Sunday, August 20, 2017

#47, August 20, 2015, Leveling Off

This is the next in the series of transcriptions from my journal, written during the last year of Dave's life:

Somehow, things have leveled off—it feels like we are on a plateau of sorts that is less vulnerable.

A new normal  revealed itself when I wanted to take Carol to Iowa to see her new granddaughter and Dave declared he didn’t need a babysitter. Indeed, he didn’t. I left him overnight and he was fine. More than that would not have been as fine, but he had food and didn’t have to do much. 

If he sleeps, he’s pretty OK. If he doesn’t sleep, he’s pretty rough and weak. And we’ve had a few cooler days when he’s slept. That is good.

So my leash is a bit longer that I thought it was and I’m using the extra length with a degree of comfort—on both our parts. And it’s funny that Dave’s ability to see me make good decisions without input from him has helped, too. Also good. 

I don’t know how long these times will last, but I’m grateful for them.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

#46, August 13, 2015, Which Greater Love?

 This is the next in the series of transcriptions from my journal, written during the last wonderful, sad year of Dave's life:

Where is the greater love? Is it in the flush of romance, when the beloved is beautiful and precious, ruddy and strong? When he reaches out for me with passion and burns to the touch? 

Or is it when every day is much like the one before, when the heaving landscape has smoothed into a plateau and no adventure promises? Weakness and kindness walk hand in hand in this place, and memory fills the territory anticipation once held. 

There is no answer to this. It just is, and I must be content. Otherwise, I will be condemned to ingratitude. 

No matter how I feel, God is here. He has laid down this path for me because He loves me. I must walk it because I love Him. 

I feel a fresh breeze.

Image: from our family album, taken circa 1979

Monday, August 7, 2017

#45, August 7, 2015, Releasing the Stranglehold

This is the next in the series of transcriptions from my journal written during that last wonderful sad year of Dave's life:

Something changed when I thought about yielding to God. Something let go. I don’t know what, but I’m not as tied up. 

First, it seems now like this season may be longer than I wanted or planned. I understand it is more out of my hands than I did before and the living I do in it is not so strangling. Sometimes, when Dave coughs those deep, wracking coughs or is so weary he can hardly walk, it’s easy to get annoyed or discouraged, but there are equal times of easier days.

Making decisions regarding what he wants for his future is going to be very helpful. He is deciding now, so I don’t have to. It sets me free, free enough that I have already decided, and continue to decide, what I am willing to do.

I think I have released at least a part of my stranglehold on our lives, and I can breathe a bit. So thankful for this respite, this time of greater ease.


Thursday, August 3, 2017

#44, August 3, 2015, What Would Happen?

This is the next in the series of transcriptions from my journal, written during that last, sad, wonderful year of Dave's life.

Thinking this morning about how desperately I’ve been trying to control what is happening around me, and how miserably I fail. 

Yesterday’s lesson in church was about how God is the Bread of Life. He provides constantly for me in real, palpable ways. He feeds me. He keeps me safe. He goes before me in trouble. But I don’t let Him.

What would happen if I finally yielded to God? I can hardly imagine.
I would say:
I am not responsible for Dave—his happiness, his health.
I cannot plan either for the rest of his life or my own after he goes.
I cannot rely on our savings for my financial well being.
I must spend more energy on responding to what is happening than planning for what may never happen.
I must be content with not knowing and learn to trust.

I don’t know any of these things.
I do not serve either God or Dave by doing. I serve them by believing and trusting.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

#43, August 2, 2015, The Problem of Unlearning

This is the next in the series of transcriptions from my journal, written during the wonderful sad last year of Dave's life.

Sometimes I just want to be done with this, but even as I think that, am not reconciled with what that means. 

Dave is not done, is not ready, and I can’t imagine what it must be like to be him. His life has wrung itself out more than mine, that’s true, but I don’t think he loves his life any less than I do.

Yesterday, he wanted to invite his cousin to come stay here overnight. I have never met this cousin and suddenly he feels this new attachment to him and a list of other cousins he’s never met. I told him that I didn’t feel up to it when in truth I just tired of all the fuss around entertaining strangers. Maybe I should be willing to give it a try, but I just don’t want to.

I can’t imagine a world, my world, without Dave in it. In fact, I can’t have one. Dave and I have been together 37 years and I think of how each thing I do every day will affect him. Everything. Every day. I will never shed that habit. Never. 

A widow, then, must be alone only in the physical sense—the old practical concerns no longer apply. But the thought processes—I will never have enough time to unlearn those.

Monday, July 31, 2017

#42, July 31, 2015, Alive

This is the next in the series of transcriptions from my journal, written during the wonderful sad last year of Dave's life.

Woke up at 3:30 and couldn’t go back to sleep. 

I feel all my bones and the muscles attached to them, my flesh working still, almost strong. I feel all the hungers still and the pleasure of their satisfaction. 

