Welcome to Christian Widow's Walk

Dear Readers,

Thank you so much for visiting. If you care to follow my story from the beginning, I encourage you to click on the oldest post first and make your way to newer entries. In so doing, hopefully, you will see the hand of God in my healing journey that started in April, 2009.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Camo~ Bofren's Going Home Clothes

Posted May 15, 2009 (3 weeks into widowhood)

It was a good day Wednesday, although it started out teary as I studied the photos that our friends, Bobbie and Ed had enlarged and framed and brought with them to the Funeral Chapel on Saturday, April 25th. One was a picture of the West Virginia or Mississippi Mission Team that Buck was a part of, and the other was a picture of sleepy eyed Buck, drinking his early morning cup of coffee during one of those mission trips. I was putting the pictures away when I noticed he was wearing his W.V. camo cap; the same cap that was part of his burial clothes.
For those of you who didn’t know Buck very well, he was an avid outdoors man and highly skilled hunter. After the Lord and his Girfren, hunting was his great love. It wasn't just something that he did; it was a great part of who he was. It didn’t matter where we were, hiking in the woods or driving on the highway; he was constantly scanning the landscape for deer, wild turkeys, or any type of wildlife. He often spotted eagles and hawks with his keen observation. Just minutes before he experienced the onset of his indigestion type symptoms that turned out to be a heart attack, he noticed a deer in a ditch on the side of a back road, on our way home from Ed and Bobbie’s New Year’s Eve Party. He noticed the motion of the deer’s head as we passed by and he asked me if I had seen it. He had to turn around and go back to find out if that was what he had seen. Sure enough, the stunned, wounded deer popped his head up again as Buck approached him on foot. Buck was quite upset because he couldn’t find anything in the car to put him out of his misery. His compassion made it very difficult for him to drive away. Sadly, it would be the last deer he would lay his eyes on.

There was no question in my mind that Buck would wear camo to his grave. We never discussed it, but I knew he would approve; along with my decision to bury him barefoot. It just felt natural, fitting and perfect for him, an easy decision to make. His love of the outdoors and his affection for antique furniture influenced my choice of casket for him by choosing one made of beautiful oak; like Buck, sturdy and strong before our new year began.

My grieving towel comes in very handy each new day as the waves wash over me and the tears pour out. Pictures affect my emotions very easily and music is off limits for right now, as I prefer the quiet solitude of our, I mean “my”, new home. I think it will take a long time for me to think of myself as I instead of ”we”. One heart tucked inside the other, with the Lord in the center, just like my symbolic necklace. I love what my friend Bobbie said during her visit on Wednesday. When I mistakenly said we and corrected myself; she said, “ That’s okay, it’s just you and the Lord now”. So, “we” is still appropriate, just you and me, Lord. I like that. That realization brings me comfort.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Home Alone ~ The Lord And I

Posted May 13, 2009 (3 weeks into widowhood)

I knew it was going to be difficult to come home, but I also knew that procrastinating wasn’t going to make it any easier. It was time to face my new reality: my new life as a widow. Sarah wasn’t gone very long before the first tidal wave of emotion hit me full force. I didn’t know a person could cry non-stop for 15 minutes, then stop just long enough to catch my breath and be knocked down by another wave when I turned on my computer and saw our user names on the screen. Although I will always carry him closely in my heart, the reality of the fact that “Buck and Renee’” no longer exist hit me like a ton of bricks. Before I could recover from that wave, my screen saver with my favorite picture of Buck and I together: the same one that is on the Carepage and followed Buck everywhere he went, popped up on my monitor screen. That image brought the biggest wave, and I wept until my stomach hurt.

This went on through the night, somehow being able to get through my phone calls with my sister, Colleen and later talking with my Mom and Dad. I promised that we would get together someday this week or maybe next, to celebrate Mother’s Day. Sarah and I did our celebrating together on Friday before she brought me home. I knew I would be in no condition to make it to church on Mother’s Day, It was clear that I needed to spend some time alone, just the Lord and I. I was in need of some one on one time. At bedtime, I was emotionally exhausted and I read from my devotional: God Calling, a gift from my friend, Eva. The entry for April 21st (the day Buck died) read: Do not fear changes. You can never fear changes when I, your Lord, change not. Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever. I am beside you. Steadfastness, unchangingness, come to you, too, as you dwell with Me. Rest in Me. Those words comforted and calmed me. Thank you Lord, for the reminder that you are always near.

