Monday, February 15, 2021

 

Fifty Days…February 15, 2021

Today was supposed to be the forty-year anniversary of the winter Sunday afternoon of February 15, 1981 when a handsome, blue-eyed man followed me around the local skating rink in Jonesboro, Arkansas. He was there with his nine-year-old son and I was there with my nine-year-old daughter. I was planning to drop her off for the birthday party and go home, but the other moms convinced me to stay and I agreed… if they would skate.

It had been years since I’d been on skates, but I bravely laced up and tentatively stepped onto the wooden floor. After slowly making it around once or twice among all the kids enjoying the birthday party, I began to have that “hair standing up on the back of my neck” feeling that I was being watched. When I turned to look behind me, he skated up close and introduced himself. We left the floor and moved over to the tables to talk. We shared about our past. We were both divorced and struggling to make sense out of the past mistakes that caused him to be single at 29, and me, 32.




Sept. 12, 2020 Sitting outside Cracker Barrel looking across the street at the skating rink where we met. We planned to go back today, sit at a table with a coke and reminisce about that life changing day.




There is so much to our story.  We all have a story, some happy, some unique, some unbelievable, some tragic, but we all have one. Almost forty years takes a long time to tell. 

Today is about being alone. It’s been fifty days since he’s held my hand, told me for the millionth time, “I just love you so much”, told me I’m gorgeous, like he did every single day of our lives together.

 It is a raw emotion, like an open wound that refuses to close. The following description of losing my spouse, lover, best friend and yes, my other half, the one who made me complete is everything I've felt for the past 50 days but couldn't put into words.

"Widowhood is more than missing your spouse's presence. It is adjusting to an alternate life. It is growing around a permanent amputation.

Widowhood is going to bed for the thousandth time, and still, the loneliness doesn't feel normal. The empty bed a constant reminder. The night no longer brings intimacy and comfort, but the loudness of silence and the void of connection.

Widowhood is walking around the same house you have lived in for years and it no longer feeling like home. Because "home" incorporated a person. And they're not there. Homesickness fills your heart and the knowledge that it will never return haunts you.

Widowhood is seeing all your dreams and plans you shared as a couple crumble around you. The painful process of searching for new dreams that include only you amount to climbing Mount Everest. And every small victory of creating new dreams for yourself includes a new shade of grief that their death propelled you to this path.

Widowhood is second guessing everything you thought you knew about yourself. Your life had molded together with another's and without them you have to relearn all your likes, hobbies, fears, goals. The renaissance of a new person makes you proud and heartbroken simultaneously.

Widowhood is being a stranger in your own life. The unnerving feeling of watching yourself from outside your body, going through the motions of what was your life, but being detached from all of it. You don't recognize yourself. Your previous life feels but a vapor long gone, like a mist of a dream you begin to wonder if it happened at all.

Widowhood is the irony of knowing if that one person was here to be your support, you would have the strength to grieve that one person. The thought twists and confuses you. If only they were here to hold you and talk to you, you'd have the tenacity to tackle this unwanted life. To tackle the arduous task of moving on without them.

Widowhood is missing the one person who could truly understand what is in your heart to share. The funny joke, the embarrassing incident, the fear compelling you or the frustration tempting you. To anyone else, you would have to explain, and that is too much effort, so you keep it to yourself. And the loneliness grows inside you.

Widowhood is struggling with identity. Who are you if not their spouse? What do you want to do if not the things you planned together? What brand do you want to buy if not the one you two shared for all those years? What is your purpose if the job of investing into your marriage is taken away? Who is my closest companion when my other half isn't here?

Widowhood is feeling restless because you lost your home, identity, partner, lover, friend, playmate, travel companion, co-parent, security, and life. And you are drifting with an unknown destination.

Widowhood is living in a constant state of missing the most intimate relationship. No hand to hold. No body next to you. No partner to share your burden.

Widowhood is being alone in a crowd of people. Feeling sad even while you're happy. Feeling guilty while you live. It is looking back while moving forward. It is being hungry but nothing sounding good. It is every special event turning bittersweet.

