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Saturday, January 5, 2008

Mixed Emotions

Nic and I were taking today. There are so many emotions when you loose someone so close. Some seem out of place in my life, some seem too comfortable to have. But I have learned there is no set way to grieve, not cookie cutter approach to this process, it is different to everyone. It depends on how you knew the person, how much they meant to you, how often you saw them and how close you were in life. I'm sure there are limitless factors that affect our grief but the bottom line is there is no right way or wrong way to grieve. I do know I don't want to be incapacitated with grief. That is not what Andrea would want for any of us. She was never incapacitated by cancer, she always lived life. I don’t know if I ever shared this but my sister Eileen asked Andrea how she wanted to be seen by others and she said, "Don't look at me and see cancer, see a woman living with cancer." That is how she lived, that is how she would want us to live, not defined by her death but living with our loss. And in the end there is just not one emotion that I feel.

It is not all sadness, it is not all grief it is a weird combination of emotions that shift back and forth. There are times you feel happy during the day, there are times we laugh when we watch a TV show, there are times we walk into the house and see Andrea's picture and we all go silent as we walk by. Each of us thinking the same thing, I can't believe she is gone. Death is eerily final, not sick it is not away, it is gone. Gone for this lifetime, as Nic said, "We won't see her again while we are alive." I know she died but sometimes when you think about things like that your mind wraps around it in a different way and it hits you, she is gone. No matter how many times I write that it still seems weird.

Anyway tonight Nic and I both felt strange because it felt like it had been forever since Andrea died. For some reason it seems so long ago. I don't know why, we talked about it and it seems like we have been fast forwarded away from the moment she died. Maybe it is a defense mechanism in our mind, who knows. I thought maybe it was Andrea. How she lived and died, with such strength and peace she left us with a little of that peace. Maybe it was the fact that she has been away from the house since Thanksgiving weekend. Maybe it was the fact that she had been sick for so long. Maybe it was because we went through her dying three times while she was in the ICU. Maybe were are just exhausted and our minds have had all they can take so they do not allow any more pain in. I don't know it is just how we felt tonight, not necessary how we will feel tomorrow or even later tonight. You just don’t know how you will feel from one hour to the next.

That is why I say this is not just a single emotional event, it ebbs and flows between many emotions. Some of those being relief, happiness, and indifference. I don't mean to be cold, I'm sorry if what I'm feeling is not coming through in my words I'm just trying to capture what I feel sometimes so I can look back and remember what I went through. This is my record for my own memory as much as anything.

What I mean is, in losing Andrea I do feel some relief. She had been sick for so long, and we were tired, Andrea was tired. Now she has peace, happiness and everything she dreamed of. She is freed from the shell of a body that failed her. I did not want it to end this way but it did. That was God's answer to all our prayers. It was not the one we wanted or maybe even expected but it was the one we got. It is still from God. I want to think I could stand and give a testimony of God's love in His choice to answer our prayers this way. Surly the answer does not define if God hears us or loves us. Surly we don't put such narrow limits on God to prove himself. Surely faith is not conditional on what we get. Surely we are confident enough in His love that we can hear something we don't want. Surely the cross speaks louder then cancer. Surely.

What I mean by feeling happiness is life still holds joy and I still feel it. I still laugh, even though for a moment I think about if it is allowed but the emotion still comes. If you know me you know I'm a "the glass is half full" kind of guy. Some my call it living in denial, or ignorant bliss. I like to call it looking at the bright side, believing for the best in others, or just being happy. It is true if given the choice I would rather be happy then sad, watch a comedy then a drama, laugh then cry. It is just how I have always been. I have even caught myself whistling a few times already. I guess I do that a lot or at least that is what Andrea told me, I never really realized I was doing it. But when I would walk home for lunch and she was on the porch she would say I heard you coming. I said how. She said you are always whistling. It was never a conscious decision. I think it was just knowing I was about to see her, it made me happy and want to whistle. Although I grieve as you say in my entry "Missing My Wife" in the end I want to be happy and I want to laugh with the boys, even though it seems strangely out of place right now.

