Roller Coaster Lessons

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been on a pretty steep roller coaster ride.  And I’ve thought there were worthy blog post topics at the peaks AND the valleys.  But just when it seemed the time was right to put pen to paper, so to speak, the ride would change directions and either plunge me down or lift me up, and the writing just didn’t happen.

I’m sure I’m committing a cardinal sin of blog-writing, but I’ve decided to combine it all into one blog post.  Because I think there is a lesson, not only in the peaks and valleys, but also in the whole ride.

So, buckle up – we’re actually going to start at the top!

As many of you have probably seen, I recently launched the ministry site – Be a Blessing to Your Grieving Friend (at  A lot of behind-the-scenes work went into preparing for that and it was such a blessing to see it come together earlier this month.  I’m excited to see how God will use the ministry for His purposes.  Definitely a top-of-the-coaster event.

Then, of course, there’s the expected let-down after a big event.  Not a huge dip on the ride, but one of those partial hills.  You know the kind!

I had coffee this week with a friend who also has a ministry and we were both looking at some down time with nothing on our schedules.  No presentations or interviews to prepare for.

She planned to spend this break in her schedule by studying God’s Word and drawing closer to Him.  I thought that was such a meaningful way to fill up what could have been wasted time.

It reminded me of a devotional I read several months ago that has stayed with me, partially because it has a musical theme, but also because it’s very insightful.  The author talked about how important the rests are in a musical composition.  Whether it’s a solo piece or a full orchestra composition, the rests are integral to the making of the music.  It could be a short sixteenth note rest, or 32 measures of rest if you happen to be the timpani player in an orchestra!

But without them, there is no color, there is no depth, there is no rhythm, there really is no song.  That’s one of the reasons that God wants us to also take the appropriate rests in our lives. (Or allow Him to place them there!) Especially hard to do this time of year, but I’m sure you’d all agree that it’s vitally important to maintain any semblance of sanity.  Don’t look at these times of rest as an interruption to your life, but as a way to bring more beauty to it.

So, now we’ve just coasted for a little while.  What could be next?  For me, it was a deep plunge down.

This past week has been extremely difficult.  I’m sure that’s partially due to the upcoming holiday.  Both of my parents died right around Christmas so there’s always some melancholy associated with that.

I also received some difficult health news from a good friend this week and got some semi-bad health news for myself the next day.

But what really sent me down to the valley were the two days where I spent hours going through a lot of Dale’s personal items.  Every time I went downstairs, it just made me sad because that’s where his office was and all of his stuff.   I knew I had to deal with it at some point and since I didn’t have much on the schedule, I decided to go for it.

Of course, much of it made me smile, and there was a LOT of memory lane strolling.  Many items that I didn’t even know he had kept.  For example, he still had his very first pay stub from Northwestern Bell from February 18, 1956!  I’m keeping it, too.  And five envelopes of his high school graduation announcements.  I don’t even have any of my own!

But the hardest part of this project was that the totality of all the things I went through was such an overwhelming reminder of everything that made Dale who he was.  A folder full of jokes that illustrated his great sense of humor.  Job evaluations that highlighted why he was so often their “go to” guy to handle problem situations and people.  Books and articles that covered everything mechanical – no wonder he knew how to make or fix anything.  Photos that showed his love for his friends and family.  And so very much more.

The stark contrast of all these reminders with the reality that he is never coming back just felt like a body slam.  I was in tears for so much of this past week and missing him deeply.

This was truly the very bottom of the coaster ride.  On Saturday morning I literally cried out to God to bring something into my life that would bless me in this sorrow.  Because, I was so emotionally spent and so tired of the tears.

The night before I had signed up for a free webinar on how to find places to do public speaking –no matter what your subject was.  I thought it might be handy information and had set it up for 10 am Saturday morning.

