I’ve been calling it, ‘Mike’s Flight’, but the more I type, ’Journey of Love’ sounds right too. This one’s about naming a painting, remembering Mike and celebrating life and love in new and wonderful ways.
Leading up to the third anniversary of Mike’s passing, I decided I wanted to do something special to express my love, grief and gratitude. Also, with a new year here and the reality of turning fifty this year, I was thinking I should perhaps expand my horizons a little. One way to do both was to paint. I saw a paint night advertised at 4 Cats art studio here in Maple Ridge that caught my eye. It was on Friday, Jan 5 and it was a scene of trees, birds and a beautiful sky… it was perfect!
Mike has been gone for three years now and it’s like a fog recently lifted. I can see beyond my own two feet and the view is exquisite. I just feel so honoured and thankful to have known him, to have called him mine. The gratitude outweighs the grief now, although the grief still weighs a ton sometimes.
Grief has become very intriguing to me. I have found that it changes and weaves and winds in so many ways over time. In his book, ‘A Grief Observed’, C.S. Lewis describes it this way, “Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.” I call it a journey of grief. Also on a journey of love, I explore the great expanse of both. I’ve come to learn that grief is an expression of love; it’s simply a fact of love. In which case, the journey of grief and the journey of love is one.
As most of us know ALS can be horrible, but here’s one way God used it for good: it drove Mike’s and my love to heights and widths unmeasurable. I’d have to say our love became perfect. Not that humans can love perfectly, but God does and His love over took us. We clung to God and relied on Him exclusively. His love held us up! His love sustained us! His love wooed us and wowed us and the joy we found there couldn’t be compared to anything ALS could take from us or anything this world has to offer.
In ‘A Grief Observed’, Lewis compares the feeling of grief and loss to the feeling of being concussed. I actually had a concussion a few months ago. It was my first and hopefully my last. When I read Lewis’ analogy, I thought, “Good one.” He goes on to say, “There is sort of an invisible blanket between the world and me.” I can really relate! Recently though, a sort of blanket was lifted for me. Here’s what I mean…
A few weeks ago, my son Nathan invited me and Chris to a Saturday night church service where he drums sometimes. The music was awesome, and I’m not just saying that because I’m the drummer’s mom. It was so powerful! We really felt the heavy presence of God there. About four songs in, they played one of Mike’s and my favourite hymns – one we listened to several times during our last few days together called, ‘Lord I Need You’ by Matt Maher. As soon as it started, I closed my eyes and there I was beside Mike in that place of our final goodbye. I’ve stood there in my mind so many times over these three years, but this time was very different. I’ve only ever seen the room the way it was, the way I left it… the way I left him. This time, without even a pause, from the instant I closed my eyes it was like a thousand little lights burst from him in vibrant colours. Dancing, twirling swirling waves of brilliant energy moved toward the glow of the Lord at the end of the bed. Then came Mike. He leaped out of his body, feet first and joined the procession of light. As he pushed off the bed with one arm, and reached in the direction he was going with the other, I got a perfect view of his fresh new face and the look of pure JOY! I’ve imagined him moving from his body to the arms of Jesus before, but this was nothing I did. This vision was a gift!
What I said earlier, “A fog recently lifted,” I’m thinking now, maybe I’ve just climbed above it. Yes, I’m still forgetful, still pre-menopausal, still pretty easily distracted. I still feel lost without my mom and miss her something fierce… and so on. The glorious vision I shared with you was a wonderful surprise and my painting experience was really cool too, but what has brought me to this exquisite view is simply this: placing one foot in front of the other end keeping my eyes on my Saviour and Guide, Jesus Christ.
Mike and I would have been married for thirty years this June. I think that’s pretty amazing! Chris and I will be married for one year in May. I think that’s amazing too. Even though our love is young (meaning it hasn’t been that long), it’s so deep. We didn’t really need to test the waters or wade in. We were able to jump right into the deep end. We both knew true love when we saw it and weren’t going to let it drift by. It’s not always going to be smooth sailing of course but I’m overjoyed here in the deep end with Chris. Mike would be thrilled to know how loved and supported and cared for I am by him. I’d say “I feel lucky in love” if I believed in luck. Instead, let’s call it, incredibly blessed! Chris shows his love and support in so many wonderful ways. He probably has no idea how much even the littlest gestures, like encouraging me to paint a picture for Mike and helping me name it, mean to me.
This journey of love I’m on is awesome! The older I get, the more I reflect on the pursuit of God’s love for me since day one. His pursuing and wooing has been intense and the lid of the box I had His love in, has long blown off.
One more little story I want to share before I end in hopes to send you off feeling encouraged and really loved. I’ve been writing a speech for an upcoming woman’s event and before I started, I prayed a lot about it. I felt I had a choice to fall back on a speech that I know well or pray and wait and listen for something else. At the same time, I was contemplating the new year and the goals I set and some feelings of regret – like I’m falling short in many ways, especially as I stare fifty in the face and time keeps slipping through my hands. I prayed and prayed and one day, right there in the bathtub, when I said it again, “Lord, what do you want to say? What do you want to tell us?”
“Enjoy My Love!”
Then I heard it again with a comma,
“Enjoy, My Love.”
He calls you and me Love.
God’s beckoning love never ceases to amaze me!
“And I pray that you and all God’s holy people will have the power to understand the greatness of Christ’s love. I pray that you can understand how wide and how long and how high and how deep that love is.” Ephesians 3:18
I’ve done three paint nights since this first one (all three with my sister) and I think I’m hooked (we’re hooked). This first one, on the third anniversary of Mike’s passing, was all about him. My sister Elanna, Chris’ sister Kelly and I enjoyed our time together painting, but I was focused and I really wanted to do my best for Mike. I was serious. We stapled our canvas to the wall and I wanted to know where the artist was situated so I could see well. One of the ladies there said something about relaxing and later made another comment along the same lines as she laughed at me (I had said something to Elanna about being in a sweat) – I ignored it and in my own world, continued to consult the Lord, asking Him to guide my hand. I didn’t say much, I was in the zone. The original painting had many birds, but painting just one bird was very nerve wracking so I left it at one. It’s called: Mike’s Flight/Journey of Love. I’ve relaxed a little since then.
If you missed my last post, I encourage you to read it. It’s about my friend Randy – his courage, faith and love! An awesome story called: Thank you! I Love you!
And the link to my book: Hold On, Let Go, Facing ALS with courage and hope