Thursday, December 14, 2017

...who is in "review mode"?

Today, on December 14, 2017, I am 54 days shy of my 44th birthday.

The exact age my Michael was when he caught his first glimpse of the face of Jesus!

Wow…………………… … .. .

“How does that make you feel?” you may ask.

I honestly don’t quite know.
I’m still working through that answer.

It’s an odd sort of feeling.

It raises questions.

What does it mean to be this age? Who am I expected to be at this age?

Why is it that I am still here, and yet Michael—who was such a beautiful example of a surrendered life lived for the glory of God—is not?

Will I still be here next year at this time? Five years from now? Ten? 
There is no guarantee…

Have I lived as full a life as Michael had by this age?

Have I changed my world like he changed his?
            If his life’s “footprint” was a size 13, is mine even close to being a 7.5?

Have I accomplished all I am meant to have accomplished?

More importantly, if I were to die today,
would I leave behind a testimony that shines as brightly as Michael’s did?

Talk about mid-life crisis………

No one who knew Michael doubts he arrived safely on those golden streets of heaven nor that he was welcomed warmly with outstretched arms and a 
             “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!”

No one who knew him felt anything other than love from him.
No one who knew him doubted how much he loved Jesus.

Now, I know we are not meant to compare our lives to those of other people as it can quickly get us into trouble. We are meant only to compare ourselves to the standard our Lord and Savior left behind as an example for us all.

But at times, there are individuals who cross our paths who draw us upward,
toward betterment, toward goodness, toward God…
            And we can learn much from them.
            They can mentor us, teach us, shape us.

Michael was one such person in my world.
For years, I’ve known that when I grow up, IF I ever do, 
       I want a heart like Michael’s…
            …his heart for music.
               …his heart for family.
        …his heart for service.
           …his heart for others.
              …his heart for God.

If you happened to be on board with the “Wright Team” from the early days of Michael’s cancer journey, then you may have heard about his vision…he hesitated to use that term, yet he couldn’t find a better word for it.

This vision – it appeared to him as real as real could be as he came out of his first surgery…the one that determined what type of cancer it was that had slowly destroyed his right femur. He was fully awake, but still in the recovery room. Alone. He said that he saw ever so clearly a library bookshelf on which were several DVD cases, and a couple of them stood out to him. On the spine of the first was written the words “Michael Wright, 1970-2010” and on the second, the words “Michael Wright, 2010-??” caught his attention. It was obvious that the first DVD represented life as he had experienced it until that point, yet now that season had ended and a brand new one was beginning. And this brand new one was full of unknowns, including just how long it would last. In his vision, Michael saw himself pulling that second DVD case off the shelf and turning it over. He reported later that on the back of that case in bold print were these words:

"Produced by: GOD" 

And with that, Michael could accept that his life had turned a distinctive corner, yes, but that this and everything yet to come lay firmly in God’s capable hands.

He rested in that assurance time and time again.

We now know the end date of that second season of Michael’s life.

We now know all what the “dash” represents. (2010-??)
And that still kind of amazes some of us…

You know, if Michael could speak to us today, 
I’m confident he would say things like this:

Jesus led me all the way
Led me step by step each day.
I will tell the saints and angels
As I lay my burdens down
Jesus led me all the way.
All the way my Savior leads me;
  What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
  Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
  Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
  Jesus doeth all things well,
For I know, whate’er befall me,
  Jesus doeth all things well.

…When my spirit, clothed immortal,
  Wings its flight to realms of day,
This my song through endless ages:
  Jesus led me all the way,
This my song through endless ages:
  Jesus led me all the way.
Eternal life, begun below,
Now fills my heart and soul;
I’ll sing His praise forevermore

Who has redeemed my soul.

’Tis true, oh, yes, ’tis true,
God’s wonderful promise is true;
For I’ve trusted, and tested, and tried it,
And I know God’s promise is true.

Michael trusted fully and completely.
Michael followed fully and completely.
Michael loved fully and completely.
Michael lived fully and completely.

I pray that much of who he was has been successfully passed on to our children.

But back to my questions, to today’s thought processes:

Am I even halfway close to becoming the person Michael was?
Will I ever be?
I don’t know.
Maybe. Maybe not.

Because while he was all things good and right and steady and wonderful,
                        I am not Michael.

I am not Michael.
And it’s okay.

I was not created to be Michael.

I am someone different.
I am…me.

And as flawed and imperfect and scratched and dented as I am,
I am the only one who can live the life God has intended for ME to live.

I have been given a unique set of circumstances,
a unique array of gifts and talents,
a unique circle of acquaintances,
a unique family to raise,
God has equipped me in a unique way
to accomplish His unique mission for me.

So, today as I sit for a few moments next to the heavy, shiny, black stone that marks my husband’s final earthly resting place, I see the empty spot beside it that is awaiting my own marker someday,
my determination is renewed.

I can NOT give up!
I can NOT turn back!
I MUST push forward with my search for God’s heart!
I MUST focus on leading my family in that same search!
I MUST find His perfect will for my life and determine to follow it!
I MUST pursue finding the joy in every day!
I MUST continue loving God…and others!
I MUST rest in God’s design…of me, for me!

I MUST…so that when my ending date is finally determined,
as with Michael,
there will be no regrets,
there will be no doubt as to where I’m spending eternity!

Growing, learning, searching, finding, 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

"Tree of Life"

It’s done.
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.
Without judgment.
Without censure.

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 began.
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.
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.

Thank you.