Wednesday, February 27, 2013

25 Was His Best Year.

"It has become conventional to think as if we are all going to live in this world forever and to view every case of bereavement as a reason for doubting the goodness of God.  We must all know deep down that this is ridiculous, but we do it all the same.  And in doing it, we part company with the Bible, with historic Christianity , and with a basic principle of right living, namely, that only when you know how to die can you know how to live.

There is a great contrast here between past and present.  In every century until our own, Christians saw this life as preparation for eternity.  Medievals, Puritans, and later evangelicals thought and wrote much about the art of dying well, and they urged that all of life should be seen as preparation for leaving it behind.  This was not otiose morbidity, but realistic wisdom, since death really is the one certain fact of life."
-J.I. Packer

A new, sweet friend lent me a book, O Love That WIll Not Let Me Go: Facing Death with Courageous Confidence in God.  I've only read a few chapters but have already found such comfort in it.  It is simply a compilation of short meditations taken from sermons and writings of pastors and theologians.  It, so far, has been everything I have needed in learning and processing death.  Death had never been a large part of my life and then all of the sudden, in the last 3 years, I have had one close loved one die each year.  My grandmother on Christmas Eve of 2009, my Aunt Gail in January of 2011 and now, Richard in January of 2013.  Why are the holidays so hard, I wonder?

While I loved both my grandma and aunt very dearly, they were certainly not near as big of a shock as Richard was, as they were both very sick and we knew it was coming. All this to say, I have honestly never sat and given death a lot of thought.  Not until now, of course.

In the preface of this book the author compares death to the act of giving birth.  She talks about how she really enjoyed being pregnant and, of course, enjoys being mother, but the thought of delivery really scared her.

"We sometimes have a similar though process about death.  Life-good.  Life after death with God-good.  It's that process of labor and delivery into the next life we're not so sure about.  In fact, we'd really rather not talk about it or even think about it.  Yet I'm convinced that there is a real freedom, and even joy, in thinking it through, and that exploring death in light of the Scriptures can actually soothe our fears and infuse our thoughts about death with hope and peace."

I love this.  I feel so connected to this thought and I find utter comfort and excitement to read all of the chapters in this book.  It is such a necessity for me to see death in this way.  I mean, if I don't,  I will just go absolutely insane.  I have to believe that Richard is in a beautiful, sorrow-free place now.  I do believe it.  But dealing with the grief of him not being here because he is in a sorrow-free, perfect place with God is still very difficult.  But these thoughts give me hope and freedom to be happy for him, even though I miss him so much. 

It is really hard for me to explain my feelings I have of joy and sorrow, them often flooding my heart at the same time.  I imagine it is a lot like a woman who longs for nothing more than to be pregnant and to be a mother, and being happy for her best friend that is able to become pregnant, while she herself cannot conceive.  I can only imagine what that heartbreak must feel like.  And I cannot, for the life of me, imagine what it is like for a parent to lose their child.  I know it is one of the deepest sorrows in the entire universe. 

And now I feel like I am simply rambling and probably making people cry and not even making cohesive sense anymore.  But what I really want to say, here, is that all of these situations are sad enough for us all to feel like our hearts have been thrown into high-speed blenders.  And while my grief is crippling at times, I am working so hard to hear the Lord, to cling to Him, to hear what Richard would be saying to me now and what he would want me to do.  He would want me to pray, all the time.  "Talk to God," as he would say.  And all I can really hope is that my constant need for God, and my constant need to share my constant need for God, will do nothing but give others hope in their own times of sorrow.  I never, ever want to seem as if I am just over this situation, as we all know, I will never ever be "over" it.  My knowing sweet Richard has changed my life for the absolute better in more ways than one.  He will always be one of the greatest loves of my life and I am so grateful for him.  I still get blown away that God chose me to spend his remaining months with him and I long to talk with him, hug him and hold his hand every single day.  But my need for the Lord and my need to find silver linings in all that has happened is extreme.  This is how I am and how I have always been.  A forever optimist, searching for answers and positives.  I hope to do nothing but comfort others around me, as so many have been comforts to me; and I can do none of this without God's guidance.

This book says that, really, angels rejoice more on the day we come home to the Lord, than on the day we are born.  I think we should try hard to look at it this way (for all of our sanity).  Today I was thinking back to when I told Richard that 25 was one of my favorite years.  24 had been hard for Richard, minus meeting me of course :), and he said, Well maybe 25 will be good for me, too.  My initial reaction reminiscing that conversations was, and 25 was not really good to him.  Then it hit me.  For HIM, 25 was his best year.  A month after he turned 25 he got to go home to Heaven!  He no longer has to worry about any cares of this world.  This world that we are not meant to live in forever. 

Because of this, I will never categorize 26 (yes, I am a year older than him, a cougar if you will) as one of my best years, but for my sweet, precious Richard - 25 was his best year ever.

Monday, February 25, 2013

That Time That God Spoke to Me...Through a Text Message.

I think I've talked before about my uncertainty, initially, of a relationship with Richard, when he first came into my life.  Remember?  I was scared of being hurt and losing control and he was different than any other boy that had waltzed into my life.  One of my favorite memories is the time that God spoke to me through Richard...and through a text message.

Richard and I had just spent some time talking through our lives and our desires for our futures (both individually and what it would look like together).  It was early, early on in our relationship and I just wasn't sure.  I wish I could tell you that I knew I was supposed to be with this boy as SOON as I met him, but our story isn't like that.  We had mentioned things of our faith to one another, but had not had any real, deep conversation of what God meant to us.  I remember that I had recently been thinking, I want a man that will openly pray aloud with me.  Now, mind you, I am not one to pray aloud often.  I find myself awkward as I fumble through words and sentences.  I know that these things do not matter to God, but I am still figuring out how to be comfortable with it.  So these were private thoughts I had been having with myself (and with God) and I had not mentioned them to Richard yet, but I had wondered if he would be the type of man that would fill this request.

