Archive of ‘Giving Back’ category

What Really Matters Now?

By Wendy Simpson

What really matters?

I’ve asked this a hundred times over the last 3 years since my husband’s diagnosis of cancer.

Before he passed, in the early stages of cancer diagnosis shock, what mattered was fighting it. Our lives were consumed with appointments and treatments and side effects. I didn’t even think of sadness or defeat.  We focused on victory and being warrior strong.  Oh we loved each other and what mattered was fighting the enemy, the big “C”.  Then came the big “T” the word “terminal.”  What mattered shifted to making time slow down, still fighting but the enemy was now… time, and somehow we needed to make every second count.  Life became more and more precious as we had long conversations without words. Then suddenly, there was our last dance and good bye. All that mattered left with my beloved that day. And, for a long time, nothing mattered.

It was in this dark place of death, that I saw what I couldn’t see in the light of life.  I saw how precious and life-giving relationships were.  In the midnight of my loss the lights of frienship and sisterhood stood out more intensely.  It was as if God had placed beautiful night lights along the path I must walk, so that, even in the deepest darkness of my grief I’d see a way through it all.  In the valley of the shadow of death, I was not alone.

So… what matters now?

I am asking that question again… it’s been 2 and half years since my beloved husband and I had our last dance and I saw him into heaven.  I’d have to say, along with the beautiful relationships God’s given me, I’d add…  purpose to what matters.  We do not find purpose alone.  Purpose is in the moment you reach out into the stories and lives of sisters and friends.  It’s looking into their eyes and seeing their heart.  When someone took the time to look into my eyes, see my heart and hear my grief… I mattered.  And… when I mattered… I had purpose…  and meant something to someone.

It’s when I realized that God gave me life so I could speak life into someone else that this journey mattered.  It’s when I could stand in the gap for someone hurting and pray for them that I found the ache of my grief lessen.  It still aches terribly, but I have hope, that one day it will soften.

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Service

By Cathy Nelson

 

I love the widows who attend my church. They fill the back pew at Sunday morning worship service. I never thought about them much before I became a widow. They were just there: the little old ladies who lived alone, who remained faithful to God and served in the church. Then I became one of them – not by choice, but rather by default. They welcomed me; they put their arms around me; they cried with me; they understood my pain and my loss as only another widow could.

Right after Ray died, while still in a daze, I left the hospital, and returned to my home. I pulled into my garage, and realized I was ALONE. I got out of my car and walked over to Ray’s car –the car he restored and loved, the car we had taken on so many road trips. Since his illness, it had remained un-driven in our garage. I put my arms around that little sports car and cried while I hugged it.

After a while, I finally gathered enough strength to enter my home. All was as WE had left it, Ray and I. His shoes were still by his chair, his hat was on the dresser. I felt overwhelmed!

The phone rang; I did not want to answer it. Something inside of me said, pick up the phone, it’s OK. I picked up the phone and said, “Hello.” A familiar voice said, “Cathy, Cathy, are you OK? I was just sitting here, and I felt I should call and check on you.” Then this 92 year old widow, from my church, began to comfort me with her words of compassion and understanding.

My grief at times has been all consuming, even overwhelming at times. However, through it all, I recognized the hand of my God in my life. I am grateful that my God watched over me by inspiring a widow angel to be my shelter in a storm.

As she reached out to me, I felt a sense of hope and possibility. This woman was also a widow and one who could relate to my pain, although I also felt a sense of peace and joy about her! Her husband had passed, and she was still alive and, in that moment of service, giving me a sense of hope for peace and joy! My husband had passed and I am still alive!!!
I am grateful for the empathy that comes from my fellow widows. I am especially grateful for the widows who attend my church. I love these women who take the time to care and support each other. Their example of being at peace and their sense of happiness became my inspiration.
Perhaps our pain and loss can be alleviated by service to one another. Service just might be one of the secrets to moving forward.

 

 

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Focus On Love

By Cathy Nelson

We as widows know all too well that life can be cut short, dreams don’t always work out how we thought they would, and tomorrow never does come. For this reason I have decided to focus on love in 2015, instead of making New Years Resolutions.

Before Ray died I believed I knew what love looked like, meaning there were rules for love. Rules for what we do or do not do, say and even for what we are supposed to think and believe, if we are to be considered a loving person. Now, I believe there are no preconceived rules of love. Love looks very different through my widow eyes. Love has no set of preconceived rules. Rather love is in the moment, guiding us in each moment as to what to do, say, think, believe, etc.! Love is an infinite concept that I used to confine to a finite with my set of rules about what I thought love is. Since being a widow I have said no out of love, I have lovingly left toxic friendships, I have been willing to teach life lessons from love, and I have stopped being a doormat.

By focusing on love this year, I hope to learn what it is to Be Love. Love is the foundation for forgiveness, joy, and hope. By Being love, I can have it all.image

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Looking For Graditude

By Cathy Nelson

 

Thanksgiving was my late husband’s favorite holiday. He used to say: “I love Thanksgiving because there is no pressure to buy gifts.” He loved to just focus on family, good food and gratitude.

