The Empty Pillow

Once upon a time, birds of the air, beasts of the Earth, creatures under the sea were created. God was pleased but not complete. Man was added to the masterpiece. Day after day, Man watched over the birds, beasts and sea creatures.

Night after night, Man slept alone and woke up to an “empty pillow”. All of the birds, beasts and sea creatures had companions. God with all His mercy and compassion realized that Man also needed and deserved a companion, so Woman was created. No more “empty pillow” for Man!

That is a very simplistic summary of how I believe we were created. It convinces me that we were not meant to live in solitude. Some people we meet along life’s pathway are friends. If we are blessed, we find a “significant other” who is our best friend and true love. Some of us bear a child or children who we love and nurture, and some of us have fur-babies we can love and cherish. Throughout our relationships, we share laughter, tears, fears and successes –but most of all, love.

In my short life, I’ve crossed paths with 1000’s of people and adopted eight fur-babies. Some people were placed in my path for a season, and I’m blessed with those who are life-long friends and family. The hardest lesson I’ve learned through all of my relationships is this: What do you do when you wake up in the morning only to find an “empty pillow” – an unexpected void in your life?

I’ve experienced and somehow endured many, many, many “empty pillows” — each heart-wrenching no matter how long the relationship lasted. But as I said good-bye to each “empty pillow”, whether they left planned or unplanned I managed to endure. As the song sings “only the strong survive”.

For me personally, God always provided a new opportunity. With each “empty pillow”, a new friend or family member or 4-legged rescue was placed in my life’s pathway. Each was an opportunity to fill my void with a new “pillow” at precisely the right time. These new “pillows” will never replace the “empty pillows”. However, I’ve learned that all my “empty pillows” have provided new life and love to another.

I, too, have been given a new beginning. At just the right time when God knew I was ready, He blessed me with not only a best friend but a true love. My husband and Frankie make sure I don’t wake up to an “empty pillow”. My husband is my life and gives me a reason to wake up each morning.

We never know how long our relationship will last before we wake up to yet another “empty pillow”. Despite the grief with each situation, I managed to “push through” and “keep on going on”. I learned that it doesn’t matter how long the relationship lasts, but the gift of spending time and love together is what is important. Experiencing and appreciating the special bond between me and my friends, family members, and pets – but most of all my husband, my life-partner – gives me lots of love and “pillow talk”!

Bea positive and embrace each day with thanksgiving and anticipation to love fiercely and whole-heartedly with heart and soul. Someone will cross your path who needs a “pillow” from you or maybe they will provide a much-needed “pillow” for you. Bea-lieve because it happened to me.

The Reunion

What is life all about?  Family and friends and love.  If you don’t have them, you have nothing.  So what happens when you feel like you’ve lost all of them?  You get in a hole that you can’t dig out of, or can you?  I was there and didn’t think I would ever see light or life again.

When you’ve lost a loved one, you’ve watched them die in front you, how do you recover?  You think you have family, friends, people who will help you dig out.  You probably do but you don’t think so at the time when you’re devastated and in deep despair.  The grief is so deep that you can’t think straight . . . or let me be blunt . . . you can’t think at all.  You just want everything to go away.

Your family is your blood and yet, they don’t understand what you’re going through because they haven’t experienced the loss and grief that you have.  They try to comfort you but there is no comfort.  They try to express words to help you but they only make things worse.  The hole gets deeper and darker with each passing day.

And yet, at the end of the dark tunnel, your family sticks with you.  They never stop loving you, and they never give up on you.  While they can’t help you through the grief, they pray and hope and never stop loving you.  They never lose faith that you will snap out of it.

That’s what happened to me.  After 9 long, lonely months, I finally saw light.  It came in the form of a new love . . . not one that I was looking for.  It was so sudden and so profound that it was scary and unexpected.  But it was the little spark that I needed.

