Saturday, August 8, 2015

A Giant Step Backward

I took a giant step backward in my grief journey this past week two weeks and it nearly derailed me.  Thanks to help and compassion from my daughters, I am back on track and so grateful for their love and kindness.  As their mother, I know that they love me and will do anything to help me but I think it is greater than that.  They both loved Ed with all their hearts and would do anything to honor his memory by helping me when I am down as he would have done if he was here.

My setbacks were two fold:  being overwhelmed with work and the care of this beautiful property as well as a deep concern for two family members with major health issues. 

I needed to step back and analyze the work and property situation for what they are...just a part of normal life.... but I am doing it alone instead of with my partner.  When the garage doors, the dishwasher, the steam vacuum (all quit this week) and a major work project come at you all at once, it seems overwhelming and it is.  Ed took care of all that "stuff" so instead of them being a catastrophe, they were an annoyance.  Ed took care of all that "stuff" so I could focus on my work.  Why should I expect that I can do it all alone as well as Ed and I could do it together?  That's unrealistic.

Hiring some help to deal with the maintenance and repair issues has helped tremendously.  Things will break and things will need to be repaired, replaced, painted and caulked.  That is normal life.  So I got some help.  Hard to admit I needed it but easier once I got it!

The health issues of my two family members are not so easily resolved.  A loved one is facing a recurrence of cancer that he has fought for two years.  Another loved one is facing the inevitable decline that comes with age.  Both brought back a lot of emotions related to Ed's diagnosis and treatment.  My loved ones' situation brings back some tough questions about quality vs. quantity of life.  I miss Ed terribly but the quality of life that he had was not what he wanted for himself.  I sure wish we had had more years, though. 

So, I fell backwards into a bit of a pit these weeks.  Today, however, the sunrise was beautiful and I awoke with a new determination to keep walking forward.  God placed a dear friend in my path at the grocery store and we shared some wonderful memories of Ed and that encounter gave me joy and hope.  I had great visits with several of my grandchildren yesterday.  God is good. 

I know that the Lord, my family and my friends are walking with me and I will get back on track. 

God's Blessings, LuAnn

Friday, July 3, 2015

In Memory of Ed

 I awakened suddenly from a deep sleep at 6:48 this morning, highly unusual that I would sleep that late but I am on vacation for the next 11 days.  Today is the three month anniversary of Ed's passing. 

I got a call from Hiron's Monuments yesterday that his headstone was completed and set at the cemetery.  I went right after work to see it and here it is....Ed now lies beneath a monument that depicts one part of his life that was so special to him....his beloved farm. 

Yesterday I recalled to his family with vivid detail a moment on our honeymoon on July 2 at Wall, SD....fourteen years ago.  We pulled into Wall with the truck camper and started walking down the street to see what the fuss was all about....Ed pointed out a bank clock above us that showed the date....7.2.2001....and he said, "Happy Birthday, Dad!"  Then he went on to say, "Monk, can you believe that my dad is celebrating his first birthday in heaven with Jesus?"  Yesterday Ed was celebrating WITH his dad in heaven on what would have been his dad's 100th birthday. 

So much has transpired in the past three months.  In some ways things have gotten easier but in many others they remain difficult.  I find myself missing my identity as a farm wife.  I loved being identified with farming and the noble profession of farming.  I have been involved in farming since the age of six when my dad bought our beef farm.  Never, never have I felt disconnected from farming.  That was one of the things that Ed and I shared on the deepest level....our love of the land.

I loved that Ed, either through his own crops or through his knowledge and expertise, helped farmers to produce better crops and promoted stewardship of the land, God's gift to us.  He frequently said he wanted a sign at the end of the road that said "God's Farm-We are Temporary Caretakers". 

I miss that part of my identity.  With the land and grain facility leased out, and the farmstead for sale, I no longer have a stake in the risks and rewards of growing a crop.  I miss the daily phone calls from farmers and the pickup trucks in and out of the barnyard.  I miss his daily reports to me on commodity prices and rainfall.  I miss the sound of his keyboard as he typed out his blog and contributed to NAT.

Which brings me to the true substance of this post.  With the placement of his headstone, I have tried to ensure that Ed will be remembered as a farmer.   

You may wonder why I mentioned the exact time of my awakening this morning.  Three months ago today, Ed passed at 6:49 AM.   

