I recently had a request to resurrect this post from back in 2015. It’s still true…..
People respond to me in different ways now that Neil has died. Some people pretend they don’t see me because they don’t know what to say. Others pretend nothing has changed. Some offer advice and worst of all, some people tell me it’s time to move on. I know they all mean well and want to help; they just don’t know how to do it. How do you help someone who’s faced a great loss when you don’t know what to say? It’s actually easier than you think. You don’t have to say a thing; you just listen.
Recently, a dear friend brought me dinner. We sat at the table long after the food had grown cold and she invited me to reminisce. She didn’t find it awkward or uncomfortable to be speaking about the dead and listened intently as I rambled on about how Neil and I met and fell in love. She chuckled with me over funny family stories and laughed at some of the ridiculous arguments Neil and I had over the years. She loved when I showed her my collection of the crazy little frogs that Neil drew on everything he wrote – messages in the girl’s lunch boxes, notes he left for us around the house, and especially on his signature homemade holiday cards. Continue reading →
Neil loved water: oceans, lakes, pools, showers, hot tubs, steam rooms, he loved it all. And he enjoyed being in it in it, whether to swim, kayak, sail, float or simply sit in the sand feeling the tide wash over his toes. I enjoy looking at water, but I don’t need to touch it. I’m perfectly content to watch a waterfall from the path or feel the rhythm of the ocean from the shore. How you feel about water depends on your perspective.
My water hesitance is based on several things. First of all, water is often cold. I hate cold. Second, water is often deep. I can’t swim. Neil coached me for a while, but I couldn’t master it. I could probably float well enough to save myself or one of the kids in an emergency, but to swim for fun is beyond me. That brings me to the third reason I don’t go in water very often.
I was taking swimming lessons at our local park in the summer after third grade. I did fine until the day it was time to jump from the diving board. Continue reading →
When I went to bed on December 27, 1996, with Neil reading quietly in bed beside me, I had no idea that Jordan would be born the next day, or how much drama would be involved in her arrival. After struggling with preterm labor for two months, dealing with medicines, bedrest, and frequent doctor visits, I should have known things wouldn’t suddenly become easy.
Neil and I woke up leisurely to weather that promised to be unseasonable warm, and then sipped coffee in the living room, admiring our enormous Christmas tree. As I got up to refill our mugs, my water broke, and after the initial shock, it was a relief to know the time had really come to go to the hospital.
As we drove the hour to the medical center in Roanoke, the contractions started coming hard and strong. I distracted myself by singing along with the radio. When Celine Dion’s powerful voice noted, “It’s all coming back to me now,” I belted the words loudly right along with her, thinking it was ironic that I had forgotten until then how painful labor really was. Continue reading →
The smaller of my two cats is Kitty Girl. She appeared on our fenced-in patio shortly after sunrise one hot summer morning. I was awake early that day, sipping coffee at the picnic table, and saw a flash of black and white inside the flower box. At first I panicked, thinking it was a skunk. I studied it for a minute, and deciding it was too small to cause much damage, went over to investigate. Peering into the box, I couldn’t tell what I was seeing. It was a tiny blob of coarse dirty fur, and when I reached out to poke it I heard an almost imperceptible meow. Within a few seconds, the ugliest kitten I’d ever seen unrolled itself and looked at me with a combination of curiosity and desperation. Fleas hopped all over her, and yellow green drainage from her swollen eyes matted her face. I brought her inside, cleaned her up, treated her eyes, and fell in love with the perky, petite cat I call Kitty Girl.
Fast forward 13 years. Kitty Girl is no longer an ugly duckling. She is a dainty, lively, sweet cat who loves adventure and has used up at least six of her nine lives with exploits.
Once she wandered about a quarter mile away and climbed a tree. She was stuck there for three days and we were resigned to the idea that she died. Unwilling to accept that, Jackie and a search party of eight-year-old friends set out to find her. Continue reading →
My last post was about answered prayer. But what about the times when God doesn’t answer my prayers? There are lots of those, and I’m often jealous when I hear other’s miracle stories. “The cancer just disappeared!” or “I am so blessed; God gave me just what I hoped for!”
The Gospels often mention God’s desire to answer our prayers. Jesus says, “Ask and you shall receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24). In Matthew 7:7, he says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and the door will be opened to you.” In Luke, we read about the widow who nagged the judge so much he finally found in her favor so she would leave him alone. Jesus tells us God will not be slow to answer those who cry out to him.
