Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Past and Present

Christmas just hasn't been the same for the last several years. All of our family traditions have changed. During my childhood and most of my adult life, we would get together at my Grandmother's for dinner at noon. There would be all the usual favorites as well as a few seasonal ones. Grandmother's applesauce cake was one of those favorites. There would also be fresh homemade biscuits. My brother and I were talking and he marveled at how grandmother and our Mom made great biscuit but they were flat. He had no idea that they spread the dough then so that it would go farther. (The picture is from the mid 70s at our grandmother's house. I am the little girl up front in the very middle.)

Our last normal Christmas was in 2004. Mom died the day after Christmas in 2005 from cancer. We lost grandmother in 2007 and now I lost Mike this year. There's been a lot of loss in the last several years, which have resulted in a lot of changing traditions.

My brother found Jim Reeves 12 Songs of Christmas on Amazon the other day. It was our mother's favorite Christmas music. I can remember looking at the album cover with Jim Reeve's smiling face and a huge Christmas wreath behind him.

This morning I have the day off. We are getting together with our Mom's side of the family this evening. I made grandmother's applesauce cake. It is now cooling in the kitchen waiting for me to come add the final touch to it.

My husband, Mike was not a big reader. I am. In the movie, The Lake House, a mother is talking to her daughter. The daughter asks why is she carrying around one of the father's books. She said it makes  me feel good to be on the same page that he once was. There was a book that Mike was always after me to read, The Godward Gaze by Steve McVey. It meant so much to him. I went through several boxes to locate it, but I found it. And it is true, it does give me comfort to be reading the same pages he once did.

For all those who are grieving or just feel lost, find something that comforts you. And remember Christmas isn't about the commercialism, it is about the birth of Christ. I encourage you to read the story. If reading isn't your thing then rent The Nativity Story. It is a great movie. I wish you all a Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I Once Loathed Poetry

Up until a couple of weeks ago, I loathed poetry. I didn't get into it. I would much rather get into a novel, but I am taking a class and part of our final portfolio must be 100 lines of poetry. Last night I went to a reading by Becky Gould Gibson, who by the way is awesome. I have seen the light. Probably my favorite poem was one where she had written about getting a pedicure. And during her talk, she encouraged us to right what you remember. She also gave us license to know that poetry is not always necessarily true. Well the following poem is true. I kept thinking about my grandmother, and this is what came from those thoughts.

Heaven On A Plate

Sunday morning before church,

freshly painted pink lips,

pearls adorn her neck,

perfectly coifed hair,

but, she’s still in her slip,

so as not to mess her dress.

With long, self-manicured fingers,

she sifts the flour,

adding a scoop of Crisco,

adeptly, she massages the mealy mixture,

slowly adding buttermilk,

until a soft, dough ball forms.

She plops it on waxed paper,

rolling it flat, lightly sprinkling flour

so as not to stick,

expertly, she extracts perfect flat disks,

and drops them side by side

onto the pan that waits.

Into a preheated oven they bake,

she slips on her dress,

slides into her shoes,

she glimpses at her reflection,

the luscious aroma of baking bread

fills my grandmother’s house.

She removes them from the oven,

hot, moist, and flaky,

she puts one on a plate,

adding a little butter and jam,

she places it before me,

Heaven on a plate.

© 2009 Connie Kuhn All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Wave

They say that there are 5 stages of grief. They are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Those may be the 5 stages, but they aren't methodical. They aren't neat. They don't follow a path. You don't simply move from one stage to the next in a neat and orderly fashion. Some days you may encounter each and every one of them. Grieving is a complex process.

Not long ago as I was standing in line at a store, I heard a familiar twinkle. It was the ringtone that I had designated for my husband. For a moment my mind forgot as I searched through my purse for my phone. My heartbeat quickened and the butterflies stirred just like they used to in anticipation. And then reality set in as another woman answered her phone.

Those are the moments that reach out and beat you down. You're going along just fine - just an ordinary day and the next thing you know, you're sitting in your car having a good cry because you know that he can never call you again.

To me, grief is like a wave. You're never quite sure what the next one will bring.