So, after our conversation of life's desires, I left his apartment (remember - still haven't told him about my praying thoughts).  He sent me a sweet text message telling me he knew everything would be okay and he is so glad we get to work through these things together.  I sent him one back saying something along the lines of, I am so sorry if I seem unsure.  I am just trying to listen to the Lord and make sure that I am where He wants me to be, because I have ignored him before and have gotten hurt.  Richard wrote back saying that he was happy to hear that because God was number one in his life now and he was glad to hear he was number one in mine too.  And in the same text message he said, "I have also given some thought to something that I have never been one to do, but would like to try it with you if you want.  I would like to pray out loud with you, I would love to hear the desires of your heart and for you to hear mine as well."

...OH, OKAY. 

Oh, hey God - nice to hear from you!  I was stunned.  I sat on my bed with my mouth open and my heart fluttering inside my chest.  How cool, I thought.  And I knew that I was right where God wanted me to be.  It was such a crazy, wild, radically neat moment.  I have to, regretfully, say that I never told Rich about that moment.  I am not sure why, but it never came out of me.  He would have smiled and thought it was really cool, too.  We have to remember that God can speak to us whenever He wants and however He wants.  Even through a text message!

Be sure to sit and listen, friends.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” 
-Psalm 46:10


Friday, February 22, 2013

Fridays Have Lost Their Charm.

Fridays have lost their charm.

Fridays had already lost their charm with me before this happened, mainly because I work from home (which don't get me wrong, is pretty awesome), and it's not as fun to get off of work on a Friday when you're already home.  But now, Fridays are on my bad list.  I'd rather see a Monday than a Friday.  At least a Monday is a fresh start.

This Friday was no different.  Even though I got to see and talk to great friends, there is still an underlying sadness in my heart.  Fridays will just be hard for a long time I think.  It's the day of the week when I run out of steam.  It's the day of week when I run out of motivation.  It will forever be the day that my boyfriend was taken from me.

And Fridays typically send me into a frenzy of thoughts.  Like: I wonder if you guys ever get tired of reading about my sad emotions.  Has it gotten old yet?  It's been a solid 6 weeks of it.  When will the heartbreak subside?  When will it get easier?  When will I be comfortable with the thought of dating or even flirting with someone else?  When will I feel like I am not cheating on Richard if I do flirt with someone else?  Will someone even want to date me after something like this?  Obviously not now, I'm not ready now, but when I do get ready, who is going to want to step up to the plate? 

Some days are really good, and I can float through them without being too bogged down by sadness, but then all of the sudden it hits me and I feel like I've just been flattened by a big ol' andiron, just like what happens to the coyote in Looney Tunes. 

I know all of this is normal and natural and I am not a freak or anything.  It's exhausting though.  Grieving can be exhausting.  It will get easier.  It has gotten easier.  But it is still hard.  But nothing in life that is easy is ever worth it, right?  That saying seems so out of place in this situation, but perfectly fitting at the same time.

Six weeks ago a mother lost her son, a sister lost her brother, friends lost their buddy and a girlfriend lost her boyfriend.  Do whatever it takes to not take anyone in your life for granted, friends.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
-Psalm 34:18

Thursday, February 21, 2013

This Was God's Will for Richard's Life.

"People who have recently lost someone have a certain look, recogniable maybe only to those who have seen that look on their own faces.  I have noticed it on my face and I notice it now on others.  The look is one of extreme vulnerability, nakedness, openness."
-The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion

As I read these lines today, out of the above book that a good friend from high school sent me (hey Josh!), I could not help but feel completely drawn to them.  How true, I thought.  How incredibly true.  I feel as if this describes me very accurately, not so much because I walk around with a very sad look on my face (though sometimes I do), but more because I have taken to being more vulnerable and open these past few weeks, than I ever have in my entire life.  And I am a very open person as it is.

It immediately make me think of a quote I've had taped to my bathroom mirror for a really long time.  I, like most females, like to post motivating and encouraging sayings and quotes places that I frequently view, to keep me on A-game.  The quote says:

"So that everyone can see you, and your love, and your story.  So that your heart is visible to everyone, and still displays honesty, vulnerability, humanity and your need for God.  And we are called to do that.  We are called to be a light, to sit on a hill..." -Lauren Dubinsky

I think that this blog has been nothing but vulnerable, thus far.  At least I hope so.  I would rather put my heart and thoughts out on the line if it will help, even just one person deal with something they are going through.  I have never been very good at keeping things inside.  I can keep someone else's secret, but it is hard for me to keep my own.  I have had so many experiences of divine intervention that I can't help but share and it excites me to tell you about what God has done in my life.  I hope that it will help you to take a step back and look at what God has done in your life.  Maybe there are some things you missed, or categorized as bad luck, when really it was the Lord protecting you from something.  I get excited to share with you about Richard and the impact he had on me, just as I love to hear from other people about the impact he had on them as well.

Now what I am going to say next will probably stir up a lot of different feelings in you.  Some may applaud it, some may spit at it, some may be on the fence about it and some may not even understand it.   

This was God's will for Richard's life.

I know.  It's a hard truth to swallow.  I know some people are thinking, "why would a good God let something like this happen?  Why take him so young?"  And honestly, I cannot answer those questions because I do not even know myself.  The things I take comfort in, though, are this very fact-- that it WAS God's will.  Because there is so much freedom in that.  We do not have to sit here and think, well if we had just caught it earlier or if we had just taken notice.  We have to accept that there was nothing we could have done.  That this was going to happen anyway.  That the Lord always had this in His plan for Richard.  Another comfort is to know that it was his time to go home!  He was done on this Earth.  How jealous am I that he gets to go home to heaven, a place of NO sorrows and NO tragedy.  It just sucks for us, here, left without him.