A time will come when there’s no more room for hungers—I know that from being sick even that short time—when pain and trouble of body take up all the room living gives them. But that time is not now. Not for me. Not yet.

Dave is well on his way there—he’s good at not pining over what he does not have, but I remember what he has done for me.

I remember with gratitude that he has let me use him for more than 30 years as a substitute for loving. He let me stir up his intensity and use it as a launching pad for my own until now even the memory---the senses of it, all its touch and smell and taste—is enough to touch off my own.

I am still living even as he is learning how to die.

A breeze stirs the curtains this early morning. I hear a dove. The air brings a slight chill.
I feel alive.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

#41, July 30, 2015, The Beat of his Heart

This is the next in the series of transcriptions from my journal, written during the sad, wonderful, las year of Dave's life. 

And I thought yesterday’s doc appointment would be routine.
Though Dave’s kidney function and indeed every other so far measured system seems stable, he continues to fail. He lost another five pounds and is weaker than before. This doc suggested some kind of heart pump weakness—his heart, which every other doc said worked strong still—and his EKG’s show that. But it turns out that a heart’s electrical beat doesn’t measure its ability to pump, or the efficiency of its valves, or a possible blockage of artery. And it would make sense of his shifting blood pressures and his general weakness.

But to think that his heart, that obedient and faithful muscle, would just slow and tire, then finally just stop—I can’t imagine such a betrayal. I hear it like a dirge just running out of strength and quitting.

Everything in me screams, NO.


Friday, July 28, 2017

#40, July 28, 2015, Slow Leak

This is the next in the series of transcription from my journal, written during the wonderful, sad, last year of Dave's life.

I feel myself getting bitter sometimes, a bitterness that steps into the place of disappointed love, of life that has failed. It is the weight of what has passed me by, the pressure of the dissatisfaction that remains the stark necessity of breaths I take in the absence of hope.

I don’t see the purpose in these days. I have to rest to get better and Dave presses me relentlessly to sit down but for all those moments of rest, my life leaks out slowly and without remarking. 

I rail not against the night, but against a porous fog that absorbs all moments and returns no feeling, allows neither elation nor despair. I have no patience for this. I do not aim to. 

So little life remains and I am forced to spend what there is like this.

Image: St. Paul Faucet Repair

Thursday, July 27, 2017

#39, July 27, 2015 So Big

This is the next in the series of transcriptions from my journal, written during the wonderful, sad, last year of Dave's life.
I am starting to understand that most people don’t care about the same things I do. 

I want to know reasons for things—why life rolls out the way it does. I want to recognize and understand whatever firm ground life can offer. But a lot of people, most people, are satisfied by coping with whatever circumstances come and to wreak out some enjoyment from them. 

Enjoyment is not enough for me. I want understanding and realization of beauty, and the touch of joy. I want to exult, knowing that the exultation comes from God. Life, as good as it is, is not enough. I don’t want just to have it. I want to participate in its glory. 

And I’m convinced that’s possible. There have been too many times where the glory’s been close, so close and I could just fall into it.

This is the way I love God. You, Oh Lord, are the only unfailing connection to glory.

I went outside yesterday and felt the close rays of summer heat. I breathed in and felt the sun come in, like sliding into a bath surrounded by the smell and sight of flowers. Lush.

I am always comfortable in the house now—it is always 72 degrees because otherwise Dave can’t breathe. And I’m glad for it. I rest and sleep easily. 

But life waits beyond the windows—the feel of sun on my back and on my face when I look up. 

Dave doesn’t like open expanses. He wants to be surrounded by trees. Give me wind and sun and the feel of wide oceans. Let me see the horizon from edge to edge uninterrupted. 

So Big.

Image: Shutterstock

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

#38, July 25, 2015, Quicksand

This is the next in a series of transcripts from my journal, written during the last year of Dave's life.

 So, on top of all of this, I get sick, too. Whatever reserves Dave had, he has used them in taking me to the hospital in the middle of the night and sitting with me there. And I have Lyme’s, an illness of lingering pain and confinement. 

People came to care for us for awhile. I can’t drive. I improve slowly. He improves hardly at all. 

I am more than marginalized. I feel forgotten. I do not function except at a very low level. My spirit is deflated. I feel frustrated at every turn. I don’t want too many people around, but feel abandoned when they are not. Almost nothing gets done. 

This is the oddest desert that has ever swallowed me. It is quicksand. My strength has fled.

Image: BuzzFeed

Thursday, July 20, 2017

#34, July 8, 2015, From Whence Strength Comes

This is another transcription from the journal I kept during that last sad, wonderful year of Dave's life. It got lost in the order, however, the situation and feelings it describes still fit.

Today’s canticle: “It is not by strength that one prevails.” That is surely true of these times.

