July 4th: Sorrow and Joy

By Lisa Dempsey Bargewell

Grief for me has not been linear; it has been bombarded with zigs and zags. It has been complicated with plunging, deep, emotional crevices and yet, also, silver-lined with healing moments and the remembrance of cherished memories. Do you feel the same way or differently? In addition, the grief triggers seem to swarm and burst randomly… like the day of July 4th.

My husband was the picture of health. He was never sick a day in his life, until our nightmare began 4 years ago on July 4th. The day our life as a couple and family unit was abruptly altered as cancer infested our cocoon. We had just finished having a campfire and barbeque with family and friends; he came over and put his arm around me. The look in his eyes and the tone of his voice startled me. He expressed that he was having abdominal discomfort. He had knocked down and chain sawed numerous trees on our property that morning and moved some furniture into our youngest daughter’s homeschool classroom, so we thought, maybe, he pulled a muscle? As we started to set off fireworks, his pain level magnified. Despite his arguments and saying, “It will pass, I am fine,” I took him into emergency. The doctors rushed him into surgery; they were shocked, as he was already in kidney failure.

The next nine months that followed, were gut- wrenching as his pain was harrowing and uncontrollable. Follicular Lymphoma had engulfed and was spreading through his entire lower body and then mutated into Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma.

As July 4th of this year was approaching, I wanted to hibernate, scream, run and hide as my mind replayed and re-lived, like a broken record, each haunting second that had transpired. July 4th was the beginning of the end. I almost feel crazy as I can recall what happened on each day of those preceding nine months: each doctor’s appointment, each medical test, each surgery, his medication and chemo schedule, even the nurse’s weekly shifts.

My oldest daughter and her husband were having a 4th of July party. I wanted to be with them; however, I still struggle with social outings and gatherings. I knew I had to make a decision. I desire my girls to know the grandness of being alive; that amidst our sorrow, hope can arise and prevail. That our Lord continues to be our sustaining grace, that unexpected delights are always present, and that the anticipation of wonder is still around the corner.

I needed to change my perspective. I had to generate my own stepping stones for growth. In order to do something tangible, I made a list of every July 4th that my husband had graced our lives. I wrote down the joyous recollections of our boating and camping trips, family parties, and the sweet, bonding times that just the four of us shared. Including the time that we lost electricity and we sat by candlelight, listening to the distant fireworks and playing Scrabble. As well as, the romantic 4th that my husband planned with an evening under the fireworks in the bay, complete with his homemade fried chicken, and a note made into a jigsaw puzzle that spelled, “You are the light of my life!”

I reminisced. I shouted praises of gratitude to our Savior. I cried, oh yes, buckets full. I had to lessen the constant weight of sorrow. I want to experience an abundance of smiles before the cascading tears and not the other way around. I had to recall and make stronger the vaulted, treasured memories in order to not allow the horrifying ones to overshadow them.

I ended up going to my daughter and son-in law’s party. I am glad that I pushed myself. It was a holistic, healing evening.

Please feel welcome to share stories about your past July 4th’s. Telling our stories and our history is therapeutic. I am so thankful for each one of you that have been following my blogs. Your warmth, insight and wisdom truly touch my heart. I appreciate how we rally together, uplift, and encourage one another.

Blessings and Peace to You,
Lisa Dempsey Bargewell

My next blog will be on July 22.

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