So, I dried my tears and opened up my laptop for the webinar.  It was put on by a man who is currently a professional speaker, but used to be a youth pastor.  Extra points for that!   In the hour or so of the webinar, he shared some great information and helpful tips.  But, as these things always play out, the REAL meat of this subject could be found in his on-line training classes which were NOT free.

But the detailed information covered there was exactly what I needed for this next step in the ministry.  Finding the right places to bring this message of blessing those who are hurting.  I also never want to be “taken” by a sales pitch, so I didn’t immediately purchase the class.  But I must admit I was really excited about what this could mean for the ministry.

I actually went to my Bible app and did 4 different studies on finding God’s will!  I also talked this through with a good friend.  She felt that it was an almost immediate answer to my prayer and encouraged me to go for it.  This was no small amount, so hence the bit of agonizing I was going through.

That’s when God reminded me – as He did this summer – that this ministry is what He has for me at this stage of my life and that I need to take it seriously.  I had once again fallen back into a waiting game to see what God would bring to me.  He wanted me to take action.  And so I did.  I signed up for the classes and can’t wait to delve into all that I will learn through this training.

I might not be back at the top of the roller coaster, but I have learned (again!) that God faithfully walks with me through the valleys and brings blessings that lift me out of them when I need them most.

Thanks for hanging on for the ride!  If you’re on your own right now, just remember Who’s at the controls.

I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:12-13

Official Ministry Launch!

I know I’ve been talking about this for a while now and I am SO excited to let you know that I’m officially launching the ministry website TOMORROW!

Words are inadequate to express my deepest, heartfelt appreciation to everyone who has encouraged me in this endeavor, strategized with me, prayed for and with me, and helped me with the mechanics of making this a reality.  But, first and foremost, I want to give glory to God for taking me by the hand and leading me step by step over the past months.

While I’ve spent much of my life “waiting on God,” this was a journey where I felt like I could barely keep up with where He was going!  So, there is no doubt in my mind that this is His ministry, and I’m merely the vessel He’s using to spread the message.  Be a Blessing to Your Grieving Friend!

You can reach the ministry site through this link:

What’s the difference between this blog and the ministry website?  For those of you who have been following It’s Beyond Me, you probably recognize that it’s very much my personal journey through the grief of losing my husband.  Sharing the heartache along with the blessings I’ve seen – and hopefully helping others see that God can and does walk beside us through our valleys.

The ministry website will feature weekly blog posts designed to give you some “behind the scenes” perspective and practical advice to help you step out in faith and help a friend who is hurting.  It is much more focused on education and enlightenment.  And the posts will even be a little shorter!

I’d love for you to visit the site and spend a little time roaming around it.  I think you’ll get a sense of what this ministry is all about.  You can sign up to receive the weekly blog posts directly to your email – just look for the green SIGN UP button on the homepage.

I will also post these new articles on my personal FaceBook page AND the new ministry FaceBook page – Be a Blessing to Your Grieving Friend.

My prayer going forward is that God would continue to teach me deep truths through THIS blog that I can pass along to each of you.  And that He would work in new ways on the ministry site to equip His people to be the hands and feet of Jesus to a world that is longing for compassion.

I’m grateful for each and every one of you!

I have not stopped giving thanks for you,

remembering you in my prayers.

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father,

may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation,

so that you may know him better.

(Ephesians 1:16-17)

Widowhood 2.0

I have now entered the infamous and much-dreaded second year of widowhood.  Are you surprised by that?  I was until I Googled “second year of widowhood” a few months ago.  Oh my, there is MUCH written on this subject, and everything I read was written by someone who was walking right in the midst of it.  Unfortunately, it’s a pretty well-kept secret.

So, I can’t say I was surprised by this.  I do think I entered this stage earlier than some, not because I’m trying to be an over-achiever, but because I was already living alone and had been taking care of all the household responsibilities for about four years prior to Dale’s death.  I’d already experienced some “widow-like” circumstances.

