The Valley of Vision #5: Death

I don’t know if Chuck read all of the entries in The Valley of Vision because he didn’t mark them. But this portion from one entry near the back of the book could have been his prayer.

"Prepare me for death, 
that I may not die after long affliction or suddenly, 
but after short illness, with no confusion or disorder, 
and a quiet discharge in peace, with adieu to brethren. 
Let not my days end like lumber in a house, 
but give me a silent removing from one world to the next."

If this had been his prayer, I think it was answered. His illness was short, but not sudden like a heart attack or accident. He was not confused, except maybe for the final few days. He was able to say his goodbyes, even though I felt he and I didn’t really say ours.

Madeleine L’Engle relayed a story a nurse told her of when she lost her husband. “NO CODE” was written in his chart. The nurse said she fell apart, but that looking back, she wouldn’t have had it any other way. This is what we did. Chuck agreed and we signed the DNR form, but when the time came he begged me to call 911; said he changed his mind. I, too, fell apart inside but did my best to stick to what I knew his wishes were. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

Madeleine also told of her thoughts when her own husband was dying. “Does Hugh understand that he is being touched, loved? Is there enough awareness in him for that?” I often wonder what Chuck’s thoughts were in those final hours. Our daughters were there with me and we all ministered to him, did our best to give him all the love we had. He was aware that we were there up until the last moments. I can only hope he knew we wanted him to stay, but had to let him go.

He preached and believed “our times are in His hands”. I believe this, too. It was one year ago today.

“And she said she was grateful for every moment she'd ever had with him and, even if it was all over, she wouldn’t trade places with anybody in the world.” - from Meet the Austins by Madeleine L'Engle

Tears are healing


"Music, too, tends to pluck at the chords of emotion. Tears are healing. I do not want to cry when I am not alone, but by myself I don't try to hold the tears back. In a sense this solitary weeping is a form of prayer."  -  Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L'Engle


November, 2018

I understand exactly what she means. I try not to cry in public, but it’s difficult at church sometimes. Oh, that music. The hymns he loved get me every time; at home it might be other music. Especially, but not limited to, The Avett Brothers. Occasionally it’s a scene in a movie. Or a beautiful evening sky. Or dates on the calendar.

Sometimes I’ll come across something that probably only I would understand. Like a book he read where some of the sentences were underlined. He would use an index card and make the lines perfectly straight. I’ve even found a card a time or two, with the edge faintly marked with ink where he had used it.

He was by no means OCD, but he did have these little endearing habits. Like buying the same socks and underwear at JC Penney. Or washing his work shirts every Tuesday. As often as my schedule allowed I’d do it for him. And he always thanked me. Now, this was YEARS into our marriage, not when I had four kids running underfoot and would have loved him to wash some shirts for ME. But, we all tend to mellow and learn so much as we age. As we should. And he thanked me!

Something we cannot see

"And he sits there staring at something we cannot see." - Madeleine L'Engle,Two-Part Invention, speaking of her husband in his last days at home. 

I felt like Chuck did that – stared at something we did not see. Or sat with his eyes closed, just too fatigued to keep them open.

I think of the angel guard around Elisha and like to imagine just such a group around Chuck, giving comfort that we didn’t know about. I imagine him closing his eyes to me, Kat, and Leah and then opening them to a band of angels and Christ, himself. I am still so full of questions about death that I know will not be answered until I myself die.

All I know is this – “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen…” – Hebrews 11:1

Edges and Corners

pixy.org

“As the years have moved on, our explosions have become far less frequent as we have learned to live with each other, accepting each other’s edges and corners.”-Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L’Engle

I love that phrase “edges and corners”. We all have them. At times I have been like a dodecagon (yes, I looked it up), all full of edges and corners plus prickles like a porcupine. But, as time wore on, I was more like the glass I ordered a few weeks ago. I bought a piece of glass to put on top of my great-grandmother’s sewing machine so I could use it for a table. They beveled the glass so the edges would be smooth and polished. I think Chuck and I both became more rounded and mellow over the years. We argued less and gave more than took from each other.

