I was about to have my “first” heart storm. I expected it. I needed it. But it still hurt.
December 17, 2014
It was time for me to leave Michigan—Chad’s family, the activity, the noise. Even though I shed a few tears, I didn’t really dread it. But then again, I didn’t know what waiting in store for me.
The trip was uneventful, and I even found my way to a dear high school friend’s house. Renee and I were involved in the Christian Youth Center in Joliet, IL and hadn’t had much time together for many years. We had sweet fellowship at her house as we ate and chatted about what we had done since high school. She, like Roger, had a tumor in her brain. Hers was different though; it was removed entirely. I remember asking her many questions via email about her experience when we were going through our storm, devouring those answers voraciously.
(My prayer is that our “Brainstorm Journey” can help at least one person or family with some of the unknown regarding glioblastoma.)
Renee’s husband is an undertaker. Weird, I know. But after spending time with her, I now have a greater appreciation for that profession—from one whose husband works in it, and as one who has benefited from the services.
I saw two more hawks on the way home from Indiana. It was like Roger was encouraging me again.
I got home, got the mail, unloaded my stuff and had about 15 minutes in the house. I then left to get my hair cut. No tears.
I returned home from my hair cut and then left for church. Still no tears.
It was good to see people and hear that they were praying for me. I came home and said out loud, “Well, I guess it is official. I’m a widow. Roger isn’t here.” I made popcorn and turned the TV up real loud.
I slept pretty well until 4:15 am. I got up to use the bathroom and checked my phone. There was a message from my dear friend Renee. Then I noticed a video that had been shared on my FB page. It was a song written because of a death in the family called, “A Different Kind of Christmas This Year.”
Then the first “heart storm” came upon me. As I listened to the song, tears started flowing. And they flowed. I wailed, and cried some more. And I wailed again. I walked around the house just crying and talking to or about Roger and how he wasn’t there. I touched so many of his things and thought about each room and how many memories there were for so many things in the rooms.
I wept on the bed and listened to the song again. It fit my situation so perfectly.
I cried and wailed again.
I played it again. Still there were tears. I cried steadily for about 15 minutes, and do you know what? It really felt good.
I knew that there would be more tears, but it felt so good to officially start the grieving process. The emotional release was therapeutic and healing.
Looking back at that first night home alone, without Roger, I can see that I was ok. Really. This whole thing was something that I had to go through, and tears were going to be a big part of the process. I didn’t want to go around it or avoid it, as painful as I knew it would be.
December 18, 2014
This was a good day. Why? Because I was busy and engaged with people.
- I went through all of the cards I had received in the mail and was overwhelmed with the evidence of love. Just like my sister-in-law said: it’s an odd season when you get more sympathy cards than Christmas cards. (Note…the letter on the left pile is from Dr. Chapman, the one who did Roger’s liver transplant. That really touched me that he took the time to write a personal letter.)
- I had lunch with my former student Leslie. We chatted for about two hours; it was refreshing to hear how God was becoming real to her. You might recall from the “Brainstorms” blog that her dad had died in August, and now her granny passed away just days prior. We shared a lot of common emotions.
- I went to the bank to deposit some money and then to Walmart to pick up envelopes. I got stamps and went to Kroger to get medicine and let them know Roger had died. They hadn’t heard, and it was so nice that one of the techs came and gave me a hug.
- I got a Starbucks and came home to “putter around” some more before going to a memorial service for a little stillborn baby of former church members.
The memorial service for the little baby was beautiful. I remained calm throughout, until I went through the line. Perhaps it was because Roger’s service was too fresh in my mind. Maybe it was because I saw our former pastor. I couldn’t help it. I wept and wept. But I was glad I went.
- I paid bills and went to the banks to see what I needed to do. Maybe I looked helpless or confused. I don’t know, but the people helping me were so considerate and kind. Then I called about life insurance. That kept me busy, too.
- The next evening I went to good friend Joyce’s father’s visitation. I don’t think funeral visitations, memorial services or graveside services will EVER get easy. So many memories flooded me. And I cried.
- The Christmas banquet was next on the activities for the evening. Another first: First church Christmas Banquet without Roger being in charge. And I went alone. It was good though, and I laughed. As I pulled out of the parking lot I said out loud, “Well Roger. They did it. They did the banquet without us.” And then all of a sudden I cried. I bawled. All the way home. I told him I missed him–I needed someone to take care of me–I wondered what he is doing. By the time I got home I had stopped wailing.
December 20, 2014
From my Journal
Saturday…..it was ok, sort of. I walked on the treadmill and then I spent the morning finishing up the sheets from the crowd over Thanksgiving/funeral. My friend Kathleen called and asked if I wanted to run with her. I hesitated, and then thought, sure. I need to take advantage of every invitation to get out and do something. So we ran to the cemetery, saw friend Linda, cemetery caretaker Ted, and went and got the mail. I’m glad I did that.
