I was floored. I arrived home before the segment ended and I just sat in the driveway to make sure I heard the entire story. Work consists of serving in the United States Marine Corps. I am the father of two (a teen and a preteen), one of whom is adopted. Since June of this year I've been the primary Caregiver for my elderly parents who are showing signs of dementia and for the past 8 months I've been a widower. Even as a male I identified with much of what Mrs Neff had to say. I notice that many of the people that I tell my story too just clam up and disappear. It's as if the details are too overwhelming. One person was honest enough to admit that he both didn't know what to say to me and didn't know how to face my circumstances so he didn't talk to me anymore. I appreciated his honesty at least. It has been an incredible journey which I find myself on now. One of the comforts I have is that my wife knew the Lord Jesus as her savior and I was able to tell my children that as much as she loved them even if she could come back, having experienced heaven and God's presence, Mommy wouldn't want to. Heaven is that good. Thank you for a great and timely program and I look forward to hearing more from Prime Time America and seeing more from Mrs. Neff. I'll be logging on to her site with great interest. There are many of us widowers with needs as well. Some match what she described, but others I think are subtly different.
Signed- Jo Rozier Isaiah 40:11 -Moody diploma class of '84 My wife was Deltha Rozier (Jefferson) -Moody degree class of '89
And so I connected with Jo Rozier. He passed along the emails he sent his friends on the journey through his wife's illness and departure to heaven and a few months afterward. How I could relate! Those special days, the first Christmas, first Father's Day, or Mother's Day for widowers, each is hard. While obviously I write from a widow's perspective, you can see we're not exclusive here. Thank you, Jo, for writing to me, for being transparent. I know that many will relate to your heart. While I have condensed his story you can not miss that this career Marine is a tenderhearted man of God.
Jo Rozier’s Story
Thursday October 19, 2006
Deltha and the kids were in Raleigh, NC visiting the Planetarium as field trip outing for my two Home-schooled kids. While at the Planetarium Deltha complained of a severe headache and actually stepped outside of the auditorium briefly...where she then collapsed, unconscious. Strangers came to her assistance. 9-1-1 was called. She awoke briefly and whispered to Grace to, "call the church...". God bless my daughter because she did. First Baptist Church, from that moment on has been what I could only hope a "Church" would be...they have been Christ's body, his hands and feet for me and my family. Thank-you all tremendously. My command was contacted, Red Cross notified, I was reached in Afghan and within hours was on MIL-AIR winging to Kuwait.
Friday (October 20) A cerebral angiogram on Deltha reveals two aneurysms One large, one small. The large one had burst. Neurosurgeons said on a scale of 1-5, with one being low risk no big deal, to five being "Oh My God..." Deltha was at least a three.
Prior to the operation she was talking (in fact I was able to speak with her before I launched out of Afghanistan.
Saturday (October 21) morning she was responsive to commands from the doctor...could move individual fingers on both hands and wiggle toes on both feet. Over the course of the day her responsiveness diminished to the point that by Saturday evening she was totally unresponsive...even her pupils stop responding to light stimulus.
21 hours of flying, another 10-15 hours of layovers (Kuwait, Amsterdam, Minneapolis), no sleep and I arrive in Raleigh-Durham Saturday evening.
Monday (October 23), 1:00 am. . at least that's what my watch is telling me. As I told someone today, I think my body clock is still crossing over France trying to catch up with me. At this point the doctors are contemplating a second surgery, during which they may remove part of her scalp temporarily to give her brain room...an additional measure (worse case) discussed this evening with me was the removal of frontal lobe tissue. I'm not like-ing that option much. Two of my favorite words in the Bible are "...But God..." It is a phrase scattered throughout the Bible but particularly the O.T. It always comes in the midst of some seemingly impossible circumstance, one where there is no earthly solution in site and God directly intervenes. This is a "...But God..." time.
Tuesday (October 24) Deltha had a better evening. She had some fading but by the end of the day she is just exhausted. She is actively awaken and tested on the hour, every hour around the clock so it's not like she's getting rest. Still she maintained responsiveness through the night. This morning her sedative was turned off and has been kept off so far. She was able to interact with me and the staff and not just respond to our commands.
