It’s late, really late. I hesitate to look at the time. I’m tired but I can’t sleep. Different sounds and shadows of trees on my new bedroom wall are just a couple of things among many that keep me from sleeping. Also, and mostly, thoughts of my mom have come on strong.
I keep putting this off – writing that is. I procrastinate, but tonight feels right to get started. I check Facebook…Instagram…email…Facebook again. Then, all of a sudden, here I am. Almost instantly, I feel like a caged bird set free. My soaring skills are a little rusty but the joy of writing feels just the same. It feels like home to me.
If you are (were) a regular reader of my blog, ALS With Courage, you will have noticed it’s been a while since I posted my last piece… just over a year actually. It doesn’t mean I haven’t written anything. My list of writing projects of the past twelve months, include: a couple of letters to the local newspaper editor, my mom’s obituary and eulogy, a few emails I carefully composed and most recently, wedding vows.
In my last blog post, Shades of Yellow, from June 2016, I mention that perhaps instead of writing about my life and sharing it on the internet, I would just live it. I knew in my heart, that after almost five years of blogging, I needed to take a step back. Today, I take a step forward. Today I pick up the proverbial pen again and let the words out.
Speaking of stepping forward, I got married last month. I tried to keep the fact that I was seeing someone, and then engaged, quiet. I wasn’t shouting the news from any mountain tops like some excited brides-to-be understandably do. I was quietly telling close friends when I saw them. The reason I was keeping things under wraps is because not everyone in my life was ready for it. Me moving forward was ok, but giant leaps like this one were a little hard to take. I tried to keep the cat in the bag on my Facebook page, but the cat was let out of the bag shortly before the big day and then pictures of us, the bride and groom, were shared and the “cat” had long ran away. It actually brought me some relief. I had to just let it be, after all this is my new reality.
I agree it happened really fast. I wasn’t looking for love, but it found me. I’ll share how that happened shortly but what I wondered is how I could love another so quickly when my heart still ached for Mike. How could I “move on” with another man when I was still grieving the loss of the love of my life?
Grief is a funny thing, not funny haha but funny in how it’s hard to define, mysterious kind of, not concrete. It can be extremely complicated and just so simple sometimes. It’s different for every person. It comes in all shapes and sizes and is not constrained to any timelines. After a while it lightens up but unexpectedly becomes heavy again. You can stuff it down, hide it away, lock it up and throw away the key, but like Houdini it eventually has to breath and it has a magic way with locks and things. It can be sharp like broken glass and prickly like a cactus and sometimes soft like the pillow where you lay your head and bawl your eyes out on. It can be the ugliest monster you’ve ever seen but ultimately pretty, exceptionally beautiful actually… that’s if and when you receive the healing it’s meant to bring.
I sure have learned a lot about it over the last few years. It’s been a journey of grieving since I first heard the word “ALS”. Some might think because I got married again, that I’ve finished grieving Mike’s death and ALS, but that’s not true. In fact, since meeting Chris, my new husband, I’ve grieved deeply. We both have, and I think we both have received a lot of healing in grieving together. I touch on it in my wedding vows. Part of my vows go like this:
“Chris, You know I have struggled with the timing of us. But I needed to trust God…and of course, I couldn’t fight the love. Something special happened the moment I first heard your voice and in an instant, you were my friend and by the end of the conversation I was smitten. The love grew in leaps and bounds as I got to know you. I didn’t think I needed anyone, but God knows what we need better than we do. He provided someone to help bare the burden of my grief, except it wasn’t a burden for you, it was a blessing because you were grieving too. It’s been something extremely beautiful. His joy feels complete in me but continues to increase. He is just so faithful! He is a God of extravagant love and that love and all His glory is on display today as we come together as one. I look so forward to continuing this journey with you, with the Lord as our guide. And I will strive and rely on Him to help me be the wife He desires me to be for you.”
The healing process is a marvellous one but it doesn’t mean I’m over Mike. On the contrary, I miss him more than ever and he’s never felt more a part of me than he does right now.
The road of grieving for me has taken many twists and turns recently. My mom’s passing in November still leaves me and my sister speechless and in disbelief. Since she passed away, our poor dad has also lost a sister and a brother. We stick close and are there for each other but some days I struggle just to keep my own head above water.
Other friends have passed as well – a few with ALS, including our dear pal Randy (who I’ll have to tell you about another time) and Darryl who I’ve mentioned in my writing before. When it comes to ALS, I’ve said it a few times, I’m in it for life… in whatever capacity and for however long the Lord wants me to be. It’s heart breaking but hopefully soon, there will be a cure.
I’m thrilled to have my amazing partner Chris to continue this journey with. I recently told him while I was hugging him that sometimes when I’m hugging him, I’m actually holding on for dear life.
