Several years ago I promised myself that I was going to stop hiding my real thoughts and/or feelings when faced with being uncomfortable, yet I’ve found myself wanting to hide, even ignore, some very pertinent and true feelings. And, before we go any further, I’ll warn you this is going to probably get lengthy and uncomfortable!
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been good at ignoring my emotions/feelings and learned how to “stuff” them so that I didn’t have to deal with them. Even after I accepted Christ as my personal savior as a child, I still “stuffed” things. Heck, to be very honest (authentic!), I still do from time to time, but I’ve gotten a lot better at not doing so. So, a year ago last spring when my husband was diagnosed with a progressive and terminal disease I did what I do best…. I was a cheerleader, encourager, nurturer, and stuffer! I am very good at taking care of others, so being a cheerleader, encourager, and nurturer came easily, automatically, and I have been successful at it. Unfortunately, I’ve been very successful of stuffing a lot of my thoughts and feelings about this particular subject, as well.
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So, does that mean that the last past I wrote in April wasn’t authentic. NO! I was being very authentic and in the midst of dealing with some of what I’m about to share with you, but I wasn’t at a place to really discuss our current situation.
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So, when this diagnosis came, it also came with a huge lifestyle change, as my husband was prescribed continuous oxygen for during sleep and intermittent oxygen during exertion. Basically, he wears oxygen all night long and when walking or doing something physical. It was presented that the oxygen was probably a temporary treatment and would not be needed after a few months. Well, here we are, well over a year since and we have been fully informed that the oxygen is not temporary. He has a progressive disease that will become worse. At several of the medical appointments with his pulmonologist referring to “life expectancy”. That term was very unsettling to me, actually fearful, and I prayed to have the courage to ask exactly why the term was being used and what it meant. So, earlier this year, I did just that and was told, “this is a progressive disease, it is terminal, and given your husband’s age of early 70’s, he will mostly likely live another 5 years”. Five years, huh? Wow! This has me a little freaked out!! OK, A LOT freaked out! Actually, I’m all over the place in emotional status when it comes to this very subject. Most days I go without thinking about this subject at all, but then there are days that overwhelming sadness is present. Sometimes to deal with the sadness, I become very “gruff” and grouchy. Other times, I just want to “hide” and wallow in it. I’ve been praying for God to lead me to deal with this in a more appropriate manner and He has answered my prayer beyond what I could have imagined. Praise Him!!
God has helped me realize that this journey my husband and I are on is a gift. A lot of people don’t get to know in advance they’re going to lose a loved one and later live with regrets of not sharing feelings or thoughts with the person. My husband and I have been married for nearly 31 years and have always tried to show appreciation and love toward one another, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job of it. Yet, when you have a period of time hanging over your head, it changes things. Intellectually, I know either of us could die at any time, that’s always been a real possibility, but who really ever thinks much about that? And, because I didn’t want to think about it, I’d been stuffing my feelings and fear about this subject. After all, we don’t have children, so one of my biggest fears is that I’m going to be very alone some day! That thought makes me incredibly sad! And, scared! Like, who will take care of unplugging the spouting some day? Or, checking the air in my tires? Or, mowing the grass? All things HE does for me. OK, I’m not stupid….I know I can get someone to do those things, but it’s not the point….the point is HE has always done those things and I don’t want to think about him not doing them!!
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I generally write very well, it’s a God given gift, but I want to warn you that this post, and possibly future posts, will not be as entertaining, nor as orderly because I’ve decided to just use this blog as a way of sharing this journey to: (1) honor my husband- who is one of the best in the world!; (2) to bring Glory and Honor to our God, who gives me the strength to put one foot in front of the other every.single.day; and (3) to express myself in hopes that it may help another woman in a similar situation. So, this post, and future posts, may be “all over the place”, just like I often am these days!
