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It’s Been Too Long

Wednesday, September 28, 2011
I have allowed too much time to pass since the last time I poured myself out over my computer.  Too much time passing means too much pent up emotions and anxiety.  Everyday, I experience a feeling or have certain thoughts, and I think, ” I really need to sit down and work that out in writing.”, but then when I get a quiet moment to write, I am too mentally exhausted to try to put words to anything.  I have now reached a “boiling point” and I must get something out….any of the hundreds of emotions, pains, or thoughts that I have had since my last blog entry would help me.  I need to just slowly start chipping away at all that I have been feeling.

Where to begin?  I want to recap some milestones.  We have now completed all of our first birthdays without Michael.  Mia just had hers last Friday on the 23rd. First me, then Michael Anthony, our wedding anniversary on September 5th,then Julia on September 9th, and now Mia had her 19th birthday.  (Actually, we have one more birthday left to conquer….Michael’s would have been on November 14th.  Another bridge to cross.)  We kept all of our usual birthday traditions – A big birthday breakfast with all of the presents and cards making the centerpiece on the breakfast table with what ever food is chosen by the birthday girl or boy, she chose monkey bread, bacon and fruit. (Michael always chose, what we call, “Heaven in a Puff!” alongside some good organic bacon.  He was always pleased when one of the kids chose the same thing for their breakfast.) A family birthday dinner that night, again serving whatever the birthday girl or boy chooses.  She chose baked chicken, Greek salad, braised cabbage, roasted potatoes, and a strawberry cake. On Sunday, I let her invite a bunch of her new college friends over for lunch after church.  We seated 12 in my dining room.  I let her choose her meal again – poppy seed chicken, sautéed green beans, tomato pies (4 of them), Asian slaw, rolls, and an Italian Cream cake. It was enjoyable to serve her and her friends.  We had lively discussions around the table and I was proud of the new friends she had chosen.  I feel that I am over the hump of the pain involved in cooking for my family.  I am not over it when it involves other people or any kind of entertaining, but at least I can cook for my children and experience some joy with it, while I see the joy on their faces.  Michael and I did so much entertaining and were a great team in the preparations of the house or yard and he was also a great host while the company was here, while I would be busy finishing doing things in the kitchen.  He knew how by keeping good conversations going, continuing to check on me to see if I needed any help, would keep wine glasses full, loved on the children as they bobbed in and out of the room, and then would compliment everything I had done while we sat at the dinner table.  Trying to do all of that without him is and will be a lonely, sad event for a while.  It will happen in baby steps.  Getting past being able to do it all again just for my children was a big step for me.  A step towards being able to do it for others…and enjoy it again, some day.

Another mountain conquered……It was time to go back to Michael’s office space where he had spent eleven years growing his architectural firm. I had only been there 3 times and each time was not for very long.  The first time was for the purpose of just “going” there.  Nothing much was accomplished that first time other than soaking it in and touching and feeling his life there as an architect.  The other two times were to get something specific.  It was too overwhelming to spend any amount of time there.  Overwhelming because there was so much that I had to do there, physically.  It was a mess; full of everything it took to run an office full of architects along with hundreds and hundreds of drawings, construction documents, interior design samples, and catalogs, and the list goes on.  It was time to clean out, purge, and organize in order to prepare the building for whatever God had planned for it next.  I knew that it was not possible for me to do it on my own.  I was sitting quietly in a doctor’s office when God showed me a plan for a friendly work force to help me climb this mountain at the office.  So many friends had said to call them if they could ever do anything to help, anything at all.  I knew they meant it, so I chose two days for last week that would work for me and sent out a mass text to all of my great friends telling them my needs and my request.  I had a great response and had a hard working team of ladies, dear friends from my past and present, coming in and out both days doing everything I asked them to do.  They were all godly women with a servant’s heart and a gift in organizing and decision-making.  We accomplished more in two days that I ever imagined that I would get done.  I had to keep my game face on or it would not have happened.  I made the decision that we would not do anything in Michael’s personal office space.  I only used it if I came across something that I personally wanted to keep or spend more time going through it.  If something fit those criteria, it was taken to his office and placed on his empty shelves that he and I had cleared together just two weeks before his accident.  I had always wanted to work with him in his office, be his office administrator, but we both knew my place was with the children during this season of our lives.  We dreamed of it one day in the future once the children were all off to college.  We would have loved working together, day by day, side by side, having business lunches together, me serving him his coffee all day and him serving me mine….it is just what we did.  We never grew tired of each other.  I was sad that day as I looked around realizing that time never came for us.  Now I must organize his business life, to keep in a way for memories/memorabilia for the children, keep it in a way that may need to be referenced to by other clients, and save the drawings that we want to frame.  I now must build more bookshelves to house all of his wonderful books that I want to keep so that the children and I can always peruse through them and share his love and passion.  Those two days were, obviously, exhausting for me.  So much mental and physical energy was required.  I got very little sleep leading up to the workdays and during because of the mental angst going on inside of me.  There is more to do and more ladies willing to help finish the job, I just need some breathing room to prepare for the final push.  It will be a huge chapter of my life to close when it is completely finished.