The Lord has also used all of you to bring me comfort and I know He will be faithful to continue to provide everything I need in the days to come, just as He has since New Year’s Day and throughout my whole life, but I know that no one can protect me from this part of my journey. As my friend Pat said, “ It is normal and necessary”.

I learned very quickly on Saturday night, that a bath towel is very useful when one is grieving. It is soft, absorbent and can be carried comfortably around my neck, close at hand whenever the need arises; much better than bandanas or tissues. Maybe I’ll save a tree or two. I’ll call it, “Grieving~ Green Style”!

Mother’s Day brought more tidal waves as I went through my day, especially as I read the large pile of sympathy cards that awaited my return home. I sat on the front porch that Buck and I built together and cried my way through the afternoon as so many of the cards deeply touched me. They shared words of love and encouragement and remembrances about Buck and how they so appreciated, respected and enjoyed him. Messages came from family members, new neighbors and people I haven’t heard from in years. Comforting words and promised prayers came from our York Caretaker family and one from our social worker, Bernice and Nurse, Janine from UMMC. Loving notes showed up from long time (notice I didn’t say old) friends, new friends and friends from afar. Cards arrived from Georgia, Colorado and Australia and inspired much weeping as I realized how much my Sweetheart meant to so many. I even received several hand painted cards from two artist friends~ one that included a poem that the Lord had inspired, along with a lovely bookmark, which was inscribed with the same poem ~ how beautiful and wonderful all those messages of love were to me!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Time To Go Home

This is a post that described my first few weeks of widowhood.

Posted May 11, 2009

I want to begin my entry today and every time I write, with a disclaimer or warning to remind all of you that this is my personal journal and it will include details that may be difficult for you to relive with me. I do not desire to cause anyone any unnecessary pain with my sharing, but please understand, I will not be holding back. It is the desire of my broken heart to capture as many details as accurately as I can remember in an effort to paint a picture for me to return to and to hopefully speed up my healing as I walk through the days ahead. I pray it will be helpful and a blessing to someone as they follow along.

I have been staying with my daughter Sarah and her family since my Sweetheart's Homecoming on April 21st. Sarah, Bob and their children have been such a blessing to me, as I face the beginning of my new life. Sarah and my "little" brother, John, went with me to make all of the funeral arrangements. My son-in-law, Bob did all the driving for our lengthy trip to and from West Virginia and Sarah and Bob provided comfortable accommodations for the two nights we spent there. Friends and family also were very generous by helping to cover our expenses while away from home. You know who you are, and I know you well enough to know you wouldn't want me to mention your names. Please know that my family and I appreciate your love and thoughtfulness!

When we got back to their Elkton, Md. home, I spent consecutive days in my pajamas before I realized it had been five days since I had been out of the house. I had very little energy and no motivation, as sleeping has become more of an issue, but Sarah kept me involved and I enjoyed the wonderful distraction that my grandchildren provided. I will forever remember my time spent with my family.

My 13 year old grandson, Justin, gave up his bedroom for two and a half weeks and slept on an air mattress on the floor in the nursery, so his Nana would have a comfy place to sleep and he gave me lots of hugs and extra attention. Three- year- old Colin is a hoot and had me laughing out loud at his antics and drama. Then there is six- month- old Kyrstin, who is growing up way too fast, whose precious smiling face and sweet giggles and laughs make everyone light up!

After being pampered and loved up so well, I decided that although I was anxious, it was time to go home. On Saturday morning, Sarah, Kyrstin and I joined several of the York Hospital Chaplains at Chaplain Bob's church. My friend Chaplain Deb told me that Bob was leading an informal discussion on dreams and I decided that would be a pleasant way to spend time with my new friends and would be another welcome distraction. I felt compelled to be there and Sarah was so gracious to take me and join in on the discussion. We both enjoyed our time and the Lord provided a precious gift for me at the end of our group discussion. I’ll share more about that on another day.

