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.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Christmas Miracle

Posted Jan 29, 2010 (My first Christmas season as a widow)

When I was growing up in the suburbs of Baltimore, my family never had any gardens or houseplants, so, I had zero experience with raising anything green. When I was twenty, I moved to Whiteford, Md; and pretty quickly took on the identity of a country girl. I planted a huge vegetable garden and learned to can green beans, tomatoes and peaches and also educated myself in the domestic art of jelly and jam-making from the wild berries I picked along the roadside.

Slowly, I accumulated a variety of houseplants, usually propagated from cuttings from my friends. Among those plants was a Christmas Cactus that I have nurtured for over thirty-five years now. I learned by trial and error and murdered many a perfectly good plant!

I lived in a wooded area, so the light availability was not desirable for sun loving plants. If you mix in my lack of experience and knowledge, complicated by not having the best of growing conditions, you get spindly, struggling plants. It was survival of the fittest and that’s what my Christmas Cactus proved itself to be. It adapted to its’ low light environment and never really grew very much; it just survived… for twenty-five years.

When Buck and I married, I became a Pennsylvanian, moving to the A-Frame house that he built not far from the Md.- Pa. state line. This environment was better, but still not ideal. While visiting a friend of Buck’s, I noticed that they had their Christmas Cactus outside where it could get rained on. That got my attention. Then, Buck’s Mom gave me a book on houseplants and I was shocked by what I learned! All those years, I was under the false impression that my cactus required very little water. I didn’t realize that it was a succulent and not a true cactus, and needed so much more water than I had provided. I had been unknowingly guilty of cactus cruelty. Not only had it been light deprived, but the poor plant had been thirsty for over TWENTY-FIVE YEARS! When I started watering it properly and moved it outside onto our porch in the summer, it started to grow again. I was thrilled!

After we married, we acquired what I thought were two more Christmas Cacti, but they bloomed faithfully every year at Thanksgiving. Although the original cactus thrived, it never did bloom in the ten plus years that it lived in our home in Airville. While we lived in our camper for eight months, building our home, all our house plants and furniture lived in our neighbor’s basement, and it was fun to witness the transformation that took place introducing our plants to much better living conditions, when we moved into the new house. Our first autumn season in our new home brought numerous blossoms on the two Thanksgiving plants, while Buck was in West Virginia for his annual three week hunting get away. All three plants had been subjected to the same conditions and level of attention but still no blossoms on ‘the old-timer’. This has always been a disappointment to me.

When I had my candlelight dinner with the Lord on Thanksgiving evening this year, the twin cacti were radiant with pink blooms and added lots of color to my dining room. Now, imagine my surprise, when I noticed that the ‘old-timer’ also had signs of new life on the tips of some of the leaf ends, as the twins were finishing their showy display! At first, I wasn’t sure if it was just new growth, or if indeed, this living object I had nurtured for so long, was going to come to life with a flashy demonstration of colorful flowers, just in time for Christmas!!!


       A Christmas Miracle: The 'old-timer' blooms for the first time in over 35 years!!!

The "old timer" started blooming around December 20th, so I was concerned that I would miss the long awaited treat, while I was away from home spending the holidays with my family. After returning from my twelve-day stay at Sarah and Bob’s home on January 5th, I thought it was likely that I had missed the show. Much to my delight, only three blossoms were spent! Not only did I not miss the show, I am very excited that the blossoms are still coming, with six flowers still remaining! I LOVE IT!!!

I don’t believe that our loved ones can look down on us, once they have left the reality they knew here on earth, but I do trust that my sweetheart has face-to-face contact with the Lord. Consequently, I wonder if perhaps Buck made the request to bless his Girfren in such a unique way! I have received this wondrous, timely gift, as a Christmas surprise from my Bofren, or maybe a precious present from the Lord, just for me! Either way, it is a Christmas miracle I will never forget!!! The Lord and my Bofren both knew what JOY this would bring to my heart!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

First Christmas Without The Papa Bear

 Posted Jan 21, 2010  (First Christmas season without my sweetheart)

Sarah told me she was glad I was not with her family, the day they went searching for their Christmas tree. They always go to a nearby tree farm to find the perfect live tree. Sarah said she was taken aback when she noticed the driver of the tractor that was following behind their hay wagon. The driver was a husky, broad shouldered man wearing a Carhart jacket, baseball cap and sporting a full, light gray moustache and beard. From a distance, this gentleman could have been my Bofren’s twin! Seeing him had a powerful effect on my 13-year-old grandson, Justin. Sarah said Justin’s eyes were tear filled and she, herself, had to look away, so she wouldn’t be overcome with emotion, because of this man's striking likeness to her beloved Papa Bear. I’m thankful that I wasn’t part of that family outing. Seeing a Buck look alike might be more than my heart could handle right now.

