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Meditations on Sarah’s Dying, Death, and the Future [6-24-16]


Friends:

As you might know, Sarah, my dear wife for 58 years, died this spring on April 2nd. The three previous blog-postings on this website appropriately convey much about her long-term illness and the wonders of her life. Being at Sarah's side, as she was slowly dying from her terrible neurological disease, was sad and dismaying and devastating. It has always been a fundamental conviction of mine that Sarah was herself an unearned gift to me by the grace of God. I trust she is at peace now, unencumbered by a suffering body and soul, and embraced by God's grace.

But I now seem possessed by a profound emptiness and incessant struggle to keep happy-memories alive and truth-bearing.

I am thankful for the many letters, cards, and notes—over 700—sent to me and our family celebrating Sarah's life and her inspiring gifts to them, even as they felt a deep grief and loss at her dying. It is also gratifying that so many friends have contributed to the endowment fund in her and my honor at Christian Theological Seminary

I now live alone in our cottage at Epworth Villa retirement community in Oklahoma City, under the extraordinary vigilance of Sadie-the-Schnauzer and my three daughters and many dear friends. But Sarah is not here; I was not prepared for the starkness of that irreversible fact. And none of her lovely photographs on the walls can bring her back. The unexpected power of grief and loss to confuse the heart and cloud the past and the future has been overwhelming.

And I am feeling my age—almost 80—with a strong sense of decline. After Sarah's death and funeral, my obvious fatigue and sagging soul led family and friends to urge me to see another doctor, perhaps a cardiologist. So I did so seek and find a cardiologist and after multiple machine related tests, he finally decided that it was time to go up through my veins to my heart and determine where and how severe its condition might be. His primary discovery was that a blood vessel in my heart was 90% blocked, but he, for reasons vague to me, did not proceed further to put in a stent. It took another month for him to put in a stent and it has brought marked improvement in my health. The future now appears brighter and more inviting, but still a bit perilous. I suspect that numerous among my website readers have already had that sort of heart problem and procedure and live with a measure of aplomb!

I hope the posting of this blog will empower me to resume sharing my thoughts and appraisals of church and world. This little poesy below expresses some of what I am spiritually struggling with these days.

 

How to weep without despair.

 How to live with a hope that is sheer gift.

Challenge and gift; gift and challenge.

Might that be the power and way of grace?

 

More in time to come, God willing. Prayers always welcomed.

 

Peace, Joe


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Reader Responses


Bill Blue Eagle McCutchen

responded on 06/25/16

I am grateful to you, Joe.  For sharing your profound thoughts & your profound humanity.  True incarnation of the Creator!

Kent

responded on 06/25/16

Joe
I’m simply happy to see even a word of sadness from you as the absence of your voice leaves concerns about the worst to fester.  And of course it is not just sadness and loss.  As always, with you it is suiting up for challenge.  This one is and had been immense for you and all the rest of us who love Sarah.  Glad you sought medical help.  I have not dealt with blockages but had an ablation 4 years ago to correct Wolfe-Parkinson-White syndrome and some atrial fibrillation.  The common thing here is the slow, but irreversible rise in energy level.  It is good to have all your best self when engaging grief and the newly energized principalities and powers that seek our discouragement.  Please know how important it is for me and hundreds others for you to be suited up for all that lies before us.  Peace and love.

Don Bohlcke

responded on 09/26/16

Dear Joe,

Having experienced the unbearable and dispiriting loss of a spouse, I journaled a note some 22 years ago:  I titled it “Memories”

The coffee cup from Hawaii, the Indian pottery from the Pueblo in New Mexico, the painting from the art festival, the gift from Christmas last, shoes on the patio, a tree we planted together, music we loved, the empty bed, all bring flashes of memories, wonderful times, precious moments, laughter, fresh breezes, beauty, things in progress, life at its best. 

Now they bring tears, uncontrollable tears.  Once those things created by precious moments had power to elicit only the most wonderful of feelings.  Now a glance, a thought, a fleeting image; and deep, empty sorrow erupts. 
Must we forget the memory to lose the pain?  Can we ever again recover the past for what it was, rather than what it presently seems to be?

Reason tells me the day will arrive when she will bring back the laughter, the love, the preciousness of those moments, when we can stand again on the beach in Hawaii, or on the patio, and see the beauty, hear the laughter, and without tears know that all memories are good to those who choose to live life at its best.

Oh cursed memories, bless of again.

Joe, I can affirm that day will come.  Slowly, with many tears, but it did come for me.  I pray the same for you.