Sunday, February 28, 2016

Surviving the Storm

Deadly storms were predicted last Tuesday. Classes were cancelled; businesses closed. I watched hypnotically as deep-hued sweeps advanced across the screen. I succumbed to the sleep-inducing drone of the local weatherman, startled awake by an auditory swarm of tornado warnings from my phone, home security system and television. My town was spared this time. In areas not too far away, roofs were torn off, trailer homes were destroyed and people lost their lives.

The more severe storms hit Friday when not a cloud marred the sky, when radar showed no blip and stations did not call a weather alert action day. My one hundred iPhone apps failed to warn me of the tornados of grief that would descend to strip me of “I’m doing well, thank you.”

In the stillness of the calm before the storm, I—who thought I’d grown accustomed to the missing—did not see the funnels forming nor hear the haunting sounds of an oncoming train. My failure to brace myself may have been due to the ordinariness of the events.

The first tornado hit during a video shoot, when the storyteller mentioned George by name, grateful for making a local school a great place for kids. The second hit when I opened the mail to discover his efforts for a client had succeeded, in part because of his drawings, which were attached—done in the handwriting I have come to know so well. The third hit during a concert performed by a choral group in which he once sang.

No photojournalists were on hand to capture the rubble of tears and mascara that littered my contorted face on that stormy day. No seismograph measured the intensity of the tremors that shook my foundations. No storm chasers gathered to pick through my shattered composure.

I think it was bound to happen. Maybe it shouldn’t have taken so long, but I think I was a little stronger than I would have been in previous months, a little more able to absorb the pain but lift my head again. In this is love—in the timing of a heavenly Father who shelters us in the greenhouse of his care until we are ready to be planted on the windy slopes.

Monday, February 22, 2016

A Man Under Authority

I could be tempted to interrogate him during our perpetual, one-sided conversation with, “How could you? What were you thinking?” but I’m not.

I am a little unnerved by the notion that even for a moment I could stoop so low as to blame him for an event so irrevocable. During his life, I had tried to be a better wife than that—to be the woman whose tempered tones would never beg or badger.

Therefore, I am relieved that only once during the past six weeks have these questions popped into my befuddled head in a serious way—and then, only for a moment. It was neither pride nor self-control that stopped the thought mid-stream. Rather it was my absolute certainty that, left to his own devices, he would never have invented a plan that causes so much pain.

He was too overjoyed with this life to depart abruptly for another. His eyes were on the future and his hand on the throttle—worlds left to conquer and trips still to take. He found deep satisfaction in work and with friends. Above all else, the constant thread of his busy agenda was how to spend more time with the family he loved.

I am equally confident that although this plan did not originate with George, he immediately said “Yes” when he was called. Not because he seeking to go, but because in every sphere of life— military, business, church and home—and in his relationship with God, George knew and followed his chain of command.

I know exactly what he said six week ago today, “I too am a man under authority.” (Matt. 8:9)


Tomorrow is everywhere in his at-home office.

I have entered the mausoleum of his work life to retrieve work he accomplished, but had yet to deliver. I feel no dread or sorrow here—just an eager determination to serve his clients well. A job well done and timely finished was the mandate by which he lived and passed along to me. Beyond the ethics of his working world, there is the truth his clients became his friends.

Hand-written field notes wait to the left of his computer, ready for typing tin the days ahead. His pen is where his right hand would have left it. His reading glasses are casually placed upon reports he planned to read tomorrow.

Overstuffed folders of work in progress are in their queue, lined up and waiting their appropriate time. Each one is full of work he’d done and things that were left to do. A towering sleeve of business cards stands guard, an upright stanchion of future contacts and potentials for tomorrow.

Watching over all is his calendar. It is the legacy of his past and the planning for his future. Through October the pages show us how he spent his days, breaking down the tasks by hours. The next two months were taking shape. Appointments were not just penciled in, but written down in ink in his planning for tomorrow.

His tomorrow never came.  Now there is only yesterday and forever.

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

Loving Evie

Her teacher asked the class of two year olds, “Who do you love?”

Evie replied, “Evie,” patting her chest to emphasize her point.

It was the only answer that would make sense to her. Parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins have all said as much. Loving Evie is in keeping with our family tradition.

I hope she always loves herself!

I hope she loves herself, not with self-promoting narcissism that masquerades as love, but the way her Papa loved her—and all of us.

George was a loving man by nature, but it was during a season of marital adversity, he learned to really love. It was when I, his ‘lovely’ wife, had become anything but lovely—impossible to like and even more difficult to live with—that he read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 everyday. He  chose to love like that.

He became patient and kind. He did not envy what was going well for me, did not boast about his right actions and was not too proud to take the blame for what had gone wrong between us. He showed no dishonor in either word or deed, and sought our best interests instead of his own good pleasure. He was not angry and didn’t keep track of my growing list of offences. He did not delight in evil but took great joy in truth, always protecting, always trusting, always hoping and always, always, always persevering.

Petite, blonde and surprisingly determined, she is the youngest of the little women George held dearly in his heart—and to his chest when they were in a cuddly mood. I hope she learns to love herself as he loved her.

I hope she loves enough to respect herself and hold others to the same high standard. Enough to take care of her body, her mind and her heart. Enough to be true to her convictions when challenged by peers. Enough to stand firm when criticism and disappointment come. Enough to love others as unconditionally as she is loved.