Yes. It is much more than simply missing their presence. It is becoming a new person, whether you want to or not. It is fighting every emotion mankind can feel at the very same moment and trying to function in life at the same time.

Widowhood is frailty.

Widowhood is strength.

Widowhood is darkness.

Widowhood is rebirth.

Widowhood....is life changing."

By: Alisha Bozarth



 

 

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

A House Becomes Home

 I love the movie, The Magic of Ordinary Days. The reasons I love this movie are many and varied. The time period, the love story, the simplicity, the work ethic, the community and the raw emotions of the characters are a few reasons. The most relevant reason though, it's about life.

Ordinary sounds so...well, ordinary. But don't we consider most of our days ordinary? Yet when we look back, we tend to see and remember the special times, and suddenly realize that many of those times happened on ordinary days.

This is a picture of an ordinary house in Sherwood Hills, Colonial Heights, Virginia. A rent house for many years, it was worn and weary from neglect when we bought it in September of 1992. It needed a new roof, had termites on the front shutters, was outdated with shag carpet the color of bad celery, and the downstairs was as dark as a dungeon.  Saying it was an ordinary house is being quite generous. Not only did I not love this house, I didn't even like it. But it was what we could afford and had what we needed.

So began a twenty-seven year saga. And since the definition of magic implies wizardry or supernatural forces, I'm changing it to blessing. Because only God could bless us with so many ordinary days in that humble house that were so good, that leaving was so very, very hard.



  We were in our early forties and our youngest child was a junior in high school. Our oldest son had married that summer and our family was on the cusp of exploding with in-laws and grandchildren. Howard was still on active duty at Ft. Lee and we were still very much a military family.


 Our children began to marry and soon the grandchildren started to arrive. Since we had five children there were times we had three grandchildren arrive in the same year. So began the celebrations of weddings and births.

We celebrated promotions, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and graduations. And we also mourned several deaths in our family. Over the years the house was renovated time and time again. An inground swimming pool was added in 1997 and I remember thinking that we would enjoy it for many long years. And we did. We spent wonderful lazy summer days with family near and far. Friends came, food was grilled, kids swam and everyone went home happy and tired. The summers around that pool couldn't be rivaled.  


Over time I grew to love this house. It had slowly become our home where we opened our door to not only our family, but friends as well. Every room in our home had memories deeply embedded, and I seemed to see each one when I knew our time in this place was coming to an end. I could see card games played around the table or food covering every counter in my kitchen as we shared meals. We opened our home to a young couple with two children who were moving to Virginia, and had no place to stay over a weekend before their rental would be available on Monday. I felt blessed that I had the room to accommodate them on a very short notice. I have many sweet memories from that weekend. As a mentor to Mops Moms, I welcomed them into my home for many meetings or pot-luck meals where the fellowship with those young mothers has a sweet place in my heart.

Those memories are very special and precious, but the ones I treasure most are the ordinary days. The days it was warm enough to have my windows open and hear the birds sing and see neighbors walking by, or the many Saturday mornings when we were lazy and drank coffee and talked until mid morning. Or the many hours I spent in my swing on my screened back porch, my go-to- place when I was a little down, because I always came away happy. And some of the best are the memories of the late summer evenings by the pool listening to the frogs croaking in the creek behind the house. Just turning the key, opening the door, and walking into our sanctuary where we lived, loved, cried, laughed, learned and grew for 27 years made my heart happy. My prayer is that we honored God through the ordinary days living in the house He blessed us with that I not only didn't love, but I didn't even like. And only He knows how hard it was to leave.



Saying Goodbye



    
    
     
    

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Todd and Brittany, Wedding Day, December 15, 2018

Dear Todd, 
When you were born on March 23, 1989 we had no idea that our first grandchild would bring a love to our family that we'd never known before. There is a reason we use the word grand...everything was grand as we stared at you while you slept, took pictures and videos of your every move, and became convinced that you were the prettiest, smartest baby ever.  As your parents' first child, they were blessed that you were an easy baby, fun toddler, quiet little boy, and polite and obedient teenager. But you are blessed as well. They've provided a warm, loving, secure home for you where you were encouraged in your walk with God. They've prayed for you, and your mom has been faithful to send scripture to you and your siblings every morning. They've cheered for you in all your endeavors, given advice when needed and your mom was the very best nurse to you during two painful illnesses.They not only took loving care of you, but also taught you about the greatest love of all, God's love, as they lived out their personal faith before you. Buddy and Kerri live a Biblical marriage of faith, fidelity and family that will serve you well in the future.


