Alter Moments – #Sowkindlegacy

One year ago today I began a journey with God, which started in a place of despair so thick, it nearly suffocated me.

Each morning for eight months straight, I sat at the kitchen table, with Bible, pencil and paper by my side, as I absorbed God’s Word, and poured to paper anything and everything. The first days were choppy, like the thoughts lay trapped underneath crushing feelings, and even though they desired release from the weight, they rose up slowly, and with much effort.

Still, over time, these daily moments altered my life. Or rather, kept me alive.

But there was another writing, one that was written before Bill’s death, to be opened upon his departure, that saved my life in more ways than I will share in this post.

Words speak life, even after death.

They encourage.

They fuel hope.

They comfort.

They inspire.

I have a friend who began a ministry not long ago, titled, #Sowkind. It is a way to pour much-needed kindness into others. I think of the letter Bill wrote as a #Sowkindlegacy, living on long after his absence.

On the one-year milestone, I wrote a letter to my girls. I hope my words encourage as much as the one their daddy left for them.

I hope these words encourage you to build life into those you love before it is too late (I typed it as is…errors and all).

Dear Josie, 

I wanted to tell you that you have made my life worth living. You are my best friend, you and I have been together for almost 30 years. You have been there through all our highs and lows. As a friend you have taught me how to be a better person and caring more for others than myself. You shared with me more than just friendship you shared with me your faith and I welcomed it, because of you I will go to heaven and I will be there waiting to see you again. I couldn’t think of a better friend to share my life with. 

You are my wife, you showed me how to include another person in my space and that space was filled by your love. You made me a husband, one who cared and believed in you. You and I learned how to be parents together or should I say Kylie taught us how to be parents, we learned together as a family to be a family. Through your caring nature you instilled in me a desire to raise our girls with dignity and respect. 

You are my Love. I have been in awe ever since the day we met. Your beauty, charm and humor knocked me over. I cannot describe my love for you, you have filled my life with happiness, excitement and zest. 

I want you to be strong and live a beautiful fulfilling life, please continue to share all your glorious attributes with those you love. 

You have a way with words and you have shared stories with so many others and inspired them, so never ever quit. You will write that book. 

I have never been so proud of someone in my whole life and you will always be in my heart. 

Love you Baby Cakes

Boo

 

 

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Let the Adventure Begin

Yesterday brought along a whirlwind of sadness, I guess from the combination of emotions. The quiet in New York, with so many people, yet missing the one that mattered most, along with the accumulation of pent-up feelings–ones I bottled in so to not spill out while on our adventure, came pouring out the minute I found my way home again.

Another day wasted by grief’s crashing wave.

I am tired of grieving.

Today I want to begin 30 days of finding a new me. Or maybe wholeness. Could be because I am attempting Whole 30 eating plan to get back on track before my waistline decides to graduate to another size. A post for another day…

Wholeness, like filling the gaping wound with a skin graft so it can heal.

A question appeared in a post from, ‘Second Firsts’, in which the writer asked a series of questions, one being:

Are you still trying to live the life you used to have?

I sat here for minutes as I pictured the days go by, one after the next, and at first glance, thought, “no, not really.”

After all, I stopped watching our shows at night, even though the red light lets me know it is still being recorded and I am wasting valuable storage space. But I just don’t care enough to stop.

Routines are similar though.

Coffee. Shower. Working out. Actually that should be working out, and then shower.

The TV is off in the morning, yet I sit in the same spot at the kitchen table.

In the evening, this seat transitioned to Bill’s bottom, but I decided to keep it as my own. Not sure why, other than it has a better view of the perimeter of the house, and into the yard.

I meander through the day as I did when he was well, filling time with errands, coffee dates, writing.

Home maintenance. The outdoor chores are now provided by a company I pay entirely too much for, to maintain a yard that used to look meticulous.

Small weeds creep up everywhere, ones that he would Round Up, whereas I pulled by the root. I watch them accumulate. Too tired to touch. Too sad to care.

I feel debris on my feet as I walk around barefoot. No, not from the outside, but on the kitchen floor. There was a time you could eat off the tile as it was that clean.

I grocery shop instead of him. Make dinner. Clean up dishes.

Watch random reality shows, likely to escape reality.

Until I go to bed.

Another day.

Monotonous.

No, I am not living the same life.

Actually it appears I am not living any life.

Just existing on a routine.

Like choosing the merry-go-round, instead of the roller coaster. The horses don’t move. They are stuck in place–circling as they do until the time is up.

No hills. No adrenaline. No adventure.

