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It’s Been a Deep Dive

June 25, 2019 5 comments

The day hung on me like a millstone. I could feel it pulling me deeper and deeper into memories and feelings.

It was the one year anniversary of when I was to remarry to Ruth Blake. Most observers called it a “GOD” connection and in just eight months our love for each other threw our lives into visions of hope, inspired our faith, and provoked so much laughter. We felt like teenagers and were so happy. Emphasis on the word ‘was’.

Inconceivable

If you are new to my story, Ruth died just 26 days before our wedding day also from cancer. This slid me onto a downward trajectory emotionally, physically, spiritually.  It was inexplicable. How could I possibly face this twice in my life? It rocked me to the depths of my soul, leaving me feeling unbalanced, and plunging me into a deep dark place in search of how I could possibly live my life again.

 

As I shared in my previous post, I have experienced a remarkable healing and a new perspective on all of this. I didn’t drown in my sorrows – although I was certainly sorrowful. Losing a wife to cancer after 40 years of relationship then losing a fiancé of eight months – inconceivable! (I know, you cannot read that word without ‘hearing’ the voice of Vizzini from Princess Bride).

I have talked to other widowers in the past year who cannot believe I am still standing. Yet here I am, able to only in Christ alone. But being able to stand does not mean that the anniversary of our wedding day did not linger on me . It was after all, the death of a dream.

Memory Muscle Cramps

The night before our ‘anniversary’ I had friends over for supper. I enjoyed the cooking and great conversations around the table. But as I was cleaning the kitchen and putting away dishes, my mind-traffic was all about how nice it would be to be entertaining and cleaning up with Ruth. We had dreams of how we would entertain regularly, inviting others into our home. I thought of how she would have loved the young adults gathered here – young adults were her passion and her ministry. Those memories are like experiencing a muscle cramp, a reminder of the death of a dream.

Loss involves pain, and that is unavoidable. Our pain is proportionate to our love, so if you love someone deeply it is going to be more painful should they die. While I have experienced a lot of pain this past year I’ve also learned a great deal. Here are some of my reflections:

Learnings on Grief and Loss

  1. Death is a reality of life. The most precious commodity we have now is our time, and we can give that to others as a gift. When we do, be fully present, and let them know they have been heard.
  2. I realize that true love transcends all things physical and is what sustains us through our lives, with or without our loved ones.
  3. Many people journey through their own sometimes brutal and perplexing life issues. Each day forward provides an opportunity to do at least one good thing for those around me. I can choose to live each day, loving and encouraging others.
  4. Multiple losses creates an opportunity to re-evaluate: Faith, grace, friendships, family, how we spend time, what we invest in. Don’t waste that. Set some time in your planning for reflection and being intentional.
  5. Men suffer more from being bereaved. In a 2001 study by psychologists Wolfgang and Margaret Stroebe they found that men actually suffer more from death of a loved one. So men stop trying to be stoic, admit you are suffering and enter into the healing that follows.
  6. Find some time to laugh. I have seen how laughter is healing. When I’m together with my sons and we get telling stories about their Mom we often end up in joyous laughter at the memories. Even though we still miss Brenda, her influence and life lives on through the joy of her life.
  7. Lean into the pain. We oscillate a great deal on this journey. Some hours avoiding the grief because it hurts, other times wanting to talk about it and draw near. Stay with it until you sense God’s presence with you.
  8. Death of a loved one gives you the opportunity to unzip your soul and let the pain do its work. Do this with a few trusted friends or family. Keep them up to date on how you are journeying and when it hurts. Trust them and allow them in – they will benefit as much or maybe even more than you will. The irony of grief is that the person you need to talk to about how you feel is the person who is no longer here.
  9. I am a pastor, a mentor of Christian leaders but through this season of loss in my life I have a new understanding of what Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:13. Over the past year, I have come to know that I can: experience grief but without despair; sorrow but without defeat; sadness but without hopelessness. As Christ followers, we grieve genuinely but hopefully because our grief is temporary. Our grief will come to an end and we (Brenda and Ruth and myself) will be reunited before the Lord together – forever.

