. . . in a week, it will be November 5 . . .

“God will never take anything away from you without the intention of
replacing it with something much better.”

I have read this quote, or a variation of it several times this past
year.  I can’t say that I agree with it.  What Rickey and I shared was
good.  It was very good.  We were happy.  We were blessed with
wonderful kids, grandkids, friends and family.  We loved each other.
We very rarely argued.  We had a nice home, close to both sets of
parents.  We had good jobs that we (for the most part) liked.  We
didn’t have lots of money, but we had enough to get by.  We enjoyed
life.  We loved each other and yes, after almost 20 years of marriage,
we still liked each other.  If we weren’t working or the girls & I
weren’t shopping or Rickey wasn’t hunting, we spent our spare time
together.  We didn’t do a lot of things with other couples, we were
content to be together with each other and as a family.  Yes, it was
good.  Very good.  In all honesty, it couldn’t get much better.
Except for Heaven.  Heaven would be better, much, much, much better!
Maybe this quote applies to Rickey, not me.  He was taken away from
the life he knew, but it was replaced with Heaven.  A place that you
and I can only imagine.  A place that, even if he could come back
from, he wouldn’t want to.  Yes, that must be it, a quote like that
applies to Rickey, not me.  Not us.

Life was good, and happy, and very blessed . . . And on November 5,
2011, life as we knew it came to a screeching halt.  The song “Closer
to Love” by Matt Kearney says: “She got the phone call today, one out
of the gray, and when the smoke cleared, it took her breath away.  She
said she didn’t believe it could happen to me.  I GUESS WE’RE ALL ONE
PHONE CALL FROM OUR KNEES . . . “  Well, not a phone call, but a visit
from a police officer, and that describes November 5, 2011 perfectly.
A day I will not forget.  Images I will not forget.  The look on my
big girl’s face as she stood in the driveway with our Pastor, his wife
and a police officer, wondering WHAT was going on.  My 2 big girls
clinging to each other on the ride (the oh, so long, but way too short
ride) to the hospital & all the phone calls we made.  The empty room
they brought us to and the Dr.'s face.  My Mama & Daddy coming to the
E.R. and the anguish on their faces and in their cries.  
Cries for the loss of Rickey and for the pain they knew we were enduring
their pain almost doubled because of their intense love for the girls and me. 
My “baby” walking to me in the E.R. as I was on the phone talking to the transplant
co-ordinator - helping the transplant team procure her Daddy's 
corneas and other life saving (for others) tissues/bones.  
Our families, friends & church family who came to the
hospital, to the house, the funeral home . . . the disbelief in their
eyes . . . picture collages, flowers, plants, 700 + people wearing
Packer jerseys and camo . . . and a wooden casket . . . 
Images I will never forget.

