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Where There’s Smoke…

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A smouldering fire lingers just beyond our house. By day it burns slowly eating  through tree roots, by night we are veiled by it’s smoke, embers glowing, threatening to ignite. I just want it to end, for it to be over.

“Dense smoke resulting from slow or suppressed combustion.”* Smouldering fire, no warning, nor does it seek permission. It just lingers underground seeking my attention,  my energy, and my peace. 

Where there’s smoke there’s fire. Right? That’s what we have all been told, we see the warning signs and know there’s a problem. 

As I read about smouldering fires, my internet search suggested “Smouldering Myeloma” the disease I despise. My late husbands disease: it threatened, it lingered, it sought no permission. We saw the smoke, and it was too late. The fire had spread and spread and spread. 

This is not where I saw this blog going. This was going to be my thoughts about our recent bushfires. A follow on story to the last. I guess one tragedy stirs up another, a different follow on story. 

I felt dizzy and nauseous, caught completely off guard, that’s what grief can feel like, that’s “suppressed combustion”. It can’t be controlled or predicted. Smoke rising through the cracks, kindled by memories, moments and a million different everyday things. 

I let my guard down this afternoon, I breathed a sigh of relief, surely the worst was over. Within minutes siren shrills sounded and the neighbourhood sprung into action. The smoulder reared its ugly head. Grief can be like that, guard down, unsuspecting, then an ember is fanned into flames. The fire didn’t last long but it reminded me that it’s not over. You just never know. Grief can be like that too, it isn’t ever over. 

I can’t see it now but green shoots will spring from the ash and charcoal, it will take a while. As with grief, it doesn’t always threaten to destroy. If it’s dry enough, if it’s given enough fuel, it can go up. But after a good while not all the memories produce smoke, they become a salve, soothing, because I know I once held someone close that was special, beautiful, loving. It was real and alive. 

Grief reminds me that I have loved and been loved. It’s lasting and true beyond the years he walked beside me. Love that begets love. Because I knew that love I can know new love, I know what it should feel like. I feel it still and with another I feel it anew. It’s more than I could ever have hoped for. 

Smouldering fires will end, but love, it goes on forever.

 

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in

my heart)i am never without it(anywhere

i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done

by only me is your doing,my darling)

i fear

no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want

no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

 

Here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

EE Cummings
*https://www.dictionary.com/browse/smoulder


No truer love

Do you ever feel like you aren’t who you are supposed to be? Who you have been told you should be?

As a Christian widow I felt I was supposed to be emulating the bible character of Ruth: loving, faithful, loyal and courageous. But I was more like Gomer, do you even remember her? She was unfaithful, no self worth, couldn’t see beautiful, or the unconditional love offered her. Hosea, a prophet obedient to God, chose Gomer to be his wife. She was from the wrong side of the tracks and turned her back on his love over and over again.

I felt similar in the early days of my grief.  I didn’t care if God loved me. I couldn’t see it, and I couldn’t believe it. I was lost in grief and my world was pain and sorrow. Abandoned by my husband, where was this Good God? Frankly I didn’t care. He had killed my husband.

Over the years I had heard all kinds of conflicting messages from the pulpit. Like if you don’t pray hard enough God won’t look after you. Or if you don’t have enough faith you won’t be healed. That God helps those who help themselves and cleanliness is next to Godliness. What a load of hogwash!

Yes hogwash … I had broken all those rules, yet after a good while, I began to see it differently.

His promise was true even when I was not. His provision was full when I was empty. Unyielding, unfeeling, unworthy… yet taken care of. A Husband doting on his wife that cared not. No matter how sad or mad I was at Him, the greater the care and provision I felt. He was Hosea, I was Gomer.

I discovered an incredible truth…God’s unconditional love had absolutely nothing to do with my actions. It was and is ever present and true regardless of my actions. I have the choice to see it or not see it. He does not. He just does. My faith has become that simple, that uncomplicated.

I might not be a giant in faith or have an uncomplicated track record, but I know what I know. I know Who I belong too, I know Truth that untangles my mess and I know Love that just doesn’t let go.

No matter what Gomer did to Hosea he kept loving her and bringing her home. Nothing she did was too bad as to sever his commitment to her. I might be Gomer, but my love story of many chapters also tends upward. No doubt I have many lessons yet to learn, trials to face. But I have a deep assurance that in every season I am not alone. My rearguard is sure and solid.

