Sunday, June 10, 2018

The interim time - part 2

Dear Family and Friends,

I know, the previous post was a downer.

Crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.
              — C.S. Lewis in The Silver Chair 1

2017 was a year of very slowly shifting focus. Don’t get too excited. There were no big changes. It was very slow, almost imperceptible. But there was a shifting of perspective, of seeing. It is difficult to articulate because there are no illustrations to say, “It is like this.” But there were a few events that provide some insight. So here goes, I’ll try to explain.  

The beginning of the shifting focus was, well …. It was not acceptance. It was not getting over it. It was not coming to terms with her death. It was sort of like waking up or being startled by someones presence. It actually began in early 2016 while reading Max Lucado’s book, Glory Days.2 Max was recounting God talking to Joshua and saying, “Moses is dead. Now arise and ….”  I was startled. It was as if God said to me, “Carol is dead. Now arise and … “ It was one of those, “Are you speaking to me?” moments. It was an activation of my awareness to start looking for God’s guidance in the future. It didn’t change anything and nothing seemed to happen for the rest of the year. I was just more alert.

In February of 2017 I was once again startled. Imagine you are having a conversation with a friend. The conversation goes back and forth until you both come to the point where you agree you understand each other on some point. You both respond, “Yes, that is what I mean.” This event was sort of like that. My Bible reading that day was in Psalm 25:1. “In you, LORD my God, I put my trust.” I imagine, like me, our Bible reading is mainly on the intellectual level. I understand it intellectually. This was David talking to God and that is the end of it. This time it was a very personal conversation. I was having a conversation with God and God was telling me, “That’s right. That is exactly what you are supposed to do.” And I was responding, “That is exactly what I want to do. Put my trust in You.” We had come to agreement. It was a shift from reading to coming to an understanding with God. It is hard to describe. But there it was. A whole different experience of waking up.

The third example takes some explaining. I’ve written before about being "on guard" in my interactions with people especially the few months after Carol’s passing. It was important to be alert to situations in which I might become emotional, tear up. It could happen quickly and blindside me. So I would avoid situations where I might lose it and I would check myself to see if I was emotionally handling the current situation. After a couple of years, being “on guard” fades into the background and so I was surprised by how unprepared I was for a similar yet different event. In March of 2017 we took my grandson to the hotel where he was to catch a bus as he was entering the army. The feelings of him disappearing from my life were so familiar… the same that I have for Carol being gone. Even after two and a half years, I didn’t realize how close those feelings were to the surface. All of us as family were grieving, but this time there was something different. There was one whose grief was greater than mine. I saw a mother’s loss. She too, was bearing another loss. I became aware of yet another facet of waking up. Grief gives you insight, a new way of seeing and sharing. No words are needed, only presence and hugs. We are connected in our grieving.

So 2017 was a year of waking up. My intellectual understanding of grieving together, prayer and God’s presence took on new meanings for which I have no words. Perhaps It is best expressed in this portion of Gwen Flowers’ poem titled, Grief. 3

          “ …
               There is absorption.
                    Adjustment.
                    Acceptance.
And grief is not something you complete,
            But rather, you endure.
         Grief is not a task to finish
                  And move on,
        But an element of yourself-
        An alteration of your being.
            A new way of seeing.
          A new definition of self.”

So 2017 was a year of waking up, new ways of seeing, an alteration of my being. In my next post I will finally try to answer the question, “So George, how are you doing?”

 … George

        1 C. S. Lewis, reprint edition (2002) The Silver Chair, HarperCollins
        2 Max Lucado, (2017) Glory Days: Trusting the God Who Fights for You, Thomas Nelson
        3 Gwen Flowers, (2015) Grief, https://www.all-greatquotes.com/i-had-my-own-idea-of-grief-i-thought-it-was-the-sad-time-that-followed/

All my posts are on my blog at http://www.paravel.com along with links to:
        Carol's Memorial,
        and Kelly's Blog

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The interim time - part 1

Dear Family and Friends,

It has been over two years since I have written and shared how I’m doing. You have all been polite and haven’t asked. I figure it is time I try to put it in words. So this writing will be about the year 2016. I will follow up with one for 2017.

