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.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

No Kings Or Camels ~ Part 1


Posted Jan 8, 2010

My first Christmas season without my Bofren is now behind me and I can’t help but reflect on how different it was without his presence. As my journey as a widow progresses, I am learning how much I don’t know about myself, and how easily and unexpectedly my emotions can surface. One thing I did know for certain; this year and probably all future years, our Christmas Eve traditions (as described in my “Scroogette” entry) would not be upheld. Frankly, I didn’t know what my Christmas was going to look like this year, but it would be a season of new traditions.

It wasn’t until I made a live wreath at my friend, Pat’s, invitation, that I had any desire to dress up my home for the holiday season at all. The wreath inspired me to do a little more, so I started by hunting for the stable that housed all our Nativity pieces. If I was going to decorate, I was going to keep it simple. I was in search of three pieces only: the baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. There would be no livestock and no Kings and their transports.  I was pleased by it’s simplicity and will probably want to duplicate it in years to come.

As Christmas grew closer, I thought about the fact, that if I didn’t put a tree up, it would be the first time in my life that one of my favorite traditions would be missing. At that point, it didn’t feel right and I knew I had to do something about it, although I knew it would be painful emotionally and would require a lot of energy, which has been greatly lacking over the last several months. I knew it would be worth the effort and looking back, I realize I needed to maintain that tradition for me, even if no one else saw it.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Scroogette


This is a repost from my first Christmas spent as a widow. This year (December, 2012) will be my fourth Christmas without the love of my life to share it with. I think it would be safe to say that I'm still a Scroogette. However, I enjoy Christmas more than I used to, because I don't get involved in the holiday machine. New traditions have been set in place and my Christmas season is much simpler, more relaxed and enjoyable now. For that I am so thankful! Perhaps more about that in the near future.


Posted Dec 20, 2009 (9 Months into widowhood)

I have never done a survey, but I would be willing to guess that most people are Christmas lovers. I have a confession to make. I’m not one of them… I am not a Christmas person. My reasons are many. Buck and I both shared an attitude towards retailers who started their Christmas sales focus prior to the end of October. It seemed that Back To School sales had barely wrapped up before the artificial trees and decorations came out. Then there was the issue of our favorite radio stations beginning to play Christmas music on Thanksgiving Day or earlier. Frankly, we would not listen to the radio as much as usual, until the week before Christmas. Then we would welcome and enjoy the special seasonal music. I’m sorry to sound like such a Scrooge, but this is honestly how we felt.

My main frustration was the addition of all the responsibilities that came with the holiday season. These, plus an already full schedule, made for a stressful month of preparation. Being the classic procrastinators that we were, surely didn’t lighten our load. Some of us never figure out that it’s possible and very wise to think about, and shop for, gifts throughout the year. Christmas encompasses many things that I hate; things like shopping and crowds, long lines and snarled traffic, deadlines and decisions, because I am not creative with my gift giving inspiration. I have a difficult time making decisions about what I like, let alone trying to decide what my loved ones might enjoy. Then, of course, there would be the new five to ten pounds that I ‘found’ every January, after working throughout the year to lose them...again, (but that’s a personal problem).

It has been our tradition to have our family gathering on Christmas Eve each year. All our children and grandchildren would come together to enjoy Buck’s specialty: his wonderful fried deer steak dinner that he lovingly prepared for all of us. I have never mastered making it as well as he did. I was his assistant, but he was the main chef for this annual feast. In addition to the venison, his menu consisted of mashed taters and gravy, corn, green beans with bacon, cranberry sauce and biscuits or cornbread. I would be responsible for making desserts, usually German Chocolate Cake, Peanut Butter Pie and ice cream. It was the highlight meal of the year that all of us looked forward to.

I rarely got to see what presents everyone got, because I was the gifts distributor for Buck and I, and I could never convince my sweetheart that opening our gifts one at a time was a reasonable way to do things (my opinion). Occasionally, I would catch someone’s reaction as they opened one of the gifts from Buck and I, but for the most part I missed all of that, and that has always been disappointing for me.

All the activities and preparation left no room for the very reason we celebrated. There never seemed to be any real focus on what Christmas was all about: the celebration of the birth of our Savior. It seemed like the only attention given to the ‘reason for the season’, was the cake I made the past few years with ‘Happy Birthday Jesus’ spelled out on the top of the cake with chocolate chips. When our Christmas Eve celebration was over and the all the gifts were packed up to travel to their new homes, we would send our loved ones off with smiles and hugs, and I would spend my remaining energy cleaning up the kitchen. 

After our family would leave, I would experience the same emotions each year. I would ask myself; ‘what just happened here?’ I thank God for cameras or I probably wouldn’t have any Christmas memories. After everyone went home, Buck and I would feel spent from all the preparation and relieved that it was over for another year. Please don’t misunderstand; we loved getting together with our family. But the time invested in all the preliminary activities would leave us too exhausted to go to the last Christmas Eve service at our church. We both would feel disappointed when we didn’t have energy enough to be there to celebrate the birth of our Lord.

This year will be very different, as I just don’t have it in me to carry on our family tradition. I hope our children and grandchildren still love me after my ‘true confession’ and know that I won’t be offended if anyone addresses me as Scroogette in the future!

I am not certain if I will post another entry in my journal before Friday, so I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas! I hope it will be a special time with your family and friends. Thank you for continuing to care about my journey.
Love,
Renee'

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Weekend Detour

My first homemade wreath

Posted Dec 16, 2009 ~ ( 9 months into widowhood)


We never know what a new day might bring. It’s called ‘Life’ and so often we find ourselves in places that certainly weren’t on our agenda for that particular day. On Friday, my friend Pat invited me to her house to make a Christmas wreath. Frankly, I didn’t feel like making the effort, as I have been feeling very fatigued and unmotivated lately. But I decided to go anyway, knowing spending time with my sweet friend would probably lift my spirits. I’ve never made a live wreath before, but Pat was well equipped with a variety of different types of greens and interesting natural materials to embellish my wreath. She even had a really cool tool mounted on a stand, that closed the clamps on the metal frame foundation of the wreaths. This would have had to been done with a hammer otherwise. This nifty tool saved lots of time, energy and thumbs! Pat was very patient with her coaching and I came away with a beautiful live wreath and lifted spirits, having spent the afternoon with my friend!

As I was getting ready to head home, all of a sudden, I had a strange visual disturbance. I could see just fine, but my central vision had an oval in it with a fringelike edge. I could see through the oval, but the fringe on the oval had motion all around the edge. This weird symptom lasted for about a half an hour, very slowly moving from central to my peripheral vision, then disappeared. I called my ophthalmologist and she told me to come in right away, although their office was already closed. She gave me a very thorough examination and couldn’t find anything ocular that would produce such symptoms. She recommended that I go to the Emergency Room, because of my medical history, so off to Harford Memorial Hospital I went, as it was only a few miles from her office.

I was very fortunate not to have to wait, and was called into triage as soon as I finished my brief paperwork, then, right into an examination cubicle. This is where the waiting process began, and the sounds of the monitors were disturbing to me at first, bringing back memories from Buck’s hospital days. The Lord helped me to pull myself together and separate myself from the painful memories and then I was okay. After telling my story to many different staff members, blood work was started and an IV placed in my arm for future use if necessary. A CAT scan of my head followed. All tolled my ER visit lasted about four hours, which gave me lots of opportunities to think about the fact that I still haven’t written my will or made any advanced directive decisions yet. Other than that, I had Peace throughout the whole experience and was able to remain calm. My only discomfort was a headache and hunger pangs. Around midnight, I was told that the blood work results and CAT scan didn’t show what might have caused the strange symptoms, and they would like to admit me for further tests.
My tests included an MRI, MRA, Echocardiogram (which brought back the painful memories again), and a Carotid arteries study in addition to extensive blood work. I learned that I have a healthy brain and heart, and beautiful carotid arteries, according to the ultrasound tech and all blood tests except one came back within normal range. I was discharged Sunday night with a flu shot and a more elaborate, mysterious, medical history and a new story to share.