After a couple of weeks, I accidentally pocket dialed my sister.  I almost hung up and then she answered.  She was so ecstatic to hear from me.  She even told me that she hoped for facebook posts to know that I was ok.  It was the best phone call I had after so many months of silence.  She told me that my parents were coming to visit for Mother’s Day, would I come?  I wasn’t ready to speak to them, let alone see them.

Roger, my light, convinced me to call my mother on Mother’s Day.  I was so apprehensive, but I did.  It was the most healing moment.  I will never forget the call.  I called my sister’s cell phone, and she told my mom that “someone wants to talk to you.”  My mom asked, “is it  Bea?”  It was the only thing she wanted for Mother’s Day.  It was a short conversation but worth the few minutes.

Three weeks ago, my new fiancé called my father to let him know he had bought a ring for me.  A week later, my parents drove down to meet Roger.  It was the first time that I saw them in 15 months.  So ironic that a new relationship, new love, new home was the catalyst for the reunion.  It was so overwhelming and yet the moment I needed.  I had to feel the love and comfort that only parents can give a child.

The reunion was just another step in my long journey.  I have someone who loves me for me . . . for all my faults and foibles and dark moments.  But most of all, I have my family who never left my side . . . never gave up hope . . . never gave up on me.  Bea Positive that life is worth living . . . life is all about love . . . all about family.

Hope

While Easter 2015 was almost 10 days ago, I captured this Easter lily in my garden after a spring rain. It’s perfect and unopened with freshly fallen rain appearing like teardrops rolling down the bud. But instead of tears of mourning, these raindrops symbolize tears of joy for a beautiful bud which will soon fully blossom. The lovely Easter Lily symbolizes Life, Purity and HOPE.

Hope is a feeling of expectation, anticipation — an optimistic attitude of positive outcomes. While life can throw us unexpected curveballs, it’s important to never lose hope. Even when it seems impossible in the natural, God always has the last word. As St. Clement said,

“If you do not HOPE, you will not find what is beyond your HOPE.”

My wish for you is that these positive images, history and even mythology about the Easter Lily leave you with optimism and hope. What better time than the Easter Season to remind us that Jesus Christ offers us eternal HOPE!  We have a couple of lilies getting ready to bloom.  We will enjoy their beauty as well as the reminder to HOPE so that we will find what is beyond our HOPE.

  • Often called the “White Robed Apostles of Hope”, lilies were discovered in the Garden of Gethsamane. According to tradition Lilies grew up where Jesus Christ’s sweat fell to the ground in His final hours of sorrow and distress. No wonder that during Easter, these lilies signify the resurrection of Jesus and HOPE for eternal life!!
  • In early paintings, the Angel Gabriel offers the Virgin Mary pure white lilies announcing that she will be the mother of Jesus.
  • St. Joseph is depicted in some paintings holding a lily to his virgin wife, Mary.
  • Other paintings pictorialize saints bringing white lilies to Mary and Jesus after His birth.
  • According to legend, the white lilies were formed when Eve cried repentant tears upon leaving the Garden of Eden – symbolizing that true repentance leads to beauty.
  • Roman mythology links lilies to Juno, the queen of gods. While Juno was nursing her son, Hercules, excess milk fell from the skies. Part of the milk remained above the earth, forming a group of stars called the Milky Way. The remainder of the milk fell to the earth and sprung up as white lilies.

Always remember to Bea Positive and always remain full of HOPE!

Sources:

from http://extension-horticulture.tamu.edu/plantanswers/publications/lily/lily.html

“Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable,” compiled by Ivor H Evans. Harper & Row, 1989, p. 663

“Polar Bears Should Be Safe . . .”

Mary brought dinner and spent a few hours with me the other night. She handed me the pan, and said, “I’ve got one more thing in the car.” When she walked back in, I saw the red flowers, green pine needles and frosted pinecones, and choked back the tears. She told me, “I know you won’t put anything out, but I wanted you to have something for the season.” And then when she pulled it out of the box, I saw the polar bears.

