Category Archives: cancer

Thinking out loud aka Random thoughts from a widow…

I share alot.
Rob always thought I shared a bit too much.
He may have been right in his assumption, I process things by discussing them. img_1789
Since I no longer have my husband to talk to and hash things out, I have a few close friends who have the honor of hearing all of my “stuff…”
Like all the time.
Lol. (Thanks friends)

None the less, I still share here because, well, I’m me…
It’s kind of what I do.

So here are a few things on my mind…
While I am still grieving, I am not drowning or wallowing in my grief.

I have a wonderful life.
I’m extremely blessed.
But the fact of the matter is, I will likely never stop missing my husband.
He was my best friend and the love of my life.
I’m sure this will cause problems in future relationships, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

I will probably always talk about him or post about him on significant days, but I’m not pining for him.
I know where he is.
He was a strong believer who loved God immensely.

But lest you feel sorry for me, know that I’m ok.
I just still miss him and love him.
I don’t know what the Lord is going to do with me, but I trust him.
I don’t know if I’ll remain single or end up married again and honestly, I’m not worried about it.  I’ve always been okay being on my own.
I was before Robert and though I miss him, I’m not going to die being single.

I’ve been single for three years.
I’m waiting on the right man if there is such a thing; and no not a perfect man or a replicated Robert, but someone who loves Jesus and likes Star Wars and the Avengers and hopefully likes to read.

(I know, I’m deep like that)

Life is short.
I plan on living whatever time the Lord allows in the best way possible.
So my plan is to be thankful.
Thankful for my family.
My children.
My mother who is still alive and sows into me still.
My friends who love me and support me.
My Dad Jimmy who blesses the socks off of me.
My oldest sons who drive me crazy and make me laugh so hard until I cry.
My littles, who still enjoy the little things and make me smile daily.
My ten year old who challenges me daily and warms my heart in the very next moment.
The sweet and tender memories I have of my husband.
Our fights, our laughter, our tears and our joys.

All of it.
Everything.

Folks, my life changed in a most horrible way so many years ago. It started with a mysterious stomach ache and led us to live in hospitals and deal with teaching our children an ugly lesson about the word cancer.

Things change so quickly and often without warning.

Because of it, today, I am a different person.
I’m just not the same and that’s okay as well.

The difference in the old me and the me of today, is that I truly realize that it’s not each day that is a gift; it’s each moment.

Seize each moment.
Each boring, mundane, exciting, tumultuous and crazy moment this life offers up to you. Take a picture of it in your mind.
Breathe it in and breathe it out.
Thank God for it, because the moments don’t last forever.

Even the hard stuff. That passes as well, thankfully.

Above all, Remember that He’s always there with you.
Through everything. Every. Thing. Always.
He said he would never leave us nor forsake us, and God is the only one who has never lied to me as far as I know.

Ok.
I’m done now.
You read a lot.
You deserve a treat.
Go grab some coffee or chocolate and then throw some glitter in the air.
It makes everything better!

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What does love look like? 

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It’s February, and sometime right after Christmas little hearts and red heart shaped boxes full of chocolates and goodies started popping up everywhere. It’s close to Valentine’s Day and restaurants everywhere will be chock full of lovers set out to celebrate their love soon.

I suppose that’s what made me start thinking about it.

What is love really? Is it demonstrated by cards and letters and gifts proudly passed through the hands of those who declare their love? Or is it something more?

I think we’d all agree it’s definitely more.

When my husband lay on his death bed weakened and unable to communicate with me, I sat by his bedside and prayed…  I wiped the sweat from his brow and read him scriptures that I knew brought him comfort.

His body, once strong and healthy, was left weakened and frail. He was never a small man by any means of the word, but he had lost so much weight that he didn’t resemble the strong muscular army private I had married.

I was losing him. Each day, I lost a little more and my heart broke just a little more with each passing moment…

In those private moments that no one else saw, I discovered after almost 16 years of marriage what love was.