Sarah, Kyrstin and I spent most of the afternoon outside, eating our lunch, sitting on the front porch and enjoying the pleasant sunny weather by taking Kyrstin for a lengthy walk with her stroller. It’s the most exercise I’ve had since the first of the year, aside from climbing six flights of stairs a couple times a day, when Bofren was in the University of Maryland Medical Center for five weeks for his heart transplant evaluation. It was a wonderful day, but all good things must come to an end and it was time for Sarah and Kyrstin to head home. It was difficult to break away from her warm embrace and blow her a kiss as she drove off. She has been the most amazing blessing to me throughout the hardest days of my life!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bittersweet Surrender Part 2

Just so there won't be any confusion, "Bofren" was my nickname for my husband and his name for me was "Girfren". This was Buck's playful, West Virginian spelling and pronunciation of boyfriend and girlfriend. All our readers were well acquainted with those names, as they had seen them in my writing, many times during those months.

Posted May 2, 2009 
My journal will include letters addressed to my Bofren, sweet memories and stories about some of the people I met along the way. These stories will describe how my Lord made Himself so evident, personal and so very real to me, making it so much easier to walk through these most challenging days of my life. It is beyond my ability to comprehend how God provided just what I needed at the very moment I needed it the most. Our God is like that. He never promised us a life of happiness, but He did promise that we could depend on Him to be with us in each and every moment that we are trusting in Him. We are never called upon to make our journeys alone. The Lord always travels with us and is ever present to carry each of us and whatever our own personal burdens or heartaches might be. It is when we are at our weakest that His strength and power can shine the brightest. A whole new world is opened to us when we humble ourselves and acknowledge our need and invite Him to take over because we can’t ‘do life’ in our own strength. Oh, how He has blessed and carried us down this rugged trail.

Although my heart is broken, my happiness and joy for my beloved Bofren surpasses my sadness as I face my future without him at my side. I thank God for the eleven and a half years I was privileged to have him as my husband. He brought so much joy and fun into my life and he taught me so much about forgiveness, friendship and faithfulness, loyalty and unconditional love. He was the best part of my life and I am so thankful that God knew we would be so good for each other and enjoy each other so much. God has blessed me abundantly throughout my life and I will be thankful for the precious gift that I had in my Bofren, always and forever!!!

Thank you for whatever role you played throughout our difficult journey. Know that collectively, you carried us through the hardest days of our lives. I will probably need your continued love and support for many days to come. Thank you all for the precious gifts you have been to me as so much more than family and friends, cheerleaders and caretakers, encouragers and prayer warriors. You are a community created out of love, compassion and concern. Thank you for being there. I love all of you so much! God bless you richly as you move forward on your own journeys!!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bittersweet Surrender Part 1 ~ My Carepage Journal

I shared in an earlier post that I used a Carepage to keep all our loved ones informed during my husband's illness, and I also used it as my journal during those four months that he was hospitalized. I continued to use it to share my widowhood after my sweetheart was called home.

Most of my future blog entries will now be from my Carepage journal, in chronological order. My prayer is that any who follow along will see the hand of God, as He carried me through those dark and difficult days.

Just so there won't be any confusion, "Bofren" was my nickname for my husband and his name for me was "Girfren". This was Buck's playful, West Virginian spelling and pronunciation of boyfriend and girlfriend. All our readers were well acquainted with those names, as they had seen them in my writing, many times during those months.


Posted May 2, 2009 12:49pm
It has been a week and a half since my Bofren’s Graduation Day, moving from this life on earth into his eternal dwelling place. April 21st is a day I will simultaneously cherish and mourn over, as such a bittersweet surrendering of the Love of My Life, into the presence of the LOVE OF OUR LIVES TOGETHER! My heart is so full, I truly don't know where to begin. So, please forgive me when my thoughts are random and scattered.

