The ever present companion of grief

I hold my breath and prepare myself for the day.

It will come and I have no choice or control, if I am blessed to live until then I will need to survive another grief anniversary.

Those dates and days that I now must embrace without my husband in my earthly life are grief anniversaries.

The sunset was taken on our final pontoon ride the evening he died.

My husband died three years ago in my arms. Within minutes we went from enjoying a pontoon ride and a gorgeous sunset on our lake to his dying in my arms. He was fighting and surviving his cancer diagnosis for the second time. We were happy and planning on celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary in a few weeks…and then he died. Unexpectedly really, his doctors said he was an incredible miracle and doing so very well. Well, we never know…we certainly did not know.

So now I have dates and days that are anniversaries of sorts.

They are the dates that were filled with love and joy and celebrating for years, and now they are different. Birthdays, his and ours, wedding anniversaries, holidays and many other dates special to us, they have changed, and so have I. These date are grief anniversaries.

A photo of us at one of our last family weddings together.

These days are now places in time where I pause and attempt to brace and hold my heart from further injury. I prepare and seek to find a way to live through the day not ever really knowing what that day will bring to my life. It is a mix of wonderful memories and heart ripping sorrow mixed together.

These grief anniversaries are difficult for other to support us in and for us to support others through, they come without adequate notice in many situations.

There certainly are actions and words that I have found helpful in my journey, cards, messages, simple notes of, “I am thinking of you” or “I remember you today” from others can be so supportive.

Simple and yet profound, there are no words for me and I personally prefer others avoid the painful experience for them and myself of attempting to explain the why and how of this journey.

I believe God knows our pain and it is for me because of that great love that comes from God that I miss and ache deeply for the physical presence of those I love.

The sunflowers are the last ones my husband grew. The photo was taken on our first wedding anniversary following his death.

Even those closest to our lives may not be able to know when or what or how to best support us. Some of the most comforting moments are when another has said to me, “I have no idea how to support you but I care.” I have come to recognize how individual and every evolving this journey is for each person. I believe there is not one way to do it better and what works well one day may not the next day.

In the aftermath of losing my husband, most everything has become an unknown path of triggers to pain. Just when I think I can be prepared to relax and feel safe in the world…another date, person, place, song, smell or sound can trigger the uninvited and ever present companion of grief.

So I hold my breath a bit more often, close my eyes and call upon God to hold my heart these days. I have another grief anniversary approaching and I will do my best to embrace the day with reflection of love and the pain of loss. Life is still good, just not as wonderful.

Geralyn Nathe-Evans has been called to the vocations of wife, mom, Lay Ecclesial Minister, nurse and friend. Read more about Geralyn on our Meet Our Bloggers page.

 

The gift of fatherhood: Modeling faith, love and self-sacrifice

This Sunday, June 18, is the day we set aside to honor fathers. I invite us to give thanks and blessing this Father’s Day, not just to our biological fathers, but to all who have provided fatherly care along our journey.

The role of father is sometimes viewed as one that provides the foundation and framework for our homes and our lives — someone who at times is not present, but who is always in our lives and formation, giving an invaluable gift to all with whom he comes into contact.

My own father was a carpenter by trade, teaching me that hard work is a gift. He diligently worked outside in the heat of summer as well as the wet and cold of winter, while my siblings, mother and I were comfortable within the protection of our home or school.

My father was not an educated man in terms of today’s standards. His wisdom and education came from hard work and common sense. I do not ever recall him complaining about his work. He was proud of the homes he built and his life with his family.

Whether going to Mass as a family or helping someone in need, few words were spoken. Faith was the foundation and framework he gave us to live. My father was a quiet man who said “I love you” much louder in deeds and service than words.

Much of my vocational call to work for the church came through my dad’s challenge to accept all people as God’s and recognize that we are all doing the best we can with what we have and know.

My father-in-law was an educator by trade, teaching me the value of education and a good debate. A gentle man, he lived by example and set the standard high. Even as Parkinson’s disease took his speech, he would pray, mouthing the words that he could no longer speak aloud.

My husband and the father of our three sons was a great model and blessing. He was a devoted, faithful husband and father as he modeled and prepared each of our sons for the journey that God would call them to.
He, by his example, showed our sons how to be loving and committed husbands, fathers and sons. Dave, when diagnosed with cancer, cared for his sons’ and my needs beyond his own. He was a man of integrity, humor, family and faith. He continues beyond his death to profoundly affect our lives and how we live each day.

I have been blessed with many priestly “fathers.” They are the holy men who have helped me to recognize the value of commitment and service. With eyes forward they lead me, in the light of the Gospel, to who I am called to be. I am well aware of the sacrifices they make for our faith, parishes and church.

All these men, with very different qualities and gifts, are men that I honor on Father’s Day for the fathering they have provided in my life.
For all fathers and others who “father,” we give thanks. The special vocation of fatherhood is so very vital to the life of our church.

Geralyn and her husband, Dave, and their sons.

