared at a painting of clouds in front of me and felt like it was the only thing I could see.  The hygienist was very considerate, tender, and quiet.  Sensing my mood, she spared me any small talk and just said what was necessary to do her job.  Then came the x-rays.

She put the heavy bib on me and the thoughts came gushing across my mind.  It was the first time in 24 years that I did not need to be concerned about the possibility of being pregnant. Michael and I agreed from the beginning that we would not use any form of birth control.  We believed that since we were in a covenant marriage and putting our faith in Him in all other areas of our lives, we trusted Him with that area too.  Why do we all trust God with our lives, our future, our health, our salvation, and yet, we reserve that decision for us to decide what is best? ( As you can tell, I am not holding back any thought. I am giving up any form of being a poser.) Immediately after our wedding, we decided to give that control over to God and let Him decide how many children we would have biologically, and when they would come.  He knows us better than we know ourselves. We felt safe and secure in our decision and never worried about the outcome.  After four years, we had our first child, Mia Jene' Barranco. Four years later, we had Julia Marie Barranco.  Next came our little miracle.  I weaned Julia at 11 months and the next month I got pregnant with our son, Michael Anthony Barranco, Jr.  We always felt that we were destined to have five or six children.  Every month I would wonder, "Is this going to be the month?"  Months and years went by, and additional pregnancies never came.  Every night in bed, he would wrap his arms around me, or we would just hold hands, and he would pray over our family.  He always included a petition for more children.

About four years ago, we separately heard during our private prayer times that we were to pursue adoption.  We were ecstatic about the idea and the children were completely on board.  (That whole journey is story all by itself...actually a book, or a movie - I had already started to write a screenplay about a part of the story.) His prayers at night changed slightly.  He began to pray for the children that were already out there which God had chosen to become Barranco children.  He prayed for protection over their lives and that they would be brought safely to their forever home. We actually were caring for a five year old foster child at the time of Michael's death.  We took him into our home April 2010.  His custody trial was scheduled for the week that Michael's accident took place.  The state had already determined that he was going to live with his parents. This was going to be a good thing.  They were living clean, right, and godly lives. (More on that later.)  Under the circumstances, the state decided that they could go ahead and take him home the night before the trial.  In one day, we lost Michael and a beautiful little boy named Keagan.... we called him Special K.

I am sitting in the dentist's chair and my mind is running like a freight train.

(I am about to dive into things even more personal... if that is possible.  I know I will hesitate before I click the button that says, "Publish Post".  I have been dragging my feet for a few days about sharing this but the Holy Spirit won't let me slip this one under the rug.  I need to share it and somebody out there needs to hear it.)

I switched doctors recently and went with a young, well respected female.  We connected immediately and she treated us with the utmost respect.  I told her that we had agreed that we were fine with not having anymore biological children.  We were content and certain that we were to adopt.  She then asked me, "Are you sure?  Don't you just want to know why you have not had any children?"  It caused me to stop and think.  We agreed to run some tests but were firm in our commitment to adopt. She had me take some medicine that would raise my progesterone levels if I was ovulating, which meant my side of the deal was good.  She called me with the results and her excitement came through the phone, "Your levels are through the roof!"  She then suggested we had Michael tested to make sure all was well in that department.  He texted me on February 2 of last month, 20 days before the wreck, and told me that his levels were all normal.  We were clear to give it a go.  We followed the doctors orders and thought we would just try this month but were willing to walk away from it because we knew that children were  coming to our house via adoption. Our week and a half to try took us right up to two nights before the wreck.  After getting the news of his death, I had to carry this huge secret burden.  I cried out to God,  "Oh dear God!  Please!  I know I have been a strong woman in the past, but please don't make me do this! Please!  I don't think I can carry his child for the next nine months without him by my side....Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy!"  I shared it with one person and she kept it to herself.  I had to wait about five days before I could know the answer.  I started and it came early for the first time in my whole marriage.  He was merciful.  I broke down and cried.  Relieved and yet sad at the same time.   This scripture came to mind.. .Jeremiah 29:11,"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 a hope and a future." There was never anything wrong with us... God just knew best.

The memories all went back to a  heavy bib in the dentist chair.

BTW... no cavities