Here is part of our story. This is what we shared in our wedding brochure:
“To tell our story is to tell of Him…”
Chris – When my wife Heather, who was very ill with cancer, took her daily afternoon nap, I would go out to clear my head. One day while browsing aimlessly in the House of James book store in Abbotsford where we lived, I saw Nadine’s book. On a wall of about thirty books, her’s was the only one I could see. I was drawn to the picture of love on the cover and the title, ‘Hold On, Let Go’. It looked like a story that could help me. I put it down and thought I’d get it another time. When I went back the next day, it was sold out. I ordered a copy and when it arrived two weeks later, Heather’s health had declined further and I was afraid of what that book was going to tell me (that was in July 2015). The book sat on my table for three months. Heather passed away in August, we had her memorial service in September and in October I traveled to Ontario to visit relatives – I took the book to read. There were a lot of similarities in our stories and a lot of healing in Nadine’s writing for me. Five months later, I reached out to Nadine in a letter to thank her for sharing her and Michael’s story…
Nadine – It was about 9pm and I was curled up on my couch contemplating the speech I was giving at a conference the next day. I was a little overcome with some negative thoughts, like “Who would want to hear me speak anyway? This is a big mistake,” and so on. I was praying and battling those kinds of lies. Right when I needed it most, I received a Facebook message from a man I didn’t know. It was a beautiful letter. He explained who he was and told me about his wife and their journey with terminal cancer and how she passed away a few months after Mike. He told the story of how he found my book and how it ministered to him and how he wanted to meet me and thank me in person. Unfortunately, he was unable to attend the conference because he had to work, but he wished me well and said he’d be praying for me. His letter really encouraged me and the negative thoughts disappeared. The timing of Chris’ letter was absolutely perfect…
Chris – I wanted to hear Nadine’s speech so I asked her to speak at my church. We talked about it on the phone and agreed on a day a couple of months away. There was an instant connection when we spoke. I planned to go to another author event she was going to be at in White Rock, but couldn’t wait the few weeks to meet, so I took a chance and asked her out for coffee. She accepted and our “coffee” turned into a three and a half hour dinner date. At one point Nadine started professing her deep love for Jesus. I was speechless and a little in awe because shortly after Heather passed away, I started praying that when the time was right, and if there was ever going to be another woman in my life, the Lord would bring one with a huge heart for Jesus. I knew then that Nadine was the answer to my prayer and I started praying that her heart would be opened to me…
Nadine – I had some walls up for sure and I thought it was too soon, but the Lord’s timing is perfect and I quickly knew Chris was a gift from Him. March 4th (2016) was the day I received Chris’ letter. “March forth” is a message we have taken to heart. Even though we will never “move on” from Heather and Mike – they will always have a place in our hearts and in our lives – we keep “moving forward” in God’s plans as He directs and guides. We aren’t finished grieving and we may never be, but to grieve together is such a wonderful blessing. With indescribable joy, love and peace, we look forward to serving the Lord together and experiencing all He has in store for us as husband and wife.
We didn’t plan it but there we were, under a beautiful Cherry Blossom tree in the park where we had our wedding photos done. As our photographer, Warin (Warin Marie Photography) snapped pictures, a mysterious breeze swept in and gently blew the pinkish hued peddles off the tree – they just floated in the air all around us. I said to Chris, “You know Mike and I had a thing for Cherry Blossom trees, right?” With a big “Wow, this-is-kind-of-crazy” smile, he replied, “Yes, I do know that.” Later we agreed, it was like Mike showed up, or at least he was sending a message. I feel like the blossoms were his blessing. I just read this about the Cherry Blossom Tree, “In Japan, the cherry blossom represents the fragility and the beauty of life. It’s a reminder that life is almost overwhelmingly beautiful but that it is also tragically short. When the cherry blossom trees bloom for a short time each year in brilliant force, they serve as a visual reminder of how precious and how precarious life is.” Titled: ‘The Significance of the Cherry Blossom – From Beloved Tree to Cultural Icon’ From Huffpost by Homaro Cantu.
Under that tree, I felt like Mike was saying to me, “You are exactly where you are meant to be.” I felt absolutely surrounded by his love, Chris’ love and ultimately the extravagant, amazing love of our heavenly Father.
It’s funny because the original plan for the cover of my book, Hold On, Let Go – facing ALS with courage and hope’ was to be a picture of Cherry Blossoms – it was in the works. But through a series of events, a picture of me and Mike ended up on the cover which is what ultimately drew Chris to my book. Had the plan never changed, we never would have met.
“Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.” Romans 11:33,36
After working on this piece for over a week, I post it late on June 14th, Chris’ birthday. Happy Birthday Chris! I wish you a year filled with abundant joy, surpassing peace, and lots and lots of love and laughter! Thank you for embracing me and my love story. Thanks for being a listening ear, a shoulder for my tears and a pillar for me to lean on. Thanks for your patience, understanding, kindness and incredible love! You are a gift from above! God bless you!
Side note: I call our wedding day (May 6) the most beautiful Mayday since 1948 when my mom was May Queen of Port Coquitlam, BC. (Perhaps a future blog post title). After telling our friend Shayna, who offered to help plan and decorate for our wedding, that we promised my mom she’d be there (not knowing how little time she had left) Shayna added the most beautiful touches of my mom. And the ribbons on sticks that were waved by our guests and the ribbons in the tress were a magical touch indeed. A huge thank you to Shayna and her husband Roger for helping make our wedding incredible, wonderful and blessed beyond measure. And to everyone else who helped… Thank you!
In my last post, Shades of Yellow, Chris is the man I went on the coffee date with. Wow, what can happen in a year…
I dedicate this post to my mom, who loved without walls, fences, limits or conditions. Her love was like our Father’s love and I am forever grateful and inspired to love like that.