I also think I made a new friend. One of the staff members shared that she asked God for some encouragement as she prayed on her way to work on Saturday. She blessed me so much by telling me that I lifted her spirit and made her feel comforted. What a blessing to get a glimpse of God’s network. That is the kind of God we serve. He knows what we need, and hears our prayers. My encounters with this precious young woman made my two-day detour feel worthwhile! Thank you Lord, for letting me see You at work!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thanksgiving Solitude

Posted Thanksgiving Day, Nov 27, 2009 ~ (Seven months into widowhood)

Thanksgiving is a day to celebrate with family and friends, and a day to remember all we have to be thankful about. I didn’t anticipate that Thanksgiving Day would be difficult for me, since most of our married life, Buck would travel to W.V. for three weeks each November to go deer and wild turkey hunting and to spend time with his Mom and siblings. Once again, I was wrong, I didn’t see it coming.

A few weeks ago, my sister, Colleen, invited me to join her and my brother-in-law at their home for Thanksgiving dinner. My Mom and Dad would also be there if they felt up to it. I accepted their invitation and said I would bake a pumpkin pie to add to the feast I knew they would prepare.

Last weekend, I decided it would be nice to go to York Hospital to visit whoever was working in the Open Heart ICU on Thanksgiving Day. I just wanted to say hello and to thank them once again for all they did for us, and for all they do for their patients in general. But by Tuesday, I had changed my mind and decided that wasn’t in their best interest or mine, as I've had a cold for two weeks and I was feeling very vulnerable emotionally as Thanksgiving approached. On Tuesday, I decided that what I really wanted and needed was to be home, to enjoy the comfort and solitude that only my home could provide.

So my Thanksgiving Day was a pajama day and I slept till 10 AM. Once awake, I read my Bible, my devotionals and spent the one on one time I needed with the Lord. Nothing else provides the restoration that I require to keep me moving forward, however slowly that might be. First gear is always preferable to standing still. I also wrote in my daily journal. That helps me remember what I’ve been doing with my life, otherwise I would have no recollection. Sad but true… my short-term memory is pretty much non-existent. If I don’t write it down, it’s gone forever!

Hunger pangs finally motivated me to get out of bed at 3 PM. I could count on two hands, the few times I have prepared a complete meal for myself this year. But today would be one of those days. I knew my Mom would ask me what was I going to eat, when she found out I wouldn’t be joining my family for Thanksgiving dinner (once a mother, always a mother). I had my menu ready when the question cam. I was even able to say that I had a small pan of cornbread baking in the oven in Buck’s honor, as it was one of his very favorite foods. I think it helped my Mom to know that her “baby girl” would at least be eating well, although she really didn’t like the thought that I would be eating alone. Thankfully, everyone understood, no feelings were hurt, and I got what I really needed…Solitude!

About a month ago, I had an idea: a visual reminder that I am never alone and that the Lord is always here with me. I set out a place setting of my pretty heirloom china at the head of my dining room table. Tonight, the Lord and I had a candlelight dinner to commemorate my first Thanksgiving without my sweetheart. Buck would tolerate candlelight dinners on occasion, just to make me happy, or if he had prepared a romantic dinner for me as he did on several wedding anniversaries. But for the most part, he preferred to see what he was eating! I asked my Guest to bless the meal I had prepared and I reminded Him of all the many blessings I am thankful for. I told Him I still don’t understand, but I trust Him with my future and I know it will be good. I cried. I ate my pork chop, acorn squash, fresh steamed broccoli and my chocolate pudding and felt satisfied that I had prepared a healthy, though not traditional holiday meal for myself.

After dinner, I called York Hospital’s OHICU to see who was working tonight and was surprised to find that only two nurses were on duty, as there were only two patients in the unit to care for. I got to speak to Theresa and Renee. It was so wonderful to reconnect with them both.

As this Thanksgiving Day comes to a close, I feel rested, peaceful and thankful! Thankful that another “first” is behind me and my heart is full of thanksgiving for the innumerable blessings that I enjoy each day. I count all of you among those wonderful gifts given to me this year. Thank you for caring and for your continued love and support. I hope your Thanksgiving Day was happy and memorable.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Remembering Buck In A Tangible Way

Posted Nov 2, 2009 ~ (Six months into widowhood)

October 21st marked the six-month point, since my Sweetheart was called home and I wanted to do something creative to remember him. Buck was a man’s man, but he loved flowers as much as I do. We both had strong opinions about varieties, garden arrangements and color combinations. Buck had very strong feelings about the fragrances of certain flowers: lilacs, for example. He had no tolerance for them and they were never to be considered as an option in our landscaping plans. I did not fuss with him about it, as he almost always let me have my way about … well, about almost everything pertaining to our home and yard. My Bofren was very laid back and easy going. I’m not so sure he would be able to say the same about me, but he loved me anyway. A few years ago, I asked Buck if he thought I was bossy. His answer was honest but precious. He said, “Yes, but you’re nice about it". I guess he perceived me as a little bossy at times, but with respect.

When Buck was moved back to York Hospital, after his five-week stay at UMMC in Baltimore, spring had sprung and flowers were plentiful. Easter was upon us, so I brought a beautiful purple hyacinth to Room 2310 for him to enjoy. He loved the strong, sweet fragrance of his favorite flower, and motioned for me to bring it closer, so he could enjoy it close up. It was a sweet surprise and it made him smile. So it seemed fitting to plant some purple hyacinths in front of the new home that he built for me. I also planted a crop of narcissi that day, which will create a colorful yellow background for the purple hyacinths. Perhaps they may bloom around the one-year anniversary of his departure from this life and his joyous entrance into his new life in heaven. I think my Bofren would like the idea of a little commemorative garden planted in his honor!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn, For They Will Be Comforted

Posted Oct 28, 2009 ~ (6 Months into widowhood)

Mid October brought its’ fair share of stress and new issues to confront. In my last post, I shared that I was dealing with two significant days on my calendar: what would have been our twelfth wedding anniversary and October 21st marked six months since Buck’s home going. Just prior to these important days was a deadline to get my income taxes prepared, as I had been given a six-month extension. Thanks to my dear friend Wendy, I did not have the stress of finding my way in unfamiliar territory, and having to parallel park on a busy York main street. I haven’t parallel parked in over 15 years! Getting everything together for the CPA was not new to me, as I was the record keeper in our family. The challenge was putting my hands on the necessary documentation, as things are not exactly organized around here, having just moved into our new home just three months before Buck’s heart attack on New Year’s Eve. I was thankful to have that responsibility behind me.

Our wedding anniversary was a “pajama day”. October 18th was a Sunday, but I decided not to go to church. I spent the weekend with my daughter, Sarah, and her family. Being with them on days that I anticipate might be extra hard emotionally is always helpful to me. They provide love, comfort, support and distraction, which get me through the difficult days. Early in my day, I watched the video of Buck’s memorial, which Dave W. so kindly put together for my family. It is a gift we will always treasure! It was the first time I had seen it and it was wonderful to hear the glowing words from family, friends and caretakers testifying to what Buck meant to them and how he impacted each of their lives. Each speaker gave our family a very precious gift!

In the evening, Sarah and I watched our wedding video, which I had not seen for nearly twelve years. Watching the memories unfold had an emotional impact of course, but I got through it a lot better than I thought I would. Reliving the most joyful day of our lives was difficult to watch and even more painful was hearing my precious husband’s voice. Tears rinse my face again as Buck’s voice echoes in my heart!

Sarah and I wrapped up our day with watching the slideshow that she and her husband Bob had created for Papa Bear’s memorial. It is getting easier to view it without falling apart. One evening about a month ago, I was home alone and decided I would be brave and watch it again, after not seeing it since the memorial in the end of June. I was totally unprepared for my reaction as I watched the representation of Buck’s life, backed up with the powerful music Sarah and I had chosen. I experienced weeping like never before; at least twice as intense as the worst of my “ugly cries”. I had never had a weeping session of that duration. It opened a floodgate that consumed me for 45 minutes. I found myself in a fetal position on my bed, as the power of the pictures and the music overwhelmed me with a depth of emotion I didn’t know was within me. All of it felt unfamiliar and the volume of my cries surprised me. The intensity of emotional pain doubled me over and brought me to my knees. At one point, I was kneeling by my bed and was too weak to stand and crawl into bed. My breathing was rapid and my body automatically went into the same breathing techniques I learned in my natural childbirth classes before Sarah was born. I guess I was na├»ve to think that I had gotten through the worst of this journey. I suppose that was wishful thinking.

When my emotional experience was behind me, I was left feeling weak and exhausted. It was well past the dinner hour and I was hungry, but too tired to do anything about it. When my normal breathing returned and I was able to climb into my bed, I made myself feel better by beginning to read “Heaven Better By Far”, by J. Oswald Sanders. It comforted me to learn about and anticipate the reality that Buck is enjoying. It is also reassuring to me to realize that everything I am experiencing is normal, necessary and important in my journey of grieving.