He is Hosea, I am Gomer.


P.S. I love you x

Dear Me,

Today your world changed. Today you lost your love, your future and your hope. I know exactly how you feel, I am you, just a few years down the track.

You are wondering if the pain will kill you … it won’t. It is the greatest ache you have ever felt, but it doesn’t actually kill you. Instead it hangs heavy inside your heart, reminding you minute-by-minute that part of you is missing. “Till death do us part” swirls around your mind’s eye… but you didn’t actually think it would happen. Not yet, not to you.

I know you are about to enter a bipolar-like state vacillating between deep pangs of grief and hyper activity to try and prove to your kids that it will be OK. It will all be futile. You will get very, very weak, you won’t like yourself for it. Here’s where I can help.

It really is going to be OK.

Not today, and probably not tomorrow either. But one day not too far away you will feel the sun on your skin, it will remind you of what happiness once felt like. Hold onto that, remember it, you are not going insane, you are just sad.

When you let the endless questioning give way you will find peace again. It’s hiding behind the anger that you won’t let go of. It’s blocked behind the blame game that has no end. You can’t create the peace you need, but it’s freely given when in surrender you pray for it.

When you are convinced God failed you, when your thoughts get carried away and think He is cruel beyond belief, remember it isn’t true. Remember you just can’t see it and you may never know why. When the plan shifts so far away from what you expected remember, it will be ok. One greater than you holds the original draft, His heart is for you not against you. He was and He is and He always has been the One who loves you. He is answering the cries of your heart you cannot put into prayers. He knows.

Take comfort in the fact that he isn’t suffering anymore. That in Heaven he is free from pain, from cancer and will one day meet you again. You can’t fathom that just yet, but lock it away in your heart as a truth, trust me, I know you. It will help.

One last thought … it was not your fault. There was nothing you could do to save him. I know that’s hard for you, but you overthink things, it just wasn’t within your control. You need to let that go. Don’t punish yourself by denying yourself life, love and freedom. It will not bring him back. In fact, the life you live can bring him honour if you choose it. That’s how you keep him alive in your heart, that’s how you can go on.

It really is going to be OK. Believe me I know.

P.S. I love you x

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“I am absolutely sure that not even death or life can separate us from God’s love. Not even angels or demons, the present or the future, or any powers can separate us. Not even the highest places or the lowest, or anything else in all creation can separate us. Nothing at all can ever separate us from God’s love. That’s because of what Christ Jesus our Lord has done.” Romans 8:38-39 (NIRV)


Little girl found ❤

I read a blog today that stirred my heart. It spoke of strength and bravery as paramount in a woman’s soul. I began to get that sinking feeling in my gut, one of those reminders that that has not always been my reality.

I wish I had been braver.  More able to stand up for myself, to protect my body, to have had a voice. But I wasn’t and I didn’t. I paid the price though, that is mine to pay.

Why me?

How did God let it happen?

What did I do wrong?

Answers…

Because I was a lost little girl whose Daddy ran away.

He didn’t, bad men chose their own cruel steps.

Nothing!

Grief has taught me many life lessons. One of the biggest is that dwelling on those big questions eats at your soul. Natural disasters strike us all. A devastating fire can rip through your soul so fast you might only escape with your life. Hopefully you get out with your most precious and valuable; good memories and evidence of happy times.

I don’t like to think about my abuse. It’s horrible. Pictures in my minds eye that can taunt and stifle. He was a big man, I was a small girl. He smelt of sweat and that horrible old man smell that gives me the creeps. He was wrong and I should have ran away when he ushered all the others outside. But I didn’t and he blackened my soul – natural disaster.

At times I thought for sure that I had barely escaped with my life. I tried not to think about it, letting years go by believing it was my fault, that I must have been inherently bad, a naughty little girl. But I was wrong.

Under the charred bark precious life was hiding. Waiting for rain to fall, for seasons to change and a tender hand to prune. Not an easy process, pruning is painful, cut after cut with the realisation of each memory. But cuts do heal, sometimes they needed stitching, sometimes surgery. I can see the scars, but they don’t hurt like they used to. Seasons later I began to see green leaves, soft and fuzzy on my charred stumps … and later stronger, more elegant branches. Love, hope and faith again and again and again.

