The Roller Coaster of These Days

I have lost people dear to me before: parents, grandparents, aunts, uncle, and my dear Godparents. Through divorce, I lost my first husband; even though I was the one who sought it, it has never stopped being a weight and sorrow upon my heart.

But the weight of grief upon my heart when my dear husband died this last spring has been, at times, crushing. It is no longer the only thing I see in my life. Now, there are ordinary happy events. Meals out with my eldest brother and sister-in-law, who live about four miles from me. Plans for a visit with a nearly lifelong friend whom I haven’t seen in eons. Pictures of cats sent to me daily by some married friends who both seem to adore their furry friends. Lunch out recently with an old friend, which I wrote about in my last blog post called When The River Won’t Flow: Stones and Letters

Oh — and those Letters! They proved to be extraordinary gifts that I hadn’t looked at in years — letters between myself and my friend, who became my much-beloved husband.

Perhaps due to our love’s riches, the feelings of loss are crushing and overwhelming at times. At times those shifts of emotion seem to happen within nanoseconds. All I know to do is to keep on keeping on. God’s hands hold even this.

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Stones and Letters

Earlier this week, I drove about 85 miles north to meet a friend at a cemetery. To be precise, I went to the cemetery where I had purchased some plots and where a recently engraved headstone and markers are in place.

My friend had a shorter drive and was waiting in the parking lot when I arrived. I knew where to look, and we quickly located the two plots not far from where my parents and my mom’s parents are buried.

The stones I was looking for will eventually mark the graves belonging to my husband and me. Right now, all they identify is space. I was pleased with what I saw. I took some pictures, and then we searched for my friend’s grandparents, buried in another portion of the cemetery. We discovered that quickly enough, and relatively close by, my paternal grandparents’ graves.

By this time, we had seen what I traveled north to see, and the two of us left the cemetery and went out for a bite of lunch. We had a delightful lunch at a famous eatery, Tony Packo’s,  caught each other up on decades of our lives, and then we said goodbye, and I began the drive home.

After arriving home, I stayed up a bit past midnight. Finally, feeling a little sleepy, I decided that I better get some shut-eye. Maybe five minutes later, something unexpected happened. A strange feeling came over me that I needed to get out of bed and get a box down from a shelf in the closet.

That box was filled with letters between my husband and me. We exchanged letters when we were just friends, courting, and continued writing during many years of marriage. I read dozens of those letters until the wee hours of the morning.

A strange thing happened as a result. In some ways that I can’t quite explain, reading those letters put the heart back in me. At the end of my darling’s life, it became increasingly more difficult for him to speak. The most cherished was the last I love you that he managed to say to me, shortly before he died. These letters reminded me of the richness of our life and gave me new courage for the days ahead. The box has not been far away from me, yet I didn’t think about it until late at night.

Perhaps I was nudged to open that treasure box and feast my eyes.

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Tough Love

Last Friday, I was a soggy mess. I couldn’t stop crying. I was missing my best friend and husband so much that I couldn’t see straight. For those of you who don’t know, my husband died earlier this year. But that happened sufficiently long ago that it seemed to me that I shouldn’t be so teary-eyed. I was pretty much an emotional wreck. I whined about it to my FB friends, and everyone was thoughtful and kind.

I guess the thoughtful and kind response made me want to tell one more person. That is where I made a tactical error! I whined about it in an email to one of my dearest friends — and she read me the riot act. It was a swift kick via a short return email.

Generally speaking, I don’t hope to be on the receiving end of a swift kick. But I have to say that in this case, it was just what I needed. Sometimes what helps us the most, or motivates us to change, isn’t warm and cuddly.

I am grateful that I have friends and family members who remind me, who and whose I am. I am a baptized child of God, and that same God granted us eleven wonderful married years together. I am thankful for that.

Looking forward, I hope that I have many years ahead of me to watch little ones grow, have more adventures, visit with friends, and, in memory of my dear Ronnie — to stir up some good-hearted mischief. Thank you, LY. You delivered just the medicine that I needed.

