Trials, Tribulation and Loss

I am now beginning to realize the vast difference between trials and tribulations and loss. In this life we all experience trials and tribulations. It is, unfortunately, a normal and expected part of life. Although for some of us these can be quite severe and traumatic, for most of us they are troublesome, but not life changing. For instance, my wife Mary and I encountered trials and tribulations throughout our 54 years together. These occurred continually, but not continuously; that is, they were not constant, but recurring. As I have described before, Mary dealt with health problems all of her life, beginning in her teenage years and continuing until her passing into God’s eternal kingdom last December. These I consider to be tribulations, things that were disturbing and over which we had no control. We learned to live with them, however, knowing that God had control of our situation and would bring us through, which he did every time. Even her eventual passing away was a blessing in that she was finally relieved of all her maladies and ushered into a realm where sin, sickness and death do not exist.

As to trials, we also encountered many of those. Some were to be expected, as we attempted to combine two people with very different backgrounds and temperaments, as well as skill sets and interests, into a unified relationship know as marriage. Fortunately God led us in a way that proved to be mutually advantageous for both of us, and which allowed us both to utilize our gifts and talents to pursue our dreams and achieve fulfillment. In the process, however, we were presented with many challenges which required us to make sometimes difficult decisions and created trials of our faith and patience as a result of those decisions. Once again, though, God provided us with a way through them, sometimes bearing scars, but always ultimately with a deeper understanding of God’s will for us and a greater appreciation of his loving care for us.

Now in all of these experiences there was one constant factor. Mary and I always experienced these trials and tribulations together. The decisions we made were always joint decisions. And everything we experienced, we experienced together. The end result of each one was a deeper love and appreciation for each other and for God. All of this changed, however, when Mary passed away.

I am still trying to deal with the great difference my loss of her has occasioned. Unlike all of our previous experiences, this one is completely irreversible and final. I will never again see her, hold her or gain insight from her wisdom in this life. The thought of that would be unbearable if I did not have the sure knowledge that our relationship will resume when I, too, enter the eternal kingdom, although in different form. That hope somewhat mitigates the pain of my loss. But it does not alleviate me of my present dilemma. I must continue on in life, facing whatever trials and tribulations may come, without her companionship and support. I must make decisions on my own without her sage advice. The positive aspect of this is that I am learning to listen more constantly and attentively to the Holy Spirit and I am ever more aware of God’s never failing presence with me every moment of every day.

Nevertheless my loss of Mary has proven to be much more traumatic than any of the previous trials and tribulation that we shared. That has proven to be a vast difference.

Purpose

My understanding of purpose continues to evolve. As I have documented earlier, I have learned that God’s plans for me go far beyond my mortal life in this present universe. His long range purpose for me on this Earth is to prepare me for the role I will be assigned in the kingdom of God on the new Earth when he “makes all things new”. That purpose never changes. Also, since I became a part of the Body of Christ I am involved in God’s revelation of himself through the nature and actions of the Body. If we who constitute the Body of Christ on Earth conduct ourselves in the manner that Christ modeled for us during his earthly life, we accurately reflect God’s nature. If we do not, we sully his name and give the world a false impression of who he is. In that sense, our purpose is to surrender ourselves (our bodies and our wills) to God and to allow him to work what he wills through us. That purpose, too, never changes.

While I am still here, though, his short term purpose for me changes over time. When I married my wife and then became a father to my daughter, my purpose included providing for their needs to the point of giving them priority over my own needs. I confess that I did not always do a very good job of this, although my behavior in this regard improved over time. When my daughter married, her husband took over the responsibility for her well-being that had been mine. My responsibility for my wife’s well-being then became my sole primary responsibility. In recent years this required more and more of my time and energy as her health continued to deteriorate. My purpose in life centered more exclusively on her until her passing into the eternal realm last December.

Immediately after her passing, I was at somewhat of a loss for a time as to what my purpose was now. However, I have gradually come to realize that my area of responsibility has broadened to include more of the family of God outside of my immediate family. And since I now have more time and energy available I need to expend it in a wider circle. Although I do not yet know exactly what that will entail, I am eagerly anticipating God’s revelation of his new purpose for me.