Over and over and over, love hope faith love hope faith love hope faith. That’s how I survived.

I can look back now with a knowing that I was not a naughty little girl, he was a bad, bad man. Sure the scars will still be seen through the new growth, but they are part of me now. I can’t change that. I can only change how I see me and know that the little blonde, beautiful girl is me. I am one of the many strong, beautiful women in the forest of many.

Love Hope Faith


Grief bites

I was reminded of all the pain today.

The hospital.

The disease.

The unhappy ending.

I was gutted. I turned on your phone, it still worked, looked at your photos, your messages to your kids and your sisters. I was so glad to see your love for them, but that made me sad too. I haven’t cried over you for awhile, haven’t felt that hollowness that feels like a punch in the stomach…but I did today. It’s hard to shake, hard to face.

We miss you.

I am surrounded by a new life, a good life, but it’s different and even that reminds that it wasn’t always this way. The memories are good, but they also have the power to drag me under. Loss is loss. I lost something I cannot get back, it’s gone. New beginnings still happen and bring me happiness, but they are not replacements.

I know I’ll be OK, my mood will swing back around, but in this moment I feel stunted, heavy, and unable to think clearly. A fog has come done and just sits on my shoulders. I know it will lift, but this moment is just grief. Unaware of when it may strike and completely caught off guard.

They say (not sure who “they” are, but lots of people!!) that gratefulness can change your mood so let’s give it a go.

I am grateful we met, loved and had our kids… you loved them without end and stayed, that was new for me and helped me know I was lovable.

I am grateful you were my friend, it’s hard to lose your best friend, but great when you have one.

I am grateful that you had faith and I know where you are…I will see you one day, not yet, but one day.

Now I will go onto something else and quit the wallow. Not because I want to forget but because the living needs my attention, because life did go on.

I love you still, I’m sorry it was hard for you. I’m sorry you felt so much pain, I don’t know why. I saw it was hard for you and I’m sorry I was mad at you for leaving me. I felt abandoned and I wanted to blame you. I blamed God but He gave me glimmers of hope, so it must have been your fault!! Dumb I know. I couldn’t put it all together, still can’t really. I love you, see you in awhile xx


I carry your heart

Grief causes so much that is unexpected. Life as you know it had to change shape. At first happiness didn’t seem to fit and you wondered if it ever would. You experienced a pain in your very centre that you thought you could not survive. You thought it would surely kill you in your sleep, but it didn’t, and you were left … alone.

Retrospect is a great tool that I wish could be used with the addition of time travel. To be able to go back in time and reassure your aching self that it will be OK, there is a reason for the pain. A reason why your insides feel like they are on the outside. You are taking on a new shape.

I see it now, it took awhile, but it’s clear. It’s growing pains, your heart is being expanded rapidly. Stretched, pulled, tear upon tear trying to get the big ball of muscle to grow enough to fit all the moments in you had shared, you don’t want them to just be a memory, but they need to be, have to be, or else they are gone forever. Don’t let them be gone forever. Accepting they are gone, well, that’s the biggest tear of all.

A little aside – The English language is an odd thing, where two words can be spelt the same yet mean two different things. No way to differentiate them except to define them. Tear and tear. To rip apart or to cry. Different but the same. Accepting they are gone forever rips at your heart and crying is a given.

The transition into widowhood is harrowing, relentless punch after punch from one unexpected place after another. A hand unheld in the supermarket aisle, days events unshared, unfeeling and unknowing words that cut deep, tear, tear and tear. But as one little tear heals, and then another, something amazing takes place. Your heart is transformed. It becomes a massive, life sized USB continually uploading memories, sad and glad, integrating them into your everyday. So your smile isn’t just a smile, it is a carrier of beautiful moments that only the two of you shared. Your crying isn’t just sadness, it is the missing the part of your soul that is trying to morph into your very own being. So that now you carry them with you always, physically felt inside you. You carry them in your heart.

You carry their heart

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                   

i fear no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

BY E. E. CUMMINGS


Guilt.

When my husband died I fell to pieces. I missed him with every fibre of every one of those pieces. My true love was gone and l was beyond devastated. I couldn’t see a way to fit those pieces back together to form any kind of a life. There were parts missing, like an old jigsaw from last Christmas carelessly tossed into the box without all the pieces . The picture could never look like it was supposed to. It would never be right.

