Time Heals

After my failed experiment with tangential volleyball flight, I found my daily activities significantly limited and altered. Every move I made seemed to be directly linked to my injured elbow.  But I expected pain since I had been told I had a severe sprain and probable crack in the head of my humerus, which oddly, didn’t seem very funny.  After two weeks the pain was better only while at rest.  So, I begrudgingly decided I should probably follow-up as I’d been instructed with a doctor who was wiser with elbows than I.  An MRI was ordered.  Since I am who I am, after the test I called and got the results myself and decided for myself that I didn’t need any more treatment.  The torn ligaments and small chip in the articular surface would just have to heal with time.  There wasn’t much else to be done.  After two more weeks of hampered daily activity, I begrudgingly decided I should follow-up with that doctor again.  He agreed with my treatment plan, but if the elbow was catching when I tried to bend it, maybe that little cartilage piece needed to come out. Two weeks later I waved my white flag and surgery was scheduled.

As I walked in the office for my first post op visit, the surgeon smiled big and said, “That was such a rewarding procedure!  I bet you felt better as soon as you woke up.”  Somehow secretly hidden from view of the MRI images were four chips of bone crammed into the small joint space.  It never would have recovered without that surgery no matter how much time it was given.

Hearts seem to be similar. When they are damaged, it takes more than time to heal them.  Ever heard someone repeat their story of hurt as if it happened just yesterday?  When left alone the heart may feel ok.  But as soon as it is opened up and put to use, the injury rises to the surface fresh and new.

They say time heals all wounds.  I say time heals diddly squat.  It’s what you do with time that heals.

I’ve been doing some reading lately about healing those hurts in life.  I’ll share with you in later posts some of what I’ve learned.  It’s good stuff.  And it’s healing.

 

Stay and Play

Republished in honor of my Aunt Esther who passed away four years ago.  Originally published March 4, 2011.

Ding! Ding! Jeff needed something.  He was ringing his bell.  He didn’t have the strength to project his voice enough to call out.  He preferred his bed over the couch.  Many times I was working someplace else in the house when he needed a drink, or wanted to try a cup of soup, or was ready for more meds.  Sometimes he just had something he wanted to say or was awake and wanted company.  He’d ring the bell.  Ding! Ding!  It was a Christmas bell with an angel on the top.  We had a few of them.  I didn’t set them out this Christmas.  I don’t like the sound anymore.

We’d gotten the idea from my cousins.  They had used a bell with my aunt.  Two months after Jeff was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer, my favorite aunt was given the same diagnosis.  One of her daughters called me.  “We don’t think Mom is being up-front with us.  We don’t know what all this means.  We thought maybe you could understand the test results and find out what is going on.”  “I’ll call her.”

I didn’t talk or visit with her frequently, but she was my favorite.  She shone of Christ.  She loved Him.  She was a joy to be around.  I called.  She was happy to hear my voice and I to hear hers.  She got out the MRI report and read it to me.  My heart sank.  She had “innumerable” spots on her lungs and liver.  She was South for the winter.  She played accordion with a group and they were counting on her to play with them in a couple of weeks.  She was hopeful that she would feel well enough to do it.  Did I think she should leave right away or stay and play?  Stay and play, dear aunt.  Stay and play.  Her accordion performances had meant so much to her over the years.  She needed to do this one more time.  She wanted to know what her options would be for treatment when she got back home.  I said little.  She assured me, “I’ve lived a full and blessed life.  I’m ready to rest if that’s what is coming.  I’ve lived my years.”  Stay and play, dear aunt.  Stay and play.  “I’ll talk with you more after you get home,” I promised.

After the concert she and my uncle headed north to their home and medical care.  It was a long and painful trip for her.  I never had a chance to talk with her again. She died a very short time after – her abdomen fully consumed with the disease.  I was getting ready to leave on a plane to go see her when I got the call.  I went to her memorial service a few weeks later.  They had accordion music at the service.  And it was as beautiful as she had been.  Someday in heaven I’ll hear her play again.  And there we will stay and play as long as we wish.