The Wave

© 2009 by Connie T. Kuhn

Sometimes the wave is angry,

Overwhelming and consuming,

A wretched reminder of what was lost.

Other times the wave is gentle,

Gratifying and gracious,

A blessed reminder of the past.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Love You Mum

When I got home this afternoon, I was surprised to find these flowers at my house. My son and daughter in law had gotten them for me. The note reads Love you Mum.

I just thought this was so sweet. Sometimes you look back and recognize all the things you did wrong with your kids. As parents, we make so many mistakes and sometimes the I should have done this or I should have done that bear down on you.

But then there are special moments like this and you know despite it all - you have one great kid who happened to find an awesome wife. I'm so proud of them both. And I am thankful to God for such a wonderful blessing.


I went to the Women Of the Well conference here in Spartanburg yesterday. And all I can truly say is WOW. What a wonderful day for so many Christian women to come together. We were greeted with beautiful music performed by Gia Diamaduros and her praise band. The first speaker was Annette Moore who took us to the Samaritan woman at the well who met Jesus and learned of the living water. Next was Paula Rinehart talking about strong women with soft hearts. She is an amazing speaker. I can't wait to read her book. Charmayne Brown of Rejoice magazine blessed our food. Kristy Byers made us laugh. She is so funny and entertaining and what a great message she had about God being able to use us even when we're not perfect. And finally there was the wonderful music of Laura Story, who happens to have grown up right here in Spartanburg. It was such a wonderful conference.

Below are some websites of ladies that I met at the conference. Please check them out. And the artwork above is a picture by Sandy Thomson. She is such an amazing artist. Her artwork is so joyously beautiful and vibrant.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I Believe in Miracles

We've been doing the Priscilla Shirer's One in a Million study. It has been a wonderful experience and I have been learning so much.

In one of the lessons last week, the question was about miracles. Two of the answers were: God only did miracles in the Bible, and miracles are only for other people. It wasn't that long ago that I thought this was true. And yes, I do realize that they are in conflict of one another. But I did think that most of God's miracles had been performed in the Bible and the few that he still chose were done for "worthy" people.

On that fateful day in March while Mike and I sat in the doctor's office and essentially said a miracle was needed, well, let's just say that I didn't have much hope. And then things began to change. Everything that I read or saw was talking about miracles. There was a little glimmer of hope, but I have always considered myself to be a realist. My way of dealing with hard times is to acknowledge the possibility of the worse case scenario and then hope for the best. Back then, I did much more bracing myself for the worst. But like I said, everything I saw was giving me hope.

One day in the hospital, we met a chaplain. She had come to pray for Mike at my request. She spoke of healing and I countered with what about God's word? Her response was "God's will, it will be done, but it doesn't hurt to let him know what you want." And with those simple words, I had hope. And after that, everything that seemed to come my way spoke of modern day miracles. Mike went into remission — it was a miracle.

One day as Mike spoke to someone about his miracle, the man asked "but what if your cancer comes back? Did you really receive a miracle?" Mike's replied, "Everyday is a miracle for me. I'm not supposed to be here. According to the doctors, I should have died in April, but I didn't. That is a miracle that I live everyday. And one day, this disease will probably take my life, but he gave me more time than modern medicine says that I should have." And then Mike pulled out a copy of his ct cans. The first shows his cancer stricken body while the second shows his cancer free body. But one thing I really remember was the doctor's face when he saw the scans that very first day. I watched as he double checked the name and the information. He went back and forth across several screens of his computer reviewing and searching.

I asked this doctor later had he ever seen anything like what Mike went through. He told me he had seen miracles before. But in a case like Mike's; he had never seen anything like it. Whenever we would go in for Mike's checkups, his main prescription was simple - PRAY.

So my new answer in the study was, I have really experienced a miracle in my life. I believe in miracles.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Why Me?

Yesterday I went to a wedding. There are times as a widow when you feel more alone than others. Although I was surrounded by people, I felt alone. I was feeling sorry for myself. I had a wonderful husband, but only for a little while. Why did God take him? Why not someone else? I went home alone. I watched Ghost and Dirty Dancing mostly just because I knew that somewhere out there someone else feels my pain. It is like a membership to this terrible club that you wish you were chosen especially for because you meet all the right criteria, which is that you have lost your spouse. Why me?

