. . . although I wouldn’t mind revisiting all of the above. Still, moving seems to be the word of the moment. Chelsea and Brian are moving to a new house next week, fortunately still only about twenty minutes from me. Meanwhile, Brittany is awaiting final approval to head to Australia for a couple months of training. Then if all goes according to plan, she’ll head back to Australia in the fall, with Andy and their dog Bega, for a two-year stint. Even Courtney and her crew are looking for a new house, preferably to buy within the next month or two. So there’s a lot of moving going on.
Chelsea and Brian are crazy busy and buried in packing boxes, since moving day is nearly here. Beckett goes to the nanny’s, so they can get some packing done, and I’ve been on call to entertain little man Brooks. Brooks 18 March 2022
Chelsea and/or Brian do all the work and I sit on the couch holding a warm, sleeping baby or darling, cooing, smiling baby. Okay, yes, sometimes enraged or spitting-up baby, but still. Best moving experience of my life.
When I’m not on baby duty, I’m doing a lot of writing. Lots of poetry, but I’m also closing in on the first draft of the memoir I’m writing about my life with David, which is a whole different kind of moving. I’ve reached the point where we’ve just returned from our 2017 trip to France–maybe that’s why I chose all the France photos for this post. But it’s the point where both the news from the medical team and David’s quality of life are beginning to get progressively worse with each passing week. And although I can now think of our many happy memories with nearly unambiguous joy, the hard times are, well, harder. Still, it feels right to tell this story.
And then there’s the news. I don’t know how any of us could not be moved by the plight of those from Ukraine, forced to leave their beloved homes, and often to leave their country entirely, to avoid violence and destruction. It’s beyond moving. It’s heartbreaking.
So I’m wishing you grace, whether you’re moving or holding babies or reading the news. Whatever you’re doing to try to help anyone, bless you. I’m praying for peace for all of us on this small, troubled, moving planet.
Brittany and Andy have now been married just over a month, so marriage is on my mind.
They are so good together, which I love to see whenever I stay with them for a few days to help Brittany during chemo. She’s just finished her last round, so we are celebrating that (while trying not to think of the radiation to come).
I’m missing David so sharply again, after I’d thought the pain of loss had dulled a bit for good.
But I am still profoundly grateful for all the years we had together.
Today, the 29th, marks exactly five years since the oncologist confirmed that David’s cancer was terminal, and that’s hitting harder than I expected. Also, as much fun as the wedding was, there were definite challenges that he would have navigated so much better than I did.
So I’m thinking about marriage today. Not always easy, I know . . . .
The following is something I originally wrote for a marriage course offered at our church early this year. I suppose these principles could — to a certain degree — apply to all close relationships, so I hope it speaks to you, whatever your current situation. Here it is slightly revised today:
Thoughts on Marriage from the Other Side
It’s an odd place to be, having been married for nearly forty years, but now no longer part of that set, the coupled. David used to tease me – before we knew it would turn out to be prophetic – that I didn’t need him, that I’d be fine on my own as long as I had a good book, a cup of tea or a glass of wine, a comfy chair by the fire. He wasn’t wrong, exactly. I have survived and even occasionally thrived during these past three years since he’s been gone. But as my daughter Brittany once told me, she, too, is fine on her own, but the fact is, her life is better with Andy (her husband) in it. And my life was better with David in it.
Our marriage wasn’t an obvious success story in the making, at the beginning, marrying at 20 (David was 26), just shy of six months after we met, but we shared a strong faith, and by the grace of God, we grew closer and closer over the years. There were certainly difficult times, even a few nearly hopeless times, but those are stories for another day. Here’s what I wish I’d known and done when I was in the middle of it.
First, I wish I’d realized how fleeting the days are, that the time is up way before you feel ready. I wish I had properly valued togetherness years earlier. Respecting the need for solitude, but coming back together regularly to share hopes, fears, dreams. Fortunately, we did eventually get that right. Once I overheard a group of couples, not long after David’s passing, joking about how annoying the retirement of a spouse would be, having the other always underfoot. “For life, but not for lunch,” was the joke. Maybe this was not reflecting real feelings, and certainly change can be difficult, but oh, I wanted to say – and maybe I did – Savor. Every. Moment.
Second, I wish I’d had enough confidence in myself to let David be David, to celebrate him as he was, to let him say what he wanted, to make whatever mistakes he was going to make, without feeling I had to correct him. So he was not always great with details. So he remembered or told a story differently than I would have. So what? No one cared. All my contradicting did was corrode our unity a bit every time it happened. It served no good purpose. I was only beginning to learn that, and then he was gone.
Finally, I wish I’d made it a personal goal to give more than I received – no small task with a grand giver like David – rather than so often keeping score, policing “fairness,” whatever that even means. My biggest regrets – and I don’t say that lightly – my most tormenting regrets, are every remembered moment of selfishness. Sometimes I watch International House Hunters on HGTV, where very often it’s a married couple who’s searching for lodging in a far-flung locale. I love the armchair travel, but it stabs me every time I see someone claiming, without a moment’s hesitation, the best closet or otherwise demanding his or her own way, especially those who proudly announce they always get what they want. I recognize myself too well in those words. By the grace of God, I was allowed to give back to David as his caretaker in his final sixteen months. Those may have been the best months of my life.