Called TRICARE this morning and no issue there at the current time. Deltha is receiving emergency care as far as they are concerned right now. Those of you in the military know this is not a step to be taken for granted. Health insurance and medical bill payment never is. I also formally admitted Deltha to the hospital. Just goes to show the circumstances of her arrival, she hadn't been admitted yet so five days after her arrival I go down and sign forms.
Getting some rest. I went to lay down yesterday around 1600 afternoon for a short nap and woke up after 2200. I guess I was tired...naaaawwww that couldn't be true.
My mother in law, and one sister in law have returned to their homes. The other sister in law is heading to Jacksonville today to spend the rest of the week at my house and with my kids. I've got a near term schooling plan lined up for my kids via the enormous generosity and blessing of a couple of families from my church but bottom line my son and daughter will resume their education this coming Monday. To quote that great theologian Martha Stewart, "its a good thing."
Haven't gotten around to finding a gym yet but figured out that you can do a lot of walking in a hospital especially late at night...couple that with taking stairs and not the elevator and wearing a day pack...well that almost works up a sweat. Still staying on the hospital grounds in their "motel" which is little more than a dorm room. Its funny because the staff keeps apologizing to me for the humbleness of the quarters...but it's an improvement from my "hooch" in Afghan so I can't complain. Best of all it keeps me very close i.e. walking distance to Deltha without going outside.
The kids are adjusting. Getting routine back in their lives will help immensely.
Thursday night when I was first told of what happened, I of course came into my work space and began making numerous phone calls. I was sitting at someone else's desk and on the wall by me was a flyer with the below comments. I made sure I copied it before leaving Afghan:
. ★You say, "It's impossible"...God says all things are possible -Luke 18:27
. ★You say, "I'm too tired"...God says, I will give you rest -Matthew 11:28-30
. ★You say, "Nobody really loves me"...God says, I love you -John 3:16
. ★You say, "I can't go on"...God says, My grace is sufficient -II Corinthians 12:9
. ★You say, "I can't figure things out"..God says, I will direct your steps -Proverbs 3:5,6
. ★You say, "I can't do it"...God says, You can do all things..." -Philippians 4:13
. ★You say, "I'm not able"...God says, I am able -II Corinthians 9:8
. ★You say, "I can't" ...God says, I will supply all of your needs -Philippians 4:19
. ★You say, "I'm afraid"...God says, I have not given you a spirit of fear -II Timothy 1:7
. ★You say, "I'm always worried and frustrated"...God says, cast all your cares on ME -I Peter 5:7
. ★You say, "I'm not smart enough"...God says I give you wisdom -I Corinthians 1:30
. ★You say, "I feel all alone" ...God says I will never leave you or forsake you -Hebrews 13:5
Wednesday (October 25) Deltha continues to recover...
I'll confess, last night was a rough one for us. Deltha did her daily fade. She was just exhausted more than anything else...and probably so was I but its not easy to hold your wife's hand and watch tears form in her eyes from frustration and pain... Even the nursing staff commented it was a rough time for her. Still by 10 PM I was choking back tears and had to leave her room.
Today is going much better. Deltha has reached day 5 post-op. This is apparently the end of the critical period when most of the swelling is expected. The staff has reduced the frequency of the Neuro checks from hourly to every other hour so Deltha is actually getting rest now between checks. She remains off of the sedative and the breathing machine has been adjusted down to allow Deltha to pick up more of the effort in her own breathing. The goal is to remove the breathing tube entirely tomorrow. She's still in pain and receiving pain medication for this.
Deltha follows me with her head as well as her eyes and we'll sit for an hour or so holding hands with HER squeezing and rubbing my fingers. She also moves her feet on command...something she hadn't done in a day and a half.
Pray for this evening. As is obvious, recovery isn't a straight line but has peaks and valleys. We both need strength for tonight's valley. Deltha needs to be able to breath and swallow on her own so the remaining tubes can come out.
Praise God for answered prayer and for the answers that are going to come !!!
Thursday (October 26) THE TUBE IS GONE !!!
Deltha's breathing tube was removed this afternoon. She's even managed to speak to the nurse although all she can manage at present is a horse, raspy, whisper. Assuming her breathing holds strong, she'll leave the Neurosurgery ICU tomorrow or on Sat. Even after leaving ICU she will need to strengthen and become able to cough and swallow so that she can feed herself. Prayers continue to be answered...so continue to pray.
