Saturday, November 8, 2014

How Can She Grieve When She Has Alzheimer's?

My phone rang about 7:00 pm on October 4th. I was surprised when I answered and my mom was on the other end. "Donna, Elmer fell and they are taking him to the hospital."
I said  "Who is taking him to the hospital?"
"The ambulance."
"Where are they taking him?"
A man's voice, who I thought may be an EMT, said "They are taking him to the North Emergency Center."
I said "He probably should be taken the the hospital."

The man mumbled something about it being too bad and they were leaving now and the neighbor was taking my mother. I didn't want to waste precious time on the phone,  so I said "Okay, I'll meet her there."

I hung up the phone and ran to my car knowing my mother would be terribly confused if she was left at the emergency center alone.

On the way there I  began to think about that phone conversation. Why couldn't I convince them that he needed a hospital? They wouldn't be able to keep him at an emergency care center and they would have to take him in an ambulance to the hospital. Oh boy, he would be ticked off about that! Why is it people never seem to listen to me? What was it that man said? It's too bad for that? No, he must have said it's not that bad, How could it be too bad to go to the hospital?

I parked my car right in front of the building. I noticed there was a fire truck right out front. The rest of the parking lot was practically empty. I walked through the front double doors to the receptionist. I told him I was there to see my step dad and my mother should already be there. He told me to walk right in and pointed to another set of double doors. As soon as I walked in I saw my mother's neighbor standing outside the room. It wasn't a regular patient room. There was no patient. Just my mom and a couple of women from the fire department. My mom was sitting in the corner and looked up as soon as I entered the room. She said "I can't believe he's gone." I looked at the women standing in the room hoping for an explanation. One of them exited the room quickly and returned with a doctor. He said "I am sorry your stepfather passed away." I think I blubbered something like, "What? I thought he fell. What happened?" The doctor explained that he believed it was a massive heart attack and he died immediately and that it was so quick he wasn't in any pain. My mother seemed like a little girl so lost and sobbing. All I could do was hold her and tell her how very sorry I was.

During the following week I had to explain to my mother over and over what happened. She would say, "Where is Elmer? I don't understand why he did that, we got along so well. Where did he go? Why did he leave like that? Did he take the car?

And I explained many, many times, "Mom, he would never leave on purpose. He had a heart attack and died."

"He did?"

And every time it was as if he had just died (again). Was this a cruel joke? How many times does a husband have to die and how many times does a wife have to endure the pain of loss?

I slept in the bed with her in same spot where he slept so she would not wake up and be alone. I thought it would be just for a few nights until she got used to being alone.

One night she grabbed me by the shoulder and yelled "Elmer, Elmer!"
I said "No mom, it's me."
"Where is he?"
"He's gone mom."
"Gone? What happened to him?"
I got up and told her again that her husband had died.

I felt like we were living in the movie Ground Hog Day where the guy had to relive the same day over and over, only this was sometimes the same hour over and over. It was like being in a time warp.

Finally after about a week and a half of explaining this several times everyday she somehow began to retain it and she was doing pretty well. So well in fact, I wondered if the Alzheimer's would make going through grief easier, maybe she would forget her grief. Wishful thinking on my part.

Three weeks after he passed away, she got up one morning and said to me "Where is Elmer?" 
I said "Do you mean where are his ashes?" 
She said "yes." 
"They're in the closet, mom." 
"Show me."
An hour later. "Where did Elmer go?" 
I said, "Mom, do you remember that he passed away?"
"What? He did?" 

This went on all day. After showing her the ashes in the closet about 10 times, she said "Where's Elmer?" I said, "Mom, do you remember that his ashes are in the closet?" She said "Your closet?" I said "No. Your closet." She said "Where is that?"

I felt something was wrong with her. Something besides the Alzheimer's. She knows where her room is, where her closet is, and she gets herself dressed. She was doing well for two weeks and now there was a sudden change in her behavior and memory. I checked her blood pressure. It was high. So I called my sister in law, a nurse, who told  me that when the elderly get a bladder infection it can affect their memory. I took her to the doctor. He confirmed it. She had a bladder infection. This gave me a reason to be hopeful. Hopeful that this was just a temporary setback and her memory would improve with antibiotic treatment.

She took an an antibiotic for 10 days and her memory did improve within that 10 days. She began to understand that he was gone (most of the time). But she couldn't understand what happened to his ashes. Finally we went back to the mortuary and bought a box for his ashes and we put his picture on the front. I put it in the family room on the shelf right under the television. It is now in full view and I think it helps her remember (some of the time). 

She gets more confused in the evening and tends to wonder around the house not quite sure what she is looking for, rummaging through the refrigerator, and dresser drawers. I found out this is called "Sundowning."

Then today, five weeks after her husband passed away, she walked out of the bedroom and said "I don't know where Elmer went."

It's hard to accept the loss of a loved one in the best of circumstances, but when you can't remember what happened, or at times even that the person is gone, how can you grieve? And if you can't grieve, how can you heal from the pain of loss? It's something that we're working through day by day and hour by hour. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

An Ambush

Ambush (a sudden or surprise attack.)

When I hear the word "ambush" I picture an old western movie filmed around  the cliffs and rocks of Arizona where a man with a black hat, a gun, and dusty old cowboy boots is hiding in wait for an unsuspecting victim to walk by so that he can jump him.

Today I had an ambush of a different kind.

I went to a bible study and several of the woman were about my age. As each woman introduced herself, I sat and listened as she gave us a short glimpse of her life, talked about her husband and family, and the things she enjoyed doing. Most were retired as were their husbands, and they were enjoying retirement together. As the conversation moved from one woman to the next, I felt a pain that began deep within my stomach and I started to feel a little nauseous. Then the pain moved into my chest and my throat felt tight and dry.