Everything is done for God's glory.  Everything.  What could be glorified in this scenario?  For me - my relationship with God has strengthened.  Throughout my entire relationship with Richard, my need for God strengthened.  For others, through this situation, through this blog, through your heartbreak in whatever you're facing - I hope you are seeing new perspectives on your life, your relationships with others and your need for God.   It makes me smile to know how proud and honored Richard would have felt to know that so many people were clinging to the Lord because of his death.  He would have been so humbled.  He would have been humbled because it was not long ago that he realized his need for God and started hanging on to Him for dear life.  That was one of the most beautiful things about him.  He was such a beautiful soul. 

I am so thankful that I had the chance to spend even 8 short months in his presence. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Thank You All for Protecting Me.

I guess a sad day was bound to happen.  After two really good days, a sad day seems natural.  Thankfully, though, it doesn't quite seem like one step forward and two steps back.  It's more like two steps forward and one step back.  That's a silver lining, I think.

I find it hard to put my feelings into words tonight.  I'm just sad.  I just miss him.  This is the coldest turkey break up I've obviously ever had.  And it is often very hard to wrap my brain around the fact that I just can't talk to him anymore.  There are so many things that I think throughout the day that I want to tell him.  Things that I know he would think were funny.  Things that would make him proud of me.  Things that would make him say, I am reminded every day why I love you (like the one time I asked him if Zaxby's could cater our future wedding reception and he said yes and I sad WHAT UP, NIBBLER SANDWICHES FOR EVERYONE).  It's hard when all of that is ripped away so suddenly.

I cannot even imagine what it is like for people that have been married for many years to suddenly suffer a loss like this.  Oh it makes my heart swell with pain and sorrow thinking of it.  And I wonder what is easier?  Death or divorce?  Death or a break-up?  It is really not a fair question at all, but it is there, in my head.  On the one hand - I will never have to endure the pain of seeing him with another woman; and on the other - I have to endure the pain of never being able to see him again in this life.  It's all so depressing, right?  But let's face it - this is a very depressing time in my life.  (This is not a red flag for anyone.  No one needs to come show up at my doorstep.  Unless you've got chocolate in your hands).

I've decided to see a counselor for the first time ever, and I would be lying if I said that I was not excited about it.  And I know that counseling and therapy and those types of things are not ones we are supposed to talk about with one another, because for whatever reason our society has decided counseling and therapy are negative things - but whatever...I'm going to counseling and all y'all can know about it!  I think everyone should go to counseling.  Every.  One.  Why is it bad to sit down with someone and just talk about things in your life that might be weighing your heart down?  I think it is good to talk to someone with a brand new perspective that can help you see things in a different light.  No one's life is perfect.  Let's all quite pretending like it is.

And on that note: while my life is certainly not perfect, there are so many wonderful things in it.  The support system I have is ever-growing.  Family, friends, coworkers, other Zumba instructors, my Zumba class participants, parents of the students I recruit - all of these people have continued to show out for me.  Someone is constantly reaching out to me in one way or another.  I can't help but feel like the Lord has placed all of these individuals in my life to form, what feels like, a really large shield around me.  His shield around me.  To protect me and at least help me feel safe.  I feel so incredibly lucky to be blessed by so many hearts.

I really miss my warrior of a boyfriend, but in his absence so many others have stepped forward to protect me.  He'd be so proud.  He'd be forever thankful.  He'd give each and every one of you a solid high-five and a goofy smile.

Thank you all for protecting me.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Picture This...

Today was a good day.  It did not even feel like a Monday.  It felt like a Thursday!  Thursdays are my favorite.

I woke up on the positive side of the bed, had good quiet time with the Lord, taught Zumba tonight, took a Body Pump class, had a productive day with work, danced around my house to Beyonce (duh) and ate a ton of chocolate.  Oh and I made green beans!  They weren't very good, but they made me feel kind of adult-like.  Today was warm and sunny.  Today made me happy. 

Tonight, after dinner, I sat down to paint my nails and watch one of my newest Netflix obsessions.  Waiting for my nails to dry, I decided to stretch my legs out a little and work out my muscles.  I was recently given a very nice massage stick that you roll against your muscles to knead them out.  Just like a real massage, this feels better without material in between your muscles and the stick.  Naturally, I decided to just slip off my PJ pants and work on my sore, little legs.

So, picture if you will - and I am sorry (not really) if any of this makes you feel awkward as it is really just meant to be funny - Katie, sitting on her couch, without pants on, rolling this massage stick against her calves, attempting to be cautious of her not-quite-dry nails, with her eyes glued to her laptop, watching the characters of Parenthood rush around a hospital with really sad music playing in the background because one of them has just been in a severe car accident, wearing a pair of underwear she got for free at a Victoria's Secret promotional event that just happen to say "try me" on them (yes, you weren't expecting that, I know.  And now my mom is shaking her head at me as she reads that part.  Also, just don't judge me, okay?)...and all of a sudden - she just starts crying uncontrollably because the writers of Parenthood are REALLY good and this was a REALLY sad moment!


I got a good 15 second cry in before I, then, started giggling uncontrollably.  What a moment, right?  What a mess.  What a scene.  I got so cracked up at myself that I even woke George up from his snoring slumber.  Then I texted three friends about what had just happened, in hopes that it would make them smile.  It did.  So I decided to share it with all of you.  Whoever all of you are.  Some of you I know, some I may not.  I hope this made you smile, too.

You know, I can't tell you how many times I have thought to myself, this is not where I thought I would be at this point in my life.  Way too many to count.  And I know many other people who have thought the same thing.  And even though we all may not be where we want to be, or where we feel like we should be, or where we feel entitled to be, we must remember that we are all where God wants us to be.  We are exactly right in His plan.  We must continue to trust Him and we must continue to allow ourselves to cry at our weak moments and laugh at our ridiculous ones.  Otherwise we will all go absolutely insane.

Today was a good day.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

"I love you, too, darling."