Before Bill was diagnosed, I woke from a dream of me on a roller coaster, arms raised, smile wide, with words ringing in my ears like a background soundtrack,

Let the adventure begin!

It startled me as dreams often do, causing the heart to pump a bit faster.

I smile at her smile.

My smile.

“Josie, put some adventure into today.”

Something.

Anything.

Adventure (verb):  Engage in hazardous or exciting activity, especially the exploration of unknown territory.

So I say yes to be a judge for a throw-down, coffee competition. It is a start.

Oh, and I did get a tattoo. On my arm. In plain sight. It was a drawing from the last letter he wrote me before he died.

I may never work at a church again.

Let the adventure begin.

 

 

 

Transitions

April has been hard. No surprise I guess, as are approaching the one-year mark.

One year.

I was so angry the other day, I beat the bleep out of the heavy bag, until I developed a butt cramp.  Apparently my behind is not accustomed to the intensity of anger. She is a softy after all.

I had entered his domain, that being the garage.

Ever-so-slowly, I clear out the clutter of his well-lived life. The man saved everything, from bolts, screws, clamps, old wood planks, to an endless array of cords to items already discarded, sold, or obsolete.

I tidied up the mess.

Organize as I do when my soul feels in chaos.

His suits sit stuffed in an old suitcase on the garage floor–the makeshift purgatory until they can be released from my clutch.

Stuff.

I learned year’s ago my anger tendency is to stuff emotions, as a hoarder does useless objects, until there is no where else to turn. No more capacity. Full.

I woke to a partial verse. It covered me like a warm blanket,

Come to me, you who are heavy laden. I will give you rest.

Heavy laden, for rest. A fair trade.

I’m reminded of the prayer from last May, when in a desperate place of wanting to die with Bill, I gave God a year to rekindle a desire to live.

I said that I wanted to be like George Bailey near the end of, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, who stood on the snowy bridge, rubbing his tear-filled eyes, saying, “I want to live. I want to live.”

Somewhere around the eight-month mark, a transition occurred, without such fanfare as George, when I realized that I too wanted to live.

Shortly after, George entered his home with a new-filled appreciation of what he had. The old home he had irritated over, likely because it served as a reminder of an unfulfilled dream to travel, build large skyscrapers, and live a life of adventure, the one he would never embark as he was forever sidelined to the small town he wished to escape…

It was in this same space the lens of perspective changed.

He realized that everything he ever desired was in this home.

The shift occurred, even though his circumstances did not.

When we purchased this home, months before cancer stepped in without permission, this home was a dream come true.

A year without him here, and I am no longer sure of this.

I read this quote in the book, ‘Falling Free’, that is rocking my world,

Surrender is always the beginning of a better dream.

I lay down my fighting gloves, and release the pent-up emotion to paper.

In less than a week we head to New York, to a city Bill didn’t care at all to visit. We will celebrate his life, and our lives.

We will stuff ourselves with pizza at the original Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn. (Every 29th, we bring joy to the difficult monthly reminder on the calendar by meeting at a location here in San Antonio.)

George desired the city, but found his wonderful life in his home.

I desire this home, but without his presence, I may find it elsewhere, knowing my true home awaits when my time here on earth is over.

I’ve decided for the time being, to give him squatter’s rights in my mind and heart, as he refuses to leave, even though he is physically absent.

I also decided to give him back some closet space.

I stuff the now-crumpled suits back in place, and wrap my arms around them and hug them close.

I’m giving grief space to grieve.

And time, knowing that just because we made it to the major milestone on a calendar, doesn’t mean the evidence of grief is gone.

It takes time.

Besides, he just won’t leave me alone.

He lures himself into nearly every thought.

He breaks through the waterproof mascara without permission.

It is both unnerving, and comforting.

 

My mantra for months has been, “I look forward to the day that I look forward to a day.”

I realize as I look at this upcoming week that I am looking forward to a day on the calendar.

My heart swells with joy at the thought.

 

I Want to Go Through, Not Get Through

March 22, 2018

Yesterday played a melody of easy, until an unexpected song entered, and my emotions were captured by the familiarity of heartache, as tears made their uninvited way out of hiding.

Yes, tears. No surprise here, since I still cry almost daily. But most are reserved for private, and these arrived in public, at a restaurant named, of all things, ‘General Public’. We were there celebrating Kylie’s written offer for her new position, and decided to go to a restaurant I frequented with Bill.

I realized when we sat down, the last time I was there, was with him. But I refused to allow my mind to wander off into this arena.

This was a celebratory occasion.