There was a little voice inside me that said, "Run, get out of here!" I answered that little voice back with something like, "are you kidding, do you know how embarrassing that would be?"  I either have to stay here so I can face these ladies next week, or quit." So, running wasn't an option. I hate it when I'm rational like that.

As we continued to circle around the room, giving each woman a turn to speak,  I was relieved when the woman next to me shared a glimpse of her family life with us because she was a young mother and I felt like I could relate to her as I would one of my own children.  I actually felt myself starting to relax again. I thought, "Okay, now the tough part of this conversation is over" (the part that was flooding my mind and heart, not with painful memories, but with an overwhelming realization that I am not able to have those kinds of husband and wife experiences and wonderful moments they enjoy), I thought, "I'm okay now, I can do this."

Then it was my turn to tell a little about myself. Short and sweet. That was my goal. I began by telling everyone how many children I had and about my grand children. And that was going to be it. That was all I was sharing today. And I met my goal beautifully... for a short time.

And then, as a total shock to myself, I began to open my mouth and words started spilling out. Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever spilled your guts in the spur of the moment?

I told them that my husband died and how hard it is to be alone. As my tears began to flow, I told them that I married young and divorced but I always had the love and companionship of my children, and then when I married Paul, the two of us were inseparable and we did everything together. I told them I had never been alone before. Until now. I told them how lonely it is to be a widow. UGH! I was even depressing myself!

On a good note, at least I ended by telling them that my son and his family are moving in with me for a while and how happy I am to get a break from the loneliness.

Where did all that emotion come from, those unintentional words that welled up inside me and popped up like Jiffy Pop? And why the sudden anxiety and burst of emotion?

It was an ambush.

Listening to the women (lovely women, by the way) talk about their lives with their husbands, a life like the one I used to have, caused a burst of emotion that popped out like Jiffy Pop. It pounced on me when I least expected it.

Yesterday was the two and a half year anniversary of Paul's death. 915 days since he was here. That's 130 weeks ago that I had the very life my new friends were describing. Isn't it odd how you can have what you believe to be everything one day and the next day it's gone?

I'm so thankful that I have family to support me.

It's just been one of those days.......

An  "Ambush Day."

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Happy Birthday

Eight years ago today, I took Paul to Lake Tahoe for his birthday. When we were retrieving our luggage at the airport  his youngest son walked up behind him and surprised him. Then as we exited the airport and were walking to our car he heard a voice yelling out from the car parked at the curb, "hey old man!" and it was his oldest son calling out to him from the rental car. He was so surprised and happy to see his sons and their wives there. I believe that was the most surprising birthday he ever had, and since Lake Tahoe was one of his favorite places, it was also one of the most enjoyable.

It was not easy to surprise him. For the most part, he didn't like surprises. He didn't even like birthday presents. Who doesn't like birthday presents? Over the years I returned so many presents I bought for him, I finally stopped buying them.

He didn't like parties either, at least not for himself. He would much rather go out somewhere or better yet, on a trip. How do you plan a birthday for someone who doesn't like parties and doesn't like presents?

I remember a day just before his birthday one year when I was in the living room thinking what in the world could I do for his birthday, and in my frustration I yelled into the den  where he was on the computer, "What do you want for your birthday?" He yelled back "Nothing."  So I said "Well, I would like an I-pod for your birthday." He was a little taken back, but said "Oh, well, okay. Get ready and let's go shopping."  You see one of the things he loved to do was shop for electronics (and a good deal), so it was a win- win for both of us. He could shop for electronics on his birthday and I could get the present. I  finally found out what he enjoyed doing on his birthday!

Every year before his birthday he would say to me, "What do you want for my birthday this year?"

So this year I bought myself an I-pad. Happy birthday, Honey!  Wish you were here!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Jumping the Hurdles

As I sit in the hard backed chair smelling the grease and oil of the garage and listening for my name to be called, I'm thinking of how much I hate to take my car into a repair shop by myself.

I have heard many people refer to the first several months of bereavement as a time of "Firsts." It may be the first time you go to your favorite restaurant alone, or visit a friend or a family member without your spouse, or anything you enjoyed doing together that you now face alone. After 28 months, I have gotten through most of those "firsts" and I can tell you that there are still things that I just don't like to do alone. 

Sometimes I feel like a runner who can't cross the finish line until he jumps the hurdles. They may seem to be little things to some, but still, they are hurdles that have to be jumped.

For years I had a monthly doctor's appointment across town that my husband drove me to and we would take an alternate way home stopping for lunch, shopping, site seeing, or whatever spur of the moment thing we decided to do for the day. 

I had an appointment with the that doctor very soon after my husband passed away and it was my "first" time driving myself. I listened to the radio and tried to keep my mind occupied, but as soon as I walked in the doctors office I started sobbing, explaining all that had recently happened. I don't think he was used to this kind of thing happening, because he wrote me a prescription for a medication to calm me down. I eventually did calm down and got into the car to drive home but couldn't even decide which way to go. I finally decided to take the fastest route, no stopping, just crying, all the way home. 

Fast forward a couple of years and I was having a procedure with another doctor across town that was my husband's doctor and my doctor. This time I needed a driver. I called a friend but she had a appointment at the same time. My sister in law was out of town. My son's were all working. My daughter was willing to take me, but my grandson was sick and I didn't want him waiting in the waiting room when he was feeling ill. 

It wasn't a requirement for me to receive sedation, so I decided I would keep the appointment and have the procedure without it.  

When I got to the office, they took me in and the first question the nurse asked was "are you getting sedation today?" I said "No," but I wasn't feeling calm about it.  When I got into the procedure room, the doctor came in, and knowing my situation, he asked me, "Donna, do you have a driver today?" Again, I said "No."  Each time I answered these questions I felt a little more nervous.  Then he said "Okay, I don't want to  put too much numbing medication in your hip or you won't be able to drive home."
I thought "GREAT! THAT'S JUST GREAT!  Why don't you just give me a shot of whiskey and a bullet to bite down on?" For a moment I thought this might end up being another breakdown at the doctor's office, but I made it through. I may have teared up a little, but it was a far cry from the first emotional scene at the doctor's office.

