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Monday, March 28, 2011

Circle Of Friends

January through May 2010 found me scuttling back and forth from FT. Wayne, IN to Dayton, OH with truckload after truckload of household goods. I had no TV or internet at the Dayton house since I was only there for a few days at a time to unload, unpack, and oversee a kitchen remodel.

I discovered a wonderful Christian radio station the first night in my creaky home built in 1880. WEEC 100.7 FM was my constant companion.

In June, a new program began when a new host was introduced to the morning 6-8 AM time slot. 'Circle of Friends' launched with an invitation for listeners to contact the station and share their walk with the Lord, their passions, and ministry.

I had just spoken at my church's Mother-Daughter Banquet. Our theme was "The Steps of a Good Woman Are Ordered by the Lord." My walk with Lord changed drastically with my husband's death. Maybe someone could be helped by my experience.

I contacted the station and the date was set for an interview. Meeting the young producer of the program has been the start of a great friendship, and new opportunities.

I had brought my cookbook and some home baked goodies for the staff. To make a long story short (it's too late for that, huh?) I am now a regular part of the Monday and Wednesday morning programing in the 6-7am hour!!

I share recipes, cooking hints, and the often food-related life lessons that God has taught, and continues to teach me.

I had prayed the Prayer of Jabez throughout this bewildering road I was traveling, and the Lord has "enlarged my world", and increased my circle of friends. (pun intended!!)

Stayed tuned for the recipes shared on the program. WEEC.org can access the station via the Internet. My segment???...'Confectionately Yours' sometime around 6:15-6:45AM on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Confectionately Yours,

Sue

Saturday, March 19, 2011

What Next??

It has been 17 months since the unexpected death of my husband. From the time I fully accepted this new direction my life has taken, I have been wondering, "What now?"

The enjoyable activities that were so much a part of my life in the past actually make me feel tired just thinking about going back to them.

I decorated and catered events for years. I loved all of it-the planning, the gathering of supplies and ideas, the actual event. I would re-hash the details afterward to think through how I would do something differently next time.

I just finished involvement with a Missions conference at my church, and as much as I enjoyed being involved in the decorating and cooking, it has left me feeling exhausted. :-)

I am facing the reality that I am not getting any younger, and that without Greg there to help, I am losing the passion I had for event planning. He was as much a facilitator in my endeavors as I was. Loading, unloading, helping me in any way he could. We were such a team.

BUT...how could I use the experiences I've had without bankrupting my energy levels?

I began praying about this very thing a year ago....and the Lord opened a door.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Worst Day of my Life

October 18th and beyond

It’s almost indescribable to me that feeling of utter confusion, grief, and absolute shock that followed the 6:30 AM phone call that morning. I remember seeing the name “DeKalb Memorial Hospital” (a place where I worked for 6 years-but had been away from for 3) on my caller ID. Groggy from being awakened and barely able to read the display without my reading glasses, my first thought was “Who could be calling me from there?”

The soft spoken voice on the other end of the line introduced himself as “Emilio” and I immediately dismissed him as a wrong number. I woke up abruptly when I realized that it was our family physician and a Dr. I had worked with in the ER on occasion when he moonlighted there. In disbelief, he told me that my husband of nearly 32 years had died that morning of a massive heart attack.

In a split second, my world turned upside down. I remember crying out, “O My God, O My God!” Not with a blasphemous intent, but literally a prayer. It’s a good thing the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groaning we cannot utter, because in that moment I did not know how to pray outside of that deep hurt I was experiencing.

My next thought was repeated over and over, “What am I going to do? What do I do?” I do not know how much time passed. My hands shaking, I reached for the phone trying to get enough air in to control the sobs that engulfed me. I called my friend Leah who lived 3 hours away from me in Dayton, Ohio and could barely get the words out. I said, “Can you come?” and of course the response was “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

My 18 year old son and almost 21 year old daughter were still asleep and I wrestled with the horror of having to tell them their father was gone. I decided to wait to tell them until I could figure out what to do next.

I called a friend from my church knowing that I would need help of some kind, then I remembered another friend who had been widowed 2 years previously. Someone who had been where I was seemed to be a lifeline. My news was of course a shock to her and she made arrangements to be at my house as soon as she could.

I decided I needed to wake the kids and tell them what I knew. Other than the funeral itself, it was to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done to date. Family in Mississippi was also notified and the overwhelming decision-making made its debut.
“Where is the body?” “Where will he be buried?” “What funeral home is he going to?” “How are the kids doing?” “How are you doing?” “Is there anything we can do for you?” “What happened?” “When are you coming home?” “Have you made flight arrangements?”

Then about 6-7 hours after death, the organ donor association calls with condolences noting that my husband had volunteered to be a donor when we got our Indiana drivers licenses 10 years previously. It’s not that they are unsympathetic; it’s that the clock is ticking away on a 24 hour window for obtaining the usable organs and they need to know whether the family wishes for the organ donation to occur. The image of a vulture enters my mind, but the nurse in me kicks in. They have to call back 2 times to get all of the information they need due to people arriving and more imminent decision making interrupting their seemingly endless questions.

By this time, friends have arrived. My children have their friends with them and I have mine. All express grief, compassion, and disbelief. Their caring and very presence is a balm to our wounded hearts. I give my children the freedom to grief as they see fit. Frequent bouts of tears along with the ability to take a deep breath, gather our emotions and speak as normally as possible occur throughout the day. Sometimes there was even laughter. I did not think it strange either. Honestly, at that point, I hardly could think at all.