I had a glass of wine. I promised myself I wouldn’t for 30 days, and only three days in I was no where close to the finish line, but justified that as long as I wasn’t home, it would be okay.

I am sure it mellowed my guard a bit. The one I have in place to keep all composure in check, to not let out extreme instability.

We were finishing up our shared meal and conversation.

It was nice.

And then the song. It wasn’t like a favorite of mine, but more of a familiar one.

At first, we looked at each other and Kylie smiled. She knows her daddy’s fondness for Paul Simon.

I’m on my way. I don’t know where I’m going. I’m taking my time, but I don’t know where…

A single tear rolled down the cheek.

And another.

And another.

“Sorry,” I say.

We left.

I tried to get myself together. The calm expression in place, while anxiety stirred underneath.

Sadness knew she’d get her way by night’s end.

We head home. But before, I stop in the grocery store parking lot. I send my adult daughter in to do my dirty work.

I already feel dirty. Worn down. Tired of caving to cravings to kill the ache.

I don’t care.

I just need to numb through the evening.

We arrive home. She leaves shortly after.

I pour one large glass.

And cry.

I need to hear him.

I dont’ want to go there.

I know I will.

I listen to the voicemails. His voice, a combo of soothe and sorrow.

Tears.

Hiccups.

I curl in a ball in his chair, listening to each one. Twice.

The final one, left on my phone almost a year ago today. The pain in his tone.  Fear. Desperation, as he asks me to remember to pick up his medicine.

As if I would forget.

I want to forget.

Not him. Just the pain of losing him.

“How long Lord?”

I make my way to bed. A friend happens to text, asking how I am doing. Her perfect timing doesn’t go unnoticed.

I send a lengthy response, ending with, “I am hoping for fresh hope in the morning.”

I awaken to a headache, as the same song sings along on repeat in my mind.

I make my way through my morning rituals, when I hear a whisper from within,

What do you want?

“I don’t want to drink anymore.”

Hmm.

I didn’t ask for anything monumental, like the grief destroyed, or infused with hope, or even world peace.

I don’t want to drink anymore.

Okay then, don’t.

Stop. Now. Today.

I’m afraid to write the words, only to fail again.

Still, it feels different.

As if Jesus asked the words, like the ones he asked of the man on the mat,

Do you want to be well?

The man gave an excuse as to why he couldn’t get to the magical healing water, when Jesus says something crazy, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”

And, at once the man was cured.

At once.

What do I want?

I don’t want to numb my way through my evenings.

What do I do?

Well, I could begin by pouring it out, and by declaring to myself that I am a non-drinker again.

Breathe deeply, Josie.

Let peace enter.

Maybe tea too.

Know I don’t need this to get me through.

Because I don’t want to get through my days any longer.

I want to go through them. 

To live each one to the fullest.

I hear the beginning of a message by Jill Brisco on the widow and Elisha.

The empty bottles he told her to get from neighbors. The little oil of hope she had left. He told her to pour into them. The oil kept coming until all bottles she had were full.

Jill says, “As you go, He pours in.”

Slightly different, but I wonder, now that my bottle is empty, could it be He is ready to pour in?

I poured out. He will pour in. 

Yes!

Lord, fill the emptiness, the loneliness, the deep pain I feel at his passing. Pour in buckets of hope, joy, peace, contentment, and anything else that will create an abundance, instead of the lack I feel in his absence.

 

Flashbacks

(237) Journal Entry: December 31, 2017

Flashbacks.

Bill will never live in 2018. He will only be alive in memory.

For days now I’ve been overwhelmed with flashes of times with him. Driving down the quiet, windy road, when the car slowed to a stop on the gravel, looking forward at the dashboard for emotional stability, listening intently to the words of the doctor’s conclusions on the spot, and his thoughts on how to proceed. Feeling hope slowly fade as we make our way back on the road to a destination I no longer remember, or care.

That same road we took by way of detour for the first surgery attempt to confirm diagnosis, when rain poured and the crossing outside our home blocked us in, as we meandered out of our way to the hospital that day. After we arrived, the rain slowed to a mere trickle.

Lowes. How many times did we walk the aisles and daydream and plan projects? The smell of lumber and anticipation at how and where the wood would go brought a smile to our faces. I saw a couple with the same gaze—walking aimlessly, hand in hand, as I made my way to the items of need and bolted toward the fresh air of the parking lot–the lumber no longer a fragrance, but a stench.

Small moments, significant moments in time have been sweeping me off my feet, or maybe tripping me, trying to bring me down.

He won’t step foot in 2018, as he stands outside of time. I remember his final moments standing, his gate shuffled, until the final attempt to get out of bed had him on the floor, curled in a ball of pain, not able to stand again on his own; it took two professionals and myself to get him up.

