Wedding Day Memories and Lessons

Eleven months and eleven days ago, I was oddly grateful that it would be a long time before I had to “celebrate” our first wedding anniversary without Dale.  Now, as I write this, it is a mere 2 days away and I’ve been in tears for the past few weeks, dreading the emotions of this day.  Yes, September 27, 1986 was one of the very best days of my life.

What day better represents your hopes and dreams as a married couple more than your wedding day?

We lived in the Twin Cities area at the time, me on the St. Paul side, Dale on the Minneapolis side and were in the process of building a home on an acreage north of Stillwater, MN where we would live for the next 5 ½ years.

My across-the-alley neighbor at the time had told me about the venue his daughter had gotten married on and I immediately thought it would be such a cool idea!  So, we celebrated our wedding with a 4-hour cruise on the Jonathan Padelford paddle boat on the Mississippi River, out of the port of St. Paul, with about 90 of our friends anIMG_0323d family members.  God bless our pastor for signing on to that kind of commitment!

It was a beautiful, sunny September day and it was all that a bride could dream of and more.  After the ceremony, we danced the night away to a live band and everyone had a grand old time!  A white limousine picked us up when we returned to port and we enjoyed a fun tour around the lakes in Minneapolis.  Truly a dream-come-true kind of day and I’m so grateful for all those memories that make me smile 32 years later.

As I thought through the memories of that day and all the joy that it held, I didn’t want this post to JUST be about those memories.  I wanted to share another truth and an inside look, if you will, at this grieving process.  Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but, let’s face it, days like this are bittersweet.

Think with me, for a moment, of the greatest love of your life.  It could be your spouse – especially back on your wedding day.  It might be the love you felt when your children were born.  Maybe it’s the love you had for a parent or a grandparent or a sibling or a best friend.  Maybe even a beloved pet.

For me, there’s no question that the greatest, deepest love of my life was, and still is, Dale.  Have you decided who YOUR greatest love is?    Don’t read on until you have!  😊

Now, let me ask you this, “Was there ANYTHING you could have done to change the way you felt about that person at that point in your life?”  I’m quite certain your answer would be a resounding NO!  That kind of love is so powerful that no amount of sheer will could have dimmed its radiance in your life.

The parallel I want to draw for you now is this:  Just like there was NOTHING I could do to change how deep my love was for Dale on that special day 32 years ago, there is now NOTHING I can do to change the depth of my grief for him now that he is gone.  They are directly linked.

Let that sink in for a moment…  I’m sure the first reaction for some of you might be to try to dispute that or talk me out of feeling that way.  Surely I must be able to do SOMETHING to move past all this pain.  Well, I’m doing all the things I “should” during this grieving period.  I’m eating healthy (mostly), I’m sleeping well, I’m exercising daily, I’m engaged in normal life activities, I’m actively pursuing the ministry God has called me to, I’m in constant communication with God.

And yet, the pain and sorrow and grieving remain.  Healing will never come from my own hand or will.  It will be a function of time, to a certain degree.  And ultimately, any healing will come as I continue to rely on God’s hand leading me through this dark time.

So, my message to you, dear readers, is this:  Whether you understand it or agree with it or not, just trust me when I tell you that lessening or eliminating this heartache is as out of my control today as changing my love for Dale would have been 32 years ago.

If you doubt that, go back to that love you were remembering just a few minutes ago.  Can’t change it, can you?  That’s the message.  That’s the lesson.

So, what’s your takeaway?  Don’t rush someone through their grieving process.  Don’t tell them to move on.  Don’t expect normalcy – and don’t let it fool you if you see it.

Cry with me.  Grieve with me.  Extend kindness and grace and understanding.  Be a blessing to your grieving friend.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  Psalm 73:26

Heart Full of Messages

It’s been clear from several of my past blog posts that I’ve been doing my Spring house cleaning for the past few months.  Yes, it’s now become Summer and Fall cleaning, but, whatever.

The only area that’s been left to tackle for the past month or so has been the master closet.  But before you start to feel sad for me, I have already gone through all of Dale’s clothes.  In fact, he and I went through most of it together before he moved to Bickford Cottages.

