Take Heart, My Friend~

Once a Daddy’s girl, always a Daddy’s girl, and I truly was.  I remember as Daddy was getting weaker and weaker and his eyes were growing dimmer and dimmer,  one night you rolled over so close to me in our bed and whispered, “Prepare your heart, Beautiful.”

I remember looking right at you, my teary eyes surprised by the tears in yours, and asking, “How?”

With a look that said, “I’m not really sure”, you simply said again, so gently and oh, so softly, “You really need to start preparing your heart.”

You were right.  A short time later, my precious Daddy passed away.  And when he went, it felt as though the rug of all I ever knew,  the foundation of all I ever knew to stand upon was pulled right out from underneath me in one quick, hard swoop.

A few days later, you came home with a CD in your hand.

“I’ve got something for you, Beautiful.  Come sit down for a minute, Baby.  I want you to hear something.”

You placed the CD in the tray, pushed it in, and in the next moments, touched my heart in a way I will never forget.  You sat next to me, took my hand in yours, and together we listened as Fernando sang, “Take Heart, My Friend”.

And, we did.  We went together, you and me, side by side, walking the journey of grief. You were there to wipe tears when they fell, you were there to steady me when memories caught me off guard, you were there to remind me to be thankful for the precious gift of my father – to remember what I had, not what I lost. You, my Handsome Honey, helped my heart take heart and keep moving forward.

Yes, losing my precious Daddy was hard. But, losing you – there is no comparison. So many people who have lost a parent, but not a spouse, have commented, “I know how you feel. When I lost my dad . . .” Or, “I know how you feel, when I lost my mom . . . “. But honestly, Handsome, I doubt they do.  Losing you feels absolutely nothing like losing my father.

My love for my father ran deep, long, and strong – but he wasn’t the one I built a life with.  My love for my father was precious and irreplaceable – but it wasn’t the love between a man and wife, – a love that brings out the best and the worst in you, a love that challenges you, convicts you, and changes you, a love that God can use to refine you and mold you more into His image, a love that God, through the blessedness of holy matrimony,  uses to create in a man and wife a heart that is more holy like His.

When I lost my father, I lost my father.  But, when I lost you, Handsome, I lost me. Because what I realize now more than ever is that somewhere over the course of our time together, somehow as we went about living our days as Mr. and Mrs., someway through living out our vow of “til death do us part”,  I became so meshed into you, and you became so meshed into me, that I don’t know where you stop and where I begin, or where you begin and I stop.  All I know is a huge part of me is missing now.

In an odd way – each time I step out the front door, I feel half-dressed.  I feel as though I’m not quite put together, that part of me is exposed, that my covering – the covering that came from submitting to your manhood as head of our home has now been ripped away, leaving me unguarded.

I feel unsteady, incapable, overwhelmed, and undone. I feel that once again, the rug of all I ever knew,  the foundation of all I ever knew to stand upon has been pulled right out from underneath me in one quick, hard swoop.

But today, Father’s Day, has me remembering back to my father and the gentle way you led me through that period of uncertainty, insecurity, and new.  And the way you did it, Handsome – the way you helped my heart take heart – was by pointing me back to The One who never changes, The Rock who can never be pulled out from underneath us, the very God who promises to never leave us or forsake us.

I slip the CD into the tray, and I sit on the couch.  And even though you are not here to sit beside me, I know I am not sitting alone.  For my God, the very God who our precious union as man and wife has drawn me into such intimate fellowship with, is here in my midst. He is here to comfort me, to steady me when memories of you catch me off guard, to remind me to be thankful for the precious gift of you – to remember what I had, not what I have lost. He is here to help my heart take heart and keep moving forward. He, the very Lover of my soul, is sitting beside me.

And once again, I hear the words of Fernando:

Our faithful God has always gone before us
And He will lead the way once again

He is our comfort, our sustainer
He is our help in time of need
And when we wander He is our shepherd
He who watches over us, never sleeps
Take heart my friend, the Lord is with us
As He has been all the days of our lives
Our assurance every morning
Our defender in the nigh

And, once again, my heart takes heart.  And, once again, for the millionth time since you’ve been gone, I long to wrap my arms around you and tell you “thank you.”

