Within hours of finding out that a loved one is gone, you're forced to answer questions that you wish you could avoid, but avoidance is not an option. All of our minds and bodies were in shock, and numb motions carried us though the hours as we made phone calls, had family meetings, and figured out all that needed to get done to prepare for the days ahead. Nothing was easy and no decision was simple, but doing everything right for Jay was most important now. Every decision we made from this point on had to honor his life as we prepared to say good-bye.
The following day we had to leave for San Antonio to be with Jay. All I could think about was getting to him. I was missing him and things still weren't making sense in my head. "Where are you Jay", became a continual whisper I could hear in my mind. Although I knew he was gone, my soul couldn't stop searching for him. Aristotle says that a friend is a single soul dwelling in two bodies. Jay was my best friend--without him I was feeling lost and severed.
We got to our hotel room about 1:30 a.m and headed straight to bed. It was a long day, and I was ready to end it because it meant that I was that much closer to being with Jay. Before falling asleep I asked God once more for that dream I had wanted so badly--the same dream I had asked for the night before. "Please God let me see him one more time to say good-bye".
When I woke up the next morning I couldn't move. Seeing Jay was now just hours away and I didn't get that dream that I had asked God for. I felt empty. I reluctantly decided to go through the last thread of text messages we had with one another. It was a hard decision to make; I didn't know how I'd react but it was all that I had and I needed to feel him.
As I opened the conversation, I scrolled up quickly to begin reading our last exchange of words. He was telling me things like he had just landed... he was going to eat... he'd be calling me soon. It was our normal routine of text messages but now they had new meaning. They were now words that reminded me how precious our routines were, and how much of a fit we had become. No matter where we were, we always had each other. This felt good to think about, and it gave me some peace, but God had something even more precious ahead. Something I believe He had planned for this very moment.
As I continued to scroll down through the text messages of that night, I saw that Jay had sent me a picture that I somehow missed. It was the picture of the phoenix sunset he had posted on his Instagram and along with the picture he messaged, "Phoenix rising to the South Texas sunset. Makes me miss you". I laid there in bed starring at this picture in disbelief. I felt overwhelmed and grateful. I was now just hours away from seeing Jay, but in God's perfect timing I found myself looking at this last sunset of his and he was saying it made him miss me.
In Jay's limited and earthly perspective I know he didn't want to let go. I know that his heart longed to be with me, and all those that he loved. My heart tugs when I think about it just as I know his did, but I also know that eternal perspective would change that. I believe that once his eyes caught the sight of Jesus' face, he didn't look back. I picture him sprinting--his flip flops flying off of his feet as he ran into the loving arms of his Savior. Yes, Jesus is real, and He embraced him! I could hear the words, "Well done good and faithful servant" as Jesus held him safely. I was so happy for him. He made it and he was free. He now had rest, and his new outlook- the eternal one- allowed him to let go. There is no doubt in my mind that he didn't look back and knowing that made it possible for me to say good bye. God had answered my prayer.
"Thank you Lord for allowing me a glimpse of heaven through Jay's eyes. Thank you for embracing Him, and through the gift of his last sunset you embrace us who loved him. You are faithful and true, and worthy of all praise."
God is good...
Monday, August 19, 2013
Ending the first night without Jay seemed impossible to do. My daughter Danielle had crawled into bed with me, lying on her dad's side, and her fiance Adam sat on a foot stool beside us. We were all so tired but nobody wanted to close their eyes and end the day. We knew that falling asleep meant waking up to the same reality and we were all still hoping that somehow it wasn't true.
My son Ryan came into the room and asked us if we had seen a picture that his dad (Jay) had posted on Instagram the night before. We didn't know anything about it; none of us had even seen it until this moment. What Jay had posted was a picture he'd taken of the sunset as he drove to his hotel room the night he passed away. This would be his last sunset. He loved sunsets and clouds. They were peaceful to him and he often took pictures of both, but this sunset was more special than any other he had taken before. I believe this was a special gift from God to Jay, and to us all.
