Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Eternal Days

Teach me Lord in all thy ways, that I may know eternal days,
filled with joy and songs of praise. 
"Hallelujah, Hallelujah..."

Today marks the one year anniversary of Jay's journey home and I'm finding myself struggling with raw grief once again. My first reaction is to shut down and go numb but I know that feeling numb is just a layer that has to be peeled back so healing can take on it's perfect and complete work. I know I say it a lot but, "Oh God, why can't I just stay numb?"

In a grief class that I'm in right now, we're doing an exercise that we call purposeful grief. That is, setting aside time in your day or week to plan to grieve. Now to be honest, this isn't so fun. Why would I stop myself during a perfectly good day and take my thoughts to a place of purposeful grief? The answer- grief will happen. As to when and where it happens is up in the air. I'm finding that instead of approaching grief as something you want to avoid, accepting that it is a part of you, and your journey, is part of the healing. Knowing that, I'd rather go to it then have it come to me.

With that said, I'm taking my thoughts to one year ago today. I sat in a Nordstrom Cafe having dinner with my daughter Danielle and my phone rings. It was Jay. He had just gotten to his hotel room and he was calling to tell me that he got there safe and was going to bed. My first question was, "How do you feel?" His reply, "Tired, just so tired."

Earlier that morning Jay would be returning to his usual schedule of travel for work. He had been on a sick leave for a couple of weeks due to heart and blood complications, but after some time off, he got the okay from his doctor to not only travel for his job, but to start easing himself back into the gym again. This was a golden ticket to Jay because he loved body building and hated being tied down. This last doctor's report made him feel like he was on the road to getting his life back again. 

The night before he left we went out to dinner. The evening started out great, but by night's end we found ourselves in a huge argument. He had become edgy and this mood-shift had come on quite suddenly. I had no idea what was going on but he was impossible to reason with. When we got home I angrily stormed off to bed while he went into his office to prepare for his trip.

Waking up the next morning I came downstairs to our usual routine--me making him breakfast before taking him to the airport--a very clearly upset expression written all over my face.  He could see how angry I was and said, "Can't we just move past this?" 

"No!" I said. I went on to explain that I felt mistreated, and told him that I wasn't okay with his irrational behavior. His head then sank into his hands and he said, "I'm sorry, I just don't feel right."

As soon as he said that I asked the questions that were now becoming a big part of our lives: "How's your heart rate, how's your blood Pressure?" 

"Everything checks out fine," he said. My daughter and I had been battling the flu that week so with Jay's heart rate and blood pressure checking out okay and his "excellent" doctor's report a few days before, it appeared to both of us that he was catching a cold. But, in fact, my husband's body was shutting down, and this would explain his sudden edginess the night before. Of course we didn't have the luxury of knowing this at the time, and thinking that he was just getting sick, Jay assured me that he would get plenty of rest during his flight.  

As we were gathering his things to head out the door, Jay was feeling badly about how he had treated me the night before, and asked if we could have a moment to hug before leaving. I just wanted him to feel better, I didn't care about the night before, and I didn't want him feeling guilty about it. I wrapped my arms around him (not knowing that this would be our last moment in our home together) and there we stood, the three of us in a long embrace. That's right, the three of us. Jay, myself, and our dog Samson. 

Samson always got upset when we fought. In fact there were times that Jay and I would start to have a disagreement about something and Jay would suddenly say, "Stop, Samson's getting upset!" And then we'd both have to go pet Samson and assure him that everything was okay. We have Samson to thank for sparing us many unnecessary arguments, and what a precious memory I have to look back upon- us, in a group hug, with Samson. 

Jay then grabbed his luggage, and I grabbed his breakfast to go and we were on our way. Jay would often eat his breakfast on the road as he drove with one knee while rushing to make his flight. No, I don't recommend this, but Jay was quite well at multitasking and I loved that about him.  He'd eat an omelet, toast and oatmeal, drink his coffee, and handle a conference call, all before pulling up to the drop-off curb without getting a spec of food on his clothes. It was pretty impressive and thinking about this scene makes me smile because it reminds me so much of him and who he was. 

When we arrived, he got out of the car and we'd have one last embrace--It's an embrace I can still feel if I allow myself--and then with a firm tone I said, "rest on the plane". My husband wasn't big on resting, but he was tired and he assured me that he would do just that. Then he darted off to make his flight. I yelled out to him one more time, "sleep"! And then he was gone... 

The rest of my day would be filled with my usual activities and Jay would connect with me on his layover. He would then call me later that evening when he got to his hotel room and that brings us to the Nordstrom Cafe on July 16th, 2013. My daughter Danielle and I had met at South Coast Plaza because we'd be shopping for a dress; the one she'd be wearing for her engagement pictures. We were dining out on the patio because it was such a beautiful evening, when Jay called. We didn't talk long because he was so exhausted, but after assuring me that his heart rate and blood pressure numbers were still good, I told him to promise me that he was going straight to bed. My husband had a mind that was hard to shut off, but I could hear the fatigue in his voice. He wanted to sleep, and I knew that he would. 

Before hanging up he asked me to call him when I got home later that night so he would know that I got home safely. I argued that I didn't want to wake him because he needed rest, so we agreed that I would text message him so he could see it first thing in the morning when he woke up. With that we spoke our last words, "Good night," we said. "I love you." he said. "I love you too..."

Within hours of that last phone call,  I believe Jay entered into the precious presence of our loving savior.  I believe this because he never even got unpacked. He appeared to have been barely taking his shoes off when they discovered him the next morning. His journey on this earth was complete, and by the time we would get the news of this on the morning of July 17th 2013, our new journey would begin as well; a journey that we would have to continue on without our beloved Jay.

I'm not going to lie. I do have moments of anger, and I do have moments of looking up and asking "why?", but they only last just that, moments. My soul never allows me to secure myself to these thoughts. Yes, I'm allowed those feelings, they're very real and very human. But for the soul that searches for God's truths, His truths will be revealed. When I say I'm angry God says, "I've given you everything" John 3:16 , and "I have so much more in store for you when your journey's complete" 1 Corinthians 2:9. When I say "why?", God says, "the world is broken because of man, but my desires are to protect you Genesis 3:21-24, and I'll provide the way" 1 Peter 1:18-21 . 

As I reflect back on this past year, I see sorrow. It has been the hardest and most painful year I've ever known--and I'm tired.  I long for Jay's touch again. I think about his strong arm often, and how I was so comfortable resting on it. How he would reach over and hold my hand while driving the car, or flop his leg around to find mine when we'd crawl into bed at night. I miss hearing him sing in the shower, and seeing him sneak into the pantry for chocolate chips. I miss sushi with my sushi partner. I miss every single thing about him. 

But If I have to look back on 365 days of sorrow, then I also have to look back upon 365 days of hope. Three hundred and sixty five days of promises, both fulfilled and yet to come. Three hundred and sixty five days of perfect and sacrificial love; and 365 days of knowing that Jay now knows eternal days, filled with joy and songs of praise, and to this I say, "hallelujah, hallelujah..."

For my sake I'd like to say, "Jay it was such an honor to see your journey with God. To walk with you hand in hand as we learned His deeper mysteries. He, by his grace, allowed you to pioneer the way for those of us who love you so deeply. Because of this we're less afraid, and are that much more eager to understand His ways. This is so very typical of you, our precious hero. Happy anniversary Jay, I love you." 

God is good... 

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