I watch Dave sinking every day, getting weaker and more tired, the light slowly draining from him and I feel like someone is scooping out my innards with a spoon. I can’t imagine a world without him in it.

I don’t even know why I’m crying. Feeling sorry for myself, for all we planned and will not have, for his pain and bone weariness.

He was so tired yesterday. Took him for a ride, but had little pleasure in it.

It feels like this will be his last summer, the last times he will feel a warm breeze or see green hills. I want to fill him up with it, but some days he just can’t.

And there is nothing to do for it. My own body does not betray me as it does him and I am thankful for that—I can walk through all the days and get everything done but it’s not a physical strength that makes it possible. It’s something else—the life force I still don’t understand—it’s a river of the Lord that runs through bearing me up with it, carrying me along without ability or consent. It takes me unwillingly where I must go. I move my arms and legs. I gasp and shout, but the impetus comes from without. I am surviving but do not like this one bit.


Friday, July 14, 2017

#37, July 14, 2015, Another Respite

This is the next in a series of transcripts from my journal, written during the last year of Dave's life.
What kind of respite is this?
Is it a time like the last one, in which Dave showed signs of life and hope, only to collapse into months of weakness? It seems so. But even if it is only a breath of relief for us both, it is still that. Breath. And we are enjoying it. Rides that bring real enjoyment of the beauty of this verdant world along with the spirit of adventure that has so marked our lives together.

And today he has planned another—an actual day trip I did not think we would ever do again.

The canticles I read every morning provide melodic backdrop to all of this, too. Related experiences full of love and fear and rescue and faith. Reminders of God’s constant awareness and over-arching care. Whatever happens, I do not need to fear.

Image: Pixabay

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

#36, July 12, 2015, Finding the Plateau

This is the next in a series of transcripts from my journal, written during the last year of Dave's life.

May and June flew by, but this month dallies. Last week and this coming week are stunningly free on engagements and I revel in them.

Last week, Dave was almost sullen—weak and tired and without smiles. Then on Friday, after the rehab gals sent him to the ER again, he perked up. Something stabilized, even before they did anything or gave him the fluids they eventually gave him. After we left the ER, we went shopping at the co-op and to a fish fry in which he ate all of his and some of mine. He was good, very good, and remains so through Saturday and into today.

And what do I do? I keep wondering whether these are his last good days. There is no relaxing into them. It feels like a long, slow descent punctuated by the occasional sunny plateau that provides a bit of rest. I am doing this very badly, but I don’t know what else to do.

Live each day? I live, but am still not loving except with whatever steadfast care I can bring. This is the most confusing season.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

#35, July 9, 2015, All Tied Up

This is the next in a series of transcripts from my journal, written during the last year of Dave's life.

 I am tied to Dave’s health condition and attitude on any given day and don’t know how to get untied without loving less at the same time. I want to love him and empathize, but don’t know how to do it without sinking down with him on the days he feels so sick and discouraged. 

His illness is not a straight line. Some days, he smiles even in weakness and some he can barely raise his eyes above the rim of his dizziness and weakness. I can’t make any of it go away. I can’t protect him. I can, however, walk with him, witness to his weariness and discomfort. I can show him that I will be here no matter what even when we are both afraid.

So, yesterday, when Knute came over and asked me how Dave was doing, I just cried. He, Dave, was so discouraged, so weak and tired of being sick. Then later, he took a nap, went to rehab, and was better. That’s when I got it. The minute he felt better, I did too.

That’s OK up to a point, but doesn’t include much trust in God. Somehow, it has to be possible to enter completely in while still trusting that God will be holding me. And He will. I know it. This is way past any of my own ability to lift myself out of it. I have to enter in, resting in God, and let Him hold me up.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

#33, July 6, 2015, Pain

This is the next in a series of transcripts from my journal, written during the last year of Dave's life.

 If I allow myself to love, I am without defense. 

If I allow myself to love, I will be undone. 

I will faint and wail and know pain to my very core. I am starting to feel it already, in moments like hot lightening, like cruel killing explosions that blot out everything else but blinding pain. 

If I let myself love, I feel like I will not survive this.

Image: SCI Total Fitness

Monday, July 3, 2017

#32, July 3, 2105, Smelling Breakfast

Sitting in bed thinking about what it was like at Kathy's to smell breakfast cooking before I got up—the luxury of someone else doing something warm and delicious while I lay in, snug and still. I never thought that there would ever come a place when I would yearn for that—someone to take care of me in that distant intimacy. Now, if it comes ever again, it will undoubtedly be in some nursing home where I’ll have to share a room with another old lady, undoubtedly someone who snores and farts like an old dog. I like this better, I think.

Today is full of have-tos: cats, breakfast for Dave, Knute, and Bryan (my fault—it’s the only thing I know how to do and Bryan asked for biscuits and gravy), Dave to PT, some kind of supper. As easy as these are, I am not mustering any want-tos.