I decided to Google this topic once more before starting this blog post, to be more intentional about what was being shared.  (I also found that many of the women commenting on these blogs had ALSO Googled this topic!)

Here are some of the most prevalent emotions and experiences expressed by the many women whose words I read:

Year 1

  • Numb
  • Shock
  • Survival
  • Acute pain
  • Going through the motions
  • Handling the necessary details of death
  • Taking on new roles
  • Stronger support system

Year 2

  • Harder than year 1 (everyone said this)
  • Chronic
  • Visceral
  • Permanent
  • Support system moves on
  • Disappointed reality – he’s not coming back
  • It’s not getting better
  • This is my life now
  • Begin living without him

If year 1 and 2 were doors in a gameshow, would you really want to choose either one of them?  Definitely not!

Do I relate to these Year 2 emotions?  To a very great extent, yes, I do.  And have since about the 8-month mark when I felt bombarded by so many memories that brought me to tears.  Much more than in the first six months.  And definitely lonelier.

Here are some additional heartaches I struggle with:

  • I’m conflicted between wanting people to still check in on me – and yet not wanting to still need it.
  • I’m tired of daily crying, but part of me doesn’t want to lose that emotional connection to Dale.
  • My go-to person for all the joys and sorrows in my life isn’t here anymore. I can’t take this deep sorrow and increasing loneliness to him.  And that is an ache that continues to grow the longer I’m without him.

But, if you’ve been following any of this blog over the past months, you know that I am not without hope, and I am not unaware of the blessings in my life.

It bears repeating – God is my all-sufficiency in this trial.  And not just for the gut-wrenching first few weeks. He’s here for the long haul.  And honestly, the long haul is essentially until I leave this earth.

Widowhood isn’t a condition you eventually get over.  It is something you learn how to live with for the rest of your life.  You are forever changed by it.  Kind of like having a limb amputated.  You ALWAYS know it’s not there anymore, but you figure out how to do life without it.

So, I guess the goal of this post is really two-fold.  First of all, I wanted to shed some light on what this journey is like, even past that “magical” (not…) first year mark.

Secondly, I wanted you to know that my strength and my hope is still rooted in my Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus.

  • He is the same today, yesterday and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
  • He will never leave me or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6).
  • He collects my tears in His bottle (Psalm 56:8).
  • And because of these promises, I can count it all joy (James 1:2).

Here’s to a year of learning deeper truths from God, no matter how my heart is doing.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,

    for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:21-23


The Woman on the Plane

I recently took a short trip over the one-year anniversary of Dale’s death.  Many of you saw the pictures on FaceBook of the gorgeous scenery from Southern Cal.  Such a blessing to enjoy that respite and to be rejuvenated during those days.

And obviously, the trip and the anniversary were essentially the “headlines” of the week.  However, there was a subplot that took place before and after all the vacation hubbub.

When I select airline seats, I ALWAYS choose the aisle if it’s available.  I like to be able to stand as soon as possible – and I don’t usually like to feel hemmed in.  As a kid, I loved the window seat, but I’ve moved on and don’t have a strong desire to look at clouds for an extended period of time.

Yet, for some strange reason, when I boarded the plane in Des Moines for the first leg, I went and sat by the window.  So, I got myself all belted in and said a cheery hello to the woman who came and took the middle seat; we’ll call her “Middle Woman.”

A few minutes later, another lovely lady stood by our row with a bit of a confused look on her face – and she was primarily looking at me!  That’s when I realized that, for some “unknown” reason, I had taken HER window seat!  So, we all reshuffled and settled back into our appropriate places.  We’ll name her “Window Woman.”  Kind of catchy, isn’t it? Like Wonder Woman! 😊

Shortly after that, Middle Woman says to Window Woman, “You look very familiar to me.  Have we met?”  And it turned out that they indeed had met.  In fact, they both worked together some years ago in the healthcare industry.

