While I did manage to get an A on my Internship, the Seminary realized that Pastor Harold should never have a Vicar again.  Actually, he went to another parish a month before I left, so I got my congregation back.

Since it was now my last year of school, the preventative measures were stopped and a little new person started developing.  When I phoned my Mother with the news, in a very matter of fact voice she said, “It’s about time.”  It would be her twelfth Grandchild.

While that was wonderful, I managed to complicate our lives hopelessly.  The view of the Parish Ministry (being pastor of a church) from Vicarage was very distasteful.  I could not imagine heading out to some God-forsaken place like Kansas or Nebraska to pastor a little congregation.  That would be the norm for a new Graduate.  What complicated it even more is that I was in the midst of a terrible crisis of faith.  What I had learned about the heart of the message didn’t match what people who called themselves Christians seemed to be doing and saying.  For a time, I threw the baby out with the bathwater, as they say, and I struggled with this whole God business.

The result is that I told the Seminary that I would not be interested in receiving a Call, when Call day came in the spring.  I would have no job.  I had just finished spending 8 years of my life training for something I was not going to do.

I suspect Mary Ann had some regrets at that time about hooking up with this crazy man.  I did not tell her about the faith crisis until decades later.   Call Day came, Graduation came, the baby kept developing inside Mary Ann.  It was a terribly difficult time for both of us.  By this time, Mary Ann was working in the Medical Records department of St. Mary’s Hospital.  Her supervisor was Sister Mary Antona, who became fond of Mary Ann, just as we became fond of her.   Years later we visited her in Baraboo Wisconsin (Home of the Circus Museum) where she was a hospital Administrator.  I have wondered what happened to her.  I just Googled her and discovered that she had a distinguished career and was an activist in the Civil Rights’ Movement.  We knew she was someone special.

I continued to work at Clark-Peeper Office Supplies, part time during classes and full time in the summer.  They offered me a job when I graduated.  I interviewed for other jobs, insurance, sales rep.  It was mightily depressing to be starting from scratch again.

What brought joy to Mary Ann and me that summer was the birth of Lisa on the Fourth of July.  The Obstetrician was a Lutheran who would not charge any Seminarian for delivering their child.  I had the privilege of putting on scrubs and joining the doctor and Mary Ann in the delivery room.  Many have said it before me, but what looks unappetizing when seen in a video is one of the most beautiful experiences imaginable.

One of the Professors at the Seminary had become friends with both Mary Ann and me.  On the East Coast at that time it was not unusual to refer to a Lutheran Pastor as “Father.”  He was referred to as Father John.  His Mother had come to live with him.  She visited Mary Ann in the hospital and told the Staff that she was her Mother.  She was a character.

While Mary Ann was busy giving birth to Lisa, little Suzette, the poodle we had gotten from Roger and Jan, was busy ripping up the apartment.  I mentioned that she was grumpy.  Suzy liked no one but Mary Ann.  She tolerated me.  Suzy tore the bottom sheet on the bed.  She scratched at one of those bedspreads with the thread pattern on top until all the threads were in a huge clump in the middle.  She ate part of a decorative candle we had brought back from our trip to Europe, and she chewed up a hand carved horse we had purchased in Oberammergau.  It is fair to say she was very annoyed that Mary Ann had left her.  I now understand how she felt.

Two weeks after Lisa was born, she was baptized in a beautiful Baptistry on the first floor of the Seminary Tower.  Fr. John did the Baptism and used water he had brought from the Jordan River. One day shortly after that, I remember sitting in a chair, holding Lisa, wondering what her life would be like as I watched that first step on to the moon.  It was July of 1969.

During those months, I talked with one Professor in particular, Walt Bartling.  In the course our conversations, he did a couple of very important things.  One is that he stole from my questions and doubts the power to take away my faith.  Then came the key that opened me to a faith far more resilient and stronger than anything I had had before.   Walt essentially said that God was busy loving me, while I was busy doubting God.  My doubts had no impact on God.  That kernel of truth revealed in all its raw power, the meaning of the Gospel, God’s unconditional love for me. The power of the Gospel transformed my faith into something that has filled my life with meaning every moment of every day.

That was all well and good, but Call day had long since passed by the time my faith was regaining ground, and I had no job.  Fr. John came to our rescue.  What will follow is a story that I still can hardly believe, and I was there, we lived it.  Mary Ann must have wondered what on earth she had gotten herself into when she married me.

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Plans are in place.  There will first be a memorial service at 11am on Saturday, July 10, in the Krentz Chapel at Our Savior Lutheran church, 420 Downer Place in Aurora.  The street in front is being repaired.  At the back of the church, accessed from the street that runs behind the church (parallel to Downer) is parking.  There are many stairs to the chapel from the back parking.  Those who cannot do stairs should be dropped off at the front of the church and park in back.  I am sure we can find folks who would be willing to park the car for you if need be.

Following the service, we will drive to Reuland’s to eat (serving begins at noon) and share Mary Ann stories.  I hope everyone will come to that meal and sharing time.  Let Gayle Marshall, Diana Zajicek or Joy Miller Kratsch know that you plan to come to Reuland’s.  If you don’t know one of those three, just let me know via Face Book or the Comment section of this blog that you are coming. It would please Mary Ann and will please me for you to come.  The address of Reuland’s is: 115 Oak Avenue, Aurora, IL 60506.

Krentz Chapel is named in memory of Pastor Paul Krentz.  Pastor Krentz Baptized  us as infants and Confirmed both Mary Ann and me around the age of fourteen.  Pastor Paul and Ruth Krentz were Mary Ann’s Godparents.  Pastor Krentz married Mary Ann and me.  He ordained me into the ministry. I am named after his Son Pete Krentz.  The chapel is located within feet of the chancel in which all those ceremonies were held.

I will bring the DVD of aobut 40 pictures of Mary Ann over the years to be shown at Reuland’s.  Tonight I realized that one of the tracks on the CD of the funeral here contains all three of the solos that were sung.  I listened to that section of the service with two of the readings and the solos.  The tears came.  This morning, I felt so good as to think I had turned a corner in the grieving.  I may have turned a corner, but there were tears to be found around that corner.

I will also bring that CD so that we can hear the solos in the service.  Two of the solos are sung by Kristen Watson who grew up in the congregation I served before I retired.  She has a blossoming career, singing in a variety of venues, including serving as a soloist on occasion for the Boston Pops.  She has a classical lyric soprano voice, but is very versatile, able to perform in musicals as well.  I have not heard a more beautiful soprano voice.