I've moved forward from where I was two years ago. 

One of the toughest things about being a widow is facing these hurdles alone. But like a runner, with practice they get easier. 

Now as I sit at the repair shop waiting for my car, I realize with every experience I'm getting better at jumping these hurdles alone. Maybe the next time I won't even hate sitting here. Maybe.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Tell Yourself the Truth

"The Lord is my Strength and my shield: my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song." 
Psalm 28:7

I was pregnant and married at the age of 16. I had five children by the time I was 24 and I was dumped and alone by the age of 30.

I quickly re-married to cover up my pain, which only added to my suffering.

Before I was 40 I was divorced twice.

Several years later I met the man who would be my third husband. Our life together was good and we had all the things in life that I never had as a single mom. He was the love of my life and 17 years after I met him he suffered the agonizing death of pancreatic cancer, and I became a widow.


I found faith in God when I was 19 years old.

I thought that my faith in God secured my happiness and guaranteed me a perfect marriage and obedient children.

Being divorced so young with five confused children, thrust me into panic/survival mode.

Not trusting God and thinking the best way to remedy my situation was re-marriage was the ultimate cause of my second divorce.

Life is full of trouble.

"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33


Watching while someone you love dies feels like walking hand in hand through a fire and as you watch them slowly slip away, they are praying the fire will end and you are praying it won't because you know when it ends they will be gone.

"When you pass through the water I will be with you. When you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire you will not be burned. The flames will not set you ablaze." Isaiah 43:2


Through hard times I have learned to tell myself the truth. "I'll get through this," "I can make it through this grief," "I can make it through this divorce," "with God's help I can make it."

When I fall victim to the "I can'ts," like  "I can't do this," and, "I'll never make it through this," I have already defeated myself.  And it's not the truth.


"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7


"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18


I can't rely on another person to make me happy. They wouldn't have enough hours in the day to make me happy! Happiness comes from our outside circumstances, but joy comes from the inside no matter the circumstances. Joy comes from God.

"Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16

What is God's will for me? To be joyful, pray continually, and give thanks.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Talking to the Dead

Many times since my husband Paul passed away I have spoken to him out loud as if he could hear me. Mostly I say things like "Wow! You wouldn't believe what just happened." or "Well, I guess you were right about that." I have even had a few choice words to say when something breaks around the house that I have no idea how to fix.

Just the other day I was trying to reattach the belt to the vacuum when I yelled "Why didn't you show me how to do this? This is the worst vacuum I have ever seen!" Of course, I never get a reply, but I can imagine that he would say something like "Don't tell me about it, you are the one who wanted to buy that vacuum."

When Paul first passed away I would go to bed at night and say "Goodnight" to him. It wasn't because I expected a response, but because it was what I was used to. I guess it made me feel close to him. In some ways it's the same reason I sometimes want to hold on to my grief, I'm afraid if I stop grieving I will forget the one man in my life who loved me most.

I recall at one of the first grief support groups I attended there were a couple of women talking about going to see a well-known medium in hopes of a chance to "speak" to their dead husbands. My reaction at the time was "Whoa, I'm in the wrong group and I'm out of here!"  As I look back I can understand why they felt such a need to hear something from their loved one. They just weren't ready to let them go.

People can sometimes be so desperate to hear from a deceased loved one that they make a complete error in judgement and seek a medium.

What could the dead tell the living that would be of any consequence unless it's "Oh Honey, I forgot to tell you that I have a million dollar insurance policy, or, I left that winning Lotto ticket in my pants pocket, so don't give them to the Goodwill."  I haven't heard that story on the news. No, the deceased just sends a message to their loved one that they "love them." Didn't they know that already?

Ecclesiastes 9:5 "For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten."  Sound harsh? My husband hasn't said anything to me since he passed away. He no longer receives a pension, can buy a new car, live in our home,  or receive any good thing from this world, and in another of couple generations his descendants will look at his picture and say "Who is that?"

To me he is a precious memory that I keep alive by watching videos and looking at pictures and remembering all the great times we had together. But consulting a medium to talk to him? Here are a couple things the bible has to say about the subject:

Leviticus 19:31 - "Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God."

Leviticus 20:6 - "I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, and will cut him off from his people."

Isaiah 8:19 - "When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?"

I Chronicles 10:13-14 - "Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance and did not inquire of the Lord.  So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David."

In 1 Samuel 28, Saul visited the Witch of Endor and sought to bring Samuel back from the dead. In Matthew Henry's commentary regarding this account, he states, "Those that expect any good counsel or comfort otherwise than from God, will be as wretchedly disappointed as Saul was."

Acts 16:16 - Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17)This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting "These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved." 18) She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!"

2 Corinthians 11:14-15 - "for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising then if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness."

1 Timothy 4:1 - "The spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons."

Satan masquerading as an angel of light, deceiving spirits, things taught by demons?  There is NOTHING I need to know or say, not even curiosity that can persuade me to seek out a spiritist. Not even that Vacuum cleaner belt!

If this doesn't seem right to you, follow the example of the Bereans and examine the scriptures to find the truth.

Acts 17:11 -"Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true."

Be blessed!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Retreat or Dance

I can sometimes act as if I'm a turtle. I crawl into my shell where it's comfortable and safe and no one can hurt me and I stay there. There in my shell no one expects anything of me and I don't expect anything of anyone else. I don't have to take any unnecessary risks there. I don't have to take a chance of reaching out to someone who doesn't respond, or trust in someone who lets me down.

