Chapter 14—The End of the “Firsts”

IMG_7702Do you remember last year when I had a hard time writing about Roger’s death?  I struggled and delayed writing and posting about those final days because subconsciously I thought that by avoiding that “final” piece, I would avoid the end.  Duh.  It was history at that time.  Everything had ended.

I’m faced with those emotions again, though this time it’s different.  I look back at the growth I have made, and I can’t understand why I just can’t sit down and write about the end of that first year without Roger.  Maybe it’s another “final” statement; I am ending a time linked to a person I held near and dear to my heart. Maybe it’s because I honestly am doing better, and I feel a wee bit guilty about getting on with my life.

Whatever the reason, I have made myself sit down and work at this entry, the one that celebrates the first anniversary of Roger’s passing.

High on my agenda of getting through the first year of being a widow was keeping Roger’s memory alive. I just didn’t want anyone to forget him.  I wanted people to know more about him.  It’s common, I know.  Phrases like, Gone, but not forgotten, Always in my heart … Everyone feels that way.  But when it’s your loved one, it’s a priority.

That is why I loved it when people told me memories or funny stories about Roger.  It meant that they still remembered him.  And I wanted that.  I needed that.

His Memory

So I came up with a great idea.  Why not take a trip with my good friends Carol and Della to South Carolina where Roger and I first met?  They could see the Bob Jones University Campus, our first little apartment, and where I taught for those first two years of married life.  Best of all, they could spend some time with Eva, Roger’s sister, and learn about him from her perspective.

Well, it was one of the best ideas I have ever had.  Della took her first plane ride. That in itself made the whole trip worthwhile. We visited the campus, saw where I sprained my ankle while walking to see Roger play basketball, and checked out the “snail trail” where Roger and I walked after evening meals. We drove to Charleston and viewed its Colonial history, and even went to Ashville and admired The Biltmore with all its opulence. But best of all, they got to see Roger through Eva’s eyes. We made great memories, and we laughed a lot.  I’m convinced that good friendships flourish when tears and laughter are shared.

Eva was dealing with her husband’s mental state after a stroke.  Physically Billy appeared fine, but he needed more care, more reminding, and more supervision than before.  Eva shared that at times she would get weary of her responsibilities, but was quick to say, “I have my husband…you would probably give anything to have yours.”

More “Firsts” or “This Time Last Year” feelings


Me and the new principal, Valerie Janvrin

When I was principal at Harristown Elementary School my music teacher, Carol, started the Veteran’s Day program tradition.  Each year I sang, “God Bless the USA,” and after I retired, the music teacher was kind to continue that tradition.  She asked in 2014, but I knew I couldn’t do it because Roger was so sick.  In 2015 they asked me to sing, and I said yes. It was the first time singing there as a widow.  None of the kids knew me.  The kindergarten kids weren’t even born when I retired.  But the parents and staff still remembered me.  It was good to see them and be in that setting.  I missed that part of being a principal.

There were so many “this time last year” memories.

  • Lance was home.
  • Alabama friends Lisa and Bob came.
  • We decided to stop treatment.
  • We had our big State of Grace Central Illinois concert. First time without Roger. On a side note, the concert solidified that I needed to be singing.  I loved it.  We were like siblings singing together.  It was a good thing in my life.  I needed it.
  • Roger needed more assistance than I could handle.

Doing Something Positive

I had determined to do something for someone each day.  Sometimes it was just going out to eat, or sending a card in the mail. Sometimes it was transcribing music for a friend.  One day I went to the Veteran’s program at Illiopolis and then out to eat with Helen and Kari.  But where I felt the most impact was a visit later that afternoon with a 91-year-old man at an assistive living center.  Good old Tom.  He was so happy to see Carol and me. Listening to him talk made me thankful that my kids were willing to have me live with them, if needed.  It was a good place for Tom, but he sure missed his home.