I have had a most exciting and rewarding life up to now, but I firmly believe the best is yet to come. Bring it on.

Moving On

I am still trying to digest and assimilate all that I have experienced in the last few months. The one thing I know for sure is that my life will never be the same. I am moving on to a new phase of life that has yet to be fully defined, but promises to be exciting and richly rewarding. In the short term I am watching and waiting while God works behind the scenes. But when he says “Go”, I will be ready to start out again on the journey of life. (Praying for patience)

Celebrating Mary Harrison’s Life

At approximately 11:53 a.m. CST on Thursday, December 21, 2017 a sweet chariot, accompanied by a band of angels, swung low to Room 302 at Faith Presbyterian Hospice in Dallas, Texas to carry Mary Carolyn Miller Harrison into the presence of God. A joyous celebration broke out in heaven as she was reunited with her mom and dad, Willard and Mary Miller and her youngest brother, David, who had gone on ahead of her to assist in the preparations for her arrival. Jesus Christ, God’s Son, personally welcomed her and presented her with a heavenly tabernacle with an eternal lifetime warranty to live in, replacing the one she had been living in during her sojourn on earth, which had become quite worn and tattered. He also congratulated her on arriving just in time to celebrate his birthday with him in a few days. It was quite a party, even by heavenly standards.
We may not be able to match the glory of that heavenly scene, but we can nevertheless celebrate Mary Carolyn’s life as best we can. She was born on September 25, 1944 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where her father was employed at the MIT Radiation Lab, working on the first airborne radar systems. She was the third of five children born to Willard and Mary Miller, having two older brothers and two younger ones. At the conclusion of World War II Willard took a job with the Standard Oil Company and moved the family to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Mary Carolyn grew up, graduating from Central High School in June 1962 near the top of her class.
Growing up in a family of seven in a two bedroom, one bath home, with four brothers she learned early to contend for herself, developing a sense of independence and self-assurance that would serve her well throughout her life. When it came time for college, knowing that with two older brothers in school her family could not afford to pay her way also, so she took out student loans and worked part-time to supplement what little her parents could afford to give her while attending Austin College in Sherman, Texas.
Following her freshman year Mary Carolyn elected to spend the summer of 1963 in Dallas with the family of one of her Austin College roommates. It was during that fateful summer that I met her on a blind date arranged by my good friend and college roommate, who was dating the sister of one of her other roommates. We had a couple of rather uneventful dates that summer and, in the Fall, she went back to Sherman and I headed back south to Austin, where I attended the University of Texas. I don’t think either of us expected to ever see each other again.
Then, disaster struck! I was the president of the Austin chapter of my social fraternity and my date for Texas-OU weekend fell through at the last moment. This was the highlight of the year socially, and I was without a date. Then I remembered Mary Carolyn and, getting her number from my friend, gave her a call. There wasn’t much going on in Sherman the weekend of Texas-OU (not that there ever was) and going to Dallas for the big bash with a UT fraternity president was too good a opportunity to pass up (bragging rights, you know). But then the unexpected happened; we fell madly in love with each other that weekend and our futures were altered forever.
After burning up the road between Austin and Sherman for many months, Mary Carolyn elected to transfer to the University of Texas in the Fall of 1964. I had proposed to her in June and she had accepted. Then we decided to get married in January, between the Fall and Spring semesters. Our parents made it clear that if we did get married, we would be on our own financially after that. We accepted the challenge and were married on January 23, 1965.
We both worked part-time jobs the next semester and were barely able to make ends meet. So Mary Carolyn volunteered to drop out of school and work full-time for the next year so I could concentrate on my studies and finally graduate. The only condition was that I would allow her to go back to school after I graduated to finish her degree, and I readily agreed.
I did graduate in June 1966 with a degree in Aerospace Engineering, accepted a job with LTV’s Vought Aeronautics Division in Grand Prairie and we moved to Arlington, where she enrolled at Arlington State University (now the University of Texas at Arlington). She received her BA in Marketing the following June and looked for a job. When she could not find employment that would utilize her degree (she had been offered only administrative assistant type jobs), she decided to pursue a Masters degree, enrolling in the MBA program at North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas) that Fall. Once again she excelled in her studies and was given the opportunity to teach undergraduate classes as a Teaching Assistant. She found that she loved teaching at the college level and decided to continue on to a PhD degree, that being the requirement to teach at any major university. She finished all of her coursework for the PhD by June 1973 and began to receive offers from out of state universities to join their faculty. At that time the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was pressuring universities to hire minorities and women.