The irony of grief is that the person you need to talk to about how you feel is the person who is no longer here.

Pearls

My mother loved pearls. Brenda loved pearls and was seldom seen without them. So I got looking into them one time and found that ‘pearl divers’ are a real thing. It’s a job! They have this amazing ability to swim for a long time underwater with no equipment. They scour rocks and sea bottom for bi-valve mollusks like oysters that just may have a pearl inside. The most valuable pearls in the world are found in the wild, and are often at the deepest depth for these divers.

To help the divers stay deeper they put on weights like a belt enabling them to sink down faster and deeper. There they are then able to stay on the bottom longer extending their search – and that is where they find pearls of great price.

This is like a metaphor for me as I feel like God strapped some weights to me last year causing me to sink to the bottom, but while there I have discovered some pearls.

So the next time you sink to the bottom in life, take a look around. God is there with you and he will reveal to you more of his splendour, grace and love.

Have you had an experience when you hit rock bottom, but then discovered there was some treasure of great price to be found?

What are some of your reflections on loss in your life?

Road to Abote: World Vision Sponsor Visit

June 10, 2012 4 comments

Leaving Addis

We were excited about getting picked up at 7:30am to begin a drive north of Addis to an Area Development Project of World Vision in a village area called Abote.

Having been in Addis Ababa for several days we asked many people about Abote to find that no one had heard of it. They had all heard of World Vision but had no idea where we were going. This would not be the first time that World Vision was at work in a region that was off the map and when we read our itinerary and saw that we would be travelling the final portion of the trip be vehicle or horse we knew we were in for quite the experience.

With the help of World Vision Canada we had arranged for Bob to actually meet eleven year old Abesha, one of children that he and his wife Renae sponsor.

Driving out of Addis we started out on paved roads but we turned off the highway after two hours on the road to Abote.

This area development project has 5070 children registered by World Vision who have been working with the people here for twelve years. Prior to World Vision coming off-road to the people here only 2.5% had access to potable water. There were many water borne diseases.

Only 2% of the people used a pit latrine and just 25% of the children had been immunized.

 

 

Now twelve years later we found a very different situation where the community has been transformed including having some banking/credit services with 2500 clients so that they do not have to pay the 120% interest rates charged by money lenders. Eighty one percent of the people have access to potable water.

 

 

We walked the last section of the journey to Abesha’s home and found the family waiting outside for our arrival.   I wish you could have been with us to see the response of Abesha and his mother when they were introduced to Bob. She was overjoyed and filled with emotion.

Abesha has a sister and brother living with he and his mother. His father and an older brother were not present for they are working in southern Ethiopia.

 

 

 

Bob presented Abesha with a soccer ball and pump and the two of them spent time kicking the ball back and forth in front of the hut. Abesha was unable to wipe the smile off his face.

His mother then invited us into their home where she proudly showed us the photo of Abesha and the record card from World Vision. Their house was one room approximately 100 square feet with the floor and walls made of cow dung. She then asked us to be seated while she went to the cook hut next door and brought us a plate of bread she had cooked and coffee served with some form of sugar already added.

 

 

I will always be deeply touched by how people with so little, can be so generous. When we had finished with the bread, she took the remainder outside and shared it with all the neighbors who had gathered to see the two white men visiting their village – only ten would visit here in a year.

When we departed we both felt somehow blessed.

 

We spent the night at a hotel nearby – well when I say hotel it may conjure up an image of something other than where we actually stayed.

Before we went to sleep we paused to reflect on our visit to one of the most grateful families, and homes we have been to in a long time.

Now I realize that it is simply not possible for every supporter to meet your sponsored child. However this experience showed the two of us how a small focused emphasis on monthly sponsoring a child can influence and entire community.

 

We are deeply touched.