We all knew that this Christmas season would be very different and difficult and really didn’t know what to expect, so we decided that I would stay with Sarah’s family starting on Christmas Eve. Sarah and I had discussed the possibility of going to a church nearby for a candlelight service, but I knew I wasn’t up to it and there was still much to do to help prepare for Christmas Day.

My plan had been to spend five days with my family and head home after a doctor’s appointment on Monday. After three very full days of visiting with my family and extended family, I had nothing left in my energy bank and had to cancel my doctor’s visit and ended up staying another week in Sarah and Bob’s home. It hadn’t dawned on me how much I would need their love and support as the New Year rolled in, marking the first anniversary of the beginning of our new challenging journey. Just like all year long last year, they were there for me again when I needed them the most.

Spending nearly two weeks with Sarah and family was just what I needed. It was very painful at times and the absence of Buck's presence was felt very strongly by all of us, but in some ways it was one of the nicest Christmases I've ever had. In keeping everything so simple, though I often felt sad, it was the least stressful Christmas season I can remember. For the first time in my life, I was able to spend time focusing on the true reason for the season, and I think my Bofren would really like that!


 Breakfast Crepes With The Fam Christmas Morning: Kyrie, Sarah, Justin, Colin and Bob

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Christmas Gifts for Bofren & Girfren

Posted Jan 21, 2010  (My fist Christmas season without my sweetheart)

It is my tradition to give ornaments to our grandchildren each year. As I was searching through my collection, I came across one that I had totally forgotten about. It was one I bought a couple years ago, and finding it set me into an emotional tailspin. It was a friendly, smiling bear equipped with hiking boots, a large backpack and bedroll, high stepping as he moved forward. When I purchased it, my plan was to save it for the year my Sweetheart accomplished his life long dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT). I crumbled in a pool of tears at its’ discovery.

As I thought about it, although Buck didn’t have the opportunity to make his 2,174 miles trek, as he so desired to do someday; I realized he is able to hike the footpaths of heaven instead! What glorious WOWS he must be experiencing now: an indescribable view in every direction! A physical body that would slow him down does not encumber him, and I’m thinking there aren’t any annoying or biting insects to deal with either.
My Almighty Trail ornament for Buck and his Jesus Is The Best Gift Of All ornament for me.

So my precious Bofren, I’m asking the Lord to convey this message to you. Your Girfren had a gift for you this year too. I decided that this is indeed the year we will celebrate your AT hike, although you will probably never reach a finish line like Mt. Katahdin here on earth, because you will have all of eternity to explore, and countless surprises around every turn! I’m certain you are seeing sights that we couldn’t have imagined in our wildest dreams. Those ideas plus the realization that you are now enjoying the presence of the Lord, face to face, brings JOY to my heart whenever I reflect on those wonderful thoughts.

I miss you so much, and not having you here at my side is very painful sometimes, especially as I go through my “firsts” without you! I want you to know that the Lord and our family and friends are taking such good care of me. Although sadness visits often, I don’t stay there for long; I know you wouldn’t want me to. When I remember to look up and share my pain with the Lord, He restores the PEACE that I enjoy most of the time! I am so thankful for that precious gift.

You know how I always write on your ornaments? Well, this year was no different. I wrote: Bofren’s AT Journey along the bottom of your gift, only the letters AT have a different and special meaning. You are enjoying an experience far better than traveling the Appalachian Trail. Instead, your ornament represents the ALMIGHTY TRAIL and I am so happy for you! I’m sure, when The Lord calls me home someday, you will have so many wonderful places to show me, and all our loved ones who follow us. Until that day arrives, I’m moving forward with the Lord’s help and strength, and with the love and support of all those who love us. You are greatly missed by all of us!
In a spring entry, shortly after my Bofren went HOME, I shared about Buck’s tendency to wait until Christmas Eve to shop for my ornament. One of my most potent emotional meltdowns took place when I found a bag with two ornaments that Buck had purchased just a few days before his heart attack, and tucked away in his closet for this Christmas season. I rewrapped them in tissue paper, just as I had found them and put them away until I packed for my stay with Sarah. I brought one wrapped ornament to open on Christmas day. I will save the second one for 2010. I couldn’t remember what Buck’s gift to me looked like, so it was still a surprise when I opened it on Christmas evening.

It was a flat, ceramic, gift box shape with a red bow on top. It was light green, decorated with holly leaves and Jesus’ name was written across the box with red lettering. I will forever treasure this earthly gift from my Sweetheart! His gift symbolized what was most important to him. Buck’s ornament made it clear that he already understood that Jesus is the BEST GIFT we can ever possibly have, regardless of which side of heaven is our residence!

