It’s been a while in the making.
One year, nine months, and two days, to be exact.
On January 16, 2016, I dared to walk through the doors of the St. Luke’s Hospice House once again, knowing that it would be an emotional challenge for me.
But I also knew it was time.
Time to go back and remember…
Time to go back and acknowledge the impact this place had on my life.
Time to go back to the place where I had last seen my precious husband alive.
Time to go back and thank the precious nurses who walked beside us during those last hours.
I entered, unsure of how to go about this process.
The receptionist…well, I’m not sure she knew what to do with me.
She looked me over a bit, then asked me the question all receptionists everywhere ask–
“How can I help you?”
It was then that I found myself unable to speak clearly over the crazy emotions that burned in my eyes and stuck in my throat like an old sock.
I stuttered and stammered around a bit and finally squeaked out that I had lost my husband two years prior in this facility and I had come back just to visit and to take a quick look around.
Then she said something I’ll never forget.
She kind of harrumphed and stated firmly, “Well. You aren’t doing very good for it being three years, are ya?”
I didn’t bother to correct her. It didn’t seem to matter all that much at the time.
Because no. I wasn’t doing well. At all.
I was walking where I had last walked immediately following my husband’s death.
Memories and emotions were slamming me around,
crushing me first on one side,
then piercing me on the other.
I wanted to be there.
I needed to take this step.
But I needed to do so without an audience.
So I just calmly asked for the receptionist's permission to walk around and maybe head back to the nurses desk. She waved me on.
There was another occupant in THE ROOM.
I wondered what their story was. How much longer they would occupy that room.
I wanted to have a chance to go in, but it wasn’t to be.
And that was okay.
I walked around the halls, remembering different scenarios that had occurred in different locations as I did so. We were there less than 48 hours, but so much had happened in those hours.
I visited with some of the nurses at the desk, once again barely able to squeak out my reason for being there. They were so kind and understanding!
One nurse on duty perked up. “Oh, yes! I think I remember you! Did he have a blanket with a picture of your kids on it?” Yes. He did! I thought it special that she remembered.
The nurse who stood on the other side of Michael’s bed with me that last night – literally ALL night long – was on maternity leave. So I left some information in hopes she would eventually contact me. That’s another story for another time. She was one amazing lady…I will never forget the gifts of her presence, comfort, encouragement, help, and even prayers (I’m pretty sure). She didn’t HAVE to stand there the entire night. She could have come up with reasons to escape and catch her breath but she didn’t choose to.
She didn’t leave us alone. And I’m ever so grateful.
I also took time to visit the little chapel. It is just down the hall a short way from what was Michael’s room. It’s a serene little room as most chapels are.
But it was the stained-glass window that caught my attention. This one, in fact.
The window was called “The Tree of Life” and was created by local artist Gene Roper for the facility which had opened just six months before our time there.
As I sat there, surrounded by the peace of the place, and uplifted by the light shining through this beautiful window, I decided I might need to do something special with this window in mind.
After Michael died, I picked up some paints, some tiny canvases, and some tiny brushes and painted some things that had meaning to me as a way of remembering them and as a way of processing through some emotion. Painting became one of my favorite therapeutic activities. I didn’t want it to be a high pressure pastime, so I usually just let it flow…whatever happened, happened…learning more and more each time I painted.
I decided to paint the window.
I sketched it not long after my visit.
But, painting stained-glass that looks like light is shining through it seemed like a challenge for which I wasn’t quite ready. So I stashed away my sketched canvas and there it sat. For too long.
Then, one day, I decided this project NEEDED completion.
I worked on it in spurts, learning more as I went along.
And last night, October 18, 2017, I finally completed my memorial project.
And now I share it with you.
Thank you for praying for us...for me.
Thank you for reading my thoughts expressed here.
Thank you for expressing such love and care and prayerful support.
It has been vital to my survival some days.
It has been a blessing and a help and a lift.
It has been invaluable to me.