I've been sitting here for about an hour, trying to figure out what I want to write tonight.  I have many different thoughts and memories floating around in my head, overwhelming me to the point of sadness.  Grief is a weird emotion.  It seems to have a mind of its own.  Two hours ago I was laughing and cutting up with two good friends as we watched a movie.  Now I am sitting on my bed feeling a bit empty.  I still don't really know what I want to write.  I think a lot about my last full day with Richard.  I walked into his hospital room at 8 am on Thursday, January 10th, ready to spend the morning with him.  Not ready for what I would face in those 24 hours. 

On that day the white blood cells had reached a new high and had started clogging up things they didn't need to be clogging up.  I sat back and watched my boyfriend hallucinate.  I witnessed him falling asleep over and over again only to wake up and either not know where he was or wake up talking to someone that was not there.  The whole time thinking that the drugs the hospital had been giving him were just making him loopy.  And while I honestly thought that is what it was, I recall having a really sick feeling in my stomach.  An empty, hollow feeling in the depths of my gut.  I reluctantly left him at 2 pm, dragging my feet as I left the room.  But before I did that, I sat on his bed, facing him with my head lying on his propped up knee.  I uncontrollably cried, feeling so helpless and scared for him, and I prayed over him.  I rubbed his leg and prayed that the Lord would be with him and comfort him and that we would figure out what was going on.  I just cried and prayed.  He was asleep the whole time, dreaming of who knows what. 

Later that night I returned red faced, showing up by his side with the fresh knowledge of his diagnosis.  He never really seemed to know what was going on.  I think back to how his face looked as they rolled his bed out of his room on the cardiology and took him to the oncology unit.  He never seemed to have a clue. 

Finally at 10:30, after many times having to tell him where he was and that everything was fine, just to go back to sleep, I decided to head home.  I would return first thing in the morning and his mom would be staying overnight.  I stood over his bed, rubbed his arm and told him, hey babe - I'm gonna go, but I will be back in the morning, okay?  I love you. I focused on his lips as I saw and heard him mumble the words, I love you, too, darling.  His typical, normal response - and the last words he ever spoke to me.

It's been 5 weeks and 2 days since I lost my boyfriend.  Sometimes it still feels like yesterday.

Friday, February 15, 2013

I Am Terrified That I Am Going to Forget Him.

I've cried a lot today.  And it's a little weird because I feel like I woke up on the right side of the bed, ready to face the day, still feeling loved from my wonderful Valentine's Day.  Yet, I still cried a lot today.  And at very unexpected times.  I did not go into these instances thinking, oh I am feeling emotional, I will probably boo-hoo while talking about it.  But it happened that way.  And I'm not confused or questioning why it happened or mad at myself for crying in a few different public places, but I am just stating that I did, indeed, shed many tears today.

The emotions do often come at times when I'm not prepared.  Luckily I am just okay with embracing them.  However, I do typically try to warn my friends what is about to happen.  I am probably about to cry, is always code for, hold on to your horses, my face is about to pinch up into an ugly position and is about to turn very red.  I just want people to know what they're about to face.

Richard left us 5 weeks ago.  I look at this in two ways: It's only been 5 weeks...and...It's ONLY been 5 weeks?  What scares me is that I already feel myself panicking a little as I feel him slipping away from me.  I am terrified that I am going to forget him.  As time crawls by, all of the tiny details become harder to capture.  I am already unobservant as it is, so I feel like I am at an unfair disadvantage.  Will I always remember the true color of his eyes, and the way they popped when he wore that hunter green shirt?  Will I always remember the scar that ran, in a straight line, from his collar bone all the way down his chest and abdomen - a result from surgeries due to his car accident?  Will I always remember his really fat toes and the way they all kind of curled in on one another?  Will I always remember the fact that he was so freckly that he even had a few on his lips?
Of course I will always remember these things, but I think I am scared they are going to lose the visual detail in my mind.  That terrifies me.  I don't want to lose those things.  I don't want to lose him more than I already have.  It is a hard reality to face.

I am forever grateful for pictures and the fact that I felt the need to stick a camera in his face a lot.  Grateful to always have those captured memories.  Grateful to have a friend send me a few more pictures tonight, unseen by my eyes.  Grateful for those voicemails and videos I've mentioned before.  Grateful that although he is no longer breathing, he's still alive in my memories and heart.  I may just have to work hard to keep him as alive as I want him to be.  Grateful I am up for that challenge.

God is good, friends.  He was good when He brought Richard into my life and He was still good the day he took Richard out of it.  He is always ahead of us and is always preparing our hearts for what will happen next, for they are His plans.  Sometimes it hurts like hell and it is hard to understand, but we must keep telling ourselves that He is good. 

Otherwise, we may just forget everything.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Different Kind of Valentine.

George with his Valentine from Richard's mom and sister :)

I think, as a society, we can get very caught up in celebrating Valentine's Day in over-the-top ways and only with significant others.  I've always known it was important to be grateful for every type of love I have in my life, but never, more than now, have I realized how crucial it is to relish in it.

This year, I am celebrating the love I have found in a little beagle mix, named George.  How I stumbled upon George is a complete Godwink (my friend Kristin's term).  I could not explain why I was drawn to him at the time it happened, but now it's completely clear.

It was the Saturday before Thanksgiving and Richard and I were at his apartment.  He was cleaning and I was just hanging out, watching some TV.  I flipped to a channel that was showing a local adoption show from one of our animal shelters, here in Huntsville.  (Mistake #1, I know).  I just watched and smiled as the dogs were brought out, one-by-one, remarking that they all looked so happy.  Then.  Then they carried out George (formerly known as Snoodles...).  My eyes immediately watered and my mouth dropped and I am sure I let out an "aw!"  Richard saw my face and said, you know it helps if you turn the channel, babe.  I just looked at him with my mouth still open.  He went into the bathroom, came back out, saw my face again and said, oh man, are we going to have to take a trip to the shelter?  Yes, Richard...yes we are.