In this is love, the choice to love ourselves and others as God loves us. I pray this for all six of my beautiful granddaughters and all of my family and friends as well.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Water Bottles

The mountains did not quake! The earth did not shake! The stars did not fall from the sky! None of the calamities I expected occurred. I don’t know whether to be delighted or disappointed, but I was surprised.

With illogical trepidation, I chose the blue Nalgene bottle yesterday—the bottle always reserved for George. A full minute of careful consideration lapsed before I even opened the cabinet where it stood at solemn attention, as if having received its orders from a more authoritative voice. Dire warnings flooded my thoughts as my fingers reached for the coveted prize. 

“You must not drink from this bottle” was a message so ingrained in my mind that I had convinced myself I should neither look nor touch—except to wash and dry it, of course. I felt like Eve in the garden—without the slithery voice in my ear.

I should never have needed his bottle since I had three of my own! And mostly I didn’t—except when mine were detained at the office or hiding under the seat of my car or sitting on a forgotten window ledge in an upstairs room. It was during times of genuine need I would sneak into the kitchen to borrow his—just for the day.

My surreptitious movements were always discovered. Perhaps that squeaky hinge was the result of intention and not forgetfulness although I usually blamed the boisterousness of the ice. Mysteriously he would appear and announce, “That’s mine.”

Neither logical explanation nor appeals to his heart would dissuade him from his determined stand. I couldn’t use it for the very reason I needed it—water bottles I took from the house lacked proper supervision and did not reappear in timely fashion.

I never fully understood or appreciated his position on this. What happened to the ‘with all my worldly goods’ part of our marriage vow? I did, however, chose to observe the boundary—until yesterday.

In this is love—the decision to respect someone’s desire even when you can’t decide if you are humoring their weaknesses or honoring their wishes.


Monday, February 15, 2016

Just In Case

Today I put a Band-Aid in my wallet—just in case. Just in case the one I am currently wearing falls off, or I catch another finger on a latch and need to staunch the blood. Just in case a stranger cuts herself or a small child with a minor bump can be comforted by the attention.

This new behavior is my maiden foray into ‘just-in-case.’ I only start now because, as more dependable resources have failed me, I find I must.

George began each day with two Band Aids, never fewer—but never more. Two Band-Aids allowed him to use one and still have a spare. Sometimes I—whose obstinate optimism once assumed nothing bad would happen—wondered at a man who planned for bloody scratches and gaping wounds. Yet the regular replenishment of his portable supply proved his realism was more accurate than my naiveté.

I was often the beneficiary of his careful planning, but I was not the only one. When a long walk at the Dallas arboretum produced an ouch-y blister on a tiny heel, it was the handy Band-Aid from Papa’s wallet that saved the day. When a three year old, whose name we never learned, skinned his knee at the Baton Rouge Zoo, a quick rinse from a water bottle and a bandage from the pocket got another family on its way.  I witnessed the distribution of his Band-Aids from Disneyworld to the Grand Canyon and in Haiti and a few European countries. He gave them to small children, young adults and aging grandparents—although I seldom saw him use one on himself.

‘Ready-for-any-emergency’ was the familiar refrain of my life’s companion. In addition to packing Band-Aids in his wallet, he discreetly carried an array of tools compactly packaged as a knife, making him ever ready to remove splinters, trim a painful hangnail or triage a myriad of minor wounds. To my knowledge he was never a Boy Scout, but he must have shared DNA with whoever wrote their manual.

In this is love—the continual desire to provide for other people and the persistence to make it happen.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Loving Large

It was not my finest hour. I was yelling as loudly as a woman who prefers to save face with her eavesdropping children could yell. He looked at me as if I had grown two heads, which considering my state might have been accurate.

“Don’t the children and I mean anything to you? Why does she always win? She snaps her fingers and off you run,” I sobbed. “If you were involved with another woman, I would know how to compete. But how can I compete with this? I don’t even look good in olive drab or desert khaki.”

His look of incredulity added the weight of truth to his immediate defense. “What are you talking about?” he responded. “I would do anything for you and our children. Keeping our country safe is the biggest thing I can think of. The long weekends and the upcoming deployment—all of it is because I love you.”

Then we returned to packing everything we could anticipate he might need for a period of unspecified length—at a destination yet to be determined. We may not have known exactly what he would need, but we knew what he would face. Burning sun, scorching sand, scorpions, scuds and a lengthy separation were the certainties of Desert Storm.

I am no more naïve now than I was then. The little boy in him wouldn’t have missed this adventure for the world, but it was the man in him who assessed the danger and did it anyway.
What I learned that day was George loved large. He loved more people with greater devotion than any man I have ever known. He expressed his love in actions more than words. He gave beautiful and thoughtful gifts, but more importantly, he gave completely of himself.

We didn’t always appreciate this quality in him—his children and I. We would have preferred to have him home, available to watch more of the games in which we played or simply to play with us—ball in the yard or board games by a roaring fire. In his later years, he regretted not having been more available for us. In my later years, I regret not having been more appreciative of the sacrifices he made.

In this is love—recognizing the biggest thing you can do for the people you love and then doing it whole-heartedly.