Instead, these days are perfect—sunny and 70’s. I want to be in this day. Maybe I’ll pick some of the easy blackcaps and make something sweet with them.

Trying to reach for something I want to, not what I have to, and can’t quite get my hand around it. But then, Dave must be sick, Bryan must be alone, Jean must drive to see us, Audrey must wake up without John again. The musts form life, I guess. The wants are only frosting. They’ll make me sick if I have too much.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

#31, June 30, 2015, The Breathing

The last day of June. Cool nights, warm days. Gentle. Beautiful.

Just spent a couple of days at Kathy’s in Milwaukee and on the first morning, fell on my knees in gratitude without completely knowing why. But it had something to do with the lifting of illness and of worry and of responsibility while knowing Dave was safe. And as I lay in bed yesterday, listening to him cough—he coughs so much now—I think about how he gets no break from it. I have the physical care of him, but he has the disease. He never gets to take a free, unburdened breath.

This is what I want—to find the beauty among all of this—the promise and the poem. It has to be here somewhere. Breath is not life, but in the breathing, in the beating of our hearts, life rises.

Image: from Motor Impairment

Sunday, June 25, 2017

#30, June 25, 2015, Where to Stand

For my own sanity, I have to admit that I am suffering—and not able to appreciate every day the privilege of caring for Dave. There is frustration, too—the disappointment of lost abilities and canceled plans, the contradiction of how he looks and sounds with what he says, the weariness of all that needs to be done.

I am almost always tired. I would like to say that it is not the sacrifice that wearies me, but sometimes it is. Bryan is coming home this weekend so I can go to Milwaukee and that much is good, but there is anxiety in being away, too. 

I want it to be over.
I want him back healthy.
I will not get what I want.

So what is the purpose of this place? I am in school—God’s school. I am learning empathy, obedience, patience, unselfishness. I am learning to seek pleasure in and hope for what is promised rather than what is happening. This is my training. This is my war. I did not earn it, but it is given me for my betterment by God. If I am to succeed, I must find firm purchase in Him alone.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

#29, June 22, 2015, Aiming to Soar

Second day of summer. Dreamed about getting a job in the courthouse, woke with the excitement of it. But that, of course, is not possible.

Read about the holiness of subjecting ourselves to one another—how God is both training and restraining me.

Dave dreams almost every night and likes to go for drives to look at the lush countryside. It is life for him. The green hills fill him with delight.

Maybe I will start to take him to rehab. It seems like he is getting weaker—eating less and losing vitality again. Like his body sinks. Would like to see his spirit, at least, soar. I wonder if I can help him?

Image: Chapman Cultural Center

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

#28, June 21, 2015, Not Amused

So here we are, at the longest days of the year, and I want to taste the loveliness of life, and lean into it, and be wrapped in it. Instead, I feel beset by trouble.

The whole cat thing still bothers me and I don’t know why. Then this weekend, Bryan came home to treat Dave to two things he wanted to do—a concert and a good French dinner—and Dave was too ill to do either of them. 

Feeling trapped by unchangeable circumstance. People crowd in and I’m feeling like I need to be alone. I’ve often said that to love God is to accept what comes my way as OK. Not doing so well at that just now. 

Oddly, I do best when nothing presses—no visitors, no holidays, no outside commitments. These days, even when they bring hardship, go more smoothly. They don’t ask more than I can give. Add one more thing, one more hard or unexpected need or requirement, and I am dismantled.

So am I reacting wrong in design or implementation? In implementation, without doubt. I don’t trust after all. Circumstances still drive me over the top, steal my peace. I feel undone.

Today is Sunday and as I read my Bible and pray it, as I study a book about monastic culture, I realize a couple of things. First, that monks made no apology for seeking eternal meanings in everything they did or read. I have been mocked for this, thought too high and mighty that I couldn’t or didn’t want to enjoy a large dose of simple entertainment. 

But, and the 2nd thing—I’m wondering whether my current unease results from reading a good but not eternally significant Stephen King book and, at the same time, passing odd chunks of time playing a computer game. This morning, as I settle into serious reading, the knot in my stomach loosens and rattled nerves soothe a bit. Maybe I am not made to be amused.

Image: PinCaption

Monday, June 19, 2017

#27, June 19, 2015, Another Dead Cat

This is the next in a series of transcripts from my journal, written during the last year of Dave's life.

I’m writing this as a matter of record because I haven’t yet worked it out—maybe I don’t want to.

 One of Dave’s cats took ill yesterday—panting and not coming upstairs. Weak looking. Reluctantly, I made an appointment at the vet, letting Dave go to PT by himself. I stopped at Robin’s on the way there and when I got to the vet, I let the cat out of its carrier and she seemed sick, but relatively normal. When the doctor walked into the room, however, the cat went stiff and stuck her tongue out, gasping. He doc applied the stethoscope. The cat was dead. Just like that. Without any preamble, right in the middle of its life, wanting to get on with other things. Alive one minute and dead the next. When I got home and buried her, I kept thinking it was a mistake. She was still warm. But her eyes, they were all cloudy.

