Category Archives: loss

Tearing Down the Walls

I didn’t know how to love people.

It was hard for me.

It didn’t come naturally.

I had plenty of love in my heart, but the part that allowed myself to actually trust anyone enough to love them was damaged.

And so I began to build walls around my heart.

I don’t mean to brag or anything, but I’m an expert builder of walls, and my walls were high and fortified. They were the real deal.

No one would get through these bad boys; trust me…

I’d been hurt, and I would not allow anyone close enough to ever hurt me again.

I’d been abused, and no one would ever get close enough to touch me again…

I’d been told I wasn’t good enough and I’d prove everyone wrong.

I didn’t need anyone.

Except that I did; and God knew that.

So he used a friend; the man that would become my husband to teach me to love. And he opened the doors of my heart and tore down the walls with every kind word that he spoke and my fortified walls of steel came tumbling down.

And when he died, I promised myself that I’d never let anyone that close to me again. Because though he loved me and we had a good life together; he’d still left me with a broken heart through his death.

While people proclaimed how “strong” I was, on the inside I was dying from the pain of losing him…

I was broken and torn and shattered.

And so the building began again.

Brick by brick; I made the walls high and thick.

I tried very hard to not allow anyone to get too close.

I’m sad to say that the walls were meant to even keep my children at a safe distance, lest I love them too much.

I couldn’t bare the thought of losing them…

I didn’t have it in me to lose anyone else.

I was already too fragile.

I wasn’t strong at all.

He came into my life; a friend I’d known almost my entire life and casually began to whittle at the walls. So gently at first that I took little notice of the crumbling exterior. He prayed for me. He extended his friendship.  True friendship, that didn’t ask for anything in return. He encouraged me. He loved me in the purest way.

He broke down my walls and I didn’t even know he’d done so until it was too late. He stepped inside and looked around and helped me to trust that I didn’t need those walls and that God was enough to protect my heart. He wrapped his arms around me and accepted all of me, even the hard and crazy parts and didn’t run in the other direction, though I thought that he probably should.

He tore down every single wall I had built and showed me that I didn’t need them anymore. I’m not strong.

Not at all. But God is…

He tore down my self appointed walls by showing me that I had the ability to love without fear. He allowed me another opportunity to love and be loved by His own grace.

I don’t know why He loves me as he does, but I’m so very thankful for it… God is everything to me. He has blessed me immeasurably above and beyond anything that I imagined for myself. He’s opened this hardened and broken heart and restored it and filled it with a love that I never imagined that I would ever feel again…

I don’t know what you’re experiencing today.

But He does. Don’t underestimate Him.

Whatever it is that you’re going through, trust that God can tear down any walls that you’ve built in your life and build something more beautiful than you’ve ever dreamed.

Trust me, I know.

I’ve got some experience in building walls and he’s demolished them all. I can’t wait to see what he builds in their place.

I have a feeling it’s going to be something amazingly beautiful.

Be blessed y’all.



When remembering kicks you in the gut and makes you want to scream… But that sounds negative, so how about this; Remembering; even when it’s difficult there is good to be found…

This came up in my time hop today…  


Looks like my hubby’s cancer has returned.         We don’t know the details. We have an appointment Thursday with his doctor.                                        (She has his results from his pet scan)

I’m not sure how I feel.

I’m trusting God.
He’s trusting God.
Because he’s trustworthy….
He’s faithful, he’s good; He is our Father.

No.  Matter.  What.

We need lots of prayers.
Our kids need them…
This is when it gets real y’all.
That whole walking with Christ thing.

Put up or shut up faith.
He’s my Father. I trust him.
Trusting him with my beloved’s life.

Praying for 40 more years with my best friend;  but I’ll take whatever he gives me…Thanks for praying…

He was gone three months later…    

Fast forward almost four years later…

I remember this….
I remember feeling just heartbroken over it…
IMG_0475I remember asking Robert how I would survive without him…
I remember him looking at me and telling me that I would be okay…
I remember not believing him…

I remember telling him that I was angry with him because he had promised me that he would never leave me and yet he was…

He smiled at me and said, “You know I can’t help leaving woman; it’s not my decision.”  I remember him gently wiping the tears from my eyes, even as he lay in his hospital bed that now resided in our bedroom, as the quiet hum of his oxygen tank silently mocked me…

This just couldn’t be happening to him; to me; to us…                                                                                 But sadly, it was… 

It will be four years in August since he died.

Four years of living each day without him…
Four years without the love of my life and best friend.
The person who believed in me when no one else did.

The person who God used to pick up the broken pieces of my life and turn it into something more amazingly beautiful than I could ever have imagined.

If I’d had it my way, I would have remained single and childless.
My life would not resemble anything near what it does today.
Because even in the pain and loss,
there is immense joy and happiness.

God did that.
I didn’t know.
I had no plans to love him.
To be a mom.
To be a wife.
But God knew.

So though my heart still aches for him;
I’m thankful to God for the opportunity that he gave me to love him.