I have no doubt relationships in these COVID times are challenging, especially if solitude is hard to find. Admittedly, for at least twenty of our nearly forty years, we had space to spread out. For us the danger was going our own way, doing our own thing, without touching base. Even as recently as 2015, when we were newly back from our year of adventure, we slipped briefly into a pattern where we would spend our days working in separate rooms, then drift to other activities, without any time actually speaking to each other. Fortunately, wise man that he was, David soon suggested that every evening at 5 p.m., we grab our beverage of choice, and sit and talk. He would ask questions like, “What’s the best thing that happened to you this week?” or “What would you change about your life if you could?” or “What are you learning from God these days?” Sometimes we just played “Name That Tune” with the music on an oldies station and reminisced about days gone by. Being intentionally together was all that mattered, and what a relationship builder it was. I treasure the memories. His cancer was diagnosed late August 2016, and he was gone two days after Christmas 2017.
So, although I am no longer married, I wanted to share this bit of perspective with those who are. As you navigate this grand adventure together, I hope you savor every moment. I hope you celebrate each other and selflessly give to one another. I really don’t think you’ll regret it. God be with you.
Yesterday was a rare, welcome rainy day. Drought is a recurrent issue here in Colorado, so as much as I generally prefer sunny days, I loved it. Everything is now so green and beginning to bloom. It really feels like spring is here to stay. Yes, I know we can get freak storms this time of year, like the two feet of snow we had mid-March that did so much damage to the trees and very helpfully revealed a leak in my roof — yippee. My plan is to enjoy each glorious day and not worry about tomorrow. We’ll see how that goes!
One excellent day was Easter Sunday, when I went over to Chelsea and Brian’s backyard (after virtual church — still not going in person quite yet) to watch Beckett’s first Easter egg (etc.) hunt. The adults had shorter attention spans than he did. We kept wanting him to find the next thing, and he wanted to enjoy what he’d already found. Hmmm. There’s a lesson there somewhere. . . .
Another stellar day was Saturday the 10th of April, when Brittany drove up from Denver and we met on Chelsea’s driveway to sample some mocktails, to add options for the wedding weekend.
And today, now that I’m fully vaccinated (including the two weeks post-second shot), I actually got to hug my grandson without wearing a mask. Woo-hoo!
So it hasn’t all been rain. It never is here, of course, but sometimes life feels a bit like unending metaphorical rain, with all the challenges so many have been facing for more than a year now. Brittany has just started chemo, so there’s that, but I’m now semi-retired and able to help her more than I could have a few months ago. And I’m going to try to learn from this little one.
No, I probably won’t be sucking on a lemon anytime soon and definitely won’t be drinking out of a dog’s bowl, but I’m going to try to remember to enjoy what I have without always looking for the next thing. And I’m going to choose happy whenever I can. I hope the same for you. If that’s not possible right now, hang in there. I pray you feel the peace and comfort of God and that you find bright moments of joy to sustain you, even if the rain is pouring down. You’re in my heart.
I love hearing from you, so please do comment or reach out to me in some way if you can. I miss my people! Hope to see you soon.
In case you haven’t heard, my family has been hit with another cancer diagnosis, but fortunately this one has an excellent prognosis, thanks in no small part to David.
Brittany was diagnosed, not quite two weeks ago, with invasive ductile carcinoma — breast cancer, fortunately still stage I. The doctors say it is fast growing, with 94% of the biopsied cancer cells in the act of duplicating, so they aren’t messing around. Surgery will be this Wednesday, what Brittany is calling “out with the old and in with the new” — a double mastectomy and reconstruction all in one go. She doesn’t yet know if post-op chemo will be required, but overall we are very optimistic. (Updates on CaringBridge.)
David comes into it because it is nearly certain Brittany would never have discovered this fast-growing cancer in time, young as she still is, but due to David’s cancer and subsequent genetic testing, we learned that he and Brittany shared the same BRCA2 gene mutation, so she has had careful screening ever since. If you knew David, you know he would have laid down his life without hesitation for any one of his girls. That’s just who he was. In a way, it seems he did.
So even out of the ashes of loss and in the face of current uncertainty, we are grateful. For the warning Brittany received, certainly, but also for who he was and how he continues to impact our lives. I still often hear his words of wisdom, his perspective-shifting observations, even his slow teasing, “How’s . . . that . . . tea?” when it’s obvious I’ve let it grow cold in the mug yet again. Poor beverage management, he called it. How he could make us smile. He still does.
I think Brittany got her sense of humor from him, and it is serving her well at the moment. Here’s an old favorite shot of the two of them, matching dimples and all.
And a few more, just because . . .
What a dad. What a man.
At first I was thinking I should apologize for the poor quality of these ancient snapshots, but who cares? They’re just place holders for the real memories, flashcards that bring up not only the facts of our shared life, but also a deep resonance of togetherness that doesn’t end when life on earth ends. How I thank God for that!
*I promise to pass along any messages of support for Brittany you leave in the comments. Or you can look for her page on CaringBridge.org. Your thoughts and prayers are — and will continue to be — very much appreciated.