After her tube was removed and while I sat with Deltha, I heard this familiar song on the local Christian radio station, "God is God" by Steven Curtis Chapman...the refrain goes:
God is God and I am not I can only see a part of the picture He’s painting God is God and I am man So I’ll never understand it all For only God is God
This is the message of Isaiah (55:8,9) and of Job (chapters 39, 40) It was true last Thursday when the aneurysm first burst in Deltha's head and its true today as she breathed for the first time in a week without a machine and it'll be true tomorrow as Deltha recovers her speech and continues to recuperate.. Thank-you for your prayers.
Friday (October 27) Deltha said my name !!!
How often have I taken for granted the huge privilege that my wife knew who I was, knew my identity?...Well, today, with great effort, Deltha whispered my name, my full name to me when I asked her who I was. It's still so hard for her. Her voice is barely a rasp but today it was my rasp and I thank God for it. Just hearing my name sounded so good.
Sunday (October 29)
As some of you already know it's been an interesting day.
Although its tempting, and I'll confess I've done this already today, I don't want to use the word "setback" because this wasn't one from God's perspective. I mean, HE didn't slip up, HE wasn't caught off guard, HE wasn't disappointed with how things turned out. I would describe today as "scenic" as in rather than taking the direct, six lane interstate, expressway to recovery; we're taking the two lane, wind through the countryside, see the flowers along the country road...to recovery. We're not lost, we're going to get there, we're just not in a hurry. God's walking my family down a path I by no means anticipated and certainly today an extra curve came up without warning but that doesn't mean God isn't walking with us or doesn't know the way. I'm reminded that God is God and I am not.
Monday (October 30) To quote the doctors, Deltha is still "very sick and has a long way to go..."
I was also intrigued by what one doctor told me. "Deltha's body just needs time to heal...there's only so much we can do." I immediately thought..."but I can do more...I can pray...God isn't through yet...HE's just getting started..." Where the doctor is describing limits I see opportunity for prayer. Thanks to your cards, notes, and phone calls I know that I'm not alone in prayer.
Deltha is again in the midst of the critical post surgery period but I sense tonight is especially important.
Tuesday (October 31)
I walked out today. I needed air and space and after my latest conversation with a doctor I walked out of the front door of the hospital and went for a short walk. I just wanted get away briefly...further away than the parking garage which is as far as I've been in 10 days (and then only once). Mostly I've been indoors. You know what...this place is huge. I've never been to UNC before but I learned today that you can't really leave UNC on foot! I walked for over 30 minutes and barely left the hospital campus. Still the sun and air felt good. Seeing people not wearing green surgical scrubs or white coats was better. Walking, praying and listening to God was the best. I did see some strange sites but then I remembered that it was halloween.
I'm praying for a lot faster response than two weeks. I have the patience of Job but the Bible also says "we have not because we ask not" (James 4:2) God is sovereign but he also implores us to make our desires known...and I desire a speedy recovery for my wife.
I think I'll go back upstairs so my wife can squeeze my hand some more. She may not know who I am but I know who she is and so I'll squeeze her hand back....
Thursday (November 2)
This has been one of the hardest days of my life. To my surprise, in the midst of everything I've not once asked God, "why am I going through this?" I may one day. Others have asked me 'why' and I don't have an answer for them. Most of all though I just need to know "what...?"
What do I tell my 11 year old son. He asked me this evening, "is mommy going to die?" I told him mommy's very sick, she has not been getting better and that I didn't know what was going to happen but my prayers and the doctors efforts were still toward making mommy recover. What do I tell my 13 year old daughter when she says its hard to sleep at night and she doesn't have much of an appetite? I told her I know how she feels, I'm having the same problem. We laughed together. (...as I type this it's going on 1 AM...again....)
The doctors are pressing me to prepare to make some hard final decisions and that those decisions may have to be made sooner rather than later. What am I supposed to choose? Is it time to bring my kids up to say goodbye to their mother? I'm having my daughter come up tomorrow...not to say goodbye but because she needs to see mommy again; How do I prepare her for the current shocking sight of Deltha in ICU?
