Route Recalculating

Hey there. It’s been a while.

Life got very busy for me over the past three months. I retired from a thirty-seven year career in the I.T. field, sold our family home of the past eighteen years, moved into an apartment for the first time in my life, and I’ve been helping my daughter get her business off the ground.

Yep – I’m taking it easy in retirement.
Not really sure how you do that but I’m working on it.

Retiring at Fifty-eight was not in my original life plan. Nor was losing my wife to cancer. But one thing I’ve discovered through the past few years is that when the road we’re traveling in life changes and our destination becomes uncertain, who we are as the traveler doesn’t really change. Here’s what I mean.

Throughout my working life, I’ve always worked with computers in one way or another. Programming, in my opinion, is a form of art. It’s creative, it can be original and unique, and it can be awe-inspiring to see the final outcome of your work. It’s not a symphony by Beethoven or a masterpiece by Monet, but in its own way, a well-done computer program is a work of passion that any I.T. geek can be very proud of.

I loved the various types of work I did and positions I held over those I.T. years but in all honesty, over these past few months, I really haven’t missed it. What I’ve learned is that it wasn’t the type of work I was doing that was fulfilling to me but it was working with others that were just as passionate about their work that brought me wholeness. My experiences with my teammates, my coworkers, my “life traveling” companions is what made it all fun and meaningful.

As a child, I was pretty much a shy introvert. I had a hard time feeling comfortable in meeting new people and being in large crowds. I preferred to just hang out with a few close friends in our neighborhood most of the time. This led to some lifelong friendships but also kept me from getting to know a whole bunch of other folks. I sometimes wonder how many friendships I missed creating back then and experiences lost.

But when I turned sixteen and got my driver’s license, my world expanded in both area and relationships. Those four years of high school were a time of so many memorable experiences for me and I cherish them all. The good, the bad, and the ones I’m still surprised I survived.

At my 40th High School reunion a few weekends ago, many of us from the CHS class of 1978 laughed and enjoyed looking back at our high school journey and reliving the past. Matter a fact we relived it so well that the local deputy paid us a visit around 2am at our hotel. We’ve still got it was our motto for that night! Not sure what that ‘it’ really is these days but it’s still ours.

While I was driving home the next day after our reunion, I was thinking about friends that were not able to make it this year and some of our shared memories. In particular, I was thinking about one childhood buddy that wasn’t there with us. Bob. He is one of the twelve classmates we’ve already lost. Cancer got the best of him in 2017.

A number of us talked and laughed about times with Bob during our reunion weekend but while driving home I became rather angry over it. Angry that this damnable disease has touched my life and the lives of so many of those I care about. Everyone dies but cancer, this horrible disease, takes too many too early.

I hate it. I asked God to destroy it or take it far from this earth so it could no longer strike down those we love. I was becoming quite upset when at that moment a song came on the radio that brought me out of my anger and back to a place of peace. And the next song that played confirmed that peace and a few tears of thankfulness.

The songs ‘Praise You in this Storm’ by Casting Crowns and ‘Even If’ by MercyMe, both speak to the struggle we face in our lives due to illness, relationships, or any hardship. Dark things that we can’t control that are put in our path that we have to somehow try to navigate around, no, make it through. Horrible things. Things not planned in our life journey.

Both songs brought me back to my faith and belief that there’s really just one way to make it through those dark times. We can try all the human ways of dealing with tragedy and death, and believe me I’ve tried many over the years, but the one thing that has gotten me through is giving the anger, pain, and hurt away to the One, the only one, that can truly make it easier. Not necessarily take it away but carry it for me. I’m grateful for that each and every day.

This past weekend here in Columbus was the Pelotonia. The annual bike ride to raise funds for cancer research and to find a cure. Many of my friends touched by cancer rode again this year. I believe for them as well as myself the lyrics from ‘Even If’ sum up how we feel and where our hope and strength lie. Give both songs a listen to perhaps hear for the first time how you can make it through.

“They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone”

May it be well with you as you continue your life journey – see you down the road.

You Look Like A Princess

I found myself watching the conclusion of the Royal Wedding Saturday morning. In all honesty, I had totally forgotten about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle getting married. So when I switched on the tele, ‘God Save The Queen’ was being played and the recessional was beginning.

