Jack writes the blog.

They say a dog is man’s best friend, but for me, it’s all about a woman. I like to call her “Midge”. Our relationship began when she and the girls sprung me from a chain link cage at an animal shelter back in 2003. I was only 9 months old at the time, confused and sad to have been dropped off there in the first place. I would have gone with anyone who’d have taken me.

The girls named me after some character in a pirate movie, Captain Jack. As far as I can tell, my main function in this family is to allow everyone to love me. I willingly put up with group hugs that squeeze my middle and pats on the head that make me blink. I also tolerate kisses on the sides of my face and occasionally a full body bath, after which I’m hugged, patted and kissed even more than usual.

Most of my days are spent following Midge around. She likes having me nearby, and I like that, too. If she leaves a room, I usually follow. If she goes upstairs, I go, too. If she shuts the bathroom door, I wait just outside. I understand everything she says to me and do my best to look intelligent when she says it.

Midge and I have walked miles together over the years, and we try to get to the beach every day, even if it’s stormy. She tells me my black coat gets soft and shiny after rain or snow has soaked me. As we walk, I do a lot of sniffing and snoofing, but I always keep one eye on Midge, making sure we don’t get too far apart. I wouldn’t want anything to happen to her.

Recently there was a major shift in our home. I can’t tell you exactly what happened, but I know that Midge’s husband, Pidge, doesn’t come through the front door holding his briefcase and coffee mug anymore. I used to greet him with enthusiastic wags, and he’d give me a few reassuring pats. I never-but-never would jump on him. He had a suit on, for goodness sake.

A couple of weeks ago, Pidge drove in the driveway. At least I thought it was him. His car turned in, just like old times, and I ran out to greet him,  happy he was finally home! But when the door opened, it was Klaus. Pidge never appeared, which was a shame, because his absence has been a problem for Midge.

Sometimes she makes strange noises. She sniffs and sobs. When this happens, I move in close. I focus my brown eyes directly on her face and just wait like that till the sniffs and sobs end. Sometimes she’ll tell me what she’s crying about, but other times she just reaches down and strokes my back. She could do anything she wanted to me at those times, and I’d still stay right next to her.

Today I overheard a conversation I could hardly believe. Midge told Louisa and Birgitta that when they drive to Florida to help with the new baby, they’re going to take me along! I was so ecstatic, I almost wet the rug, but that kind of thing is frowned upon.

As for travel skills, I get A+, sleeping quietly in the car for hours at a time. I think the reason they’ll be taking me is strictly for Skylar. She’s a fast-moving mini-person who thinks I’m her plaything. I have to be on red alert when she’s around, but toddler-love is a small price to pay to be included on the road trip. The words “Jack, you have to stay” are the last words I ever want to hear.

For some reason Midge told the girls I’d have to stay behind when she goes to England in the spring to help with a couple of other new babies. I try not to think about that. I heard Midge’s sister Modge say she’d be willing to let me stay with my cousin-dog Sydney during that time, which would be a major treat, but I know she’ll have to OK that with Podge first.

Oh boy, there’s Midge with my leash. Gotta run.

A friend loves at all times.” (Proverbs 17:17a)

Promised Perks

Last night I took a box of Kleenex to bed with me. If I hadn’t, the pillow would have been soaked. This wave of grief wasn’t a tsunami, but it wasn’t a small ripple, either. It was simply a forceful longing to be with Nate. As I lay on my back holding a tissue at the side of each eye to catch the streams, I thought about how bad I was going to look in the morning, crying that hard before going to sleep. In reality, grieving isn’t pretty no matter when it comes.

If someone had sat down on the side of my bed last night and asked, “Why are you crying tonight, when this morning you were fine?” I wouldn’t have had an answer. All I knew then was that I missed Nate intensely. During the night a second wave came, and in the morning, a third. Then I cried while doing dishes, while talking to neighbors, while checking out at Walmart, while conversing with our girls.

Tonight, finally, my wavy day ended, because God said, “This far and no farther.” Whew.

Grieving for Nate looks a little different in each of us. I think some of our children are angry, others are depressed, one is trying to think away from it altogether. Yesterday I studied photographs taken over the two days of Nate’s wake and funeral. I looked carefully at my children where they appeared in the pictures, particularly if they were in the background. What I saw was heaviness, sorrow, pain.

I have moments, even hours of sadness, which is OK. But when I watch our children go through this same agony, my heart breaks. Mary always tells her children, “Remember, I’m the only one who would jump in front of a truck for you.” If I could get between my kids and the truck load of grief each is carrying, I would. But that might be like helping the chicken crack out of its egg, doing more harm than good.