Today for the first time I contemplated life without my sweetheart, my best friend and it just didn't work, it didn't add up. It felt like a math problem with a pesky remainder that you just know is not supposed to be there so you keep redoing it hoping to get the numbers to jive. I've got unfinished business with Deltha. I've only had 16 years with her and I'm not done yet. I want her back, I want her to stay but today I had to wonder, is God calling her home?
Although I haven't asked, 'why?,' its definitely been a day of questions but I'm encouraged that God has not yet said 'no' regarding Deltha's recovery so I'm certainly not going to put words in His mouth and assume all is lost. God can still bless and so I'm still asking for my miracle.
Monday (November 6) Over the weekend doctors started the process of bringing Deltha out of her induced coma.
The doctors described last night as "not a good sign"
I don't know why this is happening but I have an idea of where God is...I see His hand in the midst of my church family which has rallied around my family in our darkest hour. There have been days when my family and I have asked ourselves, "why are we at First Baptist?" That question has been answered resoundingly in the past three weeks...because I and we would need you.
I see God's hand among all of the strangers who've approached me in the hospital to say they are praying for me and to offer me an encouraging word. I must look like I need it although I'm trying to smile at people in the hallways, I am...really..... Some of you who know me from work are shaking your head in disbelief but its true
God's hand is in the midst of my extended family as we've come together and are relying on each other as never before. He's in the midst of the Church at large as I've heard from members of dozens of churches across the nation and overseas which have taken up Deltha's cause as an urgent matter of prayer within there local body. Deltha has always viewed her life as a ministry to others, so I shouldn't be surprised that her hospitalization is a ministry as well.
God's at work as I interact with the homeless gentleman who's latched on to me as his newest best friend here in the hospital (I'm reminded of Christ's admonition to do unto the "least of these" Matt 25). God is at work among all the others here who've come up to me in the hospital to share their story of heartache and grief...they just needed someone to talk to...I don't even have to say anything. Maybe I should smile at them too...maybe not.....
God is at work among all of the ministers and chaplains who've called, visited and prayed with me and over Deltha.
Make no mistake, God's here and while I can't say I know exactly what's He doing or why, I draw peace from knowing He DOES know and IS in control. And like King David when he was faced with the illness of his first child from Bathsheba (II Sam 12), I will "beseech" heaven on Deltha's behalf until God answers yes or no. And then like David, yes or no, I will worship....
He recognized that he was limited and that the outcome was not within his hands...I couldn't agree more.
I'll repeat what I've told a small number of you over the past few days. It would not surprise me at all if this weekend Deltha woke up, batted her big brown eyes at me, and again squeezed my hands, after all that's what I'm praying for. However things are coming to a head here. The doctors have about done all that they can do...Deltha is in God's Hands. It is that fact alone from which I draw strength and peace.
Doctor's orders...Pray !!!!
Wednesday (November 15)
Last night and reconfirmed this morning, Deltha's doctors concluded that she will never awaken or recover. After a night of tears and prayers, I have made the difficult decision that it is time to say good-bye. Continue to pray for my family, especially my son and daughter as they gather with me today.
Thursday, November 16 Around noon Thursday Deltha passed away.
Saturday, December 9 Thank-you, Thank-you, Thank-you.
On behalf of Grace, Isaiah, and myself, I give thanks to the multitude of you who've held us up in prayer, served as God's hands and feet for us and in general for your encourage to us which has been manifested in so many ways. I've just finished up the last (to date) of about 75 thank-you notes. For the many who will receive them don't be offended by the generic nature of the card. It doesn't come close to expressing my heartfelt gratitude.
To borrow a common Internet term here are answers to some Frequently Asked Questions. (FAQ)
Is family still around?
Nope. One of my sister-in-laws stayed through Thanksgiving which was a tremendous blessing but for the past few weeks its just been the three of us.
How are we doing?
The kids and I are doing o.k. We are moving forward. We have bad moments from time to time. Fortunately never at the same time but individually we'll have a bad day or evening and just need to cry and unload for a bit...and we allow ourselves that freedom. I've reminded the kids that they can always talk about Mom whenever they want to. They've taken me up on that more than once. I read a book this month on grieving and it describes the stages as: shock; numbness; fantasy & grief; painful memories; learning to live again. I think we are oscillating between fantasy & grief and painful memories with an occasional (but not frequent) dip into numbness. This is normal I think. If I'm still at this point 25 years from now, you should begin maybe to get worried...maybe.