My wife Barb would have been up at 4am to watch this. My guess is she was watching just from a much better vantage point.

The bride. The groom. The dress. The vows. The kiss. The promise. So many beautiful, meaningful moments. Barb absolutely loved weddings, as do I, and I think she would agree with me that one of the most moving moments of a wedding is when the groom sees his bride for the first time.

When escorting my oldest daughter down the aisle a few years ago, I was focused on the face of her soon to be husband. When he first saw her, his face lit up with a joyful smile and there was something like a radiance shining on him. Truly touching and a confirmation that my daughter was most definitely marrying the right man.

I remember standing at the altar myself waiting for my bride to make her way to me. When Barb and her father entered the sanctuary, I couldn’t see her until they made the turn to come down the aisle. I smiled and cried at the same time instantly. How in the world did this beautiful woman, both inside and out, choose me. I was overwhelmed with emotion. As she walked closer, I was able to gather myself and after accepting her hand from her father, I whispered to her ‘you are gorgeous, a princess, and I love you more than anything.’

Which instantly made her cry. Tears of joy I like to think.

I believe all grooms see their bride as a princess and apparently, Prince Harry did. Word is he whispered to his bride, ‘You look like a princess.’ I’m sure the hearts of millions of women melted at that point as they watched the ceremony. I know mine was touched and brought back the memory of our wedding.

Love is a powerful thing that can be quite difficult to figure out. At the beginning of the relationship, you are getting to know each other. Then slowly deeper emotions develop. A greater connection forms. The two of you are experimenting with the thought that maybe this is the right person. Love takes root and begins to grow in your hearts.

Then something happens. It can be almost anything but something happens that threatens your relationship. You begin to question. You begin to doubt. You might even begin to pull apart. Is this really the right person.

Perhaps that’s it. The relationship is over. Or perhaps through that something, that challenge, the two of you are able to work it out. To reconcile. To talk about it and grow from it. Together. Stronger. Deeper.

I have learned that relationships and especially marriage are works in process. An emotional journey that never really ends. There are struggles. Barb and I had a number of them. We came close once to calling it quits when the pressures of life around us became great. But we didn’t quit and we grew closer together through the struggle.

I want you to know that the love Barb and I had for each other was not the only thing that got us through. There were two other factors.

One was our commitment to one another. Even in those few times we didn’t like each other very much, we held to the commitment we had made to each other that this was going to be a lifelong love. No matter what mistakes either of us would make, we would do all that we could to hold to our commitment and hold on to one another. I’m thankful we were able to do that.

In tying the knot, love and commitment made a strong two thread cord in our marriage but a three thread cord is much stronger. And that third thread is faith. Not in one another as that was really our commitment, but faith in the One we asked to bless our marriage and to stand beside us and walk with us through all that may come our way.

Faith is nothing you can see or touch but when you ask God to join you in your marriage, He will be there to carry the two of you through whatever comes. He will be there to strengthen your relationship with one another and with Him so that your love may become complete. The three of you will be strong together so that the two of you can withstand whatever comes.

I believe the key is keeping God closely involved in your relationship. He will always be there if you’ve asked him to but you must also be there. Staying in love with Him and growing deeper in your relationship with Him. Just as your love for one another grows, you must together as individuals and a couple, continue to not only have faith in God but grow closer to Him. Go deeper. Trust more. Talk more. Listen more.

For our almost 32 years of marriage, Barb and I did all that we could to keep that three thread cord strong. We stretched it pretty hard at times but it and we held together. The three of us kept at it and just as our wedding vow called out, only death was able to separate us.

But that’s only true in the human sense, in this world. My love for Barb and God, our relationship, continues on as I can feel both of them present in my life. The chord has not been broken. The love grows strong. Death has no power over the promise and presence of love everlasting.

The month of June is coming up and so will be many weddings for many wonderful couples. It is my wish and prayer for all of them that they invite that third thread to join them and let it make their marriage, their love, the strongest it can be.

Thanks, friends.

See You Down The Road.

March 5, 2017

Faith
is the bird
that feels the light
And sings
when the dawn
is still dark.
– Rabindranath Tagore
(taken from Healing After Loss by Martha W. Hickman)

March 5, 2017, many friends and family came to visit Barb to comfort her and to pray. It was a tiring but wonderful day of love and kindness shared with her and our family.