The Farmer’s Son

“I’d like to come by and visit.  Would that be all right?” His call surprised me.  I hadn’t heard from him in some time. But he was visiting his parents about an hour away and wanted to stop by for a while. “Absolutely!  Come on over.  Jeff should be back shortly.  He’ll be happy to see you.” As the activities of the day would have it, he arrived before Jeff. We sat on the front porch in the warm summer air chatting and waiting.  Soon Jeff arrived.  Jeff wasn’t expecting him and didn’t recognize him right off in his bib overalls and cap.  We’d always seen him in his dress slacks and a tie, this farmer’s son turned banker.  But his friendly smile and firm hand shake immediately gave him away.  We went in the house where Jeff could relax and we could visit about the good ole’ days.

The farmer’s son visited a few more times over those two years.  The last time he came it was obvious it would be the last time. We chatted more about the things “back home”. Before he left that day he said, “You know, I always say I’ll see you again. But we all know one of these times I won’t.  One of these times it will be the last time. In case this is the last time, I want you to know what you’ve meant to me.  I can’t explain it really.  I haven’t known you that well. But know you made a great impression on my life. I think we could have had a lot of fun times together if I’d known you better. If I don’t see you again, I want you to know I’ll miss you.” And the two men hugged and slapped backs like only men can. It was the last time.

I saw the farmer’s son again at the funeral. He drove a long ways for the service. He didn’t stay long.  He just needed to say good-bye one more time and acknowledge the passing of his friend.  I saw him in the foyer at the church wearing his more familiar attire of suit and tie.  Many people came that day that I won’t remember.  But I’ll always remember seeing him there because of the words he dared speak at his last visit.

Why must we wait until the doorstep of death to say words that could have such meaning in life? Or worse yet, why do we sometimes never dare to speak them at all?

Face Behind the Glass

She looks at me from behind the glass.  One eye hidden, the other visible, her gaze is focused.  Her lips form the hint of a smile and a dimple creases her cheek.  Her hand is resting close to his.  There is evidence of unfinished projects around them, but the two are relaxed together, lying on the floor.  His chest is her pillow.  The sound of his heart beat fills her ear.  The scent of a man fills her nostrils.  She breathes it in.  She is warm when lying beside him.  He pats her shoulder with his arm around her in a reassuring way.  “It will be OK.  I love you,” he says with his gesture.

She looks at me from behind the glass.  An image frozen in time. Her gaze, a perfect reflection of my past, pierces my soul.  When I reach for her world, I find it is gone.  Was it just a mirage?

Birthday Time

She’s so excited.  It’s almost her day.  It’s a biggie in the life of a child.  And it will soon be here.  She was born just two days after her daddy turned 30.  Yep, that means his birthday will soon be here, too.  What will we do this year?  We haven’t talked about it – yet.  I’m not fond of elephants stomping around the room, so we will.

It’s been about 20 months.  I had to stop and count this time.  It’s not a tally that is constantly ticking in the front of my mind anymore.  These aren’t “firsts” for us anymore.  But they are still there.  They always will be.

I’m grateful I’m a widow.  That probably sounds shocking, but if I had a choice as to how I was to become single again, I’d choose to be the widow of a person who had a chronic disease.  I would choose the path I was given.  Through the experience I saw him grow.  I saw myself grow.  I saw many people around us grow.  I see people grow even now because of what occurred then.  We had time to say what needed to be said.  He did not choose to walk away from me or the kids. We were not abandoned nor rejected.  I don’t go to bed at night and wonder if he’s thinking of me.  I don’t turn on the radio and wonder if he remembers “us” when he hears a song.  I don’t order ice-cream and wonder if he orders the same flavor just because he remembers I like it.  I don’t wonder if he will call some day and tell me he still loves me. There has not been a single word added to the record of our relationship these past twenty months.  There may be new ways to consider old things, but there are no new things to consider.  His thoughts are no more. He is no more.  And God is good.

Presenting God’s goodness in a way that is truthful and real to a young lady who has experienced the loss of her daddy whom she adored is a challenging task.  Surely an enemy has done this – an enemy who roams about seeking whom he may devour.  And God is so good, good beyond measure, that He will let this whole show-down between good and evil play out to its bitter end.  Then when all the pieces to the puzzle of this world fit together, we will see, all will see, and proclaim that He is righteous and holy and good – all the time.