Then I just kind of sat. I actually took a nap because I had gotten up at 4:00. Lisa woke me up with a face-time call. First thing she said was “Did you shower, mom?” No, I hadn’t. No reason to. At the conclusion of the conversation, we decided I should go get a soda, so I did. Came home, laid down, got up, and then went to sleep. It’s so quiet here. I miss him.
The morning of the church Christmas program arrived. Another first: The first Sunday School Christmas program that I wasn’t directing. And Roger wasn’t there to help me. Good friend Della asked if I had plans for lunch. I told her, “I was just hoping someone would ask me!” So, we went to Guadlajara, and that helped the afternoon to pass. I went to church in the evening and they invited me to DQ. That was nice too. When I was with people, I was ok. Little did I know that this was going to be part of my healing. Della and Mike were used mightily of the Lord to just “be there” for me.
The next morning it was raining. And rain made me blue. My sleep cycle was off, and it stayed off for quite a while. I woke up early, and since I was awake, I decided to make the beds and clean the upstairs bathroom. Then I called the auto and house insurance company. Roger’s name was taken off the policies.
I went to Walmart to pick up Christmas odds and ends. It was just no fun without Roger. I missed him.
His income tax was so complicated. It was as though he was self-employed with lots of deductions available IF you kept good records and original receipts. I’m grateful that he made me help him for the past few years. At least I had some working knowledge of what needed to be done. The business report for each month—June-December—needed to be done. I hoped I could finish it for him. Yup, two things are sure: death and taxes.
Lisa and Lance were home ahead of the other children because this year’s cycle was to celebrate Christmas during New Years. That meant that Lisa and Lance entertained me, and tried to keep me up beat.
On December 23rd, I did something on the spur of the moment. You have to understand two things about Roger.
First: Roger always counseled new widows not to make any rash decisions or big changes during the first year of widowhood. And he advised them to get a physical, because women usually neglected their health when taking care of their husbands. (More on that second piece of advice in a later chapter.)
Well, I did something on a whim. Granted, it was not life altering, like buying swampland in Florida, but it was wild in my book. I got my ears pierced.
Second: Roger always felt that there were two types of people who got their ears pierced: those who didn’t know any better, and those who had too much money and didn’t know what to do with it. For 43 years, I honored his wish for me not to get my ears pierced. In fact the joke in the family was the first thing I would do should Roger ever die, would be get my ears pierced! Yeah. I did it.
(Watch the whole thing….the outtakes are quite humorous. And at the end you can see the piercing.)
Christmas Day, 2014
I woke up about every hour on the hour on Christmas Eve. Not sure why.
On Christmas Day I recalled a dream I had. It was foggy but the gist was that Roger and I were on a trip, flying someplace to the Midwest.
I can see me following Roger to get on the plane as we walked through a terminal. We arrived but Roger told me that he had to go the other way to check on something. I got on the plane, and soon we were ready to take off. Roger wasn’t there, and I was so worried. I texted him, and he said that he got caught through some screening mechanism and they detained him. I continued on to my destination and landed with a scare. We had to land on a road because of engine trouble or something. I honestly can’t remember if I connected with Roger or not.
Yes, on Christmas Day I was thankful I wasn’t alone. With Lance and Lisa around, laughter abounded. That was good for me, because as much as I hate to admit it, I was battling sadness. Real sadness. I knew it was because it was another “first holiday” without Roger. Blech. It was good to have family there.
What did we do? We went out to Hometown Buffet for lunch. This Christmas Day ranks up there with two others.
- When Roger and I were first married, we went to Atlanta, Georgia instead of traveling home for Christmas because it would cost too much.
- And when the kids were little, we went to south Alabama and spent Christmas Day in a motel eating pop tarts. Really weird.
- And now in 2014? Today. Missing Roger. I had a lot of calls of people just checking up on me.
After eating we went to a movie, and I enjoyed it, popcorn and all. Then we came home and played scrabble and watched “Call the Midwife.”
The day after Christmas the sun shone.
I saw another hawk in a tree on our way into town. I should have remembered that he was probably encouraging me. Instead I was sad.
We decided to put up the tree. I started helping, but it just was too much for me. It seemed so anti-climactic because Christmas had already passed. It seemed futile. Why do it? The logic was that it would be good for the grandkids to see it the next week when they came to celebrate Christmas.
I cried, laid down, and eventually Lisa told Lance and me to go to Panera with our laptops and get out. I think it was a good idea.
In the months to follow there were more tears, more heart storms, and difficult times to work through. I look back on this first month without Roger and see it was just the beginning of growing and learning about who I really was.