Conjoined

Montana, August, 2015

“A love that depends solely on romance, on the combustion of two attracting chemistries, tends to fizzle out…A long-term marriage has to move beyond chemistry to compatibility, to friendship, to companionship. It is certainly not that passion disappears, but that is conjoined with other ways of love.” – Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L’Engle.

Chuck and I were compatible, though we had some different interests. I learned to enjoy baseball, but would never achieve the knowledge or full enjoyment he had in the sport. But, I could sit in front of the TV with him and watch a game, though often with my Chromebook in my lap.

The “other ways of love” came with putting each other ahead of ourselves. It didn’t just happen. It takes work to keep a marriage going. It’s a give and take, a making time for each other. It’s being okay with a little time apart. It’s talking and it’s sitting in quiet.

It’s a sweet camaraderie.

Sojourning

Birmingham, AL , September, 2016

“Displaced souls roam every city in every country.” – Ilana Manaster, One of the Crowd, Real Simple – 2017

I know what it feels like to be a displaced soul. I felt pretty much like that the whole six years we lived in Birmingham. It was a beautiful place, but it was never home. I don’t mean to dishonor Chuck when I say that, because where he was, that was home for me. But, I think he felt the same way. We both felt uprooted.

Now I’m “home”, but he’s not here, and once again I don’t quite feel at home. But it’s different, because I do have family here, and numerous friends. I’m in the town where I grew up. It’s changed a lot, but still familiar. The Maxwell House Coffee drifting across the St. Johns River smells the same. The ocean, though constantly changing, is the same. I can still drive by my childhood home and my high school.

So now, as I prepare to move for the third time in less than a year, I think about how to put down roots in Tampa. God willing, I won’t move again. I long to live there and serve God to the end of my days. To make a home for my family, my friends, and other sojourners, for I have to remind myself that, ultimately, I’m just a sojourner on this earth.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. Hebrews 11:13-14

Photographs and Memories

September, 2012

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal – Love leaves a memory none can steal.”  –  from a headstone in Ireland

If I didn’t have photos, I’d still have memories, but I am so thankful for all the pictures I have to look back on and smile, even though sometimes the smile is between tears sliding down my cheeks. I may have too many photos, but that’s in large part because I am the keeper of the bulk of the pictures that were left behind by Mom and my mother-in-law.

Now in the digital age nearly everyone takes multiple photos on a daily basis. Back as a young teen when I first had a camera, I never knew until I got my developed film just what images I had captured. It was always a thrill to drive up to the Photo Bug to pick up my envelope of photographs.

photo via columbuscoasterco.com

I look forward to making more memories, taking more pictures, and one day passing them on for others to treasure.

The Valley of vision #1: He is my safe harbour.

September 26, 2018 – Oregon

The Valley of Vision is a collection of Puritan prayers and devotions. I found a seemingly brand new copy among Chuck’s books. It has been an absolute blessing to me. The writings were gathered and edited by Arthur Bennett, Canon of St. Albans Cathedral, England.

From today’s reading:

“I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year, with thee, O Father, as my harbour, thee, O Son, at my helm, thee, O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.”

In this year, 2021, I launch my “boat” wholly dependent on my Father. I’ll use my oars and GPS. I’ll prepare for storms, but know that when the storms come, He is my safe harbour.

Where is home?

5/22/18 – Our backyard, Bham

“So my question was: What, dear Lord, is your purpose for my life? Where during the rest of my mortal years, is home? Ultimately, it is with you, Lord, but meanwhile I believe I am to make a home in the strange island of Manhattan for my granddaughters, who have been so good for me as they have been in college in New York, teaching me, pushing me, not allowing me to get into any kind of a rut. I believe, too, that our home is to be an open one, so that friends that are called to be briefly in the city have a welcoming place to stay.” – from The Rock That is Higher by Madeleine L’Engle

Madeleine L’Engle was thinking back to the time after her husband, Hugh, died. I love the fact that she lived with her granddaughters while they were going to college. I’m not going to be living WITH my grandchildren, but near them, Lord willing, very soon. I am under contract for a house and am waiting for inspections and all that entails. I am so excited I found a house just 1.6 miles from theirs. I want my home to be a haven for all who enter, whether family, friends or strangers.

