Final Moments

Final Moments

This weekend I repeated a joyless task I would prefer not to do. I put flowers on Dan’s grave because his birthday is Monday. I’d much rather for him to be alive and well, with me treating him to a birthday cake and supper. Kim, Cindy, and I change out the flowers throughout the year, usually on holidays. It’s all we can do for him now.

It took a long time for me to get to where I can remember our last day with Dan without tears, without longing, and without anger, feelings common among the grieving. When I put it altogether, God’s mercy and love for us in His plan to take Dan home was evident. His invisible Hand moving people around or placing them where He wants them for reasons we can’t comprehend until much later. Let me explain.

Dan’s final day with us was on a Sunday. It was during his second hospital stay in just one month. I always spent the night with Dan when he was in the hospital, but not that day. He was doing better, so much better he would be going home in a few days. Prodded by Dan because he knew I was dealing with a severe sinus infection, I decided to go home before dark.

Dan was quieter than usual that morning, but he perked up when Cindy came by and stayed with him for a while. Kim, who worked the night before, came later and stayed with Dan until late. She worked at the hospital as a RN in ICU. She was also a member of the Code Blue team, which consists of certified clinical personnel trained to respond to Code Blue announcements on the hospital’s paging system. Upon hearing these, they rush to resuscitate patients who are in cardiac or respiratory arrest.

A few words about Kim and Cindy: they inherited Dan’s dark hair, olive complexion, some of his mannerisms, but their strength is their own. I don’t believe strength is genetic. We learn how to be strong from the people who influence us. My mother, my Aunt Sarah and Aunt Fran, my cousins Carolyn, Angie, and Edna, all of whom are strong women, molded my life by me just observing them. Life changing events, trials, heartbreak, and other ordeals shape and toughen us to face whatever. The first few days after Dan died, Cindy and Kim, though dealing with their own grief, propped me up because in my mortally wounded state I couldn’t stand on my own. They’re strong, intelligent, and well educated, and on my list of phenomenal women whom I admire and who inspire me.

That Sunday seemed like any other day—just regular conversations, jokes, and laughter with no concern, with no inkling it would be our last times with him. We were there that day, there with Dan letting him know we cared, then not long after Kim left, Jesus took Dan home.

God made sure we each had those final happy moments with Dan, and he with us. I believe His Hand was at work in yet another way too. Kim was on the schedule to work the night Dan died, but at the last minute, a coworker asked her to switch nights, freeing Kim to spend the evening with Dan. It also freed her of being at work when the Code Blue went out for him. She would’ve heard his room number over the paging system, she would’ve thought, “That’s my Dad’s room number,” then she would have raced to his room, and outside of it, a couple of coworkers would’ve held her back while the others worked frantically and unsuccessfully to save his life. God spared Kim, a Daddy’s Girl since she was old enough to follow him everywhere and talk his ears off, from that trauma.

An old Jewish proverb says, “If God lived on earth, people would break His windows.” Even in my darkest days of grief, mad with God for not letting Dan live longer, I couldn’t deny His hand at work that day. We each have a certain amount of time allotted to us—meaning there’s a predetermined date for each of us when we must clock out; we’ve completed our work. God and I have a major disagreement concerning Dan’s allotted time, as I wanted to keep him with me much longer. I am grateful for the twenty-six years, two months, and nineteen days we had together. I wouldn’t trade one second for anything.

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart! You will always be one of God’s greatest blessings to me.

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Photo: kerzen3012a © Fiedels – Fotolia.com

 

 

© Dee Hardy | Encouraging the Discouraged, 2015. All rights reserved

 

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Harper Lee and Joe South

With the recent news about Harper Lee’s new book, I remembered the famous scene in To Kill a Mockingbird where Atticus is teaching Scout about emphasizing with other people. He tells her in order to understand another person you need to see things from that person’s point of view, climb inside their skin. This reminds me of a Joe South song from the early 70’s named Walk a Mile in My Shoes, in which he says to walk in his shoes before you become judgmental and critical. Both of these are lessons in empathy.

A few days ago, I endured an unnecessary conversation, and thinking back on it, I should’ve walked away. Not wanting to hurt that person’s feelings, I defended my life choices to a person who had no clue of what I’ve lived through as a widow.

It’s been several years now since Dan died. The days of the deep mourning, the sleepless nights, the explosion of grief episodes are behind me. The wound, now scabbed over, is still there. All it takes is a memory, a song, a smell, to make my throat tighten and my eyes water.

