Finding Common Ground

August, 2019 – Tampa

“First, we have an incredibly weighty existence which requires that we respect God and our neighbor whether the latter is a Christian or not. It means that we should expect to find common ground with non-Christians as a natural part of human existence.” – Michael Horton

I find myself thinking about my neighbors a lot lately, mainly because I’m still new in the neighborhood. When I meet someone, I try to remember to write down the person’s name when I get home and something to remember them by, like a house number or a dog’s name. I’ve met 14 neighbors on my street so far. I’ve found a little common ground, such as other dog owners, someone who recently lost a family member, and one who likes strawberries. There are differences, too, such as a practicing Buddhist, the young couples, the single mom. But we can all talk about yard work, termites, and good restaurants. I just want the conversations to one day go beyond watering the yard to something more substantial. All in good time; all in God’s time.

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  -  Matthew 22:37-39

A Mystery to Love


"There is a mystery to all love. Why does this one man so move me? Why does this small corner of our planet make me feel that I am home?"  -  Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L'Engle

April, 2010 / Father and Son

Love for people truly is a mystery. Why did I fall in love with Chuck? How is it I love my children, and grandchildren, more than anyone else’s children? What is this connection to my brothers? How do I explain this love for my parents? Or the special bond I’ve had with a very few dear friends? And the cousins!!

More mysterious than that is God’s love for us. I could make a long list of attributes I love and admire about all the people I mentioned. But, what attributes do I have that would make God love me? The only good in me is what He’s put there.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8

A Love That Built Slowly

12-16-78

“I sit by the bed, hold Hugh’s hand, try to help him eat when meals are brought in. That is all I can do. Try to affirm with quiet love, a love that has built slowly over forty years…The growth of love is not a straight line but a series of hills and valleys.” – Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L’Engle

In Chuck’s last weeks we tried so many things to get him to eat. Our dear daughter-in-law, the dietician, gave helpful advice, sent protein powders and foods to try. Our sweet daughters made spreadsheets of all he ate and all the medications, times, temperatures, blood pressure readings, sugar levels. He tried with such perseverance but could hardly get down a few bites at a time.

My love for Chuck grew over forty-one years of marriage. It matured into a quiet love. The hills and valleys of our life together strengthened our love. A love that lives on in me.

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.

One Year Ago

Savannah, Georgia – early 2000s

One year ago Chuck posted this on facebook:

As some of you are aware, I put in for retirement effective June 1 and we placed our home on the market. The house went under contract immediately and we close on 5/19/20.

Unfortunately a few weeks ago I was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. We have consulted with UAB oncologists and decided to return to Jax, FL as planned and I have an appointment at Mayo Clinic this Thursday.
I wish all of you the very best in all life as to offer. Angie and I covet your prayers for strength, wisdom and that the Lord be glorified in our circumstances.

According to the Scripture all 'our days are numbered' so whether mine are few or many "I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for my sins..."

Please forgive me if I ever offended you in anyway, it is never intentional but still there is no excuse.

I pray his blessings upon each of you.

Just a little over a month after this Chuck was gone.

I just finished reading Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L’Engle. I didn’t realize when I started it that it was not only a memoir of her marriage but a very detailed telling of her husband’s death. They were married forty years and their relationship was so very much like Chuck’s and mine, though our lives and careers couldn’t have been more different.

She tells of their first date: “But we had talked for ten hours without noticing the time passing.” This is very much what happened with us – maybe not ten hours in one setting, but we talked and talked on each date. I miss those talks.

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.

Texts from the past #10: Retirement

Moss Rock, 2015

How quickly we forget things. I’m a little surprised as I see how far back we were talking about Chuck retiring.

April 13, 2017: (This was me joking on one of my subbing days) Me: I’ll be sitting in the library until 10 or so. Glad I have my book. I don’t really have to do anything. C: Earn that money :). Me: going to use it to retire and live on an island and listen to music all day and walk on the beach.

April 11, 2018: C: In a seminar RE Retirement Medical, State Farm subsidizes premiums!!!! Me: Does that mean they pay part of them? C: Yes. Suh weet. Me: Would you be eligible even if you left at 62? C: Yes. You too C: We…R…out…of…here!