Memories that flood back.  Every day.  Every single day.  Some days
more often than others.  Some days more vividly.  Yesterday was Sunday.  I worked
Saturday night (11:00 p.m. – 7:00 a.m.).  I came home and slept for 2
hours and then went to church.  There was a time when I didn’t want to
go to church.  I was disappointed in “the church”.   God had to do a
work of restoration in my life.  He had to bring about a right spirit
within me.  He had to restore my (misplaced) faith in others.  And, He
did.  Now, rather than using working all night as an excuse not to go
to church, I make sure that I can still make it (and try my best not
to fall asleep!).  I enjoy the fellowship, the music, the sermon, the
“family” that church offers.  Today, I realized that a year ago,
marked Rickey’s last Sunday in church.  Another image.  Another
memory.  Forever etched in my mind.  We are closing in on “one year” -
next Monday marks that "anniversary".  Somehow, some people seem to look
on that particular date as a “milestone” it seems.  Like after a year,
things will change.  Things will be easier (or harder).  As if a "magic" switch
will be turned at that point.  Like after a
year, it’s o.k. to “move on”, but before that, you should stand still
in your grief.   I did a little looking and Biblically, the “numbers”
I find regarding grieving are that the Egyptians mourned Jacob’s death
for 70 days and the Jews “mourn” for 7 days.  I found other references
to 30 days and 40 days to “mourn” or “grieve” (I’m sure there are
others – these are the ones that I found).  I also did some research
on the word(s) grief/grieving.  To grieve is the “intense” feeling of loss. 
“Keen” (sharp, piercine, biting) mental suffering is actually found on Dictionary.com as
a definition for grief.  I know that feeling.  That feeling of not
knowing how you will make it from one breath to the next, much less
from one day to the next.  I know it all too well.  I have lived it.
I also know that the “intense”, the “keen” sense of grief is replaced.
 First with a numbness, and then a sadness.  A sadness that things
will never be as they were.  A sadness for all that was and never will
be again.  A sadness for all that Rickey will miss (or more
accurately, the things we will miss having him here with us for).  A
sadness for all the tomorrows that will not be as we imagined.  There
is no magic number.  There is no date or time that grief changes to
numbness and then to sadness.  It is a progression – and a progression
that is different for EVERY SINGLE PERSON – no two people can or will
grieve the same.  For some, it will take years, some truly never get
over a loss . . . I do believe that God is the divine healer.  If we
cling to Him, He will bring about the healing, He will allow us to
move on.  He is the only one who can change the grief to numbness to
sadness, and ultimately beyond.  The sadness will always linger.  At
times it will be much more profound than others.  When I see the girls
excel at something, there will always be sadness (their Daddy SHOULD
be here to share in this moment).  When the grandkids go outside and
shout “Hi Papa” at the sky - to say “Hi” to Papa in Heaven (he should
be here to say hi back to them).   When someone shoots a nice buck or
a big bear . . . there are countless times that the sadness will
strike.  It will come out of nowhere, it will come unbidden, it will
wash over us like a tsunami.  It will always “be”.  We will never not
love Rickey.  We will never not miss him.  This was a death, not a
divorce - Rickey left loving us and being fully loved by us . . .
those are truths that will always remain.  I became a true "single
parent" - in an instant - with no warning - we became instantly the
"widow and the orphans" spoken of in the Bible.  We will probably
always wonder “why” – until we get to Heaven all is made clear.

As the days march on, and we close in on this November 5, I still
believe that God has a divine plan for my life.  That He had a divine
plan for Rickey’s life AND death.  Psalm 139:16 says, “Your eyes saw
my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your
book before one of them came to be.”  Yes, if I believe that, God has
a plan for my life, He had a plan for Rickey’s life, and He knew what
November 5, 2011 would bring.  I will never fully understand God’s
plan for our lives.  I will never fully know why He chose us to walk
this path.  This path of grief and sorrow and loss and pain.  This
path that, had I been given a choice, I’d have never chosen to walk.
My prayer is that I can walk it graciously, and that in walking it,
Rickey’s life and death, and our journey could lead someone to Heaven.
  That someone would be drawn to God, back to God or closer to God
through our journey.

“I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born.”

  I  like this saying MUCH better.  God did cause (allow) pain.  That is a
truth that cannot be denied.  Pain, grief, sadness, anger, anguish . .
. all have been a part of this past year.  Yet, God, who DID allow
those feelings, has also allowed something new to be born though there
were tears and sadness, there has also been laughter, there are smiles
and hugs and yes, even joy.  Not better, not even to be compared, just
something new.  I like that.  Life is different.  Changes that I could
never have imagined one year ago today have taken place.  Pain has
come, but healing and new has been born as well.  I quit a job that I,
for a long time, loved.  My new job is in the E.R. at the hospital –
the same place my pain started November 5 last year (…but imagine
this, God in His sovereignty had my schedule work out so that I will
not be working on November 5 this year – just a little “buffer” for my
still tender heart).  We now have a college aged child and two who are
being home-schooled.  I have gained some dear friends over the past
year, some who have walked the “widow” road and truly “get-it”, and
some (old friends, now more like sisters) some here close to me
and some, from a long distance - who support me often with
phone calls, e-mails, text & facebook messages, who have come along side and
walked with me – sometimes just “being there” quietly, and sometimes
“babbling” like a brook because they didn’t know “what” to say but
they have done their best, and together, we have all learned so much!
Changes, so very many of them . . . “New things being born”!