God has not left me.  He will never leave me nor forsake me.  It will be a ~HaPpY bIrThDaY~!

Gone

Maybe it’s the weather, I don’t know.  There is a touch of crispness in the air with reduced temperatures and decreased humidity.  It feels like mountain air.  Maybe that’s it.  As I came up the hill and saw the manicured lawn off to the right, I decided I’d pull in.  I haven’t stopped there since spring, but something made me want to stop today.

I was in the car with the sunroof open and a happy summer song streaming through the speakers.  Should I drive through or stop?  I decided to stop.  Should I just sit there a minute or get out?  I decided to get out.  Should I leave the music on or turn it off?  I decided not only to leave it on but to turn the volume up and roll the windows down.  The music wouldn’t disturb anyone there.

I got out and walked that direction.  I could see the decorations from where I had parked.  They looked different than the ones that were there the last time I’d come.  His mom brings them out.  She finds it therapeutic to do that.  I don’t.

I leaned down and brushed the grass clippings off the etched letters and numbers and dash. The cross with his picture is still there but the image is fading.  He’s smiling.

I returned to my car and drove away.  I probably won’t go back again unless the kids ask to stop.  There’s nothing there but a slab of blue granite that glistens in the sun like the Wyoming skies.  He’s gone.

Paradise Unhitched

Nine hundred miles down and more than 2100 to go on one leg of my trip.  Wow!  This was going to be a long day of travel to Lima, Peru.  I’d already watched one less-than-stellar movie,  I really had no interest in another.  I felt like a kid.  “How much longer?  Are we there yet?”  I stretched my legs and pulled my backpack out from the overhead compartment.  Some more reading would do.

As I was headed out the door to start my trip that morning at an unearthly hour, I saw the latest edition of Wyoming Wildlife sitting on the buffet table.  I grabbed it and put it in my back pack.  I’ve gotten the magazine for many years.  There was a short gap in the subscription, but then it started coming again in March 2010.  The label showed I had a two-year subscription.  I hadn’t asked for it.  I hadn’t paid for it.  I didn’t want it.

I find it hard to describe the feelings I’ve had over the past 15 months every time the magazine arrived in the mail.  At first I wanted to throw it away.  It was taunting me, laughing in my face, louder with each edition.  I was angry at it.  Angry at the reminder of the life that had been stolen from me.  But the magazine is a high quality publication of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.  I couldn’t bring myself to just pitch the collection.  They sat untouched and unread.  At one point I decided to give the subscription away, but I could never bring myself to write the letter or make the call to change the delivery address.  The magazine kept coming.

So I found myself reading through the latest edition with moist eyes, studying the vibrant pictures of familiar lands and animals I have dearly loved, scouring over the names of authors and photographers in search of someone I might know.  And I read a passage that struck a chord. “We have a tendency to see the past through rose-colored glasses.  At some point the good in the “good old days” comes unhitched from the bad, and the folks who lived through those days come to regard them as a paradise that generally has little to do with historical fact.” (Chris Madson, ‘A Message from our Mule Deer’, Wyoming Wildlife June 2011).

I suppose Chris is right.  But maybe, for now, that’s ok.

Moving Forward in the Rear-View Mirror

My children and I took great strides forward this past weekend by going back.  We put some miles on the car and went back to the land we’ve loved.

The conversations often started with “Remember when…” The winning question was probably, “Remember when I thought the pellets to feed the trout were actually a snack?”

Yep!  I remember that!  Didn’t taste very good, did they?”

We drove over the roads we’ve been on so many times before.  We went to The Rise and fed the trout again.  We stopped at The Sinks where the river disappears into a cave and marveled again at the wonder of it all.  We went further on up the windy road to the small campground – the one that’s always accessible – the one that we would frequent early and late in the season and sometimes in the winter.  We parked in the lot with the same big pot-holes.  We walked on the same bridge with wood slats over the dashing river, swollen with snow run-off.  And we found “our spot”.  The fire pit is still there.  The picnic table is still there. But some things have changed. A couple of trees have been cut down.  There are some other trees that have suffered from the beetles and need to be cut down also.  It looks a little barren. And my daughter was sure something else had changed.

“Is that the rock I’m laying on in that picture I have?” she asked, pointing to a boulder.