That re-connection led to a lively conversation of catching up on their lives and their careers.  I was now properly ensconced in the aisle seat, content to read my book for this multi-hour flight.

And then I heard it.  Window Woman said that her husband, Bob, had passed away in May of this year and what a difficult time it was, both before and after his death.  She mentioned how she had left her job to care for him as his health declined over the weeks preceding his death.  And because her husband had been a pastor, she was not only grieving the loss of her husband, but also the hole left in the ministry they had together.  And this trip was one that they traditionally took together.

While my first thought should have been, “Oh, I’m so sorry that you are walking this path,” that’s NOT what ran through my mind initially.  It was this: “This is NOT a coincidence!  God has put me on THIS flight in THIS row with THIS woman at THIS time!”  Wow!  Now what do I do with that?

Over the next 2+ hours, I did read some of the book, but also kept trying to half-listen for an opening in their conversation where I could jump in without looking totally rude.  And I was praying that God would make it clear when to make that leap.

The obvious opening never came.  The plane landed and I knew it was now or never.  So, I lamely said to both of them, “So, is this your final destination?”  I sounded like a flight attendant!!  But they both answered in the affirmative and seemed to be very friendly towards me now as well.

So, I took the plunge and said to Window Woman, “I didn’t intend to eavesdrop, but I couldn’t help but hear about your husband’s death.  I’m so sorry for your loss.  My husband died a year ago and I’m on a girlfriend trip to California because of that.”

Oh goodness, the gates opened up for all three of us!  And I don’t mean the arrival gates!  All three of us saw that this row placement was clearly from God’s hand and we instantly and quickly exchanged contact information.  I also gave Window Woman this blog address and told her to watch for the latest blog on the coming Tuesday.  She promised to call me when she returned to Des Moines after her trip.

Then we all went our separate ways.  For the time being.

She did, in fact, read and comment on that blog post, again promising to connect when she returned.  And true to her word, she did call and we talked for nearly an hour – and set up a time to get together over coffee to continue the conversation.  Because if God so clearly brought us into each other’s life, then we needed to see why!

During that conversation, she told me that her daughter had been praying that God would bring someone into her life ON THAT FLIGHT who could be an encouragement to her.  I get to use one of my favorite things – BOOM!

If I had stayed quiet (I know, hard for me…), Window Woman would have likely thought that the blessing her daughter prayed for was answered by the presence of Middle Woman.  And it was definitely a blessing for both of them.  But isn’t it so like our God to give us even more than we can ask or imagine?

I don’t know where this relationship will go, but we have a coffee date on our calendars and we are both excited to get to know each other better and see where this journey takes us.

I continue to be amazed at the people God drops into my life during this season.  It’s one of the many ways He makes me feel SO loved as He walks with me through this valley.  I couldn’t be more grateful for a God like that.

I hope this gives you a glimpse of His love, His grace and His sovereignty.  Three of my favorite “God qualities.”

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 3:20-21


The Last of the Firsts

That’s right.  It has now been one full year since Dale died last October 16th.  And that means I’ve also gone through his first birthday, the first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas, the first New Year’s, the first Easter, my first birthday, the first Father’s Day, and our first wedding anniversary without him.  And now, the first anniversary of his death.

How does one even begin to capture all that entails, all that I’ve grieved through, all that I’ve learned, all the blessings God continues to bestow on me?  I know I can only do it with God giving me the words to say and the messages He wants me to share. So grab a tissue; here WE go…

I learned a management technique many years ago called the Oreo Principle.  It stated that, if you had to share a criticism with someone, you should sandwich it between two layers of praise.  It is still very wise counsel, and I thought it would be an appropriate framework for this anniversary post.

So, I promise to start and end with good things.  But reality isn’t all happiness and puppy dog tails, so the middle “layer” will be the gut-wrenching stuff that continues to be true for me.  And I would do a disservice if I didn’t honestly represent that middle layer along with the outer ones.  Part of helping a grieving friend is acknowledging the depth of the hurt.  So I’m not mincing words there.