God also allowed more “new” to be born in my life . . . Ashley Beth
told me that she thinks it’s cool that God brought me “another” Rick.
At first, I thought it was a little eerie, “Really, God, his name is
Rick?”  But, I now agree with Ashley.  It’s cool.  It’s good.  It’s
new.  Something “new” WAS born.  Something from God’s hand.  For 20
years, I loved Rickey (dearly), now I have a God given love for my
"new" Rick . . . a new love that God gave me, a new reason to smile
and to look with anticipation towards the future!  Someone who loves
me – and the kids.  Someone who cares about me – and the kids.
Someone who understands that Rickey will always be a part of our
lives, and is o.k. with that.  Someone who does not desire to “take
Rickey’s place” as daddy (and has said that he knows he never could)
but who wants to be a “bonus” to the kids.  Someone who wants to see
my tomorrows with me – and who holds my hand through the difficult
“todays”.  I have been BLESSED.  Twice blessed.  I have loved and lost
– deeply.  And God has allowed me to love again.  God has allowed
something new to be born.  As this past year draws to its “close”, and
all of the dreaded “firsts” will soon be behind us, I find myself in
closer communion with the Lord than I have ever been.  I find myself
trusting Him more and more every single day.  I find myself releasing
more of me to Him every step of the way.  I find that He is my “all in
all”.  He is my strength when I am weak and the treasure that I seek.
I have found that when I trust Him, and turn it all over to Him, He
does protect me.  He does love me.  He does restore.  I have seen
myself change.  I have seen myself become less concerned abou the
"little things" that shouldn't matter (I'm still working on it!).  I
find that I love easier and forgive quicker.  I am much more willing
to compromise and I cherish every moment and every day - knowing that
it is all that is promised to me!  Life is not always easy.  It does
not always go as we had planned.  There are bumps, and turns,
mountains and valleys.  The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, {but}
still I will say, Blessed be the NAME of the LORD!


36{6} days ... and HOPE for the future . . .

36{6} days . . . in "this" year.  A year of "firsts" and this one contained an extra day.  An extra day to "count", an extra day to remember, an extra day to grieve, an extra day to trust, an extra day to learn, an extra day ... just one day, but an extra one.