During 2016 I don’t know how many times I said, “Oh Carol, I wish you were here.” I would say it to myself. I was surprised by how much humor and joy was gone when she was not here. It was definitely not as much fun. I missed those interactions with her. When people would ask how I was doing, the usual answer was, “I’m OK.”  I actually didn’t know how to answer the question.

But the truth was, there were times I was not OK.  2016 was a difficult year for me. I know many of you have traveled a similar path. Each path is unique and I was learning about loneliness and absence and how one tries to get on with life. As I look back over that year, my attempts at getting on with life had not seemed to be successful. I seemed to be at the same place I was at the end of 2015. In general, 2016 was an “interim” time, a time of not much progress or movement. 

But neither was it all dark. God was faithful and encouraged me through a friend who makes lunch appointments with me every couple of weeks. Another who calls me regularly, every week or so. There were card games with friends and family. There were refreshing trips to visit family in Wyoming and Arizona. There was the distraction and comfort of a church small group and the fellowship of the men in Celebrate Recovery.

And God brought books across my path that were what I needed at the time. Here are three quotes as examples. When I didn’t know how to express how it feels, there was N. T. Wright in Lent For Everyone saying, “…darkness has descended and there is nothing to make you think, ‘It will be all right.’ It won’t. It can’t be. The worst has occurred and nothing will ever be the same. That’s how it feels.1

When I was trying to connect the dots and think about what’s next, there was J. Todd Billings in Rejoicing in Lament saying, “Our story is not endless. Our story is not full of limitless possibilities. It has a shape— and we are not, in fact, the author of the story. We are finite creatures, not creators who know no limits. We live in the story, and while we can act in genuine freedom, we are not the master of a choose-your-own-adventure novel…. 'It’s not your job to fashion your own success as if you were God. It’s not your job to write the last chapter of your life. It’s not your job to tie up the loose ends. It’s not your job to make sense of everything. Your life is hid with Christ in God: Let it be your highest act of faith and faithfulness to leave it there! Leave the ambiguity of discipleship at the cross. Let God gather up the fragments. Let God finish the story.' 2 3

And when I thought I ought to sit down and write about my feelings there was Lore Ferguson Wilbert in “Christianity Today” saying, But sometimes (not always) the best thing to do is to be silent. To listen. To hear. To experience emotions without immediately finding a place for them. To resist the urge to make a story with a beginning, middle, and end out of our ongoing brokenness and frailty.”

So it was an interim year of emotions and feelings and not being able to express them. It was a time to be silent and listen. When words fail, sometimes music gives it expression. My playlist on Pandora was very melancholy.  It was a year of sadness. A song that expresses the year for me is “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables. If you are familiar with the story it is a prayer by a mother for her boy on the barricades of the French revolution. This version by “The Piano Guys” says musically what I had been feeling that year.  It still brings tears to my eyes. 

        Bring Him Home   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mJ08-pyDLg

So 2016 ended about where I started the year. It just was. It was a time of sadness. A time to be silent and listen. In the next post I will share about 2017.

… George


        1 N. T. Wright, (2012) Lent For Everyone: Luke, Year C, Westminster John Knox Press
        2 John L. Thompson, “An Exhortation to Martyrdom” (Pasadena, CA: Fuller Theological Seminary, 1997), 4 ppt://documents, fuller.edu/sot/faculty/thompson_john/Exhortation.pdf.
        3 J. Todd Billings, (2015) Rejoicing in Lament: Wrestling with Incurable Cancer and Life in Christ, Brazos Press


All my posts are on my blog at http://www.paravel.com along with links to:
        Carol's Memorial,
        and Kelly’s Blog