Have a blessed day, LuAnn



Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sable Needs a Farmer

Good Morning, Everyone!  Today is an especially hard day as six kids lost the best father you could imagine.  It is our first Father's Day without Ed.  Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary.  It is hard to believe it would have been 14 years tomorrow that I married my best friend.  So many memories....

Just a note to update you on things around here in the past month and to make a heartfelt request for help.

I think Sable needs a farmer. She has a home and a farm to roam but she is still lonely beyond imagination. It is heartbreaking to step outside and walk towards the Dakota and watch her race to the door and hope for a ride to scout fields. I work about 10 hours a day and by the time I get home I am not able to give her the time and attention that a loyal German Shepherd needs. She is my company and protector but I am not doing right by her, I know.

I am looking for a farmer for her...someone who will take her in the truck and let her follow him/her everywhere. Someone who will rub her belly and scratch her ears and talk to her like Ed did. She is 6 1/2 years old, spayed and has a very handsome pedigree. Her bloodlines are very good. She has absolutely no sign of hip problems and the vet says she is in great health. If someone is interested in taking her, please email me. I will deliver her to wherever your farm is. I only ask that you love her and treat her with kindness.

Part of my request comes from my decision to sell the farmhouse and farmstead. Even with the kids and friends and neighbors helping, I am having a tough time keeping up with this big old place. Besides, it is just too big of a house for one person. I need to be in town near people and in a house that is easier for me to manage.

I know that when I move into town Sable will be miserable. I'm not sure that a fence or an invisible fence will contain her if I move into town. She loves to roam the land and sleep in the laundry room at night. I have the house listed as of last Monday and need to be able to place her when it sells. This is so hard.

Other than Sable, all of it is hard but not impossible. Ed is walking with me every step of the way. I have gone through all of his papers. Files and files and boxes and boxes of everything he wrote or kept for the information that he could include in one of his radio spots or workshops. I gained so much more appreciation for his depth and breadth of knowledge and his love of teaching others. He sure loved farming and sure loved to help farmers solve problems. I have found amazing documents of things he wrote over the years. He sure was prolific!

The scholarship fund is set up to receive applications and I am so pleased about that. Matt and I went through Ed's Oliver toy tractor collection and have selected 14 to be given to the grandchildren this coming Christmas. Each will have a package under the tree from Papaw even if he is not there physically, he will be there in spirit. The rest will be placed into a permanent collection to stay in the family.

I have scheduled an auction for August 8 for the small tools and what little machinery is left here. It won't be a big auction by any means but I can't take it to town with me. One more difficult thing to get through but I am walking by faith and trying to do my best to make Ed proud.

I am still humbled and astounded by how many calls and emails I get just checking in on me to offer encouragement and to see if I need anything. Thank you for your prayers and friendship. 

 Please think it over and if you are in a position to take a great farm dog into your life, let me know. In the meantime, please know that I appreciate all of your support and I think of all of Ed's blog followers daily when I offer prayers for your safety and prosperity. God Bless, LuAnn

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

I Made A Decision

   
It’s been ten weeks since Ed passed, leaving me with a heavy heart, six devastated adult kids, fourteen grands who miss their papaw, a lonely dog, a farm to manage, a consulting business to run, a house that’s too big, our two elderly mothers with health issues, and a job that needs a lot of my time and attention. Where do I begin?

For two weeks, I functioned on autopilot. Doing what needed to be done but not fully aware of my feelings as I did tasks. I went to work every day and tried to dig out from under the pile of work that had accumulated during the three months that I was caregiving Ed. I looked for him in every room and talked incessantly about him and our life together to anyone who would listen . Privately, I mourned the loss of my life as I knew it.

The next two weeks I cried every day as I drove to work. That was my private time to mourn the loss of the familiar morning routine where we read Scripture and planned our evening meal and drank our coffee and hugged goodbye. I went to grief counseling and joined a Grief Share group at church.

The next two weeks I started cleaning out the garage and the barn and packed up Ed’s clothes and mailed them to a family member in need. It gave me comfort knowing they would be used and appreciated, so much more comforting than dropping a black plastic bag into a receptacle at the grocery store parking lot. I reminded myself with each sweater I hugged to my chest that keeping his clothes would not bring him back. I designed his headstone and thought about leaving our farm for a place that was smaller and more manageable and closer to my family. I sent up his scholarship fund. I kept on sorting. I was busy, busy, busy.