In the meantime I had been working on an MBA in Management and received my degree in June 1973. Also our daughter Jennifer Lynn had been born in November 1969. Mary Carolyn loved being a wife and mother and expected that we would remain in the DFW area where she could only find opportunities to teach at junior colleges (the major universities preferred to hire faculty from outside the area). God, however, had bigger plans for her. And for me as well.
And so our journey together began in earnest. After much discussion and prayer (and with the encouragement of our pastor) I resigned from my position at LTV. She accepted an offer from Louisiana State University and we moved to Baton Rouge. Thus began my second career in the construction industry and the first of Mary Carolyn’s ground breaking steps, as she became the first female faculty member of the LSU College of Business. While at LSU, she was selected as the Louisiana state winner for 1979 of the Outstanding Young Women of America award.
Nine years later she became the first faculty member (male or female) to be selected for the new College of Business at CBN (now Regent) University in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Her pioneering feats continued after we moved to Plano, Texas in 1985. She decided to supplement her academic experience with real world business experience by becoming head of the marketing department of a consulting firm in the telecommunications industry. She was involved with many of the major firms at the leading edge of the telecommunications revolution that brought us the Internet and the wireless voice and data communications in today’s smartphones.
After several years in that business, she returned to her first love of teaching, joining the faculty at Amberton University, from which she retired in 2007 and was appointed as Professor Emeritus. Having retired from her academic career, she became more involved in ministering at Grace Presbyterian Church. She was ordained as both Elder and later Deacon, serving one year as co-moderator of Deacons. She co-led a women’s Bible study and served on two Associate Pastor Nominating Committees. She remained actively engaged until the end of her sojourn here on earth.
Mary Carolyn struggled with health issues most of her life, beginning when she was in her teenage years, but she never let that keep her from living life as fully as possible. She loved to travel, to see new things and experience life in other cultures. As a result, we made travel a priority and had the privilege of visiting all 50 of the United States and over 60 foreign countries.
Because she experienced so much pain, she was acutely aware of pain in the people around her and always sought to share their pain with them and uplift them however she could. She loved deeply and freely shared that love with those around her. She always talked and often prayed with other patients during her all too frequent hospital visits (and with one of her nurses on a least one occasion).
In doing this she was fulfilling the commandment of her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who said:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”
And,
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.”
Mary Carolyn was diagnosed in 1990 with a fatal, incurable liver disease and told that she could expect to only live another two or three years without a liver transplant. She confounded the doctors by living another 27 years. She never got that liver transplant although she was on the waiting list for 17 years (recording yet another first). Each time her condition worsened she rebounded and astounded the doctors once again. She lived long enough to see Jennifer’s wedding to Brice Coleman in February 1995, and later of enjoying her two grandsons, Carter Harrison and Cooper Holt Coleman. All in all she lived a full, rich life.
It has been said that it is not how you start the race that matters, but how you finish. And Mary Carolyn was strong to the finish.
Finally, in December of 2017 she reached a point where she was tired of fighting her illnesses and was ready to go home. This time the trip to the emergency room was her last. She held on for over a week, and only after Jennifer and I had an opportunity to say our goodbyes to her did she breathe her last and pass into the presence of her Maker. As it turned out, she arrived at home just in time to celebrate the birth of Jesus with him in person.
Only then could she say with the Apostle Paul:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith;
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”
I want to leave you with one final thought. After he warned those of the church in Corinth against becoming arrogant and judging (rather than loving) one another, the Apostle Paul said;
“I urge you to imitate me.”
We would all do well to imitate Mary Carolyn and love one another as she did.