Later that afternoon he drove me out to the shelter (he was just as excited as I was).  We went in and requested to see George/Snoodles and we both instantly fell in love.  We went back every Saturday for 3 weeks to see George.  He was not adoptable right away because they were still getting him all checked out.  They had found him tied up to a sign post, completely dehydrated and did not think he would live.  But little George was a fighter!  On the third Saturday, Richard and I went to Petsmart to prepare for our new friend, then went to the shelter and drove him away.  I've never looked back since.

At the time, I could never explain why I was so drawn to George and why I almost cried when I saw him.  I just knew that I needed him.  But now it all makes sense.  I really believe God was quietly pushing me toward him because He knew I would need a loyal companion and comforter.  Total God moment.

George has really been the best dog.  He loves to snuggle and knows exactly how to cheer me up.  He's actually cuddled up to me as I type this now.  His biggest flaw is thinking that my cat's litter box is a delicacy (sick).  It is so special to me that Richard was with me when I got him.  Rich was just as crazy about him as I am.  He was also a little better at disciplining than I am (oops), so we'll see how George turns out when he gets older.  I am so grateful that I have him.

So, today, I am choosing to be thankful for all of the love in my life.  I started my day off eating breakfast with Richard's sister.  She showed up at my house with goodies from her and her mom.  I felt so loved, so early!  Tonight I will be with two of my greatest friends.  I have been sent numerous cards and care packages and showered with phone calls and text messages.  It's been wonderful.

I can't help but think about what Richard and I would be doing tonight if he were still here.  My guess is that we (he) would make pizzas and we would watch a movie or two, just enjoying one another's company.  Neither of us being very lavish people.  Mainly because neither of us made a ton of money. ;)

I miss him every single hour of every single day, but I am so grateful for all of the sincere love, support and encouragement I have in my life.  And though I do not feel like I deserve all of the love people have shown me, I know Richard would be delighted to know that I am being taken care of.

Happy Valentine's Day, friends.  <3

 Taking George for his first hike :)

Then George got tired.  Spoiled.  Rotten.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Love Letter.

"...Your smile, laughter, the calming harp your heart plays for me on days I can hardly pray.  I've been told God works through your surroundings those days you may not be able to find Him inside.  My struggles are lessened beside you, darling.  Your beauty is an ever-growing trace of His presence in my life.  My eyes are beginning to see the intangible promises that always eluded me until more recently.  

I thank you for your kind words from this morning.  For some reason they have catapulted me into bliss and all the accompanying things naturally found in Heaven I would think.  You said 'I love you," as your eyes bathed the string of the ceiling fan chopping streams.  Your lips curled to the side for a short moment as iris, dilated, made direct contact with my sleepy lips mumbling one thousand words about nothing other than, 'I love you, too, darling."

Grace finds you in times I forget such things can be possessed.  Infatuations binds me to breaking such ways in which creation can simply guide my heart for the remainder of that said day.  Sometimes we just forget to look for it.  I'm glad I didn't have to search this time.

You are a graceful creature of God and I am grateful for every moment we share, for I believe it brings us both closer to God.

I love you dearly.

R. Gaiser III

Missing my valentine.

Monday, February 11, 2013

"He's gone."

It's been 31 days.  31 days?  31 days.  It does not seem real, yet it seems the sincerest truth I have ever had to face. 

I suppose it's time to write out a story that I've replayed in my head and to friends time and time again.  It's not something I look forward to typing out, but it is something that is necessary I think.  I can't let these details slip away, because as painful as they are, they are a part of the story, a part of the healing process and a part of Richard's legacy.

Two days after Christmas Richard was taken to the hospital by ambulance due to severe chest pains.  Chest pains so severe that he could not get himself off of the couch - not even with the help of his mother.  He was put in a room on the cardiology floor where he stayed for exactly two weeks.  Initially the doctors found a bit of pneumonia in his left lung which they attributed his chest pain to.  However they kept saying, "there is another infection there, though, and we are going to run some tests to figure out what is going on."  For two weeks he endured poking and prodding, multiple blood samples taken and every other unpleasant thing that results in a hospital stay.  He had daily fevers and was constantly fatigued, tired from medication and tired of answering constant questions, his white blood cell count rising everyday.  He had his crabby moments, definitely, but was able to stay in a pretty positive mindset a lot of the time.

It was an exhausting two weeks.  I've personally never been through anything like this and never realized how emotionally and mentally tiring hospital visits could be.  I would go up to the hospital almost everyday from 8 am until about 1 pm, working on my computer or phone from the semi-comfortable chair by his bed.  His mom would come up after lunch once she left work and take the afternoon/evening shift, his sister visiting as well.  I would usually go back up at night after I had spent some time at home with my dog.  The evenings were full of a lot of his mom and I talking and poking fun at him from time-to-time, out of love of course.  We watched a lot of episodes of NCIS and Shipping Wars.  We spent New Year's Eve together, the 3 of us nested in the tiny hospital room.  He wore his party hat for approximately 2 minutes.  Enough to get a picture.  The last picture I have of him. We took occasional wheel chair rides around the floor, going down every hallway that we were authorized to go down.  I spent a lot of time crying next to his hospital bed, frustrated that we did not know what was going on.  Frustrated that he was sick.  Frustrated that he was crabby sometimes and there was not much I could do to help.  He did such a good job of being sweet to me though.  As best as he could.  I would cry and he would hold my hand and try to calm me down.  As stressful as those days could be, I'd love to go back to them.  Just to see him again.

Two weeks went by and on Thursday night, January 10th the doctors finally diagnosed him with acute myeloid leukemia.  One of the most aggressive strands.  Of course it was.  Richard never did anything half-ass, remember?  That night they moved him to his own room on the oncology floor.  The oncology room was big and sterile and cold.  Not like the tiny room that we had been cozily crowded in for the last two weeks.  It did not feel welcoming.  Probably because it knew we wouldn't be there for long anyway.  Early Friday morning Richard was moved to the critical care unit.  His body could no longer handle the extremely high white blood cell count.  (A normal WBC is around 10,000 - when Richard died his was 170,000...remember - nothing half-ass).

