EPILOGUE – HOPE
We had been praying for several specific things. One, that she would not be in much pain. Only in the last two days did we need to start using pain meds. Two, that she would not linger unaware for a long time. She had been sleeping a lot, but only since starting the pain meds had she been so completely unaware of things.
Third, we prayed that I would stay healthy to see this all the way through. Three years earlier I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. I was now considered in remission. I also had some serious heart issues. Two weeks after she died, I had a heart-attack and had three stints. But I stayed healthy long enough to see it through.
Fourth, we prayed since coming home to hospice care that she would not die on our oldest granddaughter’s birthday, which was May 2nd. Our three children and I were standing around her bed as she took her last breath in the early morning hours of May 1st.
I’ve come to understand that this is how God works. We love to hear stories about how God answers big prayers in big ways. I’ve come to see that He most often answers prayers in small ways, small things that alone may not seem that significant but when taken together are breath-taking. He was with us for the entire journey and we were, every day, under His providential care.
That is how it was with my Fu and the ten months of her terrible illness. Oh, I prayed nearly every night that she would be healed, but I also prayed that both of us would get the rest we needed, which He granted. I prayed for insight so I might be able to respond to her needs, which He did. I prayed for help, and He sent Donna. I prayed for the peace that passes understanding, and He granted that to both of us.
That’s not to say we avoided the “why” questions or the mental anguish and anger associated with such an illness. But God was gracious, giving us the strength to not linger there. Because both of us had trusted Christ in our youth and had invested time in spiritual formation, we had the assurance of our faith. Instead of expending energy wallowing in self-pity and anger, our faith allowed us to acknowledge the reality of the pain but to rise above it and enjoy nearly every minute we had.
I don’t know how anyone could face something like this without faith.
Now that she is gone, I am praying for patience and help to see a new future, one without my Fu. How’s it going, you ask?
It’s a mixed bag. On the one hand, as a result of the heart issues I’ve been to cardio rehab and I’m worked on changing my lifestyle. Pounds I long needed to lose have fallen off. I physically feel better than I have in years.
On the other hand, waves of sadness still overwhelm me at unexpected times. Small reminders of her can catch me off guard: a whiff of her cologne, or a glimpse of a woman with white hair like hers.
Some days I just don’t want to get up. Thus far I have been able to push through that to do what I need to do. I’ve realized that idleness is my worst enemy, so I try to stay busy. Also, too much alone time leads to self-pity, which is not good for anyone. Although I do allow myself an occasional pity party. I figured I have earned it.
I talk about her to my family, or pretty much anyone, without apology. And I also talk to her, at least the her that I know in my heart. Every morning I look at her picture and say, “Good morning my love.” Every evening I tell her good night, and in between I tell her what I’m doing. I even ask for her advice on things. In my heart I know what she would say, and as usual, she is right. This comforts me.
Once a month I visit her grave. She is buried three hours north of our home, next to her mother and grandmother. As of this writing, it has only been four months. It is still hard to visit the grave site, and then hard to leave. But I have to go. I need to talk to her there.
As a pastor for over 40 years, I observed a lot of grief. My advice to people is to face it one day at a time. Don’t self-medicate or try to avoid it. Don’t try to replace your losses too fast. God created us as grieving creatures. He means for us to walk through grief, not to avoid it or go around it. After all, grief is but an expression of love.
I also tell people, don’t waste your grief. By that I mean there is spiritual growth here that you may not find anywhere else. I advise people to not make major life changes until you get through that year of firsts; first birthday, first anniversary, first holidays, etc. I’m trying to take my own advice.
In the days immediately following her death my head was in a fog. Some days the fog returns, but I’m now beginning to see a future. I’m not at peace with it yet, but I am confident that peace will come
More than ever Isaiah 40:31 speaks to me.
Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
‘ They will walk and not become weary.
Some days it is hard to just walk. On those days he keeps me from being too weary. On other days things are so busy I have to run to keep up. He won’t let me get too tired.
And one day, I am certain, I will with wings of faith sore again.
I have gratitude in my heart for my Fu and the wonderful years we had together. That gratitude gives me strength. I’m too blessed to be forever stressed. I am a Mutt without my Fu, yes, but I got to be with her for nearly 50 years. We will be together again in His timing, according to His will. I can wait for the Lord.
It’s a learning experience, life without Fu.
August – September 2021