Mary’s Ultimate Healing

As I have noted previously noted, my  wife Mary struggled with illness and injuries for most of her life, beginning in her teenage years and continuing on a regular basis for all of the years we were together. But during that time God graciously sustained her and touched her often with his healing hand. And on at least two occasions she received what can only be called miraculous healings.  Here is the story of those in her own words:

“God has blessed me with two miraculous physical healings. The first healing occurred when my husband, Bill, and I lived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  I was diagnosed with Crohn’s, a colon disease, in 1976.  The doctor said there was no medical cure for the disease and prescribed a life-long medication, a sulfa-drug, to control its symptoms.  We turned to God and our church family for support, and they enveloped us with love and comfort.  Our pastor anointed me with oil and our church family laid hands on me and prayed for God to heal me of the disease.  Now this was a new experience for us.  We had never been part of a church that held healing services, or been asked if others could place their hands on our arm or shoulder while they prayed for us.   Although I wasn’t healed immediately, our prayers for the medicine to keep the symptoms under control were answered right away.  I was able to continue working full time, be active in the church and lead a full life.  The only downside to the medicine was that it could not be taken during pregnancy, and Bill and I wanted a second child.

After 3 years on the medicine, Bill and I still wanted to expand our family.  We prayed about the situation and I asked the doctor for permission to stop taking the medicine.  At first the doctor said no, but then he suggested a three-month trial period where I would go off the medicine, keep a written record of all symptoms of the disease, and avoid pregnancy.  Three months later I was able to report to the doctor that I’d been symptom-free the entire time.  That was 33 years ago, and since then I have not taken any medicine for Crohn’s nor had any symptoms.  Praise God.

Last week I had a routine, 5 year colonoscopy checkup and the doctor in Dallas said the disease is still in remission.  He calls it remission; after 33 years I call it a miracle!

In 1985 Bill and I moved to Plano and joined Grace Presbyterian Church.  In 1990 I was diagnosed with a rare, auto-immune disease called Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis or PSC.  The disease scars the liver and the common bile duct and eventually destroys their ability to function.  The doctor said the average life expectancy was about 3 years unless I could get a new liver.   By the next year I was having recurring infections, typical for PSC patients, requiring emergency hospitalization, high doses of IV antibiotics and the placement of stents in the common bile duct to allow it to drain properly.  To date, I’ve had 41 endoscopic procedures (ERCPs) with 37 stents placed in the common bile duct.  I’ve also had sepsis once and pancreatitis once as a result of these procedures.  And I’ve been on the liver transplant list at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas for 11 years now, which is longer than any other person on the list.  I still have PSC, but God has blessed me with 22 more years of life (so far) and a higher quality of life than is typical for PSC patients.

And now for the best part of the story about the second miracle. As a pre-transplant patient, I’m required to have an MRI of the abdomen every year.  In 2007 the MRI revealed a small malignant tumor on the liver.  After extensive testing, my team of doctors recommended against treating the tumor with chemotherapy, radiation or surgery.  They wanted to leave the tumor alone and let it grow.   Yes, grow.  The doctor explained that under the rules for liver transplantation, when the tumor reaches 2 centimeters in size, I would move from near the bottom of the transplant list to the top of the list.  The doctors monitored the tumor through MRIs conducted every three months.  The tumor’s size and appearance remained the same for six months.  The tumor was less visible after nine months.  And after twelve months, the transplant surgeon reported there was no tumor—it was completely gone.  The doctors cannot explain why or how the tumor disappeared.  And I’m still tumor-free today.  This was confirmed a few weeks ago after my annual MRI.

Although medical science cannot explain the disappearance of the tumor, I believe that God’s hand was at work.   God performed a miracle, not because I’m special or deserving, but as an answer to prayers lifted up by

  • members of the church Prayer Team who have anointed me with oil, laid hands on me and prayed regularly for my healing,
  • members of  WOW (Women of Wonder Bible Study Group) who have prayed for me and provided love and support for the 15 years I’ve been part of the group,
  • our pastors Bryan and Mark, our former pastors, our deacons and elders and Stephen Ministers have all prayed faithfully for me.

I’m so grateful and deeply blessed to be part of a church family that believes in the power of prayer, that offers healing services, asks God to perform miracles and wants to walk through the hard times with each other, as well as celebrate the good times together.    Our church family is awesome and God is good!”