But, let me be clear, the good stuff is also true for me.  I have found that the times of joy and blessing (yes, I do have them) are unaffected by times of deep grieving.  Just as those times of grieving are not lessened by my times of happiness.

If this was a Venn diagram, the circles wouldn’t even touch!  Both are entirely true in my daily life and seem to coexist as completely separate entities, unaffected by the other.  Or I might say, completely separate layers of the cookie!

Layer #1 – Blessings 😊

  • I have learned to rely on God’s strength and promises during these difficult days.
  • My faith has grown in leaps and bounds as God opens my eyes to new truths about His character.
  • God has dropped countless “nuggets from heaven” into my days to remind me that He loves me.
  • Scripture has come alive as it goes from head knowledge to heart knowledge.
  • I have gained new friendships – in some cases with others who are grieving their own losses.
  • Some existing friendships have deepened significantly as they stepped into this grief with me.
  • I have made my bed EVERY. SINGLE. DAY!
  • I have been blessed by the friends who continue to be there for me, reaching out daily in some cases, hurting with me, praying for me and loving me.
  • Family relationships have been healed.
  • I’m living a “fairly normal life”…
  • I’ve read some incredible books and devotionals highlighting all the ways that God works THROUGH our pain and suffering, giving me invaluable insights.
  • I’ve been on several trips that have brightened my days, a couple compliments of some awesome friends.
  • The household has a new four-legged blessing named Winnie!
  • I am wiser, and deeper.
  • I have never been angry with God, and I still trust Him completely.
  • My longing for Heaven has increased exponentially!
  • I have AMAZING memories from the past 35+ years that warm my heart and remind me how very blessed I am to have had a relationship like I had with Dale. Faithful and loving till the end.
  • I WILL see him again.

Layer #2  – Grief ☹

  • This is unquestionably the most difficult year I have ever experienced in my life.
  • I have cried for 365 consecutive days…and counting.
  • The days are actually getting harder, not easier.
  • I’m beginning to understand why so many widows say that the second year of widowhood is so much harder than the first.
  • I miss Dale more now than 6 months ago.
  • I have lost friends.
  • I now know what it means to experience WAVES of sadness.
  • There is an element of sadness in every day.
  • I have never been so lonely.
  • Even though the memories are precious, I am often inundated with them when I least expect it and they almost always lead to tears.
  • There are no shortcuts to healing. And it’s out of my control.
  • Despite the “fairly normal life” mentioned in layer #1, there is very little about my life that feels normal.
  • I think a broken heart is a physical reality. Mine feels broken.
  • I believe there are parts of me that will never heal. I will always have a hole in my soul.
  • Heaven seems so very far off.

Layer #3 – Hope and Purpose 😊

Lately I’ve begun telling people that I’m living a double life.  One is exemplified by Layer #2.  And the other is where I clearly hear God’s call.

Over the past several decades, I often wondered if God might have a ministry for me one day when I was alone.  Little did I know it would be the direct result of my husband’s death.

And yet, I think it would be fair to say that I am EXCITED about this ministry calling.  And the heart of it?  To teach others how to be a blessing to their grieving friend.

I know that nearly everyone struggles with what to say, what to do, what NOT to say or do when a friend suffers a deep loss.  I’ve been there.  And now I’m on the other side. And God is calling me to use this new-found knowledge to help others be that blessing.

At the risk of sounding cheesy, I feel that all of my career and life experiences have prepared me for this new chapter in my life.  I just didn’t know it until now.

God has essentially “cleared my plate” so that my life focus can now be on this ministry.  I’m energized by it, but also overwhelmed by it!  I’m not used to a world that includes SEO, headshots, metadata and branding.  But God is bringing the right people into my life to help me navigate this new world.  I even have a Board of Directors!  (Sorry, sometimes you just can’t take the “corporate” out of the career woman…)

There’s so much more I could tell you, but suffice it to say, stay tuned for an official ministry launch, including a new website/blog, in the near future.  I truly believe God has big things planned and I am honored and humbled to be used by Him.

