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Monday, September 29, 2008


One night recently I had a nightmare. It wasn't scary; but I woke up heartbroken.

I don't remember many details, but this much I know:

I heard Jolene moving on the top bunk.

And I cried, "No!" Because I knew Jolene wasn't in the bunk, and my heart broke all over again. The sound seemed so real, a body stirring, turning over, like Jolene did everytime she spent the night.

I screamed "No! No! No!" until I finally woke myself up.

Perhaps even my subconscious has accepted the fact of Jolene's death.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Surgery Postponed

I spent an anxious four days waiting for the results of Friday's stress test. The verdict? I have to delay my knee surgery. The test indicates possible blockage to my heart, so I am having an angiogram on Friday. They will do an angioplasty (repairing the narrowed arteries) if needed at the same time.

I will still have the knee surgery ... eventually. Mom is still scheduled for a heart valve replacement on Monday. The closer Monday approaches, the more nervous she becomes. Tonight she looked at the pictures of Jolene we have displayed, and broke into sobs. She keeps saying, "I'm not ready to join her yet. I want to stay here with you." She is seriously scared.

Pray for healing and for peace through these days. Pray that we will finish what must be done, and let go of the rest.

Even my ex-husband is praying for us. God's people are surrounding us with prayer. It means more than you know!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Singing in the Shadows

What a year this has been. Grief still weighs down Mom and me, and now we both face surgery (more about that later). So when God brought the following verses to my attention today, it spoke to me.

Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. (Psalm 63:7-8)

Bottom line through everything: God is my help. My soul does cling to Him in a new, desperate, childlike way, the rock in my storm. In Him, because of Him, I can still sing. From the shadow of His wings where He shelters me.

Music speaks to my inmost being. It always has; I felt called to a music ministry at the age of ten, and all these years later, involvement in church music still fulfills me in a way nothing else does.

So I will sing in the shadow of God's wings. I will sing of my Redeemer, who is my hope. My assurance of things to come, the hands that hold me.

Join me in that song.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dancing with Grief Plus Six Months

Six months. 183 days. Half a year. However I look at it, six months is a long time.

Six months ago I learned that Jolene had committed suicide. 183 days lived, a minute, an hour at a time, sometimes with a light heart, more often with a heavy heart.

Today God gave me this scripture on our daily calendar: "He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others." He comforts us. Amen! Without the truth of those words, I could not have survived the past half year.

What has happened in six months' time?

Two seasons: The height of spring passed into summer, which is now waning to fall. No seeing Jolene delight in buying smaller clothes or laughing at the way she bundled up at the first hint of cooler weather.

The baseball season. This year the Rockies will not repeat their amazing World Series run of a year ago. I'm glad I got to share that with Jolene.

Four holidays, my birthday, Marius' birthday. No straining to watch fireworks at a safe distance, no homemade decorations for my birthday, no one to watch Disney or superhero movies with.

My granddaughter growing steadily in my daughter-in-law's womb.

The more time passes, the more I realize the permanence of my loss. As Mom says, she's not gone on an extended trip. She won't return.

Hardly a day goes by without my crying.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Word from Jaran

This week is the 6 month anniversary of Jolene's death. I'll be writing more about that on Thursday.

It's on my son Jaran's mind as well. He sent us a beautiful card. White laser-cut tree branches over a red sun in an orange sky. He wrote a thoughtful note, and he's given me permission to share it with you.

Jaran is studying the Chinese language this semester, so that's the background for his comments.

Dear Mom & Grandma,

Just wanted to send you out a letter. This week will be a tough one as we hit all these aniversaries.

I thought this card was appropriate for the occasion. I have learned that the Chinese believe red is an expression of life. Red is characterized as such because it is reminiscent of flowing blood. White symbolizes death because it is the complexion of a corpse. In China, white is the traditional color worn at funerals.

In the foreground of this picture is an array of white. The white has texture and is tangible. But rising in the background is the red orb of the sun, warming the picture and reminding us that life is omnipresent and is much larger than anything else we may experience. To me this is a picture of hope, and I wanted to share it with you two.