I've been thinking about "days" lately.  I think because I'm on the other end of counting the days.  By that I mean, when Rickey went to Heaven on November 5, 2011, I remember thinking, just one more day.  Just do the next day.  Just finish what is in today.  I remember thinking, "People talk about all the firsts and making it through the first year, how will we get to 365 {or in this case, 366} days?  This is only day 21 or 32 or 46 . . ."  As I have mulled over the fact that NOW we are "only" 15 days from a year, my mind has attempted to grasp GOD.  To grasp HIS plan for my life.  To grasp the height and depths of His love for me, for us.  As I look back and reminisce I think . . . what was I doing last September, last October, last early November  . . . what did I do "this" weekend last year?  I remember "this weekend" clearly . . . we went to the UP Finals Cross Country meet in Munising - the girls and I  . . . and then we headed over to Marquette to see Nick, Ashley & the little girls.    We called home to see if Rickey minded if we spent the night and he assured us that we should - he felt "selfish" that he was going to be busy hunting soon, take this time and enjoy it. . . . If I had known then what I know now, what would I have done?  I also know that next weekend marks our last "date" . . . we went to LaCabana for Mexican - after a brief argument about where to eat . . . If I had known then what I know now, would it have mattered where we ate?  That's the weekend that Kajsa tried out for the 7th grade Cheer Team - and made it . . . and actually was asked to cheer with the 8th grade squad!!  Her Daddy was SO PROUD of her - I'm so glad she got to share that victory with him!  I remember being in town and calling home, trying to find pumpkins - because we needed to carve some for Halloween.  I remember 2 weekends from now, on Friday, Rickey called me at work, could I pick up a battery for the 4-wheeler so it would be ready to take to camp, and then, maybe could I pick up a pizza that he could bring to play cards with "the guys".  Often, I complained about these little "errands".  I remember I didn't complain about those, I did them with a joyful heart and a good attitude - little did I know they'd be the last "acts of service" I would do for Rickey.  I'm glad they were done without grumbling!  Of course, there is no "going back".  There is no room for "what-if's".  Life {and death} happen . . . as purposed in God's plan before the foundation of the earth . . . "Age to age HE stands, and time is in HIS hands . . . "  I have NO CONTROL.  I LIKE to have control.  I like to be in charge.  I want {often demand} to know what is going on, what will happen next, what the plans for the day, the week, the month are.  I'm not in control.  I never was in control.  I never will be in control.  THAT became very clear to me on November 5, 2011.  November 5.  A day I will never forget.  I have heard people say that in crisis, they have gone into shock and they don't remember details.  That didn't happen to me.  I remember.  All.Of.It.  My memories are VIVID of November 5.  I remember Rickey leaving to go work on the roof.  I remember going to the craft show in Stephenson and calling Rickey on the way home.  I remember leaving for camp without him, and turning around to go back home because something "just didn't feel right".  I remember pulling in the yard and seeing Pastor & Bobbi's vehicle and the police car there.  I remember the police officer pulling me into his arms to tell me "There's been an accident, you need to get to the hospital".  I remember throwing my purse in my car, and him telling me that I was being "taken" to the hospital {I'm independent - I don't like to be "told" what to do, but I listened - and also knew that it could not be good if I was being given this instruction}.  I remember the drive, the phone calls, the doctor, the nurse, and the details in the Emergency Room {where I now work}.  I remember the people who came to the hospital and the disbelief in their eyes.  I remember feeling like I had to take care of all of them.  I remember asking the nurse if it was a bad dream, and I remember talking to the transplant coordinator.  I.remember. . . . ALL.OF.IT.  I also remember the days preceding November 5 - with thankfulness that they were filled with love and laughter, and not angry words and discontent.  I will always be thankful that when Rickey went to Heaven, he went knowing he was fully loved by us, and we by him!  I also definitely remember the days following November 5.  God put a guard around me in those days, but He did not cause me to forget.  As I talked with one of my best friends about the events surrounding Rickey's "home-going" I told her that the one detail that is fuzzy in my mind is getting "to" the funeral home for services on November 8, and as I think back and remember, even those come into clearer view.  I remember stopping at school {my place of employment at the time} and actually having a run-in with a student who was angry about something - and yes, the student was fully aware that I was headed to my husband's funeral!  

Yes, I learned very quickly that I am not in control.  Yet, daily, I attempt to regain that control.  I try to be "in charge" of my circumstances, my surroundings and the people that I love.  Daily I have to relinquish that control back to the Lord.  I have become much better in trusting God in ALL things.  I still struggle, but I certainly do better.  I have let Tessa drive to Appleton, Milwaukee, Chicago and Cedarville, Ohio.  Without me with her.  Before last year, I'd NEVER have let her go.  I realize now that she is much safer in God's hands than she will ever be in mine.  As will her sisters and brother.  I can't hold on and I can't protect every moment of every day.  But just as He loved Rickey infinitely more than I ever could have, so it is with my children.  So, I relinquish control.  Each day.  Over and over and over again.  I still like my house to be "tidy" and I still lose it when the kitchen is a mess, but I'm improving.  The dishwasher isn't always loaded the way I would, but the dishes still get clean!  The silverware drawer may find tablespoons & teaspoons in the same bin and salad forks and dinner forks also put away together {gasp}, but at least they are put away . . . {yes, I'm THAT much of a control freak . . . I told you, God is working on me!}!

In July, God allowed me to meet another Rick . . . who quickly became a trusted confidant and trusted friend. This Rick had lost his dad when he was only 62 years old, and he had lost his son - at 10 months old.  He was able to understand the loss of someone who you loved.  Though losses that were different, still losses that didn't make any sense in earthly, human terms.  Rick who was the only person who has ever visited the cemetery with me, just being there, no words were needed.  Rick who drove me past the house {for the first time} where Rickey was the day of the accident {where I'd not been ever before}.  Rick, who encouraged me to not just write a letter to Clayton {the owner of the home}, but to go and visit him, and then went with me for that visit.  A visit that was one of the most healing things I did over the past year.  Clayton gave me insight to some things that happened that day.  