This year, once again, our sons and I will enter the day without our fathers living. Our fathers did not leave us by their choice. They have been welcomed into eternal life and love, and yet there is a deep pain that accompanies that reality. We move into this Father’s Day with one less — one less hug and kiss, one less conversation or shared meal, one less conversation on the meaning of life and the wisdom only our fathers can share.

It is difficult for me to anticipate this day, especially for our sons. Yet I know, death will not win. As we live and breathe in this world they will remain. For all those mourning the physical presence of your dads on Father’s Day, I am so sorry. I pray that in some ways we may each find a morsel of comfort in the presence of them that remains in us and one another.

Along with the tears that follow this day, I am so very grateful for all that I have had, for the great dad and father of our sons that I have been blessed to share life with.

To all fathers, Happy Father’s Day! In your faithfulness, gentlemen, you have the power to teach us the gift of hard work, lead us in prayer, instill in us the call of Jesus, model the beauty of serving others and, by attending Mass, lead us to the real gift of holy Eucharist.

On Father’s Day, we pause to recognize the blessing of these men standing before us as well as those who no longer are with us and say, “Thank you!”

Geralyn Nathe-Evans has been called to the vocations of wife, mom, Lay Ecclesial Minister, nurse and friend. Read more about Geralyn on our Meet Our Bloggers page.

We Remember, We Celebrate, We Believe

The liturgical season of All Saint’s and All Soul’s has arrived. I really have come to appreciate this season and find it perfect for my ability to embrace all that it can teach me about living into our baptism and death.

At the moment of our baptism, we are baptized into new life in Christ that also recognizes we will die in Christ to live again. An incredible concept and I continue to be in awe of  all that this means for my life, and my death.

santi-cielo-fra-angelico1-1We begin this month by remembering and celebrating the saints. Our heritage, our lineage, our relatives in our Catholic family…our saints. All those holy men and women that we can rely on to pray with and for us…our saints. Our own holy group of those who have gone before us, living faith-filled lives, many sacrificing their earthly life for faith. Many of the Saints we recognize are those that our Church has officially canonized. Then there are the group of people who by living their lives, have inspired, touched and continue to hold a piece of our heart – the people whose lives have interfaced with ours and we are better for that blessing.

We also take this time to remember all the souls of those who have died. In our parishes we take the time to name our beloved who have died this past year, light a candle and support those that are grieving. We trust in their eternal salvation and a great reunion one day. A time to pause and remember all who have loved us and we have loved that have died as well as those who continue to live on in this world.  We trust in their eternal salvation and a great reunion one day.

But in the meanwhile we journey through our lives without them in our physical lives.

dsc_0417I know this journey and pain well, my beloved soul mate and my life’s great love died. He was a wonderful friend, husband and the very best father God could have blessed our sons to have in their lives. He was a faithful and faith-filled man of God and of service and humility. So when this time of year now comes around, for the third time since Dave has died, I realize how much more this season and time means to me. I am exhausted from his death. I miss him, I miss who I am with him and I’m not so sure I like the person I am without him. Grief permeates my life and the ripple effect touches those in my life.

I can through my personal experience come to more fully realize more than ever the pain that people who have lost their loved ones journey with. How much it can mean to hear the name or memory of our loved ones. To remember that they are not forgotten, they are still in our mind and hearts as well of the minds and hearts of others. Even when their name is not spoken it is on our minds. We remember, we celebrate them and we believe in the resurrection.

All Soul’s Day has become a great season for me to stop and take the time to remember others who have lost their family and friends. To take the time to make a phone call to let them know I hold them in thought and prayer. To send that sympathy card that was never sent at the time of death. To remember.

I have come to embrace that these days of All Saints and All Souls are very much of memorial, for those who have died and for those who continue to journey in this life her on earth.

Geralyn Nathe-Evans has been called to the vocations of wife, mom, Lay Ecclesial Minister, nurse and friend. Read more about Geralyn on our Meet Our Bloggers page.
Geralyn Nathe-Evans has been called to the vocations of wife, mom, Lay Ecclesial Minister, nurse and friend. Read more about Geralyn on our Meet Our Bloggers page.

Called to love and serve

It was a child. It was the horrific deed of one person. It took us from light and joy into a place of fear and struggle and hope. We struggled, an innocent child going to get a movie with his buddies and taken in the night. This was the place in time that one family, one community, one world were thrown into the journey that has formed and changed so very many lives. We learned, we answered the challenge from Jacob’s family for us together to seek how to live with hope in a manner that I had never considered.

My husband and I were just in the beginning of parenting. Our son’s birthday celebration on a beautiful fall day ended for us with those who love and care for us gathering to celebrate life. Just a short drive away another family ended that night being tossed into a journey that would span decades. And that family chose the light and hope of life over the dark.

The Wetterlings for many of us are an incredible example of unselfish love and care, grace and hope. An unending witness to how we can respond to a horrific event. It was by their example we were in awe of a family that could have, in this painful event, turn in and away, but rather, they opened themselves. And by their living example, they led us in learning how we can continue to love with hope. I suspect it was a very intentional turning out and continuing to move the momentum forward with hope, to bring an innocent young boy home.