If only I could tell you.  If only I could.

Faithful Yesterday

 

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The Swirling of Time~

Four months today.

The calendar says June and everyone is acting like it’s June. Kids are out of school for summer vacation. Families are packing their cars and heading out to lakes, national parks, the mountains, and to see family. Neighbors are firing up the grill and barbecuing.  And, today – the weather even joined in with temperatures that found me wiping sweat as I piddled around in the yard.

It must be June, but honestly, Handsome, I have no idea what month or season we are in.  Since you’ve been gone, time to me, has been what, just maybe, it was originally meant to be – immeasurable, noncalculable, undefined,  elusive, and not one bit tangible. And even though the world is living like it’s June, me – I’m just going to sleep, tossing and dozing, waking up, and going through the day to day of living my life totally oblivious to any date on any calendar.

And, I can’t help feeling that I have lost four months of life, four months of living, four months of February, March, April, and May.

So much has happened since you’ve been gone – and yet, on the table beside your favorite chair everything has remained untouched.  Even a ziplock bag full of piñon nuts is still full of piñon nuts four months later. To you, these were better than potato chips – and admittedly, you always said you couldn’t eat just one.  You were lucky if a bag of these tiny treasures lasted for four days, much less four months.

The shirt you wore for a few hours the day before you left is still hanging on the bedroom door knob where you put it.  And, thankfully and amazingly, when I pick it up and hold it tight, your scent is still there.  Your toothbrush, your cologne, your razor – all just where you left each and every one.

Maybe this is why I can’t seem to wrap my heart around “time”.  Memories and precious moments of yesterday flood my heart and mind nonstop.  Our dreams and talks of tomorrow are a constant companion.  Sometimes, it is almost impossible to know if I am living in the past, the future, or here in the here and now.  It all blurs together in a beautiful swirl of emotion.  Sort of the way in the Fall, the wind scoops up leaves of gold, red, brown, and orange and tosses them into the air like confetti.  It’s gloriously beautiful, but still there is that tinge of cold in the air, and the vivid, undeniable reminder that one season has ended and another is beginning.

Four months, Handsome.

How can it be that all the years I was so blessed to spend by your side have passed so quickly, and yet these four months without you have already felt a lifetime long?

Honestly, Handsome, I think I am learning what I think most people, if they were honest, would admit they still have yet to learn.

Time is not the ticking of a clock,  the setting of an alarm, the scheduling of appointments in a date book, the flipping of one calendar page to another.

Time is the minutes, and the hours, and the days, and the months, and the years spent with those you love.  Time is the letting go of yourself into strong arms around you, the smell of coffee and the taste of a tender kiss. Time is laughing until it hurts and the crying when it hurts, too. Time is dancing in the middle of the living room floor to the beat of “our song”. Time is wandering through the forest on a moonlight night at 3:00 am being serenaded by the bugle of an elk. Time is sitting by the warmth of our fireplace. Time is cheering for our favorite team.  Time is sharing the first tomato from the vine. Time is listening to your favorite stories over and over and over again. Time is me washing dishes and you drying. Time is singing along to the radio as we drive along a narrow, bumpy, often muddy mountain road. Time is my phone ringing all through out the day and hearing “Hi, Beautiful” as soon as I answer with “Hi, Handsome”. Time is you and me on bended knees before the throne of our Heavenly Father. Time is looking for your truck in the parking lot where you work each time I drive by. Time is sharing a look across a crowded room and knowing exactly what the other is thinking. Time is finding a love note from you in the most unlikely of places. Time is you snoring and breathing deep beside me.  Time is enjoying a plate of enchiladas we made together in our tiny cocina. Time is the brush of your hand on my outstretched hand each time you pass by where I’m sitting. Time is Alison Krauss singing “You Say it Best When You Say Nothing at All.“. Time is standing in our front yard as we wait for the moon to peek over the mountain. Time is you coming out to my car to greet me each and every time I arrive home. Time is deciding whose turn it is to make their way to the kitchen and pour us both another cup of hot tea. Time is placing freshly laundered towels for you in the bathroom. Time is listening to the rhythmic sound of you chopping firewood.  Time is stepping over your work boots for the umpteenth time.