So this is the way it goes, I keep thinking. I’d never see anything die before. It just—goes. And I wonder now, is this the way it’s going to be? Not with warning, but suddenly, with no goodbye? It could. It happened to Robin and Nick.

The odd part is all the life that surrounded it. Meeting Robin’s boyfriend and buying strawberries, talking to Bryan about today’s dinner plans. None of that changed.

The cat didn’t look dead, either, except for her eyes. And all I wanted to do was apologize for every casual brush-off I’d given her—only a cat—and one of the other 12 we still have—unwilling sharers of this life. Something I really didn’t want but didn’t want to die either.

So, I know this—I will still have massive regrets. There are no do-overs.
Oh, God, have mercy.
And He says, I AM.

Friday, June 16, 2017

#26, June 16, 2015, Harvest

This is the next in a series of transcripts from my journal, written during the last year of Dave's life.

Summer has settled in. Mowed the lawn in shorts and tank yesterday—can come outside in nearly nothing and feel warm full through, then today smart from a mild sunburn on my back. Yesterday, picked two bunches of lettuce, each as big as my head, way beyond anything I’ve ever grown before. Tasted them with fresh strawberries. Unbelievable. Should have picked only one lettuce, but had to feel the size of them, fill my arms with them, the wonder of finally growing something as rich as them.

Today it’s so humid that these pages feel thick, but the humidity brings a lushness. The day is just starting. The mockoranges bloom and share their sweetness. A breeze stirs the leaves. And this is life. A new day.

We tried an overnight in Decorah and I think that, for Dave, the experience was mixed. We met Knute and Nancy there—spent a wonderful evening, but the effort of sleeping away from home was exhausting for him. He was very quiet last night, inscrutable. We will see how he feels today.

For me, to be back at the Winneshiek Hotel felt like home. Not sure what that means, but I did so like to sink down in the tub. I may have had one glass of wine too many, and my stomach suffered, but other than that, for me it was near perfect and I knew it would be as we walked in. We got a room facing the beautiful main street, window open, curtains blowing in the wind.

This day I start at home but outside, having mowed and put everything outside in order yesterday so I can enjoy it without a feeling of necessity today. This is my life. Yes, I would change some things if I could, but you, Lord, have ordained it as it is, and it still bears some sweetness. I love you, sweet Lord. Thank you for these breaths.


Monday, June 12, 2017

#25, June 12/14, 2015, The Engineer

This is the next in a series of transcripts from my journal, written during the last year of Dave's life.

Yesterday, I was telling Robin that I was tired of this—of being nurse rather than wife, of being married at all. I do not want Dave to die, but this life, this marriage, is wan and pale in the face of his illness.

Then today, I read in LeClerq about monastic culture and the desire for God, and about suffering and its purpose—how sin and suffering, both physical and spiritual illness—bind us to earth. They draw us so that we can yearn for God. That is their purpose—to show us what we so desperately lack so that we can yearn for, reach for, what God supplies.

That’s what Acts 17 says. God engineers circumstance for the sole purpose of drawing us to Him. And Paul’s thorn in his flesh was God’s way of keeping him near.

We keep thinking that God wants us to be happy, but what He really wants is for us to be happy with Him. He will ruin all other happiness.

LeClerq confirms that there are 3 levels of approaching God, all useful in their place.
1. Reading about Him, about holy living. Talking about it and trying to behave like the holy men and women we admire.
2. Reading the Bible carefully and actively. Learning exactly what Jesus and what God did, incorporating them into action.
3. Prayer that brings me before God, opening myself to His direct touch, letting go of humanity in preference to Him and His word, work, and intention.

It is this last that I have done very little, but I have to remember all the richness I have known in the times I have yielded to it.

I think about how I have lost the habit of yearning for God and begun yearning instead for life. No wonder I feel frustrated sometimes. I already have as much of life as is permitted me. God, however, and the perfection of His heaven, that I can reach for. It has no bottom.

Image from: I Waste So Much Time

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

#24, June 6, 2015, Single Thread

This is the next in the series of transcriptions from my journal, written during the last year of Dave's life.
The yard is lush and green. I harvested spinach yesterday and planted more. The sun is already halfway across the eastern sky at 7:30 in the morning. And I’m still fighting my life, battling for something not given right now. It’s no use trying to chisel out some normalcy. I have to decide—have to dive into what I’m given.

There’s a sweetness I’m missing because I don’t want to give in to it. I’m looking for normalcy and don’t know what it is. It’s not anything I want. It’s not even what Dave wants.