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So, all of this kind of came to ahead for me while on vacation last month. It was mentioned by a family member to have family portraits taken on the beach by a professional photographer so that we may capture the memory, “just in case it’s the last time we ever get to do anything like this again”. Wow! Whoa! Wait just a minute! What was just said, “just in case it’s the last time we ever get to do anything like this again.”. Immediately, I was in tears….really? In case this is the LAST time we do this….wow! Struck a nerve BIG time with me!! Satan used my stuffed emotions and that comment to worm his way into my heart and create anger, tears, and emotion that I didn’t want to face in ANY.way!! Thankfully, I have great prayer support friends, so I reached out to them immediately with a request for prayer! Within a few hours, I was able to turn my thoughts to being more gracious, grateful, thankful, and insightful. I am grieving! No, he’s not dead yet! And, yes, I realize I could die at any given moment, which I’d welcome!! Yet, I’m grieving with anticipation of what is to come. And, I remained “stuck” there for a few weeks until I met with a dear friend for dinner recently, who is a new widow, and she helped me to see that I need to find JOY in this journey. “Don’t let Satan rob you of the remaining days/years of joy”, said my friend. That resonated deeply with me. And, so I’ve been reflecting and praying on finding the joy! In the meantime, this last week hubby went away for his annual male-bonding vacation! I was left alone for three nights and four days – more than enough time to do a lot of soul searching! I decided on the second evening to watch “The Shack” movie (it was only my fifth time!!) and suddenly I came to realize how selfish and unloving it is for me to not want my husband to die. (NOW, JUST WAIT A DARN SECOND, DON’T JUDGE ME HERE!!). Yes, I said, it’s very selfish and unloving of me NOT to want him to die! After all, as Christians are we not living every day to die?!! Actually, I’ve said for years that I’m ready to die any.minute….”take me Lord”! I can’t wait to get to Heaven! SERIOUSLY!! So, if I can’t wait to get there to be with my Lord, then why would I ever want to rob my husband of that? For example in “The Shack” there’s a scene where Mack sets at the dinner table with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. The first bite he takes complete satisfaction and the biggest “MMMMM” comes over him and at the end of the meal he says it was the best meal he ever had. For 30.50 years I’ve cooked some darn good food for my husband, so why would I ever want to rob him of having THE best meal EVER? I’ve dedicated my life to being a great wife, but if Jesus can give him something more, which I know He can, than I do NOT want to stand in the way!! I know my husband loves Jesus and is looking forward to going home, too. And, that’s where I can do just what my friend advised, I can find JOY in this journey because I’m getting to live each and every day to the fullest with my best friend and love of my life, choosing not to take any second for granted; living in a manner of grace, with forgiveness, and apology always on the tip of my tongue, and dedicating every.single.second to being loving. I want the next five, more or less, years of his AND my life, to be the best years of our lives together. And, now, the only regret that I live with is that it took me this damn long to choose to live this way. After all, does it really matter that he didn’t change the toilet paper roll when it was empty? Or, left a drip of milk in the milk jug? Or, left his socks lay on the floor instead of putting them in the laundry basket? Not really! Not in the big scheme of things!!
So, there’s my authenticism! The ugly, the sad, met with great opportunity. The opportunity to live each and every day with my eyes fixed on Jesus – without His strength, I wouldn’t be able to face another day. The opportunity to live with joy and peace in the midst of complete and utter chaos and a big ball of mixed emotions. The opportunity to live like I’m dying! You know, just like Tim McGraw’s song so many years ago said, “I loved deeper, And I spoke sweeter, And I watched an eagle as it was flyin’.
And he said someday I hope you get the chance,To live like you were dyin’.”. Yep, I’m choosing to love deeper and speak sweeter, ‘cuz I’m not sure how many days/weeks/months/years I have to do it, so TODAY I’m putting one foot in front of the other, eyes fixed on Jesus, loving my husband and embracing the journey of life – all with the prize in front of me which is to bring glory to God and join Him one day in Heaven – whether that be before or after my husband gets to do the same.
Closing: Lord, thank you for the courage to share this. I’ve done so because I felt your calling to do so, so I’m trusting that you want me to be this transparent and this authentic so that it may help another woman. Please let that woman/women read this, turn to you, and fix her eyes on you as well. May we all choose joy in the journey of life and fix our eyes on you! Thank you Jesus! I bow at your feet and praise! And, I can’t wait to sit down for my first meal with you. Amen.