Today in church, which God has wonderful timing, our preacher spoke about prayer and how sometimes prayers are not answered the way that we wish for. I did pray for husband to live, but he died.

I used to hate when someone would find out that Mike had cancer and they would callously say but we're all dying. But the difference was that Mike had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. It was a fact that his days seemed more numbered than most of it. Of course it was also this fact that allowed him to live in a way that he had never before. He did not have to worry that stocks were plummeting and that his 401K plan had lost significant value. He actually laughed about it, which was something he would have never been able to do before. In the grand scheme of things it did not really matter.

But what did matter?

The times that we spent sitting out on the deck enjoying the evenings. The times we spent with family and friends. The trip we took to Virginia to visit his sister and her family. The trip he took to Tennessee to visit his other sister and her family. The average, ordinary days that we spent with one another. Those memories are precious. 

What did I get out of such a short marriage?

I got a relationship with a wonderful, loving man who showed me what real love between a man and a woman is supposed to be. And yet I got an even greater gift because I also got a better relationship with God. And although there are times when I physically feel so very alone, I know that I never truly am.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Last Song

"Nights in Rodanthe" and "The Wedding" are two of my favorite Nicholas Sparks books.  His new novel, "The Last Song" does not fail to deliver. The novel is about Ronnie, who is 17 and forced to spend the summer with her father and her little brother. It is not a summer that she is looking forward to. 
During her stay, she gets in trouble, gets a job, helps save turtles, and she falls in love. I'm afraid of saying too much because I would hate to spoil it for you if you decide to read it. I encourage you to find out what happens to Ronnie and her Dad as well as the other people she meets that summer.
I promise you will laugh, you will smile, and you will cry. It wouldn't be a Nicholas Sparks book without tears and laughter.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Stop, Look, and Listen

My children lost their father last week. It was a shock for them. My children are adults, 20 and 22. To me they are still my babies. To add to the horror, my daughter also lost her father in law the very next day. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Only in soap operas, but this really did happen.

I was amazed at my children. They had their moments, but they were so strong, so tender, and so caring especially to their spouses and each other. My daughter in law was there with my son. She helped him, she encouraged him, she supported him. And wow, they are so young. I was in awe of the bond that these two share.

I have been praying for my son in law James. I have to admit, he is not who I would have chosen for my daughter. But I am not always right. I was concerned because they were so young. He made some poor choices in his youth, but nothing really that bad. But he is a good young man with much more promise than I initially saw. I'm thankful that my daughter did. And he loves my daughter dearly. I am proud of the man he is and especially this past week. He was also saved at my ex husband's funeral. His choice was even more clear at his own father's funeral a few hours later.

I am proud to be their Mom. And now that they are adults; I'm also proud to be their friend. The only advice I have to give to mothers struggling with teenagers is to talk with them. Don't lecture. But most importantly - listen. I wish that I had listened more. I wish that I had stopped whatever I was doing and gave them my undivided attention instead of multi-tasking. Dishes can wait. The phone call can wait. Everything can wait if your child is willing to talk with you.

We teach our children to stop, look, and listen when they cross the street. We as parents need to stop, look, and listen to our children no matter how old our children are.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Toothbrush, Toaster Strudels, and Reading Glasses

It was the morning after Mike died. I went to brush my teeth. And there on the sink, side by side stood our electric toothbrushes. It was there waiting as if he would be coming back for it. I picked it up and threw it away. His clothes hanging in the closet didn't bother me, but the toothbrush did.

After several days, the family and friends left and I was there alone. I was going to make myself something to drink and there by the ice sat Mike's toaster strudels. They were his favorite, especially the raspberry. And there was an unopened box just waiting for him. Into the trash they went. A cleaning frenzy followed. All of the goodies that were just for Mike were gone. I couldn't bear to see food that was there for him. Food he would never eat. And food that I didn't eat. I tend to be an emotional eater and I knew that I had to get rid of all the sugary goodies.

One day as I was searching for a pen, I opened a drawer to find a pair of reading glasses. Mike was forever misplacing them so he had several pair. Over the next few days, I found a half dozen pair in different places throughout the house. I did give them away.