Some Funny Things

I then drove to Michigan to be at Chad’s because Lauren, Madison and Micah were in the play.  Lauren had the lead as Pollyanna, and the production was awesome. Stephanie and I enjoyed our coffee runs, and I did my usual grandma stuff.

On Friday I spent the day at school with Stephanie.  It was great fun watching her kindergarten students.  I assisted with some clerical tasks for her, and then something funny happened.

I fell asleep on the floor.

The kids were having their nap time. The lights were out, and I was so sleepy.

I was leaning my head on the desk while the kids were transitioning to another lesson. I moved to the floor behind her desk as Steph gave me a mat, covered me with her coat, and turned on a space heater. The students kept asking “Where is Grandma Mrs. Weldy?” “Is she taking a nap?” “What is that noise?” It was my snoring!

I had originally  put the wrong pictures here.  As of 5-21-16 these are the correct ones.

I left the next morning, traveling to Joliet to sing with State of Grace.  The concert was scheduled at the building where I went to church as a child.  This was where I was saved, baptized, married, and even learned to play the piano for services.  I arrived; and it was like a trip back in time.  The building had not changed much, and I even found the exact spot where I was saved.

I believe God let me go back there in this “first year after Roger died” so I could remember the great things in my life.  Life was not all bad. Life was not all sad.  The events that shaped my life and helped me become who I was started there.  And I was thankful for it.

Funny how this time last year I was excited about Roger getting a catheter.  This year it was me getting excited about a mammogram. NOT.  My doctor had recommended that I get one, and much to my surprise, it went well, unlike my last one 15 years ago.  Maybe it was because there was less of me as an older woman, if you know what I mean!

I was grateful that Roger had financially planned for me after he was gone.  Early on in our marriage he began to invest wisely and pay off bills. Often I was short-sighted and wanted things for the family; he had the wisdom of the ant who prepared for the long winter. I’m not rich, but I will live without too many worries. That appreciation deepened when I met with good friend Vickie, whose husband also died in 2014. Through several unforeseen events she had to trust God to take care of her financially, which He did.

Thoughts of the future still invaded my mind.  Where do I go if I had to move?  Four children.  Two married.  All in different parts of the country.  Good friend Judy and I were discussing this over lunch one day, and she said without hesitation, “Live with Lisa.” It did make sense. Lisa wasn’t married; we could have a great and hilarious symbiotic relationship.  But at that time I was feeling more comfortable at home by myself, so a move was not needed.

T minus 9 days—November 18, 2015

At church I asked for prayer for the Weldy family because “death” anniversary was approaching.   And then I cried.  Out loud. I wondered how I would react on the “death day.”  How should I act?  What was expected?

I did a lot of wondering.  I wondered what it was like to be in heaven.  I wondered what Roger was doing? I could totally understand why people would want to communicate with the dead.  It was a curiosity thing. No one had ever returned to life after dying (except Jesus and others who were miraculous raised), so we can’t really know until we experience it ourselves.  And we all have to experience it on our own.  No one can do it for us.

T minus 6 days—November 20, 2015

My emotions were pensive at this time.  It snowed while we were at a concert, and I thought about how my life had changed in 365 days. In my mind, I saw Roger him dying, my heart breaking, and a piece of me leaving.  It struck me.  I WAS supposed to remember those scenes—those gut wrenching times of Roger trying to die, and the breath still drawing in and out.  Suddenly, I thought if I don’t remember them, no one will remember them.  I wanted people to know that I was approaching the anniversary of that horrible day.  I wanted them to know how bad it was, and that we lost an amazing man.  I want people to know what a great vacuum I was living in.  I wanted them to remember the visitation, the funeral.  What if they forgot?

So, as odd as that sounds, I was comforted that it was ok for me to remember Roger in his last days.  I didn’t want to forget.  I wanted to remember everything even if no one else did.

And then State of Grace sang the song, Soon and Very Soon (written by Andre Crouch)

The verse that Gary sang touched my heart and brought me to tears while we were singing:

Should there be any rivers we must cross,

Should there be any mountains we must climb,

God will supply all the strength that we need,

Give us grace ’til we reach the other side.