Our home was very much a work of Deltha's hand so its still painful to open a drawer, go through a closet, or just to rearrange something. It is a good excuse to not clean up.
Are the kids back in School?
As many of you knew, Deltha was home-schooling Grace and Isaiah. Since her Home-going, Isaiah is attending a local private Christian school while a wonderful family from our home church has taken in Grace to home-school along with their own. There are still a few unanswered questions about what will happen next school term when I return to work but I think it will look very much like it is currently.
What am I doing with my time?
Being a homemaker and lots of Administrivia. One of the nicknames I've always had within the family was MaPa as in the combination Mommy and PaPa. Whenever Deltha would travel and I kept the kids, after a few days the kids would just naturally start to call me Mommy, realize part-way through that I was PaPa and out would come "MaPa" instead. Now of course I'm "MaPa" full-time. Wow. It's a lot of work. Due to my frequent deployments, Deltha was the family accountant and bookkeeper. I've spent the last month or so getting up to speed. On top of that as many of you know there is much paperwork associated with the death of a family member...and several large bills. Plus there were all of those thank-you notes I mentioned above. God is blessing in each and every area.
I've also begun cooking. Which brings me to my first book, "365 Ways to Make Kraft Macaroni and Cheese". It's going to be big I'm telling you.
What about Work?
I recently went into the office to discuss that very issue. I had already been given strong indications that I had nothing to worry about but still wanted to sit down and talk with my Commanding Officer directly. To state it plainly he said that after giving the Marine Corps so many years of service it was time for the Corps to take care of me. I've been given the time I need to put life back together again. I'll return to work sometime in Jan. (prayer request #1) I have just a little over a year left in the Marine Corps (prayer request #2)
What are we doing for Christmas?
Ain't telling you. O.k. I will mention that we will not be alone, and we will not be home but the bulk of my scheme, no one but the Lord and I know. Not even the kids. It's a good thing!
There are some lasting memories that have formed from the last two months...that month in the hospital at Deltha's side...concluding it was time to say good-bye...telling Grace and Isaiah that Mommy was going to die...the Memorial/Home-going Service...Seeing Deltha up on the screen during the service...trying to sing words to the songs but having trouble getting them out...Isaiah reaching up and wiping my tears away during the memorial service...Grace burying her head in my shoulder as the casket was taken out of the church...watching Grace the day after the funeral try to wash a load of clothes, she had detailed instructions written by Deltha on how to wash clothes...listening as the kids recount all of the things which Mommy is never going to see (proms, dates, high school, driving (I tell Grace missing her driving is a blessing for Mommy), college, marriage (when did Grace start considering getting married?))....going through Deltha's purse (ok. this one is kinda cool...what guy hasn't wondered just what his wife was lugging around, its amazing in there but don't worry ladies, your secret is safe...) ironing Grace's dress before a piano recital and being struck with the fact that this is something Deltha would never have let me do, this was a mother's job.
It's been painful and it is painful but God is sustaining us... and He's using many of you to assist us. Again Thank-you so very much.
I've wondered how do non-Christians deal with such pain. I can appreciate the statistics I've heard that the surviving spouse often dies themselves in about a year. But while I can appreciate it, I don't identify with it. I have hope. I have faith. I KNOW I will see Deltha again. I had the privilege of telling my children that not only was Deltha in heaven but that having experienced heaven, she wouldn't come back here even if given the choice...no matter how much she loved us...heaven is that good.
At a recent Bible Study I attended, we reflected on John the Baptist's reaction/response to Jesus' arrival on the scene and also how John's followers responded. I had opportunity to reflect on how does one respond when God obviously intervenes...do you rail against God for ruining your well laid plans or do you celebrate his arrival? I choose to celebrate!
Two days before Deltha's first aneurysm she emailed me this:
I believe we will know God's good and perfect will for our future and family.
I believe God has not forgotten us, even when it feels like it.
I believe God's plan will not harm us but will give a future and a hope.
I believe God has us in the palm of His hand.
