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!

We and us

November, 2018

"But if Hugh dies first, would I ever be able to stop saying "we" and say "I"? I doubt it. I do not think that death can take away the fact the Hugh and I are "we" and "us", a new creature born at the time of our marriage vows, which has grown along with us as our marriage has grown." - Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L'Engle 

I find myself struggling when I talk to people who don’t really know me yet. I think when I say “we” I confuse them. But, so many times it’s just not the right time to tell the whole story. And If I just say, “My husband passed away last year,” they are left in an uncomfortable position sometimes. They always say, “I’m so sorry,” but then there is this awkward silence.

And I really don’t like being introduced as the woman who just lost her husband. I’d rather tell people on my own terms, in my own time, in my own way.

So, yes, I’ll always be a part of “we” but I’m also “I”. Whoever that is.

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

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.

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.

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.

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