Oh yes, God had supplied and would give me strength and grace until I reached the other side.  And I believed that Roger got that strength and grace when he needed it.

So, it was a sad day.  I knew next week would be worse.

I would be with Scott, Jess and Lisa at their house for the death day anniversary.  But at least I wouldn’t be alone.

T minus 4 days—November 22, 2015

I sent this text to the kids:

The sun is shining today. But I am reliving these next four days from last year over and over. Sure am glad Lisa will be here tonight. I read chapter 20 (mainly focused on Sunday’s entry because today is Sunday) of the blog. Rips my heart out, but I needed to do it. I am so glad you all encouraged me to document all of it.

I’m ok. Don’t mean to make you all sad. Just wanted to share my feelings. Going to shower and get ready to go to church.

The day was good.  The day was bad.  The day was good.  It was both good and bad at the same time.

I was so emotional at church.  And they showed “The Thanksgiving Chair,” a video, one without any dialogue.  A single dad was taking care of his two small children.  Alone.  And a Thanksgiving chair always appeared when he was thankful or when he should have been thankful.  One scene was at the cemetery.  He put a flower on the wife’s grave.  And the Thanksgiving chair appeared.  He sat in it.

It was just so hard for me to see.  And yet, I was convicted about how I wasn’t thankful in and for all things.  I had a husband.  We had a good life.  We had an influence on other people.

I went out to eat with Mike and Della.  They will never know how much good those dinners did for me.  That afternoon I considered not going to church, but I did.

I’m glad I did.

We had a fellowship for the new Assistant Pastor, Rodney.  Mike and Della wanted to go out to eat after.  I said, “Well, I guess I better go home.”  Della said, “What would you be doing there?” I said, “Sitting.” She said, “Exactly.  You can sit with us just the same.”

Again, I’m glad I did.

T minus 3 days—November 23, 2015

Elaine, my dear sister-in-law sent this

I can only tell you this. This is the anniversary of an event that rocked your world. Yes you were able to see your hubby safely home. But like a computer your memory for this time of year will always cause you to “feel” much of what you went through and yes, you will put some of those feelings to bed and their intensity will diminish slightly each year.

But they will be there. I feel them in January when we laid David to rest, each November for papa and August for mama. There are many times I have admired your tears and ability to set some of those feeling free. We move on in life, we learn to live celebrating what we had, treasuring the memories but step by step we move on ready for God to reveal our mission, to minister to others, moment by moment day by day. We will see them again. We will walk beside them and stand in awe of the God whose son has set us free for all eternity. I am glad you will be with Scott and Lisa this Thanksgiving. I love you with all my heart. e

T minus 1 day—November 25, 2015

My journal entry:

Time marches on.  But not according to our minds. This time a year ago my heart broke. But the calendar says it happens tomorrow.  I have been re-living the day of the week from last year.  Like Sunday Scott came. Lance couldn’t get an earlier flight. Monday we sang the Star Spangled Banner around his bed, per Seth’s request. Stephanie, Lisa and I administered medicine hourly around the clock.   Tuesday Lance arrived and we watched and waited. Wednesday Scott said, “Ma, you better come. This time it’s different.”  And by 11:30 Roger was gone. But the calendar said it happens tomorrow.  Tell my heart, please. 

IMG_6301I took my rings off.  Thanksgiving morning before anyone was up at Scott’s house, I took them off.  The actual day Roger died a year ago.  I just felt like it was time.  I was officially no longer married.

OBSERVATION:  Sometimes the end is just the beginning.

OBSERVATION:  Everyday brings new “firsts”–or at least it should.

HELPFUL HINT:  Go back.  Go back to where you were.  Go back to good times.  Go back to difficult times.  It is healing.  BUT don’t stay there.

HELPFUL HINT:  Do something for someone else each day.  It may be small, but those small deeds can give you purpose.