I am grateful in this moment, knowing he no longer walks in pain. Or worry. Or sadness.

These moments in time are bittersweet. When they find me, they take me to a place where I can see his face, feel his touch, hear his voice, smell his scent—for a moment I savor the scene, ugly and all, as I feel his nearness.

I look forward to a new calendar, hoping to fill more days with joy and hope and purpose.

I am reminded of the verse about forgetting the former things. Isaiah 43:18-19:

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland…

I want to forget all the pain and loss, and spend this next year with happy memories flooding me with the warmth of remembrance, and filling new moments in the space, ones I will look back on at the end of the year, and smile.

MY HUSBAND AND BEST FRIEND, BILL BARONE, PASSED AWAY FROM A LONG FIGHT AGAINST CANCER ON APRIL 29, 2017, AT PRECISELY 4:29AM. THE DISEASE TEMPORARILY WON OUT HERE ON THIS PLANET, BUT SINCE HIS ULTIMATE RESIDENCE IS IN HEAVEN, I AM CERTAIN HE WON OUT.  
THESE WRITINGS ARE A YEAR-LONG COMMITMENT TO FIND MY WAY OUT OF THE DARKNESS FROM HIS DEPARTURE. 
EACH ENTRY IS MARKED WITH A DAY AND A DATE.  THE FIRST OFFICIAL ENTRY WAS ON MAY 9, 2017. 

You Are Not Alone

 

I haven’t posted in a while, and this may be filled with punctuation errors and such as I am on a limited time frame until the house awakens and the presents unwrapped, but this entry is for the person(s) who feel alone during this most wonderful time of the year.

You are never alone. 

(230) Journal Entry:  December 25, 2017

Not sure what I am feeling at this moment, early Christmas Day. The chaos has settled, each dog occupied with a bone, the stockings set out, coffee made, and all three girls snoozing behind closed doors, on this quiet morning.

So, back to yesterday. The drive to church I feel the anxiety rise with every mile. Tears held back from entering the all-out cry by what little will I have, along with looking up at the ceiling, which seems to keep them at bay.

Until an interesting thing occurs–I begin to settle down. My insides no longer wanting to sprint, but stay. I am flooded with embraces throughout the day, each one coming up, holding me extra close, praying for me. I am home in this moment.

Maybe this has been my home all along, this Bibleland, this church.

I make my way to a service (I am working the others), alone. A friend suggests I sit with their family, a large one, near the back. I am one who prefers the front so I save her invitation for if I feel too upset by myself, and make my way toward the front.

I notice a row with only one person on the end, so I circle around the front and enter the row from the other side. I ask the routine, “Are these seats taken?”  She informs me they are open, and I make my way to a seat near her with a comfortable empty seat in between, to keep a safe distance from who knows what, maybe just looking like a creeper since there are ten unoccupied seats.

She leans in, filling the few minutes with small talk, with the routine question in a church as large as this, “Is this your first time?”

“No,” I inform her I’ve been here for some time, and return the question.

“No, I’ve been attending for about a year; I am a widow.”

Four words added to a common answer, perhaps too intimate for initial pleasantries.

When I respond that I am a widow too, her eyes widen in surprise. The next few minutes we fill the gap and exchange husband war stories until the opening credits roll on the screen and service officially begins.

I know this is a moment from God. 2,750 seats and I happen to sit next to another person walking the same path as myself, feeling alone. I wonder if He placed us alongside each other to tell us both, “You are not alone.”

“I see you.”

“I am with you wherever you go.”

“I love you.”

After service we go our separate ways, knowing there is no need to exchange numbers or anything since the connection didn’t seem more than one for that particular moment.

“I am in awe of you God.”

My reading today, which I read yesterday so I wouldn’t feel overwhelmed this morning, was in Numbers. All these numbers, with a few names included here and there. Such a blur.

But God. This God lined up two ‘unnoticeables’ in an auditorium full of seats, alongside one another, whispering to our ache, “You are a treasure of infinite value; the only number you are is Priceless.”

I think of my new word for the upcoming year:  WORTH.

Value. He not only whispers my worth, but shows me by way of illustration how valuable I/we are.

So loved.

Praying today is a sweet day, even though we miss this one person so incredibly much.