I saw him Friday morning at 10:30 for the first time.  His mom, my most recent partner in crime, and I met outside the doors and walked in together.  I'm not sure what I was expecting.  I just know I wasn't expecting what I saw.  A shell of Richard.  A heavily sedated, on-a-ventilator, puffed-up-from-fluids Richard.  I immediately burst into tears as his mom explained to me everything that was going on.  We visited with him for about 20 minutes, talking to him and about him, receiving no response back.  We were back again at 1:30.  And back again about 3:45 to wait around for the 4:30 visit time.  I had originally not planned to be there for that visit as I had to teach Zumba that night.  I took a chance and asked some of the other instructors if they would mind subbing for me and thank God someone agreed.  I guess I had a feeling that I needed to be there, though at the time I did not really recognize the feeling.

At about 3:50 the nurses called his mom up.  I waited impatiently in the waiting room for her to give me an okay to come up too.  I hyperventilated a little bit, called my mom and told her what was going on, said that maybe he's awake and he just wants to see his mom right now.  Several minutes later his mom texted me and told me I could come up.  His sister was on her way to the hospital, right behind us.  They took me into the consultation room where his mom was, red-faced with tears.  I cried instantly, because I knew.  But even though I knew, I demanded that someone say it aloud.  Finally one of the nurses stated, he's gone.  Sobs escaped my mouth, along with the word, "what," over and over again.  I simply could not believe that he was gone.  I texted my mom through my tears, saying I need you here.  I listened to his mom directing his sister to where we were.  At that moment I left the room as I wanted for them to have their moment together.  I was led into the room where he lay.

And there he was - my sweet boy.  Completely free of machines, IVs, tubes and pain.  It had been a long time since I had seen him like that.  I stared at him, touched his arm, held his hand.  Was happy that he hadn't shaved in two weeks because he was able to form a nice-sized beard.  He always told me he was going to grow his beard out like one of the guys from Duck Dynasty (I always pleaded that he not).  His mom and sister came into the room and there we stood - 3 women that loved him so severely that I swear all of our hearts burst out of our chests and fell onto the hospital floor.  I think that we all left pieces of our hearts there in that room, too.

The rest of the story is not that important.  I continue to recall the fact that I really never, ever thought Richard would die.  I never thought it would end the way it did.  I continually think about him laying in his hospital bed, looking at me as I cried, telling me it was going to be okay, that he wasn't dying.  It's all so ironic now.  I think back to how he allowed me to help bathe him with a rag, warm water and gross hospital soap.  I washed his hair and his upper body, and I left the room as he did the rest, his shoulders and chest too sore to lift his arms.  You've really crossed some boundaries here, you know, he'd said. You gotta do what you gotta do, I had told him.  I am so glad he let me into his heart as far as he did.

Missing him a lot tonight, and every night, but especially tonight.  Wishing he was sitting on my couch with me, watching an episode of Friends, shaking his head at me as I giggle at everything Chandler says.  Wishing he was here to cuddle with and wishing I had his shoulder to cry on.

But my hope and faith in the Lord continue to grow.  God has blessed me with the absolute greatest friends and family.  I am constantly overwhelmed with love from them all and am forever grateful for the roles they play in my life.  Just as I will be forever grateful for the role Richard played in my heart.  Kudos to you if you've read this post all the way until the end, as I know it is long.  But Richard deserves long posts and many words, for all of the kind words he lent me.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sometimes He Was Such a BOY.

"For the last few days my head has been clear as ever and my heart beating me to sleep.  That demonstrating thud that reminds me that I'm full of love, not hate that once flooded veins.  I thank God for this as well as each breath that vacates my lungs.  The crisp transformation of oxygen to vein to aortic tendency, God's creative release.

I hope you've found peace amongst chaotic times.  These days have proven fortunate, revealing thoughts I used to ask God for as a kid.  When I was 9, I recall praying to Him every night for life to make sense.  I was curious and wildly infatuated with the consistency of an answer, rather than asking the right question.  As of lately, I've been so tied up with questions instead of allowing God to answer.

Humility has brought me to my knees...and I love every bit of it.  I love every bit of God.  I love every bit of you.  And luckily, today, I'm not playing for keeps.  Each second I pray in hopes to fully turn over my shortcomings so I can be a device God uses to do His work.  I hope He includes you in my journey.  I love you. R. Gaiser III"
- letter from Richard, September 21st, 2012

I love that Richard used to thank ME for my invigorating spirit, as he commended me for my passion to gain the most of life.  As I reread this letter, it is so apparent how much he desired to obtain a full and meaningful life.  This was always his passion, too.  He just had more obstacles thrown in his way.  And although he did lead a very short life, he certainly did not lead a boring one.  Even the way he left us was not boring.  After all...Richard never did anything half-ass.

I used to love working through issues and misunderstandings with Rich.  I know this sounds absurd because who enjoys sifting through problems?  I never had.  But then God brought me this boy that was willing to sit down with me, hear my point of view, explain his, demonstrate different perspectives and come to either a conclusion, or to a decision to agree to disagree.  I had always been scared of confrontation in relationships, terrified to make my boyfriend mad and that if I did, he would walk away.  Extremely healthy, I know.  But with Richard I found someone that would communicate with me, that would challenge me and that would help me grow.

At first I questioned if the fact that we were so different would work for us.  Did opposites really attract?  Sometimes he was just such a BOY.  His sense of humor and his conversations.  And I can be such a GIRL.  Full of emotion and the desire to watch Meg Ryan movies until I am blue in the face.  I worked on softening him as he worked on toughening me.  We both had constant struggles that we needed to work on.  But how cool it was when we were trying to hold one another accountable.  I would try and steer him from using profane language (as I tried, and continue to try, to steer myself away from it as well) and he would call me out for being gossipy.  I'll never forget when he told me he was disappointed in me when I spoke harshly of an acquaintance's relationship.  "I just don't think we have any room to judge someone else's relationship.  It's not like ours is perfect," he'd said.  I was angry at him (but really I was just embarrassed and ashamed) and attracted to him all at the same time.  I loved that he was willing to challenge me like that, to be a better person.  After a few minutes of swallowing my pride, I thanked him for his love.