We sat down and chatted for a while. I shared some of John’s poetry with her and more of our story. She remembered “My Precious Flower” from the memorial service. As she read the poems, she revealed her perspective to me and what she sees in his words.  She read a few lines from several poems out loud and urged me to listen, “I must have you by my side before I can be whole”, “nature’s picture of you and I, love’s bouquet ‘til time does end”, “let me love you for all time”, “arm-in-arm together for all eternity”.  She said, “don’t you see, you and John are one — forever.”

After a while, we decided to eat. As we walked into the kitchen, I said, “after we eat, I want to show you something.” She told me about how she and Zach rummaged through her pantry as they improvised the smoked turkey stuffed shells, making red sauce with diced tomatoes and pizza sauce! They were delicious and much appreciated.

After dinner, we returned to the great room. I went to the back bedroom and grabbed the polar bear. As soon as she saw it, she was completely dumbfounded. Again, I choked back tears. She told me about her trip to the florist shop. She said she was very deliberate and measured as she looked for a gift trying to avoid emotional triggers.

Mary told me how she didn’t want to get a “live” plant so there was no chance for it to wither and die. She steered away from angels, hawks, Christmas trees, little dogs, anything that she knew would probably evoke tearful memories. She picked up the polar bears and put them back down several times. She laughed and said the people in the shop probably thought she was nuts. After much hesitancy, she picked up the polar bears one last time. She thought to herself, “polar bears should be safe.”

John bought a little red rocking chair for the polar bear. We had it sitting in his office next to his desk. She apologized and then said, “for whatever reason, John chooses me to connect him with you.” She looked at me and added, “he even has a scarf around his neck.”

She stayed for a bit longer. Before leaving, she took a picture of the arrangement and my polar bear. Later that evening, she sent a text “love you . . . enjoy your arrangement from John!” She added that it “blew Zach’s mind” when she shared the picture and story.

Once again, John, my dearest angel, spoke to me through Mary . . . this time through little polar bears.

GivingTuesday God-Wink

Jesse and his helper arrived at 9:00 a.m. and rang the doorbell. I opened the door, and he stepped off the porch and told me they were here to install our fence. He said it would probably take two or three hours. I thanked him, and closed the door.

I watched out the back patio doors as they carried the materials to the back yard. They made several trips and brought their post-hole diggers on their last trip. They turned on some music, and they went to work.

Every now and then I would look out the doors to see the progress. As I do every day, I stepped out on the patio and spoke to John, hoping he was watching over me. Again, I asked him to speak to me somehow; let me know he hears me.

Jesse and his helper continued to work, never taking a break. By noon, it was obvious they would be there longer than three hours. They made several more trips back and forth to their trailer as they brought more materials to complete the fence.

For the last hour, I watched Jesse and his helper finish the fence. They even raked the dirt and grass along the fence, and I was grateful that I didn’t have to ask them. As I watched, I started getting glimpses in my mind of our other home projects and two major relocations.

  • We had our house painted in IL. John provided water and Gatorade to the painters, and even tipped them for a job well-done.
  • For our move from IL to NC, we had a great moving crew. John offered a grill and several pieces of furniture to the movers that we were going to donate anyway. When the truck arrived in NC, John provided water and Gatorade to the guys, and then tipped all three as a thank you for their help.
  • For our move from NC to FL, we had the same crew load in NC and unload in FL. John bought lunch for them, and gave all four envelopes with cash before they drove off. They had to drive around the neighborhood to head back out. As they drove by our house, the driver honked the horn and all of them waved with big grins on their faces.
  • We had our house in FL painted last year. One of the guys even offered to repaint our outdoor lights so that they were freshly painted along with the house. John gave each worker cash before they left our house.
  • In June this year, we had to replace our refrigerator. The two guys who delivered were terrific and even mopped the floor as they changed out the water line. John called the store manager to let him know what a great job the two young men had done with our delivery.