I was washing his body in the bathtub as he sat on a shower chair when he could no longer stand, him apologizing to me, and me telling him I’d punch him in the face if he apologized again. Because, “This is what we do hon, we take care of each other. You’d do it for me. Now stop apologizing.”

You see, he felt bad that I had to help him. He was a proud man. He didn’t like asking for help. The thing is, I wanted to be the one who was there for him.

I loved him, and while he was no longer healthy and had little to offer me (his words not mine) and things were really really hard; I promised him when we were married that I would be there for him always. I was going to keep my word to my beloved.

In the weeks to follow Robert lost the ability to talk. I didn’t think I could mourn losing him before he died, but there it was. My heart was slowly crumbling and I wasn’t sure how I was going to get through the heartache of losing my very best friend in the whole world.

One day in particular when he was bedridden, there was a mix up with the  nurse who was supposed to come and bathe him. I was aggravated at the nurse, and I was worn out from little to no sleep. I had taken to sleeping on an air mattress at the end of his hospital bed so that I could be close to him if he needed me.

I asked him if it was okay if I bathed him, knowing how he must feel at not being able to do anything for himself. He nodded with what little strength he had.  I gathered my supplies, a bowl of warm water, soap, a wash cloth and towel, and I began to gently wipe his broken body.

In that moment, as tears streamed down my face, I felt the Lord very clearly say to my heart, “This Gretchen. This is what love is. You have loved him well.” I don’t know why God chose that moment to explain to me what love was, but I’ve never forgotten it.

Love is not always something that is shiny or glittery or easy. Sometimes it’s hard and ugly…. I could have walked away from my husband. People do it all the time when there are situations that are too hard to face. I chose to walk closer to him.

Watching my husband die was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do… (And I’ve experienced some hard things in my life) However, I know that despite the difficulty of seeing my husband in immense pain, he knew that I loved him. He knew that I was hurting as well, but I never allowed that to interefere with my care for him.

I’ll be honest. There were times when I wanted to run away, hide from cancer and the world and everything. But the thing is, I wanted to take him with me.  Leaving without him was never an option.

Love is ultimately a choice.

We choose who we love, how we love and if we love each other well. Selfishness is the opposite of love. Loving a person means that you put them before yourself or your own feelings and hopefully they do the same for you.

In my marriage that was the case. We were never this perfect couple who did everything right, but we worked through our issues and chose to allow our difficulties to strengthen our marriage.

It’s been almost three years since my husband passed away. There’s not a day that I don’t think about him… The blessing of that is that I’m not filled with regret.

I served him well, we loved each other well, and I am honored to have cared for him until he took his last breath. While it was difficult, I chose to focus on him and not myself. My needs could wait, because he needed me. I have no regrets aside from wanting more time with him.

Because we chose to love to God first, we were able to love each other.  I am thankful and honored that God allowed me to love him and be loved by him. Choosing to love my husband was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.

Love is a choice.  Choose well.

Surviving when Life kicks you in the buttocks…

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I know that my title is strange, but my husband always used the term buttocks, so it seemed fitting.  And really, that’s what it has felt like for the past four years.  Like life kicked us in the buttocks.

Like really hard… 

You’ve heard of sucker punches?

Well if there’s a sucker punch for the behind, that’s what it has felt like for quite some time.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  I have to tell you a little more about my husband first.  Then maybe the title will make just a little more sense to you and you won’t think that I’m weird or inappropriate.  Or maybe you will; it could go either way.

 He was my best friend.

Someone I could talk to and share my heart with.

He was literally my only guy friend at the time

that didn’t try to push for something more than friendship.

I felt safe with him.

He knew my heart and he got me.

I never imagined that one day that he would become my husband.

But he did. 

It was like a fairy tale.

We never dated.

We never kissed.

                              He was my very best friend and one day he asked me to become his wife.

And I did.

One practice kiss before the ceremony, and a few hours later he was mine.

I was his.

And it was beautiful.

We shared our life and the children came and glued us together. Jobs came and went and a few gray hairs popped up here and there but his beautiful smile still melted my heart, and I seemed to melt his…

He encouraged me, he pointed me to Christ, he loved me, he believed in me; and we were happy.