Tomorrow will mark one month since the Lord called Richard home.  It's very hard to believe that he's been gone from this world for that long.  It feels as though one month has flown by and crawled along all at the same speed.

I pray for peace and comfort for his family, for his friends and for myself.  I ask that you pray for the same. 

How many boyfriends would petsit your extremely large and furry cat...and then send you pictures like this? :)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Bench Sitting.

Some of my favorite memories to reminisce are the times when Rich and I first started dating and we simply wanted to see one another all the time.  However, when we first met, we were both living with our parents, and seeing as how neither one of us wanted to dive into the "meet the parents" routine and hang out at one another's house before we had even become official, we literally ran around and sat on every bench in the Madison and Huntsville areas.

Of course the first bench was the one we spent two and a half hours on after the establishment we had been in had closed.  I guess that's what set the precedent of the bench-sitting.  We would meet up at Starbucks and sit on the big couch inside and chat.  Then we would move outside to one of the tables after they would close and chat for at least an hour more.  We would go to dinner and then drive out to Big Spring Park in Huntsville and sit under a gazebo.  There was also that time that we were going to hang out one night after my Zumba class (thank God he was not afraid of a little girlie sweat...he thought I was cute regardless), and none of our friends at the gym knew we were really dating yet.  After class we all hung around and chatted, including our clueless friends.  We tried to play it cool and casually get everyone to go on and head home so that no one would see us hop in the car together.  (We dated for about 3 weeks before we let everyone know...just because of that whole, he was kind of my "boss" and all - even though it was just Zumba!)

All of the bench-sitting really forced us to get to know one another on a personal and emotional level.  We spent so much of our first weeks talking about our pasts.  In fact, at our first coffee date, Richard held very little back.  He laid everything out in front of me.  He illustrated his past for me, speaking of his struggles and demons, as well as praising God for his victories.  I spoke the same of mine.  It is true that Richard had been through so much in his short life.  Things that I could not even fathom or begin to relate to.  He told me later that he likes to dish a lot out right at first to make sure that the person will not be easily scared off.  I was not scared.  I was incredibly intrigued by this man.  I found him interesting, mysterious and just downright attractive.  He could not have pushed me away even if he had wanted to.  And thank God he didn't want to. 

Although we were very different - different music tastes, different college experiences, different types of friends - we were also able to connect on such a deep level.  Our faiths were strong, our visisons for the lives we wanted were the same and our hearts were the same.  I felt so connected to him even throughout our surface differences.  Sometimes the surface differences would bother me, only because they were not what I had ever envisioned for a relationship of mine - and then he would look at me and tell me how beautiful I was.  Then all of those differences faded. 

I like to look back on that moment and think that God was like, "oh yea - you guys are both in for a little shake up.  In a great way, of course."

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Content with Being Here Today.

A dark and dreary night brought a brand new day.  A bright, warm, blue-skied day.  Oh, how thankful I am for that.

Thank you to those of you that lifted me up in prayer last night and today.  My energy and motivation are significantly higher and I know it is because so many of you prayed!  Today I cleaned my house.  I answered e-mails and phone calls without cringing.  I've found myself just content with being here today.  What a blessing.

After Richard passed away, I recall telling friends and family, as well as thinking over and over again, how lucky I felt that I was the person that God chose to place in his life for the end.  That probably seems weird to hear, but it is so true.  How blessed am I that I, not only had the opportunity to even know Richard and to be impacted by him, but I also had the opportunity to love him and BE loved by him in his very last days.  In his last 6 months.  It all makes sense to me now as to why our relationship accelerated at the speed it did.  As to why we were dropping the L-Bomb 3 weeks into dating.  It all seems very rushed, I thought.  But also extremely natural.  I was so scared to let emotions and feelings fly out from my heart at a lightning pace.  I was scared I would get hurt.  I was scared to lose control.  But thank God that He bestowed such charisma and passion upon Richard.  He drew my feelings out of me and made things feel simple as we went from acquaintances, to sort-of friends, to boyfriend and girlfriend.  If I had let fear completely rule my mind I would have missed out on so much.

Ending this post with the words that Rich wrote in my birthday card.  So lucky am I to have these.

"Through the last few years of life I've found it difficult to come to terms with trusting an individual enough to open up, much less love and let love.  You've made that a seamless and easy task and I'm grateful to have had the chance to meet you, to know you, and to love you.  There are times when I'm overwhelmed with happiness just knowing God can create such a charasmatic and sincere human form.  I love you.  Rich"

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Dark and Dreary Post.

I'm sitting here tonight, a little sick to my stomach.  It probably has a lot to do with the 15 pizza rolls and 3 doughnuts I consumed for dinner.  It also has a lot to do with the fact that I have just had one of those days.  One of those sad, bottom of the barrel days.  I'm sad.  Just so sad right now.

And I am frustrated.  And as weird as this sounds, I don't really think that I have felt frustration at all throughout these 3 weeks and 4 days.  I only recall feeling frustrated when I found out that Richard was diagnosed with leukemia.  I remember thinking, are you kidding me?  How is this fair?  This guy has already been through SO much in his short 25 years.  Mainly what he'd been through was a life-altering car accident when he was a senior in high school.  One that they did not think he'd live through.  And now this?  He's the least deserving person.  But then who is EVER deserving to live with disease?  No one.  No one is.  And then he was gone so fast after the diagnosis I did not even have time to focus on my frustration anymore.  Frustration QUICKLY turned to heartbreak.