During the last two weeks, I also met with Dr. Roger Parrott, the president of Belhaven University.  It was my first time to see him and talk to him since the funeral.  I wanted to thank him for everything he had done but it was too much to try to put into a note to him.  We needed to see one another face to face, talk about the funeral, reminisce about Michael, and talk about Mia’s life on Belhaven campus. I did not have the strength before that day to even come close to having that conversation.  I walked in his office, which I had never been in before, and commented on how beautiful it was.  He said, “Michael helped me do this.”  I had no idea.  He said he had shown Michael an antique desk that his father had when he was a college president and shared with Michael his desire to use the desk in his own office.  It is a lovely square desk with dark wood and classic pulls.  Michael said he envisioned a 1930’s attorney’s office, and that was exactly how the room was done.  It spoke strength, ageless beauty, and longevity.  There we sat, I in a great leather chair, and President Parrott in a large classic, strong rocking chair.  He shared great memories with me of his time working with Michael as the campus architect and the friendship that evolved. He missed his passion for creativity and exciting ideas for new designs for the campus. I cried, he listened, he shared, and I listened. We took our time treasuring our memories of Michael together and finished somewhat refreshed.  We talked about the difficulty Mia was having grieving for her father while away at college.  I told him that the required chapel every Tuesday was especially hard for her because it was held in the same building and auditorium where Michael’s funeral had been held.  The same place were we stood for over 4 hours greeting thousands of people at the visitation, the same stage where the casket had been covered with flowers, with photos of him everywhere, along with a slide show playing, the same place where we sat to listen to our pastor and the Barranco family Catholic priest speak about our loss, the same place where our choir brought in the glory of God with, “I Want to Say Thank You’’, the same place where we stood before God praising Him for who He was in spite of our circumstances, the same place where I stood with my children while the casket rolled past us in the back hallway on its way out to the hearse.  Needless to say, without even having to ask, he excused her this year from having to attend the chapel services.  This should make her life at college easier without having to relive that moment of great pain every Tuesday morning, while sitting in a crowd of hundreds of college students.

This is just part of my life from the last two weeks.  There is much more that I experienced within my heart and soul, but sometimes it feels impossible to gather it up into a tidy set of words in order for me to make sense of it all.  As I have said before, it is all hard.  I look forward to the day when I will feel good all over again, breathing with freedom, laughing more frequently, excited about each new day and what it brings, and looking to the future again with a heightened expectancy of something good always around the corner…..which is how Michael and I viewed our walk with God. (We thought walking a road with Him was exciting.)  A day when there will be no more yucky, sick feelings in the pit of my stomach, no more weight on my back and chest, no more sleepless nights, no more daily tears, no more strained conversations with people, and no more pain during church.  I know the day will come but I am feeling beaten down in the process.  This week I reminded myself of God’s promise, “In all these things, I am more than a conqueror through him who loved me.”  Romans 8:37  I can, and will do this.

