No Words. Sometimes There Are Simply No Words.

A journey through grief is never easy. In fact, I have found all too many moments in the past two and a half years, since my beating heart was ripped out of my chest when my husband took his last breath. There are so many in fact, that mere words on a computer screen will never come close to be able to explain it all. The pain, the anguish, the misery, the loneliness, and the guilt that overtake my heart some days are indescribable. There are no words that will come close to tell you how many of these miserable moments I have, and there are certainly no words to help you understand how mixed each of the moments can be. Conflicted emotions of happiness and sadness, in guilt and pride, and most certainly the times of uncertainty constantly permeate my being.

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Unfortunately, society tells us there is something to say, or do, in moments that do not constitute words of comfort. I know these moments are lined with well-intentions of friends, family, medical staff, and others who watch you go through times of turmoil. It is human nature to want to comfort others in times of despair, and attempt to do (or say) something that will make it better. I have also come to learn this: times I needed something the most, even relief from the pain, I knew there was no one, or nothing that could help me through grief. No one. Nothing. And, like a backhanded compliment, comments laced with good intentions, fell on ears and a broken heart that got insulted and angry instead.

These are a few of the comments, I have learned never to say to someone, even in their deepest pain. I have learned instead to say nothing at all.

  1. “Everything happens for a reason.”
  2. “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”
  3. “God needed Joe more than he was needed on Earth.”

Every single one of these comments made me infuriating mad. More so, as time continued to tick away and people repeated them more frequently. I have come to the conclusion people say these things, because they have heard them passed down. They repeat them without actually stopping to think of the merit behind them. Ultimately, in my own experience, there was no merit behind any of them. There was no reason for my husband to suffer so much, no reason that he didn’t get to raise his babies, or no reason that God needed Joe more than we did here on Earth. Instead, I looked for truth in my beliefs, and what the Bible actually said.

Just as in bad, there is good. There are so many moments that I literally feel my heart might burst. Watching our son play basketball on his pee-wee team in one moment, our daughter shining on the volleyball court, or the two of these precious babies together covering each other in laughter. These moments: there are no words that would come close to the joy and happiness they bring me. There are no sentences or fragments I can type to convince anyone else how happy my heart is in these moments. There are no words. Just pure joy radiating in the silence.

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You see, words are my comfort. I enjoy writing, I love to talk with others, and I most definitely like to comfort others in their sorrow. Already being on the other side of feeling the need to comfort others in grief, I remind myself constantly there are no words. The act of just being there, in physical presence is enough. Listen to others as they pour out their heartache and sorrow. Wipe their tears away from their tear-stained cheeks. Embrace their hug with sincerity and love and comfort. Cheer, smile, and laugh when they are celebrating the great times in their life. Share life with each other.

Your actions speak so much louder. There are no words. Sometimes there simply are no words.

All My Love in Silence, Kristina

The Greatest Gift Through Grief: Talking About the One We Love

I never thought I would be able to come to the point that I thought there was a gift in grief. After all, grief is nasty, ugly, unplanned, untimed, and unwavering. Grief belongs to the only person that possesses it. There is certainly no “normal” in grief. Even those stages of grief people talk about–not true, not always, not ever.

Grief is a journey though. It lulls some days, and other days it swallows you whole to the point you cannot breathe, think, or even exist. Those days, those days are days I am certain I cannot go on. Even after two-plus years of losing my husband, I have those days more often than I do not. I could never foresee how awful grief could be, the guilt that accompanies it as it’s finest guest, and the loneliness that tries to steal the spotlight of the show. It is my grief, my journey, and society, statistics, and research simply cannot tell me how to walk through it.

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Yesterday, I experienced a gift of  grief though. Yesterday, March 3, 2017 was National Wear Blue Day for Colorectal Cancer Awareness Day. A day that we can nationally make a statement to get screened, listen to our bodies–no matter what age– and know our family’s medical history to prevent one of the most deadly cancers out there: colorectal cancer. As I declared and solicited my family and friends to wear blue in honor of my best friend and husband, and to bring awareness to this disease, social media proved one of it’s positive impacts in our world today. My social media was blown up from all of those that care enough about me, our babies, and Joe that they wore blue to bring awareness to colorectal cancer and the lives it has impacted. Friends and family gave us shout-outs to tell us they REMEMBER! They smiled, they sent undeserving compliments to me, and TALKED about Joe.

