Call me a dork, but I love playing handbells. I played for about 7 years through middle and high school until I went to college, after which point I had no outlet for swinging the brass. Fast-forward to 3 1/2 years ago when I found out my church (different from where I grew up) has a handbell choir.
I’ve been so thrilled to play again every year since then and I get embarrassingly excited to put on white gloves and play. But, I can’t deny who I am. I just love it that much. As it turns out, we’ll be playing again in all the church services this coming weekend (April 9 and 10) at Cuyahoga Valley Church. Even more exciting for me is that I get to play a solo, which is so much fun to do.
Of course, I can’t help but think of how proud Stephanie always was of me and how excited she got to watch me play. And I know how crushed she was for me last year when I completely screwed up my solo. The last time I played, unfortunately, started a week of utter badness. I mentioned the failed solo, but it was also that week that Stephanie had her first seizure, which terrified me more than I can tell you. That’s not all that happened, but it is all that’s relevant. I certainly hope to not repeat a week like that. Anyway, keeping in mind the joy she had for my ringing, my solo is very much in honor of her, and the song (which I’m not divulging) is very fitting.
I’ve done my best not to shy away from doing those things which are meaningful to her or to me or to us, despite her not being here any more. I’m still the person I was, and still love the things that I love. There’s no benefit in denying who I am simply because Stephanie died. I feel like I’m working my way through all of those things as this year continues on. It’s very therapeutic and freeing.
I’m so thankful to the bell choir for postponing our “season” until this spring, since the fall was obviously not going to work. I’m so thankful to the church for even having handbells and for our director, Jo, for leading us. Anyone who knows me, knows I can’t sing, so I thank God for the chance to worship Him through music in such a way.
In short: I can’t wait!
And I’m pretty sure I never will. Fifty years from now, when I’m old and gray with grandchildren, and maybe even a wife, I’ll still find disbelief in this fact of my existence.
It’s one of those stories your grandchildren hear for the first time and they find themselves in deep shock. “Did you know Grandpa was married to someone else before Grandma?”
It’s been a while since I’ve given an update. I’ll give more details later, but I’m actually doing quite well. Even still, this disbelief is heavier than lead.
I keep saying that for as much as I believe in God more and believe in His goodness and grace and mercy and promises more, I disbelieve this situation more. It’s almost as if it’s even harder to believe, the more I believe God.
And He is so good to me, and to everyone. And I can’t wait to see how He used this to change me for His glory.
It’s actually an odd thing to want. For some reason, I find myself longing to be back in the hospital more often than any other point in my marriage. I can only guess that I’m too much of a realist to imagine earlier times. My time in the hospital isn’t all that different of a reality than now.
But I think back to that time every few days. I remember how comfortable I got there, as if it were a 10-day sleepover. I can’t imagine what it must be like for others who endure much longer battles. I spent every night either on a couch in the waiting room or in a chair next to Stephanie’s bed.
I began to know the nurses, and I’m sad that I don’t get to see them any more. They were so wonderful, taking care not only of Stephanie, but of me and my entire family. How many times have they done the same for others? I wish I could have thanked them more while I was there.
I learned how to read all the monitors. I was so proud of her for breathing “above the machine” – she took more breaths than the machine made sure she took. And then she stopped doing that at the same time God stopped telling me to “just wait” and I knew she was gone, even if her death certificate says it was two days later. I could read the EKG and knew when she was having seizures. I remember sliding up next to her during those times, holding her hand and touching her face, trying to calm her down. I can still hear myself saying, “Oh, honey. You gotta stop.”
How many nights did I beg her to fight? How many times did I remind her that she refused God to take her once before and needed to do it again? How many hours did I spend holding her hand and stroking her hair?
I know it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense because she wasn’t talking to me at all, but I miss my time with her in the hospital. What part of that longing is because of the hope I still had that she might be okay? I miss spending every moment with her, even if she wasn’t exactly “with” me during those moments.
At American Greetings where I work, Valentine’s Day is like the Super Bowl for us. It is by far our biggest holiday. However, for Stephanie and I, it wasn’t quite that. Sure, we celebrated it – gave each other cards or gifts and ate out somewhere usually — but it didn’t hold a candle to our anniversary and birthdays. At the risk of sounding incredibly cheesy, we didn’t really need a holiday to celebrate our love for each other.
I’m thankful for that this year on February 14, as I think it will soften the blow. I’m sure it will still hit me. My day will no doubt come to a crushing halt as I double over in tearful emotional turmoil. But for the most part, I think I’ll be okay.
What really surprised me was that I found myself perusing the “For Wife” cards last week. I even thought I had picked one out and was going to buy it for my bride. That is not like me at all to do something like that. But I almost did. The only reason I didn’t was because I found one card after another that seemed too perfect. I couldn’t pick just one. I loved being married, and every card reminded me of how beautiful she was and how amazing it was to be married. God sure did an incredible thing when He created marriage.
And for that, I wish God — and all of you — a Happy Valentine’s Day.
Christmas, as well as the rest of the holidays ended up less difficult than I expected. But, in retrospect, I’m not surprised. When it comes to the grief, it’s more about the loss in my normal daily routine, and less about a day or two out of the year that was out of the ordinary. Granted, it’s still not easy, and there are a lot of special memories tied to Christmas due to the specialty of those days, but I think I probably already dealt with a lot of those feelings before the day came.
However, I am less than satisfied with the amount of preparing I feel like I did. I’ve had a lot of people asking me if we started any new traditions or things like that. I’m sad to say that we didn’t start anything that I think will particularly “stick” in future years. I feel like I didn’t give it enough thought and in some ways want a do-over.
What we did do was to attempt to read the Christmas story out of the kids’ Bible and then talk a little bit about Mommy. The kids were so distracted, though, it was more a practice in patience for me as I talked about Mommy through misty eyes. I then lit a candle to represent Mommy’s presence as we opened presents. Thanks to a suggestion from someone, I was able to designate a couple gifts as coming from Mommy, which I think is a fabulous idea that I plan to use in the future. The “Mommy” gifts this year weren’t purchased with that in mind, unfortunately, so I think that lessened the meaning it had for me; and the kids didn’t really connect with the sentiment, which doesn’t come as a surprise to me.
I guess to think about it now, I realize how disappointed I am in myself and how much I don’t stack up to Stephanie. She was always the one to plan all the gifts and she planned things out so wonderfully. She had a great gift idea for nearly everyone on our list and she would wrap each one with such care and beauty and personalize it in some way. I know there’s no way I can match what she did, but I really feel like I dropped the ball on Christmas.
I know I might be expecting a lot from myself less than 2 1/2 months after my wife died, but I know myself and can’t help but fear that I won’t give it my best if I don’t expect a lot from myself. I don’t want to take the chance of getting into a habit of doing the bare minimum. And I want to honor Stephanie and try to carry on her legacy. I don’t feel like I did that this Christmas, that’s for sure.