And, I think this is why time has been so hard to find, so hard to nail down, so hard to experience the past four months, Handsome.

Because even though time is definitely moving on, (the world around me is proof of this) time – real time, you and me time, is somehow moving around me instead of moving on out in front of me.   And,  I think it is this bumping into it each and every time I see something, hear something, smell something, taste something, and feel something that reminds me of you, or you and me, of us that has me in this never-before-experienced time warp.

Four months.  It might as well be one day or a million – because without you here, it is just that – time without you and how could I ever truly measure that?

And while I would love just one more minute with you, followed by just one more for the rest of my life, I will forever and always turn my wishing into thanksgiving to the Author of Love who wrote our story, line by line, chapter by chapter.  And, each time  I re-read our story and come to the last page, the one on which you took your last breath, I won’t flip the page.  I won’t turn that moment over into the next one that, like most stories, would come to a final conclusion with the words “the end.”

For unlike any other man-written story, our God-authored story has no end.  Because our hearts not only loved each other, but that of our Heavenly Father, our story will last through out all eternity.  And, Handome, you and I both know – when eternity comes, once and for all, time – the earthly kind of time that fades lighter and lighter with the tick of the clock and the passing of the seasons, will be no more.

There, with our Father God, we will never know time again – just the forever of forever. And, baby, I can’t wait to spend forever with you.

If only I could tell you.  If only I could.

Friend 4 Ever-

 

It’s Hard to Know~

I can’t help but wish I would have paid more attention.

So many things – some big, some not so big, but all things nonetheless –  I wish I would have observed, locked away in my memory, or delved deeper into your heart in search of answers to or understanding about.

It’s not that I didn’t notice, or didn’t care, or didn’t take note, Handsome, because I did.  I certainly did – more detailed notes and more in depth observations then you would ever imagine, but maybe not deep enough.

It’s hard to say.

It’s hard to know.

How can you ever be sure you have known someone completely?

How can you ever be sure you have squeezed all the knowing of someone out of a relationship, out of a conversation, out of a hug or a kiss?

I can’t help but feel there were still facets of you that went unopened -uniquely you aspects still for me to discover, unlock, embrace, learn and grow from.

If you were still here, I would try to sit you down and talk you into a game of “twenty questions”. But, no – that would never have worked because 1.) you would never have played, and 2.) you don’t discover the depth of someone by asking a million and one questions.

You discover the very heart and the very essence of who someone is by living with them, dreaming with them, laughing and crying with them, failing and succeeding with them, wounding and healing with them, fighting and surrendering with them, flying high and laying low with them, breathing in and breathing out with them – day after day after day.

And, maybe this is why I feel I have come up short.

Maybe this is why I can’t shake the overwhelming feeling there was more of you to know.

I’m not yet ready to stop living, dreaming, laughing, crying, failing, succeeding, flying high, laying low, breathing in, breathing out, living life with you day in and day out.

I want more.  More of you.  More of us.  More of life – together.

Maybe I did pay attention, after all.  I just long for more time with you to give my attention to. Maybe I did glean from you all that God intended for me to, it’s just I long to glean more. Maybe I did untap the all of you that made you uniquely you, it’s just I long to untap more.

Maybe I did love you completely, it’s just I long to love you more.

It’s hard to say.

It’s hard to know.

How can you ever be sure you have known someone completely?

If only I could know you more.  If only I could.

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Enjoy, Baby! Enjoy!

I sit on the porch, a light rain serenading me in the background.  As the cool breeze caresses my face, I can’t help but think of you.  I don’t know who loved rainy weather more – you or me.  The fact that we loved it together, one of God’s sweetest blessings.

It rained yesterday afternoon, too.  I can’t remember a Spring quite like this one ever before – cool, comfortable days, followed by even cooler nights. And, this rain.  Here, in the desert. Here in May.  Definitely, not the norm.