October 23, 2018: C: FYI – Alert, there is real hope for early rather than later retirement! I will show you tonight.  C: I am almost beside myself sitting here at work.  Me: Don’t get all the way beside yourself. One of you is enough. C: hee hee

May 10, 2019: Me: At Costco. May be in return line a while. C: ok. Me: I’m sure you needed that info. C: I wasn’t sure if I should write it down or not. Me: U so funny. C: I’m thinking I may retire now and go on tour. Me: I’ll be your sidekick.

March 3, 2020: C: I started the retirement process effective June 1

March 10, 2020: C: I started the ball rolling on social security. Big phone appointment next Thursday.

It’s still hard to believe that on April 13, 2020 we got the first inkling that our world was about to change. The sadness just overwhelms me sometimes. He was so excited when he began figuring out we could do this – make it work – retire. When his friend and supervisor, Patrice, had retired he had plied her with questions. I finally met her last week. It was such a blessing to meet one more person that knew and appreciated Chuck.

Now I, too, am officially retired. I want to spend these next years, however many God gives me, doing things that would honor Chuck. Things that honor God.

Texts from the past #9: Julie

Juliette Marie Bell is eight years old today. Her Grandpa liked to call her Julie.

I’m thankful for the years he had with her. The snuggles, the jokes, the laughs, the sweet times. Last year on her birthday her dad sent Chuck a picture of Julie via text. Chuck’s response was: “Time is flying by. Bee-U-ti-ful”.

We never dreamed this would be his last year with her.

““Misfortunes will happen to the wisest and best of men. Death will come, always out of season.” -Big Elk, Omaha Chief

Not so minor characters

“The minor characters in your life will step into the foreground and shine.” – Sheryl Sandberg

There have been some women who have stepped into the foreground for me. They are not minor characters, but they have been in the background of my life for a while.

Like Lee, my sorority Big Sister in college, who I had not seen for over 40 years. She stepped right back into my life by coming to Chuck’s funeral, all the way from Georgia. We’ve met for lunch and spent the day together catching up on all the years gone by.

Lee and me – Fernandina, 2020

Like Jeannie, who I also met over 40 years ago when Chuck and I were dating. She has been so very kind to me, meeting for lunch and giving me books and gifts to show her love and sympathy.

Jeannie and me – 1980

Like Judy, who calls and writes and lets me know I am always in her prayers. Our friendship doesn’t go back so far, but she is a Christian sister who cares. She doesn’t just post “praying” on social media, but when she says she’s praying I know she really is.

Judy – at Melt in Bham

Like Crystal, another newer friend, who writes nice chatty letters to let me know all the big and little things going on with her family. She shares her life with me and shows her concern for me.

Christmas at Crystal’s – 2019

Like Peggy, who lives in Auburndale but stays connected and checks on me. She sometimes brings along her husband, Tom, who is also a dear friend. They were great friends to Chuck and I and I’m so thankful for them still.

Peggy, St. Augustine, 2013

Like Debbie, who was in my Brownie troop when we were in 2nd/3rd grades. We went to church together through our teens and were in each others weddings. Then, time and miles kept us apart. But, we have reconnected, from Ohio to Florida, and had supper after 20 years and fell right into our friendship again.

Debbie, second from left

Like Darla, who I bonded with when we taught school together. She has made it a point to keep in touch. Her life is full to the brim with grandchildren, but she has made time for me.

Darla at Wild Adventures

That’s the thing – time. It’s not always easy or convenient, but it’s important to make time for the ones we love. For the ones who need our love.

“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” – Romans 1:8

Our stories

Shades Mountain, Bham

“But when we are grieving, it is our personal stories… that become so important. If we tell the story of our loved one’s death twice a day, three times a day, or more, and we still have the urge to tell it, then that is what we must do. The stories of our love, our life, and our loved one’s life are the most important pieces of information we have. We need to indulge ourselves, to hear the telling, to listen to our own words, to say the same thing again and again and again until we don’t need to say it anymore.” – from A Time to Grieve by Carol Staudacher

I’ve thought lately that maybe I’m writing too much about loss, too much about Chuck. But, then today I read this and I think I’m on the right track. Writing is my way of grieving and healing. And though I only have a handful of faithful readers, maybe somehow, somewhere, my words will touch someone that needs to hear them.