Your (Grand)Son

Life shining in the midst of death. It is indeed a beautiful image.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Feeling Low

For some reason Jolene lays heavy on my mind this week. As Mom said in her response to my Monday post, she's an unseen guest at every meal. Yesterday I relived the night we learned about her death. The pain struck again, just as sharp, just as unbelievable. Grief has resurfaced and weighs me down.

Somehow, as time goes on, my grief becomes more real. I always accepted the fact of her death. What gains substance is the reality of spending the life without her. That I will never again see her or hear her and feel her (in this life).

Jolene and I lived alone for many years, after Jaran moved out on his own. Now there is no witness to large chunks of my life. I feel alone in the world, having lost the person closer to me than anyone else. Even after she moved out, we saw each other on a regular basis. Now ... that is gone. My son lives out of state. Thank God for my precious mother.

Add to the mixture physical pain from my knee and the time pressures of preparing for two surgeries and finishing a book contract, and I'm a physical and emotional wreck. This morning, I fell apart when I was trying to get ready for work. Mom stepped in and told me I was in no shape to head out the door. I took her advice and stayed home. I needed the rest, but can't say I feel much better tonight.

I know this is a gloomy post, but it's where I am tonight. People survive grief; I will survive this. In time, the burden will lift.

But for today, I am miserable.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Dining Out

First, some housekeeping: I have changed the settings on the blog so that you don't need a Google account to leave a comment. For those of you who have tried to post in the past and couldn't? Please try again!

Jolene remains right under our (Mom's and my) skin. Not a day goes by that we don't remember something that brings tears to our eyes. It's constant. Yesterday we ate at the Red Lobster for the first time since Jolene's death. Mom looked at her lobster tail and said "cockroach." I understood the reference and choked up. Because the last time we ate at the restaurant, Jolene was with us and she said the lobster's feet reminded her of a cockroach.

Mom said, "We should go back to Three Margaritas some time."

I thought about it. "We haven't been there since ..."

"No, we haven't," she agreed. The family ate there after Jolene's memorial service but not since.

Jolene loved Mexican food and Mom can tolerate very little; so we only went there when Jolene was with us. On some level, I am waiting for her to come back before we go again. I can't even write the words without crying. I suggested we dine there on the six month anniversary.

The 17th of this month will be six months. How can half a year have passed? Life goes on, and we are facing new challenges. But the loss is just as raw and the ache is so deep that only God can comfort us.

God gave me the promise of Psalm 18:32-33: God arms me with strength; he has made my way safe. He makes me as surefooted as a deer, leading me safely along the mountain heights.
I am trusting God that after my surgery, my legs will once again be strong and "surefooted as a deer." Maybe I will even hike through the mountains once again. Please claim this promise with me!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Surgery's on

It's official. I will have knee replacement surgery on September 24th. Some time approximately 6 weeks later, Mom will have her surgery.

True to our natures, Mom and I are worried about different things. She wonders about how she'll manage, physically, after the surgery. She is also scared of the angiogram needed ahead of time. My worries center around money. Three months without a paycheck? It's easy to say "God will provide," but I've lost a car and a house in the past. God's provision doesn't always look like I expect it to.

This is one time I am glad Jolene is not here. She would feel very frightened and insecure with both of down us at once. Dear Jaran cannot help, because of his obvious and loving commitments to his own family unit.

So, in the next three weeks, I'll have pre-op checkups and I also need to finish my current manuscript (due to the editor on October 1st). Mom also has pre-surgery appointments.

Please pray for us, for our health, for the right timing, for the financial need.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Thoughts on Jolene's father

This weekend is a triple-whammy for my ex-husband: he celebrated (or endured, if it was anything like mine) his birthday - and it was one of the biggies. Sixty. It's also yet another first holiday without Jolene, not that Labor Day ever meant a lot. He also recently lost a job, so it's been a difficult year.

I don't know how John is dealing with grief; we don't talk much. Perhaps he suffered through agonies of grief during the years after our divorce, when he was barred from seeing Jolene. Or perhaps that past loss echoes in his heart now, as if he has lost her twice.

Before she died, Jolene visited Oklahoma two separate times, to see her brother and her father. I am glad he has at least that memory to draw on.

God has done a work in my heart, that I can feel concern for my ex. My thoughts and prayers are with you, John. No parent should suffer this pain.