I believe God is smiling because He knows what's in store and how surprise we will be when he reveals His hand.
I believe God knows that we want to know and want to obey His will.
I believe God will not leave us or forsake us now, 2007, 2008 and beyond.
I believe God is in control today, yesterday and tomorrow.
I believe God will give me strength, not only to trust but to wait patiently.
I believe God will give us clear direction and wisdom to follow Him.
I believe God can and will meet our needs exceeding and abundantly above all we could ever ask or think.
I believe God loves us with an unfailing love, that does not give up even when we do.
We have a large version of the attached family portrait hanging over the fireplace in the Living Room. It is a new picture, taken just a few weeks ago. We like it, but we often find ourselves quietly staring at it and thinking, "someone is missing..."
Memorable moments good and bad:
me wearing Deltha's flower apron, oven mitt in one hand, a serving spoon in another slaving over the stove (don't know if this was a good moment or bad one); having to tell someone new almost weekly that Deltha died-knowing that next week someone new will ask, "how's Deltha?"; answering the kids questions about why mommy had to die and how unfair it is; my wedding anniversary; having Grace and Isaiah giving me a hand made sign this month which read, "Best Mom/Dad" (a very good moment by far !!!)
We still have good days and bad days and still covet your prayers. I tend to visit Deltha's grave on the weekends, often early Sunday morning if the weather permits. Sometimes the kids go with me, other times I go alone. Grace is very auditory and so she recalls Deltha's last words. Isaiah is visual and can describe in great detail where Deltha collapsed and the final expressions on her face. They sometimes struggle with why did this have to happen. They ask me, "is it fair, Papa?" I answer them, "no...it isn't fair." I'm reminded that God is just. Even though I don't understand His ways.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God…” (Is 41:10)
I can tell when its time to send a new update… I start getting more than the usual number of “…how are you doing? Is everything o.k?”
Of all the responses to Deltha’s death, the one I least expected was fear but that has been one of my greatest struggles. First it was the fear that I would lose my children. I clearly visualized Social Services knocking on door coming to take them away. Who did I think I was thinking I could raise two kids. There was this persistent whisper in my ear telling me I couldn’t do it, not even with help.
“For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (II Tim 1:7)
More recently it has been the fear of ‘what if something happens to me?’ I’ve become acutely aware that I have no margin of error, no cushion for a fall. Every quick trip alone to a grocery store brings a moment of terror. What if I get into an accident? At other times the thought will flash, what if I get sick? What if the weights I’m lifting in the gym fall on me? I find myself clutching my cell phone. It goes everywhere with me but especially if the kids are not at my side.
I’ve had to continuously draw from the well of scripture and remember that such whispering is not of God and that I am not alone…but it isn’t easy.
“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all of your ways” (Ps 91:11)
I also have you.
The kids continue to amaze me with their resiliency but they are still very much mourning their mother. They cry themselves to sleep at least twice a week. I confess I join them at least once a week. Just tonight they prayed a special prayer telling God once more that they miss Mom and they prayed for their family.
A couple of Sundays ago a song was played in church, “He knows my name” by Tommy Walker. The words are as follows:
“I have a maker, He formed my heart, Before even time began, My life was in his hand He knows my name, He knows my every thought, He sees each tear that falls And hears me when I call I have a Father, He calls me his own, He'll never leave me, No matter where I go He knows my name, He knows my every thought, He sees each tear that falls And hears me when I call”
It immediately took me back to the hospital and sitting at Deltha’s side. It was a song I heard several times over the radio as I sat at her side and it reminded me that the last words which Deltha spoke to me were my name. Before I knew it, I was sitting there in church with tears streaming down my cheeks.
We’re all still having our moments…as it should be.
The local minor league baseball team called this week asking for Deltha to sing the national anthem again for them this season. They said she was one of the best they’d ever had. Deltha would have been so pleased. As it was, once again I had to tell someone, my wife has passed. It’s still a weekly occurrence.
In so many ways God is providing and blessing. Grace and Isaiah are doing well in their respective schools. Grace is blossoming socially. Her music ability is starting to shine. I feel like I’ve developed somewhat of a routine and rhythm in life.