I just want to be a hard shelled turtle, alone, with no sense of community.

When I lived up north near the lakes, we had a lot of snapping turtles. They would retreat into their shell due to fear of a predator but as soon as the danger was over they would pop their heads back out and begin to move. Sometimes we would find one miles away from the lake, just slowly walking along the side of the road looking for a new adventure.

After a hurt the easiest thing to do is to retreat to our shells, but we have to pop our heads back out and move. It can be slowly at first like the snapping turtle, but sooner or later we have to move.

People are not perfect. Sometimes they disappoint us, sometimes they hurt us on purpose, sometimes they hurt us without even knowing it. And sometimes we hurt other people.

I have loved and lost. Pancreatic cancer ripped my husband from me. I lose my mother a little bit every day to Alzheimer's disease. My friends have disappointed me. My support system has failed me, and those I have supported have turned against me.

Life is hard. I can retreat into my shell where it's safe and no one will hurt me again,

OR, I can MOVE. 

It's a decision. All I have to do is take one step.. and then another step..

Who knows, I just may learn to dance!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Sidney Stout Pleasant, A widow for 59 years

My great grandmother, Sidney Stout Pleasant was 89 years old and had been a widow for 59 years when she died in 1949.

Sidney was the youngest of 10 children born to James D. Stout, Sr. and Susannah Proffit, farmers, of Johnson County, Tennessee.

School was not compulsory when Sidney was a child and many schools were subscription schools, charging a tuition for each student. With 10 children, it may have been impossible for the Stouts to send their children to school.  Also, the Civil War had devastating effects on this area from 1861 to 1865 and many of the schools were destroyed. She was most likely uneducated since she used an "X" when signing her name (mark) to documents.

Sidney said she wasn't sure of her exact age. Many children in the 1800's were born at home without birth certificates and the only recording of the date was in the family bible, but couldn't someone tell a young girl how old she was?

She may have even been referred to as an "Old Maid." She was 22 years old when she married my great grandfather in 1882, which for the time, was not a young bride. He was a widower for only four months and had nine children with his first wife. How convenient for him to find love in just four months!

My great grand parents were married just short of eight years and had four children together before my great grandfather died leaving Sidney a young 30 year old widow. Sidney was also four months pregnant with my grandmother at the time.

Her property was labeled "poor mountain land." She probably wasn't able to farm it, and the only means of support she had was sewing she did for neighbors.

In those days, a young widow would have been expected by society to re-marry so her husband could support her and her children, and although I have no way of knowing for certain, I suspect it was societies' expectations of her that started her troubles. In 1899, nine years after her husband passed away, she was accused of spending time with a man and indicted for "Open and Notorious Adultery."

I haven't found any evidence that the man was married or that he was even accused of being married. No one could prove that he spent a night at her home,  and no one proved that they were living as husband and wife. Deposition records state her house was not accessible by buggy, so it seems it would have been difficult for anyone to see them together at her home. I often wonder if she was "railroaded" or "set-up" by someone.

Was the man she spent time with of bad character, misleading and corrupting her, or was it just a simple matter of making poor choices? Was she a lonely widow who chose the wrong person to spend her time with?

George Washington said "Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation, for it is better to be alone than in bad company."

I wonder if my great grand children will read about me 50 years from now and say, "What was she thinking?  (They probably will.)

Carl Sandburg wrote "Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you."

Maybe Sidney was just born 100 years before her time. This did happen 21 years before the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote.  Whatever injustice may have happened to her, it was with her for the next 50 years until her death. She never married again. Perhaps she never trusted anyone with her heart again. Who could blame her?

Sidney Stout Pleasant had a mysterious life. She lived out her destiny, and I look forward to meeting her someday when my life is over.

My grandmother, Sidney's youngest daughter, the one she delivered after her husband died,  loved to sing "I'll Fly Away" and play the harmonica. I'm sure she sang this to Sidney at the end of her life, just like she sang it to me at the beginning of mine.
                                                                                                           Joe & Sidney Pleasant
Some glad morning when this life is o'er
I'll fly away
To that home on God's celestial shore
I'll fly away.

I'll fly away, Oh Glory
I'll fly away
When I die, Hallelujah by and by
I'll fly away

When the shadows of this life have gone
I'll fly away
Like a bird from prison bars has flown
I'll fly away

I'll fly away, Oh Glory
I'll fly away
When I die, Hallelujah by and by
I'll fly away

Just a few more weary days and then
I'll fly away
to a land where joy shall never end
I'll fly away

I'll fly away, Oh Glory
I'll fly away
When I die, Hallelujah by and by
I'll fly away

Saturday, April 12, 2014


I was talking to a widow friend of mine one day and she said "I'm a little embarrassed to tell anyone about this, but I still turn my bedroom light on when it gets dark out. You see, my husband was bed bound near the end and spent a lot of time in the bedroom and I would turn the light on for him every evening when the sun went down. It's a habit I can't seem to break even a year after his death. As soon as it starts getting dark I feel the need to go turn that light on." Then she asked me, "Do you think something is wrong with me?"

I shared with her my similar experience.

My husband had pancreatic cancer and was in pain and he couldn't sleep in the bed at night so he would sleep in the living room on the recliner. Eventually Hospice was able to get him a hospital bed and he slept in in the living room with the TV on and the light on all night. 

After he passed away, I too, turned the light on as soon as it started getting dark outside, and I couldn't bring myself to turn it off until the morning light. Even though I wasn't in the room, I could see the glow of the light from my bedroom, and it was somehow comforting to me. 

When family came from out of state for his memorial, my daughter in law was reaching to turn the light out one night as everyone was getting ready for bed, and I nearly jumped out of my skin! I said "No, no, we can't turn that light out, Paul always kept that light on!" She said "Okay." But, I'm sure she was thinking I had surely lost it!