But today I found myself really frustrated.  Irritable and anxious.  Confused and questioning.  Lonely.  Unmotivated.  Bored.  Desiring a change.  When sad things happen I like for my surroundings to change.  This is why I constantly rearrange my furniture.  Or why I even reorganize items on my shelves.  I guess it is because someone that was such a huge part of my life has suddenly been taken from me.  Gone in the blink of an eye.  Such a drastic change has shaken my whole world.  Other things must, then, change too.  How can I just go along with my bed in its normal place when so many other things have shifted around me?

This is where I need help.  This is where I need prayer.  I need prayer for energy and motivation.  I need to dig as deep down as I can to muster up an ounce of desire to go about the day-to-day tasks.  And please do not let this alarm you.  I am getting out plenty, seeing many friends.  It's not as if I am hermit-ing my life away in my house.  I just want to look forward to the day-to-day, tedious tasks like I used to be able to.

Also do not take my dark and dreary post tonight as me being angry with God.  I still believe God's plan is perfect and that He has a reason for everything.  I'm just being completely honest and admitting that I am having trouble feeling it tonight.  But I needed to get it all off my chest, out in the open.  Freedom of thought to hand as Richard would say.  He loved that term.  He loved writing in that way.  I miss my friend everyday.  I'd be a fool to think that the hole in my heart will ever go away, but I will look forward to the days when the pain is not so deep.

"I've been told God works through your surroundings those days you may not be able to find Him inside.  My struggles are lessened beside you, darling.  Your beauty is an ever-growing trace of His presence in my life."
-letter from Richard Gaiser, December 12, 2012

Oh, sweet Richard.

Monday, February 4, 2013

"You Will Not Marry This Man."

We've all heard stories from people that claim to have heard God speak to them, right?  I've always thought that seemed cool, to know for a fact that He spoke to you and it was clear as a crystal, blue day.  I've never been one of those people with a story like that.

Until now.

Forgive me as I type this out if this is not a completely developed thought.  The truth is that I haven't really thought too deeply about all of this until pretty recently.  I recall the details of my God-heard moment but I believe I pushed it out of my head after it had happened, simply assuming it was just a fleeting thought I conjured up.  However, now it all makes sense.

I think it was back in October.  I was lying in bed, well on my way to a peaceful slumber.  All of the sudden I had a loud and clear thought.  Loud enough in my head that it jolted my eyes open.  Now it was not in a deep, booming voice - not in a voice that one would think that our powerful God would sound like.  No, it was in my own voice, just like any other thought.  Except that it wasn't coming from me, to me.  It was coming from someone else.

"You will not marry this man."

My eyes flung open but I stayed very still.  What? I thought.  Where did that come from?  Are you sure?  But I love him.  I can see myself marrying him.  As my thoughts argued with that statement, nothing else seemed to come to me.  Just confusion.  It didn't last long.  I eventually just waved that idea out of my head.  I had fallen head over heels for Richard and I had just recently come to the conclusion that I could, indeed, see myself marrying him.  I didn't have time for all of this nonsense.

Fast forward to today and it all seems so obvious now.  I have no doubts that this was God speaking to me.  Giving me just a subtle nudge.  Planting a small seed in my heart to prepare me for what was to come.  Not that I would have ever guessed that this is where things would have unfolded, but He was trying to warn me.  Of course I didn't listen.  We never really listen do we?  I look back on it now and I think...whoa.  How cool.

I hope you don't think I am crazy.  I just can't see how it could have been anything else.  Another thing I used to think about a lot, without really being able to understand it, was that although I could see myself marrying this boy, I never felt like it was going to be a long-term relationship.  I remember it kind of being a nagging feeling I would get, but I did not get where it was coming from or why it would pop up.  I'd picture our wedding, our life together, being able to spend as much time with him as I wanted.  But deep down I knew it wouldn't last forever.

It all makes sense now.  I'm glad that I didn't really pay attention to all of it, because then I could have missed out on so much.  But then again, God was never telling me to leave.  He knew I wouldn't leave.  I was too in love.  Too committed.  He was just trying to prepare my heart for what would happen.

Awesome and painful blended together.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

High five, Steve Jobs.

Well I cried in public again.  And I feel like this probably isn't even the best way to start off a post, because I'm sure you're all thinking, "well of course you cried in public again...what else is new?"

But last night I was out with 7 friends, having some solid gal time and a few (and by few I mean several) appetizers.  We were all sitting around and chatting, several different conversations happening at once.  My friend, Kristin, proceeds to tell me a story about one of her friends that recently lost her father.  She tells me about how her friend is grieving, wishing that she had at least had a voice mail from her father saved and that she (Kristin) informs her friend that the iPhone does in fact save deleted messages...and well, you can see where this is going.

So, of course, I pull out my phone and start trying to figure out how to retrieve deleted messages.  In my head, and aloud, I'm like, "well I actually already have one voice mail saved so this isn't a big deal, let's just see if anything is left."  I start scrolling through hundreds of deleted voice mail messages, searching for his name and my breath catches.  There are three in a row listed from "Bender's Gym."  And they are dated April 25th.

"Oh my gosh!  I think these are from when Rich called me to set up my interview."  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Refresh your memory by reading this.) I hold the phone up to my right ear and plug my finger into my left.  All I have to hear is the beginning to know that these are, in fact, the messages that started everything.  I start squealing, laughing and crying all at the SAME time.  It's hard to picture, I know, but it happened.

Maybe I'm just grasping at straws here to just hold on to anything and everything I have left.  Maybe I'm over-romanticizing all of these tiny incidences.  But I just sit in awe all the time of how fortunate I have been to continue find these random, priceless gifts.  These things just excite me so much as they help me remember all of the little details about the beginning of our relationship.  Often the things in the beginning get lost.  They start to all fade together into one big blur, and 6 months later here you are and there they went.  And here I am, stumbling upon memory after memory of our sweet time together.  I get to hear his voice whenever I want.  I get to hear how his voice changes from the first message (before we talked), to the second message (after we talked and possibly flirted), to the third message (after we met).  I just feel so lucky.  High five to you, Steve Jobs.