I have decided to continue using the Carepage as my journal as I move forward on my journey of widowhood. It is my prayer that sharing my journey of grief will be an encouragement and helpful to anyone walking a similar path. There are many details that I have wanted to capture and remember throughout our days since the first of the year, but I had neither the time nor the energy to do so. Over the years I have made some feeble attempts to keep a journal, but I never had the will or discipline to maintain it for very long. I have found such joy in sharing our story with all of you and it has been so very therapeutic for me to have a place to pour my heart out. You will never understand what all of you have provided for me and our family over the last four months, through your thoughts, prayers, messages of encouragement and so many acts of kindness.
Once again, you are welcome to follow along, but know that I will not be hurt or offended if you decide not to walk with me. It may be painful for you as well, as you hold my hand, so to speak, as we venture down this path together. Just like you, I don't know what my future will bring, I only know that I trust my Lord, who holds all of our futures in His hands.

To be continued.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Buck's Battle Was Over, But He Won The War

My husband, Buck, was a powerful man of God! Anyone who knew him for very long saw the tangible evidence that this man knew Jesus in a personal way. He didn't talk about his faith a lot; he just lived it out quietly, and his actions spoke loud and clear! His passion was to serve on short term mission trips and that is where his gift of servant-hood shone most brightly! He was known for taking vacation time without pay so that he could participate in these trips with our church family, most often to rebuild in disaster relief efforts after hurricanes. I'm certain that there was a powerful battle going on in the spiritual realm, trying to wipe out this godly dynamo. I have a dear friend who told me she had a vision of Buck in his hospital bed, with an angel defending him standing guard over him with a huge sword. I have no doubt that a battle raged in the heavens all during Buck's illness. I am so thankful that God blessed him and us with another four months, as that gave him the opportunity to show the world what he was made of. We will probably never know just how many lives were touched by our story.

When our journey began on New Year's Day, 2009, I took advantage of a website called Carepages, offered to my family through our hospital. Setting up our Carepage had an impact that I never anticipated. My goal was to use it to keep all my family and friends informed about how Buck was doing and I would share updates and specific prayer requests as the needs arose. I was amazed at the community that our Carepage created as there were over 230 people following our journey. Even Buck's caretaker's were checking in to see how their patient was doing when they weren't on duty. We acquired a whole new family because of his medical emergency. The memory of it still blows me away!

When we entered the hospital on the day Buck was called home, it was beautiful and sunny. Ironically, when we left, a storm had come up and there was rain, high winds and even lightning and thunder. I could imagine the powers of darkness celebrating the fact that there was one less Christ follower to get in the way of their agenda. Little did they know that Buck's impact would not die with him. I feel confident that more people will be in heaven because of Buck's example as he faced the valley of the shadow of death with such courage and enthusiasm.  His attitude of faith, acceptance, cooperation and sweetness, in spite of all he went through, made me so very proud to be his wife! I believe in my heart that God never wastes anything and that He would bring good out of this heart-breaking situation. And indeed, He has done just that! Buck was more than a conqueror and his legacy will not soon be forgotten!

Romans 8:37-39

Amplified Bible (AMP)
37Yet amid all these things we are more than conquerors and gain a surpassing victory through Him Who loved us.
    38For I am persuaded beyond doubt (am sure) that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things impending and threatening nor things to come, nor powers,
    39Nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Free At Last!

When Dustin, one of our dearly loved nurses, gently informed us that Buck was gone, he encouraged us to step out of the room to give him a chance to prepare his patient for our final visit with him. I didn't anticipate what we would find when he invited us back into Buck's room! The room had opened up to more than double it's size because Dustin had removed all of the life support machines that had helped to keep Buck alive for the months he inhabited the largest room in the Open Heart ICU unit. But the most dramatic difference was that Buck was unencumbered by all the connections to his machines. He was at Peace in a brand new way!

Now that the maze of wires was gone, I could finally touch my husband and I laid across his chest. Sarah and a friend wrapped Buck's arms around my back and shoulders and I soaked in his warmth and wept in his arms. How I had longed to hug my husband over those months, as there were only several occasions when he was well enough to initiate one of his famous Papa Bear hugs that made everything right in my world! This embrace was going to have to last me until God reunites us again someday. I don't know how long I stayed in Buck's arms, but I knew it could never be long enough, so I made myself break away, giving Jessi too, the opportunity to cuddle with her daddy. Leaving his embrace was one of the most painful moments in my life! 

