Saturday, July 23, 2011

What love looks like.


I realized he was the age I am now when she entered his life. He had been lonely for a while, had been to dark places in his mind and felt his heart would never know love again.

On their first date he took her a red rose.

They shyly introduced each other as "my sweetheart".

Their children, all in their teens and twenties, began to accept each other as siblings. Then they began to have grandchildren. The two of them became "Pa" and "Mammy". They became ever more happy.

When they had time and the day began to cool, they would walk the boundary fences of the farm. Talking, laughing or maybe just being silent, holding hands as they walked beneath the glorious sunsets.

He built a porch on the side of their home. This is where they would sit in the mornings drinking coffee together peacefully, watching as does and fawns emerged from the woods to greet the light of morning.

She would jump into his truck in her jeans and flip flops,  not caring what she wore or that her hair would get messed up as they roared down country roads. She just wanted to be with him and he was glad.

They planted gardens, harvested the yield and cooked and canned it together in their kitchen, laughing and joking. They sneaked in  hugs and kisses between the beets boiling and the corn roasting on the grill.

She kept their home clean and orderly, not letting chaos into their lives, tossing out stuff with no meaning, letting in only that which was beautiful and precious.

Together they carved out happiness despite setbacks and worries. He preached in a church that needed them. He built onto it and she was happy to help in any way she could. She attended every Sunday she didn't work, singing and praising God as he stood behind the pulpit, telling of his love of Jesus, a humble man doing a mighty work.

Too soon though, a shadow crossed their path. It loomed larger and larger until finally it had a name. Cancer. Together they fought it. So many treatments. So many pills. So many tears.

But even through this dark time, she stayed. She walked with him when she could. She held his hand. Together they laughed and prayed and cried. She brought her radiant smile into his darkened room every day. She kept the children, grandchildren, siblings and church family strong and believing in a miracle by her example of faith and perseverance. She taught us to have faith despite all odds.

When the Cancer got worse, she did not stray from her faith or from him. Every moment she stayed by his side. Helping him to face the inevitable. Calming his fears, drying his tears, holding his hand. She called the family and let us into their intimate world, that thin place where Life and Death stood shoulder to shoulder, waging war over his body but not his soul because she reminded us again an again, his soul belonged to Jesus. And we knew his heart belonged to her.

On the day he died, she was there. Holding him, whispering prayers, loving him and finally telling him it was okay to go, she would go on even as her own heart was breaking, shattering into a million pieces with a pain sharp as glass, tears flowing down her face, bright trails of sorrow.

He left this world surrounded by love and prayers and went Home to his Maker. She went home to an empty house where their love had lived and grown into something bigger than all of us could fathom. She went back to work. She cleaned the cabinets, swept the floor. She kept chaos at bay. She goes on even now, showing us again what Grace and Mercy look like in action. She continues to be an example of Faith. She is bravely walking into the void, holding tight to memories, carving out a different life than she had planned, holding strong even as she cries.

She lives her life as a beacon of light to the rest of us. She is what Love looks like.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

This too shall pass.

It is a quiet Saturday morning. I have awakened from dreams that were like long pleasant movies filled with laughter and friends. In these dreams there is sunshine, beautiful forests, lakes that are blue and clear. I talk with friends and cannot tell if I am actually awake or dreaming. Lovely.

For the past two years I have had anxiety dreams, waking up in panic, drenched in sweat with my heart racing. I usually cry.

For two years my life has spun wildly out of control. Cancer, death, foreclosure, fear, anxiety have swirled through both my waking and sleeping life. I have hung on to the power of my faith with the love of family, the support from co workers and bosses, the aid of a good therapist and psychiatrist and sheer determination not to be beaten down.

Cancer has taken several loved ones in the past year, but the love we shared lives on. Their spirits are shining and strong, dancing in Heaven. The house is gone, handed over to a young man willing to take on the challenges of maintaining and improving upon a house with "good bones". We are settling into a smaller, more efficient home. Fear and anxiety are drifting away.