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Lure and Trap

At a former job in Arizona, one of my colleagues would regularly hold up as ideal Canada’s medical model where there was healthcare for all. As a veteran’s wife, I have learned both the blessings and limitations of The Veteran’s Administration health care. This experience has often made me want to urge caution regarding universal healthcare.

Over the years, there have been a variety of warnings in world news about socialized medicine. I still recall the 2018 heart-wrenching story of little Alfie Evans. His parents had been offered free medical care for Alfie in Italy. Even the Pope intervened:

“Moved by the prayers and immense solidarity shown little Alfie Evans, I renew my appeal that the suffering of his parents may be heard and that their desire to seek new forms of treatment may be granted.”
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) April 23, 2018

But the English courts forbade his parents to pursue this. Indeed, the British courts removed the parents from the equation at all. The court upheld taking little Alfie off of life support, and he died in the hospital with armed guards at his door. The court prohibited taking Alfie elsewhere for care. They even forbade his parents from taking him home to die with his family at his side. The court’s decision was not about money – but about power.

One of the blessings of living in the USA is the right to choose. In America, we can choose to seek treatment with the doctor and hospital of our choice. Cost may be a deciding factor. But the story of Alfie is a story of power. I am not naive about the cost of medical treatments in America. Indeed, I am intimately acquainted with it as I continue to pay off an obscenely high bill for ten hours in the emergency room in 2011 when I had no insurance.

But socialism, and socialized medicine, are about control and power. Years ago, we were warned by a staff member at a VA hospital that all vets have an expiration date. The staffer went on to say that the nearer you got to that date, the less help you would ever receive. No doubt, such cost equations permeate all businesses, including health care.

When my daughter was born, we were blessed to have a wonderful pediatrician in an excellent pediatric practice. A sign stated that vaccines or medicines not covered by insurance might be prescribed if deemed to be in the child’s best interest. So good care trumped cost. But that was a privately run practice whose doctors owned the business.

Like Charlie Gard before him, the case of Alfie Evans demonstrates what happens when the state becomes the supreme force, and parents are barred from the door. The hospital expected Alfie Evans to die within minutes of having life support withdrawn. But that was not the case. The state was wrong. Alfie clung to life, not just for minutes and hours, but for days.

Over the years, my husband was generally pleased with the doctors he saw within the VA. There were a few that were notably bad exceptions. Sometimes the wait time for veterans was obscenely long, and some lived hours from a VA facility. Now living in a small town in Ohio, we once had to drive eighty-plus miles to see a VA doctor. I am not a fan of socialized medicine and am always thankful for improvements and choice within the Veterans Administration.

But I would urge those who seek universal healthcare to think carefully about what that might mean for you and yours.

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Preemptive Strike

Of course, if you see it coming, it is nice to avoid the potholes of life. But if you weren’t born yesterday, you are well aware that potholes sometimes leap out at you from behind a rock.

Long ago, nearly a century now, there lived a little girl who liked to play outside. She wasn’t very old, and unfortunately, there was a bully who lived nearby. He was much bigger than she was and very mean. His name was Charles. He loved to bully others, in particular, if the others were smaller than he.

The little girl in this story had a toy vacuum cleaner, and one day she took it outside to play. Perhaps she thought it would be fun to vacuum the lawn and sidewalk. But while she was playing, an idea entered into her dear little head. She decided to make a preemptive strike.

She did not consult with anyone regarding her decision. Instead, she went in search of the ruffian Charles. Then, quite calmly, she picked up her toy vacuum cleaner and bopped him on his head. The lad Charles ran home crying to Mommy.

The wee lass cured the young Charles of his bullying ways. He never bothered her again.

I always loved this story, although it is a lesson I occasionally need to revisit. Thank you, Mom!

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On the Subject of Men

This last weekend I had a wonderful time with my daughter’s family, who drove to Ohio from Missouri to spend time with me and take some of their belongings home. It was a wonderful balm to my heart to have them visit. Although we have video chats and talk on the phone, I hadn’t gotten to hug them for a year. I got to hold and hug my grandchildren: ask any grandmother, or Nana, in my case, it is a treat. I am so thankful that they were able to make the trip.