The absence of lines and tubes was symbolic of his true freedom... freedom from everything that kept Buck tied to this world. Now he was free to enjoy his new world and the beginning of his eternity, where he would be forever celebrating the fact that he was a Christ Follower and a Child of God! I was so happy for him, but my heart was shattered like never before. I knew also, that The Lord would be Faithful to heal my heart and put the pieces back together in time. I was very thankful that my faith was strong, otherwise I don't know how I would have been able to go on without my soul-mate. This was the beginning of my reality of widowhood, starting a journey I never dreamed I would be facing so soon. I'm so grateful I wasn't called to make this voyage all alone. The Lord "Faithfully carried me"  through those days of fresh grief, along with the love and support of my family and friends, until I was able to walk again with Him.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Day My Sweetheart Was Called Home

As I traveled home after receiving that life-changing phone call, there was only one thought that consumed my mind: the love of my life would be going home to heaven today! Buck fought so hard, so courageously, to get well for those nearly four months of hospitalization, but he was ready to meet his Lord on New Year's Day when he had his life threatening heart attack. He made that very clear as he asked the Emergency Room doctor, "Is there was any chance that I might be seeing Jesus tonight?" My husband was not afraid, but rather, he was excited at the thought that this could be the day he would be meeting his Savior! I was proud of his attitude, but I did not share his enthusiasm then, and selfishly, I didn't share it on that beautiful day in April either! All I felt was shock and numbness!

I wasn't home very long before I was surprised by a knock at my door. I knew it couldn't be my daughter, Sarah, because she had an hour and a half drive to reach me. Sarah had called my step-daughter, Jessi, and she decided to pick me up and take me to the hospital. Sarah would meet us there. Jessi too agreed; this is what her daddy would want. She assured me and confirmed that I was  making the right decision. I was so thankful because I really don't know what I would have done if we didn't all agree! However, I knew while I was speaking to the neurologist that gave me the news about Buck's stroke, that I was doing the right thing; what was in Buck's best interest and fulfilling his wishes.

As we drove to the hospital, Jessi tried to keep things light, making jokes about her daddy.  Buck would have been proud of the way she handled the situation. I knew this day was going to be equally as hard for her as it was for me, because Buck was her rock and her best friend. Neither of us knew what to expect when we arrived at the hospital. I remember walking down the hospital hallways seemed surreal on that day! I was moving but everything seemed to be in slow motion.

As we entered Buck's large room in the Open Heart ICU,  he appeared to be sleeping. He seemed peaceful and comfortable and that made this painful situation so much easier. He was unresponsive, of course, and I'll never know, this side of heaven, if he could hear the words that poured out of my heart. I just spoke to him assuming he could hear every heartfelt word.

When Sarah arrived, she found her mama at the end of Buck's bed, and held me tightly from behind as I gave her papa his last foot massage. Because of his complex medical emergency, he was attached to every possible means of modern life support and that meant a myriad of lines, wires and tubes attached to his upper body, arms and hands. His feet were the only unencumbered parts of his body. Early on, I suggested that he might enjoy a foot massage and it became part of his daily routine during my visits. We both looked forward to it. He would often fall asleep as I caressed  his skin. I wonder if he was aware of my tears as they splashed upon his feet.

Buck's most important component of his life support was a mechanism that was surgically placed under his heart called an LVAD, which was an acronym for left ventricular assist device. It was literally pumping his blood through his heart for him because his heart was so badly damaged by his heart attack. This was a temporary means of sustaining his life until he was ready for a heart transplant. He had a drive line that exited his chest wall and was plugged into a large, very heavy machine that measured about 2' by 2' and was approximately 4' tall, and it was plugged into the wall receptacle.  Without the support of the LVAD, Buck would have been heaven-bound the first week of his hospitalization!

Someone among Buck's caretakers called my church office to inform my pastor about Buck's condition. He was not able to come, but our associate pastor was soon at our side, along with the rest of our immediate family, our closest friends and the staff in OHICU, who had worked so diligently and compassionately to save and sustain Buck's life. We all took our turns at saying farewell to Buck, knowing we would see him again when we too were called home. There were no goodbyes!