It was then that I knew John was speaking to me, touching my heart. I grabbed two bottles of water and some cash. It was after 1:00 p.m. when Jesse rang the doorbell. When I opened the door, he again stepped off the porch and let me know they had finished. I held out the two bottles of water and told him the fence looked great. He smiled and said, “oh, you already saw it.” Then, I handed him the cash and told him to go buy lunch for the two of them. He smiled even bigger, thanked me again and said God bless.

I closed the door and tears flowed. I thanked John for touching my heart, for giving me inspiration that I desperately need. It was another small God-Wink and so very appropriate and timely for “GivingTuesday”.

He Smiled At Me

The gymnasium was set up for a career fair at the high school for the Great American Teach-In. There were tables set up for participating companies, disciplines and even the U.S. Air Force from MacDill AF Base. I reluctantly signed up to help with the career fair since they said it would be 1-on-1 with students vs. classroom.

I don’t like crowds  and quickly became claustrophobic, especially with all of the chatter in the gym. Science/Technical isn’t a popular subject matter to the vast majority of students, so not many stopped by. Those who did were grabbed up by the other two at my table.  I sat quietly, tuned out the noise and watched the students mill about the gym. It was very apparent to me that the students were more interested in being out of the classroom than careers. Most students did “drive by’s” each table, picked up freebies, hung out with their friends until the bell rang.

Two and half hours was an eternity to me. A new group of students entered the gym. My two table-mates quickly found someone else to talk to. I saw the young man standing in front of our table. He was all alone and holding a U.S. history book almost as big as him. He looked uncomfortable and almost frozen in front of our table, unsure of what to do.

It pained me to see him all alone and uneasy. I saw his name tag, and said, “hello Michael”. He looked up, and said hello back, surprised that I spoke to him. I asked him how he was doing, and he said “ok”. I continued speaking and asked him if he was interested in the science/technical field. He told me he didn’t really know what he wanted to do. He told me he was a sophomore. He was shorter than me with a slight build; I surmised that he was one of the smaller boys, if not the smallest, in his class. I told him he has a lot of time to figure out what he wants to do.

Then I asked him if he liked history, and he nodded “yes” and relaxed a bit. So I asked him, “what are you studying?” to which he replied, “World War I”. I asked him to tell me what started the war, and he was eager to share. He told me that U.K., France and Russia opposed Germany and Austria-Hungary. I said that I didn’t remember the details but “why did the U.S. get involved?” He told me that we remained neutral until Germany invited Mexico to fight against the U.S. and would help them recover TX, NM and AZ.

Curious if he was abreast of current events, I asked him, “what do you think about what’s going in our world today?” He was very thoughtful and said that we need to look back on history and understand what lessons we learned. We need to think long-term and hopefully make a good decision for our country. I asked if World War II is next, and he told me the Great Depression is next. I told him, “as bad as our economy is now, it’s nothing compared to the Great Depression.”

Just then, the bell rang and it was time for him to return to class. I said, “you’re a very sharp young man. Thank you for talking to me and good luck to you.” And that’s when he broke into a full, tooth-filled smile. He held out his hand to me which I shook. He said, “thank you, thank you for coming today.”

It was an emotional drive home, mostly because I wouldn’t be able to share my experience with John. All afternoon, Michael’s smile kept coming back to my mind. Then, it dawned on me – John loved history, especially U.S. history. He always told me how he was a scrawny kid growing up, a loner, uncomfortable in crowds like me, like Michael. It was less than 10 minutes in the three hours I spent at the career fair, but it’s as if Michael stopped in front of me on purpose. He needed me to speak to him, and I needed to speak to him. It was as if John, my guardian angel, smiled at me through Michael’s smile, a tiny little God-wink for me.

You Said . . .

Sometimes tomorrow is too late.  Don’t promise something that you can’t fulfill.  Bea there when they need you, not when you can be there.

You said you would be there for us,

But you had an important meeting.

You said you would clear your calendar

And be there, you said, “I promise, you’ll see”.