So the roller coaster of emotional ups and downs continues. The mourning comes in unpredictable waves. It’s all a natural part of the grieving process, and an indication of the deep love I had for my Bofren. The intense feelings are temporary and they pass. I survive and take another step closer in the healing of my broken heart. There is no heart so broken, that the Lord cannot mend it and make it stronger, as we trust Him with each new day. My faith and my personal relationship with Jesus, and my family and friends continue to sustain and support me as I move forward, finding joy in the precious gifts from God, that all of them are to me. Thank you for caring about me and continuing to check in on me by following my journal. I count you among my many blessings!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Healing Music and Looking Up

Posted Oct 5, 2009~ (Five months into widowhood)

Given my present circumstances, I am blessed to be able to be alone and not feel lonely. Of course, I am very aware that none of us are ever alone. I feel the Lord’s presence with me so often, especially if I am seeking Him.

When the sky is that clear, crisp, amazing shade of blue, on a gorgeous day like the perfect days we were blessed with this past weekend, I am in awe! Especially the precious sun filled days with the billowy, brighter than white clouds shouting of God’s royalty and majesty! Sometimes, when I study the skies, I wonder how I can so often be totally oblivious to God’s glory all around me, because I am preoccupied by the details of life. We miss so much when we carry our heavy burden backpacks. What a relief when I remember what the Lord commands us to do and leave my concerns with Him. Old habits hang on and die hard! The good news is, as our pastor reminded us a few weeks ago: “We can change because of God’s power within us when we are trusting in Him!”

What is interesting to me is the fact that I sense the Lord most powerfully when I am in my car. I have been listening almost exclusively to several Christian radio stations that play the contemporary music that I love. I enjoy turning the volume up, and didn’t realize just how loud it sounded. One night, I drove down Sarah’s driveway and my 13 year old grandson, Justin, was standing outside by their garage. When I got out of my car, Justin greeted me with:” Wow Nana, you were really rocking out!”

The music ministers to my heart and soul, sometimes flooding me with sorrow because it reminds me so much of my Sweetheart, as he was a true worshiper! And other times I feel only joy as the music fills my being and heals my brokenness. The songs about heaven deliver pain and joy simultaneously as I miss my Bofren so much, but rejoice in the confidence of knowing where he resides: absent from his body and present with his Lord! What Peace and Comfort I enjoy, as I believe God with all my heart and take Him at His Word!

I am thankful for each day I am given, for each one is a gift, but I look forward to sharing the same eternity that Buck is enjoying now! I don’t see this as being morbid in any way, but rather excited expectation to experience what God has planned for those of us, who make a decision to have a personal relationship with Him. I am certain it will be so much more than we can ever imagine or fathom!!!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

There's No Place Like Home (And Home Away From Home)


Posted Sep 7, 2009 ~ ( 4 months into widowhood)

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am a homebody. It’s where I love to be and although I feel the pain of Buck’s absence very deeply, it is fortunate for me, that I have no problem being alone. It’s the way God wired me and solitude is something I often crave, when I am constantly among others. As My Bofren would say, “Renee’ is like a cat; she likes to stay close to home”. He understood that part of me and gave me permission so to speak, by never having expectations when he wanted to go and I wanted to stay; whether it was a trip to York or to West Virginia, he gave me the freedom to be myself. It was a continuous gift that I highly treasured! It worked well for both of us, because he also had the liberty to do what he wanted to do, even if it meant going to W.V. to visit his family and go hunting for three weeks. You might remember that it was his heart’s desire to hike the Appalachian Trail which would have possibly taken as long as six months. It was a sweet freedom that made us appreciate each other all the more!

It matters not, if I am with family or friends, the desire to be by myself will arrive after several days, if not sooner. Seclusion is what I need to regroup and reenergize. It must be very difficult for those who have lost a loved one, especially a spouse, who do not enjoy being by themselves. I feel certain that if that described me, that the Lord would give me an extra measure of grace to cope and would make Himself and His presence even more evident as long as I was turning to Him to fill that void in my heart, as I do now.

I do, however, appreciate my time with my family and friends, more than ever before! They have been beyond warm, gracious, generous, kind and hospitable! I have been spending multiple days, sometimes a week, away from home, which has blessed me immensely and helped me to heal emotionally. Spending time with my family and friends has drawn us closer and intensified our relationships in ways that I never expected. I see this as a special gift from God and I am so thankful for His provision. My family and friends often anticipate things I might need even before I do. What a wonderful blessing all of them are to me!

I think the grand-kids and party guests were surprised to see Nana with rainbow hair!
And then there is the distraction factor; so many blessings come from spending time with my daughter, Sarah, and her family. Spending extended time with my grandchildren seems to be inspiring the surfacing of aspects of my personality that I didn’t know existed, or maybe the grandkids are just rubbing off on me. Either way, I have been having lots of fun with them: cuddling, wrestling, tickling, being silly, building puzzles, storytelling and more fun activities. A memorable event took place last weekend, when I got my hair sprayed with rainbow colors at Colin’s birthday party. I want to be remembered as being a “cool” Nana! Along with all the little kids in attendance, Ms Jessica and Pop Pop Bill, we made quite the colorful group. I asked Sarah to post one of the photos, for your entertainment. And they thought I wouldn't participate!

I had a good time telling four-year-old Colin, a story about a talking cup of tea, that spent lots of time in the microwave because the Nana kept reheating and forgetting the poor mug of tea, in spite of the constant beeping and the cup of tea trying desperately to get the forgetful Nana’s attention. Colin loved the playful fantasy and I’m thinking he will be expecting more storytelling during future visits. There is something so pure, precious and wonderful about children’s laughter, be it infant, toddler or teen that restores a hurting heart and makes everything feel right again! I am so blessed!!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I Just Never Know

Posted Aug 27, 2009 ~ (Four months into widowhood)

Grieving is very unpredictable. It’s difficult to anticipate when the emotions will show up. Sometimes, like on Saturday, when I attended a wedding, I can be pretty certain that my participation is likely to evoke an emotional response at some point. Surprisingly, I got through the marriage ceremony very well and thoroughly enjoyed it from the beginning to the lively, unique recessional. However, I didn’t hold up as well at the reception. All went well, until the bride and groom danced together for the first time as husband and wife, and the emotions were compounded when the DJ invited all the couples to join them on the dance floor. The tears flowed then as they do once again, even more freely now, in the privacy of my home. My heart aches, remembering my Bofren’s warm embrace, as he was always faithful to dance the slow dances with me. And then there are the love songs; they always get to me!

Yes… quite unpredictable! I did not expect any emotion as I relived that memory of the reception and it’s intensity was doubled this time around. I am learning that God gives me the grace to be stronger or more controlled when I’m in a public situation (so far). I would not feel embarrassed if I wasn’t able to contain the overflow of my feelings, but there is a very large part of me that does not want to expose myself or anyone else to the “ugly cries” when I am in a public setting. I do think however; that it is very important and healthy to let it out when it comes! Sometimes, I feel more comfortable getting off by myself, when I need a good cry; other times it feels better to break down in the compassionate embrace of a loved one or close friend.

On occasion, I don’t understand what triggers my reaction, for example: out of the blue, I once started crying while I was at my dentist’s office, getting my teeth cleaned. Most often though, it is easy to recognize what inspired the strong emotions.

Last week, my daughter, Sarah, and I were running errands and I was totally unprepared for the feelings that would arrive as we passed through the huge glass doors at the lumber and construction materials section of Home Depot. I was stunned by the fragrance of the pine lumber and was reminded of all the time that Buck and I had spent there and at Lowe’s. The three years prior to our moving to our new property, we worked hard to prepare the A-frame house he built, in order to put it on the market. We also made many visits as we were planning our new home and countless trips were made, as our new home became a reality. So many dreams, decisions and compromises took place in those wide isles.

As Sarah and I left the huge storehouse of memories, I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. In my effort to restore my joy, my sense of humor peaked out, as through my tears, I made the sarcastic comment: “How romantic!!!” It helped me to cry and laugh at the same time and made the moment feel more manageable and still healthy in acknowledging the pain, but smiling at the remembrances.