After six weeks reality set in and all the “busy-ness” could not fill the empty days and nights. I wandered the house and wallowed in my grief. Boxes of photos and letters and cards brought back so many memories. With each memory, I sank deeper into a feeling of loneliness and sadness. I sat at his desk, I drove his truck, I read his personal papers and hugged his dog, the two of us unsure how to relate to each other without Ed as a buffer.

During this time, I could not envision my future. I could not envision a “purpose” in life or a reason to go on. Why bother to eat and work and sleep and buy groceries? Why? Just to keep on living a life alone and without meaning? What good was living if life held no joy? I missed my joy. I wanted it back and I wanted this sadness to be lifted from my heart.

This pain went on for the next four weeks. It was hell.

Last Sunday, I made a decision. I made a conscious decision that every day, no matter how difficult or lonely, I would live my life with a goal of finding my joy again. I dried my tears and sat down to create a list of things that brought me joy before Ed died. I asked myself why wouldn't those things bring me joy now that I was alone.

While many of the things on my list were things we enjoyed together and shared, some were some things I had always wanted to do but had made excuses to put off trying (Yoga, painting). There were things I loved to do but never had the time or energy to do after work and our couples activities. (Photography, Creative writing). There were other things that I enjoyed but Ed did not particularly care for (boating). I had always put off these activities in favor of doing things we enjoyed together.

In my grief, I convinced myself that we had done EVERYTHING together and that we were inseparable. The truth is we did 95% of everything together and loved every minute of it but we still were two individuals with interests and dreams of our own.

Last Sunday, I decided to take the talents I had been given and the blessings I had received and use them to live life fully, again, with a goal of finding joy. I decided that no one but me could honor Ed’s memory in the exact same way I could and, if I was wallowing around in despair, I was missing opportunities to honor his memory.

I thought hard about the unfairness of wishing him back from the paradise he is experiencing in heaven. If given the choice between heaven and earthly existence, an existence that for him included pain and suffering, could I truly ask him to come back? I could not. Therefore I decided to go on with life.

Life will be what I make of it. The only thing standing between me and a joyful life is the mistaken idea that I can only experience joy with Ed here to share it. The only thing standing between me and joy is myself. My Lord and Savior will provide me with a joy-filled life if I am willing to let Him.

I am sure there will be days and weeks and months of grief that will engulf me but I will not allow it to consume me. I just have to get my joy back or I will simply die every day for however long the Lord gives me and that is not what Ed would want for me.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Very Special Sunday

Last Sunday our family celebrated two wonderful sacraments in the Catholic Church....First Holy Communion (Granddaughter Brynn Marie) and Baptism (Granddaughter Charlotte Louise).  What a beautiful celebration.  I never stopped smiling all day!

Charlotte Louise is Ed's namesake.  Many don't know that Ed's given name is Charles.  He was given the honor of choosing her name on Christmas Day and doubly honored to be asked to be her Godfather.  Last Sunday, Ed was definitely with us in spirit.  He loved to hear Brynn Marie recite the Lord's Prayer.  When we recited the Lord's Prayer, you could feel his presence.  Charlotte's father, Erik, read the following from Ed's blog in December of 2012 when he became Katherine Grace's Godfather.  It was so fitting and so special....  From Ed:

"Today I extend my journey in life as a god parent.  I was asked to be a God parent to (Charlotte Louise) a couple of months ago.  Are any of you God parents?

God parenting doesn't necessarily mean you raise the child if something happens to the parents.  That was more necessary over the ages when people didn't live as long.  God parenting has always meant to someone who will see to the child's upbringing in the Church, or at least the path to God.  For me, that means Eternal Salvation, my prayer for every soul on earth.

"It is a known practice in the Church that every person, child or adult, should have a godparent (sponsor) at the time that they enter into the faith through Holy Baptism and Chrismation. To be a godparent is at the same time a great honor and a tremendous responsibility. God asks each godparent to assist in leading souls along the narrow path which leads to the Kingdom of Heaven. For this reason the role of the godparent is not to be minimized or trivialized. It is in fact a role that is holy and needs to be taken seriously."

I take it so seriously I questioned whether or not this was the right decision of the parents to choose me!  After they went through all the reasons they chose me, I had to humbly accept their offer.  What a calling!  It's hard enough for me to find and follow the path to God but to help do that for a little child?

"Most of all, the greatest duty of the godparent is to pray fervently for their godchild that God will always watch over them and guide them throughout his/her life."  I can do that!  I pray daily if not hourly to discern God's Will and utter the words God would have me say.  I pray for every one I meet as I see their needs and hear their concerns.