And now, as they mourn the death of their son in these past weeks, they again provide and gift the community with an amazing gathering to grieve and mourn. The Wetterlings provided a community service that took us from the pain of death into the hope of the future. The sensitivity to the enormous diversity and faith practices in our community, all combined to provide a place for sharing our loss. Reflecting on life using such a grand collaboration of spiritual forms — the Native American prayer, the Baha’i, Christian and beyond. The words of the family to express gratitude to the community and beyond were incredibly generous — to honor us in sharing this time of memorial. To, in their pain, bring us together with care and compassion was an incredible and selfless gift.

Jacob’s family has shown us in so many ways how I believe we are all called to live — in community, with and for others.

Patty provided us the witness to care and support others. “We wouldn’t have survived the past 27 years,” Patty said, “without the love and care and support. Jacob’s Hope will continue in the love and care and support we share with each other.”

She continued, to “every parent who is out there still searching….we’re still with you,” Patty said. “Jacob’s Hope will continue in our efforts to bring every missing person home. Every last one!”

The music and readings of the service for me reflected the call of Christ of love and care for one another. It set forth a strong reminder that the call of our Catholic baptism to live in the light of Christ is real and for every one of us.

Red Grammer’s song reminded us, “…black or white, red or tan…we are part of the family of man.” We are called by Christ to love and serve one another. There are no conditions on God’s command, there are no “time outs” from Jesus’ teaching — we are called to love and serve.

As the song written by Douglas Wood proclaims, “We are Jacob’s Hope.” As we grieve and mourn the death of Jacob, we now have the opportunity to once again decide how we will live. Do we choose to live with hope or despair? Do we choose to live in the light even on the days that the darkness seems to overcome the glimmer?

Christ calls us to shine the light. Together I believe the light of the Son will overcome any evil and challenges that come into each of our lives.

I choose to live with hope and light. I choose the Son. I hope you do as well.

Geralyn Nathe-Evans has been called to the vocations of wife, mom, Lay Ecclesial Minister, nurse and friend. Read more about Geralyn on our Meet Our Bloggers page.
Geralyn Nathe-Evans has been called to the vocations of wife, mom, Lay Ecclesial Minister, nurse and friend. Read more about Geralyn on our Meet Our Bloggers page.

Another school year, another step in letting go

These weeks with schools starting are filled with beginnings…and endings. Another school year begins and we are reminded that our children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends and neighbors are moving along in life. We too are moving along in our journey.

For some, especially parents, I believe that it can be a time of mixed emotions. Where has the time gone? How did summer fly by so quickly? How can they be growing up so fast?

For some there are the mixed emotions of relief that their children/youth are back in a routine, back to a schedule, back to school lunches and activities. For some the regret of time that has passed and missed opportunities will take some time to process and perhaps let go. Our sons are young adults and yet, still our beloved sons.

We may be challenged to trust others as we bring our wee ones to their first day of school. Trusting that they will be okay without our presence for the day can be a challenge. For some it is the task of taking our young adults to college. I get teary thinking of those days gone by.

If I need to explain why these moments and days of letting go are so challenging, I believe it would be like this:

1.    I will miss our sons. My whole being loves them beyond words. They are our flesh and blood, the great love we prayed for, rejoiced when birthed and long to stay close to.
2.    I worry that I may not have done all I could have to prepare our sons for the world they will now navigate in without their dad and/or I by their side. I worry that I missed an important lesson that they will need to survive. I know we did the best we could with what we knew and had at the time, but I will still ponder if it was enough.
3.    I never want them to feel lost or alone, frightened or afraid. I am certain they will have these times as we all seem to, and the reality is that I cannot keep them from this pain, nor do I really desire to as it is in these time they will also find the core of who they are and I trust, God’s grace and strength.
4.    I will miss who we are with you as a family. Every time one of us leaves, we as a family are changed. We become less day to day with one another and I will miss that.

I do not worry that my sons will be okay. I have no doubt that they will survive and in fact thrive. We have worked to prepare them for the journey of life and witnessed as they have fallen and they learned to get back up and try again, they have learned to work hard and be proud of their contributions. They have learned the meaning of team and family and faith in the truest sense. They are caring men of integrity and compassion. We have focused on them embracing that all of us are created in the image and likeness of a faithful and loving God, we are all gifted. I have tried to teach them to listen with the ears of your heart to others, to hear them as people who want many of the same dreams we do and to know they are loved and prayed for…always. So yes, as another school year begins, I pray for us all as lifelong students of faith and life.

Franciscan Blessing/Benediction

May God bless you with a restless discomfort
about easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,
so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.
May God bless you with holy anger
at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.
May God bless you with the gift of tears

to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish,
so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.
May God bless you with enough foolishness
to believe that you really can make a difference in this world,
so that you are able, with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

Geralyn Nathe-Evans has been called to the vocations of wife, mom, Lay Ecclesial Minister, nurse and friend. Read more about Geralyn on our Meet Our Bloggers page.
Geralyn Nathe-Evans has been called to the vocations of wife, mom, Lay Ecclesial Minister, nurse and friend. Read more about Geralyn on our Meet Our Bloggers page.