Gratitude is the most important part of Thanksgiving. As I look back upon my widow journey, I am filled with gratitude for the many miracles that transpired as I cared for my ill and dying husband.

My late husband Ray was flown by helicopter to Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, California. His lungs were starting to fail, so he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit on what’s called a C-Pap machine, which helped him to breathe.

I rushed to be with him. I checked into a hotel and started the vigil of being by his side. Two weeks passed, and I decided I no longer wanted to pay hotel fees. I was determined to sleep in the waiting room lobby outside the ICU and just park my car in the hospital parking lot and move it every few hours so I would not get a ticket.

I had spent the last few years during Ray’s many hospitalizations sleeping next to him on cots, sleeping in chairs, or just sitting up all night helping to care for him. One time, I had even slept in the nurse’s conference room on top of a table. So being kicked out of the ICU at 10:00 every night … it seemed like a logical thing to just go to the waiting room and sleep in a chair until 8:00am when I would be allowed back into Ray’s room.

The only person with whom I shared my plan was my daughter during a phone conversation. On that same day, as I sat with my husband, a social worker came to his room. She informed me that an apartment had opened up in the family housing for $35.00 per night. This apartment was a safe place for a women who was alone; parking was provided; and it was within walking distance to the hospital. If I needed to go to the hospital in the middle of the night, a security guard would be available to transport me. This apartment was also big enough for my family to come and stay.

I think of this, and my heart fills with gratitude. My God knew my needs, loved me and provided for me. I never even asked Him. I am so thankful for His watchful eye. I count this experience as a miracle.

Have you had similar experiences? I would be surprised if you did not! Even in the pain of our loss, we can find gratitude!

 

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Hand of God

By Cathy Nelson

I love the widows who attend my church. They fill the back pew at Sunday morning worship service. I never thought about them much before I became a widow. They were just there: the little old ladies who lived alone, who remained faithful to God and served in the church. Then I became one of them – not by choice, but rather by default. They welcomed me; they put their arms around me; they cried with me; they understood my pain and my loss as only another widow could.

Right after Ray died, while still in a daze, I left the hospital, and returned to my home. I pulled into my garage, and realized I was ALONE. I got out of my car and walked over to Ray’s car –the car he restored and loved, the car we had taken on so many road trips. Since his illness, it had remained un-driven in the garage. I put my arms around that little sports car and cried while I hugged it.

After a while, I finally gathered enough strength to enter my home. All was as WE had left it, Ray and I. His shoes were still by his chair, his hat was on the dresser. I felt overwhelmed!

The phone rang; I did not want to answer it. Something inside of me said, pick up the phone, it’s OK. I picked up the phone and said, “Hello.” A familiar voice said, “Cathy, Cathy, are you OK? I was just sitting here, and I felt I should call and check on you.” Then this 92 year old widow, from my church, began to comfort me with her words of compassion and understanding.

My grief at times has been all consuming, even overwhelming at times. However, through it all, I recognized the hand of my God in my life. I am grateful that my God watched over me by inspiring a widow angel to be my shelter in a storm.

As she reached out to me, I felt a sense of hope and possibility. This woman was also a widow and one who could relate to my pain, although I also felt a sense of peace and joy about her! Her husband had passed, and she was still alive and, in that moment of service, giving me a sense of hope for peace and joy! My husband had passed and I am still alive!!
I am grateful for the empathy that comes from my fellow widows. I am especially grateful for the widows who attend my church. I love these women who take the time to care and support each other. Their example of being at peace and their sense of happiness became my inspiration.
Perhaps our pain and loss can be alleviated by service to one another. Service just might be one of the secrets to moving forward.

 

 

 

 

 

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Receive. 10/16/14

By Karen McCandless

One of the most difficult lessons in being a widow has been becoming comfortable receiving service from others. I have written about this before, but tonight I was shown two new reasons why this is so important.

A dear friend (yes, S, you are dear to me) spoke at a women’s conference I attended this evening. She is a hospice chaplain and talked about how we who are living can: 1. Prepare to be at peace when we die and 2. Be able to live life to its fullest right now. One of the three things she mentioned was being able to receive service and not feel guilty about it. It is okay not to be “useful” to others. It is okay to let others help you. I had never looked at receiving service from those two perspectives before.

Before my husband’s strokes and death, I had a really hard time receiving service from others. As my mother would say, “We kill our own snakes.” If I could do something without injuring myself or others, by golly, I would try. While I did not view receiving help as a sign of weakness, I just didn’t want to bother anyone. Saturday marks two years since my husband’s strokes that would lead to his death ten days later. Two years ago, I started receiving countless acts of service. I learned it was okay to be a “bother” (I really wasn’t. I think.) to others.

I remember one thing another good friend said to me: “After a while, the offers of service are going to diminish, but not the desire to serve you. You need to ask others to help as you need it.” Being able to set pride and my own snake killing aside has made me a more humble person, one who is living life to its fullest. I am so grateful for those who are helping me do that.