What he had posted on Instagram- this beautiful sunset- had the appearance of a bird with it's wings spread out, and along with the picture Jay posted the words, 'Phoenix rising as the sun sets in South Texas'. As quickly as Ryan showed us the Instagram, Adam googled the meaning of the Phoenix and read it to us: "In Greek mythology, a phoenix is a long lived bird that is cyclically regenerated or reborn. Associated with the sun, a phoenix obtains new life by arising from the ashes of it's predecessor. The phoenix was subsequently adopted as a symbol in Early Christianity".
This Instagram was a golden nugget. It was a moment of peace in the midst of our agony. This picture along with the words Jay had written, had meaning and purpose. I had been feeling so guilty that Jay was alone, out of town, and without me by his side when he passed away. But when I saw that sunset I knew he wasn't alone at all. God was with him, and He was calling his boy home.
I held onto this nugget knowing that it would give me the courage to close my eyes, sleep, and wake up to a new day, but before I fell asleep I spoke to God and asked Him for a dream. A chance to see Jay again--just one more time to say good-bye.
The next morning when I woke up I felt the immediate sting and reality that Jay was truly gone, but what was also on my mind was that nugget God had given us the night before. I thought about Jay's Instagram--that beautiful sunset and the words that he wrote. I was happy for him. I didn't get my dream, but in the midst of my agony I had peace.
"Thank you God for my beautiful nugget that pulled me through the worst day of my life. For your faithfulness, and to your glory, I praise you".
God is good...
Thursday, August 15, 2013
On July 17th my husband Jay got to go that mountain high above and hear the words, "Well done good and faithful servant". My heart truly rejoices in his new found joy, peace, and eternal presence of our loving Lord, and yet my heart stings. His hand will never again lay over mine and cover it completely. I won't be able to lay my head on his lap while watching TV, and my phone that buzzed at least 10 times a day with his picture popping up on it, won't be doing so anymore.
What seemed like any other day, getting ready to head out the door with my list of things to do, turned out to be anything but normal. I didn't get my usual,"Good morning beautiful", text message from my husband who had left town on business the day before. It concerned me, but he was a very busy guy and I felt that he must have been unusually rushed. I sent him a text telling him that we (he and I) had bought our daughter Danielle a dress for her engagement photo shoot the night before. It was really one of the first steps we'd taken towards her wedding day so it was a big moment for us, and I knew he'd be eager to talk about it, but to my surprise he didn't respond. No text, no phone call... it just felt all too silent, and far from our normal good morning routine.
Seven months ago my husband Jay had developed complications with his heart. It suddenly wasn't performing as it should be, and after some tests were performed he found out in February that he had been born with a heart defect that we had never known about called Myocardial Bridge. Basically, part of his Coronary artery was kinked and had penetrated into his heart muscle rather than wrapping around it as it should have. A lot of people live with this condition and are fine, but in Jay's case he developed Myocardial Ischemia which means that the heart muscle wasn't getting enough oxygen-rich blood. This was affecting blood flow and causing his heart to behave very unpredictably. He underwent a procedure called Cardiac ablation which could help bring a normal rhythm back to his heartbeat, and bring some normality back to his life, and habits. The risks seemed to be very small and my husband so desperately wanted his old way of life back. He hated being made to slow down. Anybody who knew him, knew that.
Needless to say I was concerned about his heart that morning, as the routine of text messages I normally would have been receiving weren't happening. My phone was silent, and my anxiety grew. I called him a number of times and each time he still wouldn't answer, and then finally someone did--but it wasn't Jay. A man answered, told me he was a lieutenant from the police department, and he asked me who I was. He didn't have to say a thing, I already knew, but he continued to tell me what I didn't want to hear. He said there was no easy way to say what he needed to say, and then he told me that Jay, my husband, had passed away. I made him say it 3 times, kept acting like I heard wrong, but I knew I hadn't. Even upon hanging up with the lieutenant, I felt like Jay would call me right back and say that everything was okay, and that it was all a big mistake. My mind couldn't accept it. Thirty years of marriage and I was in love, and this was not supposed to happen. I was not ready to let go. Then again, nobody ever is.
Over the next hour the pain and reality became my children's pain and reality, and as the day unfolded it became the pain and reality to all who loved him. July 17th turned out to be anything but a normal day, and forever marks the beginning of a new journey into a deeper understanding of God's love and grace for us all.
And so this journey begins...
I love you Jay-