Sunday, May 27, 2012

Time for Forgiveness

I spent a big part of this evening sitting outside thinking, listening to music, looking up at the stars, and having a very long talk with Eddie.  I've written recently about learning to stand on my own, moving on with my life, accepting what has happened, and being thankful for what God has done to get me to this point.  I realized tonight that the one thing I still have left to do is to forgive.  For the most part I have already forgiven myself for not being able to help Eddie, but I have not forgiven Eddie for what he did - to himself, to me, to Trey, to everyone who loved and cared about him.  But I know that if I am going to be 100% free to move on with my life, I have to forgive him.  "Forgiveness is giving up the possibility of a better past" (author unknown).  Blaming Eddie and holding on to what happened isn't going to change anything now or ever. 

Forgiveness means "to give up the wish to punish or get even with; to not have hard feelings at or toward."  I don't think I've ever wanted to punish or get even with Eddie, but I have had hard feelings toward him for what he did (through both his alcoholism and his suicide).  If I am finally going to be at peace, I have to let go of those hard feelings.  "Forgiving and being forgiven are two names for the same thing.  The important thing is that a discord has been resolved" (C. S. Lewis).  When Eddie was alive I resented his drinking and the problems it caused.  Since his death I've resented his suicide - I felt like he took the easy way out and left the rest of us to deal with the messy cleanup.  I've accepted now that my resentment serves no purpose, and I have to let go of it for my own sake.

I didn't start out the evening planning to forgive Eddie.  But sometime while talking to him tonight it hit me that the time for forgiveness has come.  I'm ready to forgive him for his drinking, for his suicide, and for the pain both of those caused.  Once I admitted that to myself and to him, the tears flowed like they haven't in a very long time.  They were tears of sadness, hurt, pain, betrayal, acceptance, forgiveness, hope, and peace.  "To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you" (author unknown).  It's taken a long time but  I know now that by forgiving him, I'm allowing myself to have a future without blame, resentment, and other negative feelings - a future of freedom.  I'll never forget, but I have forgiven.

"Forgiving does not erase the bitter past.  A healed memory is not a deleted memory.  Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember.  We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future." -Louis B. Smedes

"Unanswered" Prayers

I always end with some type of quote - a Bible verse, poem, or lyrics from a song - that relates to what I have written.  This time I've chosen to begin with something I found on a website of inspirational sayings.  I read it, said "Wow-this is my life," and posted it on my facebook page...

I asked for strength and God gave me difficulties to make me strong.
I asked for wisdom and God gave me problems to solve.
I asked for prosperity and God gave me brawn and brains to work.
I asked for courage and God gave me dangers to overcome.
I asked for patience and God placed me in situations where I was forced to wait.
I asked for love and God gave me troubled people to help.
I asked for favors and God gave me opportunities.
I received nothing I wanted.
I received everything I needed.
My prayers have all been answered.
-Author Unknown

From the time I was little, I remember saying prayers - bedtime prayers, the blessing before a meal, prayers in church.  My prayers began with short memorized ones like "now I lay me down to sleep," and "God is great" then progressed to more personal ones as I learned what to ask for and how to ask for it.  I always expected my prayers to be answered because I was taught they would be if I had faith and believed.  It wasn't until the last few years that I learned the answers to my prayers don't always come in the form I choose or in the time I would like.  I've had to learn that God answers prayers in his own time and in His own way. 

It would have been easy for God to just give me the strength I prayed for, but the strength I have today is much greater because it wasn't handed to me - I built it myself, with God's help, through the events I've dealt with in my life.  I don't have all of the answers for myself or anyone else, but I have a much greater wisdom today because God helped me solve my own problems rather than solving them for me.  I'm not by any means materially rich, but God gave me what I needed to get an education and a good job, and then He left it up to me to use it.  I believe courage comes in different forms and means different things to different people.  God helped me to develop my own kind of courage by placing obstacles in my life and then helping me find ways to overcome them.  I haven't always been the most patient person, but I believe my patience is improving because God has made me wait for things rather than immediately giving me what I've asked for.  I've always been blessed with the love of family and friends, and I've tried to share that love through my teaching.  Now I'm hopefully sharing it through my writing.  If I can help even one person who's going through situations similar to mine then I will have been successful.  God has presented me with many opportunities for learning and growth in my life and has helped me see how to use these to help myself as well as others.

