Archive for April, 2011

Watching a wedding (no, not THAT one)

April 30, 2011

“Oh my goodness, she’s not here.”

There are moments where Susan’s absence is still shocking to me.  There are times when I suddenly say that phrase to myself, or even out loud.  I have to remind myself that she’s not on some long trip, getting ready to return safely home.  It’s those times that make me realize that, even though we are four months (wow, four months!) away from her death, the totality of this loss I haven’t nearly absorbed.

I’ve been watching a couple of videos this week.  My buddy John loaned me his VHS-DVD recorder, so I’ve been converting some old tapes.  (The kids hardly know what a VHS tape is.)  One is from 1995, our wedding.  Another is from the summer of 1998 – a trip Susan and I took to Maine.

It’s kind of funny that, with all of the hoopla of the royal wedding this week, the only one I wanted to watch was my own.  And this, more to get a glimpse of her again.  To remember not only her face, but how she moved, walked, looked at people, smiled.  Photos don’t necessarily capture those small, important things.  When I look at pictures of Susan, I tend to look not only at her face, but at things like how her arms rest around the kids, or how her hand holds mine, things like that.

I’ve probably watched the vacation one more, though.  We traded off narrating the video for our folks – this magical trip to beautiful Bar Harbor.

It’s amazing what you forget over the years.  Especially when you deal with something like cancer, which, as hard as you fight it, still attaches its ugliness to your life in ways that degrade and debilitate you.  Not only physically, but emotionally, mentally, relationally.  Like a hundred-pound backpack you have to carry every day.  It changes you, as much as you don’t want it to.  There are days when you look up and wonder, Now, who did I used to be?  Who did we used to be?   (Not unlike what sin does to us too, but that’s probably another post)

When I saw that video for the first time in thirteen years, the image of Susan on the screen synced up with what has been in my head.  In other words, this is how I remember her.  The video put a visual to my memory.  Smiling, laughing, care-free Susan; silly, self-deprecating, sweet, honest Susan.  Joltingly beautiful, and completely unaware of it.  It’s in her laugh, her funny comments, how relaxed she was.  The light that radiated from her face.

And sad to say, I don’t think I’d watched our wedding video for at least that long.  We just didn’t watch it every year on our anniversary or anything, but I wish we had.  Seeing the love we had for each other in our eyes, the love that never faded through any of this…it makes me feel blessed, grateful, and proud.  It reminds me how our relationship started, and what it was built on.  We were amazingly in love; we had so much in common, and laughed a lot; there was so much joy there; we respected one another immensely; and spiritually, we were in sync.  We both knew the Lord and wanted the other to grow, more than anything.

In marriages, in relationships, we forget why we are together.  Life happens, kids happen, a tragedy takes place, whatever…and plaque builds up on our hearts.  We forget what brought us together in the first place.  Maybe we should take more time to revisit what brought us together in the first place.  Spending time remembering why we love one another is time well-spent.  Go back to those places that remind us of those things.

I think it’s like that with God too.  We get busy and forget that the primary thing that defines our relationship with God is love.  He wants a joyful, love relationship with me.  But I let life get in the way, tragedy, questions, busyness, whatever – and then I wonder Now, what happened to my relationship with God?

In Revelation 2, the writer speaks to the church and basically says, “You’ve busied yourselves by doing some really good things.”  But then:

“I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”  (Rev 2:4)  

Any relationship with God is rooted in love.  His love for you.  Your love for Him.  There should be a joy, an innocence, a beauty, a wildness to it.

May you and I both discover – or in some cases, rediscover – our first love, in the God who first loved us.


Dancing in the Minefields

April 26, 2011

Well I was 19 you were 21 
The year we got engaged 
Everyone said we were much to young 
But we did it anyway 
We got the rings for 40 each from a pawnshop down the road 
We said our vows and took the leap now 15 years ago 

We went dancing in the minefields 
We went sailing in the storm 
And it was harder than we dreamed 
But I believe that’s what the promise is for 

Well I do what I do are the famous last words 
The beginning of the end 
But to lose your life for another I’ve heard is a good place to begin 
Cause the only way to find your life is to lay your own life down 
And I believe it’s an easy price for the life that we have found 
And we’re dancing in the minefields 
We’re sailing in the storm 
This is harder than we dreamed 
But I believe that’s what the promise is for 
That’s what the promise is for 

So when I lose my way, find me 
When I loose my chains, bind me 
At the end of all my faith 
to the end of all my days 
when I forget my name, remind me 

Cause we bear the light of the son of man 
So there’s nothing left to fear 
So I’ll walk with you in the shadow lands 
Till the shadows disappear 
Cause he promised not to leave us 
And his promises are true 
So in the face of all this chaos baby 
I can dance with you 

So lets go dancing in the minefields 
Lets go sailing in the storms 
Oh lets go dancing in the minefields 
And kicking down the doors 
Oh lets go dancing in the minefields 
And sailing in the storms 
Oh this is harder than we dreamed 
But I believe that’s what the promise is for 
That’s what the promise is for

