Sunday, October 16, 2011
Eight years ago today, Iain Lewis ask me to be his wife. People who have known me for a long time, know how LONG I waited to find (and be found by) my husband. I waited and waited – sometimes not so patiently – for God’s plan to unfold. And then along came my dream come true.
Those of you who attended our wedding can witness to the love we had and the remarkable celebration we experienced that day. As I stand here today being enveloped by this powerful choir of voices echoed with equal power and prayer by the voices of the assembly, I am overwhelmed by the beauty and by the remembrance of a similar experience at our wedding. The similarity of these two events are amazing and interestingly, they are the bookends of our marriage.
With the exception of his doctor, counselor and myself, almost no one knew of this struggle. Iain was very private and very proud (to a fault – by his own admission.) Even though I struggle with the fact that I (we) did not share this with others and feel a certain amount of responsibility in light of recent events, I viewed it as a sacred trust of our marriage. He was working his program: receiving counseling, taking medication, seeking spiritual direction, reading Scripture, and even programmed his phone to remind him to pray every hour. He even appeased me by keeping a journal and sharing it with me. The entries are beautiful, authentic, vulnerable and amazingly insightful. I feel his efforts in battling this disease were valiant. These things didn’t come naturally to him and weren’t easy for him, which made me even more proud of him. His spiritual journey was inspiring to me.
I will miss the laughter he brought to my world. He could make me laugh so hard. I remember on a trip to Hot Springs, we convinced ourselves that it would be fun to experience the bathhouses that the quaint city it famous for. We each went in separate doors of the bathhouse for our interesting experiences which might be considered traumatizing for people who are painfully modest. Several hours later we walked toward each other in front of the bath house with our eyes as wide as saucers. I was so horrified I couldn’t even speak. He obviously had a similar experience to mine and managed to squeak out the words, “I’ve been violated.” I doubled over in laughter. I still laugh remembering that moment.
I’m going to miss his love, his adoration for me and Gianna, his desire to provide for and take care of us, his encouragement and support and counsel. I’m going to miss praying with him and laughing with him and planning our lives together. Iain Lewis, I am proud to have had you as my husband and I am proud that Gianna that has the best Daddy on the planet. I will love you all the days of my life – and beyond.”
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Shepherd Me, O God (Psalm 23)
Shepherd me, O God beyond my wants,
beyond my fears, from death into life.
God is my shepherd, so nothing shall I want,
I rest in the meadows of faithfulness and love,
I walk by the quiet waters of peace.
Gently you raise me and heal my weary soul,
You lead me by pathways of righteousness and truth,
my spirit shall sing the music of your Name.
You have set me a banquet of love
in the face of hatred,
crowning me with love beyond my pow’r to hold.
Surely your kindness and mercy follow me
all the days of my life;
I will dwell in the house of my God forevermore.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
I am still here.
I am surviving.
I am overwhelmed.
I am lonesome.
I am broken.
I am blessed.
There are a million thoughts and feelings and memories and longings I have floating around in my head and heart and I have no idea how to channel them into blog posts. I have about seven different ones started, but I don't manage to be able to weave my words well enough.
What I thought I might do is just write about things from the funeral week that I want to remember and Gianna to know one day. Maybe doing so will help jump start my thought process.
I guess if I'm describing that first week, I should mention a few things of importance.
First off, in case you didn't know: Iain's death was a suicide. It was as shocking as you would imagine it to be. (I apologize if you're learning about this for the first time here on my blog.) I feel it is important to be honest about his cause of death for a number of reasons....one being that he suffered from depression (as MANY of us do - or have in the past) and I don't want that stigma of depression or suicide to keep people from getting proper help. I promise to address this issue at another time.
Secondly, I was the one who found him. I was alone (G was at my parent's house) returning from a wedding that he was supposed to meet me at. I'm not going to go into details, but suffice it to say that it was the darkest hour of my life. I called to of my long-time friends/brothers who are priests and they came immediately and stayed with me all day. They were my strength that day as I had to tell my daughter, our families and our friends of the tragic news. I can't really describe what I felt -- maybe because most of it was numbness and nausea. For almost two days I couldn't cry. I have always relied on my emotions to work my way through various situations - but I was completely unplugged. Apparently, that's not uncommon at all with those who've experienced such traumatic events. My pastor told me that it could be as long as a couple of weeks before I was able to feel. My tears returns after a couple of days, but the real grief didn't really hit until several weeks after.