You said you would see us next week

After all, the doctors said you’re doing better

“So we’ve got plenty of time

We’ll make plans soon and get together.”

You said you would be there for me

But I never called you to say when.

So I managed without you all this time,

“It’s ok, I’m ok, I’ll manage on my own again.”

You said you’d like to be there for me

But you said, “all we can do is pray”

After all, it’s been a few months now

Surely, God will provide a new way.”

You said we’ll try to be here for you

But my tears and sorrow were too much.

You stayed as long as you could stand

And then packed and drove away without a touch.

You said you are here to help me

But only for a couple of days.

You see, we have our own lives;

We cannot deal with your life’s crazy maze.

You said you would be there for me

But this weekend we’re going to the Keys

“We’ll see you when we return;

It’s not your time, you see.”

You said you would stay with me

So that I wouldn’t have to go it alone

But too many other things happened,

So once again I was alone.

You said you would be there for me

But now you have to go out of town.

“I’m sorry I didn’t mean to bother;

I’ll be ok, I’ll survive, I promise I won’t drown.”

So what if you’re not here for me . . .

It’s no different than most of my life.

I only had one I could count on here

And now he has entered heaven, a life with no strife.

Kalik Konnection

My friend, Stacey, is helping me write a book about the love story between me and my husband.  One of the chapters in the book describes our all-expenses paid trip to the Atlantis on Paradise Island, Bahamas.  An excerpt of the chapter is below.

We slept in late on our first morning, enjoying coffee and brunch.  As we did on most of our day trips and vacations, we kept the day low-key.  It was the two of us and my camera experiencing the beach surrounding The Atlantis.  It was overcast, so the sun wasn’t scorching.  We walked the beach hand-in-hand letting our feet be tickled by the waves.  We walked away from the hotel and found a private area with chairs and an umbrella.  We sat away from others, just listening to the waves roll onto the shore, relaxing and enjoying each other’s company.

We spent a few leisurely hours at the beach, and then headed back towards the hotel.  The Island Pool looked inviting.  We found a couple of lounge chairs and kicked back with a Kalik beer, the local favorite.  The pool was fairly quiet, however, you could hear the laughter and shouts coming from the Mayan Temple water slides.  John and I were perfectly content to sit in the corner taking pictures of each other and planning a romantic dinner for the evening.

A week prior to reading the chapter, Stacey had directed me to Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue to check out potential rescues.  There was a little yorkie who was looking for a home.  When John and I lived in North Carolina, I used to travel to Roanoke, VA on business, and he traveled with me.  Our all-time favorite steakhouse is Frankie Rowland’s in downtown Roanoke where we dined every time we traveled there.  It just so happened, the little yorkie looking for a home is named Frankie, spelled just like the steakhouse.  He’s now part of our family.

On the afternoon of 10/7, Stacey clicked on Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue’s facebook page.  There on the FB cover is a little dog sitting on the beach with a Kalik beer next to him.  Stacey had never heard of Kalik beer before reading our story.  As Stacey shared with me, “Tears in my eyes as I type this . . . I directed you toward lil Frankie at Nate’s Rescue . . . you adopt him . . . I read the story of your trip to the Bahamas . . . this picture shows up on Nate’s FB page.”

Coincidence?  Maybe . . .

Fluke?  Possibly . . .

A wink from God to connect me and John?  Positively . . . that’s what I Bea-lieve.

Instead of hawks or a beautiful rainbow, Stacey provided a connection to John through Frankie, named in honor of our favorite steakhouse, and Nate’s facebook cover page with a little dog enjoying the beach with a Kalik beer . . . thus, the Kalik Konnection.

Kalik Konnection

Spaghetti & Meatballs ?!?!?! Really?

Do you ever wonder why God places certain people in your path? I believe they are there when you need a sign that you are not alone. I believe they are they to provide a necessary connection to a loved one when you are too emotional to feel the tie you so desperately need.