These words were written in March 2012. Mary lived for more than 5 more years after that, extending her record stay on the liver transplant list to 16 years and her life after the initial diagnosis of PSC to over 27 years. In all of those years we continued to ask God for a complete healing of her body. And on December 21, 2017 that prayer was finally answered. She did not receive healing of her mortal body as we had hoped. But God gave her something better – an ultimate healing. On that day she passed from her mortal body into God’s presence where she received an immortal, eternal body that will never feel pain or suffer death.

Hallelujah! Praise God for his unending, immeasurable love and grace.

 

Our Journey Continues

As the weather has turned warmer and the rains temporarily abated, I have begun taking walks again outdoors. Recently I went to Beavers Bend Park here in Frisco to try out the walking trail. I thought the park looked vaguely familiar although I hadn’t been there since moving to Frisco last September. As I started out on the trail I began to remember that my wife Mary and I had walked here before some years ago following a visit to our daughter and son-in-law’s Frisco home while we were still living in Plano. As I neared the top of a hill I recognized the place where Mary had said she was tired and wanted to return down the path we had come up.

Mary and I had an exciting journey together for over 54 years as we documented in our book, “Spiritual Entrepreneurship”. We both had a passion for travel and adventure and we took advantage of the opportunities we had to pursue that passion. As a result we were able to  engage in successful careers in several different industries (manufacturing, construction commercial real estate, telecommunications, marketing consulting and academia) and in the process to live in several different communities in Texas, Louisiana and Virginia. During that time we were able to go places and do things that went far beyond what we had originally expected for ourselves. We indulged our passion for travel by visiting all 50 of the United States and over 60 foreign countries, experiencing wondrous sights, sounds, smells and tastes and learning something about how people live, work, play and worship in those different places. I am forever grateful that we took advantage of the opportunities we had while we were able to.

While at home we often went for walks that not only provided some exercise, but also gave us time to be together in a relatively quiet and peaceful setting and to talk at length about our plans and hopes for the future. In recent years Mary’s deteriorating health had curtailed, but not totally stopped, our opportunities to travel. Our last overseas trip was to Italy for a second time in 2012. Our domestic travel, however, continued through a trip to Mobile, Alabama and Pensacola, Florida in May of 2017. A planned trip to New York for September 2017 had to be cancelled due to our move to a new home in Frisco that month. Our walks also had been shortened, but not abandoned altogether.

After Mary passed away last December it took me a while to get back to a regimen of walking. And when I did most of it was indoors due to the weather. When I did venture outdoors again I started slowly, taking short walks around our new neighborhood. These brought back bittersweet memories, and I felt a deep sense of loneliness. Then when I returned to Beavers Bend Park and reached that former turning back point on the trail, I determined to go on alone this time to see what lay ahead that Mary and I had not seen in our earlier walk. I felt it was my duty somehow to forge on ahead alone. This time I made a more complete loop around part of the park and encountered some new sights. It was with more of a sense of resignation than of joy, however.

Today though, God awoke me to a new realization, one I had arrived at earlier, but had forgotten. Mary is no longer by my side to share the journey in the way she did for so many years. But she still lives in my heart, so she goes with me still nonetheless. And then I realized that I have the opportunity now to take her with me to places we had dreamed of, but not yet visited. I can take her with me to places that her tiring mortal body no longer allowed. With that in mind, I went back to Beavers Bend Park today and started out on the trail. This time I told Mary that we were going to places she had not yet been and see things she had not yet seen. And when I turned a bend  in a new section of the trail I was confronted with a path that stretched as far as I could see. “Wow’, I thought, “This path goes on forever”. And then it hit me straight between the eyes: The journey we are on does go on forever. The end of this mortal life marks the beginning of an eternal, immortal one. And one day in the not too distant future, I will once again continue my journey with Mary at my side, as well as my parents, grandparents and all those who have gone on before me. What a glorious thought!