Texts from the past #8: dogs

Loretta
Ruby

As much as Chuck always said our dogs, first Loretta and then Ruby, were my dogs, I think they were really loyal to both of us.

We got Loretta when we became “empty nesters”. She came with the name Loretta Lynn and was fully trained. Described by her previous owners as an “old soul”, she fit smoothly into our now little family of two.

When our grandson Everett was born, we left her for over 14 hours and she never had an accident. That girl had a bladder of steel! Then Juliette came along and adored her, calling her “The Doretta”. We had her for ten years, until she died suddenly, with only a few hours notice that something was wrong. We went to bed that night with her asleep on our bedroom rug, and we both woke up about 2am. We got up to check on her, sitting on the floor next to her. She breathed two breaths and she was gone.

I didn’t plan to get another dog so soon, but it was sad coming home from work without a sweet dog to greet me. We went to the county shelter looking for a specific dog, but ended up with Ruby, who if you just saw her face you would have thought we’d cloned Loretta. Ruby turned out to be the cuddliest dog I’ve ever been around. And I thank God that I have her still to cuddle with and play with and just be with everyday. She is my constant companion.


May 12, 2017. C: Loretta  may be having a rough time right now. Bad storm in our area. (Loretta was scared of the least storm noise, fireworks, and even banging pots in the kitchen).

April 3, 2018. C: Oh my, we have an Earl sighting (This was our code name for Squirrel)

April 26, 2018. Me: I just saw a baby Pearl. C: Must’ve been tiny. Turl. (Since we now had chipmunks, we began also calling them Pearl)

November 7, 2018. Me: Bringing up the garbage can without Loretta running her little route was hard. C: I’m sure. I think about her when I leave for work and not having to close the study door.  Me: And even though she never said a word it sure is quiet around here this afternoon.  C: Sorry.

We got Ruby right after our 40th “Ruby” anniversary, hence the name.

Dec 27, 2018 (I Sent pic of Ruby) Me: She is so gentle natured. I think she’s already asleep.  C: Maybe she’s relaxed from both the surgery ( being spayed) and the loud shelter. She looks like a sweetie.

Dec. 28, 2018. Me: Somebody pooped outside. C: Did she let you know or did you just take her out? Me: I just took her out. C: That’s still progress. (We were like parents with a newborn).

Texts from the past #7: I Corinthians 13

” vs. 5… does not seek its own…”

There were so many times that Chuck did things for me, not to gain anything for himself but just to make me happy, or to make my life easier.

April 18, 2017

Me: Thank you so much. You didn’t have to. Especially in that horrible traffic. C: I know but I wanted to and I could, I had time.  (He brought me something I forgot, probably my phone. I was subbing at Pelham High School that day.)

August 1, 2017

C: Your gas is very low. Do you want me to fill it?

Feb 27, 2018

C: Hey, would you be interested in eating out tonight since you’re going to be gone this weekend? Me: Sure, I’m going to get fatter anyway. C: Anywhere particular? Me: Either Beef O’Bradys or you can just bring home Jim n Nick’s. C: Hmmm, prolly bring J & N, my goal was to give you the night off.

July 13, 2018

(I was on my way to meet my cousin, Paula, in Arkansas.). C: Diagnosed diabetic. (I don’t remember this!!!!!!!). Me: Made it. C: Praise the Lord. You two enjoy.

April 5, 2019

(Discussing the poetry meeting in Orange Beach) C: I’ll go with you unless you happen to know someone who might want to go. Me: Let me think on it. It would probably be boring for you. C: We’ll talk about it. I just wanted to help you enjoy it.

April 10, 2019

C: I was going in order to support something you love and because I hate to see you spend 8 hours driving on top of 6 hours of meetings. I was willing to do Driving Miss Angie.

Oct. 2, 2019

Me: I’m already planning to go to Tampa in January for Grandparents’ Day. Could I go in early November, too? C: Why not?