“Yep!”

“It can’t be.  Someone must have changed it.  That rock is small.”

“It’s the same rock.  You, my dear, are big.”   Her perspective was different due to about 10 inches of growth since she’d last visited.

The Shrinking Rock

We gathered dry pine needles and small branches, built a fire and made lunch.  After putting the fire out, we headed off to find more familiar sites.  I drove the loop road so the kids could see the switchbacks of the trail to Shoshone Lake.  We didn’t go on the trail.  I didn’t have the right clearance.  It’s public access, so I didn’t need permission from the land owner.  I wasn’t missing that kind of clearance.   There isn’t enough height between the bottom of my car and the top of the rocks.  That’s the clearance I needed.  I didn’t have it.  My car probably couldn’t have even made it up the road to the area where most people park their SUV’s and get out and walk.  We never parked there when we went in years past.  No, we used to continue driving the trail.

The first time we drove the trail our son was an infant.  I held him tightly, wrapped in a large pillow rather than put him in his car seat, trying to avoid shaken-baby syndrome from the jolting as the Cruiser worked its way over the rocks.  We didn’t have power steering yet.  I was sure Jeff was going to break a finger as the wheel spun around wildly after descending off of each rock.  He hadn’t done much with the suspension.  The vehicle was struggling to make it up the rock chute where the “trail” went.  There were various and sundry car parts, mostly consisting of axle pieces, strewn to the side of the trail.  That’s never a good sign.  I got out several times to “take pictures”.  That was code for “I’m scared to death and am going to walk over this part.  You go right ahead and kill yourself to prove you’re a man, if you really must.”  Not  many pictures were actually taken since my arms were full with an infant and toddler.

We didn’t get all the way to the top the first time we tried.  There was an unidentified fluid dripping from the Cruiser when we got about 3/4 of the way up the trail.  I volunteered to stay with the wounded comrade – along with my children, sister-in-law and infant niece – while the men-folk continued on their quest in the other vehicle.

The next time we took that trail the kids were older and the Cruiser had power steering, a lift kit and bigger tires.  When we got to the top of the mountain I asked Jeff where the section of the trail had gone that was so scary the first time around.  His smile couldn’t have gotten bigger.  “See!  I told you putting that stuff on here would make a world of difference!  Huh?  Yeah?!  I know what I’m talkin’ about!”  It was an I’m-the-man! kind of moment for him.

Looking at Jeff’s old ’67 FJ45 from the driver’s seat of the new owner’s ’53 Willy’s

As the mountains grew fainter in my rear-view mirror this trip, I was confident I’d see them again.  I’m sure of it.  There will be more mountains in my life.  If not literal ones, there will be figurative ones.  I am a human living on planet earth.  Mountains are certain to be ahead.  As I climb the trail, I pray that the growth of my past will change my perspective and cause the mountains to look smaller.  And I pray that I will be better equipped so the way is less frightening and the trail easier to complete.

“We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.” —E. G. White, Life Sketches, p. 196.

IH8Mud

If you are a Cruiser fan, you may also enjoy Moving Forward in the Rear-View Mirror.

“I am a Cruiser widow” my post began.  I joined IH8Mud.com looking for information.  It’s a website dedicated to the exchange of information for Toyota die-hards.  My husband had been a member for years and spent hours during the cold winter months scouring the site to gather more knowledge from those in-the-know.  He did his research before embarking on any project with the Cruiser.  I was certain I could find some answers there.  What had he been doing out in the shop with his “baby” while I cared for our babies in the house?  I wasn’t sure.  But I was pretty sure somebody on IH8Mud could probably help me.  Not only was I right, but I got much more than I could have ever imagined. The members describe themselves as a “close-knit” group and an on-line “community”.  That they are.  They are many in number and varied in background but come together with a singular purpose- to share their love of Toyotas.  The support and exchange of information that I gathered there resulted in my having a few visitors on Sunday; one, a pilot from CO who is a “forum lifer” and has completed several Cruiser projects of his own; another, also a forum subscriber who turned out to be a neighbor a few blocks from me who is good with pictures, computers, and knows a few other Cruiser guys in the area; and a third, my neighbor’s friend who is a car enthusiast and came along for the ride. “Wow!  He bought genuine Toyota bolts!”   “The frame on this thing is in incredible condition!”  “Ohhh….a complete set of door seals.”  And the exclamations went on and on.  “If a vehicle just looks fancied-up on the outside, it needs to be sold on eBay.  If it’s mechanically sound and a solid vehicle in the guts of it, list it on IH8Mud.  I can tell he took meticulous care of it.  He did it the right way.  He got it the way it should be on the inside before worrying about the outside.   The bonus with this one is that he already did all the research and gathered the parts needed to also make it fancied-up.  Somebody just needs to finish putting it all together.  This is as close to a “barn-find” as one can get these days.  Wow!  This one definitely needs to sell on IH8Mud.”