Now they are back home, and I am pondering the way I spend my days. I have plenty of work to do and projects to tackle. Thanks to my daughter and son-in-law, I now have three additional bookcases for my home. Two of which are going into my office. That will help tame the second to last wilderness area of my house. But there is more to life than shelving books and taming the wilderness. Today I looked at prelude and postlude music for the organ as I have a funeral to play for this weekend. Those are worthy tasks. But life is more than projects and responsibilities.

After Ron died, it seemed only nanoseconds later that several friends and even some family members told me to never close the door on getting married again. I have closed that door. Permanently. I wrote about it here: When The River Won’t Flow: This Widow’s View of Men

That said, I like having male friends. Men think differently than women. Men look at the world differently than women. I like having conversations with friends who are men.

I have several male friends I talk to on the phone now and then. I have a guy friend with whom I’m planning to have lunch on the day that I drive up to the cemetery to see Ron’s & my headstone finished and in place.  I’m looking forward to that.

There are several male bloggers who I don’t know from Adam, but whose blogs I love to read because they look at the world so differently than I do. I have three brothers; all three are unique, intelligent, and can be quite entertaining. But periodically, it is nice to talk with people who aren’t your kith and kin.

I am not interested in anything romantic. I’ve had the best of the best. I am a widow, but I am very married. Sometimes it is just pleasant to talk with someone whose brain is wired differently than yours. 


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This Woman’s Heart

Anyone who has loitered on my blogsite — When the River Won’t Flow — within the last eight months, knows that the death of my dearest love has broken my heart.

  • grief is a hard taskmaster
  • my tears flow too frequently
  • sleep often shuns me

The plague’s intervention has further isolated people in varying degrees from one another. A long day’s travel from my home, sweet balm was waiting — a new grandchild. This last weekend that handful of a lad, along with his whole family, came to visit.

I remember thinking when I was a new mom that my back would break carrying my new baby. Instead, I learned that I was in basic training, so that as my baby grew, so did my muscle strength. As I held my new grandchild, it slowly dawned on me that it had been many years since I had that basic training. For the last few days, my back has ached, and my ankles got swollen.

Yesterday morning we three (alternating the two not on baby/ grandbaby duty) loaded their rented trailer with furniture belonging to my daughter. Finally, late morning, they were ready to start their trip home. A short while after they headed for home, I got busy with the laundry. As I started the laundry, the required steps to carry dirty laundry upstairs or bring many of the clean items down, my ankles and back grumbled loudly.

Today, I am celebrating the delightful healing gift to my heart. Aches and pains, even the life-altering pain of grief, are never the whole story. Love comes in many shapes and sizes.

  • the arrival of my baby girl long ago was a cause for great rejoicing
  • the joyful appearance of a grandbaby girl some years ago brought delight to my dear husband and me
  • the joyous news of a new grandbaby boy earlier this year further delighted us

There is no substitute for getting to hold that bundle! So a big shout out to my dear daughter and son-in-law. I can’t thank you enough for making the trek across several states to come and spend the weekend with me. Your visit was balm to my grieving heart! The time together caused happiness to rain down on this home and lighten the weight of grief upon my heart.  I love you four beyond measure. I thank the dear Lord that we had this visit and that you arrived safely back at your own home.  This woman’s grieving heart has been much cheered.

Thanks be to God!

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Taming the Wild Kingdom

In the months since my husband’s death, our home has been pretty much a wreck. Neither the dining room nor kitchen tables were usable for their designated purpose, i.e., meals. Instead, I turned them into gross warehouses of paperwork, files, bills, and all manner of problems that needed solving. The living room was presentable. Isn’t that one of the laws of life?

My dear mother, a brilliant woman who could solve nearly any crisis, passed on to me one bit of infallible wisdom. If you want your house to be clean, invite people to visit. Well, bless me, it never fails.