One complaint that I have, I miss my old house. My current house is broken. I used to drop clothes in a basket and a day or two later they’d come back clean, folded and placed in drawers. My toilets and tubs always sparkled. The floors were always vacuumed. Now if I don’t do them or make the kids to them, they don’t get done. Even the dishes no longer wash themselves. Nothing happens by itself anymore? Man, I miss my old house.
Deltha’s loss and the recent loss of others in my church have served to highlight to me the fact that tomorrow is not promised. But the Bible reminds me that tomorrow is not to be feared either.
I've had plenty of opportunity recently to contemplate weakness...mainly my own. I never thought I was such a wuss but this week I've found myself stretched out across my bed crying and crying out to God, "...too much, too much!!!" Only to sense in response, "...my grace is sufficient..."
While reading this week of the story of a women who had sudden lost her husband I found myself in agreement with her description of the comfort of a hug. I had to admit that sounded awfully good about now. It reminded me of a good friend, I won't embarrass Andy M of Morehead City by identifying him but he is a bear of a man and without fail whenever he sees me he grabs me around the neck (his hand fits all the way around) or completely around my shoulders and squeezes...and for just those few moments I'm comforted by feeling a strength far beyond my own. Mind you I'm not a hugger. I rather just shake your hand or truth be told I'd rather just give you the typical east-side Cleveland greeting of a quick up-nod of my head. But I have to admit those hugs feel good. I do the same to my son. Isaiah constantly tugs, hits and pushes me, he's looking for strength, something or someone bigger than himself to push up against and that does not move.
I think we secretly long for this as men. We long for someone or something bigger than the problems we daily face, the loads we routinely bear. We need something that when pushed, does not move. It is not by accident that God is our Father. The New Testament is full of grace and mercy but we also want the God of the Old Testament, the one who parted seas, who stopped the sun, who commanded leviathans, who shakes mountains, who "takes the earth by the edges and shakes the wicked out of it" (Job 38:13). There's a reason we're drawn to the likes of football, NASCAR, wrestling and fighting. We're drawn to strength...and God delivers.
"To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his...To him belong strength and victory;..."
"'...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."
Paul's comment at the end encourages me that I'm in good company in that wuss department. Thank God. I'm going to go push against Him some more....
How are we doing?
I would say that we've been marked by our loss, marked but not paralyzed. It still hurts. Grace sometimes expresses her anger about not having a Mom while all of her friends still have their Mom. She admits to sometimes feeling happy and later feeling sad. I assure her all three of us feel that way at times and that it is normal. Isaiah remarks that he's just cried out and has no more tears left. It just hurts deep in his stomach. None of us cry as much anymore but at times we will get silent and feel the weight of our loss. There are still several nights a week which are all too quiet and during which sleep is hard to come by.
The kids and I also miss our dog Holly. Grace often sleeps with Holly's dog collar and tags in her bed and Isaiah has several pictures close by that he took of Holly with his camera. I haven't brought myself to remove Holly's crate and bowls from our family room.
Don't get the wrong impression, there is laughter and joy in our home. We act silly, we wrestle, we play, we laugh.. Isaiah has started baseball and Grace continues to blossom in her music playing and composition skills. Both are finishing the school year well. Yet based on my kids comments I suspect I don't smile or laugh as much as I used to. Isaiah frequently says how he likes to see me smile and tries hard to get me to do so while Grace has taken to calling me "the Grizzly." I can't help but wonder how I have changed.
I am experiencing a bit of denial. When I’m busy, which is much of the time, I don’t think about my situation but when I slow down...when I slow down I can’t believe I’m a widower. The phrase doesn't sound right, it doesn't fit comfortably. Part of me still believes that Deltha is only away on a long trip or vacation and that she will soon return. During those times I find it hard to accept that she’s gone forever.
At the other extreme, weekly Deltha gets a phone call or I get asked about how my wife is doing and so weekly I get to say that my wife is dead.... I still drive out and visit Deltha's grave nearly every Sunday morning before church.
I'll not miss this part of the grieving/mourning process when it comes to an end.
I’m learning to rely on God for wisdom and strength and what it really means to trust Him one day at a time. I am also experiencing the sustaining power of prayer. Do not stop your prayers. They mean more to us than you can know.