So what am I missing here? Why are some people miraculously cured and others not? Is it because they are somehow more worthy or because God loves them more than others? Did I not pray hard enough for Neil to be cured? Was I not persistent in my prayer? Those questions lead me to feel guilty, believing that if I said one more prayer or did one more good deed Neil would have survived. Continue reading →
Lately I have been thinking a lot about gossip. I have definitely been a victim of it; haven’t you? More important though, I have been trying to pay attention to how much I participate in it, and wondering if I am a gossip girl. I don’t want to be!
Over the years there was a lot of gossip about me and Neil:
“I heard Neil didn’t go home last night. I guess Colleen made him mad – she is so bossy!”
“I heard she was pregnant before they got married. I guess she’s not that Catholic after all.”
“I heard he moved out. I guess Colleen finally had it with his drinking.”
Like all gossip there were nuggets of truth in these comments. For example, Neil struggled with alcoholism and sometimes it was safer for him not to drive home. I wasn’t pregnant for nine months since I went into preterm labor at thirty weeks instead of forty. And, our typical argument involved retreating to separate corners until we cooled off. Sometimes that was an hour, sometimes a night, sometimes weeks. But all the gossipers saw was the way things appeared to be – not the way they really were. I loved Neil despite his faults and, thankfully, he loved me despite mine.
So what makes a conversation gossip? It isn’t simply talking about other people. In a small town and among friends, that’s how we keep up with each other, how we know who needs extra prayers and who might need a casserole. Continue reading →
“I can’t wait until I retire,” my friend said at lunch one day. “Then I can do all the things I want.”
“ I can’t wait to finish the semester,” my nephew said during my visit. “Then I can relax and enjoy life for a while.”
“I can’t wait till this chemo is finished,” my patient said at her appointment. “Then I can get back to normal.”
We’ve all said things like this, haven’t we? We’ve all imagined how much better the future will be when we get past the present.
My house is quiet these days. My two younger daughters are away at college and my oldest is married and building her new life. My empty nest is far emptier than I ever imagined without Neil to share it. I often find myself saying, I can’t wait till the girls come home so the house feels alive again.
The other day I came across the very famous Scripture reading from Ecclesiastes that talks about a time for everything. Our lives have seasons just like the weather does – the college season, the work season, the retirement season.
This is my empty nest season. Continue reading →
It was one of those negative days where everything was annoying. The birds were loud and woke me up early. The coffee didn’t brew on time and tasted stale when it finally did. The exercise class was harder than usual and I barely kept up. The toilet upstairs hadn’t stopped running after the last flush and used up all the water in the well. The cat and dog had gotten into a fight and as a result the cat got sick in the bathtub. Worst of all, Neil wasn’t there to listen to me complain. Continue reading →
Sometimes we are reminded good lessons in the strangest ways. Recently, one of my cats taught me one I need to remember.
Tiger is about 13 years old, having been a birthday present for Jordan on her sixth birthday. Neil did not want another cat back then (we had two other cats and two dogs at the time!) but I was determined to make my little girl’s birthday dream come true. Despite my husband’s strong suggestion for some other present, I sat at the SPCA for the better part of a morning, looking into little eyes, watching the kittens interact with each other and throwing paper towel wads for them to chase before I finally decided Tiger was the one. As a kitten he was beautiful: perfectly proportioned, soft velvety fur, big green eyes and a personality that was cuddly and playful.
Fast forward 13 years later. As a grown cat, Tiger seems distrustful and guarded. He hates poor Buddy the dog, who would love nothing more than to be playmates. He tolerates Kitty Girl, our other cat, mostly by pretending she doesn’t exist. I have often imagined him complaining to himself about the idiotic pets with whom he is forced to reside, and the obnoxious humans who are not much better. Continue reading →
I love honeysuckle. As a child I sipped the ‘honey” from the blossoms and wove the flowers around my head in summer crowns. When my daughters were little I showed them the joys of honeysuckle too, and if on a walk or drive we saw some, often stopped to collect a fragrant bouquet. When I worked twelve hour shifts in the Emergency Department, I carried blooming branches in with me to remind me of the summer day outside. Even now, I love to sit on the deck in the evening, enjoying the sweet fragrance of honeysuckle floating in the breeze while crickets chirp their summer song and stars shine gently overhead.
When we first moved into our house, I was determined to surround it with honeysuckle. I bought some tiny plants from the local feed store. When I feared I didn’t have enough, I literally dug it up from alongside our country road. My neighbor, Charlie, laughed and thanked me for weeding the neighborhood. Continue reading →