So, that’s the whole cookie!  Thank you for traveling this journey with me thus far.  Honestly, I think it’s just begun, and I can’t wait to see what’s ahead.  Somehow, I believe Dale also has a sense of what’s happening and is my biggest cheerleader from above.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

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.  😊

Can You Really Prepare to Lose a Loved One?

In a recent conversation with a friend, she told me how Dale’s death and the death of another friend’s spouse had caused her and her husband to take a serious look at what lie ahead for them.  They are understanding more and more the inevitability that ONE of them will be grieving the loss of the other.  And they were preparing themselves for that sad day, sometime in the future.

I found myself in a similar frame of mind in the weeks before Dale passed away.  I could clearly see that he was declining both physically and mentally.  And given the fact that no one in his immediate family had lived longer than age 81 (he was 80 at the time), I didn’t have many illusions about a long life ahead for him.

In fact, we had a conversation just a few weeks before he died where I told him, “I’m preparing to lose you sometime in the next year.”  How crazy is that?  But it was absolutely my thinking at the time and there was no one I shared more of my thoughts or hopes…or fears with more than I did with Dale.  So, it made sense that I would share this as well.

He was not offended by it and took it in the spirit it was intended – I wanted him to know that I was working on how I could make it through this great loss that was likely not far out on the horizon.  It led to a discussion confirming that he was ready to go, and he knew he was going to heaven.  I think we both took great comfort in the whole conversation.

Then, long before that magic “preparation” year had passed, that fateful Monday morning in October arrived and answered, for me, the title question.  Can you really prepare to lose a loved one?  My answer.  You. Can. Not.

No amount of mental preparation equipped me for the onslaught of emotions that hit me from the second I heard the words, “He passed” up to today when I still grieve this loss so very deeply.

Oh sure, you might be able to take some of the “surprise” factor out of the equation.  And certainly you can and should do the legal preparation for someone’s death.  Have the will or trust, power of attorney (medical and financial), and living will document in place so you don’t have the added stresses of dealing with those issues.  You can even go so far as, like Dale and I did,  planning and paying for your funeral ahead of time.  All good things that I highly recommend.

But was I emotionally prepared for Dale’s death?  Absolutely not.  If you’ve been following along with any of my previous posts, you know how deep this pain still is, and how long it is likely to last.  In some manner, forever.

No amount of planning or preparation on my part gave me any kind of “head start” in the grieving process.  It is what it is, and you have to work through it one painful day at a time.

So, do I have any words of encouragement for you, my readers?  I absolutely do!  Say and do the things TODAY that your heart, or the Holy Spirit, is telling you to.  Make the apologies that are due.  Say the “I love yous” that someone needs to hear.  Mend a broken fence.  Forgive.  Reach out.  Encourage.  Witness to. Spend time with. The possibilities are truly limitless and will pay off in huge rewards.

Anything that could become a regret with a loved one’s loss can be turned into a precious memory if you act upon it now.

About the same time that Dale and I had the “preparing to lose you” conversation, we had another one that is even more comforting to me.  I’ve written about it before, but it’s worth repeating.

I asked Dale to forgive me for the times that I wasn’t as patient as I should have been – especially during the difficult dementia days.  To which he replied, “I already have.”  How powerful…and comforting is that??!!  It speaks volumes about the man he was, and why he was so very loved by so many.  And it’s just a small piece of what I miss so much.

My challenge to you – ask God to lay on your heart the areas or relationships that need mending, or encouragement.  And then resolve to act.  If you feel extra brave, or vulnerable, I’d love for you to share your resolution in the comment section.

I will be praying for an open heart and for boldness to step out in faith!  And for the rewards of your obedience to bless you for years to come!