Louisa, Birgitta and I were chatting tonight about the tough times in life and how we try hard to get through, around or over them a.s.a.p. Only a fool would say, “I’m really enjoying this misery and hope it never ends.”

But impatience seems to overwhelm endurance, and we become irritated when there’s no visible value in a situation. The girls and I looked back at several family stress points, hunting for the proverbial good-coming-from-bad. We successfully saw some of that, which builds hope into us that today’s difficulties will yield tomorrow’s good.

This morphed into a dialogue on how to see God’s activity in the world and, more importantly, how to hear from him personally. The answer to that one is complicated, and we talked about it for quite a while.

Jesus told his closest friends he understood it was difficult for them to believe he’d actually risen from the dead. When they finally got it, he said, “You have the advantage of standing here looking at me, listening to my voice, touching me. What about after I’m gone? It’ll be much harder for them. I’ve reserved special blessing for those who believe in me.”

The girls and I agreed he was talking about us.

So, if we’re willing to take God at his word, to believe he’ll lead us, answer our prayers and help us with decisions, he’s going to give us extra perks of some sort. Being singled out for God’s special treatment is a privileged place to be.

Tonight when I put my head on the pillow, instead of being grateful for a box of Kleenex, my gratitude will be for honest conversation with two hurting daughters. They’re looking for God in new ways as a result of their Papa’s death, which amounts to something good already coming from something bad. Tonight, the Lord gave us a peek at some of those special perks he promised.

”Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

My Prayer

Dear God,

You do all things well. Looking back over the last year, I can see your presence running through the weeks like shoelaces through the eyelets of a sneaker. As I moved up and down, in and out, you did, too.

A year ago this week, Nate’s dull backache escalated to piercing pain. The guy who had arrived home from work routinely at 7:00 pm for 37 years began walking through the door at 4:00, then 2:00, then noon. His pain dominated everything. Twenty-six chiropractic appointments didn’t help. Visits to back specialists helped only by giving him the hope that surgery would fix things, at least for a while.

But then they found the cancer, and we learned nothing could fix that, unless you did. But you removed Nate from this world instead, separating him from his physical agony, his business pressures and us.

I trust you 100%, Lord. Even on the days when my heart says it wasn’t a good thing, my mouth praises you, because you do all things well, even this. I know it’s too soon to understand, and my lack of knowing isn’t reason enough to say, “But this, you didn’t do well.” You’ve never made a mistake, which means Nate’s death was purposeful.

I look back to early summer and remember the process of starting the blog, not realizing it was you who named it and you who assigned it to me. I just wanted to practice my writing. You wanted to use it as a channel of blessing to others. GettingThroughThis.com is all yours. Yet somehow you’ve allowed me to partner with you (a junior partner, to be sure). You take my inadequate sentences and pluck words from the air to show me how to do it better. Yes, you do things well.

This morning when you and I talked, I was whining about the 24 books I’ve been given by precious friends, because I can’t read them all. I was expressing frustration at the many times I’ve been asked to go out with people who are lovingly caring for me, because I can’t go with them all. I was also bemoaning having to be on the phone too much, having to run too many errands, having to participate in regular life. And it was as if you asked, “So what do you want to do?”

As I’ve thought about that, I think my answer reflects that I’m in mourning for my husband. I wouldn’t have called it mourning, because on the outside everything looks fine. And when people say, “How are you doing?” I answer, “Oh, I’m OK.” But the way I desire to spend each day is not the old Margaret who loved to be out-and-about, loved to chit-chat with people, loved a full calendar and loved to have company. Maybe I’m cocooning or circling the wagons. Whatever it’s called, it’s a different me. The only answer can be that it’s my response to the sadness of Nate’s death.

He died 2½ months ago, and it still feels fresh. So you asked, Lord, what do I want to do with my days? Only four things:

  1. Talk to you
  2. Dig for biblical gold
  3. Write the blog
  4. Walk with Jack

That’s all.

Thank you for the word picture you gave me after our teary conversation this morning. (And I’m glad it was only me crying and not you, too!) I see myself snuggled under a warm down quilt, resting beneath the open windows overhead. The fresh winter air is sweet, and I’m warm. I asked you if this was a picture of selfishness, and you answered with Luke 13:34 where Jesus said he longed to gather his own people “as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings.” My picture is much like yours, except that my hen is a quilt. The hen feathers and quilt feathers, though, are really all you. I’m taking that scriptural picture as your “OK” that I spend these days backing away from doing regular life and instead concentrating on those four things. Thank you for hearing me and responding back so well.

I pray in the name of Jesus, Amen.

“They were astonished beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done all things well’.” (Mark 7:37a)