Mary and Brian are two such people that have been placed in my life. John and I started attending Horizon Christian Church on Easter Sunday this year. We never met Mary and Brian, but they knew our beautiful story before they knew us. Since August, they are providing a much-needed connection between me and John without ever having met John themselves.

Over the last couple of months, I have been writing the beautiful love story between me and John. Mary is one of my “editors”. She is supposed to read as I write and provide feedback and input. However, as of last weekend, she hadn’t read a word that I sent her! She and Brian invited me over for dinner last Saturday, and I reluctantly accepted. She texted me that “they were going easy and having spaghetti and meatballs”.

We had dinner around 6:00 p.m. with their son and “Aunt” Connie. Mary had cooked spaghetti and meatballs and dinner included salad and bread. We enjoyed our meal and nice conversation. At some point, Mary asked me what I liked to eat? I said, “if you read our book, you would know the answer.” She rolled her eyes at me. Then she asked if I liked to drink wine. I said “yes” to which she asked, “what is your favorite?” Again, I said, “if you read our book, you would know the answer.  I’m not going to tell you.” At that point, she said, “ok, ok, I get it, I need to read your book!”

I don’t like driving in the dark by myself, so I left around 7:30 p.m. to go home. I thanked them for their kindness and meal. She packed me some pumpkin bread that she had bought for something sweet.

It was Sunday afternoon when I received a text message from Mary.  All it said was “started reading your book . . . spaghetti and meatballs?!?!?! Really? That blew my mind.”

You see, it blew her mind because she read it in our book after I left her house Saturday night.  Had she read the book ahead of time, she would have known that spaghetti and meatballs was one of John’s favorites.  The first Valentine’s lunch with John was at Olive Garden, and he ordered spaghetti and meatballs. On our day trip to Ybor City, we ate at Spaghetti Warehouse, and he ordered spaghetti and meatballs.  It was a meal he would order many more times over the years.

What Mary doesn’t know, because it’s not part of the book yet, is that pumpkin bread was our favorite that we enjoyed with our morning coffee. John always loaded up on canned pumpkin when it was in season, so that I could bake pumpkin bread and pumpkin bars throughout the year. I made sure I had a fresh loaf whenever Jeri came for Superbowl every year. How would she know that if John didn’t nudge her gently, speaking to her heart and soul, knowing I would be there with her?

So, why did God choose Mary and Brian to be my link to John?  I don’t know . . . I just share the story because it really happened.  I hope to provide inspiration to you, too.  Hopefully, I can help you Bea Positive that God’s ways are mysterious and inexplicable . . .you just have to Bea-lieve.

The Station

I can’t take credit for the story I am sharing tonight except for a few examples of why we yearn for the station and the closing. I received this in an e-mail 27 years ago from a friend of mine and found it a few weeks ago. I kept it all these years and realize it still applies.  Bea Positive and don’t worry about the station up ahead.

“Tucked away in our subconscious is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long trip that spans the continent. We are traveling by train. Out the windows, we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hillsides, of city skylines and village halls.

But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day at a certain hour, we will pull into the station. Bands will be playing and flags waving. Once we get there, so many wonderful dreams will come true, and the pieces of our lives will fit together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damning the minutes for loitering – waiting, waiting, waiting for the train station.

“When we reach the station, that will be it!” we cry.

When I graduate from college.

When I buy a new car.

When I make Vice President.

When I get married.

When I pay off the mortgage.

When I buy a bigger boat.

When I travel to Europe for a month.

When the kids move out of the house.

When I get well.

When I reach the age of retirement, I shall live happily ever after.

Sooner or later, we must realize there is no station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us.

“Relish the moment” is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24: “this is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” It isn’t the burdens of today that drive men mad. It is the regrets over yesterday and the fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who rob us of today.

So stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles.”

Instead, cherish every moment you have with your friends, your pets, your family, your wife or your husband. The station will come soon enough, and not when expected.

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