It’s the big and little things I miss. Having someone who will bring you your phone or fill your car with gas. Someone who offers to accompany you to something they have no real interest in so you won’t be alone. Someone who hates to see you leave, but knows your heart’s desire to see the grandkids or meet your cousin. Someone who seeks your happiness.

Our true home, part two

Our home – Bham – 12/8/17

“Smiling at each other, we realize we have the same song stuck in our head, a new song, neither of us have ever heard before. His humming of it sounds like flowing water. The robins and morning stars are singing the same tune. I feel a pulsing stillness. I don’t even notice that the usual sounds of sirens and cars aren’t there anymore, the static of news, the vibrating of phones, or creepy songs about seducing a santa baby. That all burnt up forever. The old order has passed away. Instead, I hear a pulsing stillness.”  –  by Fr. Jack (Priesthood from the Inside Out blog) in his thoughts about meeting St. Francis in heaven. He continues with thoughts of those he expects to see – “To my left, the kid I picked-on in 5th grade waves at me. I wave back shamelessly. He’s holding the hand of his daughter…I realize I’m holding someone’s hand as well, warm and smooth. It’s the unborn child I buried yesterday. He’s taller than me and has wild flowing hair. I’ve never met him before, but I know him. I know him. He only lived 12 weeks invisible in his mom’s womb, but I’ve known him ‘like a thousand years.’ He laughs.”

Reading the above I felt comforted. I like to think that Chuck is rejoicing with Mom and Dad and holding little Wyatt in his arms. That he was there to greet Tim and Ed when they joined him. I don’t know, I can only wonder.


Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever. – Psalm 23:6

Our true home

View from our front door – Bham – 12/8/17

“…Help us to avoid getting too immersed in the things of this world, for we know that we are just passing through on our way to our true home with You.” – Pocket Prayers for Women – Simple Prayers of Hope

As I continue the fun/not fun task of house hunting, I have to remind myself that though I hope this will be my last earthly house/home, it is not my final home. I’m looking for a front porch, a walk-in shower, a nice kitchen and a decent backyard. This all pales in contrast to the heavenly home that awaits.

Which leads me to thinking about death and that transition from earthly life to heavenly life. Believe me, I’ve thought a lot about it the past six months. All the platitudes about Chuck being in a “better place” don’t help when I am not in a better place. Yet, I know these people saying it mean well and they really are telling the truth. I just can’t wrap my head around the whole process. I’ve talked to a pastor and former pastor about these things. They have both been helpful and patient with my questions. I know much, but have so much to learn. But I do know that “The secret things belong to the Lord our God…” Deuteronomy 29:29.

I’m not the only one who ponders these things. One of my favorite writers, Sean Dietrich, had similar thoughts a few days ago. From his blog:

But, like I said, what if I have death all backwards? What if this earthly life is only a glorified batting practice? What if the real ballgame awaits?

And how about the concept of time? What if within the next realm, time ceases to exist? And if there is no time, this means no future or past, either. Which means that calendar years won’t matter, now will they?

… I’m praying that when we pass from this life into the next, our left-behind loved ones understand that we are not leaving this universe, but we are unfolding two bright, colorful wings, soaring upward into the undiluted sunlight of Joy.”

For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. II Corinthians 5:7-8

“…

A fellow weeper

December 8, 2017

“…Nothing tends more to relieve that overwhelming sense of wretchedness, with which the heart of the sufferer is sometimes oppressed, than a generous pity for a fellow weeper!”

“Your long and intimate letter gave me great pleasure. There is a sympathy in the feeling of people who have been recently afflicted, which cannot be expected to be found in others; a mutual chord, which, touched, vibrates with a kindred sound. We have not suffered exactly alike. But we have suffered; and that circumstance has made us love each other better than we did before.” – The Widow Directed to the Widow’s God by John Angell James, 1841

There truly is sympathy in people who have been recently afflicted. I have found this to be so true in recent months. I have connected with other widows who are suffering as I am. I have also connected with women who have lost a sister or a child. I never thought I’d have a need for a “group”. But, I went at the urging of my son. And I am so glad I found griefshare. I thank God for these fellow weepers.