Remembering . . . Can Be Inspiring

Remembering is painful, it’s difficult, but it can be inspiring and it can give wisdom.” ~Paul Greengrass

A friend of mine suffered what I believe is the absolute worst nightmare for a parent – losing your child. It’s been over 19 months for her, but her heartbreak and struggle continue even to this day. Three months ago, I, too, suffered a tragic loss; something that I never imagined.

Jean was the first person to reach out to me and provided the greatest gifts – a listening ear, words of comfort, empathy, the gift of her time. She invited me over for lunch. She let me cry on her shoulder without giving advice and instruction. She bought chicken soup over which we cried more and let grow cold. She disclosed that most friends and family eventually became weary of her grief funk and slowly distanced themselves from her. She confessed that she used to be “one of those people” – she avoided the griever because it was too uncomfortable — until it it happened to her.  Their tears continued, they didn’t smile even after months.  “Stop it already”, “be strong”, “get over it”, “get professional help” is all she could think.

She told me that well-meaning people want to fix you. Some will try to label your grief; after all, if it is correctly diagnosed, then there is a solution, right? Some psychiatrists and counselors have identified “stages of grief”; unfortunately, they aren’t linear. She told me you won’t move from one to the next in a nice step-by-step process. Or like C.S. Lewis describes “am I going in circles, or dare I hope that I’m on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I going up or down?”

She shared that the one and only thing she wants to do is talk about her son. She wants to tell everyone she meets about her son. She wants to remember all 28 years of his short life. Despite the pain that remembering brings, it provides comfort to share because she remembers the beautiful person he was while he was here. She told me that some choose to forget or not acknowledge because it’s less painful for them – “out of sight, out of mind”.

I am experiencing everything she shared with me like it’s a well-scripted play. Like her, remembering John is not an option; it’s a conscious choice. I remember my gorgeous husband, my friend, my companion and my soul mate. I remember because we were blessed with 20 wonderful years together; to not remember means these years didn’t exist. I remember the beautiful memories we created together which motivate me to write. I write because I promised to share our love story. Eventually, I will share our story because we want to inspire others to pursue their dreams and make them reality.

My request, if you have read this post, is that you develop empathy, not unresponsiveness.  The greatest gifts you can provide to someone like me and my friend are a listening ear, words of comfort, empathy and the gift of your time.

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

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.

Let’s Have Coffee in the Morning . . . Just the Two of Us

One of the simple things we loved to share was coffee in the morning, just the two of us.

Some of the cooler mornings, we sat on the patio to listen to the birds. We were fortunate to have a blue bird family nest in one of the blue bird houses and have two clutches this year.  What a beautiful and peaceful sight to watch the mama and papa birds fly in and out to take care of the babies!

Some mornings, we watched “Good Morning Tampa Bay” to make us smile.

Some mornings, we had coffee with our favorite pumpkin bread. Our little “fur-babies” love pumpkin, too.

Most mornings, we just sat and enjoyed each other’s company, just happy to sit in the same room.

My morning coffee’s not as good when I don’t share it with you.

My day’s not as good when we don’t start with a walk through the morning dew.

Whatever we share is worth more than diamonds or gold.

If you are beside me, and I can take your hand to hold.

I pray each day to God above,

and thank him for bringing you to me and showing me true love.   ~ Your JB

Please cherish all the moments with your loved ones, no matter large or small, for you never know when one might be your last. Bea Positive every day . . . “rain or shine, it’s gonna be a great day.”

Circle of Friends

Back in February, I met a lady in the hospital. She and I shared a common fear – our husbands were in ICU not knowing what the next hour would bring let alone the next day. We were the only two who spent uncountable hours in the ICU waiting room. We were both afraid to leave but too tired to stay.

One day we spoke to each other. We shared our situations. We shared tears, and we shared prayer. We shared our greatest fears with each other – life without our husbands. We prayed fervent prayers to God for divine healing.

Fast forward six months . . . something told me to reach out to Lourdes three weeks ago. It was a strong feeling in my spirit. Lourdes lost Roger in February; he never left ICU. I was devastated for her, and I cried for her. I prayed for her not really knowing what she needed, not really knowing what she was feeling, not really knowing her loneliness.