Then the evening of his memorial, as it was just starting to get dark, I walked over to the lamp and turned the switch on.

The bulb made a loud POP, POP, POP sound and seemed to explode into fireworks inside itself. It turned every color of the rainbow all at once. I wasn't sure what had just happened. I was a little taken back by it. 

I looked around the room to see if I was the only one in the room, and saw my son sitting there. I said "Did you see that?" I wanted someone else to acknowledge what happened because I had never seen a light bulb do that before. When you're in the middle of grief you don't know if what you are seeing is real or not, your mind can play tricks on you sometimes, so I was so glad he said yes, he had seen it. I felt like it was a sign that everything was okay.

My son replaced the bulb in the lamp and I continued to keep that light on every night. In fact I put it on a timer so it would come on by itself if I wasn't home.

So, when my friend asked me if I thought something was wrong with HER for turning the light on every night in the bedroom, I said, "No, I don't think anything is wrong with you at all!"

Shortly after we had that conversation, I started receiving notices from the electric company that I was using more electricity than my neighbors. I started looking around my house for ways to economize, like doing the laundry and running the dishwasher between 9 pm and 9 am, or on the weekends and changing out my regular light bulbs to incandescent, and as I was looking at more ways to save energy, I kept hearing my VERY FRUGAL husband whispering in my ear "Donna, turn out the light. It's time."

I made the decision, walked over and turned out the light, and as I slowly walked away, I kept looking back at the lamp. I wanted to turn around and turn it back on, but I didn't. 

I got into bed that night, and looking out into the hallway, I missed the glow from the living room, but I remembered the flash of the bulb, the fireworks, and all the colors of the rainbow, and I knew everything would be okay.

Psalms 4:8

I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for you alone, O Lord,
make me dwell in safety.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The King Gives a Banquet

Once upon a time in a far away land there lived a king. A king who ruled the land with power and might.

All the people both far and near feared this mighty king for he had been king as long as anyone could remember and it was said he had been king since time began and would be king for all time to come.

One day the king decided to have a banquet for all his people. As the servants prepared this banquet, the likes of which no one had ever seen before and will never see again, the king called for his messengers and sent them out into the country, and the city, and the churches and the streets and homes of the people to invite them to his banquet.

The messengers invited the first man,  but he said, "Oh, I can't come now. I just bought a new house and I have to stay here and work so I can earn the money to pay for it."

Next the messengers found a young woman and she said, "No, I can't come now. I just got married and I must stay here with my husband."

Another man told them, "I just bought a beautiful new car and I haven't even driven it yet. I have to stay here. Maybe I'll come later."

So the messengers went back and told the king all that had happened and what everyone said. The king was disappointed that the people didn't want to come to his banquet because he was making a special place for each person at his table. So he sent his messengers out again, and this time they went to the prisons, and to the homeless shelters and to the dark streets and alleys and to those who had never even heard of the king, and they brought them in to the banquet.

Then one of the messengers said to the king, " Your Majesty, we have done what you said and invited all the people, but there is still room at your banquet." So the king told the messengers to go to every country, both near and far, and to the far corners of the earth and bring all that would come to his banquet.

So the messengers brought people from both near and far, good and bad, with pink hair, purple hair, body piercings, tattoos, those who were unable to walk by themselves, those who were limping and in wheelchairs, those with leprosy, cancer, and every type of illness, the sick and the healthy, and every nationality on the earth.  And the hall was filled with guests. This made the king very happy.

As each guest arrived they were given a gift from the king, a robe for them to wear.  It was long and full, and beautifully adorned,

and it covered all their infirmities.

As the king greeted all his guests, he noticed there was a man who was not wearing the gift he had given his guests. The king asked the man "Why have you refused the gift I gave you, the robe that covers you?" The man could not answer the king.  The king instructed his servants to tie the man up and throw him outside into the darkness.

The king said "I have invited many, but few chose to come."

Matthew 22:1-14
Luke 14:15-23

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Dancing in the Sky

My anniversary is coming up next week and I sure am missing him. Things are different since he's been gone. I do hope he's dancing in the sky and singing in the angels choir.  He did love to dance and sing. If his favorite singer, Roy Orbison is there with him, I'm sure they're dancing and singing and having a great time.

March always seemed like a time of rejuvenation when the world was bright and beautiful. We spent our honeymoon in March on a cruise in the Carribean where the ocean water was turquoise, the sand was hot on our feet and the ocean breeze was warm and wonderful.  And when we lived back east we would vacation in March every year to a warm place in the desert, by the ocean, or in the mountains. We even bought our retirement home in March while we were on vacation. We went to the lake every year in March to look at the wild flowers. March was the best time of the year! 

Then he died in March, and it's just not the same.

I imagine the wildflowers still bloom in March, but I haven't seen them.  

I bet the ocean water in the Carribbean  is still turquoise, the sand is still hot, and the ocean breeze is still warm and wonderful, but I haven't seen that either.

Things are different since he's been gone....

Monday, March 3, 2014

Son of God - The Movie

For all my friends who are considering going to the theater to watch the movie "Son of God", here's my review of the movie. I know this won't be a spoiler for anyone, since you all know how the movie ends, so I'll give you my opinion on a few of the scenes and the movie as a whole. If you saw the movie, I would like to hear your thoughts.

I liked the way it began with the apostle John quoting John 1:1 "In the Beginning."

Then as the movie got started and they were showing Abraham and Noah, I thought "isn't this the same as "The Bible" mini series? Did I just pay money to watch this at the movie when I watched it for free on TV in my living room last year?  I tend to be a little pessimistic that way.

Yes, it was much the same as the mini series, however, once  Jesus was portrayed on the big screen with all his compassion and love for people, I couldn't help but get settled in to watch the movie and found I was enjoying it.