MY HUSBAND AND BEST FRIEND, BILL BARONE, PASSED AWAY FROM A LONG FIGHT AGAINST CANCER ON APRIL 29, 2017, AT PRECISELY 4:29AM. THE DISEASE TEMPORARILY WON OUT HERE ON THIS PLANET, BUT SINCE HIS ULTIMATE RESIDENCE IS IN HEAVEN, I AM CERTAIN HE WON OUT.  
THESE WRITINGS ARE A YEAR-LONG COMMITMENT TO FIND MY WAY OUT OF THE DARKNESS FROM HIS DEPARTURE. 
EACH ENTRY IS MARKED WITH A DAY AND A DATE.  THE FIRST OFFICIAL ENTRY WAS ON MAY 9, 2017. 

Six Months of Slow Change

(173) Journal Entry: October 29, 2017

I woke up with a song playing in my mind, actually a replay of the same tune from a couple months ago:

Hey, did you happen to see the most beautiful girl in the world?

And if you did, was she crying?

Tell her I’m sorry. Tell her I need my baby.

Oh, won’t you tell her…that I love her.

Sigh.

Last night the tears dropped single file onto the white sheet as I looked at the two of us in the photo by my bedside.

The two of us. Those are the pics I stare at the most. The ones I hold close. How I miss him the most–side by side.

Til death did us part.

I glance to the left of the page to see my reading today has a focus on wives and husbands. I’m irked. I don’t want to be without my sidekick, my other half.

Changes.

It was near freezing this morning. I see small, white crystals on the garbage cans outside the laundry room window. I fear the outdoor plants won’t hold up to Mother Nature’s freezing touch.

The changes are slowly happening, so slow the eye doesn’t witness the transition. Some relationships are fading. Some are only beginning to flourish. My erratic sorrow has stabilized too.  Manageable most days.

Some moments I realize I’m enjoying myself, living outside the two of us. Moments, until I realize something is off, like I forgot my child in the car seat after I’d been in the store a couple minutes, only to franticly make my way back, and pull him protectively close.

Change hurts.

Change is necessary.

Sometimes it is good.

Sometimes it is for the good.

I faked happiness yesterday, the deep void I felt coming on overwhelmed me. I try not to hold back the emotions, but I just want the girls to not associate their mom with loss.

So I smiled. Tucked the pain under the sweater until I went to bed. That’s when the release gave way.

I wore the first sweater yesterday. Cozy. I moved the fall-winter wardrobe up front in my closet. The summer threads I gathered and decided to move out of the closet until needed again. (Perhaps next week; I do live in Texas after all.)

When I realize I have space in Bill’s closet. The only items left are his suits, ties and dress shirts. The smell upon opening the door of the closed space is like perfume to my soul.

I want to play house. Pretend he is away on a frequent business trip. A momentary comfort, and likely a hinderance to my healing to stay in the pretend space too long.

Today is the last day writing in this journal bible. It’s so full of treasures mined in the sadness of six months; it’s difficult to maneuver the hand in a comfortable position to write on.  Difficult to close.

Tomorrow we will journal on a new page on a lined space specifically catered for words.

Yes, another change.

Before I know it, another day will be upon us and I’ll wonder again how I made it this far without him. I’ll look back pages, amazed how much better I am today as I was months ago.

These small moments of change fill me with hope for a brighter tomorrow off somewhere in the distance of time.

Hope.

Hope drifts just far enough ahead, pulling me forward like a magnet just out of reach.

I sit here sipping my holiday blend, listening to a Christmas playlist on Youtube, as the nearby fireplace brings warmth to this special day.

Right now, life is a blend of hurt, with peaks of joy.

I feel him shake his head from above, as it is not yet Halloween, and I break the silent agreement of no “Silent Night”, and all other themed tunes, until after November 1st.

“Don’t judge me Bill Barone,” I exclaim to the silence. I can’t help myself. It is cold and it soothes me so 🙂

Besides, my ultimate Hope resides in the words, of the One who came down all those years ago on a dark, quiet night, to bring hope to a dying and hopeless world.

To another six months…

MY HUSBAND AND BEST FRIEND, BILL BARONE, PASSED AWAY FROM A LONG FIGHT AGAINST CANCER ON APRIL 29, 2017, AT PRECISELY 4:29AM. THE DISEASE TEMPORARILY WON OUT HERE ON THIS PLANET, BUT SINCE HIS ULTIMATE RESIDENCE IS IN HEAVEN, I AM CERTAIN HE WON OUT.  
THESE WRITINGS ARE A YEAR-LONG COMMITMENT TO FIND MY WAY OUT OF THE DARKNESS FROM HIS DEPARTURE. 
EACH ENTRY IS MARKED WITH A DAY AND A DATE.  THE FIRST OFFICIAL ENTRY WAS ON MAY 9, 2017.