I just realized something a few minutes ago.  I preached at the funeral of Mary Ann’s Brother Roger.  I preached at the funeral of Mary Ann’s Brother Tom.  I preached at the memorial service held in Aurora for Mary Ann’s Mom, Lois.  Now I am leading Mary Ann’s Memorial Service.  Yesterday I looked at the picture taken at our wedding of Mary Ann and me in a line with both our sets of parents.  I remember when that picture was given to my Mom at her 90th birthday party.  She cried, realizing that she was the only one left of the four parents in that picture.  I preached at my Mom’s funeral.  It hit me that I am now the only one left of all six people in that picture.  I Have I mentioned yet that I don’t like this?

I had a great morning today.  The Spiritual Formation Group met on the deck in perfect weather, with the birds entertaining us and the sound of the waterfall calming us.  The conversation was helpful to me at this point in my Spiritual journey.  I walked at Cedarcrest, feeling energized by the exercise and exhilirated by the setting.  I enjoyed a lunch with a good friend who brings both wisdom and a listening ear to our time together.  I enjoyed an afternoon coffee time with a former parishioner who gave me some food for thought.

Two or three times today I mentioned that it seemed as if in the last two days I had turned a corner in the grieving process to a place in which the pain had become more manageable, had found a place that freed me to be okay again.  Every time I said it, I qualified it with the observation that the pain could come back at any time without warning.  That observation was prophetic.  I could feel it creeping back into my conscious awareness as the afternoon wore on.  By this evening, it broke through.  It is far from the intensity of last Sunday.  I am grateful for that.  The tears and this writing have allowed it to calm for the moment.

I intend to write more tonight on the story of Mary Ann’s and my life together, so I will end this now and get to the next chapter in that story.  Tomorrow morning very early, Pastor Jim and I will spend a couple of hours doing some birding in the area.  I had better start of the next post so that I can get to bed soon.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

No, this will not be one of those “too much information” posts.

That first year at the Seminary, I was singing in a very good choir made up of students from the Seminary and singers from some of the Lutheran churches in St. Louis.  There were probably sixty or a hundred Lutheran churches in St. Louis at that time.  A radio station in Holland had tried to get St. Olaf’s choir to come for a Heinrich Schuetz festival there.  Somehow, they got hold of a tape of our choir and offered to pay us 30.000 Guilder to come to their radio station studio to sing and make recordings.

Mary Ann was not singing in the choir.  She had started working full time at a bank so that we could continue to survive while I went to school.  I continued to work part time during the school year and full time during the summer at Clark-Peeper Office Supplies in Clayton.  Even with the promised 30,000 guilder covering a portion of the cost of the trip, each of us had to pay a portion also.  I don’t remember how much.  I do remember that we could take non-member spouses along for about $750.

We knew we might never get a chance like that again.  We had enough savings in the bank to cover the cost for me and for her, enough for a little spending money on the trip, leaving $100 in the bank for when we returned.  That would be enough to pay the next month’s rent, with nothing left over.  Mary Ann’s bank said that they would not have a job waiting for her when we returned.  We decided to do it!

We flew to Washington, D.C. and on to London.  We spent four days there, visiting cathedrals, riding the Underground (subway).  We sang at King’s College Chapel in Cambridge.  The trip there was harrowing.  The tour bus driver was nuts!  Of course he was driving on the wrong side of the road, that was to be understood, it was England.  However, when a blind curve was approaching while on that two lane road, he moved right out to pass a car.  He was traveling at a frighteningly high rate of speed. Our worst fear was realized when a car appeared coming toward us from the other direction on that curve – traveling at an equally frightening rate of speed.  We passed three abreast on that two lane road.  It took hours to clean the seats on the bus — okay, it almost scared us that much.

We drank warm, bitter beer and ate beef and kidney pie.  That was about as bad as it sounds.  We saw all the usual sights.  Both of us decided that we wanted to return some time.  That never happened.  We were right about the once in a lifetime opportunity.

Then we flew into Amsterdam and drove to Noordwijk-Aan-Zee, a small resort town on the North Sea.  There we stayed in a boarding house while we went back and forth to the radio station in a larger town nearby.  I remember riding bikes together to the laundromat.  I remember that the wash water was scaldingly hot.  Someone in there managed to warn us about that even though they spoke only Dutch and we spoke none.  I knew a few German words, but we were told that it would be far better to stick with English than to use any German.  Our bus was picketed at one point because we had a German bus driver.  The war was still fresh in people’s minds.

The weather was too cold for swimming, but we rode to the beach of the North Sea just to see it.  The breakfasts were cold cuts and cheese and breads.  For all the meals, all five days, we had the very same cloth napkin kept in a plastic holder at our place at the table.  We had fried chicken one night.  As a somewhat compulsive hand washer, it was a horrifying experience!

After recording for the Heinrich Schuetz festival, we headed on to Germany.  Only West Germany was accessible at that time.  We saw the huge Cologne Cathedral, Frankfort, Munich.  We visited castles, Linderhof, Neuschwanstein (where from the balcony of the throne room we saw one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen, a lake nestled in between wooded mountains).  We saw what was left of the Heidelberg Castle boasting the largest wine barrel ever filled with wine, so large that it had a dance floor on top.  We did a concert in a cathedral in which there was a full five seconds of reverberation after stopping the final chord. (We heard tell of one castle that had a seven seconds of reverberation.) It was a powerfully moving experience to sing in those churches.  We sang a total of 8 times in three weeks.  The rest of the time we traveled and saw so many beautiful sights.

Classmate Louie (nickname) and Elise had moved their wedding date to just days before the trip so that they could be together on it.  In Muenster, it happened that they were assigned to stay in separate places.  There were tears flowing.  Since by then we were an old married couple of six months, we offered to stay in separate places so that they could stay together.

In Muenster we stayed in homes for two nights since one of the members of the choir was recently from Germany.  We sang at her home church in Muenster.  Mary Ann stayed with a family that spoke English.  I did not stay with such a family.  Actually, I ended up in a boarding house run by a family from church.  The first night was fine.  One of the other boarders was Franz von den Ohden Rhein (Frank from the Old Rhine), who spoke English.  The second night Franz was gone.  I sat at the supper table with six or eight people who could speak no English, not a word.  I knew my one sentence in German, the one that revealed that my Mother was born in Germany.  That was it.  The good news was that after a few bottles of wine, we seemed to be able to communicate without much trouble (at least that is how I remember it — what I remember of it).

The adventure continues tomorrow.  (Can you say “Bobby Kennedy??”)

Today was a better day.  The morning walk was reassuring in that again, I actually enjoyed the sights and sounds.  The pain allowed me room for that.  After I got cleaned up, I got a cup of coffee at PT’s and was greeted by Sara and Kelsey.  They are barista’s who have been very thoughtful and welcoming to me.  I taught Kelsey in Confirmation Class and Confirmed her a number of years ago. She is very newly married.  She had some very thoughtful and affirming words.  It warmed my spirit.  A good way to start a day.

