I wrote the following post and immediately felt that it was perhaps my most raw and beautiful post yet.  I wanted Ryan’s consent before publishing it; he immediately supported me posting it.  I reread my post, and was again pleased with what I had written.  But in this post I feel vulnerable in a new way, so I’ve hesitated, letting this document sit in my “unpublished” folder.  The thought crossed my mind, perhaps this is too personal to share.  It’s been a week.  Today in my quiet time I wrote this:

What good is a closed book on the shelf – collecting dust?
(No use at all.)
And so I choose to live my life as an open book.

So today I share.

Better to Have Loved

 Yesterday, I faced her.  Fear, grief, loss, emotion that can’t be labeled; it just sits in the gut raw and real and calls to be heard.  I didn’t intentionally decide I was now ready to face her.  In a way she popped up; I guess my heart and soul and body knew I was ready to enter this stage of grief. 

 I’m almost done writing letters to my children for each year of their lives through graduation.  This has been an onerous project; daunting at first – so many letters to write, how much time to write them unknown.  But it is beautiful as I enter these moments of writing letter I find myself traveling time.  I feel so very present in the moments I am writing for and yet so very absent.  It breaks my heart and builds me up all in the same stroke.  It is sorrow and celebration intertwined.  With over a year of writing these letters I am well versed in the dance of hoping mightily for the future, preparing for the “worst”, and trying to live fully present joyfully in today. 

 Yesterday I sat down to write letters to my children.  When I sit with this intention the words spill out onto paper, tumbling without effort.  But, yesterday I sat and I was cracked open when what spilled out was raw, real, beautiful love of a different sort.  I invite you to come along the journey, as intimate as it may be, because this beauty is too marvelous not to share.

 I have a legacy notebook, a journal for keeping track of the letters I have written and ideas for future letters.  Upon my cancer diagnosis I jotted down a list of “plans” for my letters: letters to my children each year, letters to Ryan, writing out our wedding story….  There is always more to write about.  Number three on my list was “write a letter to my kids’ future mom and my husband’s future wife”.  It sat there untouched, not needing to be opened, until yesterday when I happened upon writing this letter.

 I wrote the letter- to my husband’s future wife, with tears falling; but I remained composed and did not crumble into a weeping mess.  I came home to my busy life, made supper with my husband then bid him goodnight as he left to play pickleball. I fell asleep in my daughter’s bed as she asked me to lay beside her at bedtime.  I awoke and traipsed to my own bed, ready to continue my slumber.  But my grief said, “we are not finished yet.”

 I began sobbing, crying.  The letter came back.  I put on the song that my husband recorded for me.  I grieved that I would lose this man, by me losing my life.  When he came home I was awake crying.  The words to explain my tears felt impossible to say.  He was patient and waited until I was ready.  I mustered courage and resolve, “today I wrote a letter to your future wife” I said.  “Oh” He replied, knowly, “I see”.  We didn’t say much, other than acknowledging the awareness of this potential reality.  We held one another.  Maybe, he just held me?  We said enough to know that we love one another in a way that we would never have imagined 15 years ago when we were married.  We are in this together and it is beautiful.  The trust and intimacy of bravely facing this challenge together is inexplicable. 

 By writing a letter to my husband’s future wife I realized how dearly I cherish my husband and desire the ultimate best for his life.  But I also realized I have moved through stages of grief.  These stages are not linear, but I have seen sorrow, and anger, and bargaining — oh to find the “right prayer” to say to God,—- and here I realize I am journeying into something new.  It may be called acceptance. 

Luke 9:24 says:

 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.

 I am learning not to cling so tightly to this life of mine and this is precipitating a life-giving transformation.  Maybe this has helped me come to a place of acceptance?

 Acceptance.  Acceptance that I have been diagnosed with a life-threatening stage 4 cancer said to most certainly dramatically shorten my life.  Acceptance does NOT mean that I am giving up fighting to live.  Acceptance does NOT mean I am giving up hope.  Acceptance means the emotions have parted, at least temporarily, and I am able to see peace in the reality before me.  Perhaps this acceptance ought to be called “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Phil 4:7) Whatever we call her, I am being transformed.

 While I used to desperately petition God for my life, now its become a quieter request.  A steadfast knowing that God sees my heart and knows my desires.  A steadfast knowing that God is in the future, just as he’s been in the present.  A steadfast knowing that a simple, whispered request is as powerful as a mighty, emotional plea. 

 I believe in an Almighty God with power to hear and to act; but, regardless of what happens, I put my faith in Him and trust in Him as I walk out the remainder of my days – as many or as few as they may be.  I find beauty everywhere I turn.  I live in the beautiful of today because I do not know what tomorrow will bring.  My husband’s embrace, my children’s hugs and smiles, words shared between friends: these are no longer taken for granted. 

 I feel like the luckiest girl alive, to have been pursued by and fallen in love with my handsome, caring, wise, optimistic, and adventurous husband. 

Alfred Lloyd Tennesen said, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

 Oh how sweet the love I have for my husband.  That he has chosen me, feels incredible.  How sweet to know how deeply he loves me in return.  He writes me songs, what greater act of romance could there be?

 In releasing my husband to freely marry again, shall I die, I have uncovered the depths of our love for each other.  It is love incomparably beautiful.  We are journeying dark roads;  but we are hand in hand, and we have the beacon of God’s love to illuminate our path.

 Strangely, I have come to welcome grief and fear and loss.  For they cannot steal joy, they cannot steal love.  Indeed, strangely they have come to do quite the opposite: I find love and joy increasingly overflowing in my life.  I give thanks for today.  I give thanks for a God who is present in it all: fear and grief and loss and anger and pain and love and hope.  Most of all, hope.  And I remember,

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” I Cor 13:7 (emphasis mine)