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23: 6

Thursday, January 3, 2013

No Kings Or Camels ~ Part 3

I had hoped that the timing of sharing this and the next few posts would have been more timely, but I have been sick with bronchitis since the week before Christmas and still recuperating into the new year.

Posted Jan 18, 2010 

In my quest to keep my holiday season as simple as possible, I made the decision not to do any holiday shopping OUT THERE or online; shopping from my gift stash was the best I could do. I just didn’t have the energy or the will. I was amazed by the difference that decision made. Frantic and frenzied activity didn’t exist in my home. All the busyness was replaced with peace and tranquility mingled with many moments of sadness and grief, while revisiting our Christmas history, including so many wonderful memories.

Trimming the tree brought an abundance of tears, as I knew it would. I was surprised that my emotions weren’t more stirred up by finding ornaments I had given to my Bofren, only a few with love notes written on the backs got to me. On the other hand, most of the ornaments Buck had chosen for me over the years, brought a torrent of tears that left me physically weakened, and shocked at the site of the swollen eyed woman in the mirror the next morning.

My last Christmas gift from my sweetheart
The ones that affected me the most were the ones we gave to each other last year. Buck chose a white ceramic mitten with a green rolled down cuff. Merry Christmas was written in red lettering and it was dated 2008. There were two bright eyed and broadly smiling faces with Santa hats tucked snuggly into the glove, kind of like a mitten shaped sleeping bag. My Sweetheart was so excited about that gift because he was able to have it personalized with our names printed on the brims of the hats.

My gift to Buck was a silver ornament frame holding a picture of our new home in the open circle, with a note on the back: “Look what Buck & Renee’ & The Lord did. I love you! Apple”. Apple was a new nickname for me that Buck used on his cell phone, so I would be at the top of his list in his address book.

My 2008 Christmas ornament for my Bofren

I’m thankful that God gave me the courage to face another important, sentimental first. I miss Buck so much and so many aspects of who he was. Going through my first holiday season without him made that fact very evident. Although decorating the tree was emotionally exhausting, I know it pushed me forward in my journey of healing and hopefully will be less painful next year. In my next entry, I will wrap up my feelings, as I look back on this holiday season.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

No Kings Or Camels ~ Part 2

I had hoped that the timing of sharing this and the next few posts would have been more timely, but I have been sick with bronchitis since the week before Christmas and still recuperating into the new year.

Posted Jan 13, 2010 

Since Buck and I married, we shared twelve Christmas seasons and always used his ’everlasting’ tree. I was impressed with how lifelike it appeared the first time he set it up. I had always been a live tree lover, but being a practical person, I was quickly won over to the beauty of using his tree. I don’t know how long Buck had his tree before our marriage, but sadly, it was starting to show its maturity by dropping as many needles as a live, dehydrated  tree might. A few days before Buck’s heart attack (Jan.1, 2009), we shopped for a new tree, taking advantage of after Christmas sales.  Little did we know how our lives were to forever change in the next few days. Never would he lay his earthly eyes on our new Christmas tree or know that he would be spending his 2009 Christmas face to face with Jesus!

I’m so glad that we chose the tree together. A new tree seems fitting for the beginning of this new season in our lives. Although it isn’t a living tree, it is somewhat symbolic to me; representing a new beginning, full of brightness and joy for both of us; a representation of beauty and eternal, experiential bliss for Buck and a future full of hope, creativity, and growth for me. The tree is also a beautiful sentimental symbol of the love my Sweetheart and I shared.

Putting the tree together for the first time was a bit challenging, and simply getting it from the basement to my living room was no easy task. I quickly realized that there was no way I was going to get the tree to the main floor in its original box. It weighed a ton!

So the pieces arrived in the living room one segment at a time, and provided some much needed exercise. All tolled, the tree components and boxes of decorations and ornaments necessitated about eight to ten trips up and down the stairs. I was pretty much spent at that point, but was determined to at least get the tree erected, before I called it a night in the wee hours of the morning.

The next evening was the most difficult part of my Christmas season, as this was an opportunity to reminisce over many beautiful moments and memories we shared during our wonderful years together. After our first few years of marriage, we decided not to exchange gifts any more, but we choose ornaments for each other every year. As you can imagine, trimming the tree had its excruciating moments as I weeded through the numerous combined his and hers collections that we brought together our first Christmas. I have decided that I will be separating “our collection of treasures” from Buck’s array of ornaments from his past, and pass them along to Jessi and Kevin, which I am certain will be sentimental gems for them as well.