My last words to my husband escape me, but I remember they were full of thanks for all he did and for all he was to me. I'm sure I reminded him that I would expect him to be the first in line to greet and hug me upon my arrival to heaven, when my appointed days were accounted for. I knew the time had come to set my sweetheart free and nodded to Danielle, our nurse practitioner, who was in charge of operating the LVAD. I know that was a really hard assignment for her, because she and all the staff that took care of Buck had grown to love him as well! It wasn't very long before the monitors indicated that he was gone. Everyone present, who were circled around Buck's room, were very aware that we were all standing on holy ground as we witnessed Buck's spirit being ushered into his future.

Now, it was time for me to face my reality; the love of my life was with Jesus and I was a widow! This was the beginning of an unknown journey. I think of it as a tandem journey; my Lord and I walking hand in hand. I had walked through the valley of the shadow of death and I was confident that the Lord would be with me every step of the way as I faced my new future! He had promised He would never leave or forsake me.  He had always been Faithful to me and I knew He wouldn't disappoint me now!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Phone Call That Forever Changed My World

My world-stopping call came as I traveled to my daughter’s home on that beautiful April 21st morning in 2009. I pulled off on the side of the road to answer my phone. I was not prepared for the words that drifted into my consciousness. The voice was familiar for a moment: the voice of one of my husband’s nurses. I sensed the urgency as he simply said, “I have her” and handed the phone over to a neurologist who explained as gently as he could what had happened to my husband. A CT scan had revealed that after four months of fighting courageously for his life, my sweetheart had been stricken with a massive stroke. The doctor explained to me that he could do his best to stop the bleeding in his brain, if I wanted him to, but he could not promise a favorable outcome, and he had to inform me that the stroke had disqualified Buck from being a candidate for a future heart transplant.

My heart pounded out of my chest as I tried to listen intently. I asked the doctor if he was a Christian. I was comforted when he said he was. I asked him, “If this was your wife, what would you do?” He told me he would not pursue any treatment because he and his wife had discussed what her wishes would be under circumstances such as these. Just a few weeks before, Buck and I had talked about end of life issues, because the hospital had a workshop set up to help families discuss Advance Directives. I did not attend the workshop, but it did inspire the difficult but necessary conversation. Buck made it clear he would not want to go on living under these kind of circumstances.  
I knew what I had to do, but I had to talk to my daughter for reassurance that I was doing the right thing. My cell phone rang again as soon as I finished talking to the doctor. It was my daughter, Sarah, who already knew what was going on because the hospital staff had called her when they couldn’t reach me at home and she too had talked to the neurologist. She agreed, there was no question; it was time to set my sweetheart free, just as her Papa would want. Her words still echo in my heart: “ Oh Mama, I can’t believe I can’t be there with you, while you are going through this!” She softly encouraged me to stay still until I felt I could make the drive to my home and she would meet me there as soon as she could.

I still remember the immediate numbness, as I spoke with the doctor. I’m not sure what happens in your mind when you experience emotional shock, but I suspect it is a measure of grace...a gift from God, to protect you from the total impact of your reality all at once. Thankfully, I was only about ten miles from home. I was physically shaken, but slowly pulled myself together enough to turn my car around and head back toward my home. 

There was a beautiful blue sky when I headed out for my hour and a half commute to my daughter’s that morning, but, I vividly remember the colorless landscape, void of anything but a tangible gray fog, as I slowly made my way home on the back roads I had just traveled. My world had lost all it's color and beauty. I looked but could not see; only the road before me was visible. Everything else was a grayish blur. I was thankful for the “automatic pilot” and God’s protective hand that got me safely home.

To be continued.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Starting A New Blog To Share My Story Of Widowhood From The Beginning

As I look back over the past two and a half years, since my husband, Buck, went home to be with the Lord, I am in awe of the journey God has taken me on. Over the last several months, I have sensed a prompting in my heart to share my story from the beginning. I have another blog: tandemjourney.blogspot.com that has been my journal for the past year and has blessed me so much as I share my current life, as the Lord holds my hand during this ongoing season of widowhood. 

It is my hope that other widows and widowers will be encouraged as I share my story.