As I listened to the admiration the “gear heads” had for his work, I felt a renewed appreciation of my husband and his skills.  He was self-taught.  He sand-blasted, welded, patched and painted.  He rebuilt engines and axles.  He got us home over a mountain pass pulling our Scamp, floating the gears in the FJ40 after the clutch broke at the start of a weekend excursion.  While replacing the broken clutch piece he also replaced all the hoses that were accessible while doing the job – just because.  He designed and obtained the parts for a tail gate and swing-away tire/ cooler carrier which his welder friend fabricated.  He was careful and precise.  If he was going to do something, he was going to do it right.  He invested in quality.  He was more concerned with the inside workings of a thing than the outside beauty of it.  That’s a commendable quality in a man.

A couple of the forum subscribers took the effort to search for Jeff’s username on IH8Mud so they could see what he had been chatting about and maybe help me out by that means.  I had tried several variations that I thought might be his name but with no luck.  Someone else found it for me.  And so I got to read all of his 46 comments.  There weren’t any posts about his latest accomplishments or pictures of the fine work he’d done.  I saw our Scamp listed for sale.  It sold in September 2007- one more thing God took care of before we knew we needed it.  I saw him looking for front mud flaps for the Lexus which explains why I don’t have running boards on it.  I saw him posting problems and asking for solutions.  And, surprisingly, I saw him write on the forum encouraging someone he had never met to seek to know the God of heaven who loves him so much that He offers eternal life to all those who believe in Him.  And my heart was moved.  Jeff lived his personal life the same way he worked on his car.  He was quiet about his walk with God.  It wasn’t all “fancied-up” on the outside.  He had been doing his homework and getting the “parts together” for years.  The changes in his life were occurring in the “guts of it” – not always obvious to the outsider, or, even the insider.

Another blessing from the weekend came as a totally unexpected surprise.  Now follow this one closely because it is so hard to believe.  The forum subscriber, who turned out to be my neighbor a few blocks away, stopped by the car enthusiast’s house to pick him up before coming to look at the vehicle at my house.  His friend’s wife was also on her way out the door, headed to a graduation party.  She pulled out of the drive first.  Imagine their surprise when the forum subscriber proceeded to follow her as they both headed to their separate destinations.  The graduation party the car enthusiast’s wife was attending was at my next door neighbor’s house.  She’s good friends with my neighbor.  After spending time at the party, she came over to my driveway where the “pit crew” was gathered.  She wanted to introduce herself.  Totally unbeknown to me, at the request of my next door neighbor she’s been faithfully praying for me for the past 1 1/2 years.

God is good… and faithful… all the time.  Who would have thought I would be reminded of that through a website called IH8Mud.com?

Happy Holidays

Holidays.  They are different after.  They are different now that our family is shorted one member as a result of death.  But what happened with Mother’s Day?  Why should that be different?  I still have my two kids and I still have my mother.  Nothing about the mother status should have changed with me.

Last year I felt bad for my mother-in-law.  Jeff was a very good son.  He was a dedicated son.  He never let a holiday pass without giving special honor to his mother.  The first holiday after his death was Mother’s Day.  And on her special day – the one just for moms – he was not there.  I went to see her.  We hugged and cried.  I know it was hard for her.

Today in church I had an “ah-ha” moment.  I am a mother only because the “two became one”.  I am a mother only because there was another.  My kids are still here.  But the parts that made the whole are partly missing.  This year I’ll still feel bad for my mother-in-law.  But I’m going to let myself feel bad for me, too.  We all lost a piece of who we are.