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Romans 12:18 (ESV)

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  Ephesians 4:29 (ESV)

Memories through Rose-Colored Glasses?

I seemed to have entered a new phase or season in this grieving process, and I’m not necessarily a big fan of it.  Every day, multiple times a day, the oddest thing will bring back a memory of my life with Dale. The frequency and the intensity are greater than in the months soon after his death. And it’s not the items you would expect, like a past anniversary card, or his wallet, or other sentimental events.

Oh no, it’s the TV commercial about metal paneling for your garage or out-building.  Yep, that takes me immediately back to when we built our home and barn on our last acreage.  And not just to the recollection of that event, but to the feelings and emotions that surrounded that time of our lives.

Or maybe it’s the commercial for the Italian restaurant that sends me instantly back to Gino’s Italian restaurant over on Sixth Avenue.  That was “our place.”  I often called it our Cheers, because everyone knew our name.  (Even the grandkids would invoke Grandpa’s name to try and get an advantage on a busy night…)  It had been Dale’s hangout since the ‘70s and it became ours as well.  Every memory from our dinner dates there is a happy one.  So, this TV commercial blindsided me when I least expected it.

And just so you don’t think that all I do is watch TV commercials, I can be cooking something fairly mundane in the kitchen and have the same phenomenon occur.  It’s not necessarily even a meal we had together often, but somehow, I’m still transported back to a happy time revolving around a similar meal.

Seeing happy couples anywhere, TV, movies, real life, also brings a little stab to my heart as I long for those days that we had.  And don’t even get me started on music!  Always emotion tied to those love songs.

Powerful, take-me-back-in-time type emotions associated with all of these memories.

In case you’re wondering, it is always a happy memory and yet it almost always leads me to tears.  I guess that would be the definition of “bittersweet.”  I’m SO blessed to have had these happy times to miss, and yet there’s also always a sadness knowing they are over.

There is a general phenomenon that I’d guess many of us have experienced in our lives where we mostly remember the good times in our past.  I’ve always suspected that our minds were somehow shielding us from bad memories, times that we’d rather forget.

I wondered if there was any science behind this, so I went to my friend Google and, lo and behold, there was an article in the Scientific American that did in fact discuss the conclusion that there are some connections in our brain between a couple of key areas that can cause memory “extinction,” particularly with unpleasant or fearful experiences.  How about that?!  Enough science for now.  Take it or leave it.

It might make sense to assign that phenomenon to what I’m going through right now – remembering and grieving over all the good times, as if that is all we ever had.  And perhaps there is some truth to that.

But despite the science, I have a different theory.  Simply put, I don’t believe there’s anything to grieve about the difficult times.  Why would you long for and miss past difficulties?  (This is different from having regrets over things in our past, which is a topic for another day!)

But there is MUCH to grieve about the good times.  And please don’t misunderstand – Dale and I had BOTH kinds throughout our 35+ year relationship.  We lived in the real world where things like pride and stubbornness and self-centeredness and insecurities and impatience and health problems and dementia and…stole our joy on a regular basis.  But is there really anything to grieve about those times?  Do we miss that?  I think not!

So, to officially bring the title topic of rose-colored glasses into the discussion, I would like to publicly declare that I am NOT viewing my past life with Dale through them.  I am not sad that any of our sin-driven bad moments are over.  I am only missing those moments where God showered blessings into our lives in big and small ways, literally for decades.  For that I am eternally grateful, and for that, I am now grieving.

And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing, and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing.  Ezekiel 34:26 ESV

Living with Tension

The title of this post is a bit deceptive, although, not intentionally.  I’m not living with tension in the sense that my dogs and cat are fighting all the time.  In fact, it’s really the exact opposite – they are getting along splendidly, for those of you interested in my canine/feline children.

No, the tension I’m living with is much harder to describe.  So maybe I’ll just throw some examples out there and let them speak for themselves.