The scene with Jesus and Peter in the boat catching fish was memorable.  You could see that Peter was not sure what was going to happen next, but he was so drawn to Jesus that he had to follow him. And the sound of the big screen gave me a feeling that I was watching this scene unfold between Jesus and Peter. This was one of my favorite scenes in the movie!

Peter was someone I could relate to throughout the movie. He was so excited to see Jesus out on the water and had the faith to step out of the boat and onto the water, quickly lost faith, and then sank. Yet there were times when you could see his faith, and then he ran away and denied Jesus three times.

This movie was about Jesus and his life. The life he gave for mankind. And I believe it was portrayed well. It showed his compassion for man. Like when he fed the hungry, healed the lame man, touched the children, saved the woman who was going to be stoned, called Matthew the tax collector, and raised Lazarus from the dead.

The only flaw I can give to this movie, and I don't know how it could have been made otherwise, was the crucifixion. It was agonizing. I don't really know how long it lasted, but it seemed to go on forever. I did not watch most of it. I covered my eyes and wept. I knew exactly what was happening by the sounds. I kept thinking it must be almost over, or I would have gotten up and went to the restroom, as many did at that time. When I finally heard that sword slide out of the sheath to pierce his side, I was nauseous, but it was finally over.

I would have preferred to see more of Jesus after his resurrection and less of his crucifixion. However, they did show him resurrected at the tomb, which was a great scene, and in the room with his disciples, and on a hill before he ascended.

It was a very good movie. Most definitely worth watching. If I were you I would take a break and go stretch my legs during the crucifixion scene. Believe me, you have plenty of time.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

My Valentine

As Valentine's day is approaching I remember the last Valentine's day I spent with Paul. He didn't really feel like going out, but his Hospice nurse encouraged him to get out of the house for a little while and go out with me for a Valentine's Day lunch.

We decided to go for an early lunch knowing that he would be exhausted and ready for bed shortly after noon. So he took his walker, got in the car on the passenger's side and I drove us to a restaurant close by.

For the first few moments we arrived at the restaurant he seemed to be doing okay. We found a booth close by the door and sat down. The waitress came by and took our order and even though he didn't feel like eating he ordered anyway. I could tell he was feeling down and and of course he wasn't feeling good, but I thought things were going pretty well.

Then we noticed that people started coming into the restaurant. Two by two they started to arrive. It was mostly elderly couples celebrating Valentine's Day together. I remember thinking they were so cute. They were holding hands and very lovingly enjoying this day dedicated to couples. The couple next to us was even sitting on the same side of the booth together so they could be close.

All of a sudden Paul said he had to leave. He said he would be waiting for me in the car.  He stood up, took his walker and headed for the door.

I asked him if he was okay and he said he was but said that he just wanted to go sit in the car. I guess I thought he was feeling ill and didn't realize his emotional state. I really should have just put some money down on the table and walked out, but I looked for the waitress and asked her to box up our food that she hadn't even delivered to our table yet, so I could take it home with us. And it seemed like it took her FOREVER! I finally received the food, paid the bill and we were on our way home.

When we got home, I found out why Paul left the restaurant so abruptly. It was seeing those elderly couples lovingly celebrate a day that we would never get to experience again. It was knowing we would never be that 'old couple' in that restaurant holding hands.  It was the death of a dream for him. This was his moment of truth.

In grief groups we talk about all our first's. The first time we go out alone, our first Christmas alone, all the things we do for the first time alone. But this was a LAST for him. I can't imagine what it was like for him sitting there with me knowing he would die shortly and we would never be an 'old couple.'

I wish I had been more of a comfort to him that day, but I don't think I fully understood the truth he had just realized. I was still suffering from the shock of his pancreatic cancer diagnosis three months earlier and my mind had not accepted the reality that he was dying. I don't think I accepted it until long after he was gone.

Many times I asked God, "Why? Why didn't we get to be that old couple with a long history of Valentine's Days, and Thanksgivings, and seeing Grandkids off to college and all the things that come with the decades of marriage? Why God, did all our dreams have to die?"

I met a man who was in his 80's whose wife had died of a heart attack.  I remember his question to God was "Why?" His wife had heart problems but she was recovering, and then she died. He didn't understand why she had to die at this time. I remember thinking how she was blessed to have 20 more years than my husband. Then I met a young widow who wanted to know why her husband didn't live to see their daughter go to kindergarten.  

No matter how old or young our loved ones are when they pass on from this life, I think most of us feel we just didn't get enough time with them. We didn't get to hold them enough, we didn't have enough time to tell them how much we loved them or just sit next to them and hold their hand. We wanted one more birthday, one more Valentine's Day, or just one more day to love them.

So how do I reconcile my pain with an all powerful God?

There are things that I will never have an answer to while I am here on this earth. And if God did answer my question to, "why now?" Would I miss him less? Would I grieve less?

Deuteronomy 29:29 - The secret things belong to the Lord our God. But those things which are revealed belong to us and our children forever that we may follow the words of his law

In the entire book of Lamentations, the prophet Jeremiah weeps over Jerusalem after it is destroyed by Babylon and his people killed, tortured, and taken captive.  Lamentations 3:33 - For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.

James, the brother of Jesus, tells us that our life in this world is temporary. James 4:14 - "What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes."

I remember visiting my family in the mountains of Tennessee in the summers when I was young. In the early morning hours this magical mist would appear and settle over the mountains making them appear foggy and eerie looking. It seemed to just lie on the grass making it wet to my bare feet as I walked across the field. Then the sun would get blazing hot, as it does in Tennessee in the summer, and this seemingly magical mist just disappeared!

Sometimes I get so caught up in living this life that I forget that it is like that mist, only temporary. Here for a little while, then it vanishes.