Andrew Peterson

Random Rundown

April 13, 2011
  • Only two more days until spring break starts.  The kids are ready, and I think I am too.  We’ll visit my folks some of the time, and be here most of next week – no really big travel plans.
  • My dad turned 75 this week, and we’ll be celebrating him with family this weekend.  Happy birthday, dad!
  • I was shocked to find out that Char-Grill is opening in Davidson next week.  If you’re from Raleigh, nothing more needs to be said.  But for the rest of you, this place is really, really good.  One of the best burgers you’ll ever eat.  Susan and I went here a bunch in Raleigh through the years.  Can’t wait to introduce the kids.
  • I turned in a big revision of my book today.  Glad to have that off my plate and on to book #2.
  • I played golf for the first time in basically a year and a half yesterday.  Mostly terrible golf, but great company (thanks Scott!).  I will say, though, that I eagled the par-5 17th at Birkdale…first time I’ve had one of those in years and years.  Chipped in from 50 yards.  Those will bring you back to the course.  I haven’t felt much like playing, but once I was out there, I remembered why I love this sport so much.
  • We have some really good friends.  I’m grateful for those relationships, now maybe more than ever.  You are all holding us up, and we love you for it.
  • Luke was selected to be the lead in the kindergarten play this year – Maliki the Lion.  He is quite excited about it.  Especially because he gets to use a microphone.  I’m sure he’ll do great – hopefully I’ll be able to make it through.  This is something Susan would have absolutely LOVED to see.  I’m sure she’ll be there in spirit, cheering her boy on.
  • I’m doing some counseling right now – first time I’ve ever done that.  I can honestly say that it has been a really good experience.  It’s helped me to know that I have a time when I know for sure every week that someone is going to ask me questions about Susan, and how I’m doing.  I have friends who do this too, but it’s nice to have that time slated every week.  If you ever find yourself stuck and in need of help in an area of your life, I’d highly recommend these folks – The Barnabas Center.
  • Susan’s sister Dana comes in at the end of next week.  We always look forward to her being here.  We’ll do some fun stuff with the kids and she helps take the pressure off of a lot of the daily grind kinds of things around here.
  • A huge pile of laundry has been in the dryer since last night.
  • A friend of ours wrote and told me that one of her memories of Susan is from the neighborhood babysitting co-op we used to be in.  They were sending around a bunch of “get-to-know-you” questions to each other, and one of them was “What do you collect?”  Susan’s answer:  “Dust”.  Made me laugh out loud – she had a great sense of humor, and it helps me not put so much pressure on myself to try to have it all together here.
  • I think I miss laughing with her the most.
  • We see Susan’s parents 1-2 times a week.  They usually come one day a week to meet the kids after school, make dinner, and give me some extra time to get things done.  What a great blessing they are.
  • I’m reminded all over the place that no matter what, God is faithful.  I’d have to have my eyes closed to miss it.

The Boat

April 7, 2011

A couple of summers ago, our family went out on the lake with some friends on a hot summer day.  We had a great time, the kids getting towed and trying knee-boarding for the first time.  I worked a little on my basic wakeboarding skills (which consist of getting up on the board, hanging on for dear life, and collapsing into the water), we ate lunch on the lake, got a little sunburned, and enjoyed our day.

I had a picture appear in my mind today while I was driving.  It was of my family on a boat.  Let’s call it Life Before.  The five of us, cruising along toward a common destination, laughing, having fun, hitting an occasional wave, enjoying each other.  There aren’t many clouds in the sky, the sun is strong and warm.  The world seems safe.  There is no sign of trouble ahead.  Only smooth waters.

What could possibly go wrong?

The next image that came was what I suppose we can call Life After.  The boat is gone – it doesn’t exist any more.  Except, that is, in pieces all around me in the water.  Something’s happened.  It’s been shredded.  The safety that our ship gave us is gone.  I’m in the water, hanging onto one of the larger pieces.  Waves are steady, crashing over my head.  Air is difficult to find.  There are moments where I admit that I just want to let go.  And sink.  To close my eyes and not wake up again until I’m on the other side.  The air has turned cold, so much that when I can breathe, it hurts.

But I don’t let go.

Our children are out there too, in the water, holding on to bits and pieces of boat.  Pieces that look familiar, but don’t fit together any more.  Thank God, I find them near me in the water.  I want to let go, but I don’t, because they are here.  They need me to hold on.  Knowing that gives me enough strength to at least function.  I pull them in, I pull us together, and we grab onto whatever we can.  To the pieces of our Life Before.  To each other.

They are cold, in shock, dazed, scared.  They don’t know where they are.  We don’t have to say it to each other – we all were thrown into the water from the wreck, but one of us is missing.

The boat doesn’t get fixed in a day, or a year.  It never will look the same.  But we are holding onto each other, and the pieces that we find.  Some days we paddle, while others, we just tread.  There won’t be a rescue boat to come by and make things like they were.  We are rebuilding, but it will take time.  (A life-time, I think)

This is the image I had the other day.  I almost hesitated to post it – it seems so depressing. Just know that I’m truly not trying to illicit sympathy with this.  There are moments when it feels hopeless, yes.  But there are more times where God does remind us in different ways that we are going to make it.  And while we weren’t ever promised the luxury liner of a life, there is much to be hopeful about.  I just want to give you a little more insight into where we are these days.  And also, so you can know that there are lots of people around us experiencing all kinds of loss.  For me, it feels like this right now, and for them, it may feel similar.  If this can help you understand the process of grief a little more, then it’s worth it for me to share.