I wrote some thank you notes and then headed to Paisano’s for the monthly lunch with Jimmy.  He lost his wife many years ago and understood very well what I am going through.  After that I stopped for a moment to drop something off at church.  There I spent a few moments with Linda and Marilyn who were part of my support system for many years, whether they realized it or not.  They knew.

When I went to the Wild Bird House to stock up on feed for the birds, I was greeted very warmly by Melody and Todd, who had only a day or two before discovered that Mary Ann had died (still very hard to write or say).  Todd came over and put his arm around me to comfort me.  We have just talked on occasion over the last few months, mostly about birds.  I would stop there most weeks while Mary Ann was in her Tuesday morning Bible Study.  It helps so much to have people around who seem to care, trying to provide comfort and understanding.

I spent the middle of the afternoon writing thank you notes.  They brought me close to tears more than once as I thought about what Mary Ann went through.  I was also overwhelmed in a good way with the realization of all that so many people did for us.  The hours that people spent here are far beyond counting.  It is not even remotely possible for me to repay what was given.  Those who came usually enjoyed Mary Ann, but they were sometimes scared that she would pop up and then fall, maybe hurting herself.  I think people felt good that they were really helping us, making a substantial difference in our lives.  I think many felt that they were doing a ministry for Faith by freeing me to continue to serve Faith while Mary Ann could not be left alone.

It is also clear that Mary Ann ministered to those who came.  So many have been struck by her courage and unwavering faith in the face of all she went through.  She did not complain.   People could talk with her and know that it would not be shared with the next visitor.  I still marvel that she just took the next hit whatever it was and went on as if nothing had happened.

This afternoon, friend and former parishioner Mark came over to talk and listen.  He has been through this.  He phoned Sunday afternoon, knowing that it would be a terribly painful time for me.  We set this time then.  Mark brings with him a strong and vivid faith along with some counseling experience, as well as having lost his wife whom he loved just as I loved Mary Ann.  He walked me through a Psalm that was especially meaningful to him at the time of his grieving.  The content of our conversation will remain between us.  It is enough to say that it was a helpful, meaningful and comforting time for me, immersed in the Grace of God, and the healing God provides.

It has not been an easy day.  Easy is no longer an option, at least for now.  It was a better day.  The pain was clear and identifiable, always ready to pop back fully into view.  It did not express itself as often or with as much intensity as it has in the last days.  I am not so naive as to think it will not come back with full intensity whenever it chooses.  It was just helpful to have a day in which it did not rule.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

An older cousin of mine came through the greeting line downstairs where the reception was being held after the wedding. Once she said it, she realized what she had said, but my classmates standing next to me had a great time with it. I immediately responded, well, we have been going together for three and a half years and engaged for six months — and I almost said, and she is not pregnant.  The Cousin was talking about the short amount of time we had to do the preparations for the wedding with only a few weeks from October to December.  I always wondered how many of the wedding attendees were surprised when that first baby didn’ t come until over three and a half years later.

The wedding itself was as beautiful as any, even though it was done on a very low budget.  We were old enough that we didn’t really expect our parents to provide lots of money for it.  Mary Ann’s parents did take care of the reception.  It was a cake and punch reception in the downstairs of the church.  The cake was baked by a sister-in-law who was a phenomenal baker.  She made wedding cakes out of her home as  a small business.  That was her wedding present to us.  Mary Ann’s Mother was an excellent seamstress. She made the wedding dress, and (I think) the bridesmaid’s dresses.  Since it was Christmas the Bridesmaid’s dresses were red velvet.  Since we couldn’t afford flowers, they held white muffs.  The church was decorated for Christmas with trees and lights.  We did provide a couple of flower arrangements (or somebody did), as well as the flowers Mary Ann held.

Instead of a photograper, one of our friends just took slides of the wedding.  We did rent tuxes, at $5 each.  I think that was the going rate during those years.  We decided that there would be no family members in the wedding other than Mary Ann’s Niece Diana.  At thirteen she was the oldest of all the Nephews and Nieces and especially close to Mary Ann.  Since we were both the youngest in our families with a total of seven older siblings, all married and with children, we knew we could not ask some and not others — so we just asked none of them.  Anyway, if Mary Ann’s brothers had been in the wedding, who knows what those Mizel boys would have pulled.

After the wedding and reception, we packed up our stuff, including all the presents and headed off for our exotic honeymoon.  It was the Joliet Inn, a very ordinary motel in Joliet, Illinois, although it did have a Honeymoon Suite — a room with a four poster bed, otherwise like any other room.  Joliet was about an hour from Aurora.  We decided to go crazy and instead of driving all the way to St. Louis (only about a five hour drive) we stopped at the Lamplighter Inn in Springfield, Illinois, another very ordinary motel, possessing no honeymoon suite.  That was the extent of our exotic honeymoon. (…but just wait)

Mary Ann had insisted on taking the presents back with us unopened so that she could take her time opening them in our first apartment in St. Louis.  She got some grief from a few folks who wanted to see that ritual.

There we were, Mary Ann, me, the presents and the cockroaches.  Somewhere I have the picture of Mary Ann in her bra and girdle (it was the 60’s) standing on a chair, while I crushed a cockroach with her shoe.  It was so big, at first we thought it was a mouse.  The cockroach was fully as long as the heal on her loafer, the weapon of choice. It was a first floor apartment in an old, but stately looking building.  We were just about the only Gentiles in the building.  There was a Mezuzah on the doorframe from the last owner. A Mezuzah is a little container with a tiny scroll in it with what is called the Shema, written in Hebrew.  I still have it somewhere.

The was good news and bad news about being in a first floor apartment.  It was easier to carry things into, and it was cooler in the summer than the third floor apartments.  The bad news is that all the cockroaches living in the basement had easy access and could be heard running around the kitchen during the night.  Getting up at night and turning on a light in the kitchen was a pretty frightening experience.

We were located in an especially beautiful area of St. Louis, just off Wydown boulevard. One of the prettiest pictures we have of Mary Ann is of her face in the middle of a flowering Crabapple in full bloom in the wide median of the bouldevard. Just north of us were huge homes of the very wealthy.  There was a nice Jewish deli and grocery near the apartment, which for some reason did not have a pound of bacon when I went there to get it. I wonder what that was about??  The Velvet Creme Ice Cream store was not far, so we were all right in that regard.

About two weeks after we were married, I came home from Clark Peeper Office supplies where I worked part time all three of the Seminary years we were in St. Louis, and I knew immediately when I saw her face what had happened.  There were tears streaming down her cheeks.  The phone call had come telling her that her Dad just died.  He had been suffering from Nephritis (Kidney Disease) for some time, and was very weak but determined to walk her down the aisle at the wedding.