Revelation tells us that death is the last enemy to be defeated and that we will live with God and be his people and he will wipe every tear from our eyes.

Revelation 21:3-4 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

Some day we will be with the people we love who have accepted the Lord and passed on from this life for eternity in the new heaven and the new earth . Death, mourning, crying and pain will be the "old order of things."  The people we love will no longer "pass away." Death, mourning, crying and pain will  all pass away.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Princess Worrier

Not so long ago I would go to bed at 11:00 or 11:30 pm (after Jay Leno), and wake up about 8:00 am. Those were the good ole days. Now it doesn't matter what time I go to bed, I wake up at 2:00 am.

I lie there wishing I could go back to sleep,  and that's when it starts.....

Someone told me once that if you wake up in the middle of the night thinking about someone you should pray for them, so I do. I pray for the people I love who are having a hard time in their lives, anyone who is sick, all my children and grandchildren by name and by need.

As I pray for each individual, I begin to dream of the possibilities of their life, the jobs they could have, the things they could accomplish and the people they could reach for God, of the gifts they have been blessed with and they don't even know it. And what would happen if they just changed this thing or that thing in their life. It's like day dreaming in the middle of night. But these are the dreams I dream for them that are not necessarily their dreams and not necessarily God's plan for them. 

And as time ticks by I think of someone else, and someone else, and I possibly fall asleep in between some of these as a result of trying to pray when I'm half asleep and half awake... and so it goes until eventually I fall back to sleep sometime in the early morning hours.

I started asking myself, is this really prayer or am I being a worrier? I did not misspell WARRIOR. I said worrier. I could try to make you (and me)  think I am a prayer warrior staying up all night praying for people, but I have this sneaking suspicion that this is my way of spending the lonely middle of the night hours in worry. Worrying about things that haven't happened yet, things that may never happen, and imagining everyone's life the way it should be according to me. It's a middle of the night worriers' day dream.

I should tell you that I come from a long line of worriers. My dad is the king of worriers, so I guess that makes me the Princess Worrier.

Jesus asks in Matthew 6:27 -"Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?"  Worry will consume our thoughts causing anxiety, headaches, ulcers, chronic pain, depression, exhaustion, and if we let it, it can immobilize us.

In 2 Corinthians 10:5 the apostle Paul tells us to take EVERY thought captive. So as I got myself ready for bed last night I imagined that these prayers, wishes and dreams  (and worries) that I have for the people I love were in boxes lying all over the floor of this big warehouse that was my brain, and I scooped them all up in a big net and said "Here you go, Lord. Here are my thoughts. All captive. I give them to you to do as you will."

I missed my 2:00 am usual wake up time last night. I don't remember anything until 5:30 this morning.

Philippians 4:6-7 - Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I'll now keep a list of who and what to pray for and do it in the morning when I'm wide awake so I can avoid my mind wondering off to worryland. And if I do wake up in the middle of the night I'll try to steer my mind toward things that don't make me anxious, like the beach, a cruise ship, and what it will be like to live in Heaven. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014


My son told me this week that I'm a "fixer" and he knows this because he's a fixer too, and he learned it from me. If someone calls me with a problem, I think it's my responsibility to help them resolve it.

My husband was not a "fixer." If someone called me with a problem and I was ready to get right out there and do my "fixer" thing, he would say, "If you help them now, you'll have to help them again later. Just let them figure it out themselves and they won't let this happen again." Hummm, I suppose that is true for some things, but what about the mother who needs diapers and formula right now? Wouldn't they just end up with a bare butted hungry child? Believe me, we had a lot of those kind of conversations!

So, we didn't always see eye to eye on helping or not helping but at times we could understand the other's point of view. (sometimes, not always.) Now that he's not here, I find it may be time for me to reel in my "fixer" personality on my own and try to find some middle ground. 

I recently read "The Handbook for Companioning the Mourner" by Alan Wolfelt, Ph. D. It's a book written to help people care for those who are in grief. He wrote 11 Tenets for walking beside the mourner and listening to them without trying to fix or change them. I think they will help anyone with a friend in need, whether mourning, depressed, going through a divorce, or just having a bad day.

Sometimes the best thing we can do is just listen and not say or do anything. The next time I am ready to run out and rescue someone, I am going to read these tenets out loud to myself.

Tenet One:  Companioning is about being present to another person's pain; it is not about taking away the pain.
Tenet Two :  Companioning is about going to the wilderness of the soul with another human being; it is not about thinking you are responsible for finding the way out.
Tenet Three:  Companioning is about honoring the spirit; it is not about focusing on the intellect.
Tenet Four:  Companioning is about listening with the heart; it is not about analyzing with the head.
Tenet Five:  Companioning is about bearing witness to the struggles of others; it is not about judging or directing these struggles.
Tenet Six:  Companioning is about walking alongside; it is not about leading.
Tenet Seven:  Companioning means discovering the gifts of sacred silence; it does not mean filling up every moment with words.
Tenet Eight: Companioning is about being still; it is not about frantic movement forward.
Tenet Nine:  Companioning is about respecting disorder and confusion; it is not about imposing order and logic.
Tenet Ten:  Companioning is about learning from others; it is not about teaching them.
Tenet Eleven: Companioning is about curiosity; it is not about expertise.  by Alan Wolfelt, Ph. D

Saturday, January 18, 2014


Have you ever went out on a limb for anyone? I did and it broke. 

I recently spent about a month away from home to be with a friend who desperately wanted a chance to change the circumstances in their life.

I never really understood the term "out on a limb" before this happened. But now I do.  

In my mind I can picture a tree, bare of all foliage and covered with ice. There is a bird sitting out on the thinnest limb on this tree, and I am this bird, and this is my story.

I received a call from someone I love and I didn't realize it at the time, but as soon as I answered that call I began to move out on that limb...

I hopped on a plane to meet my friend... I slid a little farther out on that limb.