I like to think, no, I know that Barb’s faith was carrying her, sustaining her as her journey was coming to an end.

Even in the darkness of her last few days with us, the light of her new dawn was beginning to rise. I couldn’t see it through my sadness but it was there. And I can see now that the darkness could not overcome it.

I thanked God for his presence and comfort those last few days. And I thank Him today for the song of light and hope He continues to sing into the darkness. Can you feel it?

Strength In The Broken Pieces

Have you ever broken something?

I know, a silly question isn’t it. We’ve all broken something during our lives. A toy, a glass, grandpa’s storm door, a friendship, a heart. Some breaks are easy to fix while others are hard. And sometimes what has become broken is the hardest to mend. Our self.

Through this first year without my wife Barb, there have been many times that the brokenness I experienced was so complete that I honestly felt lost. Lost to the point I had no idea where to find or how to put things back together again. Have you felt that way? It’s an empty, deep, dark place to be.

When you lose that one thing, the person, that brought wholeness to your life and fullness to your heart, it’s, well, indescribable. It’s one of those things that until you have experienced it you really cannot understand how it feels. Have you been there?

As many of you know, my wife’s brain cancer was not the first brokenness our family had felt. Just a few years before Barb’s passing, her younger brother Greg also died of brain cancer. To lose one was tragic but to lose both of them to this vile disease has been truly devastating. It felt like our lives had been broken into pieces and scattered across the table. Spilling onto the floor. And some pieces seemed to have been lost. That’s what cancer can do to a family. It was not the first time cancer broke me.

When I was 15, my father died of lung cancer and other complications. Dad was a smoker and a drinker. Two habits he developed during his youth and service in WWII. When he was wounded in Europe and sent stateside to recuperate, he met my mom.

I was their only child. They adopted me in 1959, eleven days after I was born which is a story for another time. Through my childhood, my dad was not totally present in my life. He lived with mom and me, took me fishing and mushroom hunting, took vacations with us each year, but being a fully involved fulltime father he was not.

I resented my dad for that and when he was diagnosed with cancer and started to spend even more time away from home, at the hospital, I resented him even more. Such a foolish, childish, selfish way to feel as my dad struggled with his illness. When he went to the hospital the last time, I never went to see him. He died and I stayed home due to fear and that resentment. It’s something I will never get over. I wish I could go back now and be there for him. Do you have regrets of resentment like that? It’s another empty dark place to be.

But we do not have to stay there.

When our lives are broken and become scattered, we have choices to make. We can choose to allow the darkness to hold power over us or we can choose to overcome the darkness to live again. I’ve learned this now. I’m stronger than before. I’m no longer that young man afraid and resentful. I’m learning to find the broken pieces of my life and put them back together. Not the same shape as before. A life that is different for sure but also a life that is strong.

I’m finding strength in the brokenness through my friends, my family, and my faith. This cord of three has proven to be unbreakable in my life. It has pulled me up, gathered me in, and put me together again. It is healing and powerful. It is a gift.

If you have this cord of three in your life you know how great a blessing it is. If you do not, I encourage you to reach out to those around you who are waiting to help you heal, to mend. You don’t have to go it alone.

But you should know there are really four cords involved in living. Friends, family, faith, and the fourth cord is yourself. It’s up to you to first start putting yourself together and although it can be a rough start, you can do it. If I can you can too.

Over this past year, I’ve read many books, watched many videos, and prayed many times to find strength and wholeness. You have to find what connects best with you. One thing that has helped me very much is the book “Healing After Loss” by Martha W. Hickman. Her short but spot on daily meditations are really helping me grow stronger through the healing process. You may find her words helpful too. I’ve included a link below regarding her book.

If you have suffered the loss of a loved one, if you are feeling broken, I want to encourage you to not give up. It’s hard, this grieving process, but you can get through it. Persevere. You can find strength in the brokenness and that strength will lead you to a life of renewed meaning and wholeness. You are stronger than you know.

See you down the road.

Martha Higgins’s “Healing After Loss” is a wonderful book of daily meditations to help you through your grief. Available on Amazon via the image above.