Thursday, November 13, 2014

4 Weeks of Widowhood: What I Have Learned

Colossians 3:12-14 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Four weeks ago yesterday a desperate drive to our family lakehouse confirmed my worst fear:  my husband and the father of my 12 children was dead.
This has been a hard road to travel for us.  But as the four weeks have passed, and my mind has cleared enough for me to think again, I realize I have learned a few things.
And here they are:
A church home is invaluable.  People, hear me again, a church home is invaluable.  Although we are not members of the church we attend at this time, they rallied around us with the great love Jesus told us about.  They exemplified the scripture above.  Someone or another has been with us at every step, sharing all they had to give us.
It feels like Jesus has his arms around us.
Everyone needs that.
Friends and family are invaluable.  I am thankful beyond words that I have a large family.  My children have blessed me and helped me when I was at my weakest, and they were at their weakest, too.  My extended family has helped us, both my side and Bill's.  Attorneys have gone to the bank with me and not charged for their time because "Bill was my friend."  I have not felt alone even for a minute.  I know all I have to do is reach out my hand, and someone will be there to take it.  There is not enough time here on earth to spend on drama.  Let it all go. Be thankful for your family.  Be thankful when you learn another child is coming.  Because someday, you are going to need them.  And if there are a lot of them, the burden is just that much lighter.
When an unexpected death, or even an expected one comes, meals are invaluable.  I did not realize before exactly how much it means to have meals brought when you are grieving.  A friend created an online "meal train" for us, and I asked for freezer meals because our fridge is small, but our freezer is large.  In the end, 25 meals were brought to us, and many of those feed us more than once, even though we have a large family.  Two days ago was the first time I cooked since Bill died, other than eggs and oatmeal for breakfast a few times.
You cannot know what that meant.  If not, I can sure tell you.  I did not have to worry about going to the grocery store for an entire month, at a time that was full of manic activity and low lows.  I did not have to think about what I would feed my large family during a time when I had no appetite and no desire to cook and I could not think beyond what was happening at that particular moment.  After a night of no sleep, I rose in the mornings groggy and exhausted to a house full of young children clamoring for breakfast.  What a blessing it was to be able to say, "Go eat some of that apple cobbler that was left from dinner last night."  and see their faces light up because they are getting to eat dessert for breakfast, but I know that since it's mostly apples, or oatmeal cookies, or whatever else it may have been, it's at least slightly healthy for them.

Cards with money helped.  I had no idea people did that on such a mass scale.  I also had no idea how very expensive death is.  So many times, when I was almost out of money, a card came in the mail with a check, cash or a gift card.  God bless all the amazing people who thought of us that way.  I am behind on thank you cards, but I will catch up.  In the meantime, thank you, thank you.
I have learned that those sleepless nights that come at a great loss are actually a blessing.  During the day, I had young children to comfort, feed, and school.   I had older children who needed their mom to listen to them.  They needed to be driven to work.  Others needed new shoes.  Eye doctor appointments,  The house had to be cleaned...
Those nights were the only time my mind was still enough to process what had happened to us.  I realize God has a purpose in that, and I'm glad I didn't try to force myself to sleep with sleeping pills.  I needed that time.  And now I am beginning to sleep again.

I have learned that life goes on and trials continue to happen.  Life does not stop when there is a death, even if you think it should.  Tommy got chicken pox a few days after Bill died.  Right now, he has the flu.  Mary Susannah had a wreck and totaled her car.  Beau called today and told me he hit a deer and a rabbit the same night Mary Susannah had her wreck and messed his car up, too.  Angel-Leah got glasses. Gage moved from one far away Asian country to another.  I have a hard time even imagining where he is.  Not that that's a trial.  It's just one more amazing thing.  You cannot stop.  You just keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep living.

Most of all, I have learned what Christian love, compassionate hearts, kindness and harmony looks like from the examples that have been shown to me these past four weeks.  I want these traits to be in my life.  I want to live like my friends and family have lived towards me from now on.

Death is hard.  None of us want to go through times like these.  But I know we can learn from them.  Thank you, all of you, for being my teachers.