I want to write this from the perspective of the widowed. I have yet to meet a widow who hasn’t been on the receiving end of some, if not all, of these comments. No one understands what widowhood is like until it happens to them. Empathy is hard to come by, and the widowed, especially new widows, already vulnerable, often endure the most inconsiderate remarks. So here we go.

1 – “You should have known he was going to die.”

This is possibly the cruelest comment made to me after Dan died, and it happened a month later, when the wound was so fresh it was oozing blood. This asinine remark came from someone who should have known better. My husband’s health wasn’t good, but his disease didn’t kill him—a Pulmonary Embolism did.

If a loved one dies after a prolonged disease, it doesn’t make the pain any less. Even though the condition is terminal, loved ones still pray for a miraculous turnaround. The heart clings to hope until a loved one takes his or her very last breath.

2 – “If you need anything, let me know.”

This is common statement, often made with good intentions. Just a nice thing to say when no other words will do—we’ve all said it to the bereaved. We say it and forget it.

At first, a widow doesn’t know what she needs. In marriage, there are usually jobs either the husband or the wife takes care of. Death transfers those burdens to the surviving spouse. This is a particularly difficult situation for the widow

When I dealt with problems Dan would’ve handled, I thank God for the good people who were honest with me, showed up when they said they would, and charged me a fair price. No one can ask for more than that.

3 – “At least you know he loved you.” Translation: the pain of losing a spouse through divorce is worse than the pain of losing a spouse through death.

Yes, I know my spouse loved me. When he left, he didn’t do it because he wanted to leave. Ok, I get that. Losing a spouse through death or divorce is painful. A similar life rebuilding has to occur if one is to move forward.

Here is the difference:

People who are still alive have the ability to change, to realize their mistakes, and attempt to correct them. Sometimes divorcees do remarry, sometimes years later. Where there is life, there is hope.

For the widowed, there is no hope of an earthly reunion—no rethinking, no realization of mistakes, and no reuniting in life. My husband’s body is still in the grave we buried him in several years ago. He is not coming home. Not ever.

4 – “I know how you feel.”

Unless someone is widowed, he or she doesn’t know. For example, feeling alone and abandoned is normal for the widowed, even with a room full of caring people. This may be difficult for many people to comprehend, but the widowed will completely understand those feelings. Just as C.S. Lewis stated, grief feels like fear. That sounds odd, but it is very true.

5 –“You’ll get over it, it just takes time.”

It is a widespread misconception that you can actually “get over” losing a loved one. It is not true. Time makes it easier to deal with, but one never gets over it. The wound is always there.

6 – “They’re better off.”

From the conversations I’ve had with other widows, this comment isn’t as comforting as many people think it is. A new widow is longing for things to go back the way they were before death came and destroyed her world. If he was sick, she longs for him to be alive and well where her world is complete and her heart is whole. It’s human nature to want who we love to be near us.

Yes, I’ve said many times I know Dan’s in heaven, and I’m glad his breathing problems are over. I said it with my chest split wide open, my heart ripped out and smashed to pieces. I’ll never stop wanting to be by his side. The longing will always be there, even though my life must go on.

7 – “You’re young, you can remarry. Why aren’t you dating?”

When someone says something like this, I wonder what makes them think a widow wants to remarry. Remarriage may not be what God has planned for the surviving spouse. I know several widows and widowers who found new spouses. That’s great, but it’s not for everybody. A wise woman once told me there are worse things than being alone. I agree.

When someone tells me to start dating, as if I’m crazy because I don’t want to, I want to tell them to mind their own business and let me rebuild my life the way God wants it rebuilt. I don’t say it because I don’t like hurting people’s feelings.

 

Harper Lee and Joe South reminded us to try to see the world through someone else’s eyes, by spending a little time in their shoes, especially if you feel the need to criticize them. The world would be a better place if more people could do that.

If you’re a new widow, please remember most deliverers of inconsiderate remarks mean well, and as you grow stronger and your thinking becomes clearer, you can tell the difference between who’s being concerned, but not sure of the right words, and who’s being a jerk. No matter what anyone says, don’t ever stop working on rebuilding your life. Never, ever give up!

If you’ve never heard Walk a Mile in My Shoes, below is a link to Elvis Presley’s cover of the song. I like what he says before he starts singing.

 

 

© Dee Hardy | Encouraging the Discouraged, 2015. All rights reserved