Occasionally, I run into the “first times” unknowingly, but often I anticipate the predictable outcome. Sometimes I’m surprised and other times, I think I know what to expect. The feelings are always strong as I remember the amazing person my Bofren was. I miss my Sweetheart so much, but my life is full of wonderful people and I am so blessed as I walk my new journey. It is difficult, but the Lord makes it doable. He always helps me move past the pain and He restores the JOY that I totally depend on Him to provide. I am very thankful that He is teaching me how to choose JOY even when my heart hurts. This is not something I can conjure up or talk myself into. He continues to be faithful as I find contentment in getting my life in order and growing ever closer to my Lord and my family and friends.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Making New Memories

Posted Aug 19, 2009 ~ (Four months into widowhood)

When my daughter, Sarah, invited me to go on vacation with her family, I wasn’t certain if I was up to it. I took days to decide if I would participate. When I told my friend, Ricky, about Sarah and Bob’s kind invitation, her response was without hesitation. Ricky said, “Just say yes”! I’m so glad that I did say yes, as it was a wonderful getaway that included lots of family fun and interesting, new experiences. We went to the Pocono Mountains, staying near Stroudsburg, Pa. I shared a room with my 13-year-old grandson, Justin. Our room adjoined Sarah’s, which housed she and her hubby, Bob, three year old, Colin, and 9-month-old, Kyrstin. This arrangement was comfortable and allowed our fun to go on into the evening hours, as Sarah’s room provided a quiet place to put Kyrstin down at her bedtime, and our room was a place to congregate to play cards and just continue enjoying each others company until we were too tired to go on. Bob’s parents, Bob Sr. and Nancy, met us there and joined in on all the fun.


Justin, the best roommate and water-slide buddy ever!

Our activities included two days at a huge water park called Camel Beach, which shared the Camelback Ski Resort area. There was fun to be had by water lovers of all ages. My favorites were the chairlift ride to the top of the mountain and back, with Justin as my escort. Another favorite was the family tube slide that Sarah, Bob, Justin, Colin and I shared, that had us screaming as we raced through nine breathtaking curves, as we spun and twirled down eight stories worth of elevation from beginning to end. As we went into each curve, it felt as though we were surely going to fly out of the slide. The most enjoyable and exciting water rides for me were enclosed tubes that Justin and I raced through on a double raft. One allowed light to seep through so that you could anticipate the curves and drops in elevation. Another was a black tube, that apart from a row of small drilled holes on each length of pipe, we traveled through in complete darkness, as we quickly descended and zipped through the curves. It was so much fun and brought out the kid that still lives inside of me! I like to think that Buck would be proud of me for not whimping out and for fully participating.


Chocolate covered Mr. Callie
Three generations of smiles
On our rainy day, we visited a small, family owned and operated pretzel factory, whose employees shaped and baked soft pretzels of every flavor and shape imaginable. The children also tried their hand at rolling and forming pretzels with colorful play dough. Then we traveled to a candy factory owned by the same family. The 76 year old owner, Harry Callie, talked to his customers and invited us the ask questions and sample his wonderful creations as we gathered around to watch and listen to his presentation. We watched a video demonstration of how he makes candy canes and other shapes of Christmas candy. We tasted his chocolate mixed with Honey Nut Cheerios, potato chips, a layered peanut butter and chocolate candy and even chocolate covered bacon crumbles! He was quite the interesting character. I had my picture taken with Mr. Callie. He put his arm around my shoulder and held his big chocolate covered hand next to my face.



My awesome family at Bushkill Falls
 On our last day in the Poconos, we went on a three-hour family hike at Bushkill Falls. Hiking usually gets my emotions stirred up as being in the woods brings back so many wonderful memories of fun and adventurous days spent with my Bofren. The sound of rushing water, the mist from the waterfalls and the woodland aromas of pine and rhododendron, bring favorite days gone by, to the forefront of my heart. Just being on a vacation without my Sweetheart had its’ share of pain, but not wanting to spoil “the present moments”, helped me to keep the tears to a minimum and push through. Our four days together were full of fun and pleasant distractions as I am choosing JOY and moving forward with the Lord’s help. I am so thankful for my family and for their generosity in wanting to include me in their vacation plan. I am especially grateful for the precious bonding time with my grandchildren. Thank you for being such an awesome roommate, Justin. It was so much fun being silly with you. You gave me many reasons to smile! Thank you, Lord, for all the "New Memories"! They are a new treasure to hold in my heart!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

All About Attitude

Posted Aug 7, 2009  ~ (Three months into widowhood)

We have all heard it said, "Life is what you make it". Although we often have little to no control over what happens throughout our lives, we do have control over how we react to our personal circumstances. I have heard this philosophy from many different sources, but it has never been as meaningful to me as it is now. Life produces many opportunities for us to be sour or sweet, bitter or better, stunted or growing.

God is teaching me a lot about trusting Him, and most importantly, about being aware of His presence. He is always with me, but unfortunately, I sometimes forget. Since Buck went home, I have made some changes in my lifestyle, to help remind me. I regret that I wasn’t more disciplined in purposing to spend time with the Lord before now. What has worked best for me is spending time with Him first thing, before I start my day. Many years ago, a friend chided me when I said I didn’t have time to do something that I enjoyed. He wasn’t referring to anything even mildly related to a spiritual mindset. He was however, the first one to ever say to me, “there’s always time for whatever you put first”. He was right, and I have been so blessed by making my one on one time with the Lord a priority.

I once went to a spiritual retreat where a speaker coined the phrase, “no Bible, no breakfast”. This is working for me and the Lord uses this time to speak to my heart through several devotionals and reading the chapter in the Bible that the devotional used as a reference. So often, God speaks to my heart as though that devotional was written just for me for that particular day. This is one way, that He lets me know He is real and that He knows and cares all about me and is aware of all that is needful: the love of our heavenly Father at work. Amazing!

Relationships with anyone that we want to get to know well, require a commitment of time. It is no different with having a personal relationship with the God who made me to know, love and serve Him. It has become my favorite part of the day. I am so thankful for the spiritual growth that has taken place this year. It has been one of the most difficult years of my life, but in many ways, also the most precious time of my life, as the reality of the Lord’s presence has never been so evident to me as it has been since New Years Day!

In addition to my devotional time, I have also decided that I needed to be more disciplined about getting some exercise on a consistent basis. Buck and I always enjoyed walking and hiking and we were very blessed to have a safe, pleasant place to walk near our home. We looked forward to making walking an important part of taking better care of our bodies, after we got moved and settled into our new home.
I asked my sweet neighbor, Joannie and my dearest, long time friend, Pat, if they would be interested in being my walking partners, several days a week. They were thrilled and I am excited to have the opportunity to get to know them better. They will join me whenever they can. I walked three times this week, averaging about three miles on each outing. It feels good to be doing something good and healthy for myself and building friendships at the same time! I know I will be much more motivated, sharing this time with my friends.

Although I often feel sad, and the tears come regularly, I am starting to understand that I can still choose to be happy. I have the power to control my attitude and I have choices. Buck would want me to choose joy! He would want me to move forward and be blessed by all that life has to offer! With God’s help and the love and concern of friends and family, I plan on doing just that!

Friday, March 2, 2012

The "First Times" Are Difficult

Posted Aug 4, 2009 ~ (Three months into widowhood)

I have to confess, before I became a widow, I did not understand why certain dates on the calendar might be more painful than others for people who were grieving. My thought was, we miss our loved ones every day. Why would a holiday, anniversary, or any particular day change the intensity of ones’ feelings? I still don’t understand, but now I know from experience; the date on the calendar makes a definite difference.

I am learning that not only important dates, but also experiences in general are extra painful when you experience them for the first time without your loved one. These days have a powerful significance, because they present the opportunity to a broken heart, to relive cherished memories  and a flood of shared happy moments. Of course, these days are no longer the same as you move forward, because your loved one no longer walks by your side.

The initial revelation of this fact showed up the evening of Buck’s memorial. It was a long, eventful, and emotional day; a wonderful time to commemorate a life well lived by the love of my life! Following the memorial and lovely luncheon that my church family provided for all who were able to join us, my family attended a graduation party for my niece, Katie. After the party, my family went to watch the fireworks display in Darlington, Md. I had intentionally planned Buck’s memorial to coincide with the fireworks date, to celebrate “Buck’s Independence Day”, symbolizing his freedom from all that encumbered him during his lengthy hospitalization.

The day had been especially emotion charged for me, as what I felt most powerfully was excitement, similar to the way I felt on our wedding day. As we traveled to the little town of Darlington, the excitement of the day wore off and the true reality came crashing in! I had been consumed with preparing for the memorial and never once anticipated what was going to happen next; I never saw it coming. This would be the first time since I met my Sweetheart, that we would not be enjoying the fireworks together. The body shaking grief took over and tears flowed freely throughout the whole fireworks display!