The first one I noticed was the tension I felt every evening that I was home.  That’s when I miss Dale the most and when the loneliness is still sometimes overwhelming, coming in waves.  And yet…I drew comfort from being at home at night, relaxing with a good book or a good TV program, and of course hanging out with Daisy, Winnie and Max.  So, do I fill all my evenings with activities to keep the loneliness at bay?  Or do I stay home and avoid any “mom” guilt from leaving my children at home alone again?  (And satisfy the homebody part of my personality…)  Tension #1

What to do with these tears?  On one hand, it’s exhausting to cry and grieve the loss of Dale.  Honestly, it’s still a daily occurrence for me, even though you’d think I’d be about out of tears by now.  So that part of me would like to push through this season and reach an equilibrium where I just cry occasionally.  And yet… there’s a part of me that almost dreads that day when I don’t cry for Dale because I’m afraid it will feel like I don’t miss him as much, or love him as much and I might lose some of my connection to him.  My logical mind knows that this makes no sense, but my heart is just not ready to let go of that yet, even though it wants to heal.  Tension #2

I can feel completely energized by this new ministry to which God has called me – helping others be a blessing to their grieving friends – and sense clear leading from Him and a heightened sense of excitement and confirmation as I think through all I’ve seen from His hand in this part of the journey.  When I share what I’m learning with others, either at a presentation or during a one-on-one coffee, I experience a certain level of joy, knowing that I am right where I need to be, in the middle of God’s will.  And yet…there’s such a large part of me that wants to scream out, “This is NOT the ministry that I want to be in!  I want my husband back!”  Tension #3

This season of grieving can easily draw my attention to the hope of heaven, because I’m tired of hurt and loneliness and sadness. I’m tired of living without Dale.  I’m tired of living in a world tainted by sin. I’m tired of seeing how that sin manifests itself in countless ways in this world.  It’s evident just looking at recent news examples or challenges in the lives of my friends – tornadoes, wild fires, missing college students, chronic illnesses, abuses, cancer diagnoses, addictions, unbelieving children.  The list of heartaches goes on and on.  So, I hurt for me, and I hurt for my friends, and I hurt for the world at large.  I long for Jesus to return and take His children to heaven where we will spend eternity with Him and sing God’s praises FOREVER!  No more pain, no more sorrow, no more tears, no more lonely, no more trials, NO MORE SIN!  It’s a beautiful picture and so much of my heart longs for this.

 And yet…Jesus has not returned.  I am still here.  And so are you.  There is still time to be a blessing to others.  There’s still time to learn more about God and His character.  There’s still time to let God work in my life, refining me more and more through this trial.  There’s still time to do His will.  There is still time to spread the Gospel message to unbelievers.  There’s still time to accept God’s free gift of salvation through the death of His Son on the cross.  Many reasons to long for heaven, and many reasons to keep fighting the good fight.  Tension #4

Are you starting to get the picture?  These are some of the tensions that I live with on a pretty consistent basis.  But I don’t have a market on this.  My guess is that any one of you could create your own list of tensions that may consume your lives.  And it will be unique to each of you and your personal situation.

What’s the lesson in all of this?  Not sure I have a clear answer to that, but in part, there is tension built into this world, because ultimately, this is not our home.  In Ecclesiastes 3:11, it says, “He has also set eternity in the human heart;…”  So that’s part of our issue. We know instinctively that there is more after this life.

I also wonder if perhaps I’m trying too hard to resolve the tensions and find a perfect balance.  Lately, I’m beginning to understand that whenever I try to do ANYTHING in my own strength, it falls short.  Is it time to focus on what the psalmist said?  “Be still, and know that I am God.”  (Psalm 46:10).  In that stillness, in that quiet, His Spirit can fill us with all that we need.

What’s the opposite of tension?  How about calmness, contentedness or peace?  That’s what I long for, and that’s my prayer for you as well.  And there’s only one Source.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13