Yet Another Lesson Learned from my wife’s passing

The stark reality of my wife’s passing has forcefully brought home to me the depth of meaning in Genesis 2:24

“This one finally is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh. She will be called a woman because from a         man she was taken.” This is the reason that a man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife, and           they become one flesh.

Let me explain. I grew up in one of the last vestiges of a bygone era – a three generation household. I lived for the first 18 years of my life in the home of my maternal grandparents, along with my parents and my younger sister. We lived, ate, slept, worked and played together on a daily basis. My parents and grandparents were my role models, as well as my constant companions, during all that time.

When my grandmother passed away during my senior year in high school, I was not devastated, because I knew where she had gone to and that I would one day see her again. I wrote this in the back of my Bible:

November 4, 1959 – Ada Colhoun, my grandmother, went to be with God this morning.

Eleven months later, during my freshman year away at college, my grandfather also passed away. Once again, I was comforted by the knowledge that he had gone to rejoin his beloved wife. I wrote in my Bible:

October 5, 1960 – Adams Colhoun, my grandfather, left this afternoon to join his wife at the right hand of God.

As much as I loved and missed my grandparents, I nevertheless celebrated, rather than mourned, their passing. Similarly, when my father passed away in December 1994 and then my mother in October 2005, I felt a sense of loss, but realized that this separation was only temporary and not permanent. I still shed a tear now and then when I remember my parents and grandparent, but I have never deeply grieved over my loss of their companionship.

It was a much different story when my wife passed away last December. Not that it was totally unexpected. She had battled a fatal, incurable liver disease for over 27 years. We both knew that death was the inevitable result to be expected, as it is for all of us. And I was able to rejoice in the fact that her struggle was over, that she was no longer in pain, that she was now reunited with her parents and that I would one day be reunited with her as well.

But the pain of my loss was greater than I had ever experienced before. I now realize that the reason was that a major segment of my flesh had been ripped away, leaving a gaping wound. That wound may eventually be healed, although that possibility seems remote to me at this time. However, a massive and painful scar will remain. All of this is the result of Mary’s and my having become “one flesh”. A painful lesson, but I now understand the meaning of that term.

And one other Scripture has also come into sharper focus for me now: Ephesians 5:28

That’s how husbands ought to love their wives—in the same way as they do their own bodies. Anyone who             loves his wife loves himself.

How true that is! Because she is part of his body, as he is of hers.

One More Lesson Learned from my wife’s passing

Upon further reflection, despite my grief over the loss of my wife’s companionship, I am beginning to appreciate that it was God’s gracious gift for her to precede me in passing on to glory. During the last few years, since the injuries she sustained in a fall in January 2013 and a subsequent fall in November 2015, both of which required trips to the hospital emergency room and admission to the hospital, followed by long and painful rehabilitations and a slow healing process, she had grown increasingly dependent on my assistance. She regained most of her mobility after the first fall, including progressing from a wheelchair to a walker and then to walking on her own, as well as being able to drive her car. After the second fall, although she again progressed remarkably in her mobility, her eyesight was degrading due to an unrelated condition, so she did not feel safe in driving her car and was less confident in her sense of balance when walking.

As a consequence, I began to drive her everywhere she needed to go and to hold her hand whenever she walked anywhere outside of our home. I became her almost constant companion and helper to the point of doing the laundry, the grocery shopping and preparing meals or securing takeout to bring home. Then, by the time we had endured the hassle of preparing our house for sale, packing, moving into a senior living facility and unpacking, her health had deteriorated to the point she once again needed a wheelchair. This provided her with sufficient mobility around the apartment, but I was needed to assist when we went anywhere else.

Finally, when she was hospitalized for the last time I was able to be with her every day up until the day she passed away. Despite my sorrow in being left alone after 54 years of experiencing life together with Mary, I now realize what a blessing it was for her to precede me. I am feeling lonelier than ever before, but I am glad that I did not leave her alone to fend for herself in the last days of her mortal life. I was able to be with her and see to her needs until she did not need me to anymore.

What a gracious gift from God that was. And I know that his grace will sustain me throughout the remainder of my life also. Praise the Lord!