What I mean about indifference, and maybe that is not a good word. (Remember I just a fighter pilot.) I mean that during the day at work, I'm just working. So far I have only worked three days since Andrea died and truly I do sit and think about her 90% of the time, but there is that 10% when just work in on my mind and that is what I mean by indifference. There are times in my day when I'm not thinking about losing Andrea. That feels weird and sometimes I feel a little guilty. Because as those times increase in duration and frequency I'm that much further from Andrea. I know I have to go there and I know that is where Andrea wishes me to be but it is still a little uncomfortable to me. That will change it is the biggest indicator that I'm getting better I guess. It's just that I don't want the cure nor do I want to be sick. I remember how it was as kid when my Mom gave me cough medicine I did not want. I would pinch my nose and just swallow it. I'm not sure pinching my nose helped much but eventually I felt better and I no longer remember the awful taste of the medicine.

In the end Nic and I decided we would just allow ourselves to feel what we were feeling and take life as it came at us. We decided we missed Andrea terribly. We decided life major events would be harder without her here. In fact Nic reminded me Andrea never knew Nic got the internship this semester, the one he had dreamed of. He found out the day she died and we never got to tell her. That was the first major event in our life that we did not share with Andrea. Those events hit you like a slap in the face. It is startling and it stings. I don’t look forward to those times but you can not stop them. The boys will have many big events in their life and we will just miss Andrea when they come. We may smile some but inside and in private we will be crying missing Andrea. She was that special, we are that much less without her, even when life brings joy like graduation or an engagement, or marriage, the worse the birth of a grandkid. All these days will be joyful and sad; just another reminder that losing Andrea is full of mixed emotions and that is okay.


  1. Thank you for taking the time to write down your thoughts and to tell people about your wife. Her faith is such a good reminder to me. Your fight for joy and your walk of faith set an example as well. I have read through several of your posts now and I am encouraged by your practical application of God's Word. I think too often we forget that He gave it to us to apply to our real lives...Seeing you apply it in yours encourages me to keep seeking it out in mine. In fact I felt that I just wanted to go sit and read my Bible and talk to our God...Thank you for sharing your wife's greatest quality, submission. Too few people understand this and it brought me to tears to see it so beautifully illustrated. I only hope that I will model that same sort of love and submission in my own life. In submission there is freedom. Anyway. Thank you for your honesty and thank you for your faith. God is already using all this for good. I am excited to meet Andrea some day.

  2. Col R,

    I'm sorry I missed the funeral and service, but please know Iyou and your family were in my prayers. I look forward to rejoining the team on Monday. I'd love to get together for some fellowship soon.


  3. Yes, Jim, you are the kind of a guy that sees the glass half full. And what a wonderful thing that is. You are a healthy person and Andrea needed that especially when she was fighting cancer. Thank you for showing all of us that even when it looks like the glass is half empty, we can still see it as being half-full.

    I love you and I am praying for you everyday.


  4. Jim, this is one of my favorite poems about the mixed up pain of loss.
    "In the dark times, will there also be singing?
    Yes, there will be singing.
    About the dark times"
    by Bertolt Brecht
    It captures something deep and familiar doesn't it? Wendy

  5. Jim, Nic, and Anthony,

    Just wanted to share with you guys my thoughts on Jokie leaving before you were able to tell her that Nic received the internship for which he had hoped and dreamed. My mind takes me to the scriptures about when we see Him, we shall be like Him. The day Jokie left, she came face to face with God, and she was instantly like Him: seeing and knowing everything. I believe she saw, she danced, she rejoiced and worshipped God in thanksgiving at the very moment Nic received word his internship dream was coming true.

    You are all three continually in my thoughts and prayers!

    Much love,
    Aunt Sherry