This past Saturday held several more of those painful “firsts”. Last week, I was spending several days with my daughter, Sarah and family. Before bedtime on Friday, I asked Sarah to wake me on Saturday morning, because I hadn’t packed my alarm clock. Sarah gently woke me by stroking my arm, and greeted me with “Happy Birthday”, as I opened my eyes. Once again, I did not expect the emotion. Sarah encouraged me to let it out and so I did. Sarah and family do a great job of comforting me whenever the need arises. Even my three-year-old grandson, Colin, comforted me by stroking my arm one day during my stay, when his Nana was feeling sad! I am so thankful for the loving and supportive family God has blessed me with! What a treasure they have been to me, throughout this difficult season of my life!

Saturday, late afternoon, brought the second challenging “first”, when Sarah’s family and I went for a two-mile hike near there home. Unbeknown to my family, I fought back tears most of the time, as we made our way down the trail, through the woods. Hiking was a favorite activity that my Bofren and I enjoyed doing together. We went whenever we could, especially in the summer, although last summer didn’t permit us to spend much time in the woods, because we were busy building our new home. Buck took me hiking in the Shenandoah National Forest at Skyline Drive on our first date and many of our vacations centered around the hiking trails in Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont and were packed with many of our favorite memories as a couple! I wanted to be there, enjoying the exercise and the outdoors with my family, but it was another painful “first” that I needed to encounter. I pray it will get easier and I am confident that it will.

Although I often feel sad, and sometimes overwhelmed with emotion, I know the Lord always walks with me and I feel closer to Him than ever before! I also experience many moments of happiness, love and great joy as my friends and family continue to be so wonderful and helpful when I need them the most. My heart is full of thanksgiving for all the blessings I enjoy every day! Thank you for caring enough to check in on me. I love and appreciate all of you!


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

He Walks With You And Me


Posted Jul 28, 2009 ~ (Three months into widowhood)

I was blessed to get an email from my dear friend Ed G. this morning and I feel compelled to share. I thought it was profound in its' simplicity. If we could only comprehend a fraction of the truth it shares, such Love, Joy and Peace could be ours every day! I know we all need to understand this so we can live the abundant life that God intended for all of us. I too, need the reminder, as too often I let the stresses of daily living overwhelm and consume me and I'm guilty of forgetting that the Lord is always with me. He promised to carry my burdens, when I give them to Him and His Word commands us to cast our burdens unto Him, because He cares for us, and He has promised: He will never leave or forsake us. His Word is true and He is faithful to provide that Peace, whenever I do my part of surrendering whatever is weighing me down. I have experienced it so many times since New Year's Day! How I wish it was automatic, but it needs to be a deliberate decision each time, to fully, "Let go, and let God". It's the only true path to Peace in our hearts.

Just like many of us learned as children: Why did God make you? God made me to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him in this world and the next. He created us to have a relationship with Him! Can you fathom it? The God who created the universe wants to know us and be our best friend; mind boggling! I pray this will awaken a fresh revelation of God's love for each of us and that it will come to mind when we need it the most!!!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

While watching a little TV on Sunday instead of going to church, I
watched a church in Atlanta honoring one of its senior pastors who had
been retired many years. He was 92 at that time and I wondered why the
church even bothered to ask the old gentleman to preach at that age.
After a warm welcome, introduction of this speaker, and as the applause
quieted down, he rose from his high back chair and walked slowly, with
great effort and a sliding gait to the podium. Without a note or written
paper of any kind he placed both hands on the pulpit to steady himself
and then quietly and slowly he began to speak....

"When I was asked to come here today and talk to you, your pastor asked
me to tell you what was the greatest lesson ever learned in my 50-odd
years of preaching. I thought about it for a few days and boiled it down
to just one thing that made the most difference in my life and sustained
me through all my trials. The one thing that I could always rely on when
tears and heartbreak and pain and fear and sorrow paralyzed me... the
only thing that would comfort was this verse........ ....

"Jesus loves me this I know.
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong we are weak but He is strong.....
Yes, Jesus loves me....
The Bible tells me so."

When he finished, the church was quiet. You actually could hear his
footsteps as he shuffled back to his chair. I don't believe I will ever
forget it. A pastor once stated, "I always noticed that it was the adults
who chose the children's hymn 'Jesus Loves Me' (for the children of
course) during a hymn sing, and it was the adults who sang the loudest
because I could see they knew it the best."

"Senior version of Jesus Loves Me"
Here is a new version just for us who have white hair or no hair at all..
For us over middle age (or even those almost there) and all you others,
check out this newest version of Jesus Loves Me.

JESUS LOVES ME

Jesus loves me, this I know,
Though my hair is white as snow
Though my sight is growing dim,
Still He bids me trust in Him.

(CHORUS)
YES, JESUS LOVES ME.. YES, JESUS LOVES ME..
YES, JESUS LOVES ME, FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO.

Though my steps are oh, so slow,
With my hand in His I'll go
On through life, let come what may,
He'll be there to lead the way.
(CHORUS)

When the nights are dark and long,
In my heart He puts a song..
Telling me in words so clear,
"Have no fear, for I am near."
(CHORUS)

When my work on earth is done,
And life's victories have been won.
He will take me home above,
Then I'll understand His love.
(CHORUS)

I love Jesus, does He know?
Have I ever told Him so?
Jesus loves to hear me say,
That I love Him every day.
(CHORUS)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Missing My Bofren!


Posted Jul 17, 2009 ~ (Three months into widowhood)
Hello Loved Ones,
I have not been very faithful in keeping up with my journal lately, but you already know that. Since Buck's memorial, the reality of my Sweetheart's absence is more obvious and more difficult to deal with emotionally. I suppose I got an extended grace period in preparation for the memorial.
Before the celebration of Buck's life, I was able to say that I had more good days than sad ones. Since the end of June, the sad days outnumber the good ones, and usually parallel the degree of distraction from being surrounded by family and friends. Also, a productive day usually coincides with a pleasant day, but unfortunately, I have not felt very motivated; and I find it hard to get started, when there is certainly no shortage of projects I could be doing.
I have been spending a lot of time away from home, and I have decided that I really need to stay home more and get my life in order.
Thankfully, it's not that I am broken and weeping all the time; but rather, there is just a prevailing feeling of sadness that is difficult to override; and it makes it challenging to accomplish even simple tasks. Often, I find myself walking from room to room, trying to decide what to do next. Prioritizing is not part of my vocabulary, because I can’t decide what is most important. I aimlessly do whatever I feel like doing, with no sense of rhyme or reason and get easily distracted and start something else; bouncing pointlessly, without finishing what I started. Frustration is a constant companion.
I have grown increasingly forgetful and unable to concentrate. I constantly embarrass myself by forgetting what I'm talking about, until my friends or family members bail me out, by trying to restore the conversation to where I left off. Sometimes, it doesn't help, and I have to admit I have no recollection of where I was going. I hope I can learn to just laugh at myself, as I would much prefer a good dose of laughter, over the embarrassment I feel each time it happens!
It was greatly concerning me until recently, when I got some information about bereavement from York Hospital in my mail. It was comforting to learn that I am experiencing normal grieving symptoms. I was relieved to know that forgetfulness, lack of motivation, concentration challenges and indecisiveness are very common when you lose a loved one. It's nice to know, what is happening to me isn't so abnormal after all!
I am happy to share that I am continuing to enjoy the Lord’s presence, especially since I have been beginning my day with devotional time. Spending time with the Lord encourages and comforts me. I never feel alone or lonely. I am so thankful for that wonderful gift. I am however, missing my Bofren more and more as time goes by, and realizing increasingly, what a precious gift I had in him!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Memorial Miracle And Memories ~ Part 2

Posted Jul 7, 2009 ~ (2 1/2 months into widowhood)

I slept well, but woke early on Saturday morning. After weeks of preparation and anticipation, the day of Buck’s memorial had finally arrived. I had my quiet time with the Lord before I jumped into my day. I was amazed by the way I was feeling emotionally. All of my anxiety was gone. My fear was transformed into sheer excitement. I had total PEACE and knew that today was going to be a wonderful day. As we pulled into the church parking lot, I realized that I was experiencing the same kind of excitement I felt on our wedding day!