That was a terribly difficult time for everyone, especially all the Mizel family.  Mary Ann was very close to her Dad.  She and her Mom were just enough alike that they were sometimes at odds with one another.  While Mary Ann could never seem to please her Mom, she was the apple of her Dad’s eye.  It was hard for Mary Ann to deal with that so far away from the rest of the family.

Getting married was very good for my grades.  They shot up to what I had been accustomed to getting almost immediately.  I remember that the first summer we were married was very lonely.  Since there were almost no other married students staying in St. Louis for the summer, and we knew no one else.  We spent many a lonely Friday evening wishing we had friends to do things with.

That summer also included one of the best experiences we had in our years with each other. It turned out to be the honeymoon of our dreams.  More about that tomorrow.

Today began with an early walk again.  It is encouraging that I was able to actually appreciate the beauty of the cool morning, the clouds, the birds.  Each morning that I have walked, there have been some moments without pain, moments that at least suggest the possibility of some level of healing some time in the future.

I came back to do the usual morning chores, providing a bit of order to my day.  I ran to the bank for a moment, but otherwise worked on thank you notes.  It is a slow process, but satisfying.  It draws me into a sense of community and belonging as I think about the people in the stands who have been cheering us on especially during the last years of our journey together.

Eddie came, picked me up, and we headed to the Red Lobster for lunch.  Eddie lost his wife to Alzheimer’s many years ago.  He is now very happily married again to a favorite of Mary Ann and me, Carol.  Eddie has been helpful to me whenever we have talked.  He has questions that help me process what we have been through as I try to respond and make sense of it.  The common experience makes it far easier to trust and be open about what went on and how each of us dealt with it.

I returned to meet with a furnace installer to arrange for an upgrade to a high efficiency unit with a segback thermostat.  That will be installed about a month from now.  The afternoon and evening has again brought with it more of the painful moments.  I have chosen to try to keep from winding down into the deep sadness that has a steady presence in me.  It was a little difficult to keep the sadness at baywhen looking at pictures that helped me remember some of the details of the wedding.  That was so long ago.  Both Mary Ann and I have commented that we had the sensation that we were looking over our own shoulders watching ourselves go through the motions at the wedding.

For now, I hope to get to bed a little early and get to sleep.  The mornings are better and the evenings worse, so my goal is to shorten the evenings and lengthen the mornings.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

Tough day.  Sunday afternoons — I knew it, I remembered from when I was at college missing Mary Ann on Sunday afternoons.  I found out today, that apparently what I am going through has some similarity to turning 13.  I went to a musical titled “13” this afternoon.  It was written by kids and performed by kids.  It was a wonderful distraction until I realized that what the kids were saying at the end fit not only the crazy change that comes at 13, but a change that has come with the end of one life as I have known it, and the beginning of a future about which I have no clue.  Here are some excerpts from the lyrics of a couple of songs that came at the climax:

If that’s what it is
Then that’s what it is
You’re probably right to just forget it
Lets face it you’ve worked so hard and now you’re scarred
And free of any hope
I guess you should mope
Forget what you’ve planned
Hey, I understand

If that’s what it is
Then that’s what it is
Though that’s not the way I choose to see it
I have my own view that works with all these jerks and unenlightened fools
I make my own rules, I do what I can
If I hit the wall then maybe its all a part of the plan
Tomorrow will come, today will be gone
And so I put one foot in front of the other
One foot in front of the other
And just keep walking on
[from “If That’s What It Is”]

Day turns, today turns, today turns, today turns, today turns, today
And I’m a little bit older
A little bit faster
A little bit closer
A little bit
Day turns, today turns, today turns, today turns, today
And the sky goes blue
And the sky goes black
And no matter what you do
You can’t go back
You go day into day into day
[from “A Little More Homework”]

The message hit home since I am exceedingly vulnerable a the moment.  The main character is a Jewish boy preparing for his Bar Mitzvah.  God plays a role in his thinking.  The message is not unlike the core of the message of the Christian Gospel.

The pain reached a new level of intensity for a while this afternoon.  The harsh reality that what is, is, and I can’t change it keeps trumping all my attempts at doing all the proper things to get through these days.  No matter what I do to make it better, it doesn’t get better.  That is exactly what I have to come to terms with.  I have to do this to make my way through it to the freedom to live with joy again.  And yes, that will mean just putting one foot in front of the other.

The morning went well.  I did make it to the 8am worship service.  I did spend time talking with folks I have known for many years and come to love.  I hung around as long as I could, but finally, I had to head home again.  Then I did the usual chores, fed the birds, watered lots of plantings around the house, did a couple of thank yous, read and responded to a couple of emails.

I was grateful to have the option of the musical available.  Being alone would not have been a good thing.  I sat behind the parents of one of the actors, all who are members of the church I served for so many years.  I enjoyed talking with them and watching Caitlyn sing and dance.

The kids did a great job in every respect.  As the climax came and brought resolution and discovery, what I heard seeped into what I am experiencing.  I was able to keep from revealing in any way what I was feeling, but it took every ounce of my resolve to accomplish that.

After leaving there, I did not want to go home to that damnable empty house — even with it’s waterfall (for which I continue to be very grateful).  I drove over to the local university Art Gallery, to discover that it had closed ten minutes earlier.  I just got gasoline, a coffee refill and headed home.

There was a phone message from a former parishioner and friend who has been through what I have just gone through.  After supper, I phoned him and had a very helpful conversation.  He is coming over in a couple of days for me to do some venting with someone who understands without my needing to try to explain the intensity of what is going on.

At various times through email or phone calls, three lunches and an afternoon coffee are now on the calendar in the next three days.  I am grateful for all the help that is being offered and am not too proud to accept it.  It is hard to have been a Caregiver in both the Ministry at churches for forty years and with Mary Ann for most of the the twenty-three years of her illness, and now be in the role of accepting help from others.  I have felt it a privilege in the past to have people let me into their lives to minister to them.  Now I get to give others that same privilege.

A theme in the song “A Little More Homework” is:

If you stand here behind me
And you call me a man
And you’re counting on me to come through
You should know that I’ll give you the best that I can
But we all have a little more homework to do

I certainly have a lot to learn.  I have a lot of homework to do, like it or not — and I don’t!!  I would like to claim that I am going through this so intensely because I have chosen to learn from it.  That would be a lie.  I am going through it so intensely because I have no choice.  It is what it is.  I hope to find new levels of understanding through this experience.  In some odd way, the pain is a gift from God, to break open my heart so that He and those I care about will have greater access.  Now, I am just longing for healing.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

Her name was Clara.  She starred in one of the great commercials of the last century.  It was a Wendy’s commercial.  Clara was 81 at the time.  She had a strong, harsh, manly voice.  She stood at the fast food counter a few steps back from it and in as loud a voice as she could muster (which was very loud) she asked, “Where’s the Beef?”  Wendy’s was, of course, making the point that they had more beef in their burgers than those other fast food places.