All I know is that it’s Dave’s job to be sick and mine to care for him as well as I can. But even in that, we can carve out some joy together. I keep trying to get ready to be alone, keep rushing what will come after, but there’s no doing that.

I want to do what we can do now. I want to smile and laugh and love each other. We can still do that. There is summer left and on the days he can, we can take drives or breathe in some green somewhere. He would like that and so would I. And there is the pleasure of pleasing him.

One single thread of spider silk is hanging from the top of the arbor all the way to the arm of my chair. All I would have to do break it is to wave a careless arm and it would be gone. But it shines in the sun. I think I will leave it.

I need to stop running away from my life in the name of saving it. I need to demolish the compartments I have built and am encouraged to build for protection. I need to slide all the way in. Because God is good, there is something beautiful there. The moments of life escape so easily. Like this one.

image: Jack Woodville London

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

#22, May 30, 2015, Shedding

This is the next in the series of transcriptions from my journal, written during the last year of Dave's life.
A day full of awareness of the passage of time.
Attending Katie’s wedding—them so young and Dave in a walker.
Then Bryan brought a friend to buy the tractor and take it home with him and he brought his two children, ages 8 and 4, who called Dave “the old man” and me grandma.
Then Davie, Bryan’s oldest friend, posted a video taken at the race track on September 1, 1985, when we were all, those of us who are old now, the same ages as our children are today—in the primes of our lives and looking it, but having no awareness of being there. Just like our children do not have now.
I think I would give something to feel that strong blood moving again, but my soul is occupied these days with shedding a body no longer worthy of it, one that can no longer participate in that kind of glory.
But we had it, that glory. Full, ripe, and bursting with juice. Oh, we had it.


Sunday, May 28, 2017

#21, May 28, 2015, Peeling Apart

This is the next in a series of excerpts from my journal, written during the last year of Dave's life.

It’s 6:30AM and the sun is shining completely over the horizon and content with its temporary command of both horizons. 

I’ve been trying to think what’s different. Old people are fond of saying that they still feel young inside, like they were 20 still, and full of hope and as agile as if every possibility still offered itself. That’s true. I still think that if I tried hard enough, I could bench press 200 pounds again, or do an hour’s worth of vigorous aerobics, or make love all night, or fly. But I can’t. I can’t and am not used to the inability.

Soul and body are beginning to part. The body fails—not my flesh, but memory and quickness—but everything that matters remains the same. It’s supposed to. It has to. That’s the part meant to peel itself off eventually and return to eternity.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

#20, May 24, 2015, Striding

This is the next in a series of excerpts from my journal, written during the last year of Dave's life.

 I’m starting to get a sense of what’s different. It’s not just getting old and it’s not just tending to an ever-weakening Dave with all the accompanying sadness. It’s making decisions, taking independent-feeling steps that, for the first time, do not lead from one man to another, not even from one person to another. I am not striving, but striding. Not wanting to have, but wanting to be. I feel, at least today, strong and stable—less cowed, less cornered. I think I’m learning now, nearer the end of my life, how to live it.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

#23, June 5, 2015, Doing Nothing

This is the next in the series of transcriptions from my journal, written during the last year of Dave's life.
I took one of the cats to the vet the other day—his hair is falling out in great hunks leaving bald patches of pink skin. He both thyroid and kidney disease. The vet just shrugged her shoulders. The diseases exist in a kind of mutual stasis—treating one would accelerate the other. Do nothing, she said. There is no good way to prolong or ease his life now.
And I thought of Dave.


#19, May 18, 2015, How Great Thou Art

This is the next in a series of excerpts from my journal, written during the last year of Dave's life.

This is what’s bothering me—I am not happy and don’t know how to be. Dave is dying—I saw it yesterday when he wasn’t strong enough to make himself some toast—and I am bound to him as he does so. There’s nothing to be done about this other than to do it for however long it takes. Nothing in this is happy—not the doing of it and not what comes at the end.

But there is something else in the middle of it—something that does not die and can make me happy. I am alive—we are alive—in Christ. 

As I write this, I see the sun as it brings its first full glow above an expectant horizon. The day’s turning is constant. God still upholds the same world He created and saved. I have messed up everybody and everything, but God holds it all fast within the grasp of the only sure hand there is. 

This is more than Good News, more than a purely spiritual saving. This is the fiber of life. It is breathing. It is smiling and crying. It is holding and being held. It is the very assurance I’ve been waiting for so desperately. This is the declaration of and confidence, absolute confidence, in a love that won’t fall short. Not ever. 

It is terrible, you know. But it has to be that way, because it is the only love that fully acknowledges the horrible shortcomings of the beloved—me. The cross knows what I am and loves anyway, and in the only way possible. How can I not be happy knowing that? What danger can any part of this living throw up in the face of it? This is why I am safe in Christ. 