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The latter, talking about Joe, is exactly what I’ve wanted for the past two years and four months since my husband passed away. They talked about his wit, his smile, his courageousness, what a fighter he was until the end. They talked about what an amazing daddy he was to his babies. Friends and family poured in that he would be proud of me, as his wife.

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That’s all I’ve wanted. That’s all any of us want, when we lose someone we love. To talk about the one we love; to allow them to continue to live, their spirit, their story, their love and compassion to continue to seep through to everyone they impact. Just talk–tell me stories, tell his children what a great person he was, tell us what a crazy, fearless dare-devil he has always been, tell us about that “one time” when you guys were testing faith and chance. Just tell us.

Will I cry? Probably. But please, don’t let that scare you off. It’s just that I miss him so much, and wish he could be sitting next to me and the kids to hear these stories. I want to see him laugh, and add in his version of things. I want him to shake you off, and tell you to stop before you get to the really good part of the story. Don’t be mistaken–those tears are not all sad. They are happy, because you are fulfilling my wish of talking about him. You are making my dreams come true that he never dies. You’re filling my life’s mission that his kids and I get to know him better than we already did. You are allowing me to experience a piece of my husband that time did not allow me to have.

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Any grieving person or blog I have encountered since I lost Joe, has all shared one common request: to talk about them. Yesterday, March 3, 2017, gave me the greatest gift of grief since Joe passed. You talked about Joe. All of you. So many of you, that I had over FIVE HUNDRED  interactions, of posts, pictures, texts, calls, and emails that honored Joe and his fight in colorectal cancer. You reminded me that I WON! You reminded me that I was the lucky one–God and Joe chose me to be Joe’s wife. You reminded me that through all the nastiestness of grief, that the two greatest men in my life chose me to be their warrior, to share their love and their story with this world.

Thank you for talking about him! Thank you for keeping him alive. Thank you for giving that invaluable gift to Joe’s parents, his children: Lilly and Porter, and myself, as well as the rest of his friends and family. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. May his light shine bright, and God’s love shine even brighter through our story and all of those we reach! May the power of blue save many other’s lives–just like the blue of his eyes saved mine by the love he showed me!

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Joe’s Champion and Warrior, His wife, Kristina

The Day I Knew God was For Real

I remember the day that I accepted God into my heart. I was a young nine-year-old girl, on a hot July evening at Vacation Bible School at Seymour First Baptist Church. I remember the feeling, I certainly remember the Lord speaking to me, and the Holy Spirit filling me.

I was recently challenged by one of my high school students, who chose an interesting, and very deep topic to research: “Why do people believe what they believe? Why don’t people keep an open mind, and only believe what they were raised to believe?”

His premise was quite simple: people believe what they believe because of the social norms they have been raised in, which of course, are affected by our geographical location, our generational views we’ve been brought up in, and the way society and media influence our thoughts. But “why” do we believe, what we believe?

I really pondered his question, and even pondered my own faith and Christianity. How do I know, despite the way I have been raised, especially in the Midwest Bible Belt where there are more churches in my tiny farm town than there are families to serve it, that God is really, real?

The question came zooming back to me-with a flood of memories that only proved, “How could I not believe He is real?” Despite being saved so many years ago, I remember the date I really KNEW God was for real–June 22, 2013.

The day my husband was diagnosed with Colon Cancer when we were seven months pregnant. joehopsital

I am certain I could never forget that day. It was the worst day of my life. It was the worst timing of my life. God certainly could not understand what He was doing. There’s no way He could have a plan for this–this circumstance, our family, my husband, me.

He did. He does. And I only know a fraction of the reasons of His Greater Plan.

My type-A personality couldn’t fix this. Not Stage IV Colon Cancer. “I” couldn’t make this better, “I” couldn’t make income appear that we didn’t have. “I” couldn’t pay all of the medical bills that would soon roll in. I couldn’t take away Joe’s pain. “I” couldn’t perform this surgery he needed-and the many more he would need. “I” couldn’t do this by myself. “I” needed something more, someone more. “I” needed a lot of things that were more. And there was only one person who could make that happen.