Where’s the Beep?? That is my question.  I would give almost anything to hear that beep again.  In the last weeks, maybe even months, Mary Ann could no longer manage to get the button pushed.  How I wish she would beep for me to come and help again.  I would give almost anything but not having her back to endure what she endured toward the end.

Not long before she died, I complained of all the beeps in our house.  Her pill timers at one point both went off one every two hours and one every four hours.  I used to see if I could push them at the exact same moment when setting them to see if I could get them to go off at the same time when the four hour and two hour times coincided.  I could sometimes do it.  I was so proud.

Then, of course, there is the microwave that beeps when it is done; the stove timer than beeps when the food is done; the oven beeps when it has finished preheating; the washer beeps when it is done; the dryer beeps four times, then later cycles a couple of times and beeps four times again.

Then there was the button.  There were actually four buttons placed in different locations, the living room by her chair, the bedroom by her bed, each of the two bathrooms within reach of the toilet stool.  There was one receiver that made two different electronic doorbell sounds depending on which button was pushed.  She was to push the button if she needed me.  It was a way for me to be out of sight doing something else while she was doing whatever.  The buttons provided me a bit of freedom.  When I heard the doorbell sound, I could come and help her so that she wouldn’t fall.

When the kids were all here, we were doing load after load of clothes.  The washer and dryer were going constantly.  After I commented on how tired I was of all the beeping, Micah turned off the beepers on the washer and dryer.  At one point after everything was over, I said that I never wanted to hear a beeping sound again.  I have now turned the washer and dryer beepers back on, and I wish, how I wish the doorbell sound would bring me back to her side.  Today, Micah took the buttons and the doorbells, along with the lift, the commode, the transfer chair, a shower chair, the support handles that were around the toilet stools, the ramp, the hair washing basin, and the ramps so that they can end up helping others (Craig’s List, Freecycle).

Every once in a while when I looked at the end coming from a distance, I wondered if I might get over her loss too quickly.  What was I thinking????  My usual pattern has been to live in the present.  I have never wanted to go back, once I have taken a step forward.  Not now.  I can see that this seems likely to take a very long time.  I remember often hearing people say that they had trouble when they would come upon something belonging to the Spouse who had died.  I empathized with them, agreed with them than it was a hard thing, assured them that it was very normal.  While I meant what I said, I didn’t appreciate just how powerful those little reminders would be for me.  Today I was getting rid of some old T-shirts to make room for some new ones.  The first two I grabbed were ones that we had split down the back when we could no longer move her around to put a shirt on over her head.  It is painful right now just telling you about it.

There is a bit of a pattern that I have observed in how the last few days have been going.  The first third of the day is more okay than not okay.  I usually am fairly busy doing things.  The middle third of the day has okay and not okay woven together in equal parts.  The last third of the day is more not okay than okay.  The pain is there most of the time, sometimes almost overwhelming.  These are not clean segments.  Any time of the day I can be okay, then not okay, then okay, then not okay again.  Right now “not okay” holds the strongest position.  I long for the day when “okay” will assume the place of prominence.  As I said last night, at the moment that day is nowhere in sight.

This morning I got up very early and left the house by 6:30am to walk at Cedarcrest. When I got home I showered and headed off for the Farmers’ Market.  What a busy place.  It must be two or three times the size it was the last time we went a couple of years ago.  There are food vendors, craft vendors as well as the vendors selling fresh produce.  I bought beets (with the greens), a freshly baked scone, a bottle of BBQ Sauce (Uncle Sunny’s), a breakfast burrito, five pounds of local honey, and a small vase of flowers (now that the funeral flowers are gone). The bright flowers lifted my spirit a bit.

I took all those things home and then went back out to Penney’s to pick up some shorts, T-shirts and short-sleeved dress shirts.  The shorts are Lisa’s suggestion.  She made the point that it was no wonder I was hot since I always wore jeans, hiking boots, a T-shirt and a casual shirt over it.  See, I can listen.  (You should see those shorts with the hiking boots — not really, I switched to tennis shoes.)

The dress shirts seem to me to signal one of the changes in my pattern of life.  I got them so that I could dress more appropriately for morning worship services.  When I was caring for Mary Ann, I didn’t care much what I looked like.  The Evening Service is “come as you are.”   I had a single center of my activity and purpose in life – taking care of Mary Ann.  Now I am being forced to look again at who I am and what I am about.  One thing is for certain, I need to be with people.  The morning worship services allow more interaction time with people who after so many years have become like family.

I made a another trip to the grocery store for something I missed yesterday.  I noticed that I am also now needing to engage people in conversation.  I noticed an accent in the speech of one of a couple of folks I ran into three or four times in the store.  She was from Germany.  I could practice the one sentence in German that I know.  It is the one that says that my Mother was born in Germany.  When I engage people in conversation, strangers or otherwise, I feel better.  They may be annoyed, but I feel better.

I worked some more on Thank You notes, then Micah came over to pick up the items from the garage.  We talked about a variety of things, but some of our conversation was processing candidly what we are experiencing and how we are trying to deal with it.  It was very helpful to me.

This evening Don and Edie had invited me for dinner.  As always, it was a great dinner with lots of good conversation.  All the activities today helped provide some normality.  The undercurrent and plenty often bubbling to the surface of the pain remained, but it helped to be pulled away from it so much of the day.  It still hurts as much as ever.  A good day doesn’t fix what I am going through.  It is not fixable.  A good day is still better than a bad one!

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I didn’t know — honest!  I wondered why her Mother was crying in the portico at church one Sunday. She wasn’t wearing the ring.  When finally we talked about it, she said she wasn’t wearing the ring because she had decided to send it back to Allen, who, if I understood correctly, was in the military in another part of the country.

She also told me that before Allen, there had been Louie.  She was also engaged to him, for how long I don’t know.  If I got it straight, both of them were at least a couple of years older than she.  Joy, Terry and Cherri have the straight scoop on that.

I remember the first time we kissed.  We were riding (not parked) in the back seat of the car as four of us were headed somewhere, who cares where.  I don’t know how many times we had dated when that happened.  I just know it happened.  The earth didn’t shake, there was no thunder and lightning, no bells ringing, but darn near it.

I remember sitting upstairs in the old parsonage, where the Vicar (pastor in training on his internship at our parish) and a few of the guys were talking.  The subject of my having had a few dates with Mary Ann came up.  They assured me that I was not up to the task of taming that feisty lady.  They were right.  I just married her, I did not tame her.  By the way, I have no doubt the other guys in the group were hopelessly jealous of me.