So how are we doing? We're doing o.k. I'd say. Grieving is not a process that proceeds smoothly upward from one high to the next. It more resembles a roller-coaster with peaks, dips, and unexpected curves. We sometimes feel like we're just barely hanging on for the ride but by the grace of God, we're doing alright and there is an exhilaration in knowing that God is at work, even in the midst of this.
May Mother’s Day
Several of you have quietly inquired about how we did on Mother's Day and to mention that you prayed for us. Thank-you for the prayers. They were needed.
About a week ago I finally brought up the topic of Mother's Day with the kids. It went over about as bad as I feared it would. As the week progressed their discomfort increased. Towards the end of the week they were having bad dreams about Deltha's time in the hospital and having trouble sleeping. Thursday night they cried. The kids and I had no problem agreeing that on Sunday we would not be in church or go out to a restaurant. So Saturday afternoon we took off, drove up the coast to Atlantic Beach and checked into a hotel.
Sunday morning, Mother's Day, we sleep in and then went to the beach for a quiet walk. For the most part we had the beach to ourselves. Isaiah played in the surf, while Grace and I walked. I had planned to talk with the kids about Mom, to go over some pleasant memories. I had a verse picked out. Ps 68:5 “...A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling...” I was planning on reminding them that God was also a mother to the motherless as well...but I couldn’t get the words out. Instead I felt tears well up and was glad for the sunglasses I had on. I walked quietly on remembering that Deltha loved the beach and would have loved nothing more than to be there with us. Finally, because I could do nothing else, I stopped and wrote in the sand,
“Happy Mother’s Day Deltha”
Grace and Isaiah walked over, saw what I had done and quietly signed their names in the sand underneath. It was our special Mother’s Day card to Deltha. We just stared silently at it for a while before returning back to our hotel.
Of course we capped off the afternoon by going Go Carting and having Dairy Queen because as you know, nothing quite says Happy Mother’s Day like racing and a Blizzard. The kids laughed their heads off as they raced around the track.
It was not an easy day and I'm not sure who Mother's Day was harder for, the kids or I. I did eventually talk to them about God's provision for the motherless but I realized I wasn't going to be able to wrap Mother’s Day up in a nice neat, pain-free package...for either them or myself. I also realized that without your prayers it would have been even more painful. As it was, it was day filled with both tears and smiles, sorrows and joys...a day fitting for a mother.
Grace and Isaiah are slowly adjusting to this latest change. It isn't easy for them. In general their spirits are high and we have the most interesting conversations. A book I've just read, "Guiding Your Child Through Grief" says that grieving kids will continually go through five challenges (1) reassurance of safety (2) understanding of why Mom died (3) overwhelming feelings (4) ways to stay connected with Mom. (5) resuming childhood (reestablishing normal). I see all five ways frequently. Both will periodically insist on getting a big hug from me, both are leery of hospitals and doctors, both still cry or opening grieve, especially at night (and both did so just last night), both have pictures of Mom (and Holly) near their bed, both are working hard to establish a new pattern of living.
Grace found a notebook of Deltha's which had an outline of steps to be taken in establishing a music ministry. Since Grace has similar music aspirations she believes this notebook has been left here for her and that she should finish where Mommy left off. I encourage her but also caution her not to feel obligated to finish Mommy's dream but to pursue a dream of her own. It may look similar to Mommy's but it may also take an entirely new course. Recently when I've discussed camp attendance with Isaiah, he's expressed his fear of ever leaving me. Like I said, we have the most interesting conversations. We still express our shared pain more so with one another than with anyone else but I'm constantly assessing and praying to see if or when outside intervention is necessary. My ongoing research and the support groups will help greatly in this regard.
Just before typing this I came across a note, Deltha had written me. She had tucked it into my bags for me to find and read in Afghanistan while I was deployed last year. She wrote, "My Friend, My Brother, My Husband and so much more... You will be missed, thought of often and held tenderly in thoughts and prayers. I'm just gonna miss you but I am going to be happy for you too. You will do more than well and we will find God most faithful in taking care of you and your family. My confidence is in the Lord. All is good! I love you"
"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (I Peter 5:7)
"My confidence is in the Lord. All is good !!!"
Thank you, Jo, for sharing with us this part of your journey.