Happier than I’d ever been before….

Life was good.

We were good.

The kids were getting older, and we grew even closer…

We dreamed together of our future…

A house in the country…

A huge front porch where we would watch our future grandchildren play

as we sipped sweet tea in our matching rocking chairs…

And then he got sick…

A stomach ache…

Which turned out to be colon cancer…

And I got scared.

And he told me to trust God.

So we prayed.

And we believed.

And he died.

For fifteen years, eight months, twenty-nine days,

two hours and fifty-two minutes I was his wife and he was my beloved.

I thought that in the end, our story would be our testimony of God’s goodness.

Instead; it is my testimony of his goodness and faithfulness.

It’s been almost two years since my husband passed away.

Two years.

Two years without hearing his voice, or feeling his arms around me.

Two years without his advice or encouragement.

Two years of being alone without my best friend.

If you’re married; close your eyes right now and imagine that for a few minutes…

Really think of how that would feel.

It’s not a good feeling, I can assure you…

I’m not sure how I’ve survived aside from the grace of God.

You see, He (God) was front and center in our relationship. He was the entire basis of what we were as a couple. He sustained us through a two year battle with cancer that ultimately took my husband home to be with the Lord.

Our five children were part of the equation that got me out of bed each day…

The other part of equation was that still quiet voice that spoke to my heart in the depths of my grief.

People kept telling me that I was strong…

That I was “amazing…”

I felt anything but those things.

I wasn’t strong at all.

I wanted to scream and cry and just disappear from my life.

I wanted to hide from the pain of living without my husband.

How was I supposed to live without the love of my life and my best friend in the whole world?

I’ll be honest… I didn’t want to.

I didn’t want to live without him.

It just hurt too much.

The pain was unlike any pain I’d felt in my entire life and I was no stranger to pain.

It was hard.

There were lots of tears during that first year…

And I’ll be honest when I say that I wasn’t always up to wiping their tears when I felt empty and broken inside, myself. But I pushed myself, encouraged their hearts and often cried along with them.

I remember one day while I was cooking, I just broke down in the kitchen… The pain was just too great to bear… This was not supposed to be how things turned out. He should have been walking through the door soon and greeting me in the kitchen with a kiss hello as he did every day since we’d been married. I broke down into tears and slid to the floor… I was no longer the person watching an emotional scene on television; somehow I had become that person…

Because surely this was a movie and not my life…

It couldn’t be…

This couldn’t be real.

And yet there I was, in a crumpled mess on the floor in my kitchen living out every melodramatic crying scene I’d ever watched on tv. Except this was real. There were no commercial breaks or actors involved.

This was my life.

And I was falling apart.

I couldn’t hide my tears anymore and

I couldn’t pretend to be brave any longer…

It wasn’t very long when I felt several sets of arms encircling me… “It’s ok Mommy…. We’re going to see him again.” “Don’t be sad Mamma,” another voice said. “We love you Mom,” yet another much deeper voice urged. “We can get through this together Mamma,” my little one added. I opened my eyes and saw that my children had encircled me… They were repeating all of the things that I’d been telling them. They had listened and they were now encouraging me. They all sat around me on the kitchen floor and we all began to weep. It had been about six months since we’d lost him and the pain was still very fresh.

It was then that I made my decision to live.

I was still here and God obviously had something for me to do.

I had to make that decision to live. I had to decide what kind of life I wanted to live. Was I going to be bitter and angry or live in a constant state of depression? I didn’t want to do either. My children had already lost their father, I didn’t want them to lose me as well.

It hasn’t been easy, but God has been faithful. He has surrounded me with friends who have supported me and my parents who have been there for us as well. He has provided for us financially and emotionally. He is the reason that I get out of bed each day.

I have to be honest.

I wouldn’t have chosen this life.

I still miss my husband. He was and is still the love of my life. But I know that I can survive without him because I know who God is. He has given me the strength to go back to school and work on attaining my Master’s Degree in Counseling. He has given me the wisdom to love these five kiddo’s through their own grief while working my way through mine.