But, then again – since you’ve been gone, nothing seems to be normal.  Most of the “no longer normals” have been hard to welcome into my life, but not this rain.  I sit here on the patio and breathe it in deep. Then, I breathe it in deep again.  It it precious refreshment to my parched heart.  And yes, if I think about you not here enjoying it with me, it can bring tears.  But, for some reason, these rain-induced tears seem to have a cleansing touch to them.

I think back to so many other rainy nights of the past.  Me, here on the patio.  You, just on the other side of our sliding glass door, seated in your favorite chair, watching a good game of hoops or enjoying a show all about elk. As the rain would pitter-patter, and my body would start to unwind, I couldn’t help but call out to you.

“It’s SOOOOOOO beautiful, Handsome.  SO very beautiful out here.  Love the rain!”

And your reply, (each and every single time)

“Enjoy, Baby! Enjoy!”

And, it hits me – for the first time in 104 days – that in your absence, enjoy has not been what I have been doing.  In fact, I have been doing everything but enjoying.

I’ve been crying, trying, struggling and wallowing.

I’ve been hating, debating, flip-flopping and questioning.

I’ve been wondering, replaying, avoiding, and wrestling.

I’ve been remembering, forgetting, reliving, and rearranging.

But, enjoying.

Nope, it didn’t even come close to making the list.

And, it hits me – for the first time in 104 days – that me not enjoying, would break your heart. Because, most of your enjoyment was a direct result of my enjoyment.  It delighted your heart to know I was enjoying something. Big enjoyment. Little enjoyment.  Mediocre enjoyment.  It didn’t matter.  If I enjoyed it, you enjoyed the fact that I did.

“104 days, Beautiful?  You’ve let 104 precious days, filled to overflowing with opportunities for enjoyment, slip right by?”  As this thought – words I can almost hear you saying – penetrates my heart, I can see the look on your face, and yes, who could help but see, the shake of your head.

“I know, Handsome. I know. But, . . .”

“Uh huh. Nope. You’ve got nothing to say, Beautiful. No reason to justify your total lack of enjoyment. Maybe you need to get up from your seat on the patio and head inside the house and over to the door leading out to the garage.”

I know exactly where you would be going with this line of thought, if indeed you were here with me.  I know all too well what is waiting for me to re-discover on our garage door.

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That yellow sticky note has been there greeting me each and every time I go out into our garage for as long as I can remember.  And, you’re right.  (I know me admitting that would spark that cute look you always seemed to get when you were right, and I knew it.)

Joy.  It is a choice.  And, it is one of the precious fruit of the Spirit.  Tucked in with love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control is joy. Second in line, matter of fact.  And yet, with each  precious fruit given by the Holy Spirit, it is up to me to yield, to surrender, to choose to allow this fruit to grow and rule in my heart and life.  It is a choice – my choice.

Joy –  like all the other fruit – is an all-season fruit. It is capable of being present in my life no matter the season I may find myself in.  Spring – joy.  Summer – joy.  Fall – joy.  Winter – joy.  It is there to be discovered in the all of my life.

Count it all joy when you fall into various trials,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. ~James 1:2-4

And, I remember the words written in red, penned by you, my love. “Your choices determine your destiny and happiness.  Choose to be thankful. Choose to be joyful.”

It is this choosing joy – no matter the season, no matter the circumstance, no matter the situation – that eventually, as God works out His perfect will in my life, leads me to be complete, lacking nothing.  It is this choosing joy – no matter how I feel, no matter how I don’t feel – that eventually will lead me to my God-given destiny and true happiness found in and through Christ Jesus, my Lord.

As the rain quiets and the hush of the night closes in, I want so much to call out to you from here on the patio to where I wish you were sitting on the other side of our sliding glass door, “It’s SOOOOOOO beautiful, Handsome.  SO very beautiful out here!”

And, I realize the choice I have to make now is this:  Will I choose to go 105 days without enjoying?

“Enjoy, Baby!  Enjoy!”

And, with tears streaming down my face, my only appropriate response is this: “I will, Handsome. I will.”