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Giving and Receiving: Two Sides of the Same Coin

By Ellen Gerst

The following is a sentiment I often hear from your fellow widows:

“One of our biggest challenges is to endure pain without being one to the people around us.”

If you have always been regarded as the “strong one” in your crowd, it’s hard to feel so needy. Not only might you feel that you’ve imposed one too many times on friends, you may even feel you’re imposing on whom you believe yourself to be.

I suggest that you let go of labels. Weak or strong – it really doesn’t matter, and you can even be both at the same time.

For example, you may regard yourself as weak while, at the same time, others may be looking at you and thinking that you are so brave.

The greater point is that the wheel of life is always turning, and it’s okay to be needy or greedy when help is offered to you during a difficult time ….  that is with the proviso that you offer your hand to someone else in need when you are feeling more able to do so.

give receive 82014

These moments of giving and receiving – really a constant give and take that reflects the natural duality of the universe – is what creates and keeps balance in the world.

How Are You Responding To Your Loss?

By Ellen Gerst

5 Ways To Respond to Loss

 

 

Dr. Susan A. Berger is a clinical social worker, a specialist in the field of grief and loss, and the author of “The Five Ways We Grieve.” She defines five types or ways that different people respond to a major loss, as follows:

 

 

1. NOMAD: This category includes those who have not yet resolved their grief and don’t often understand how their loss has affected their lives.

2. MEMORIALIST:  This category includes those who are committed to preserving the memory of their loved ones by creating concrete memorials and rituals to honor them.

3. NORMALIZER: This category includes those who are committed to re-creating a sense of family and community.

4. ACTIVIST: This category includes those who focus on helping other people who are dealing with the same disease or issues that caused their loved one’s death.

5. SEEKER:  This category includes those who adopt religious, philosophical, or spiritual beliefs to create meaning in their lives

Do you see yourself fitting into one of these categories? If so, which one? Can you share how this is helping you to cope with your grief?

I’ll go first. At the inception of my grief, I don’t know if I could have categorized myself clearly as one or the other, although now I’m heavy on the activist. As I mourned, I completed activities that fell under the categories of a memorialist, normalizer, activist and a seeker.

  • As a memorialist, I established the anniversary of my late husband’s death as a time when my sons and I came together and celebrated his life and the accomplishments we all made since he left. After 19 years, we continue this tradition.
  • As a normalizer, I worked hard to restore the feeling of safety to the lives of my sons after the upheaval of their father’s death.
  • As an activist, I began writing, speaking and coaching in the field of grief and loss. I’m a big believer in being greedy and taking all the help you need when tragedy hits … but, only with the proviso that once you’re on solid ground, you turn around and help the next person on the path you once walked. It’s my own little way of repairing the world.
  • As a seeker, I certainly questioned all I knew about life and death. This set me on new paths I had yet to explore and I became immersed in the study of spirituality. I went on to co-author a book on spiritual principles with an intuitive therapist, as well as write my own books on this subject.
  • The only category under which I did NOT fall was that of a nomad. I worked long and hard on resolving my grief, which enabled me to build a new life upon the foundation of the love I once knew. I honor my late husband by continuing to do what he cannot: live and love.

Good People

By Roslyn Geertsen

I was out shopping the other day and made a quick stop at a store for one item. I made the purchase and hurried out to my car, got in and turned the key.

Nothing happened.

I tried again, and heard a clicking sound, but the engine didn’t even turn over.

I let it wait a moment, and then tried once more, but I could tell there was no use in continuing to try. The battery was dead.

I sat thinking about what to do, and decided to call my son. He was in a nearby town, but said he would leave as soon as possible to come help. So, with the hood of the car raised, I sat in the car and waited.

Two customers who walked past my car stopped and asked, “Do you need help?” but I explained that my son was on his way, and they continued on into the store.

It had only been a few moments when an employee of the store came out and asked if there was anything they could do. I explained the situation, and she said, “Oh I’m sure one of us can help – let me go check.”

She was back immediately with a co-worker who smiled and went to pull her car up next to mine. We attached jumper cables; the car started, and I called my son to let him know all was well.

As I drove away I thought about how busy those store employees were, and how, in spite of that, they had seen someone in need of help and had come to my aid. I don’t think that was on their “to-do” list for the day, but they made it a priority, and it blessed me.

Grief can keep us pretty focused inward as we heal. But as that healing comes, there also comes the ability and desire to look outward, to see others that we might be able to serve in some way. Gratefully, that time came for me, and I loved the feeling of actually making a positive difference in someone’s life.

However, it’s been several years, and I’ve become busy. I wondered that day when those people dropped what they were doing to help me if, in my quest to get everything on my own ‘to-do’ list done, I’m missing opportunities to help someone in need. I’m pretty sure I am.

So, for today, I’ve added one item to my list:

Find one way to serve someone.

If I keep my eyes and heart open, I’m sure I’ll be able to check that one off.

Good people. They are all around us. We can become like them. Someday, I want to be counted among them!

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