New Map, Same Destination?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I sat down to write today and realized that the prevalent feeling I have been experiencing has already been written down several months ago.  It continues to amaze me how these boomerang emotions keep circling back to me, or sometimes just hover overhead and never go away at all.  They are nearby, ready to lower on me at any given moment.  In my post, “It’s A Long Road”, I wrote, “Have I mentioned how hard this is?  I mean really hard.  Every minute of every day is hard.  Every breath I take is hard.  My breathing patterns have not been the same since Michael died.  It is always shallow, and at the same time I feel like there is something heavy weighing on my chest.  All day long, I tell myself, ‘Take a deep breath.’  Throughout the day, another reminder, ‘Just breathe.  Inhale deeply.  Now exhale.’”

This is hard…. all of it, and continues to be while I sort out everything, heal from the wound, and learn a new way of living, which requires things of me that I have never had to do before.  The first few months were hard because they were consumed with the excruciating pain of the sudden loss of Michael.  I missed him more than I ever could have imagined. But during those first few months, my life coasted for a while on autopilot.   (“My life”, meaning everything that it takes to run a household and to be a single parent.) It continues to be just as hard, but now it is more than just missing Michael. 

At first I was only dealing with a broken heart, and now I feel (if I must be honest with myself), somewhat scared of the future with every step I take, apprehensive, plus am carrying around my healing heart.  Now I am struggling every day with my “new normal” life. 

When you are young and you get married, or even do not get married, you establish a plan for your life. You begin your journey in the direction that you feel will take you to your destination.  You have a mental image of how you want your life to look in the future, and each day you walk out that plan, that dream, that vision, on the road that lay before you. You have a map and you feel like you can and are reading it correctly.  Life has a rhythm to it… it feels safe. 

Then one day, the road suddenly gets pitch black, your travel companion is mysteriously snatched away, you are alone, shuffling your feet trying to determine where he, or she, went, and the direction you must now go. It is as if you have been picked up and transplanted to another country where all of the rules have changed, even which side of the road that you drive. The physical map has been destroyed and you have to rely on your memory, and your instincts, for the details on the direction of your journey.  You have to keep asking yourself, “Now, why was I going this direction? Can the celebration of arriving at my destination feel the same with out my original travel companion? Or did I reach that destination and now there is a new one? Or has everything changed, not just the road but everything that propels me toward the destination?” 

These are questions I must face and truly meditate on the answers.  I could turn away from facing these questions or problems, as many people do, and move on pretending that my journey is the same but with one less person, only this would be pretending, a way of numbing reality.  I would not learn from it or become wiser for it.  As I also wrote in, “It’s A Long Road”, “There are no shortcuts on this journey.  People have tried shortcuts but then their wound shows up later in life because it did not heal properly.  It is a journey that we must take slowly, experience the pain, meditate on the loss, sit down occasionally when we are weak, slowly stand and move when we are able, and see and feel everything along the way.” 

It makes me think of a blind person learning how to “see” a new way.  Their sense of smell, touch, and hearing are heightened to help them experience life more fully.  If they refuse to learn the new ways, they will continue to bump into things and live a frustrated life.  They must learn to navigate with a new map. People have said there is no right or wrong way to grieve.  This is a truth, but only a partial truth.  I also believe there is a healthy, productive way to grieve and an unhealthy, deceiving yourself way to do it.  Everyone grieves differently, but I think it has to be better for us, in the long run of life, to face it, question it, learn from it, feel it, and embrace all that we can learn from it in order for it to help us, not hinder us, in the rest of our walk here on this earth. The way we do all those things can look differently, but I think we must do them in some way, shape, or form.

I have to trust God in a very real way.  I have no choice but to trust Him.  I must lean on Him. I am reminded of a verse that I have prayed for years.  Proverbs 4:25, “Let your eyes look straight ahead and your eyelids right before you.” And also, Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”  Without my Lord, there would be no light on this new road.  A lamp shows the light only directly where your feet are and just one step ahead, but at least it is some light.  This is all I can see right now, directly at my feet and one step ahead.  It is a little scary, but there is also a glimmer of light way down the path…like at the end of a very long and wide tunnel, but it is only the size of a speck right now. The road may zig zag all over the place, but that I cannot see, and it is probably best that I can't.  At least the light is there. I am walking the road with apprehension, uncertainty, and am wounded …but at least I am walking and with my eyes wide open, facing every twist and turn with an unaware boldness.