Category Archive: Friendship

ACCEPTING HELP FOLLOWING THE DEATH OF YOUR SPOUSE, Part I

The comfort of a friend

The comfort of a friend

Following my first husband’s death, I was physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. I slept about eleven hours a night, and 3 or 4 during the day. The strain of caregiving and watching Jerry decline, along with the grief of losing him, took all my strength. Family, friends, and our community of faith were particularly significant during this time.

Jerry and I were in Florida, waiting for and then trying to recover from a transplant for eight and a half months before his death. After my return to California alone, friends and family cleaned my yard, laid new sprinkler lines, and helped reorganize the kitchen. I learned to say ‘yes’ to their requests to help. If you are too numb to respond, ask a good friend to help identify areas where people can provide support, and let the friend field questions for you.

My sister-in-law and niece prepared two dozen individual meals and placed them in my freezer the day I returned home. The handwritten scripture taped to each container encouraged me each time I ate one of their delicious, love-filled dinners.

Lee, a close friend of Jerry’s, replaced my house locks, fixed my garage door, and sold Jerry’s gun collection for me. During those first months Lee called daily, then every other day, then weekly, to check on me. He listened when I needed to talk, and didn’t try to fix me when I cried. I often laughed at his sense of humor, which reminded me of my husband’s quick wit.

While it’s sometimes hard to accept these gifts, don’t deprive others of the opportunity to help in your time of need–as you would do for them were the situation reversed.

i-feel-nothingYou may feel like isolating yourself. However, it is good to be with people who know and love you, especially on holidays. A girlfriend spent the first anniversary of Jerry’s death with me. Another called to ensure I wasn’t alone on Memorial Day. Rely on those friends who let you cry, express discouragement or loneliness, or just sit numbly through time together, all without judgment.

I understand the most intense pain of grief usually lasts between 12-18 months. Although you sometimes feel you can’t breathe for the pain, it will lessen over time. You may not want it to decrease. I remember thinking my grief for Jerry was my only remaining tie to him and I didn’t want to let it go. But a time will come when you begin to release a little at a time so that you can move forward into a new  and dramatically changed life.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34:18 NLT

 


 

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Valentine’s Day – Every Day

Love God, Love Others

                  Love God, Love Others

As I drove the first half of our trip home at dusk on Friday, I took a peek around me. The car was filled with a loving quiet. My husband breathed deeply, asleep in the passenger seat. One furry bundle, Kelly, slept at his feet; while Paigey snored softly, curled in a ball in her carseat in the back. I felt complete, whole, satiated.

We’d driven four hours earlier this morning to visit Don’s brother, Wally, who has been in severe pain due to a break in his vertebrae. We didn’t want to overtire him, knowing he was weak. But that morning Don and I decided we needed to take the day and make a spontaneous trip.

At Palm Village, I took Kelly and Paige for a walk while Don went up to visit Wally. After our “rounds”, the girls and I were walking back toward the entrance when I saw someone wave. It was Wally’s son John. He and I sat on a bench outside in the sunshine, the girls at our feet, and enjoyed visiting until Don came outside and told me Wally was waiting for me.  I knocked on the door and entered.

“Hi brother.”

“Hi sister.”

His voice was weak. I didn’t stay long; it was evident Wally was ready to sleep. But before I left I leaned over to kiss his cheek. Wally placed his hand on my back and, weak as he was, pulled me close. “I’m so glad you and Don have each other because I know you really love each other and love God.” I treasure those precious words and Wally’s hug.

After picking up some Kentucky Fried Chicken we met John and his wife, Norma, at the Reedley Beach. We picnicked among lush green grass and weeds as we enjoyed our light meal and meaningful conversation, the girls exploring the nearby grounds.

So when we headed for home, we felt full – full of food, but especially full of love.  While we’ve commercialized Valentine’s Day, it is a celebration of love, which comes in many packages, colors, sizes. Perhaps it’s time spent with a single friend; a phone call to one’s parent or children; a child’s unexpected, whisper-soft kiss on our lips, or the unadulterated joy of a loved pet greeting us on return. Maybe it’s a romantic dinner for two, sweet sentiments in cards, or Sherri’s Berries delivered to the door.  It may be a thank you from someone whose journey you have made a little easier in some way. Whether you are blessed with a loving partner, as I am, or are single, parent- or childless, there are opportunities for both giving and receiving love all around us. I felt deep contentment that night, knowing Don and I had been right where God wanted us to be that day and that I had spent time with some of the people I love most.

“No matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love…
We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

…But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.”

(From the Apostle Paul’s great Love chapter, I Corinthians 13, THE MESSAGE)

I pray that your Valentine’s Day has been filled with meaningful love, and that love–God’s, family’s, friends’–will encourage and sustain you day by day.

 

TREASURES, REVEALED AND RENEWED

I had no trouble keeping awake. Between managing a business issue on my hands-free phone, having a long, lovely chat with Mom, and singing along with our choir’s Christmas CD, my “windshield time” (driving) flew by.

Arriving at the beach destination for our college buds reunion, four beautiful women who have meant a great deal to me in and since my college years at Fresno Pacific University greeted me.

The week before our girlfriends’ getaway, emails flew back and forth …morro rock

“Anyone bringing a swimsuit?”

“No way.”

“Hopefully we’ve become more accepting of ourselves than back when …”

“Can’t we be accepting and still clothed?”

We knew laughter would be on the agenda!

