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.

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!