What about the ugly pieces? Our fights, our struggles, the really hard stuff. Those bits I didn’t want to find, hidden under the lounge, I didn’t miss those.

I didn’t miss the disease. I didn’t miss the strain created between being with my husband in hospital and missing the kids. I didn’t miss the hard times it put on our finances and I didn’t miss the struggles we had in our marriage after 20 years…does that make me a bad person? It doesn’t sound loving or caring. It sounds selfish. It certainly made me feel bad, and that made me feel guilty and that made me sad all over again.

Initially I had rose coloured glasses on and I couldn’t think of a single bad thing he had ever done. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, it was just a reflection of my love for him. That was real. But as the fog of grief lifted a little I began to see that life needed to be different. It had to be. I no longer had his pieces to fit with mine to complete the picture.

I had to live, parent, and work on my own. As my independence grew I began to discover things that I loved that I had either forgotten, given up on in compromise, or were new. I found laughter again, but it was different and often felt wrong, it felt like I was forgetting and that too felt like guilt. I didn’t want his family or friends to see me enjoying life, that heightened the guilt. Not because they wanted me to stay miserable or feel guilt, please know that, it was all internal. It was my perception of a life that still wasn’t quite making sense.

I think I gave too much, to my own detriment. I didn’t look after myself all the time and when I felt exhausted I chose the couch over the treadmill. I resented some of “our” choices and didn’t let go fast enough. I have a pretty tough exterior and I know I can find it hard to bend sometimes. That’s tough on a marriage. They are some of my faults, because I’m here and I can defend myself. Of course as a normal human being he had faults and made choices, some of them hurt me deeply, but he is not here, so I choose not to make a list of them.

Those hurts are hard to deal with, I can’t talk them through with him, I can’t yell at him, I can’t let him know how bruised I was, even when I pretended not to be. He will never know how I sat in the car park before work and cried. He will never know how I blamed myself and felt like I wasn’t enough. At least not to the full extent that only retrospect affords me. It makes me feel guilty to even think about, it feeds my grief.

Guilt and grief are not synonymous. One is a natural feeling after loss, the other leads to the decay of our heart. Guilt is a heaviness that seeks out our deepest frailties and plunges our emotions into darkness. It tells us lies about new happiness and whispers darkness into your soul. It is very real and it can destroy the goodness that you have found.

So what then? Can I hold him to account? Is there any point in bringing it up? Does it help me find pieces to complete the jigsaw? Actually yes, I think it does. If he was alive, we would say his mistakes were his to deal to deal with, not mine. The same is still true, it is not my guilt to take up now, I cannot own someone else’s mistakes. I know, I have tried it that way, it’s only another pathway to guilt. These things are not easy to do, not easy to overcome. Little by little I needed to let myself off the hook. I slowly came to see that I needed to let go of his mistakes, or I would not heal. He was a good man, but I needed to grieve the whole marriage, not just the good parts. A jigsaw has the pretty colourful bits everyone loves to find but it also has the pieces that look ordinary and plain,  you need both for the whole picture.

I needed to let him know how I felt. I wrote to him, letters that I threw to him in the ocean, as if sent of to him. It was for my benefit. About how I felt about what he did, not about what he actually did . He can’t change anything and even though he tried often, he couldn’t boost my self esteem above the level my own internal dialogue dictated. That’s up to me and my own beliefs. I believe God can do the impossible, move mountains etc But He can’t change what I won’t let go of.

I had to find a way through, to let go. It wasn’t pretty, it was painful. But there is freedom in letting it go, in facing it. To stare at the ugliness of guilt, what caused it and decide not to be caught in its grip any longer. To understand that I was the one instigating the guilt and holding back happiness. Whatever he had done, forgiveness was my decision and the key to letting it go. And when I didn’t have strength to forgive, the God of all forgiveness could help, wanted to help, I just had to ask.

Grief is forever, you don’t just forget one day. But happiness is forever as well. They can coincide as part of a new life… if I let grace rule over guilt.

If I let myself off the guilt hook. 

NOTE : If you are stuck you might need to talk to someone who understands, and if that means paying a counselor/Psychologist, DO IT. Do it sooner rather than later. I cannot recommend that strongly enough. They are trained to deal with the level of emotion you are feeling and are not personally involved so they are completely objective.

You are not defective if you need to talk to someone, you are normal.


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