 

Jeannies wedding

Unpacking, storing the food we’d brought (enough for a small army, or at least for a week’s stay rather than three days!), we delighted in being together again. Four of us were bridesmaids in MarJean’s wedding to Conrad 46 years ago (left). While most of us have seen each other periodically over the intervening passage of time, we have not seen MarJean for about 43 years.  If you have reconnected with long-time friends, you will understand when I say we picked up where we left off, sharing laughter, tears, memories, and love. That night, over halibut and sweet potato fries, we remembered our college days:

 

  • The relationships that lasted, or didn’t;
  • Professors and dorm parents who challenged us, or didn’t;
  • Crazy things we did like falling asleep in the Fresno sun with baby oil as our tanning lotion, only to waken with second degree leg burns (that one was mine)
  • Opportunities to express our faith in a variety of ways; and
  • Our friendships, which held through the years despite our relocations across California and Alaska.

We include a missionary, two teachers, an office manager/bookkeeper, and a human resources manager. Between us we have nine children and 38 grand and step-grandchildren.

And we’ve all experienced challenges along the way. Part of life.Five on bench in cambria

But as He promised, God has been, and continues to be, with each of us throughout the E-ticket rides that embody our lives.

Friendships are a treasure; with long-term, infrequent contact, they may be hidden treasures, to be opened with joy at times of reunion. That’s how I felt this weekend. We ate, shared long conversations together, shopped, explored. No need for games or tv. There was too much life to catch up on.

I recently read that one who wants friendships must invest in them. We five took this time to invest in each other, to renew and deepen these precious friendships.  And what a treasure we uncovered.

“A friend loves at all times; and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17)

Who are your treasured friends? How do you invest in those relationships?

The Men in My (little girl’s) Life

My dear friend Karen O’Connor just wrote about the men who have stepped in to help her following the passing of her husband. (See http://www.karenoconnor.com/p-s-to-last-weeks-blog-on-pick-up-lines/).  That triggered thoughts about all the men who have helped me along my way, some throughout my life, some after my first husband passed away, some now (like my current wonderful hubby, Don). I’d like to give them a “shout out”.

Bob and Don cooking together

Bob and Don cooking together

Arnold and Melvyn enjoying a conversation

Arnold and Melvyn enjoying a conversation

Don – who loves and believes in me – always; and helps me in innumerable ways from loading the laundry to planning, and planting, a beautiful yard.

Arnold – my older brother who promised my first husband he (Arn) would take care of me if Jerry died. He did, and Arn kept his promise, along with the twinkle in his eye.

Bob – my younger brother who has given me wise feedback and practical help installing a sprinkler system when I was alone, and who sat with me in the urgent care center for several hours as we waited to learn if my wrist was broken after a fall.

Melvyn – my oldest brother who was always available for medical advice and information, and to talk with doctors as needed. For being a big brother I respect and count on to this day.

Dave – a dear friend who power washed our house in preparation for a big party.

Bob Noonan – who is willing to give and receive friendship following the death of his much-loved wife, and who always teaches us more about history and politics in our conversations.

Bob Moorhead, who leads our annual mission trips to Mexico, and has done so for over thirty years (long before we were involved).

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Josiah and Kyle helping Mom over some rough terrain

My local nephews Josiah, Drew and Kyle who have warned me of problems among renters, rebuilt a house wall that didn’t meet code, made me laugh, and treated my Mother with love and respect.

… and many more! I’m blessed, and thankful for each friend, male and female, in my life.

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

I Thessalonians 5:16-18

For whom are you thankful? Why?

 

 

 

Friendship – a Priceless Gift

“Carol, wake up,” Susan stepped into my room. “There’s water all over the floor.”

It was about 1:30 am in Mexico. I dragged myself out of bed and stepped out of the bedroom into … about half an inch of water all over the living and dining room floors. A storm gusted outside. Lightning brightened the sky as thunder competed with the sound of the pounding waves of the ocean surf. I was scheduled to sign closing papers later that day, and we feared if there was suddenly water destruction the buyers might pull out.

Joyce, Susan and me together in Puerto Vallarta about thirteen years ago.

Joyce, Susan and me together in Puerto Vallarta about thirteen years ago.

As we saw that the water was coming through the door to the rooftop, I called reception downstairs. “Agua, aqui” (Water, here!). He came right up, found that debris had filled the rain gutter on the roof thereby channeling the pummeling rain through the doorway and down into the condo. He cleared the gutter and water stopped raining indoors. Susan and I spent the rest of the night sweeping out water, then wiping down the floors with towels and washing laundry. And the close went off without a hitch later that morning.

I spent a few days last week with Susan and another dear friend. I’ve known Susan for about thirty-two years; Joyce, about twenty-three. We’ve traveled together, gone through my romances together (both my first and second husbands–my friends were both married when we met), shared our mutual love for Jesus and service to others. And we’ve laughed together … a lot.

Together, we reminisced about some of our favorite times together–exploring the streets and restaurants of Puerto Vallarta, lazing in the sun, shopping (ah yes, girls’ shopping times – great!). We’ve spent time in each other’s homes over the years and enjoyed couple friendships together with our husbands.

Since our first vacation together with our husbands in Puerto Vallarta each of us, in addition to my current husband, Don, has lost a spouse. We’ve walked through both joys and sorrows together. Proverbs 17:17, NIV, says “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”

On our porch last week.

On our porch last week.

I have other long-time friends as well. What a gift to have people in my life whom I trust to encourage, uplift, challenge, and stick with me, even when I’m not very lovable. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” (Proverbs 27:6) Both Joyce and Susan have been instrumental at key times in my life, sharing their discerning, God-given wisdom with me. I hope I’ve done the same with them.

Who are the friends you trust and rely on? What character qualities make them valuable to you? What qualities do you want to exhibit as their friend?