It is funny how grief is. There are some things that bother you while there are others that give you comfort. Why a tooth brush, toaster strudels, and reading glasses? I have no idea.

The other day as I was going through a box of cards and letters I found another pair of reading glasses. This time it made me think of one Saturday morning. Mike was sitting at the table with his paper and cup of coffee. He took a sip and delighted in the flavor. He adjusted his glasses and went back to his paper. It was just an ordinary moment preserved in my memory that I cherish.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Daisy Chain by Mary DeMuth Review

Daisy Chain is the story about the son of a preacher. He has a beautiful friendship with a girl who is constantly telling him that one day she will marry him. At fourteen, his thoughts are not on marriage. He lives in the shadow of his father. Everyone comments that he looks just like his father. Jed hopes that he will not grow up to be anything like his father.

Jed in fact is terrified of his father and one day instead of walking Daisy home, he rushes home to supper. Jed is the last one to see Daisy. She's missing. People are worried that their children will be next.

Jed's family is in crisis. He makes unlikely friends with Hixon the town prophet and Bald Muriel. And of course there is Jed's little sister, Sissy, who believes that Jed is her hero. And there is Jed's mother who is prone to leaving written messages of encouragement on the petals of flowers.

Strange things begin to happen around town. People are talking.
Can Jed save Sissy? Can Jed save himself? Will Jed find Daisy? Read Daisy Chain, which is the first part of the Defiance Texas Trilogy written by Mary E. DeMuth and published by Zondervan.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Bougainvillea Blossoms

Mike’s favorite flower was the bougainvillea. It is really more of a flowering bush that produces small colorful flowers. The most common color is magenta, which is a bright pink. These could be found growing all over Africa. They also grow well here in South Carolina, but only during the summer months.


When I first met Mike, he was telling me about Africa and he spoke of the bougainvilleas. One day while I was out shopping, much to my surprise as I was looking at plants, the card attached said it was a bougainvillea. I bought it immediately. I could not contain my joy at having found it and drove immediately to Mike’s to surprise him. It is very difficult for me to keep secrets, especially about gifts.


Mike was thrilled and the plant thrived. The blossoms came and it was covered in flowers. It continued throughout the summer. Each time, I visited Mike the bougainvillea had its place of honor on the deck.


The plants rarely survive the winter. So each year, I would anxiously wait until I would find another and we would enjoy it for the summer. Last year, the one we had took over the entire corner of the deck. The limbs were heavy with blossoms. It was truly a glorious sight. The bougainvillea was positioned just so that when Mike looked out the window from his chair, he could see it.


This year, I did buy another. And a friend also bought one for me. I watered them just enough. They get plenty of sunshine, but this year, there have been no blossoms. The leaves are green and healthy, but no flowers. I am grieving right now. My life is much like this year’s bougainvillea. I take care of myself. I do what I am supposed to, but no blossoms. One day, they will return for me. But for now, I focus on doing the next right thing.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Gift of Friendship

I first met Lisa in a theatre class. We were two of the mature students (over 20). We sat up front so that we could hear and see better. The class was actually held in the theatre so while the acoustics were great for a play, they were not so great for class. And our professor was soft spoken and nerds that we were, we wrote down almost every word he said during his lecture.

I had missed a couple of weeks because of my husband's illness and Lisa had graciously make copies of her notes for me. When I came back to class, she told me she had been praying for us. Then we got to talking about our churches. It only took a few minutes to realize that we were talking about the same church. How wonderful.

As part of the class, we had to attend a play. I was not really looking forward to seeing The Mikado, but it was part of our assignment. We met at the play and we were both equally surprised to find out how much we enjoyed it.

Sometimes Sunday mornings are tough. Mike and I always went to church together and then we would have lunch sometimes with family, sometimes with friends, but often with just each other. I miss Mike all the time, but Sundays were always special for us.