It is rare and wonderful when family members are best friends. – A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser

Chuck and I were best friends. I count my brothers as pretty good friends, too.

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.

Seven Years

4-25-2014

The picture above popped up in my memory feed today on Facebook. Already feeling out of sorts, this added fuel to my sad fire. But it also was fuel for my poem today.The prompt was “thought” . So, I thought, as if I wasn’t already thinking, about how long and how short seven years are.

Thoughts on Seven Years
 
seven years ago we moved to a new state
it was not our choice
but that’s okay

and though there is such a thing called the seven years war
that’s not what we fought
in fact, many of those seven years were good ones
years of plenty like in Joseph’s dream
and Joseph's life
but years of plenty
soon became lean years, rawboned and grievous 

though we enjoyed hiking through the beauty of fall colors
and a few snow-angel winter snows
and spring on the back porch
there was much loss
the demise of three parents while we were away
longing to be with them

even though we often languished
in the city where we tried so hard
to belong
we were together

we finally migrated back home 
but one month later
you left
for your eternal home
and I try not to wither away
without you

Communication or Waiting?

c/o neurosciencemarketing

The PAD prompt for April 17th was “Waiting”. But, I got to thinking, the poem I wrote on April 3, with the prompt of “Communication” could have done just as well here.

The past ten months I have done a lot of waiting. Waiting on hold. Waiting on mail. Waiting for the right house to come along. Waiting on other people. In all of this, I have waited on the Lord. Not always patiently I am sorry to say.


Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart;  Wait, I say, on the Lord! – Psalm 27:14

So, here’s my poem from April 3rd.

Communication

Press one
Your wait time is 14 minutes
For the next available representative
Name
Phone number
Date Of birth
Last four of your social
Repeat  
Press two
Your wait time is 23 minutes
How may I help you?
I’m sorry, but I can’t help you with that
Let me transfer you
Repeat
Press three
Please remain on the line
I’m  sorry for your loss
Your husband’s date of birth
Date of death
Last four of his social
Call us if you haven’t received it in 60 days
No, it takes up to 14 days after processing
No, it takes up to 28 days
Repeat
Press four
A death certificate
A driver's license
A marriage certificate
Repeat
Press five
Your address
Your former address
Beneficiaries 
My supervisor isn’t available
Leave your name and phone number
Repeat
Press six
I’m sorry, our office is closed

A year ago

A year ago today is when we got our first indication that our world was about to change. I won’t go into all the details, but when I realized Chuck was yellow, jaundiced, I knew I had to get him to the ER. I drove him to the Medical West ER in Hoover but had to drop him off because the Covid restrictions were already in place.

We were under contract on our house already. I went home to take care of marking our electrical box per the inspection, via a wonderful young man who walked me through it by phone and would not let me pay him.

Within an hour Chuck called. They had done a scan and found a mass on his pancreas. When I went to pick him up he was standing outside on the curb, looking so lost.

That day was the only time I remember him really crying. This gentle giant of a man curled up in our big brown chair in the living room and said, “I wonder who will be my pallbearers?”

Then he began his brief fight against the monster that raged within him. Pancreatic cancer. Our journey brought our children back together and then took us to Jacksonville where Chuck died two months after we first heard the words “mass on the pancreas”.

He had no pallbearers, but he is buried in a beautiful cemetery, along with his great-nephew, Wyatt. I can’t say life has gone on without him because he is a part of everyday for me. I see him in the kindness of his daughters and the laughter of his sons. I watched my grandson Everett play chess last Saturday with one of my son’s friends and I thought of how Chuck played chess with him even when he was ill. I’m grateful Everett will have those happy memories of Grandpa.

Everett and Grandpa, 2020

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

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.