Further Lessons Learned from my wife’s passing

Let’s face it; the grief that I continue to experience due to my wife’s passing is essentially self-pity over my being left behind. The more I reflect on the last few days of Mary’s mortal life the more I realize she was more than ready to move on to her home in glory. She had struggled with illness and injuries for most of her life, beginning in her teenage years and continuing on a regular basis for all of the years we were together. In addition she had fought  prejudice against her as a professional woman with a family from both religious and secular quarters. She felt there were few people who truly understood her strong desires for both career and motherhood.

In spite of this, she lived a long, full and richly rewarding life, filled with many singular achievements. In the end I believe she felt she had accomplished her purpose here on earth and had completed the work God had prepared for her. She had retired from her academic career in 2007, been increasingly involved in activities at our church and had just a few items remaining on her “bucket list’. These included seeing our Spiritual Entrepreneurship book published at long last in September of last year, followed that same month by our moving from our home of 33 years to an active senior living facility in close proximity to our daughter’s family. Then we closed on the sale of our home on November 21 of last year. She passed away exactly one month later on December 21. Job accomplished, work completed.

That she was ready to go home was evidenced by her statement to the doctors five days after her admission to the hospital yet once again that she “was ready to meet her Maker”.  That same day the doctors concluded they had done all they could for her and recommended we consider hospice care. Then I realized she was not only ready, but eager, to move on when she woke up on her last day in the hospital. looked at me and asked, “Why am I still here?” And finally, on the day after we moved her to the hospice facility she passed away very quietly and peacefully. She was there one minute and the next minute she was gone. What a way to go!

So when I reflect on her passing I thank God not only for a life well lived, but also for the ease of her transition to her eternal home. And I thank him for the privilege I had of knowing her and sharing in her journey of life for so many years.

And I am also beginning to realize the blessings God has in store for me now. I am able to participate more freely in the lives of our daughter and her family. I am living in close proximity to their home (it is only a 10 minute drive from my apartment), and I can attend more of our grandsons’ athletic events (which had become quite difficult for us as Mary’s health declined). She was remorseful about our inability to participate more fully in their lives, but now I feel her presence with me as I see them and feel that in some way I am helping to fulfill her heartfelt desire to be with them.

These new lessons learned are bringing great comfort to me and giving me a renewed sense of optimism about the future. I eagerly await even more lessons to be learned.

More Lessons Learned from my wife’s passing

I am beginning to learn that life goes on following the loss of a spouse. It will never be the same as it was, of course.  But being different does not necessarily mean worse. And I am finding new avenues to share the life lessons Mary and I learned during our 54-plus years together. Each new experience, including becoming a widower, provides another addition to the lode of experiential knowledge I have accumulated during my life, and opens up the way to another group (in this case, widowers) with whom I can share a common experience. Realizing this, I have come to welcome each new experience I encounter (whether good or  bad on the surface) as yet another opportunity to identify with others on a level that cannot be reached by anyone who has not had that same of similar experience. And so I am learning to thank God always for all things.

And then, upon further reflection, as I look back on my life with Mary I realize that without her companionship, support and, yes, her critique and challenges to me, I would never have had the success in life I have enjoyed. And I believe the reverse is also true for her. As the scripture says;

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17 NIV)

Although I didn’t always appreciate it at the time, I gradually came to realize the value in seeing things from a different (in this case feminine) perspective. All of the major decisions we made were joint decisions, arrived at after much discussion and prayer. And, in the final analysis, they proved to be good decisions, although some of them turned out much different than we had anticipated. Marriage, we discovered, is meant to be a venture shared by two equal partners.

After Mary passed away I wondered how I would be able to fill my time now that I no longer had an ever-expanding “honey do” list. But I am finding that my calendar continues to fill up with new, and often unexpected, opportunities each week. The challenge for me is to identify the best choice among the many good things I could do. I find this is driving me to spend more time in prayer, seeking God’s guidance each and every day. Not necessarily being on my knees for prolonged periods, but cultivating a more constant awareness of God’s presence with me and listening more intently to what he is whispering to me all day long. And the results have been very rewarding. I am experiencing a renewed zest for life and all that it brings with it, and looking forward hopefully and expectantly to even better things in the future.

Hallelujah! What a great time to be alive!