I greeted many people as they arrived, until it was time for the memorial to begin. The worship team played Amazing Grace and Great Is Thy Faithfulness and our pastor welcomed everyone and led us in prayer before the speakers started taking turns coming to the podium. I had invited six friends and family members to speak and another ten stood and shared personal remembrances. After several of the speakers shared their hearts with us, the worship team played a Ray Boltz song titled: Thank You For Giving To The Lord.

The speakers included immediate family, extended family, church family, caretaker family, in-laws and close friends. Each heartwarming testimony, whether spontaneous or prepared ahead of time was delivered with love, friendship and respect and touched my family and I deeply! Thank you to all of you who honored Buck in such a wonderful way!

When it was my turn to share my tribute to my Bofren, I was amazed by my confidence and calmness. To those of you who were able to join us at the memorial, I want to let you know that you witnessed a miracle as I stood before you! There was no evidence of fear or anxiety because those emotions were not present. I purposed to trust God like I never have before, and He blessed me with Peace, Strength and Courage that was not my own! There are two scriptures that now mean a lot more to me personally, after experiencing God’s power in that amazing tangible way! I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 But [God] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

It was my desire to honor my husband and to describe Buck’s life, in order to set the stage for the slideshow that would immediately follow. I wanted to summarize in words what Buck’s life was all about, so that the pictorial presentation would be even more meaningful. Although I was not fearful, the emotions were strong and affected my voice several times, making it necessary to stop and breathe deeply until I could go on. I appreciated everyone’s patience as God helped me to regroup and continue. Thank You Lord, for what You did for me: My weakness, Your POWER! What a gift!




Monday, February 6, 2012

Memorial Miracle And Memories ~ Part 1

Posted July, 3, 2009 ~ (Two months into widowhood)

The week prior to Buck’s memorial was very busy for me; finalizing details, making phone calls and planning and writing my tribute to my Bofren. Wanting to honor my Sweetheart was my primary focus as the days counted down. I asked several close friends to pray for me because this was a task that I knew I could not accomplish in my own strength.

When I was in grade school, had I been given the option, I would have chosen to write a book in place of doing a three-minute oral book report. Somehow I got through high school only having to stand before my classmates on one occasion, to do an oral presentation. In anticipation of the memorial, just the thought of standing before my friends and loved ones made my heart pound with anxiety. I added a new word to my vocabulary last week, as I learned that what I was experiencing is known as glossophobia. It was not comforting to know that, as much as 75% of the population are affected by this common phobia. Fear of public speaking is ranked even above that of death! Yes… that pretty much described how I felt!

When I sensed the Lord speaking to my heart and asking me to step way out of my comfort zone, I thought to myself: “Lord, You have got to be kidding… You know I can’t do that!” He spoke to my heart again and I sensed He was telling me, “You’re right, you can’t… but I can. Just trust Me and I will empower you!” My response: "All right Lord, You're giving me another opportunity to trust You."

I have learned so much throughout this journey and my relationship with the Lord has grown in a way I never dreamed was possible! I confess, I dealt with lots of anxiety right up until the evening before the memorial. Thursday evening was the worst part as I was feeling physically ill and didn’t sleep well. Friday was much better as I spent some quality quiet time, one on one with the Lord before I headed to Sarah and Bob’s house in the early afternoon. It was just what I needed and I came away feeling much calmer and comforted but still somewhat anxious.

On Friday evening, Sarah’s family and I had a great time sharing a meal at one of their favorite restaurants in North East, Md. When we returned to their home, I got to preview the slide show that would be such an important part of the memorial. They had invested countless hours into this precious gift. What an amazing visual tribute it was, sharing Buck’s life in such a powerful manner! My heart was overwhelmed as I watched Buck go from infancy to school age…then from his teenage years to manhood. They captured the essence of who Buck was in a creative compilation of photos and moving music. I was quickly reduced to a torrent of tears as I was so powerfully impacted by the beautiful testimony of a life so well lived.

I am so thankful for the photos that witnessed his love and devotion for his children and grandchildren as they grew and all his family in addition to all his many passions captured on film, clearly sharing the many sides of Buck: tough and tender, handsome and athletic, strong and gentle, serious and fun-loving , capable and adventurous, handy and helpful, manly and godly. What a feast for my healing heart, as I watched his obvious love for me and the visual memories of our courtship, wedding day and honeymoon unfolding before my eyes. I have such mixed feelings as I relive the precious moments we spent together as a couple. The pictures represent so many of the very best, joy filled days of my life! I had forgotten about many of those pictures, so I liken seeing them again to finding buried treasure. How thankful I am for the gift of photography, that helps us recreate those memories in our hearts that we would lose otherwise.

We made the decision to include Buck’s hospital days in the slide show because they were such a significant part of his story. In spite of his lengthy, life threatening illness; his sweetness, courage, character and faith came shining through. There was never any doubt that this was a man who loved God “with all his heart”.

This fine collection of memories simultaneously brings me great joy and breaks my heart as they intensify the reality of my Bofren’s absence! It is often painful and difficult , but more often I continue to have a greater number of good and joyful days than sad ones as I depend on the Lord to move me forward. Every day, He goes before me and shows me His faithfulness through the love of my family and friends!

I will forever cherish this wonderful gift that Sarah and Bob created for Kevin, Jessi and I!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Buck's Memorial ~ A Day To Remember!

Posted Jun 30, 2009 ~ (Two months into widowhood)

When I was first inspired to have a memorial for my Bofren, soon after his passing, the thought came to mind to celebrate Buck's life on the 4th of July. Independence Day seemed fitting to also celebrate my sweetheart's being set free from all his "earthly life support" to begin his enjoyment of the new life that his Lord had planned for him. Sweet Freedom for him at last! I wanted his memorial to coordinate with the traditional celebrating with an outdoor picnic after the memorial and culminating with watching the fireworks, which we both loved to share. My pastor wisely recommended that we choose another date, as my original plan would probably mean that a lot of people would not be able to attend because of other commitments and vacations.

I settled on the week before the 4th in conjunction with the annual fireworks display in Darlington Md. In trying to begin the planning process, I very quickly became totally overwhelmed with trying to figure out all the details if I tried to maintain my outdoor picnic plan. I knew Buck would not want me to be burdened, so I made the decision to hold the luncheon in our church fellowship hall instead. My wonderful church family took care of all the details, set up, clean up; all of it! My sweet friend Bobbie helped me reserve the date on the church calendar and told me, "you don't worry about a thing, you just show up". What a gift my church family gave me with the help of all those who supplied a delicious array of food to bless all of us. Thank you to all who participated in any way!

I will forever treasure the celebration of Buck's life. God was so faithful as we looked to Him for inspiration in the planning of the music, inviting speakers, and determining how everything would come together.

The week prior to the memorial was a stressful week for my daughter, Sarah, and her husband, Bob, as they both worked diligently to finalize the slide show presentation, that would tell the story of Buck's life. It was a labor of love and a masterpiece that had an amazing impact on all that were present.
I will share more in my next entry.
My love to all of you.
Renee'

Friday, January 27, 2012

Busy, Busy, But All Is Well

Posted Jun 14, 2009 ~ (seven weeks into widowhood)

My life has been very busy, full of mostly good things, like visits with dear friends; some I haven't seen in years, some new ones and my growing circle of faithful, church-family friends. And then there's always mowing and some new challenges seem to keep cropping up, but all is well, when I stay focused and continue to trust the Lord in ALL things.

I continue to need reminders when new situations want to take over. Thank you Sarah, for knowing me so well and for being that dependable voice. You are so often my compass, when I allow circumstances to replace the Peace I've known. It has to be a deliberate decision each day and with each new issue, otherwise it would be so easy to fall into a pattern of overwhelming, harmful distraction that would so quickly and easily rob me of the Peace that God promises. The Lord has been so faithful to supply that gift of Peace from the first of the year as I have relied on my faith throughout these past six months. I didn't know that heartache and Peace could coexist! I am thankful and blessed to be able to say it is true in my life and available to all of us who trust in Him.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds, in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

I pray this finds all of you with hearts and minds full of God's Peace. It's real my friends and loved ones!
Love,
Renee'

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Overdue Physical And Powerful Pictures


Posted Jun 9, 2009 ~ ( 6 weeks into widowhood)

This past week produced a whirlwind of activity, starting last Wednesday with an overdue physical at my family doctor’s office. I wasn’t sure if the last six months of stress might have shown up on my EKG or affected my blood pressure numbers. Thankfully, my doctor was able to give me a good report. We talked at length about Buck as Dr. S. had never received any information from the hospitals. He was saddened as Buck had been his patient for many years and our doctor’s wife was raised close to where Buck grew up and they attended the same high school, although I don’t think they knew each other back then. Buck and our doctor always talked about Richwood, W.V. whenever Buck needed to get his annual physical or had an illness that needed attention. Dr. S. was generous with his time, concern and compassion, as were all the staff, for which I was most appreciative.