And I go through my clothes on a pretty regular basis, so this really wasn’t a big job that I was dreading.  I just hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

One of the items on the very top shelf was the stuffed heart he got from the hospital staff after his triple bypass surgery nearly 15 years ago.  Not only did it serve as the item he was to clutch if he needed to cough or sneeze, but it also became the place that staff, visitors and friends added their words of wisdom for Dale during his stay.

I kept debating whether it was something to keep or not.  I’ve read the messages many times over the past years, so there weren’t any new revelations on it.  But I did find myself smiling a lot as I reread all of them today.

Then it hit me.  This would make a great blog post!  And not a sad one, for a change.  😊  The messages on it covered the full spectrum of what you might write to someone recovering from heart surgery.  Especially someone like Dale whose circle of friends was so very wide.

But before I share all that was on it, I have two favorite memories from that experience that still make me smile today.

  • Dale was SO proud of this one and I share it with apologies to my readers (myself included) who aren’t great fans of bathroom humor. For any of you who have experienced either your own surgery or that of a loved one, you know that there is one very important activity that must occur before you can go home.  Or in this case, be moved out of CCU.

That’s right.  It’s the bathroom job.  Once the spirit moved Dale, literally, it was a great day and a sign that he was healing.  One problem – as he liked to tell it – he broke the toilet.  Yep.  Had to get the top maintenance guys up there with their big snake to get things moving again.  And even funnier (to me), was when he did get moved out of CCU, this particular story, and his reputation, had preceded him to the telemetry floor he was moved to.  Everyone got such a kick out of this story, but no one more than Dale.

  • The second story all happened while he was completely out of it, recovering in his room. He wanted me to take a picture of him right after surgery because he was curious enough to want to see what he looked like.  We even got clearance from the hospital staff to do it!

But when the time came for the photo op, I freaked out a bit and couldn’t do it.  Keep in mind, he had not regained consciousness yet. I was accompanied into his room by both of his daughters, so one of them graciously offered to take the picture for me.

This was before all the smartphone cameras so her camera had a little flash on it.  As soon as she snapped the picture, with the flash, Dale’s eyes flew wide open and we ALL completely freaked out.  We ran out of his room, down a staircase for a few floors and ended up lost somewhere in the employee cafeteria!  Only later did we find out from the nurse that he never really regained consciousness then; it was just the body’s reaction to the flash.  That one still makes me laugh to this day!

So, with that backdrop, here are the unaltered messages from his hospital “heart” – with no names attached!

“Hurry and get home.  I love you!”

“Dale, be good.”

“Faker!  Get well soon!  God bless…”  (Yes, that was all from one person!)

“Keep smiling.”

“Best wishes for a speedy recovery from the bottom of my heart.”  (Strategically written at the bottom, of course!)

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phil 4:13. We’re praying for you!”

“Get well, I [heart] U”

“Get rolling soon”

“Good luck”

“Get well soon!

“Love you, Dad, you’re doing great!”

“We want you home – take care”

“Patients like you make everything worthwhile.  You are great.  Never forget your first Colgate shower.”

“ ‘Bout time”

‘You’ll do anything to get out of vacuuming!  I love you!  Come home soon.”  (OK, that was me, signed Nurse Ratched – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)

“You’re a good guy.  I’ve enjoyed taking care of you.  Stay healthy!”

“I’ll send all the good plumbers your way.  Beware of ‘the stick lady!’  Best of luck!”  (editorial note – stick lady was the rehab person whom Dale wasn’t real fond of…)

“Hope you have a speedy recovery.  You’ve been a great patient.”

“Thanks for letting me take care of you.  You were a joy!”

“Keep up the great work!”

Such a nice collection of sentiments, but a definite theme that he was a patient the staff all enjoyed.  Our main CCU nurse was pregnant with twins at the time and before we left her floor, Dale wanted me to give her some cash to use for any upcoming baby expenses.  So much like him.

Nothing more to add.  No deep lessons.  Not even a scripture text this time!  Hope you got a smile or a chuckle out of the stories or the messages.  I’m smiling as I type this.  😊