I remember one time at Mary Ann’s house when a bunch of us were there, she said, “Where’s my Man?”  She was talking about me.  My heart jumped right up into my throat.  At that time in my life, the stature, big ears and pointed nose remained the same, but I had worked out regularly that first year of college.  I was 135 pounds of toned muscle, having done a record 17 back handed pullups during the physical fitness test we took.  I could bench press my weight.  I curled 90 pound weights regularly.  By the way, now that I have been lifting Mary Ann for so many years as her Caregiver, I am again 135 pounds of toned muscle, just wrapped in 30 pounds of fat.

As the letters I wrote to her confirm, I fell head over heals in love with her in short order.  I wrote her every night for the next three years, other than summers, when we were together.  During that time, Sunday afternoons were the worst, I missed her so.  The second and third years of dating were during my years at a pre-Seminary school in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.

In addition to the letters there were weekly phone calls.  In those years, long distance calls were very expensive, a luxury.  The phone calls were less than satisfying.  The letters were better.  Often when we called the conversations found us in different moods.  Mary Ann never liked talking on the phone.  She was not overly sentimental and I was hopelessly lonely and in love.

Weekends together came after much anticipation.  The pattern was, a couple of days to get re-acquainted and in tune with each other, and then it was time to say a painful goodbye.  One day, she surprised me by leaving for church in Aurora in the morning and arriving in Ft. Wayne four hours later for lunch.  I won’t forget that day.  Her parents were very displeased even though she was 22 or 23 years old at the time. She had not told them what she was doing.

Summers were great.  By that time my parents had moved to a house they built at what we called the farm, my Dad’s dream place in the country.  He used every penny he and Mom had saved to build a three bedroom house in the woods, with a creek running by.  Mary Ann lived in town.  We were twenty miles apart.  After a while I could practically drive that blacktop in my sleep.  In fact, many times, I would become alert again after I had made a treacherous S curve with no memory of doing so.  That 1958 Chevy Impala with a powerful V8 engine could fly.  It was my Dad’s car.  I still didn’t have a car of my own.

Yes, I stayed out very late and got in trouble with my Dad more than once.  We were just talking!  Again, let me be clear.  We played by the rules and waited until we were married.  She made sure of that.  I was a typical young guy with hormones raging (cover your ears, Lisa and Micah).  By the way, is this in the area of too much information? That is all I will say about that.

Mary Ann and I were never afraid to argue with one another.  Mary Ann was strong willed, and as much as I loved her, I was willing to express myself also when something seemed unacceptable to me.  Sometimes we wondered if we should stay together, but making up was such fun.  (Again, too much information.)  I wonder if our ability to argue during those years helped us learn how to survive together and love each other with a lasting love.  We didn’t put each other down.  We just got mad at each other and said so when we were.  We could do passive-aggressive pretty well too.

At the end of my Senior year in college at Ft. Wayne, I finally got a car.  It was a 1950 Chevy in mint condition with 43,000 miles on it.  I got it early in 1965.  I drove it over to St. Louis at the end of that school year, ostensibly to check out the Seminary campus.  When I was there I went to a little office on one of the upper stories in an old building in downtown St. Louis to a wholesale jeweler to who catered to Lutheran Seminary students.  I got a diamond that is of exceedingly high quality, almost a half caret (pretty special for a college kid trying to make it on his own) and beautiful.

I surprised her with it one evening at the beginning of that summer when we were together at my folks place.  As is now obvious, she said yes!

Enough for now.  Like it or not, the story will continue in the next post.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

This is way harder than I ever imagined it could be.  I have counseled people, comforted people, ministered to people who have been in this kind of pain.  I thought I understood, felt their pain.  I had no idea just how much it hurt.  I saw it in their eyes, felt it in their tears, heard it in their voices.  I had no idea the intensity of the pain I was seeing.

Friend John from KC called to check on me.  I told him that I was grieving appropriately, keeping my reactions in check, only having allowed one evening of tears.  Daughter Lisa called to check on me.  I was writing thank you notes at the time she called, listening to a CD of Mozart (a gift to Mary Ann from Young).  Just as Lisa phoned, the piece of music that had started playing was a vocal solo with a voice much like Kristen’s (who sang at the funeral), singing Laudate Dominum, the very piece Kristen sang.  I did not react other than in my gut, but that reaction was painful.

If I were counseling myself, I would tell me that it is way too soon to expect any diminishing of the pain.  In fact as everyone, including me has said, it gets harder after the initial flurry of activity comes to an end.  I would tell me that.  I would be right.  So, what difference does it make to tell me that.  It still hurts like hell.

I now appreciate just how courageous all those people are who have gone through this and survived to live again.  Now I understand.  I can only hope that I will find similar courage.  I am confident that I will be fine, come to life again.  I just don’t have that time in sight yet.

I am currently planning on writing two posts tonight.  This one is about my struggle.  I just could not sit down and start writing about Mary Ann’s and my history together (the second post I plan to write tonight).  I needed to release some pain in words.  I can assure you, if you have not yet tired of it, you will soon tire of me whining about how much this hurts.  Almost everyone I have counseled during times like this has commented on how hard it is to find people willing to listen after a while.  People just tire of hearing the same sad story of how much it hurts.  If they don’t actually say it (sometimes they do), they are thinking, “when is he/she going to get over this, they have been whining too long.”  The problem is, it still does hurt, long after everyone else thinks it shouldn’t any more, that he/she should be getting on with life.

The harsh reality is, no amount of talking, thinking, praying, meditating, writing, crying, walking or eating ice cream is going to take the pain away.  It will have to run its course and find a tolerable spot to live in me as life goes on.

At this point, too much quiet, alone time, as much as I have relished it in the past does not seem to be a good idea.  I suspect I am more in need of social interaction than solitude.  In social settings a holy hypocrisy takes over.  It calls me to be better than I feel, to be okay even if I am not.  I don’t feel okay, but if I wait until I feel okay to re-enter life and function normally, it will be a long time in coming.

I got up early this morning and went to Cedar Crest again to walk a couple of miles.  It was a cool morning, blue sky with whispy white clouds, some with little puffs in rows.  The birds were singing again, Meadow Larks, Robins, Blue Jays, Red Winged Blackbirds, a Great Blue Heron and more that I didn’t recognize.  What appeared to be a Green Heron flew over at one point.  They are far less  common than the others.

I did some chores, changed the linens on my bed, washed them along with the few things I had in the hamper.  I am going to have trouble getting enough for a load of wash and filling the dishwasher full enough to justify running it.  I fed watered plants and fed the birds.  The routine tasks help give me a sense of accomplishment, however insignificant tasks are.