I rented a car and picked my friend up ... I slid a little farther out on that limb.

I found a temporary place for us to stay...There I go..sliding...sliding.

With every single thing I did to "help" my friend, too many to mention and too personal to speak,  I slid farther and farther out on that limb, which unbeknownst to me was getting pretty thin.

I was extending myself so far financially I should have been able to hear the ice of that limb beginning to crack, but I was ever the helper, helping, helping and moving always toward the sky!

I was finally able to find a permanent home for my friend. In one gigantic leap I was now at the very end of this frozen, crackling limb, but I was holding on.

Since I had done such a great job helping my friend I felt my time there was finished so I boarded a plane for home and by the time the tires of that plane hit the tarmac my friend went back to her old life.

CRACK! I could hold on no longer. What was left of that limb went blowing in the wind!

Why did I sacrifice? Why did I go there? And then, they started, the "IF ONLY'S." And anyone who is a widow or has lost someone they love can relate to those. I had so many "IF ONLY'S" when my husband passed away. If only I had insisted he go to the doctor sooner, or if only I had taken him to the hospital when he was in pain maybe they would have found his cancer sooner and it could have saved his life.  There are no answers to the "IF ONLY'S."

The apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3:13-14 "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." 

Did the apostle Paul FORGET his past? He wrote this from prison and and it wasn't his only imprisonment. He was stoned and left for dead, he was shipwrecked, he was present when Stephen was stoned to death. Do you think he ever asked "Why?" Or, "if only I hadn't, if only I didn't."

I believe Paul made a choice not to dwell on this past but to move forward toward hope in Christ. We can spend the rest of our lives asking God why but it will drain all the energy we have left in us and we probably aren't going to get an answer this side of heaven. And why spend our days full of regret wondering what would have happened "IF ONLY" we had done things differently? If we need to ask a question, let's ask "What?" "What do I do now?" Now that's a question God will answer!

My plan for 2014 is not to dwell on the past but to keep moving forward looking ahead to the life that God has called me.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Is That You?

The other morning I awoke so puzzled. Why would I dream that dream?  It's been almost 22 months since my husband passed away. I thought I was over that...

I was walking down the sidewalk with a friend and about half a block in front of me was my husband walking toward us! He had on a bright colored shirt and khaki shorts, and white tennis shoes. He had on sunglasses and it was hard to see his blonde hair from that distance, but I could tell it was him. For a few short minutes anyway, until he got closer, and I could see that the man didn't really have the same build as my husband, or walk quite the same way. The closer he got, the only thing that resembled my husband was the khaki shorts and bright colored shirt. As a matter of fact, as this person approached us, I realized he was actually a SHE with blond hair pulled back into a ponytail!

Now I can just hear my husband saying "you thought I was a woman?" and this would be a pretty funny story, except at the time I wasn't laughing. In my dream I was sobbing as I was explaining to my friend why I thought this was my husband. I woke up with a tear stained pillow and such a sadness in my heart and a feeling that I had almost seen him, but missed him.

Then I remembered the times, almost forgotten now, when I really did feel like I had caught a glimpse of him for a split second, and then realized it wasn't him at all.

A couple times when I thought I caught a glimpse of him there was actually a man walking down the sidewalk just like in my dream. A real man, with a bright colored shirt and khaki shorts. I would be driving down the road and see him walking down the sidewalk and just for a split second I would think it was my husband and then I'd realize it was just a stranger that resembled him.

The last time something like this happened to me I was driving home from a grief support group and stopped at a red light and noticed a red sports car on the side street that I thought looked like his car. As the car turned left in front of me, it seemed like time stood still as the man drove past me and I saw how much he looked like my husband. He had blonde hair, sunglasses and a round face, and as he passed he turned and looked right at me! I felt like he looked right through my soul. It was an emotional experience.

Why do these things happen? I heard of a person who thought they saw their deceased loved one and yelled out at a stranger in a baseball stadium, and another one who followed someone through a crowd. What causes our brains to play these tricks on us?

I think of my brain as a computer and my grief is a folder that is stored in my computer. Then  every loss I have that's associated with my grief is a file that has to be placed into that folder.  My grief folder would have the loss of my soul mate, my best friend, the person who washed my car, my financial security, the one who cleaned my garage, trimmed my bushes, cleaned the pool.

All these files (losses) just pile up until the folder is so full that it can't hold anymore. Then my computer got a little WONKY for a while. I saw things that weren't really there, I couldn't remember things and felt like I was getting dementia. I was emotional and stressed out!

Not everyone grieves in the same way, but these things are a part of the healing process and although I would like to skip them altogether, there is just no way around it. I had to go right through it. I had to feel it all to heal. If I tried to stuff the hurt from my losses back into those folders (and I did try sometimes), they would just pop up again later.  So, although this journey can be uncertain and overwhelming, feel the pain, suffer through the grief, go to a support group, get counseling, the road you're on will get wider and shorter and smoother.

Which brings me back to that crazy dream I had. Someone told me once that if we have a confusing dream or the same dream maybe we should ask ourselves, is my body trying to tell me something, is God trying to tell me something? When I was in the middle of my grief I kept having a dream that I was coming to an intersection with my grandchildren and the brakes went out on my car and the light turned green in the opposite  direction.  I kept trying to figure out why.  Don't get me wrong. I DO NOT interpret dreams! But I felt my life was totally out of control (like the car) and I could not protect my family just like I could not protect my husband. When I finally said "Okay God, I know I'm not in control of anything in my life, you are. My life, my family, we are all yours," I stopped having that dream.

So when I had this latest dream about almost seeing my husband, I said "God, I can't go back to feeling like I almost had him, but didn't. I almost saw him, but he was gone." And thank God, I haven't had the dream again.

Jeremiah 29:11
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."