It is with great joy we welcome (Charlotte Louise) into this family but more importantly the family of God.  My life has let me see there are two powerful sides to choose from, the side of Good and the side of evil.  All of the Saints and Angels, priests and religious who have went before me chose the side I chose and we pray together for the good of all mankind.

I fervently start a new role in life today and have been practicing for a couple of months now.  I never understood this role and will learn it like I do life, one day at a time.

God Bless all God Parents!

Ed"

God is Good....




Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Adirondack Chairs

 
 

These Adirondack chairs are 14 years old.  They were made by
Ed's FFA students at Clermont Northeastern.  Those chairs were Ed's wedding gift to me.  When he gave them to me, he told me that we would grow old together sitting in those chairs.  God had another plan......

Each spring, we had a ritual.  I would get out the garden hose and leaf blower and a bucket of water to wash the chairs.  My job was to get the porch ready for sitting outside on the warm summer evenings.  Ed's job on porch cleaning day was to go and get me a hanging basket to brighten the space.  I always picked the earliest warmest day possible and that night we would have our first night of the year on the porch. 

We loved having our Sunday morning coffee out there.  We loved having dinner there.  That porch has held many family gatherings, with Ed always sitting in the Adirondack chair to the left.  Many farm couples from across the country (including Brian and Mariah) have sat on that porch for lunch or a cool glass of lemonade, the guys talking farming, us gals enjoying their enthusiasm for their life's work.  The night of the Clinton County Field to Table picnic, that porch held a large group of family who came out the host the event with us.

Last summer, my brother and nephew stayed a week to celebrate my brother's cancer being in remission.  All the while he was undergoing treatment, I told him to envision having barbequed ribs and our fresh-picked sweet corn on the porch. It was a very big deal when we finally had that meal.  There were times I didn't think he would ever get to eat a picnic on my porch again.  That meal was a triumph of his spirit.

We could sit in our chairs and look out over the farm and watch whatever was going on.  Could be fireflies in June, Fourth of July Fireworks, the bat colony leaving at dusk or the hummingbirds at the feeder.  The year we bought the farm, son Eric built me a water garden with a waterfalls right outside the porch and many nights we listened to the soft sound of water running over rocks and laughed at the birds bathing in the "stream". 

I'm running about a month behind so porch cleaning day was postponed until yesterday.  I scrubbed and re-arranged.  Daughter Shannon's family brought me a basket of flowers for the table.  Daughter Becky's family brought me a flat of zinnias to brighten the garden nearby. 

Tonight I sat in my chair and watched the birds and immersed myself in the memories of the special times we enjoyed on that porch.  The chair next to me is empty now but my heart is full. 

I had the most special Mother's Day weekend a mom could ask for.  I hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day and I hope it included some time on the porch with your family. 



Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Essence of a Person's Life in Stone

After months of online searching and researching and then actual lot-shopping and test-driving, I bought a Honda CRV.  Not the top of the line by any means but enough features to make me feel like I have moved up 8 years since my last new car.  I got 33 mpg driving home from Columbus today and that made me feel good.  It has great safety ratings and it was way roomier than I thought it would be. 

All in all,  I am happy.  The kids are happy.  Mom is driving something dependable.  I don't ever want to worry my kids.    So I have a new CRV.  I love my kids for caring about my safety.

Sable created a bit of a stir last night.  She ran off.  She came back hot and tired but she was gone a good while and that is not like her.  I know she needs more attention than I am giving her so I treated her to a ride in the old Dakota tonight.  She must miss that so much.  She and Ed spent hours riding around scouting. 

We drove to the cemetery to spend some quiet time with Ed's spirit.  I have been working with the monument company to design something special for Ed's (and eventually my) headstone.  Other than helping my mom to pick out my dad's headstone, I have absolutely no experience in this.  Well, I guess most of us don't until we are placed in the situation. 

Last summer we took a trip through Northern NY and into Quebec, visiting the sites where my ancestors are buried.  I studied those headstones.  They told a story.  I had never noticed before but both my maternal and paternal grandparents' headstones had praying hands holding a Rosary.  You could look around both of their cemeteries and see the faith beliefs of the families represented there.  I liked that.

In designing this monument, I learned that a headstone is truly the last physical indication that the person or couple buried there walked this earth.  The stone, in just a few words and design elements, captures the essence of the persons' lives.  It will tell a story for hundreds of years.  I am incorporating an etching of our farm into the design along with a verse from Ecclesiastes.  It was our favorite. 

I want to get it right.