My daughter, Sarah and baby Kyrstin came to visit on Thursday. Our mission was to locate the photographs that Buck and I have collected over the last 12 years. We were excited to find Buck’s pictures first. We found lots of photos depicting Kevin and Jessi’s (my step-children) growing up years, including team pictures, when Buck coached soccer and softball teams. Looking through them was not very difficult because I didn’t know my sweetheart then. There was only one picture in particular that affected me emotionally. It was a picture of Buck holding Jessi as a tiny infant against his bare chest. They were both sleeping peacefully. It was a rendering of a tender moment that spoke volumes about the warm, loving father he was to his children.

Then Sarah and I were blessed to accomplish our mission by finding the box that held many but not all of our most special photos, including our wedding and honeymoon pictures. I debated if I should go through them, knowing the emotional effect that would follow. Throughout the day, I was feeling sensitive emotionally and decided it would probably be good for me to vent some of the building feelings. Reliving all the precious memories had the predictable outcome and was a very painful process. Nevertheless, I was so very thankful that we finally found the pictures and I sent them home with Sarah to use for the slide show that she is putting together for Buck’s Memorial on June 27th. I will be sure to bring my towel that day. You may want to do the same.

My friends Jim and Sue came to visit that evening while Sarah was still here. I was still wearing my grieving towel when they arrived. They knew it had been a difficult day for me, but I really appreciated something that Jim said to me. He reminded me how blessed I am to have such wonderful memories, as some unfortunate people have few or no good memories to hold on to. The memories are painful now, as of course; they intensify my already broken heart and make me miss my Bofren all the more. Reliving our wedding day was the hardest part, as it was so obvious, as all the pictures clearly captured, that it was the most joyful day of our lives and a beautiful celebration of our gratitude to God for bringing us together! I am indeed so blessed to have so many wonderful memories to cherish and hold forever in my heart.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Stressful But Better Week

Posted June 3, 2009  ~ (Five weeks into widowhood)

This week has been very stressful, but very pleasant in many ways as my friends have been keeping me busy with invitations to go for walks, (thanks Pat) and to an exquisite tea party at my dear friend Eva's home, to celebrate our friend, Sue's recovery from a very serious car accident in December. Sunday brought a fun visit with friends Jim, Susan and Darla and dinner on Monday evening with friends Glenn and Debbie, whom I hadn't seen in years . This week will be equally as busy as friends and family keep me distracted with their help and friendship. I continue to be so blessed as the Lord is answering many prayers. Everyone makes me feel special and very much loved in taking such good care of me!

My sweetheart on our new garage roof, just days before his heart attack
I often get emotional at church either because of the music selection or because of the beautiful outdoor video clips that are the backdrop for the lyrics for our praise and worship segment of our service. Pictures of mountains with layer upon layer of disappearing ranges in the distance and scenic cascading waterfalls always bring tears as they so vividly remind me of my sweetheart and our many memorable New England hikes. Another backdrop that affects me is of a man standing on a cliff, overlooking the ocean, as the waves break and splash against the rocks just in front of him. It always makes me think of Buck as he too would freely raise his arms and hands above his head to praise and worship His Lord, whom he loved so much! It also brings to mind, the silhouette picture of Buck on the roof of our garage, pictured above. I am very thankful that so far, the pictures have only inspired tears and not full blown weeping like often happens at home. I know it is all an important part of the grieving process. With God's help, I am moving forward as best I can, as He gives me the grace to deal with each new day, one day at a time.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Memories And New Challenges


Posted May 28, 2009 ~ (Five weeks into widowhood)
I have been searching for all of our photos with no success. Having moved into our new home just three months before Buck’s heart attack, our pictures are still among our many unpacked boxes in the basement or elsewhere. While looking around in his closet, I found a Valentine’s Day gift that I put together for Buck in 1999. It was a photos frame with 14 various openings of different shapes and sizes. It held a collection of pictures we took during our daylong hiking adventure, climbing and descending Mount Washington in New Hampshire.

I had not seen these pictures for nearly a year and a half, as they had been packed away while we built our new home. I forgot that I put the frame in Buck’s closet. Finding the pictures returned me to the same intensity of sorrow and weeping that I confronted when I first returned to my “Home Without My Bofren” reality a few weeks ago. Some of my favorite outdoor pictures of us together are included in that frame. The tears come again now as I think about those significant hiking days. Buck had carried his camera tripod, so he could take pictures of us together to remember some of our challenging hiking adventures. The frame holds many memories that we captured during several days of that summer vacation. One of the oval shaped openings holds a small calligraphy message I made for him that reads: Loving You is a Mountaintop Experience! August 1998.

We went to New England on our honeymoon in October 1997, visiting Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. We drove to the summit of Mount Washington on that trip and also rode the Cog Railway to the top, where we encountered horizontal snow as we made a run for the observatory building. Mount Washington has an elevation of 6288 ft. and is known for its reputation of being “Home of the world’s worst weather”! We fell in love with the Northern states and returned to New Hampshire during our first summer as newlyweds to experience Mount Washington on foot. The trip up was wonderful as I was able to keep up with Buck pretty well and the views and Wows were amazing! However, the trip back was agonizing as the very first step heading back down the mountain, produced pain in my knee that made for a lengthy, slow, miserable return journey that got us to our destination just before nightfall. In spite of the painful part, it is a favorite memory and I’m so glad I have the pictures to take me back. I know someday I’ll be able to look at them and not break down. Sarah will be using some of those pictures in the slideshow she is putting together for Buck’s Memorial on June 27th.

The pictures were not the only trigger that brought me to that meltdown condition on Saturday afternoon. After I semi-recovered from finding Buck’s Valentine, I also found a bag from the Lifeway Christian Book Store. Buck had shopped there before Christmas to buy a gift bible for Jessi’s boyfriend, Justin.

Buck and I made a decision early in our marriage not to buy gifts for each other, but it was our tradition to get ornaments for each other, every year. My Sweetheart was known for waiting till last minute to shop for me: Christmas Eve type last minute; it happened all the time. I fell to pieces when I opened the Lifeway bag to find a ceramic ornament with Jesus inscribed on it, that Buck had obviously chosen and tucked away to give to me this Christmas!

My heart breaks anew in each remembrance of the beautiful life my Bofren provided for me. He always made sure that we took time to have fun together. I miss him so much; sometimes I think I can’t bare this! Gradually the weeping subsides, but leaves me in a physically weakened condition, that usually takes half a day to recover from. It’s difficult to be productive on those days. By God’s grace, I am enjoying more good days than emotional ones. I feel strong some days and do what seems to be the most needful or the next logical step. I enjoy the mindless jobs, like doing the dishes. I dislike the days that require making phone calls to get information about subjects I don’t understand, as I will need to do today. Often, it is hard to decide what the priority should be on that given day. Fatigue and forgetfulness have been my constant companions the past week, making it difficult to think clearly or hold on to thoughts.

Life has been somewhat overwhelming as I face a different financial future than I expected and I have to confront some important decisions. I know the Lord will provide the guidance and direction that I need. For a couple days, I lost sight of the fact that the Lord hadn’t gone anywhere. I needed to be reminded that He had a plan; I just didn’t know what it was yet. Thank you for the reminder Sarah (my precious daughter)! The Lord has already restored peace to my heart, as He always does when I look to Him. What a gift! Thank You Lord, for the peace only You can provide! I would like to request prayer support as I wade through this new unfamiliar territory.

Thank you for continuing to care about me, for checking up on me, praying for me, encouraging and supporting me and holding my hand as we journey on together. All of you are precious gifts from God, and reminders of HIS LOVE! God bless all of you. Enjoy your day and don’t forget each one is a gift, as are those that surround you.
Love,
Renee’

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Grass, Garden And Groundhogs

Posted May 27, 2009 ~ (Five weeks into widowhood)

Aside from the initial challenges of getting the lawn tractor out of the shed, all went well with this rookie’s first solo lawn mowing on Friday. If you have ever read Scott Peck’s, “The Road Less Traveled”, you might remember the very first sentence: “Life is difficult”. My first moments of experience operating my lawn tractor proved he knew what he was talking about!