You, sweet God, have defeated not only death, but every danger that threatens my soul. My body is already breaking down, but You are holding me up. Every smile, every pure laugh I have ever known has been in expectation of this one—the only one not leaning on intelligence or strength or circumstances of any kind, but on the magnificence of creation itself, and the plan, and provision ordained for men and women before it ever came to be. 

And it is all because You are great beyond comprehension, able beyond understanding, and loving every single moment. 

I don’t deserve it, but You don’t care.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

#18, May 16, 2015, What’s Left

This is the next of a series of excerpts from my journal, written during the last year of Dave's life.

I’ve been so tired. It’s not like I’m so busy, though. I am, but it doesn’t seem like that’s the reason. I’m just tired—a bone weariness that’s deeper, almost oppressive. It has nothing to do with work or sleep.

I’m not depressed, but it’s hard to be happy. It is possible, however, to be satisfied, to be comforted. What’s missing is the ability to be carefree.

So God is denying me the assurance of warning. In its place, He is saying that He and only He will control this and I have to trust Him.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

#17, May 14, 2015, No Alarm

This is the next in a series of excerpts from my journal, written during the last year of Dave's life.

 I learned something yesterday—something in a new way, anyhow.

That dream—the one about God warning me when something is wrong with Dave—it meant nothing. 

Yesterday, while I was in Madison at the spa and shopping, Dave went PT and ended up in the ER, and I had no inkling that anything was wrong. Granted, he only needed fluids again, but he had to manage on his own while I was off having fun.

So I get powerful feelings when nothing is wrong and none at all when something is. So God gives me a thousand gifts, but not intuition. I can’t depend on feelings or inklings.

What do I do with that? I’m not sure. It feels, in my circumstances, like a handicap. What can I do? Accommodate. Guess. Assume I won’t know and try to arrange things to keep us all out of danger, keep us both safe. 

It turned out to be nothing and Dave was fine, or as fine as he gets these days, but still... What does love demand of me?


Thursday, May 11, 2017

#16, May 11, 2015, What I Fear

This is the next in a series of excerpts from my journal, written during the last year of Dave's life.

Reading today about peace and the impossibility of finding it here on earth—hunger, illness, sin—and the list of what plagues us is a lot longer. Dreamed last night about Harriet, Beth’s grandmother, and woke feeling like she had died. It feels like a test of whether God will give me a sense of fear when Dave is in danger.

What I’m looking for is someone I know will look out for me—rescue me when I can’t help myself. I can only do so much. I need to know God is there—know in a quantifiable way—need to see Him acting. Otherwise, I am truly alone. I am more afraid of this than anything else.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

#15, May 10, 2015, Underwater

This is the next in the series of excerpts from my journal, written during the last year of Dave's life:

 Mothers’ Day. 

I was reminded this week for the first time in a long time of all the pain this day used to cause. It’s still there if I reach for it. An echo of it hangs on, but time and grace have brought healing. 

Grace. What the woman at the wine walk called Beth and I. Beauty and Grace. I’ve never been paid a finer compliment by a stranger. 

These days are so beautiful—nights still cool, but I can leave the windows open. 

Dave struggles, though. When days either bring the rain or the promise of it, he breathes as though he’s underwater—heavy and labored. As a result, he’s always tired. I should have expected this, but didn’t. Summer will be hard for him. He’ll have to stay in air conditioning all the time. So grateful we have it.


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

#14, May 3, 2015, Open Windows

This is the next in a series of excerpts from my journal, written during the last year of Dave's life.

Slept late last night with open windows. This year’s first. Woke to a gentle breeze and birdsong. The chimes’ soft ringing. Have been waiting for this and it’s so beautiful
Dave is getting better, feeling a bit stronger. I don’t know how long it will last—it feels like a last gift and I’m going to try to enjoy it like one.

Went to the movies and early dinner with Bryan yesterday. Talking about short trips to Decorah and Davie’s. Also thinking that when the time comes, I will not be able to burn him, to cremate what is left of him. I just can’t.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

#13, April 29, 2015, Dangerous Voyage

This is the next in the series of excerpts from my journal, written during the last year of Dave's life.

Not sure what miracles look like, but when we went to the doc yesterday and he told us that Dave has either stabilized or improved in every measured medical value and that he looked and felt better, and that the palliative care doc is really close to telling him not to come back until he gets sicker, well, it feels like a miracle.

Then read Paul’s story in my Bible: “Sirs, I perceive that in this voyage will be hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives...” and then the angel tells him that no one will lose his life on this voyage, and they don’t. 

Is this the dangerous voyage that we survive?


Saturday, April 22, 2017

#12, April 22, 2015, Lesson from a Dead Cat

This is the next in a series of excerpts from my journal, written during the last year of Dave's life.

A ragged day yesterday.
Woke up at 4AM, and knew the cat was dead. Just knew. Buried him by 6, then got ready for the plumber by 8 to fix the water heater, then had to be off for the dentist by 12:30, with Dave weak and coughing all day. 