I’m a widow.

It’s still an ugly word to me.

I don’t like it at all.

But I’m also an overcomer. (Thank you Ms. Mandisa) I’m a child of God. I’m a mother. A student. I’m a teacher. I’m a friend. I’m a daughter. I’m a sister. I am so much more than the word widow allows for… I was his wife and now I’m not.  But I’m also so much more now.  I am a person who knows that people die and bad things happen.  I am a person who knows that life isn’t always fair and that you don’t always get that happy ending that you see in the movies.  But I’m also the person that knows that even though all of that is true that it does not take away from who God is, or what he is capable of…  He is still good, and true and real and merciful.  Because of what I have experienced in losing my husband I am a person who loves harder, feels more, believes more and trusts in God more.

I have survived because I refuse to let my husband’s death be in vain.

God had a purpose in it.

He has a purpose in all that he does.

He has a purpose for me and my children

and his death has birthed some things in us that we didn’t realize existed prior to his death.

How do you survive tragedy?

One day at a time.

Moment by moment…

Each moment; hanging onto God for dear life.

Because no matter what it looks like, he’s always in control. As my husband told me when he was diagnosed with cancer, “Baby, this didn’t catch God by surprise.” “It’s not like he was up in Heaven saying, ‘Oops! Robert has cancer! What am I gonna do?’” “The bottom line babe; is that He knows everything and he doesn’t make mistakes. I trust him. You have to trust him too.”

I don’t think he could have imagined how much I would think back on that conversation.  It has sustained me through some very difficult times.

Whatever it is that you’re dealing with;

good, bad, or ugly;

it hasn’t caught God by surprise.

The reality is that we put God in a box and look at him through our own failings and shortcomings.

Today, almost two years later, I can smile without crying…

Look at his pictures without crying….

And almost begin to dream again.

It’s still not the life I wanted or planned for, but I’m trusting that God knows what he’s doing… Life may have taken me by surprise, but I’m happy to know that God isn’t IMG_6357surprised by any of it.  So while Life may have kicked us both in the buttocks, I’d like to think I’m kicking back now, and that God is here with me, guiding my foot. 🙂

Be blessed friends…

And so the blogging begins…

So tomorrow Robert and I will goto the hospital and talk to a genetics specialist.  He’s pretty young to have colon cancer, so we need to have some testing done to see if there is something going on genetically speaking.  Hospital days are pretty intense.  There is alot of waiting and during that waiting, a great deal of mind wandering as well.  Our biggest decision as of late, is to decide what kind of chemotherapy we will use for Robert’s treatment.  One of the choices involves inserting a port in his collar bone.  He’s not a big fan of that particular choice.  There is the pill therapy where he orally ingests pills each day for two weeks.  Then there is the clinicl trial that he could do, that would involve a port, an extra pill or placebo and the infusion via the port with three years of pills after chemo and six years of follow up.  Sooooo, we’re basically confused.  Robert is much better at figuring all of this out and he definitely looks to God for the answers.  I need a little more time to process before I give it to God fully.  I always get a bit nervous before our appointment days.

I about had a panic attack yesterday when the doctor suggested starting chemo that day! Yeah….not so much.  I’m sure I’ll hav alot to post tomorrow, but for now, I’ll leave you with this.  Sometimes things don’t always go the way you planned them, sometimes things don’t even get close to how you planned them. Sometimes, God has better plans already laid out for us.  We just have to wait to see what his plan is and obey Him when he reveals to us what he would have us to do.

Cancer was definitely not in our plans, but the Lord is using this to bring us closer to him and to get us out of our own comfort zones.  It’s not fun, it’s not even close to fun, but I see the wisdom of God through it all.  He is working our spiritual muscles and making us stronger, evern though, quite frankly, it really hurts at times.  But I’m ready to see the spiritual stremgth that will be the result of our trusting God.  Don’t get me wrong, I have my moments.  There are times that I want to scream, holler and yell. However, at the end of the day, I know God has us in the palm of his hand.  Where ever that may lead us, I’m willing to go…

In Him,

Gretchen

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