Since Mike passed, sometimes Lisa and I will have lunch together after church. Today was one of those days. As I was sitting across from her, I realized how wonderful it was for God to put such a special woman in my life. She in always quick to hug and offer encouragement. I'm so thankful that she is here.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Pleasure Was Mine

The Pleasure Was Mine by Tommy Hays is one of my favorite books. The main character, Prate Marshall is losing his beloved wife. She has Alzheimer's. He has had to place her in an assisted living home. As his wife Irene's memory fades, Prate is confronted with the past, present, and future all at once. And if Prate's life isn't already complicated, he has his nine year old grandson to look after for the summer. The boy's father is recently widowed. Irene was the doting grandma while Prate had been the grouchy old grandpa. Over the summer, the Marshall men struggle to come to terms with a life without the women who loved them.

Although the subject matter is dramatic, there are plenty of humorous moments within the story. If you are looking for a good book, one that will make you laugh and make you cry, then I highly recommend this one.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What is in the name?

The Kindred Spirit mailbox is located on Bird Island, which is at Sunset Beach in North Carolina. My family and I first went to Sunset Beach back in July of 2006. It was the mailbox that attracted me to this vacation zone. I read about it in an email from Proverbs 31. I thought how cool to have a mailbox back in the dunes. The mailbox is full of pens and journals. People come to write to the Kindred Spirit each year. To me it feels like sending a message to God. I feel his presence and strength so profoundly when I look out at the ocean in all its splendor.

We have been vacationing there ever since. This past year was our fourth year there. Last year my son got engaged at the beach. His future wife could not wait to go to the mailbox to leave all the details there in the journals.

Sunset Beach is a special place for our family. It is a place to rest and to reconnect with one another. I am looking forward to next year already.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Hot Dog

I went through a grief support group study a while back. Most of us had lost our spouses due to illness. I was thinking the other day about how Mike's illness was really an opportunity for us. We got to say and do things that were important to us.

We found out that Mike had cancer in March of 2008. At that time we were dating. I thought one day that we would get married, but I didn't know when and I really wasn't rushing things, which if you know me is a miracle. I am not patient and I am constantly trying to push things along in my own timing. 

A terminal illness gives you a new perspective on life. Mike was a careful planner. He would contemplate and go through every scenario before making a decision. Sometimes it was exhausting just waiting on him to make a decision about the simplest of things, let alone the really serious things. But with his illness, he suddenly realized that he didn't have all the time in the world. He could not wait for the perfect moment because if he did - the life he had left would pass him by.

We got married in between chemo sessions. I was worried the night before the wedding. He had not been eating or feeling well. He had not bounced back after this last session as he had the one before. Was I making the right decision? Did he need more time? Was I being selfish? I talked to God quite a bit each day as I would leave work and head for home. Please God just give me a sign. When I got home, Mike was actually hungry. He surprised us because he wanted a hot dog. I figured after a week of the mildest of foods, if he could eat a hot dog, then we could get married.

We had the wedding in front of the fireplace at our house. There was a stool for Mike to sit on if he needed it during the ceremony. His chair was also nearby. I looked into his eyes and we each repeated our vows ... in sickness and in health... til death do us part. 

And that is the thing, although death has parted us, I still love him. I carry him in my heart and in my memories. A well meaning person once told me, you weren't married that long - you'll get over it. Death is not something you get over. You accept it. And of course as a Christian, I know this is not it. There is so much more to come. And it is more wonderful than our earthly selves can even imagine. But for now I miss him and I remember him dearly.

Friday, August 21, 2009

New Normal

I feel numb. I go through the motions each day of what I am supposed to do. 

I was supposed to go to an event last weekend that had a comedian and a singer. I had been looking forward to it. But then, I just couldn't go. I didn't want to laugh. How could I laugh and be happy? My husband just died.

I've also been hearing, "he's in a better place." a lot lately. I know that, but it doesn't mean that I have to like it. I wish that a better place was here with me. I read that it takes a widow a thousand days to really deal with the loss of her spouse. It has been 166 days since Mike died. I'm not good at math, but I know that means that I still have over 800 days until I am supposed to feel more normal. I hate hearing that time will heal. I don't think time heals. I think that you learn to accept it.

I struggle to define myself again. I was Mike's wife. We did things together. I had someone to have dinner with and talk about my day. I had someone to plan things with, to dream with, to hope with. I do have my family and friends. And they are all wonderful, but it isn't the same.