Until now . . . now I know how she feels. Now I understand the depths of her pain, hurt, loneliness, heartbreak, gut-wrenching sick-to-your-stomach feeling . . . the indescribable hole you feel in your heart. Lourdes was the first person to reach out and ask to sit with me, cry with me, pray with me, experience the same pain with me, asking for nothing in return.

With experiences such as this, you find out who genuinely cares and doesn’t just say the words and phrases that are “a propos”. You find out who stands with you when you can’t find the words to describe how you feel, you can’t itemize what you need, you can’t stop the tears long enough to say hello, you can’t remember who is in the same room with you, you can’t remember if you’ve eaten today.

You find out who is willing to just sit with you while you cry, while you grieve.

You find out who will text you just to let you know they are thinking about you.

You find out who is willing to hold your hand, put an arm around your shoulder and sit in the same room and say nothing.

You find out who is willing to hear what they don’t want to hear.

You find out who is willing to understand that you can’t flip a switch and feel better.

You find out who is willing to provide their company and time vs. suggesting you need professional help.

You find out who is willing to be uncomfortable to provide just a little bit of comfort.

You find out who is willing to be there for the long haul, because it’s a long journey.

You find out that your circle of friends becomes very, very small.

I’m thankful for my very small circle of friends.

“Go Ahead, Make My Day”

Trish cleaned our room around 4:30 p.m. each afternoon. The first couple of times, she was pleasant, said hello and went about her cleaning, not a lot of conversation. Very meticulous, you could tell she takes pride in cleaning the room, bathroom and disinfecting all surfaces. After all, a sanitized environment is critical to the patient’s health and recovery. She spent about 15-20 minutes and then left to take care of the next room.

After a few days, John struck up a conversation with Trish. One of the many qualities that appealed to me was John’s desire to know a person, no matter what their responsibility may be. She takes her responsibility seriously but is a lovely, caring lady. Trish’s husband adores her, much like John adores me! She likes to do yoga on her days off to recharge and meditate. She takes an annual gambling trip with the girls which just so happened during his second week. If it was up to Trish, she’d have all of the floors stripped and waxed! Another example of her high expectation for cleanliness, patient comfort and satisfaction.

Within a couple of weeks as John’s hair thinned, she mentioned how he resembled Clint Eastwood especially when he furrows his brow, looking very serious. She’d say “make my day”, which would make John smile. Such a simple thing, but so delightful – something he anticipated to brighten his day. Needless to say, John’s nickname on the floor became “Clint”!  Each evening before she left, she would blow a kiss and say she would pray for us.

Over the next five months, John would leave and return three times. On each arrival, Trish was one of the first people we saw when we walked onto the 4th floor. Despite the circumstances, it was comforting to see her smile and hear her say, “there’s my cutie-pies”!

So, back again for a third and last time. Trish was the first person we saw as we walked onto the 4th floor. Her face lit up when she saw “Clint” and let us know she had cleaned the room prior to his check-in. Before clocking out, she made a point to say good night, and she would pray for us.

Tuesday, I stepped out of John’s room for a phone call to discuss the next step in his journey to healing. The reality of this finale is overwhelming, stirring up suppressed emotions while producing new ones. I took refuge in the handicap stall in the public restroom. I hadn’t been there more than a couple of minutes when I heard Trish call out, “Mrs. Boxx, are you in here?” I had lost track of time, and John’s procedure was just minutes away. Trish made sure to find me before he was transported away.

I can count the number of hours we’ve known Trish, but she’s as dear as my friends I’ve known for 30+ years. Trish didn’t have to befriend us.  Trish didn’t have to pray for us. Trish didn’t have to come find me because she had her own job to complete. Trish didn’t have to hug me to comfort me. Trish didn’t have to help wipe away my tears as her own eyes welled up. But in the famous words of Dirty Harry, “go ahead, make my day” is what Trish does daily.

Bea Positive and take time to make someone’s day!

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