Glad he’s talking about getting a walker. He wants to live and I want him to. Silly how sorrow and loss and a dead cat of all things, to which I was only mildly connected, warned me about the depth of loss I would feel if I lost Dave. I see now that it will be awful and any attempted preparation will be useless. The only good use of my imagination now is not to try to get ready for what I think will happen.

I need to just live. Just live and praise God.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

#11, April 20, 2015, What is Lacking

This is the next in the series of excerpts from my journal, written during the last year of  Dave's life.

Our minister wasn’t in church yesterday and in his absence, a young parishioner took the pulpit and preached about the Holy Spirit—His power, His accessibility. He urged us to not only believe, but to actively seek Him, who is our way to supernatural power. Then our ad hoc preacher summoned everyone to pray for Dave, not knowing that the only way to physically heal him is supernatural—that docs have already done everything they can. 

It was then—when he made the call—that I realized my own error. I have not believed in the Spirit’s power. I have not thought to ask for God in this other than to deal gently with Dave's inevitable decline. Even now, I can say the words, but the expectation of healing is not there. Lack of faith? Lack of love? Both, I think. And they make a sham of my physical care of him.

image: Bird's Eye View

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

#10 April 18/19, 2015, A Balance

The following is next in a series of excerpts from my journal, written during the last year of Dave's life.
Reading Reynolds Price and wanting to write again. Must strike a balance between living life and writing about it, even in illness. He did it. If I want to, I can, too.

We had a visitor today, someone we rarely see, but who is needier even than we, and on a day Dave felt less than great. The friend intimated that he could tell how hard things are without me saying anything. How bad do I look, anyway? I finished reading A Whole New Life as he was walking up the driveway, thinking I felt pretty good. Don’t get that. And it doesn’t much matter. This is our life and I thank you for it, God.

Dreamed later about being hurt, about having to meet people in public who make me sad and awkward. Everybody asks me about how we’re doing and I’m still trying to figure out how to be honest and decent at the same time. 


Monday, April 17, 2017

#9, April 17, 2015, A World Singing

The following is the next in the series of excerpts from my journal, written during the last year of Dave's life. 

Just to write it makes me happy. Yesterday was sunny and 70 degrees and today will be just like it. Enough breeze to move the chimes to song and loud with birdsong.
I can breathe.

On days like this, I want to live forever—to feel a gentle sun and the breeze on winterweary skin. I forget we are immortal, that even now my body is wearing out, that I will have a new life in time, that a new earth and new heaven wait. But I can’t imagine it now.

And maybe I don’t need to. Not yet. 


Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Personal Easter

A pause in the series of excerpts from my journal. A reflection on what being alone has showed me about Easter.

So I look back now that Lent is over at  failure. No great surprise, since I expended only feeble effort. I did not fulfill the Lenten plans I made, plans formed for my own spiritual benefit as well as promises to pray for others. I was consistent neither in those things I planned to do, nor in those things I promised I would not do. I failed. Every one.

 But God, in His goodness, used even this. In my failure, I began--only began--to see that I can't do these things alone. I can't overcome sin without help from God, the only one who ever defeated it.

My desire and effort, though incomplete, can give me access to His sufficient strength but, like Paul or Peter or anyone else who has lead a godly life, I have to truly want to. That's the part that keeps escaping me. I have to be crucified, too, and it begins with wanting to.

I have to finally, finally give up. I have to admit to my weakness, guilt, and persistent error if I am to ever rise with Christ. 

I was baptized into death. Only Christ can raise me up. I have to yield completely to Him. I cannot raise myself. Ever. But Christ rises and can bring me with Him if I let Him.

So, I have to walk with Him into death--a death of everything I thought I wanted, a death of all my plans, a death of my own self-protection. I have to walk with Him into His plans, and a life with Him that He promises will be more than I could ever have dreamed.

Every time I step away from Him, even glance or have a momentary fleeting thought, I sin. I can't help it. This happens because I was made by Him to live with Him. If Easter means anything personal, if the struggles and confusion of this last year, the first of my widowhood, have done any good work, they serve to show me my weakness. They show me that I can't do anything eternal alone.

I have to leave behind all the pride and strength I've spent a lifetime building up. I have to leave it all and cry out for God's help because what I can do alone is of little consequence. I can make decisions. I can do work. I can organize, and gather, and build. But I can't settle my soul. I can't keep safe. I can't avoid sin. I need help, God's help, for these and like so many of us, I don't want to ask for it.

That is my crucifixion. To admit I need help and learn to ask for it.

Christ walked out of tomb on that dark night before the Easter dawn triumphant, and it's a fine thing to witness. But this year, that's not enough. I've been watching too long. This year, I want Him to take me with Him.

For your Maker is your husband; the Lord Almighty is His Name.--Isaiah 54:5