“many wonderful days, too few years”

The quote above was actually from a drama, but the meaning resonated so strongly with me as I look back on the past year without Roger.  Yesterday ( the actual anniversary of his death) I spent several hours at Filoli,a private membership garden near here.  I wanted it to be about remembering Roger, as he was before the illness that took his life.  So I brought some photos that had been used in the slideshow, and looked at them one by one, remembering the time and place of each.  In most of them, he’s doing something active.  Yes,it is his energy for life that I think I miss the most. He was always ready for just a little more—whether loading garden clippings for the dump, driving a few more miles, or adding a couple of activities to the weekly schedule.  I think one of my favorite photos is the one of him at his computer, intently looking at the screen, even tho our cat Mocha is seated on his lap, contentedly snoozing. (Mocha died about 5 months after Roger; as yet I have not gotten another cat).

Filoli itself was a blaze of so many colors, all flowers Roger could tell you by name. Zinneas and marigolds, the rose garden filled with blooms, and pots of begonias on the patios. I recalled the times early on when we were members and even attended a couple of concerts at Filoli, and we frequently took visitors there.

Roger lived life fearlessly, with drive and vigor.  You can see it in the photos. He was not a spectator, but a participant in most all of life that touched him. He was fearless in eating too, liking oysters, and garlic, and hot chili peppers.

After it got too warm, I came home, and spent some time reading over our old Christmas letters from the past twenty years—somewhere there are earlier ones, but these were enough to bring back so many memories.  The letters were usually a run-down of all the places we had visited in the past year, and a few mentions of building projects at home or church. We often included a quote we had found during the year, and surprisingly many referred to the fragility of life, and the constancy of God, even tho as we wrote them we never realized how quickly we would live in real terms what that fragility really meant. So again I’m reminded what a special person Roger was, what a great life we lived for 51 years,  and my mantra now is “I’m doing the best I can” without him,  and I give thanks for what we had.

90 seconds of reaction..then response

I recently read a book “Stroke of Insight” and the author points out that we physiologically react to emotions,but that reaction si only 90 seconds long ( think bout that flash of anger) after that, we actually have a choice in our response.  I’ve been thinking about this, because I realized I had a lot of flashes of anger,many of which really were about something deeper—probably anger that life has death me this blow.  So I’m practicing pausing after that initial 90 seconds and trying to let that ‘ship’ float past.

I’m not sure this is always helpful with the emotions that come with grief; sometimes it’s necessary to let the tears flow for awhile—but sometimes not. However, the concept did open up  relief that the first 90 seconds is probably not controllable, and beyond that it is a matter of my will. It made me feel less guilty about the first 90 seconds, and more responsible for what comes after.

I’m still working on what comes after in my life in general; for whatever reasons ( and there are probably many) this has been a particularly difficult journey for me. One book that has been helpful is: “Healing a Spouse’s Grieving Heart” by Alan Wolfelt.  Another book I read early on, was ” A Grace Disguised” by Jerry Sittser.  The Psalms have had a healing effect this summer as our little group here in my residence has been reading thru some of the Psalms and discussing them. Actually, I’ve got a whole stack of resources,it’s integrating the wisdom into my life that’s the challenge.

I’ve been grateful for friends who have taken the time to stop by this summer, to encourage me that they still care, and I’m not really alone. And I’ve made some progress with some other resources I needed involving legal and financial help. And God is an ever present help, if I just stop to acknowledge this.

I’ll be sending another update after I pass the one-year mark of Roger’s death; one cannot help but look back at times like that. Many mountains to climb still ahead!