I feel with each loss there came a new beginning. A new birth into a different life. A friend sent me a quote that in essence stated that rock bottom is a good start for a firm foundation. I feel that my feet are back under me. I feel that I can sort out the debris of the 2 years of chaos without dissolving into a weeping mess. I believe that I can start over, keeping the precious while casting out the unnecessary.

For two years I have repeated over and over "This too shall pass." And it has.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Robert III

Today I am grateful for endings and beginnings.

We closed on the old house. A young man named Robert bought it as his first home. I had not met him but the hubster had. He was rooting for this person to buy our house. The husbster told me that Robert listened to as the husband told our story, walked through the house at a non-peak time and still saw something that spoke to him.

Young Robert worked hard to secure financing and finally today, closed on what is now his house.

As I handed him the keys, it occurred to me that it was right and fitting that he should take over the house. We bought the house from a man named Robert, the hubster was always called Robert (not Bob which he goes by usually) by the neighbors. And now a third Robert shall reside in the house.

I think our prayers were answered and once again, God showed his sense of humor by sending another "Bob" into our lives.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Goodbye 1038

Yesterday I sat in the old house and burst into tears. Today, I locked the door and walked away.

So much was going through my mind: loss, sorrow, shame, frustration, memories and more.

The house is in pretty rough shape.  With the pictures off the wall, the furniture gone, the curtains hanging in the new house, every little flaw is obvious. Every room needs painting, the floors need refinishing and the whole house needs a lot of TLC.

I remembered when we first walked through the house, newly painted and fresh 15 years ago. I remember wandering room to room planning our future. We even brought a bucket of KFC and had a picnic on the empty living room floor. I remember the possibility of it all. We were in our mid thirties and had finally bought a house! We sat and laughed, dreamed and planned. Then Life happened.

Jobs were lost and income varied. We made what we thought were good decisions but turned out to be serious mistakes. Finally the recession caught us and then the husbster got cancer. Everything changed in 2008 and I gave up on the house. I did fight for it for a couple of years all the while ignoring the debris, the gloom and the deterioration of it. I fought with blinders on.

Today I sat surrounded by the reality of dreams that never came to be.  The walls never got painted in cheerful colors. The floors never got refinished and show 15 years of life with pets. The house echoes with my sobs. Outside, in symphony with my crying, it thunders and the rain begins, I remember so many times sitting and listening to the rain in this house. I loved that we could hear the train whistle and the rumble of the cars as it passed a few blocks away while the scent of lilacs drifted through the open window. I remember the relief of coming home after a long day at work to be greeted by my husbter and pets.

I miss all the pets that we had in that house, Higgy, Sniffypie, Mo, Buddy, Molly, Dennis the fish... I walked through each room remembering funny things they did. I find old cat toys and dog chewies in out of the way places. I see grooves where Buddy scratched the 2x4 studs in the basement, sharpening his claws for 14 years. I see the corners of walls  Higgy marked by rubbing his cheeks against them leaving a faint brown mark about 12 inches above the floor. I feel their ghosts around me, circling as memories that are both joyful and heart rending.

I cried for the 30 something couple starting out full of hope and promise and the 50ish couple we have become. We are older, wiser and closer having survived the hubster's cancer and we are starting on a new journey. But first we must dispose of the debris of the prior stopping place. There is so much stuff. So much that we have held on to, hoarded, ignored. Stuff we thought we would use someday and now have no space for. Things I found or bought planning to fix up and incorporate into our home. Projects that never got completed and now are destined for a garage sale or dumpster.

Finally we have everything out. The floors are swept clean. The blinds are lowered and lights are turned off. I don't walk through the rooms one last time. I need no more pain. I remember the frustrations, the fear, the anxiety of the past two years. Two years of fighting with the bank over refinancing,  scared to death we would be homeless. I recall the day the hubster walked up to me in the living room and said, "Hey, Em, can you look at this?" and saw the huge lump that would be diagnosed as Stage IV squamous cell carcinoma. I remember that this is the house where we got the phone calls that told us that my aunt, my brother, my cousin and my friend Alan also were diagnosed with Stage IV cancer the same month as the hubster. I remember that this is the house where we decided when it was time to let go of our suffering pets and returned later with a box of ashes.