If only I could tell you.  If only I could.

Becoming One Again~

“You know what it is?” I ask out loud to a living room of one. “It’s the whole “two are better than one” principle.  That’s exactly what it is.”

(And, admittedly, talking out loud to myself, is part of what it is, too.)

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
 If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves. ~Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

One too many ice cream shakes.

Far too many sleepless nights.

Harder falls with even harder pick-me-back-ups.

Too much taking myself seriously and not enough of you to put my eyes back on God.

“Yes, this is what it is, Handsome.”

Marriage isn’t easy, make no mistake about that.  Two lives, two minds, two hearts, two dreams, two opinions, two “know it alls” trying to mesh into one.  No wonder marriage is for life – without a doubt, it takes a lifetime  for the “two to become one”.

It takes a whole lot of dancing to learn the steps and to finally enjoy waltzing through life.

But, what happens when death cuts in (unwelcome, uninvited, unplanned) and leaves you dancing on the dance floor alone?

What happens when one of the two who have become one, is now one again?

Yes, two people becoming one union is hard.

The only thing harder: Becoming one again after having been united. 

Yes, I have family.  And, yes, I have friends.  And, yes, Handsome – everyone has gone above and beyond to encourage, to comfort, to support, to be there for me.

But the thing is this: No one knows me like you do.

No one understands my hopes and is aware of my fears.  No one can predict how I will react before I react.  No one can hear what my eyes are saying.  No one can talk me down, talk me up, balance me out and keep me grounded.  Like you.

No one knows our history.  No one can sight a leading of God in the past to encourage me to step out into the future.  No one can quote a scripture with a memory connected to it.  No one can rekindle my faith, reboot my courage, re-ignite my passion.  Like you.

Except God.  And, of course, God is always the exception who is exceptional at all of this and so much more.

But, I miss the second best part of me, –
the part that was second best
to the best part of me, God.

I miss my dancing partner.  I miss your words, and your humor.  I miss your look and your hand in mine.  I miss your zeal and your enthusiasm.  I miss your honesty and your spontaneity.  I miss your hugs and you wrapping me in prayer each morning and each night.

“The hardest part for me was feeling like part of me was missing. Because, it was.”

My mom told me these words a couple of days after you were gone.  Kneeling on the floor in the hallway, outside the bathroom door where you took your last breath, sobbing uncontrollably and wanting nothing more than you back, she – having walked this walk before me – walked over to me and said those words.

A couple of months later, one night while talking with her on the phone, she said them again.

No wonder I feel so lost.  No wonder I feel so empty.  No wonder I feel so “not like me” anymore.

“Yes, that’s what it is?” I say out loud to a living room of one. “It’s the whole “two are better than one” principle.  That’s exactly what it is.”

While the missing you is hard,  and while the trying to become one “me” again after years of becoming one “us” is pulling me apart, I lift my hands to Heaven and thank God, for the better I had with you.

A beautiful better.

A better beyond what I could have ever hoped better to be.

A better I would choose to do with you over and over and over again,

wedding bouquet

if only I could.  If only I could.

 

If Only You Could . . .

I pull away from the drive thru window, shake in hand, and a million questions on my heart.

As I wind my way around the building and the other cars parked at the drive-up stalls and make my way back to the street, I can’t help but see in the distance, the old familiar parking lot where your truck could always be found.

As I take a sip of my shake, and wipe a tear, I ask out loud, “What am I going to do, Handsome? What am I going to do without you?  What would you say to me?  What would you tell me to do?  What advice would you share with me? What would you tell me if only you could?”

And immediately, in my mind’s ear, I hear your voice: “Well, for one thing, you don’t need any more Oreo shakes! Seriously, Beautiful. Eat something healthy, not a shake.”

Sometimes, a Sonic located just down the street, along with 1/2 price shakes after 8:00 pm, is not a good thing.

And always, having to drive past the parking lot next to it, where you spent your days blessing others and earning a paycheck, it not a good thing either.  Honestly, it is the one – that leads me to the other.