As of this morning, my kitchen is immaculate, as is my dining room and living room. There is nary a file in view, as they now reside in our home office. That room now is off-limits to all who value their lives. You can barely turn around safely there. Files, my bicycle, correspondence, books that do not yet have a shelf, even some art supplies are hiding out there. For the sheer giddy hell of it, I even wound and set the clock in the living room. It now nicely chimes the hour and half-hour.

Then, I rearranged the kitchen furniture and rubbed lemon oil over the chairs and table until they looked presentable. I had no idea that our kitchen could look pristine. Well, perhaps once upon a time. I still have a few tasks to complete this morning, but I will finish them in short order.

I pray for safe travel to my four house guests: two brilliant adults who blessed me by making me a Nana twice over. My husband and I enjoyed our visit with three of them in the spring of 2019.  Now, for the first time, I will get to hold our youngest grandchild. I am ecstatic.

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Death and Life, Loss and Gain

Pondering a challenging response to a friend today, I realize that I am, at times, just barely holding on. In nearly every way, life has gotten harder since the death of my amazingly loving husband.

Concerning life in general, I no longer have:

  • my husband, lover, and best friend
  • my former business partner: see Phos Hilarion on FB (yes, I know I have to get a FB When the River Won’t Flow page and quit putting my posts on our Phos Hilarion page)
  • my favorite artist
  • my excellent grower of roses and on-site gardener

  • my favorite picnic partner

  • my defender
  • my dryer of tears
  • my confidant
  • my sounding board
  • my mischief-maker (see blog post of September 8, 2020)
  • my bad boy who enjoyed stirring the pot

Regarding my blog, When the River Won’t Flow, I no longer have:

  • my sounding board
  • my faithful first reader and critiquer
  • my favorite go-to for original works of art

But the losses have their mirror. All of those extraordinary things were wrapped up in my excellent loving husband. Not many people are so fortunate in their spouse.

So, thank you, Jesus, for dying so that my sweetheart may live. Thank you for loving sinners who turn to you. Thank you for giving me the hope of glorious reunions in the Kingdom of Heaven.

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Playing Doctor in the Animal Hospital Ward

Let me begin by making apologies. Today, according to the calendar, is POW/MIA Recognition Day, and tomorrow is Rosh Hashanah. I ask for your indulgence because I am not going to talk about anything too serious today. I can’t.

Grief changes over time, but there are still things that I feel overwhelmed to tackle. These days while I should be preparing for house guests next week, I am confronted with tasks I avoid because they hit too close to home, and a substitute organist job, which I’ve agreed to do, but for which I feel unprepared and out of practice to do well.

So. I will narrate the task I have been working on instead of the many things I should be doing. I have been playing Doctor in the animal hospital ward, which involves the friends I discussed in my last post, should you have missed it. Specifically, it involves two ancient bunnies, given to me when I was a wee slip of a girl.  They are named (as of yesterday) Pink or Pinkie and Blue or Blue Boy, after the famous painting. They are so old that they cannot hold their heads up, and watching movies with the other kids is nearly impossible. So, I have begun surgery.

Yesterday, while Blue was standing guard, I cut an incision in Pinkie and removed all of her innards.  I was amazed when I saw what all came out of her, but realized the problems. The spongy material is no longer springy, and wires that once held up her ears are just poking out and not doing their job. I had to use a crochet hook to get the stuffing out of her arms and legs.

This is what Pinkie looked like without her innards.

Next, I bathed Pinkie with gentle soap. I carefully got her as clean as possible and then rinsed her off and patted her dry with some towels. I laid her down, and her friend Blue Boy kept watch over her. Blue Boy will need surgery next, and I had to give him a little prop to keep his head up to keep an eye on Pink.

Last evening, I brought down my hairdryer and gently used it to dry Pinkie a bit more. Then, as it was getting late, I arranged their bedding in a different location. I am pleased to report that they spent a quiet night together with a little nightlight shining over them.

This morning, I took a picture of the two of them, and Pinkie’s fur looks much better. It is also drying nicely. Before too many days pass, I should be able to restuff her with fresh and springy filling. Then she will be able to stand watch over Blue while I do the same for him.


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