Years ago, I lost my sister. She was my best friend. Next week is her birthday. It is hard to believe that she has been gone for twenty-one years. And maybe her birthday is part of my melancholy. Actually, my Mom's birthday is in September and then Mike's is in October. And then there are the holidays. We lost most of our family traditions with the passing of Mom and grandmother. We haven't quite figured out what our new normal is.

I guess that is really what I'm searching for - my new normal.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sunday Dinner

For most of my life, we would meet at my grandmother's house on Sunday for dinner. My Mom did most of the cooking. I learned to cook in my grandmother's kitchen. My daughter also learned to cook in grandmother's kitchen. 

When my mother died, Sunday dinner was good for us. It gave me an opportunity to spend time with my brothers even though I did have to do the cooking. Grandmother would come too. Cooking Sunday dinner made me feel closer to my Mom and my  family.

When Grandmother died, I quit cooking every Sunday, but I still usually managed to have the family over for dinner at least once a month. But when Mike got sick, I quit making Sunday dinner. It was just too stressful with everything going on to try to do that as well.

Tomorrow we are having Sunday dinner at my house. There will only be five of us. My daughter is out of town and one of my brothers already had plans, but I'm making dinner. There will only be five of us. 

I had forgotten how much work went into making dinner. The macaroni and cheese has been prepped and will be popped in the oven tomorrow when I get home from church. Pinto beans are soaking in water. I'll change out the water and turn the crock pot on in the morning. Tomorrow I'll cook cubed steak, rice, gravy, and biscuits. And we are having brownies with vanilla ice cream for dessert. 

I want to revive the tradition. One day my children will give me grandchildren. I would like for my grandchildren to remember Sunday dinner at grandmother's house.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Ya Gotta Have Friends!

The weekend did not get off to a great start. I was lonely and feeling sorry for myself. Friday night I sat at home and watched television. Well, I didn't really watch it, but it was on. I spent most of the evening thinking about Mike and how we would spend Friday evenings out on the porch talking until the wee hours of the morning. You would think that we would run out of things to say, but we didn't. And Mike was an unusual man. He actually liked to talk. I miss the way he would smile at me.

Saturday morning my daughter and I went shopping. She has been working so hard and going to school so I decided to treat her to a shopping excursion. It was so much more fun than when she was a teenager. She even liked a shirt that I picked out for her. Such a drastic change from three years ago, when I wasn't cool and my taste was horrible. Later we had lunch with my best friend and her daughter. 

We went to see the chick flick, Julie and Julia. It was a cute movie. There was a little crude language, but it was actually refreshing to see a movie that depicts two pretty good marriages. You saw the tough times as well as the good.

That evening some of Mike's friends (well they are mine too, but Mike introduced us) came over for dinner. We had lasagna, salad, and chocolate cake. And then we played Apples to Apples. The only thing missing was Mike. He would have loved it.

Sunday night our small group finally got together after a hiatus for the summer. It was so nice to see everyone again. I have missed them so much. Technically, I am the only single person there, but they continue to welcome me with open arms. 

All of these friends have been such a vital part of my life. My friend Lisa has been with me for thirty-seven years. We grew up together. And then there are the friends that I was blessed with through my marriage to Mike. I appreciate each one of them so much.

I thank God for the wonderful friends that he has brought into my life.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Dryer Sheets and Ordinary Days

Our anniversary was in May. And our anniversary also fell on Mother's Day this year. Since Mom died; I cannot walk into a hallmark any time in April or May. And now, I had our anniversary to contend with as well.

I tried to prepare for it. I expected to feel awful. But strangely, the overwhelming sadness did not consume me. I missed my husband and I missed my mother. But I had a special time that day thinking and remembering each of them. 

My husband loved a bargain. Costco loved him. He stocked us well with paper towels, toilet paper, and anything else that he could. One day, he noted we were almost out of dryer sheets. My husband loved to do laundry. That was a miracle worth noting just by itself. He proudly plopped a huge package of dryer sheets into our cart. "These will last a life time," he said.