I was able to speak with a sympathetic nursing supervisor at the hospital in Bedford and get more information than I had previously. A notebook I grabbed earlier in the day becomes my lifeline to the days ahead when notes jotted down randomly are referred to time and time again. I cannot seem to think clearly and I constantly retrace my steps to find my reading glasses, notebook, or a cup of coffee that I kept reheating but never seemed to actually finish.

When the coming and going finally cease and my kids, my friend Leah, and I are the only ones remaining in the house, I remember a sigh of relief. I am so tired, but do not realize then that sleep will not come for many more hours. It is around 7 PM. We can relax and “be ourselves.” Oddly enough, someone says something funny and we all laugh. I remember thinking that Greg would not be offended at this. It is our way of coping and there would be more laughter and many,many tears in the days ahead.

Eventually everyone goes to bed. Leah sleeps with me in the king size bed Greg and I had recently purchased. His side where she was would lower and raise the head and legs had a massage feature that we would laugh about. I could feel it even though “my” bed had none of those features.

Conversation is easy between us because we have been friends for such a long time. I frequently break down and she has the uncanny ability to know when to offer words of comfort and when to just “be there.”

I’ve noticed throughout this whole ordeal that some people feel the need to help me figure out why this happened. “Maybe God is teaching you “whatever” or God is in control and He has a plan for your life in all this.” I’m sure this is truth, but a newly grieving family doesn’t need to know “why” or anyone’s theory of God’s future plans for them. There is time for that later in the grieving process. They just need to know you care. Unless we ask for advice, don’t tell us what you think. If you are one of those people who can see a need, then just do it.

The widowed friend I called owned a cleaning service. After hugging me, murmuring words of comfort, and allowing me to cry and talk, she picked up a dust rag and began wiping down counters and surfaces. She knew me well enough to know if the circumstances were normal, that the dust on my furniture would bother me if people came over. (And they were going to.)

Think before you speak-
That day a well meaning friend shared her similar experience with my 18 year old son. She related that her dad died when she was 18 and the family just “fell apart” afterward. I’m sure she was trying to comfort him by sharing what happened to her at a similar age with the understanding that she made it through this experience, but her words were fortunately overheard by my widowed friend who looked him squarely in the eye and told him that her experience would not be Andrew’s experience. She gave him hope in the Lord and not a dire warning of the future without his dad.

I know Greg’s death sent a shock wave through our church and the people who knew us. He was only 52 years old. Too young to die so suddenly, too loved for his passing to go without deep grief. People began to put themselves in our place and realize that “yes, it can happen to you.” I imagine more wills were signed in the weeks after his death than would have been otherwise.

Greg had been in Bedford, IN that weekend looking at some homes we might be interested in buying. He had accepted a business development position with a company near there and we were getting ready to move there, put our kids in an apartment in Fort Wayne, IN while they attended college, and begin a new life. It was to be just the 2 of us. He going to a job he was tailor made for and I was thinking of beginning a new career in catering/party planning-something food related. It was something I had thought about for a long time and I planned to retire from my 31 year career as a nurse.

Greg called 911 and reported shortness of breath. He had the presence of mind to unlock the door of the apartment we had rented just the week before so the EMS responders could get in. The hospital was 3 blocks away. He tried to take some Nitroglycerin tablets he kept on his keychain but they were found on the floor where he had collapsed. The pill bottle with the doctor’s name on it would be the clue that would eventually allow the news of an unsuccessful resuscitation effort to be delivered at 6:30 that Sunday morning. Greg did everything in his control to stay with us.

I was amazed to discover amidst the grieving a peace that could only come from God. He gave me clarity of thought a little at a time, reminding me only of a thing or two at a time so that I wasn’t so overwhelmed. The mental confusion I experienced from the time I received the phone call stayed with me. I remember talking to the human resources person at his new job (he’d been there 2 weeks) on Monday and retelling for what seemed the 30th time the whole scenario.

When I got off the phone, my friend Leah commented that I forgot to tell her that the empty pill bottle I mentioned was Nitro tablets. Horrified that I might have left the impression of a drug overdose, I called her back immediately and clarified this.

A close friend, who is not judgmental, knows when to comfort, and when to keep silent was an amazing blessing. Leah was the one who reached out and simply held my hand when I woke her at 4:00 am with my sobbing. I remember feeling a panic like I had never experienced in my life and her touch let me know I was not alone. (June 2010-I have found that the fear of being alone is one of the most prevalent. I have comfort in that Jesus said He would never leave me or forsake me. He has made this scripture come to mInd over and over as the days go by.)

She never made mention that she needed to leave at a certain time or certain day even though she was losing income by being with me. As a single woman, she could not afford to be off work too long.

She rode with me for 4 hours to the temporary apartment Greg had rented, helped me load my car and his truck, and drove my car back home to Fort Wayne. Her secretarial and computer skills were invaluable as she made our flight arrangements and rental car reservations. I had never done any of this.

Greg was the seasoned traveler and he always made our travel plans. I simply got in the car with a load of reading material and allowed him to take care of me. It personified who he was. He loved taking care of me and our kids. Our secure little world was no more. I am now a “big girl in training” learning to do things that I’ve never had to do. And yes, sometimes it scares the who-ha out of me. “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee...” has become an almost daily prayer.