To be loved by him.
To grow through him.
To understand and experience what love really is and means…

I remember how I felt on our wedding day…
How nervous I was.
My shaking hands and his sweaty palms…

I remember how he accepted this single mom and her 8 month old son with no reservations at all…20140215-163211.jpg  I remember how happy he was when he found out a year later that we were pregnant with our first child together; little Robert…  How thrilled he was with each addition to our family…

I remember being embarrassed when he would introduce me to others as his “Beautiful wife Gretchen,” because though I didn’t feel beautiful, he seemed to think I was….

I remember so many things…

But perhaps the thing I remember most is how much he loved Jesus.  And because of that,  he knew how to love me.

I remember…

I’ll always remember…  

How will people remember you?  

I pray that you’re living a life that is full of amazing memories.

In the end, that’s really all you leave behind for those that love you…
Leave some good ones friend…
Some really, really, good ones…

Be blessed.

P.S. If this has spoken to your heart, please share with those that you know and love.

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.

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.

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!

What does love look like? 


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.

Dance with me…


We used to dance in the kitchen.

Me and the kids…

Me and Rob…

I’d always try to get him to slow dance and he would; for about a minute; and then break out in his Kappa Kappa Psi (his college fraternity) moves, circling around me as I glared at him and laughed.

That’s back when we used to laugh a lot. 

We still laughed after cancer; but it wasn’t as free or pure.                                                                 It was laughter with the reality that maybe we didn’t have as much time to laugh together as we’d once hoped.

Fast forward four years…

The dancing had stopped.

The laughter was stilted.

And then something just seemed to happen and the golden joy of laughter returned.                             The dancing began again.                                                                                                             Hope came home and unpacked it’s bags;                                                                                 laughter soon followed, apologizing for being gone for so long.

We didn’t realize how much we’d missed them until they’d returned.

The smiles became genuine again…

The laughter returned, deep and loud….

Music began to play and the insatiable desire to move to the melodies overcame us.

Joy overtook us…

Like a faint memory of a life long gone, we began to remember…

To remember the good things…                                                                                                     The pure things…                                                                                                                         The things that used to make us happy.

We’d always love him.                                                                                                                       We’d always miss him.                                                                                                                     We’d never get over him…                                                                                                               He was too good to ever forget.

But we could breathe again.                                                                                                             And smile.                                                                                                                                       And laugh.                                                                                                                                     And yes, dance...

Be blessed friends… 🙂

Surviving when Life kicks you in the buttocks…


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…


He walked up behind me in the kitchen as I chopped up the lettuce to put in the salad, it was our normal routine….

He wrapped his arms around my waist and gently enveloped me as his lips touched the base of my neck in a tender kiss hello. I smiled. “What are you doing?” I asked. He kissed my neck again, tickling me, making me giggle. “I’m kissing my wife,” he replied. “What are you doing?” He responded, in his deep melodic voice that I so loved. I turned around to face him, wrapping my arms around his neck and kissing him on the lips. It was a deep kiss, a tender kiss, a prelude if you will, of things to come…
I pulled away, my lips lingering close to his and held his face in my hands, “I’m kissing my husband; that’s what I’m doing.”

He smiled that beautiful smile that melted every part of me and held me close. We stood there in an embrace for a long time, my head leaning on his strong chest as I listened to his heart beat. It was as if nothing else mattered; because in that moment, nothing did. There were no bills to be paid, no kids to referee, no family members to interfere, no stresses of life… It was just us. Him and me and what we felt for each other.

“Mom! Mom!” I looked up; alarmed at the steak that I was grilling; now charred and burned. My son stared at me with a puzzled expression. “What are you doing Mom?” “The steak is burning.” “Oh, sweetie, I’m sorry,” I said, as I turned the burner off and moved the pan off of the stove. I wiped my hand on my apron and rested my hand on my neck as a tear silently fell ever so softly down my cheek… “Are you ok?” He asked. “I’m… I’ll be fine.” I responded quickly. I smiled at him with the best fake smile that I could muster, “Why don’t you go get your homework done? I’ll be fine.” I patted his shoulder as he walked away and smiled again, as if to reassure him that I was indeed okay. But I wasn’t.

I could still feel his lips on my neck; his arms around my waist. But it wasn’t real. His deep voice was now only heard in my dreams and his laughter was only an echo of a dream.

He was gone.
I longed for those hugs at the end of the day. I craved those lingering kisses that reminded me of the infancy of our marriage. The ones I so often took for granted. I only had to close my eyes to see him here with me. I only had to breathe and I could feel his lips on the nape of my neck once again.

The reality of our love was now only a dream. A dream that I didn’t want to wake up from. The reality of a life without him was too much to bare. “What are you doing woman?” I heard him whisper in my ear. “Missing you, boy.” I responded to the air. “Live baby.” He said. “You’ve got to live. Let me go.”

The tears fell in streams now, ignoring my silent pleas to stop. “I can’t,” I whispered back. “I love you too much.” “Let me go woman.” He whispered, his deep gruff voice haunting me. “Let me go.”


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