As Rick and I spent more time together and shared our lives with each other, through Facebook messages, e-mails, texts, phone calls and visits, we realized that we had fallen in love.  I know {gasp}  . . .   I felt the gasp too.  I only wanted to be friends.  I stated that to him when we first started exchanging Facebook messages.  I told him that I hoped God had someone for me, someday.  That I prayed that I would get remarried, someday.  That for now, I was not ready.  I needed time.  I just wanted to have a friend.  

God's ways are not our ways.  

The love that Rickey and I shared for 20 years was truly one of the most wonderful experiences that I could have ever had.  We were blessed with 3 of the most wonderful daughters that I could have ever dreamed of having, and I was fortunate enough to be the step-mom to his two big kids and in that became Gramma Sheila to 5 of the most precious little people I have ever known.  God blessed me BEYOND MEASURE, more than I am deserving of.  I have an awesome family because of the love that Rickey and I shared.  My mother-in-law and father-in-law are really the best there could be.  My extended family of brother and sister-in-laws have blessed me beyond measure through the years.  I have nieces and nephews who I am so proud of.  Yes, God blessed me.  Beyond measure.  And I was SURE that Rickey and I would grow old together.  I had it all planned.  My ways are not His ways.

So, when God sent a new love into my life, I wasn't sure what to do about it. Is it real? Could I trust my emotions?  Could I trust God?  . . . Did I ask that?  Can I trust God?  The God who had sustained me through the worst months of my life.  The God who had proven to me time and time again, and then again that He holds me in the palm of His hand . . . CAN I TRUST HIM?  Yes.  Yes, I can trust Him.  I can trust only in Him.  He is my strength and my shield.  He loves me with an EVERLASTING love!  And, yes, I can trust Him.  So, trust Him I did.  I trusted Him that He sent me Rick.  That he sent me Rick for this new season in my life.  Not to take away any of the season that I shared with Rickey for that season has made me who I am today.  Yet, as much as it saddens me, Rickey is not here for the coming season.  But, Rick is.  And when he asked me to marry him, I, trusting in God's plan for my life, said yes.  I believe that God has a plan for my future.  Plans to prosper and not harm me.  Did He allow pain into my life?  Certainly.  Did he allow sorrow and suffering?  Absolutely.  But, He has also shown me hope.  He has shown me that He does care - for he cares even for the sparrow.  He cares about me.  He does bring beauty from ashes.

Knowing that life is but a fleeting breath, to brief to measure, Rick and I chose not to have a long "engagement" {when you are 45 and 51 and have experienced loss, you realize that life CAN (and does) change in the blink of an eye}, and were married on October 1.

We know that life will present us with challenges.  We know that many will not understand.  We know that at times even we don't fully understand.  But, we know that we both love God first.  We love our children fiercely.  We love our parents and our siblings and our extended families dearly. And we love each other.  We have prayed {together and separately} about and for our relationship.  We have talked with trusted Christian friends.  We talk . . . constantly and about EVERYTHING.  We know that we are BLESSED.  With God's love and redemption for us, poor weak sinners that we are.  We are blessed, with children and grandchildren that we adore.  We are blessed with families.  We are blessed with each other.  Our journey will continue.  I will continue to grieve the loss of Rickey while basking in God's gift of new love {an odd range of emotions  that was brought fully to to light this morning in church as I stood with Rick listening to the song "Amazing Grace, My Chains Are Gone" - the song that was sung at Rickey's funeral} . . . Our journey will continue.  We pray daily that God will allow us to grow old together.  We pray that as we move forward in our new life that we would honor God.  That we would honor the memory of Rickey and Rick's dad, and his son, Joshua.  We pray that in honoring those we have loved and lost, we would be more tender to the needs of others.  That we would love as we have been loved.  That we would perhaps be that smile, or kind word, or offer of hope to someone who is hurting.  We pray that God would use our losses, and our love to show others God's redemption - even through difficult, earth shattering, life changing events . . . . ♥

So many changes ...

We like to tell people that we love Chattanooga so much we moved here twice! Since my last post in 2020, we spent eight months in Michigan...