Three years ago I would have said that God wasn't listening to me.  None of my prayers were being answered.  Nothing I was so desperately asking for was happening.  At the time I didn't understand why.  Now I do.  I didn't get what I wanted when I wanted it.  I didn't get what I wanted in the way I wanted it.  But I did get what I needed.  God slowly, steadily helped me develop what I needed so that I could play a part in answering my own prayers.   

"Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers.  Remember when you're talking to the man upstairs that just because He doesn't answer doesn't mean He don't care.  Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers." -from Garth Brooks' Unanswered Prayers

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Time for Good-Byes

Another school year came to an end this past Friday - my 27th one to be exact.  It doesn't seem possible that I've been teaching for that long.  Looking back I see just how fast the time has flown.  So much has happened in my life both professionally and personally.  Every year has been different - some better than others, some worse for a variety of reasons.  This year was by far one of the best.  I had a great group of children that I grew very attached to.  I am truly going to miss them all.  Friday was an exciting but also emotional day.  There were tears - some from students, some from teachers.  The students I taught will be moving on to the intermediate school next year, and I won't see many of them again.  So Friday was truly a day of good-byes.

I realized this weekend that it is time for another good-bye.  Eddie died a little over three years ago, and I know now that it is time to let go.  I've had two black boxes tucked on the back of a shelf for the past three years.  They contain the pictures that were used in the memorial video, the guest book of those who attended the visitation or the funeral, the obituary, the funeral program, copies of posts from the on-line guest book, the rose I took from the blanket of flowers, and the sympathy cards I received afterwards.  I've never opened either of those boxes until now.  I took them out this morning, wiped the dust away, and went through each of them.  As I took the items out I noticed that without even realizing it I had placed everything in the boxes face down - every picture, every card, every note.  I looked at all of the pictures, started to count the cards but stopped at 150, and randomly chose a card here and there to reread.  There were only two things that made me cry - the letter Trey wrote to Eddie and read at the funeral and a poem (quoted at the bottom) posted on-line from a friend.  When I finished looking at everything I carefully replaced the items in the boxes - face up. I returned the boxes to the shelf, but now they are in the front rather than the back.  There's no longer any need or reason to keep them hidden.

We said an initial good-bye to Eddie when we laid him to rest, but that good-bye didn't include any form of acceptance that he was really gone.  This one does.  I know and accept now that he's gone and never coming back.  I still don't fully understand what he did or why, but I've accepted that it was his choice, not mine.  I'll never forget Eddie or our life together.  They are a part of who and what I am today.  I will treasure the time we had and focus on the good memories.  His suicide changed the course of my life, but the new course doesn't have to be a bad one.  It can be whatever I choose, and I choose for it to be positive.  I will honor Eddie's memory by going on with my life and being happy, because I believe that's what he would want for me.   

There is a Reason for Everything - Helen Steiner Rice

God never hurts us needlessly and He never wastes our pain;
For every loss He sends us is followed by rich gain.
And when we count the blessings that God has so freely sent,
We will find no cause for murmuring and no time to lament.
For our Father loves His children and to Him all things are plain;
He never sends us pleasure when the soul's deep need is pain.
So whenever we are troubled and when everything goes wrong,
It is just God working in us to make our spirits strong."

On-line post from a friend:
"A million times we've thought of you, and a million times we've cried.
If our love alone could have saved you, you never would have died.
In life we loved you dearly, in death we love you still.
In our hearts you hold a special place, no one else can ever fill.
It broke our hearts to lose you, but you didn't go alone.
A part of us went with you, the day that you went home."
Author Unknown

Sunday, May 13, 2012

What it Means to be a Mother

"A woman who has given birth to a child, a female parent" - these are among the first dictionary definitions for the word mother.  Obviously they don't even begin to touch the true meaning of the word.  As a verb it means "to take care of" and as an adjective "that carries another or others."  These are a little better but still not quite complete.  If you read further down the list of definitions the figurative meaning is "the largest and most perfect example."  This one says it all about what a mother is or should at least try to be.  I am lucky enough to still have not only my mother but also my grandmother in my life.  They have been through more than their share of hardships and difficult times, but they remain shining examples for others.  Both have a strong faith in God and a determination to live their lives in a way that benefits others.  They are the best examples I could possibly have for being a mother myself. 