There is no way to know the many blessings that came out of Joe and I’s story. I am certain until I walk through the gates of Heaven, I never will. I read recently in my Bible–that this is the way He wants it. It is not intended that we know all the reasons why. It just isn’t. How else do you not believe in God when you are handicapped to handle anything in your life–and yet it all prevails in perfection? How do you have over a year without income, and over a million dollars in medical bills–and they are all taken care of in some facet? How do you welcome a child–His child–that He trusted you with to raise, into this world with no complications, with your husband by your side? How do you look at a neworn child and not believe there HAS to be something greater in this world to create something so perfect? How do complete strangers see you carrying your nine-month-old son across a parking lot in one arm, and your dying husband in the other arm, and he comes to tell you how much God loves you? How do your greatest fears that you won’t be home if your husband needs you, are eased because He makes sure you are there every second your husband needs you the most? How does starting a new job in the mess of all of this, prove that God’s greatest warriors are the ones that surround you every single day? How are God’s other Army members your chemotherapy nurses and doctors, that just so happen to be the one’s that come to Branson every Thursday to serve your best friend?

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How does your other fears that your husband will not be there for all of the firsts–subside when the greatest birthday party is celebrated for your infant son, and your husband is beaming the whole entire time next to you? How does God allow someone to also experience cancer, also see the same Doctor, and observe you and your family for over a year before they send an anonymous gift telling you that YOUR family is a testament of God’s love and faith for us? How do new friends through the journey become the closest in your life?

How does a surgeon that needed his own testament of faith, deliver that when He became the one our family prayed for in a big way, as he continued to use his skills and hands for God in saving my husband for the next sixteen months? How did “I” get chosen to bring a much bigger message out of God’s story for us–in many different facets: teaching, coaching, widows, children that have lost one of their parents in their childhood, advocating for Fight CRC, and those affected by colon cancer everywhere?

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How?

Coincidence? I have never believed in that word. I guess if there were one or two coincidences I could believe it. But all of these, and even more? Not possible. There are way too many things intertwined that have happened that I certainly know God is for real. There are still people who tell me they followed our story, that we affected them in some way. And it’s been over two years since Joe has been gone.

The answer is simple: the day there was no way I could attempt to keep doing life by myself, and control circumstances that truly I never did, was the day I knew God was for real. I knew this–but I experienced it on a much bigger scale. The days my life were shattered into a million pieces: the day Joe was diagnosed, the day I was told there were no more options, the days Joe’s pain was so bad he would scream and beg to God for relief, the day he took his last breath in my arms, the day I realized he wasn’t coming back: those days are the days I knew God was for real.

He’s had mercy. He’s had grace. He’s had patience, love and understanding. I don’t deserve it. I have questioned Him, cursed Him, bargained life with Him. And He still loves me, and I can FEEL it!

Many people, including my past self before Joe’s sickness, believe God is for those people that everything goes “right” for. I’m here to tell you: when everything has gone wrong, was when I felt God the most. I’ve said a million times, “I wish there was any other way to bring me closer to God than what we’ve been through. But in my heart, I know there was nothing else that could.”

I hope however it happens you remember the day God was for real to you!

God’s Blessings-Kristina, Joe’s Wife

The Life Club I Didn’t Choose To Be A Member of: Widowhood

My early twenty’s seemed to prove a perfect blue-print already laid out for me and my life: wife, step-mom, mom, and teacher. I had married the love of my life, found someone better than I even imagined I deserved to spend the rest of my life with, and vowed that life with him. In fact, it was the vows of “In sickness and in health, until death do us part,” that I remember the most vividly. The memory of mouthing those words as I looked into my husband’s eyes, was the moment I could see him, and me, as an old couple sitting on our front porch swing, enjoying the lake view and sunset in front of us. I could see us, enjoying being “us.”

What I didn’t see was the sickness in less than a year ravage my groom’s body. I didn’t see him screaming out in pain, begging me with his eyes to fix the pain, and the cancer. I most certainly did not see myself seven-months pregnant begging doctors in multiple hospitals to cure his cancer and to promise me my husband would be there to watch our children grow-up through their childhood. I never imagined a possibility of living in hospital floors for weeks-on-end, entertaining an infant while soothing my best friend in a hospital bed. But, most possibly, the worst nightmare I never thought possible was nursing our son at his Daddy’s funeral, with our daughter curled up next to me, sobbing as we prepared to say goodbye to the man that created our family. And the nightmare of the future without him as my husband and best friend, and his children’s Dad has never been so real, as it has been the past two years without him.me-and-my-baby

My future and widowhood was never even in my most distant recollection of a possibility. Moreover, separately they were two complete different realities. Widowhood was elderly women who sat on their front porch, and their grown children came to check on them. My future life was happy, full of life and hopes and dreams to accomplish. They were family vacations at the beach, birthday parties with the kids’ friends swarming our house, they were spontaneous weekend road trips, and family pictures. And yet, I still am not quite sure how these two different worlds collided so quickly. Most shocking, is that these two different worlds look nothing like I envisioned, all wrapped together.