And then you became a big brother to Trey.
And again...to a sister, Ashley.
They adore you! They've watched you through the years as you focused on earning your bachelors' degrees, and then working full-time and successfully completing your master's degree. You have been and still are their role model, and you live that title well.


And then a puppy... Andy.
God blessed you with a quiet, reserved personality, but  those who know you best also know that He gave you a perfectly awesome sense of humor, too. Your best man Bryan, has been your best friend since first grade, and the two of you have shared crazy times, serious times and everything in between. You played soccer, loved skate boarding, video games and snowboarding. You became a licensed real estate appraiser at the young age of eighteen, bought and paid for a new car, finished college and bought your first house. We have always been so proud of you. You are a hard worker, with integrity, honesty and commitment. I love you more than you will ever know and I'm so excited to see your future unfold.

This is your wedding day. You are marrying the first girl you kissed, way back in middle school. On Valentines day,when you were in seventh grade and she was in eight grade, Brittany gave you this teddy bear. Though you both went your own way after that brief middle-school romance, you met up again in 2011 and have been together since. Before this day is done you will be husband and wife. God is good and His will for us is perfect. 

Dear Brittany, I still remember the day I met you and the first meal you had at my house on Easter Sunday. I remember hearing about your childhood and feeling a definite connection because we share the loss of parents at a young age. We had many long conversations over the past eight years. Though today you will become Brittany Hamm, it seems as though you already are. I love you so much and I am so very happy for you.



Sweet memories of your mother, Kim. Her sister, your Aunt Angie described her as a firecracker with a zest for life. She could take five dollars and turn it into an amazing adventure with you and your brothers. Her love for you was a powerful thing and she loved dressing you in the finest things and brushing your hair. I understand when you would cry about it she would tell you that beauty is pain. She made beautiful dresses for you and she definitely would have been in the middle of all the wedding plans. She would be so very, very proud of you. I know her love for you will be felt today as you become Todd's wife.



And your dad, Dean, was your best friend. He was described to me as one of a kind. He was very smart and very funny, though he always told the worst jokes! He loved his music albums, Star Trek and he adored you! He cared deeply for you and took his role as your daddy very seriously. I love the pictures of the two of you having fun. I know he would love to be here today and I know that he would still be spoiling you and would be so very, very proud of everything you've accomplished. His love for you will be felt today too as you walk toward your future.


I know you  have been a wonderful and loving big sister to your two brothers and that they love you and have relied on you at times. I know they are proud of you too.

Memories are precious and pictures tell the story so perfectly. And your stories continue beyond the families that you were born into. This is your story, the beginning of your family...your love story. 




Then Iceland happened. Todd was prepared. He'd had the ring for a while, and when the opportunity to travel to Iceland for a photo shoot presented itself, he knew that would be the perfect place for a proposal.






Wedding plans began immediately. Longtime friends and family members were asked to be a part of your special day. Kumiko, the matron of honor, and childhood friend  took her role seriously and a beautiful wedding shower was planned.




Todd and Brittany, today, December 15, will be a date to celebrate each year as you remember the vows you will say to one another before your family and friends. Marriage is God's gift to us on earth. Be thankful for each other, nurture each other and grow together and not apart. God in the center of your marriage will give you many happy years.

Colossians 3:12-15  Therefore, God's chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. Above all, put on love, the perfect bond of unity.And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful.


Our hearts are full with love for you both. May God richly bless your marriage and your home.