Last week, Ed taught me how to use my jumpstart system to start the lawn tractor, because the battery was weak. I tied the tractor seat down; knowing I would need to dismount in order to disconnect the battery cables when I got the tractor started and knowing that an empty seat would mean the engine would stop. I thought I had everything under control.

I got her started, unhooked, put her in reverse and immediately got the deck hung up on the ramp! Forward, reverse; the wheels just spun. I was good and stuck! Great, now what do I do Lord? My pride and embarrassment kept me from seeking help to get out of this mess I had gotten myself into so soon. The Lord and I had to figure this out on our own. I turned the engine off and used a two by four under the tractor to get some leverage. I got the tractor to pivot somewhat and maneuvered it down the ramp and into the grass.I jumpstarted her again, disconnected the cables, turned her around and she was making a strange noise. Now what? I got off and looked underneath to realize that the way I tied the seat down was interfering with the wheels turning freely. I held the seat down while untying the rope, hopped back on and finally was on my way. Live and learn the hard way.

A few hours and a fresh sunburn later, the yard was shaping up and I was learning what not to do. Maybe an old dog can learn new tricks after all! At the end of the day, I was feeling good about things getting done. I spent some time weeding my new raised bed vegetable garden that my dear friends and neighbors, Mark and Kristie put together for me while I was staying with Sarah and family. I came home to find three tomato plants, two broccoli plants and several different varieties of lettuce. Buck told Mark about his plan to put in some raised garden beds like the ones Mark and Kristie had installed on their property. They had high hopes that Buck and I would be enjoying fresh veggies from our own garden this summer when he got home from the hospital. How kind and thoughtful of our friends to carry out Buck’s plan to provide a garden for me! Thank you Mark and Kristie for your labor of love.

Unfortunately, I was also sharing my garden with a family of groundhogs. It seems my antics and efforts have persuaded them to move on. I wondered if my neighbors thought I must have lost my sanity, if they witnessed my running across the yard while banging two large fry pan lids together like cymbals in order to terrorize the greedy veggie vultures. I happen to have a really bad attitude about the mooching marauders who consumed my broccoli and harvested my lettuce. I hope they got the message! I also planted some more lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, basil and lavender that my friend Pat brought for me.

Mark stopped by this week and took the batteries from our camper and lawn tractor to charge on his battery charger. I am hopeful the battery will hold the charge and start right up when I need to mow again.

I have found that keeping busy is very helpful when one is grieving, but it does not protect me from dealing with the pain. Every time I think that maybe I’m getting a little stronger, because I have experienced a day or two with no tears, a new wave will open my wounded heart again with another precious memory. I was in Buck’s closet on Saturday and was simultaneously thrilled and broken over what I found. I will share that in another entry, as it is very late and the Melatonin (a natural sleep aid)is kicking in. Perhaps I’ll sleep better tonight.

Friday, January 6, 2012

New Homeowner Skills

Posted May 21, 2009  ~  (One month into widowhood)

My friend, Ed, returned last Thursday to install a new belt on my lawn tractor. He also taught me how to start, operate and fuel my lawn tractor, push mower and weed whacker. Ed was a great teacher. Time will tell if I was a good student. I didn’t know that the weed whacker required a special mixture of gasoline; important details for this rookie to understand. Operating the noisy machine was a new experience for me. I’m going to need to develop some upper body strength and arm muscles (or guns as Sarah would say) to handle the rowdy yard tool.

I can understand why Buck enjoyed using the lawn tractor. It was kind of fun and I’m sure it will be rewarding when I mow the entire yard, probably on Friday. This week I attacked part of the yard that hadn't been mowed yet and it was quite challenging. The weeds had grown hip high, but I pretended that my push mower was a bush hog and got the job done. The weeds were so high, I was afraid I might damage the lawn tractor if I found something unforeseen the hard way. Keeping my one acre lot should be more manageable, now that I can see it clearly. Hopefully, I’ll do as nice a job as my Sweetheart always did. I always appreciated how pretty he kept our yard and wanted him to know what a great job he did.

I depended on him for so many things. I was so blessed to have such a handy husband. He was a jack of many trades and exercised his abilities on a continuous basis. He could repair almost anything and was quite ingenious at times. He loved the challenge and would always give it his best shot and would often render hopeless things to a useful, working condition once again. He often amazed me!

I have so much to learn, but I feel good about becoming a little more self-sufficient. I like to think my Bofren would be proud of his Girfren. I’ve really been missing him a lot and often it’s hard to comprehend that my reality no longer revolves around him. I have accepted the fact, but it still doesn’t feel real. It's been a month today and I still find it hard to believe that my best friend isn't here to share our new home!

On Saturday, I drove to my sister and brother-in-laws house. It was my first solo drive since my return home after spending two and a half weeks with Sarah and her family. The drive became very emotional as I reminisced that Buck always drove whenever we went anywhere together. I am constantly surrounded by and sometimes overwhelmed by the memories; memories of the wonderful life we shared! I look forward to the day when I can recall a precious memory and smile and enjoy the place they hold in my heart, instead of the predominate sadness that so often overtakes me. I know the healing will come and has surely already begun with tiny baby steps. I am especially thankful for tear free days, but I am getting used to the emotion filled moments when they arrive. I like the way Sarah describes them. "It's just all that love pouring out, Mom!" I thank God for each new day and for walking through my new life with me. I’m so glad I don’t have to go through this alone, as His Word clearly promises; He will never leave or forsake us!


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Lawn Mowers And Lifted Spirits

Posted May 15, 2009 (Three weeks into widowhood)

Some of our dearest friends, Bobbie and her husband, Ed, came to visit on Wednesday with cooler in hand and all the makings for a delightful lunch. They brought some of my favorites: shrimp salad and croissants, chips, cantaloupe, strawberry shortcake and iced tea. My contribution was a batch of last minute brownies. We had a great time!

My friend, Ed, was on a mission, while Bobbie and I visited and went for a walk. I had asked Ed if he would take a look at my lawn mower. Buck had mentioned that it needed some attention and I didn’t know if it was safe to start it up. That plus I have never operated our three year old riding mower, because Buck was in love with his lawn tractor and took great pride and pleasure from maintaining our property, both before and after we built our home here. The truth is, it often caused much friction between us as he would escape for three or more hours, when there was so much to be done at the house we were living in, to prepare it to put on the market. It was an issue I had to learn to let go, since although he wasn’t perfect, he was truly wonderful and made a regular habit out of never mentioning my many flaws! What a treasure I had in him!

Returning to Ed and his mission. Ed, like Buck, is known for his servant’s heart and for helping all the widows with their homeowner problems. Never did I think that I would be among the ladies that he so kindly looks after. He jumped right in and got the mower started in no time. Unfortunately, a belt broke after several passes around the yard. He asked if I had the manual and I was actually able to find it. I feared the sea of unpacked boxes in the basement, (since, we had moved into our new home just three months before Buck’s heart attack), but was pleasantly surprised to find it in the file cabinet, the first place I looked.

In the meantime, Ed got out the push mower and began the arduous job, as my grass was quite tall and very thick, because Buck had done such a great job of seeding our lawn (well, with the help of friend and neighbor, Mark and myself). Ed worked hard for a good while and then he had a brainstorm. Bobbie and I watched as he tied the push mower behind the lawn tractor and towed the “working” mower around the yard. He did a splendid job. I told him he was a genius and I know Buck would have been so proud of our friend and his clever creativity! Bobbie and I took pictures to capture the memorable event. Although I started out with a heavy heart, it turned out to be a great day thanks to wonderful friends.


Another scripture that has comforted me came from a perpetual calendar that was a gift from my sister, Colleen. The April 21st page read: But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. The Lord fulfilled this promise in Buck and I during his four months of hospitalization. I know He will continue to be faithful in my future, as I trust in Him. Although the pain is intense at times, I have Peace…Genuine Peace! I know my Sweetheart is pain free and enjoying the presence of the Lord.

While speaking to Buck’s mom on the phone recently, she shared that when Buck made his last trip to West Virginia to visit and go hunting (just weeks before our journey began), he proudly showed pictures of our new home to her and his brothers. They commented on how nice they thought it was. Buck agreed, but said, “Yes, but I have a mansion waiting for me some day”. He held loosely to material things, and looked forward to going home some day with great anticipation. I would love to know what he is experiencing right now, but I am certain it is more wonderful than any of us can imagine!