Grandma

My 91 year old Grandma was admitted into hospice care last week.   I used to be close to her but in the past year with a new marriage, new kids, new house, and combining two families I have regrettably not been able to see her or my 92 year old Grandpa.  She was the Grandma who always had a sweet, tender spirit and every Christmas she would have all of the grandchildren over to decorate Christmas cookies.    She was the wife of a pastor and the mother of four boys and whenever we were at her house she had a lot of love and time to give as she would sit for hours playing blocks or reading stories for time seemed to stand still at her house when the grandchildren came over for a visit. 
The four oldest kids, Ryan, and I all headed to the nursing home one Saturday morning.   I was a little nervous about her not remembering that Jason had passed away and thinking that she might get mixed up with the new faces, but she didn’t, she lit up at the sight of all six of us and seeing the kids brought her true joy.  However, the sight of her was shocking to me.  The last time I had seen her she looked like an old woman but she still had some fat on her bones, a witty mind, and a quick comeback for most of my Grandpa’s comments.  This time, she resembled something all too familiar to me, a person ending their journey here on earth.  My late husband was a personal trainer, tennis player, and a gym owner but in his final weeks he resembled something more like a 91 year old man.  He lost his muscle tone, couldn’t walk or bathe without assistance and his mind couldn’t comprehend the simplest things that it had done even just a year prior. She, like him, is down to skin and bones, she’s no longer eating, the one thing that she is determined to control, her mind is leaving her and it frustrates her to no end, she repeats herself constantly and she seems to be aware that she is doing it and it annoys her that she can’t control it.  As the conversation began flowing, a glimmer of light seemed to come through as the charges in her mind and in her spirit began to ignite once again.  I am always honored to be in the presence of someone who is on the verge of leaving this life and entering eternity.  When it was my late husband, I racked his brain in the final days to somehow get a glimpse of what he was seeing beyond my comprehension or feeling, or how the Lord was preparing him to leave his earthly body.  He gave me glimpses of eternity that I will forever hold in my heart.  He saw beyond this world and he saw my life beyond him and it gave him an incredible amount of comfort when he finally decided to depart. I have complete faith that dying is not scary for those who have the hope of eternal life.  I saw a peace in him and I see a peace in her.  The Lord is working on her spirit and in her mind as she accepts what we all must accept at some point in our lives.  No one gets out of here alive; we all must face death squarely in the face at some moment in our short existences here on earth, and we will either face it with the full confidence of where or hope lies or it will be a frightening experience if we do not have that confidence in our hearts.   The dying also seem to have a wisdom that the rest of us don’t possess.  I asked her what she knew at 91 that she wished she had known at 35 and she responded with a smile, “that I didn’t know it all.”  Ironic that she would give me that message🙂  On the way home Ryan and I talked a bit about whether or not visits help someone who wishes life to end because with our visit seemed to come a renewed sense of hope, something to live for, and whether or not that’s something that should be done for someone who is ready to cross over.  My belief is that loneliness is the worst feeling in the world.  She and her husband no longer share a room and as she petioned him to stay with her a little bit longer, I saw an all too familiar wall go up in his mind as he firmly decided that he wanted to return to his own room. I believe that he is preparing himself to live without her, distancing himself in order to reduce the pain of her leaving him after many, many years of marriage.  As we went back and forth over this dilemma, I decided that if it were me, I would want to know that my life meant something to those whose lives I inhabited for 91 years, I would want to know that people cared enough to tend to my loneliness, and I would want to know that my friends and family would be there comforting me as I was ushered into my eternal home.  Even if it prolonged my life a little bit, I would not want to be lonely in my final moments. And so it was decided, as long as we are able, we will continue to visit her and continue to bring hope and joy to her life and continue to feed her lonely days with some love with the hope that the same will be done for us someday when it’s our turn to step beyond the veil and into eternal life. 
Just keep livin!!