                            Nana and Papaw


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Wedding Day Letter, May 28, 2016...Taylor and Kyle

Dear Granddaughter, you opened your eyes this morning as you have every morning for the past 8,397 days as Taylor Elizabeth Owens.
Firstborn to Darin and Leigh Ann Owens, sister to Emily and Bailey, granddaughter to Roland and Ann Wells, Howard and Linda Hulen and Garry Owens.  You are a niece, a cousin, a friend, a confidante, a nurse and a Jesus girl. God blessed you with parents who taught you about Him through His word and their daily living. They took you to church every time the doors were open, and raised you on the farm where you experienced the value of hard work. And that is where God blessed you with your farm family, the Cobbs,who love you as one of their own. You have the ability to laugh one minute and dissolve into tears the next. You are funny, compassionate, honest, thoughtful, kind, respectful and very sentimental. Growing up you have been a team player in softball and basketball, but the most important team you have been a part of is the Owens family team.
 
Your mom and dad fell in love and got married on a day much like this one. They didn't know what their future held as they posed for this picture...they only knew their dreams. They had no idea of the deep valleys they would walk through or the mountain top experiences they would soar above as they lived life together. Nor did they know God would place you in their care as their oldest child with two more daughters to complete their family. They were experiencing the pure joy of finding each other and beginning their lives as God intended. 
Together in marriage.
Here you are! First born! Their next love! Pure joy and adoration! A life they created together in their marriage relationship ordained by God. Everything you are came from them. Not only biologically, but all the minutes, hours, days, nights, weeks, months and years they have poured into you their beliefs and desires that would mold you into the young woman you are today. You have been blessed as they have loved, nurtured, guided, advised, and supported you in a secure home. The home fashioned from their love for God and each other that provided a haven where they could take refuge from earthly trials and enjoy all the grace and goodness that God has showered on your family.
The big sister to Emily and Bailey. Were there arguments and a few punches and pinches here and there? Of course. But there were also sweet times of giggles, silliness and play as the three of you pretended to be whatever your imagination called for on any given day. The picture above was the beginning of discovering that the three of you would be best friends. Friends that will always be there...forever.



Your family through the years.The parents and sisters that God chose just for you. He planned your life to bring you to this day.



Accomplishments have been many over the past few years, High School Graduation from Buffalo Island Central.
On to college at Arkansas State University with the desire to be a nurse. A chosen profession instilled in you from the many visits to St. Jude in Memphis as you watched a sweet little girl battle cancer and win. Those encounters, as you witnessed the nurses minister to sick children, spoke to your heart and you felt God calling you to that profession.

In your freshman year of college you frequented the Baptist Student Union where God placed the man He had for you in your line of vision. 
Remember this? That first text at the lake! "hey y'all it's that guy!" and we said, "text him back!" And you did.
The first picture I saw of this guy! Look at you and how happy you are! Kyle Outlaw asked you out and that is where your love story began.






The memories have added up over the past four years as you shared many events together. You will never forget those first nervous days of meeting parents and siblings and each other's friends. Hoping that the people in your individual lives would approve of your choice and be happy for you. Attending the weddings of both family and friends as you  looked forward to this day, your very own wedding day. Discovering favorite foods, pastimes, places,and people. Discovering the awe of being a couple, of being "Taylor and Kyle", those memories will be added to future conversations and stories that you will someday share with your own children.

The question, the answer and the ring! You said yes!  The planning began. And the wedding dress shopping!
Exciting day in Memphis! You looked beautiful in each dress. But there was one, a special one. The one that was yours and you knew. The dress in that purple bag will be revealed tonight when you will wear it as you walk toward the man who will be your husband when this day is done.
Details, details, details! The bridesmaids need something to wear! So off we go for more shopping and that always includes lunch.
 

You were generously showered by so many people who love you and Kyle. It takes a lot of "stuff" to start a home! Now all the planning throughout the past year leads to today, your wedding day.
This is the only way I can express to you how full my heart is for you this morning. By evening you will be Mrs. Kyle Outlaw, a wife! I have no advice, but I have prayer and scripture.

Father God, bless this day and the vows that Taylor and Kyle will say before You, their families and friends. Let it be a holy offering to You that they will walk in Your ways as they build a life together. The people they love most will witness their vows, but let them be reminded that You, O Lord, love them perfectly. In Jesus name, Amen

Colossians 3:12-17 As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other, just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all clothe yourselves with love which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

I love you,
 Nana