While I don't even pretend to think that I have been the kind of mother that my mother and grandmother are, I have tried to learn from them.  I hope that I, along with both of them, have in some way shown Trey what it means to take care of and to be there for others.  For a time after Eddie died, I know I wasn't what Trey needed me to be, but thankfully my mother was there to step in and fill the void.  Now that I'm "back on my feet" I plan to always be there for Trey and to help him in any way that I can.  I know that I can never be "the most perfect example," but I will be the best example I possibly can.

This is my fourth Mother's Day since Eddie's death.  I will always think of him on this day, just as I will always think of him on Father's Day, because we are Trey's parents.  Having a child with someone creates a bond that exists even after death.  Eddie's no longer here to be a parent to Trey, and while I know I can't replace him, I'll do my best to fill that void for Trey.

                          What is a Mother?
It takes a mother's love to make a house a home -
A place to be remembered no matter where we roam.
It takes a mother's patience to bring a child up right
And her courage and her cheerfulness to make a dark day bright.
It takes a mother's thoughtfulness to mend the heart's deep hurts
And her skill and her endurance to mend little socks and shirts.
It takes a mother's kindness to forgive us when we err,
To sympathize in trouble, and to bow her head in prayer.
It takes a mother's wisdom to recognize our needs
And to give us reassurance by her loving words and deeds.
-Helen Steiner Rice

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Love Like That

Several weeks ago I attended a presentation of "Good Night Gracie" at a theater downtown.  I go to these shows/plays every couple of months with a group of my friends and always look forward to what's coming up next.  I honestly wasn't excited about seeing this one though for several reasons.  I knew who George Burns was, but I was only familiar with him from a few of his later movies.  I knew he was married to Gracie Allen, but their television show went off years before I was born.  I don't think I've ever even seen a rerun of it anywhere.  Although I remembered thinking Burns was very funny when I saw him on television or in a movie, I wasn't sure how funny the person portraying him would be.  The main reason though was that it was a one-man show, and I just didn't think one person talking for two hours would be that entertaining.

I couldn't have been more wrong about the show.  The person portraying George Burns did an outstanding job.  He had his looks, speech, and mannerisms down perfectly.  After a short time it was as if we were actually watching Burns.  He told the story of his life from the time of his childhood until his death.  There were parts of recordings from his radio shows played over the speakers and clips from his television show shown on a large screen which added to the performance.  Throughout the show the one thing that came across clearly was George Burns' love for Gracie Allen.  Even though it wasn't actually Burns talking, I could see, hear, and feel how much he loved Gracie.  He loved her from the time they met and continued to love her long after her death, until the day he died.  At one point in the show George was sitting on a bench in the cemetery talking to Gracie - fifteen years after she had died.  He said he visited her every week to let her know how he was doing and to tell her what was going on his life.  I understood perfectly what he was doing and why.  Even though I don't go every week, I do go to the cemetery to talk to Eddie.  I tell him what I'm doing and what's going on with Trey and Emily.  Sometimes I even take pictures of Emily to show to him so he can see her growing up.

After the show I thought a lot about how special it would be to have a love like that.  I wondered if I personally knew anyone who had experienced that kind of love.  One couple came to mind - my grandparents - Memaw and Papa.  They were married for 58 years, and although my grandfather died in 1992, my grandmother still loves him today.  I know their marriage wasn't perfect or easy (no one's is).  They lived through the Depression and raised five children on a preacher's salary.  They added a second income much later when my grandmother began teaching.  They had their ups and downs just like everyone else, but they worked them out together, and they NEVER gave up. When my grandmother talks about my grandfather, it's obvious how much she still loves him - just like when George talked about Gracie.  When she tells stories about their life she always calls him "Daddy" or "Papa", and to this day she still wears her wedding ring, a symbol of their eternal love. 

I realize that, unfortunately, very few people get to experience that kind of love in their lifetime.  I loved Eddie, and I know he loved me, but I'm not sure it was that kind of love.  I am thankful my grandparents were able to have it - they deserved it more than anyone I know.  I am also thankful that I was able to see it for part of my life and to continue knowing about it today through my grandmother.  Memaw and Papa are shining examples of what true love is - just like George and Gracie.

"Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
1 Corinthians 13:4-7