Authenticity

 
I feel the need to write a disclaimer about this post.  I have gone back and forth about how transparent I was going to be in writing about the months following Jason’s death.  To be honest, there were some dark, dark, moments and to be honest, I struggled with some temptations, and to be even more honest, I felt like I had a free pass to do what I wanted to do because God owed me.  I had been through a nightmare so surely he would understand a few freedoms on my part if I wanted to take them for a while.  As I struggled with how much to share, God has been very blunt with me in saying, share it – the joys, the pains, and the struggles. I have heard this message repeatedly in the books I’ve chosen to read, through sermons I’ve sat through, and in my quiet times alone with him.  These past moments that I share are not necessarily all proud ones, but they are very true.  I’ve learned that most people don’t general connect with a glossed over, perfected version of Christianity that our culture so often offers and instead the life changing decisions are often made in the raw honesty that we share when we strip away the hidden layers and agendas and expose ourselves as true people, struggling through life just like everyone else and so eternally grateful for a Savior who heaps grace upon grace for us as we pick ourselves up over and over and over again.  I’m here to say that God protected me from some of my worst desires, and He was, as He always is, graceful and merciful in forgiving me and blessing me in spite of my foolishness.
After about a month of widowhood, I started to get antsy. It was this sort of antsy feeling to get out and find myself a husband and a father for my four children.  I know that probably sounds insane coming from a woman who just lost her husband but if I’m honest, which I try to be, that’s what I was feeling. Maybe it was a coping mechanism, maybe it was a true desire, maybe it was a way to occupy my mind, but it was there. I woke up one day and realized I was still alive; a breathing, hot blooded thirty something year old woman and although I was extremely tired, I wanted to get out and socialize, and if I’m being completely real, I was itching for some male companionship.   I so desperately craved this, not in a sexual way necessarily, although that did sound pretty appealing as well, but more of just in a male conversationalist way.  Even up until the very end Jason and I were able to talk and I really missed that aspect of my life. Each weekend I would get a babysitter and go out for dinner with one of my girlfriends or sisters, who would in turn get a free pass out of the house by telling their husband’s that, “Jess was having a hard time and really needed someone to talk to.”  Although the wounds were still very fresh and raw, there was something in the motion of rising up out of bed, getting dressed, putting makeup on, doing my hair, and these motions reminded me that I was still alive, I had not died with him.  It was strange going out without a ring on my finger and to actually be available for a man to talk to if he wanted to.  I have to laugh now for I’m not exactly sure what my motives were?  To hang out with my girlfriends?  Have a guy approach me and actually talk to me?  Only to find out that my husband had just died and I had four children? And bonus, a special needs child that he could raise as his own? I mean, really? I laugh because my mind was so confused – on one hand, I was so, so sad that Jason was gone and on the other hand I so, so badly wanted someone in my life again.  It was by the grace of God that I didn’t go home with some guy because I probably would have.  I was looking decent being the thinnest I’d been in years (stress and grief will do that to you), I was finally sleeping so my eyes weren’t bloodshot anymore, and I was still nursing, so I had some ump in that department.  I thought, get dressed up, put some makeup on, just like I was nineteen all over again and some guy would walk up and ask me to marry him. Couldn’t be that difficult, could it? As a woman, I wanted to be held, kissed, and loved, if only for a moment, and as a mom I just wanted someone to be a dad for my kids. At night, I would cautiously check out those dating sites, never signing up for one, but just looking around.  I arrogantly thought that those were for really desperate people who couldn’t find a date the normal way, but there I was, at night, sneaking glances at some of the single 30 something year old men and occasionally a younger widower as well.  I reasoned that I would want a single guy, because I didn’t need any of the baggage that a divorced or a widowed man would bring.  Funny huh?  Many may think, how in the world were you to the point of wanting to date a few months after your husband died?  Are you completely heartless?  My explanation is simple, it had been a long time since Jason and I had shared something that resembled a normal husband and wife relationship.  Looking back now, I was not done grieving, but I had accepted the fact that he had died.  We had a good marriage and I didn’t have any guilt that went along with our relationship in terms of unspoken thoughts or feelings.  I think a bit like a man in that when I accept the reality of something, that’s that.  And, that’s what I had done.  I was not married anymore and just because I was still sad about his death, I didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t try to rise above that sadness by introducing something good into my life.  I don’t like to wallow in pain, period.  Some people like to wallow in it because of the sympathy they receive, I hate sympathy, it makes me feel weak, so no, it was not in my nature to live in the pain, especially if I could “fix” the problem by looking for someone, and if nothing else than to look for someone to share a conversation with.  God had a different plan.  God knew my desire for a good marriage again and he honored that but I had to play by his rules, not mine.  One night as I was stalking around on one of the popular dating sites, I felt a stern voice say to my heart, “Wait. Wait until the new year to sign up for one of these sites, if I don’t come through by then, do what you want.” And so I obeyed and the waiting began.

Just Start Livin!

I (Ryan) know many of you have wondered and some have even asked about how I feel about Jess writing about Jason’s last days. To be perfectly honest, it has been painful to say the least but probably not in the ways you might think. When I read about Jessica’s pain and the decisions she was forced to make, I feel her pain as if it is my own. There is nothing she has written publicly that we have not discussed, much of it many times over. In fact, last night we were discussing something very painful for both of us and soon after, Jess felt peace about it and I allowed it to stir in my heart. This time we did everything right, well almost everything…She filled me in on what was bothering her and I immediately felt drawn to pray her through it which I did. Now, in all honesty, we don’t usually drop to our knees with each and every painful situation, and in all honesty, we often leave God out of it until the very end, but this time we didn’t. For some reason, this was one of those extremely painful situations and we knew that without God’s help it would become something beyond our ability to sanely deal with. This time we actually obeyed from the get go. What I didn’t realize was I was not praying myself through it as well and I allowed it to fester in my heart and even when she offered to pray for me hours later, I was reluctant. Being the great woman she is, she prayed for me despite my objections, I love that about her:) I didn’t feel the same relief when she finished as I know I should have and as the night went on, I felt deeper pain. We talked it through and I tried to explain to her that I was feeling the pain that she felt even though she had worked through it already. I think as her husband or least someone who loves her so deeply, I felt like I was supposed to take on her burdens and relieve her of the pain she once felt. She looked me square in the eyes and made sure she had my attention and said these words, words so simple yet so profound “honey, Jesus already took my pain so you don’t have to”. I wish I could say that the words resonated in my little brain immediately and I let go of the pain. In truth, I let it hang on me until the next day when her words came back to me…Jesus suffered and died freeing us from our sin as we all know but He also freed us from our pain. I find joy in Jesus words found in John 16:33 ” I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  We will have to face tribulation and pain, but we don’t have to dwell on it nor do we have to carry the baggage that comes with it. Jesus carries us through it all and he offers the same grace to the people that hurt us as well. That doesn’t always set well with me but I’m wrong. That’s right, I admitted it:) I strive to be more like Jesus and fail often, but I continue to “just keep livin” and I don’t believe I can live the blessed life God has planned for me by dwelling on pain, regret, unforgiveness…and the list goes on and on. I have to let go of my pain and I have to make a point to let go of Jessica’s pain in order for us to reach the potential God has in store for us. Pain will come, the scripture is clear about that, but in Jess’s words, “Jesus took it, so I don’t have to.” Let go of the past and for some of you…
Just start livin!