Over the past few days I have become physically ill walking into the house. I thought it was the heat but now I wonder if it wasn't the last of my anger and bitterness working its way out.

The closing is in two days. But I have already signed off on this house.

I pray that the new owners who saw the potential as we did once, can actually make their dreams come true. I hope they can hear the echoes of laughter and love and not see the shadows and suffering we endured. I hope they will be happy and the house will bloom with their care.



 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Apostle

Apostle: "...followers of Jesus who carried the Christian message into the world".
Robert Douglas MacArthur Parks born January 4th ,1945, died June 27th, 2011 was one of God's most little known but most glorious Apostles.

My brother has finished his work on this earth. We laid him to rest underneath the same cedar tree that shades my daddy and mama's graves. He is buried on the right hand side of our father and I believe he sits with Jesus on the right hand side of the Father in Heaven.

Some may have considered my brother a simple man: fooled by his simple life. But his life was not simple nor easy. He suffered countless physical injuries, emotional pain and failures. He fell many times but he always got back up. He did not stay down. He kept striving and did not give up. He fought Death and the Devil many times and won.

He finally lost this life to cancer, but won eternal life in Heaven.

I marvel at his faith. I have never known anyone to live his faith more fully than he did. He was a preacher but not all his sermons happened in church. His entire life was a sermon. No one had to ask if he was a Christian, they just had to watch him live his life to know.

He was humble. He didn't expect a big turnout for his funeral. But the people kept coming. They came to the visitation starting a 1 and the last one left at 10 that night. On the day of his funeral, they overflowed the chapel, sat in the entry hall and the living room of the funeral director. He left behind a grieving but loving widow, five children, eight grandchildren, one brother, two sisters and too many friends and relatives to count. He has left a large hole in a small town.

There were many tears and much laughter. And so much love. So much love. The room was filled with waves of love and caring for this man I called brother. I knew the depths of my own grief and saw it matched by the grief of our biological family, his church family, his community. I realized he had touched lives that most of us knew nothing about. Flowers came from people none of us knew with cards thanking God for Doug being there in their time of need. He went places none of us could have gone...

He raised two amazing children, his son a preacher and his daughter a teacher. Both of them touch lives daily, blessing all they come in contact with. He claimed his wife's children as his own. He never referred to them as "stepchildren"; they were the children of his heart. He loved them fiercely and proudly. He just loved people that way.

Many things happened this past week since he departed this earthly home. Things I will have to mull over before I can put words to paper. Things I need to hold close a little longer. Things that are still shrouded in mystery and tears: seeing old friends from childhood, listening to the stories of our family, realizing how blessed I am to have been born into the family I was born into. I noticed many details: the shape of someone's eyes, the color of hair, a laugh like my mother's, a great niece sobbing that sounded exactly like her mother at that age... intangible things that break my heart even as I rejoice in them. They are all in my heart and I am mulling them over, trying to find the words...

Some things became clear to me. Some were revelations that were comforting. I had felt guilty that I was not there when my brother passed. Until I realized that my sister who was there when he was born at home in a tiny house in the woods, one of the first to ever see him, was there when he left. It was only fitting and proper that she should witness his birth and death: for he loved his big sister and she loved him.

His children and wife were with him too. He was surrounded by love and prayers. What better way to leave this world?

On the morning of his death, unbeknownst to any but me and God, I prayed that my mama would be there to greet him when he crossed over. I felt a little foolish praying that. Until my sister told me that his last words before he died were "My Mama".  I knew that prayer had been answered.

God did not cure my brother of cancer, but I have no doubt whatsoever that he is healed. I know I will miss him as will all the family, but I would not want him to stay and suffer one moment longer.

My brother carried the word of God into a sometimes hostile, disbelieving world. He started churches and left them to others when it was time. He moved in a world of faith and prayer. He did not care what others thought, he only cared what God thought. He wanted to share the love of the Lord that he experienced with everyone he met. He wanted others to know the peace that passeth understanding. Peace in the midst of trouble and toil. Peace that overcame the pain of cancer. Peace that would not die when he did.

During the eulogy his son turned to us all and asked, "Can you feel the Peace?"

And yes, I could.