I still have yet to figure out what my life is supposed to look like in my future. I once knew, but that was changed entirely when Joe joined the good Army above. At twenty-eight years old, I often wonder if being a widow is what is left for my life. I wonder if Joe’s love will carry me through, until he meets me at the gates with the King who gave us both eternal life. I wonder what my life will be like when Porter evolves into a great young man, like his Dad and leaves our home to pursue his own dreams. I wonder what I am supposed to do to attempt to map out my future from this point on.

Although the given advice from many is that Joe would still want me to live and love, there is no one more certain of that, than myself. It’s deeper than that though; to retrain your brain, your longings, wantings, desires, dreams. To have to start over and envision a different life–but one that, really, you don’t desire at all. The life you desired is over, and you have to come to accept that.

I didn’t choose widowhood. It chose me. It is a club that I never wanted, or dreamt, I would be apart  of. I wish I could check my membership card from the moment it took my breath away on October 26, 2014. I cannot, however. Until then, I do know that widowhood looks like how I make it–not anyone else. The same is true for each and every one of us widows living without our spouse. We literally do take a moment at a time, walking through a haze of grief, unsure if our next step is right or wrong. We just do it. I am no expert on grief, or widowhood, but walking this road for the past two years has proven tougher than ever imaginable. Reaching out, loving each other, and connecting with others who do not want to be in this club, proves to be the only true understanding in this world.

To you other members in this club: I am sorry you belong to this club too. Don’t let your membership define your future. I am attempting to do the same. kissing-him-goodbye

The Old Neighbor Man Who Became My Best Friend and Grandpa

I saw him for the first time when I was walking home from fourth grade on a hot, August day. As I scurried across the street a small, elderly man on his hands and knees caught the corner of my eye, as I approached his front yard. The smoldering sun already had me sweating, when I looked upon this tiny old man, who was himself saturated. His weathered skin proved a lifetime of working outside, but his smile portrayed his heart in that very moment.

“Hello, sister.”

“Hi,” I quickly exchanged, and picked up my pace to get to my house two doors down.

Little did I know, this quick exchanged would lead to a friendship and relationship that 18 years later is still one of my most cherished possessions.11bdaybert

This man was more than my neighbor. He began by doing the neighborly thing and mowing our yard, to help my single-mother, raising three kids. He then cooked breakfast for us every morning, as we walked to his house before school to just hang out. Then came the times I sat on his lap, while he widdled my dull pencil to a point with his pocket knife and coached me through long division. Snow days proved glorious as we had an all day long, and never-ending tournament of the board game- “Sorry.” His spit can stained our game board, a treasured mishap that still makes me smile.

Sunday evenings were my coveted days, as he sat in his lawn chair to the left of the screen door on his front porch, and myself in my own lawn chair to the right of that squeaky door. He read his romance novels, while I buried myself in my chapter books. Yet, the most fun thing I ponder on are those nights he would sip his coffee that he first poured into his saucer, and I gulped down my Wild Cherry Pepsi in a can.

My fourth grade Spring and Summer came unintended hard-work and empathy lessons. He led me to my favorite smell in the whole world: fresh cut grass. Lessons of hard work and saving money by mowing yards. It was the “who” we mowed yards for though, that proved one of the greatest life’s lessons: Widows. Elderly women in our small, farm town community that needed someone to take care of their lawn. The empathy I felt for these women was immense, even at my young age. We always sat on their front porch after we finished, sipping lemonade and some sweet treat they had whipped up. I frequently ask myself if God was telling me something way before I could imagine my life today.

Most importantly, this man taught me that time given is the greatest gift any of us can give. He was my best friend; I did everything with him. I wanted to be at his house, rather than hanging out with my friends at ten years old. He taught me how to cook, how to do math, he taught me how to work, he taught me how to save money, he taught me how to “just be.” He taught me there was no stereotype on friendships and love. He taught me that God knew exactly what He was doing when He places those least expected into our lives.

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My best friends and I celebrating my 13th birthday with Bert, at his house. He would pass away only 15 days later.

19 years ago today, January 27, was the day I experienced my first soul-shattering loss. My best friend, the man I only refer to as my grandpa, left this world to cancer. He wasn’t my grandpa, not by blood; but he was the closest thing I had ever had to a grandpa–still to this day. He waited many years here on Earth without his wife, whom I never had the pleasure of meeting. The way he still talked about her, was the way I knew I wanted to love my own husband, one day. And I did. The way tears still fell from his eyes as he reminisced during our front porch chats, hurts my soul even more now as I now know the longing that was in his heart for her.