A couple of weeks after our anniversary, I was doing laundry, which I absolutely detest. As I reached for a dryer sheet, the memory of "these will last a life time," and my husband's sweet chuckle when he said something funny came back to met. I just sat down right there in the laundry room and cried like I thought I would have on our anniversary. It took me a while to get myself together.

While emotionally, I prepare myself for the big things like anniversaries, birthdays, and other special occasions; it is the little things that still surprise me.

One day during Mike's sickness, I worried that he didn't really get to make a "bucket list." He didn't get to travel to exotic places or do exciting things. It was really bothering me. And then I received a letter. It was from a dear sweet lady, Aunt Lee. She had taken to writing us when she found out about Mike's illness. I so looked forward to her letters. In this particular letter, she reminded me that it is the average, ordinary days which are extraordinary.  It is the memories of those ordinary days that I remember and cherish. The greatest gift that you can give someone is your time and attention. And while I would have loved more, I am so thankful for the ones that we had.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

In Laws

            On Sunday, I got to visit my in laws. It is the first time that I have seen them in several months. Shortly after Mike passed away, they were offered the chance to do some mission work in Africa. They had been asked earlier, but had turned the opportunity down due to Mike’s illness. I missed them, but I also know that it would offer them healing. Africa has long held a piece of their heart as it did with Mike. What better way to remember him than by being at a place that he so dearly loved?

            As I walked into their home, I was immediately greeted and hugged by Mom. We held each other for a moment. I didn’t want to let her go. They brought me back a little bit of Africa, placemats and a breadbasket all in Mike’s favorite color – blue. They also gave me a picture. It is an African silhouette formed with butterfly wings.

            We chatted about the rest of the family and what everyone has been doing. One daughter is on vacation. Their granddaughter just got a job teaching. They had a nice trip with their other daughter and came to visit Mike’s grave. It was the first time they had seen the headstone.

It is nice to have them back in the states and know that they are only a short drive away. So many people complain about their in laws. Mine are a wonderful blessing. 

Monday, August 3, 2009

336 Days

It is so hard to believe all the things that have happened in the last year. Last year, instead of taking the African trip we had planned, we found out that Mike had stage 4 lung cancer. The doctor’s diagnosis was grim last March. And then Mike had complications, which resulted in surgery. At one point, the doctor said he probably only had 10 days to live.

I prayed for God to give us as many good days as he could. Well, God granted us 336 days. And during that time we got married, we celebrated one more birthday, we had one more beach trip, we had one more trip to the mountains, we had one more Thanksgiving, one more Christmas, one more New Year’s, and one more Valentine’s Day. And on March 8 the Lord took him home. Mike had some pain on Thursday and Friday. But once they got him to the hospice house; they made him comfortable and truly took such wonderful care of Mike as well as the whole family.

The nurse that morning was also the nurse who had given Mike his chemo treatments. When Mike would come in for treatment; she would hug and kiss him and tell him that everything was going to be ok. What a wonderful approach to take with someone who is going through such trauma. She also informed us that she was a cancer survivor. She cheered Mike on every time he came in. She fretted over his losing weight and encouraged him to eat, eat, eat and drink, drink, drink (water). She suggested foods that would be tolerated well. She discouraged him from eating his favorite foods because they would not taste the same.

Sunday morning, I noticed that Mike’s breathing was not as labored and that his fever was down. I hoped for a moment that he was getting better, or that I might have a few precious good moments with him. Kim came in and I told her that he sounded different. And then with tears in her eyes; she told me he wasn’t getting better - his organs were shutting down, he was dying - she suggested that I call his family to come.

I sat by Mike’s bed side. I held his hand and I told him how much I loved him. I was scared. I couldn’t think of what to do. I picked up the Bible that Mike had given me two Christmas’ ago and began to read Psalm 23. His breathing became more shallow with each word. And as I read the last word, he took his last little breath. I felt the final flutter of his heart flutter. He was gone. This wonderful man that I married was gone. We only had a short time together. We had dated for a couple of years and we were married just a couple of days shy of ten months. It wasn’t long enough, but it certainly was wonderful. I will cherish the memory of every single day. I thank God for everyday that he blessed us with. Some might say that Mike didn’t receive a miracle because he died from cancer. But to us, everyday that we had was a miracle. We had 336 more days together.