I made a necessary trip to the grocery store.  It felt strange to be pushing only the grocery cart instead of pushing the wheel chair with one hand and pulling the cart with the other.  I bought nothing frivolous, but it came to $75.  What does one person need with $75 worth of groceries.

Even though I have only done a small percentage of the thank you notes, I am glad to have gotten started.  As I suspected, that is a therapeutic activity, if sometimes a little sad as memories are triggered.

Writing about the intensity of the pain has helped take the edge off.  Now I am ready to write some more about Mary Ann’s and my life together.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

FIRST CONTACT: She was 5 and I was 3.  She pushed me off the chair — or did I push her off?  Our Mothers never told us who pushed whom, just that it happened.  It was a Ladies’ Aid Meeting at Our Saviour Lutheran Church, 420 Downer Place, Aurora, IL.  I did not have to look up that address.  I remember it well.

We broke up for a few years after that incident, sixteen years to be exact.  I tried other girls in between.  There was Marsha in the 1st Grade.  I was devastated when she moved.  I don’t remember if we ever actually talked.  That is irrelevant in the First Grade.  That, by the way, was the year Butch and I decided that we would walk home to our respective houses on the same block even though it was just recess time.  The Principal came, picked me up, and sent me back to the classroom.  I still have a little video in my mind of walking back into the classroom that afternoon.

Then a few years later, I was playing in the basement at Sharon’s house (how I got there and why, I have no idea).  She kissed me.  It scared the bejeebers out of me and I ran home as fast as I could go.  We never spoke again.  I suspect Sharon doesn’t even remember it happening.  If she does, I doubt she would ever admit to it.

Then in the 7th Grade, it was Georgia.  Her hair stuck out in curls on either side of her head. She looked cute in her Poodle skirt and bobbie sox rolled down.  The closest we came to contact was sitting next to one another by accident at an all school Assembly.  She seemed decidedly annoyed that she ended up sitting next to me.

Then there was Paula, tall, with long blond hair.  It was the 8th Grade.  I thought there was hope.  She shut me down when I called her.  She said, “I thought I told you not to call!”  Then she hung up.  She never told me not to call!!

By the way, those all happened in the years I was still tall, second tallest boy in the whole Seventh Grade of maybe sixty kids.  Apparently my Pituitary Gland decided it had had enough and stopped putting out.  Everyone else grew, I was done with that.

It was not until Pam that a girl I liked actually liked me back.  She was from our church, a year older and pretty.  As a Sophomore in high school, it was no small thing to be going with someone older.  After all the rejection, I was sort of surprised anyone would be interested.  When I got my class ring as a Junior, my parents were mightily displeased when I gave it to Pam to declare that we were going steady.  Let me clarify for the young among you.  It was two years of dating before we held hands and not until she was at college that we kissed — and then it was the sort of kiss that would be seen in a 1950’s movie.  Some time in the Senior year, I broke up with her.  I am not sure why.  I remember during the first year in college writing her and telling her I had made a mistake, but it was too late by then.

My Senior year I did have a couple of dates with classmates.  I don’t suppose there would have been any future if the date with Carol had been any more than just a one time casual date.  I am not sure a Jewish Spouse would have been a popular thing for a Pastor in a fairly conservative branch of Lutheranism.  One of the kids I hung out with in choir and music activities suggested that I ought to become a Rabbi (which is what Mary Ann’s family calls me).  I did try to learn to chant Hebrew once.  I could read Hebrew and I could chant, but I could not put them together as any fourteen year old Jewish child who goes to Hebrew School can.

When I got to college in Milwaukee, the girls were nowhere to be found. It was an all male student body.  What a bummer!  I asked a school secretary out, but she said no.  Later she told me that she was going out with someone in her home town and was afraid she might like me too much.  Nice try!  Actually, she married someone who turned out to be a nationally acclaimed writer.  She did very well.  I know her husband as well and like both of them.  They are good people.

In college I did date for a few weeks a girl who made me look tall.  Then a young woman came to the school with a choir from another campus of our church body’s schools.  Alice had striking red hair.  We sort of hit it off, but distance made dating impractical.  I don’t actually know how interested she might have been.

Understand that I was always surprised when there was so much as a hint of interest from a girl.  Short, big ears, pointed nose, and no practice at the art of dating and interacting with girls, made me very unsure of myself.  In those years there was no “hooking up” to be done, especially for a naive ministerial student.  Courting was a very measured matter.  Or maybe that I thought so was one of my problems.

After the first year of college in Milwaukee, I returned to Aurora to work at Fredrickson’s Office Supply and live at home with my parents for the summer.  I had participated, and, I guess, help found a Singles’ Group at Our Saviour.  We enjoyed social gatherings, playing Hearts, eating pizza.

SECOND CONTACT: She and Joy were sitting on the bleachers two rows down and just to the left of me.  She was yelling (not sweetly) at the umpire at the church softball game.  It is there that I met her again after the nasty incident at the Ladies’ Aid Meeting.  She had long dark hair, olive skin, striking blue eyes, and a whole lot of attitude.  Whatever “at first sight” there was, it sure turned into love in short order.

That story will continue tomorrow.

Today went reasonably well.  I began it with two rounds on the path out in the open area at Cedarcrest, the Governer’s Mansion.  It is a beautiful estate whose grounds are open to the public.  It was a cool, clear morning.  The birds were busy, singing loudly.  By the way, an exercise walk is not a time for birdwatching.  It is a time for bird listening.  I was frustrated at how little I know about identifying birds by there call.  I did recognize the Red Winged blackbird’s various songs.  It took me right back to my years playing in the swamp.  The walk was over two miles. At least it is a start.

Every once in a while it would pop into my mind that I needed to get back to the car to check on Mary Ann.  After one round, I needed to get back to the house to check on Mary Ann, then I realized that was not necessary — I could walk a second round.

After showering, having breakfast and feeding the birds, there were a few emails to which I responded.  Among them were the ones related to what we will be doing in the Aurora area as a remembrance for Mary Ann.  The date is set:  Saturday, July 10 at Reuland’s, 115 Oak Avenue, Aurora, IL 60506.  We have the room from 11:30am to 3:30pm.  We will set a specific time for the worship part and remembrances and include that information in a subsequent post.  My hope is that everyone who wants to come will come for the luncheon portion also.  Those of you who read this blog and are close enough to come are welcome. Please comment to let us know a number so that we can tell Reuland’s how many to prepare for.

When I was walking this morning I thought again about the difference between what our life together looked and felt like from the inside compared to how it looked (and now feels) from the outside.  Our life was not lived in relation to what could have been.  It was lived in relationship to each other and our reality at the moment.  It was the only life we could actually live.  What could have been simply did not, does not exist.  It is somewhere in those observations that I hope to find the ability to come to terms with the horror of what I see when I look back, when the video is running in my mind.