The missing you each and every time I drive by. The not being able to swing through the parking lot on my lunch break and steal a hug and a kiss. The not being able to sneak a note into your truck for you to discover at quitting time. The not being able to spot you walking across the parking lot helping someone with a purchase out to their car. It is all this not being able to that has me ordering shake after shake.

Because, the missing you doesn’t stop once I drive past that parking lot. It flows right on into our home. The not being able to dosey doe with you in the tiny space we called our kitchen – you always right in the middle of it, sprinkling a little of this in that, adding a pinch of that to this, stirring up this, and frying up that.

And yes, of course, you’re right.  I have had enough shakes in the past three months to last a lifetime.  But what else, I wonder. What else would you tell me?

And again, I no sooner finish the question before my heart hears your answer from so many times nights before:

“You need your rest, Beautiful.  Don’t worry about doing that right now. It can wait until tomorrow.  You need to head to the shower and then, head to bed.  If you don’t get enough rest, it’s going to catch up to you. Get your rest, baby.”

Sleep never has come easy for me, even with you slumbering away beside me.  Now, our bed is my least favorite place in our home. And to think, all these years, up until about a year ago, we shared a  small full-size bed, back to back or nestled together.  Now, alone without you, in our barely broken in queen size bed, I feel lost, and almost as though I am drowning in the aloneness.  Sleep – nope.  Rest – I’m trying, Handsome, I really am.

Knowing  you always knew the deepest fear of my heart, I can see you lower your gaze, and in the tenderest of voices speak again, words you spoke so many times before:

“And, don’t worry so much about how you’re going to get through this, Beautiful.  Don’t worry so much about what lies down the road, around the next bend, waiting in the next month. Don’t worry about what you’re going to do then.  We don’t even know if we’ll be around to see tomorrow.  All you have been given is today, this moment, right now.  Don’t worry about tomorrow, honey.  Simply try to enjoy today.”

I think about you.  Here one moment, talking to me on the phone, gone the very next second before I could even make my way through the front door.  Life doesn’t come with a guarantee. We aren’t promised next year, next month, tomorrow or even our next breath.  I thought I knew this cold, hard fact before.  I certainly know it now.

And, you’re right.  It is this looking beyond today that has me struggling the most.  The missing you is intense.  The sorrow and grief, overwhelming.  But this worry about tomorrow, crippling. Suffocating. Paralyzing.  Trying to comprehend the rest of my life (not just the next hour) without you – TOO MUCH.

Again, words from you flood my memory:

“Remember when the Holy Spirit entered my heart in March, 1979?  What was the first scripture I told you I ever read?  Remember, Beautiful?”

And, I do.  How could I ever forget? You told me this story (and anyone else who would listen) over and over and over again. Unlike, most stories that are re-told and begin to sound like a broken record, this story only sounder sweeter and sweeter each time you shared it.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

~Matthew 6:33-34

SO very sweet.

SO very precious.

Still Your Heart 2

Exactly what I needed.

Exactly what you would tell me if only you could.  If only you could . . .

 

 

 

Dining on Life~

Three months.

You would love the slow and easy way summer is meandering in this year, – cool nights and picture perfect days.

The turtles are out and about with some tiny, new additions to their ever growing family. The older ones come by the patio door quite frequently. Like me, I think they are expecting you to come bounding out of the house any minute now.

You’d be proud. In our annual “who can get more cherries, the birds or us?” race, I was declared the winner!

Sleeping without you still makes one night feel like a month long and the moon, since you’ve been gone, strangely, has gone unnoticed.

I found a card I had written to you when we first started dating, “until you, I didn’t realize I was living my life in black and white, mute button on, and not fully tasting, breathing in, and experiencing life.” Such truth in those words penned so long ago. …now without you, I am back to black and white. You took all the life with you.

You made everything and every day a special occasion. I think this is why I miss you so much. Remember this night?

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My 29th birthday? Yep! That’s right! Dinner at “The Incredible”.  And, it WAS incredible!

I loved dining on life with you.

Thank you, baby.

Until we dine together again, I’m carrying all your precious love in my heart. ❤️

If only I could tell you.  If only I could . . .