I have often wondered since Joe has been gone, what they say to each other, what the other one thinks of the other. Then I remember they have one girl whom they both loved with all of their hearts. And I also remember, my amazing husband allowed me to name our son after this elderly man. That’s how I know they love each other, and must have so much to talk about, watching as a little boy who carries both of their names, become a great man, just like both of them.

This is my eighteenth year beyond the first year without my sweet, precious, John Deere-loving Bert. And my heart still aches at how much I miss him. Just one more time, I would love to hear, “I do you, too, Sister. I do you too,” in response to my parting words every time I hugged him, “I love you Bert.”

I love you Bert. I will always love you. Until we meet again, my sweet grandpa.

Keep going in grief. There may be a gift that shows up years later–a vivid reminder that God knows exactly what He Is doing after all.

It’s ALL so worth it.

To the Sweet Boy Who Makes Grief So Much Better…and So Much Worse

Dear Sweet Boy,

You are simply one of the most perfect things I have ever laid my eyes upon, throughout my entire lifetime. Those blue eyes are breathtaking and soul grabbing. The way your hair lies on your head and stops in that perfect haircalic on the left side, brings joy to my heart that I could never begin to describe. Your chunky legs that connect to those chubby feet that turn slightly inward, takes my breath away as I watch them pitter-patter across the floor. Your little square fingernail beds somehow mean the world to me, as I watch them grasp a crayon to color in our favorite coloring book. And your heart! Your heart is so tender, so pure; how your love is displayed in each of your words and actions–reminds me I am the luckiest person in the whole entire world.

What I need you to know though is that all of these things, and more, absolutely kill me everyday. It is an emotion I never knew existed until your Daddy left us here on Earth without him physically present anymore. That emotion is called “duality;” it means I have two complete opposite emotions at the same exact time–the deepest love and the deepest sorrow of pain.

You see, those deep, ocean blue eyes are your Daddy’s. They pierce my heart when they meet my own blue eyes, and somehow reach deep into my soul. They remind me the day I looked into your Daddy’s eyes and vowed to be his wife through sickness and health; they remind me the day your Daddy’s eyes looked quizzically into mine and asked me what the doctor’s told me about his sickness; those blue eyes, sweet boy, remind me the moment your Daddy’s eyes poured the deepest love and appreciation into mine when the three of us became one that late summer night on August 21 when you were born. Those sweet baby blue’s are a definition of love that I so desperately miss, and yet still have.

That haircalic on the left side of your big forehead reminds me of your sweet Daddy’s head. The nights of doing nothing, but rubbing his head back and forth so he could fall asleep. The desperation of times when Daddy was losing his hair, because the medicine trying to save him, was killing all of his healthy cells, too. It reminds me of the kisses I placed upon his head, because it hurt Daddy too much to kiss him anywhere else, when the cancer was taking him from us. That sweet haircalic seems to bring joy at the same time it brings that lump in my throat I always try to choke down, because I don’t want you to see more tears fall down my face.

Sweet boy: your sweet, tender, and purest of hearts take the cake of my duality though! I’m yet again astonished that God wove your mannerisms, responses, facial expressions and personality of your sweet Daddy into you. I’m without words when I realize how much you know about your Daddy, when the world–especially science–tells us you should not remember him at all. You do, though. The way you want everyone to be your friend, you wipe your momma’s own tears away from her tear-stained face, and tell me it will be okay–because, “Daddy can see us.” How do you know the right thing to say every time? How is your young heart so capable of understanding other’s pain? How do you make it so much better, and so much worse, all at the same time? I guess that is your Daddy, too. That is truly the only explanation.

The firsts of watching you walk, saying your first sentence, shooting a basketball for the first time, and crawling under your truck to “fix” it with your tools are moments I could never begin to tell you how my heart could burst, because of the pride swelling inside it. But sweet boy, those moments that my smile is as big as my pride, the tears that won’t stop falling are because I know your Daddy is that proud too! I can feel it: the lump in my throat, the tears that burn my eyelids, and the breeze I feel down my spine, because he is the first person I think of in these moments, every single time. There will never be any words to describe how much better you make my days without your Daddy. Oh, but sweet boy, they are so much harder too.

Trust me when I say this: I would never trade it for a moment. This all hurts so bad, because we all love each other so much. Love is worth everything, including the tears, my sweet boy.

I Love You My Precious Baby,

Mommy