The day included a trip to the funeral home to deliver the check for the difference between what the Pre-need Plan paid and what it actually cost.  I caught the Assistant Administrator off guard when I phoned her after receiving the bill today.  I told her that they had undercharged me for something.  She corrected it.  When I brought the check, she admitted that it was the first time anyone had called to notify them of being billed too little.  I would have complained if it had been the other way around.  They did the work, they deserve the pay.  They also did a very good job.  By the way, the funeral home is just blocks away from G’s Frozen Custard.  Who knows when I will be back in that area.  (Actually, I could have mailed the check.  I saved a 44 cent stamp and it only cost me the a dollar’s worth of gas and $3.52 for the Sundae. What a deal!)

Apologies — I still haven’t started the Thank You’s.  I now have absolutely no excuse not to get things done.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

It is the name of a movie and what happened at our (my) house last night.  I set the stage in a way that would allow it to happen.  I needed for it to happen.  It changes nothing.  It just needed to get out.

After finishing writing last night, I did a few chores and then got out the box of letters I wrote Mary Ann.  I put on the CD that had brought me to tears months ago when we first realized it was time to call in Hospice.  I read a few of the letters.  Actually, the letters did not tap my emotions.  They are pretty boring.  I ramble on about Greek tests and singing groups and learning recitativs for someone who couldn’t sing the solos at the last minute.  Each letter so far, and I am sure all of them, end with declarations of love in as many different ways as I could figure out to say them.  I have read eight of the letters so far.  Understand, for three years, except for summers when we could see each other, I wrote her a letter every night.  (No wonder I have gotten into this blogging every night business.)

Remember, I was nineteen or twenty years old and very much in love.  They sound like something from a bad romantic movie.  The only redeeming element is that I really meant what I was saying: “I don’t know how to tell you just how much I love you and miss you.  I can hardly believe it myself.  I love you.”  Then another: “Even if you didn’t love me — I love you enough for both of us.”  I will spare you any more for now.

It was not the letters. Certainly the music lowered my defenses and helped me let go of my control.  I just pulled down a picture of the two of us from a year or two or three ago.  It is the one that was cropped for the obituary.  I looked and I remembered the indignity of it all.  I remembered what she endured looking from the outside in rather than from inside the struggle.  I could not tolerate the thought that she is gone.  I spoke out loud because I couldn’t not speak.  In a moment of self-pity, I asked “Why did you give her to me to love and then take her away.”  I was angry — not out of control angry, just angry.  “It’s not fair that she should have had to suffer so — she did nothing to deserve it.”

Please understand, I realize that God doesn’t like death and sickness any more than we do.  I realize that God understands death from the inside out and the outside in.  God didn’t wish for Mary Ann to suffer, for me to be in pain with her.  What God did was hang in there with us through it all, never letting go of us.  Understand also that God’s relationship with us is strong enough and intimate enough to allow anger to be a part of it.  I needed to be angry at that moment.  Read the Psalms some time and see just how many are laments spewing anger at the unfairness of life.  Pastor Mike addressed this matter at the funeral.

Noisy tears flowed.  The dam broke.  Every time I looked at her face and remembered, the tears flowed.  In an earlier post, I mentioned that I used to count how many times I had cried in my adult life.  The first time was after I got the phone call that my Dad had died.  I was 42 years old.  Until last January, I had not yet run out of fingers on one hand to count the times.  I have stopped counting and will never do so again.

I guess there was some part of me that still thought it was a sign of weakness for a man to cry.  I knew before and I know still more certainly now that crying, actually letting the pain in far enough to feel it, is an act of courage that is demanded if wholeness and healing will come.  Running away from it or pretending it isn’t there or encrusting it in some sort protective casing is hardly the path to strength of character and the ability to endure whatever comes.

There was an interesting coincidence at our Spiritual Formation group this morning.  The lesson in our discussion booklet for this morning was entirely devoted to the need to let go, to die, before we can rise to new life.  The last of the four discussion questions printed at the end of the readings was, “What role does the reality of death and the deaths of those you love play in your life?”  Talk about timing.

Today was a busy Wednesday, as they often have been for some reason.  It started with the Spiritual Formation Group on the deck.  While that was going on Landscaper Sheila was doing her final maintenance of the landscaping she put in this spring.  She will return in the fall to do some clean up and prepare it for winter.  I am on my own for the rest of the summer.  Those plantings are in great jeopardy!

In the mid-morning, Dave came over to get a couple of death certificates and obtain the signatures needed on a variety of forms for the financial issues following a death.  Then Kristie came over to do the monthly house cleaning.  Now the house is not only empty but empty and clean.

I did some overdue posting in the computer check register while she cleaned.  It will take a while to get my bearings in that arena.  Everything seems to be on course.  I have configured the online emails from the Caregiving Spouses of those with Lewy Body Dementia so that I have to go to the web site to read them.  As a result, the hours I have spent checking emails have pretty much been eliminated.  I just can’t read those emails at the moment.  It takes me right back to something from which I need a break for now.

I had leftovers from the funeral dinner for lunch and dinner.  Next I will start on all the containers that Lisa put in the freezer when food was coming in faster than we could eat it. It should be many weeks before it is necessary for me to exercise my culinary skills.

I decided it would be best to get out of the house for a while, so I made a quick run to pick up a couple of things.  One is a zippered cover for a pillow.  No amount of soaking in Oxy Clean or spraying with Spray and Wash is able to get the stains out.  Mary Ann was taking Plavix and Aspirin to thin her blood because of her stroke.  Often her gums or nose would bleed a little during the night.  The pillow is certainly clean, and now it looks that way also.

The house is becoming very neat and orderly and boring.  I still hope to at least get my office, which is a complete shambles, cleaned up.  That happening would be right up there with the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes.  Actually, I suppose my problem is that I have the twelve baskets of leftovers and nowhere to put them.

Here are the ideas that I have seen so far for the title of a new blog to replace this one: newlifeemerging.com; calltocontemplation.com; buildingnewlife.com; next chapter; life after retirement; thecontinuinglife.com; my journey continues; life’s journey continues; a new role begins; continuing life’s pathway; making new memories — remembering the old; progressive pathways; pathways of personal progression; day by day; heading home; homeward bound; faith journal; moving on; stepping stones (to healing).

By the way, whatever it is, it needs to be in the .com format and checked with a site like godaddy.com to see if it is available or already in use.

Well, this day has come to an end.  As I mentioned to Son Micah, the challenge is to manage the pause and stop button on the video running in my mind of Mary Ann’s most difficult days including the last one, so that there will be minimal flooding from the broken dam.  Today was better.

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