I'm certain that it was God's protective grace that allowed that numbness to fall upon me. It enabled me to care for our daughter, to make challenging phone calls, take care of unpleasant business, make difficult decisions and to plan a funeral. Thank God for my family, my friends and especially my brother who came from Florida to help me take care of the things I needed to.
As I mentioned before, Gianna was an ol' pro at funeral home visits, so I wasn't super concerned about her being there the whole time during the wake. She was a delight and spent some amazing and tender moments with her daddy. I let her do whatever she needed to in order for the experience to be meaningful and special. She blessed her daddy, caressed him, laid on him (with me holding her) and whispered precious things to him. I am so glad she had that special time and that so many people engaged her and entertained her throughout the LONG day.
I decided I wasn't going to approach any of the funeral week with dread. That only seems to manifest useless anxiety. I looked at each difficult task as something that was one step closer to healing and an opportunity for grace.
We got to the funeral home at 10am for the family viewing and visitation was from 11:00am til 9:00pm. L - O - N - G !!! Msgr. Danny Torres and Bishop Provost met us there and prayed with us. That was a nice way to begin the day. Being there with Iain in a casket wasn't as horrible as you might imagine. It was strangely comforting, actually. Being able to be physically close to him before our finally goodbye was a gift...and also a reminder that really - that was no longer him. He was out of pain and in a good place.
Then came the people. Holy cannoli. It was truly unbelievable. The people who came just absolutely touched my heart. Iain's co-workers from both plants he worked at came broken-hearted speaking nothing but beautiful, glowing, touching things about my special husband. It broke my heart to see their hearts broken. Friends from years past - from different chapters of Iain's life (and my life too.)There were family and family friends who flew (and drove) from FAR away to be with us. I was overwhelmed. There were people who came that only knew us from seeing us at church. There were acquaintances who came because they shared a similar loss and wanted to offer support. There were my former youth minister kids (spanning a decade or so) who just completely surprised me by taking the time to come - some from hours away just to hug me. One of my precious girls drove from Shreveport with her beautiful two week old baby girl. I could hardly speak.
One of my dear friends who is also no stranger to loss and grief had called me a day or so after Iain died and told me that I would become a receptor for other people's pain and that their stories would envelope me like tentacles. (She's quite poetic!) That became evident after several hours of visiting. It was astounding to hear people's experience of depression, suicide, loss and the like. I feel honored that people shared so candidly with me.
My pastor in Moss Bluff (who is quite a hoot) had told me the day after Iain died that I better get ready to forgive people because some folks were going to say some foolish things. He was right. I thought there would be many more than there were - but there were some well-meaning folks who probably need to say less. Oh, and not that I've never said anything that I wish I hadn't or that I later discovered may have been insensitive. It's not a judgement as much as an observation.
Monsignor Dubois (our current pastor) prayed a beautiful rosary at 3pm. He prayed over Iain's parents and over me. One of the things that he said was, "You have fulfilled your vows ('til death do us part')...." I still crumble when I hear those words. I still can't believe I am no longer married. Even though my 'vows are fulfilled' my love for him hasn't changed. Honestly, I think I love him ever more now....if that's even possible. It seems bizarre to be a mom of a three year old and have the title of widow. *sigh*
That evening was the vigil/scripture service. Father Whitney Miller, who has been a longtime friend and a special part of Iain's faith journey, was the presider. The music was just magnificent. Sister Camille Martinez, another longtime friend, allowed me to help choose the readings and plan the music and graciously included SO MANY people to lift their voices in prayer. It was awe-inspiring.
Father Whitney's description of his experience of Iain was just beautiful....and accurate. He spoke of how whenever he was in conversation with Iain - even after Mass when there was a church-full of visiting people, that he felt that he and Iain were the only ones alone in the room. He talked about the gift Iain had of being acutely 'present' to the people he came in contact with. That was the same sentiment echoed from all those who knew Iain both professionally or personally. He also talked about the gift of his sense of humor....which I have been been missing so much lately.
It was important for me to speak on Iain's behalf that night. I had a front-row seat in Iain's life and I had an even better view of his heart. There was no way I could let the opportunity pass without sharing my perspective. In my next post, I will include what I shared that night. (To be continued...)
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For those who were asking if I have a Facebook Page for the blog - I do. It's HERE. I haven't done much with it except add my blog post links.