Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sweet"er" and Sour

First of all, Merry Christmas! This Christmas season has been surprising in so many ways. It has been a roller coaster for sure. Last year seemed so much easier than this year. As I continue to walk and grieve over missing Mike so much, I realize that I have really changed as a person both inside and out. The outward appearance is easy to talk about. I put on extra weight that I didn't need in the few months leading to Mike's heavenly homecoming and also in the year after. But I have managed to make a change and lose some of that weight over the past 4 months or so. I see that as a positive change. The inside is a little harder to explain - moments and things are just more treasured and sweeter.

I truly praise God for moments with Elizabeth. Everyday moments and things like when she grabs my hand to hold during church or when we lay in bed talking about the day. They are just gold to me. I pray almost as much as I breathe. I pray for friends, for strangers, for moments, for guidance, for strength, for family, for direction, and for comfort. I pray for those who are stuck in the hospital this time of year. I have stopped strangers in Walmart and ask about their injuries. I am more aware that life is far from perfect and people are suffering and struggling. Ironically, I find life sweeter because of what I have been through. I don't take good things for granted and I hurt more for others than I have ever done in my life.

Now, on the opposite end, this Christmas season has had more moments of sour than last year. I will admit that I have found tears easier to come by. For instance when Elizabeth is playing Wii and she exclaims, "Mom, Dad and I are running together (Mike's Wii Person he created)!" or "Dad's really good at Tuba (again Wii Music)". I miss him. Elizabeth has had some great recognition moments this fall at school and with her music. I miss sharing those proud parent moments. Elizabeth has needed help with Geometry and I miss his incredible teaching ability. I have made some financial mistakes and I miss his financial practicality. The list goes on and on.

But God doesn't let me dwell in my moments too long. He produces great stand in's to help ease the pain. He has given us family and friends that show up to cheer Elizabeth on and provide the warm fuzzies during those accomplishments. He has provided special deacons at our church to check in on us and ask what help we need. He has provided a great tutor for Geometry that is not only from South Dakota, but has ties to the AF. He has provided a friend that is a financial planner to help me mop up my mess.

Finally, God has places some interesting people and organizations in my path this month. I have placed a call to TAPS and I think I have found a place that can help me in ways I haven't been able to find. TAPS is the Tradegy Assistance Program for Survivors. A dear friend, Norma, signed me up about 4 months ago and I finally gained to courage to call about a resume' question. Anyway, I got a call from a fellow military widow and she got it. She is the first person who really got me, got my situation, and understands all the mental "mess" that makes up my grief. Truly, at this time, it is the best Christmas blessing this year.

I can't end this update without saying again how much I love each of you and how thankful I am for everything you have done since the word "cancer" entered our lives in September 2008. May God fill you with his richest blessings and shower you with His peace and unconditional love this Christmas Season!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Summer ends.... last year of Middle School Starts

School started today and this is a picture of our beautiful 8th Grader. Elizabeth is the best gift God could ever give Mike and I. I absolutely hate that Mike is in heaven and not here with us. BUT, I thank God every day for her. She does things all that time that are Mike. She thinks like he thinks and processes things the same way. She will say things some time and I will turn and look at her because it is exactly something Mike would say. She still has his feet, his walk, and his ears. It is a special gift because while Mike is with Jesus, truly part of him is still here with me.

Elizabeth has been very busy this summer. She went to band camp, church camp, the beach, and earned her first 3 hours of college credit at SMU TAG program this summer. We topped it all off with the vacation of a lifetime to Europe. We flew to Germany and spent two weeks with Jeff and Wendy touring Paris, Normandy, Rome, Naples, and Pompeii. It was incredible. The best trip I have ever taken. So when I got home, I really wrestled with it. The trip provided happiness, joy, education, wonder, great food, laughter, great weather..... and all that happened without Mike. I known I have progressed in my grief in that I am not devastated that I did it without Mike. I thank God for that.

Honestly, the tears and sadness got so hard that I finally went to the doctor and got an antidepressant. I couldn't help it. It wasn't a magic grief erase pill, but it stopped me from crying at the mention of his name. I don't regret it and I am not ashamed to admit it. It is hard to process how time is going on and things are happening without Mike. But we are doing better... not perfect but better.

I am still not working, but feel stronger about that transition in my life. More importantly, I think Elizabeth is stronger to handle that transition than a year ago. But I am still praying on direction and I would appreciate your prayers.

As of think of this journey, I thank God for each and every one of you. As I have said before, you have carried me when I couldn't walk, breathe for me when I didn't think it was possible, smiled for me when my heart was in shattered pieces, and prayed for me when I couldn't form the words in my darkest depths. I truly love you and most of all love my Lord Jesus who has never left us and continues to provide in ways that are miraculous and intimate.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Happy Anniversary Mike

Dear Mike,

Words can't explain my feelings today. Oh, how I miss you! Life is so different and it just doesn't see possible that the world can go on with out you. 19 years ago, one hot day in Texas, I walked down the aisle. I can still see everything like it was yesterday. It was the best decision I ever made to say yes to your proposal. Remember how nervous I was? You were holding my hand and rubbing it with your thumb to get me to stop from shaking!

Our journey together was incredible right from the start. How is it possible that two people can be so right for each other. That is probably why I miss you so much now. You balanced me in every way.

Elizabeth has gone to band camp this week with her dear friend Abby. She played a big softball tournament this weekend. I had to pull her from their last game in order to get her to auditions in time. (We made it with 5 minutes to spare). The team was losing and she was mad and upset. She said Father's Day is a bad day to play softball anyway and she missed you so much. All I can do is agree with her. But guess what we did that morning to celebrate? Do you remember when Elizabeth was around 2 and I took my first girls weekend to Fredricksburg to scrap book with the women from Godsquad? I called to check in on you and Elizabeth. You had said everything was going great by Elizabeth wasn't eating. I asked you what you gave her for breakfast. You replied, "I made her on large pancake, put a fried egg on top of it and then put syrup on it." I laughed so hard! What toddler likes to food to mix or even touch on a plate? You explained to me how good it was. Well, in your honor, we made blueberry pancakes and poached eggs on Sunday. No they were not mixed together, but Elizabeth and I laughed as I retold her the story.

We are trying, Mike. It is not the same anymore, but we are moving. I think you would be proud. Can't wait to see you again!

All my love,

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Another Hard Season on the Horizon

Summer is here and so much is happening in our lives. For the second year in a row, I spent 4 days at Extreme Camp with the youth from our church at FBC McKinney. 32 kids accepted Christ and spending 4 days without phones, email, tv, technology is awesome. I love focusing on Christ and I feel like that is how I want to live my life. Even though, I am exhausted after camp, I am revitalized. We spend most of the day with God through song, lessons, quiet time, small groups, prayer... it somehow brings me closer to Mike as I know that he is doing something similar in heaven.

I think the longing for Mike will never go away. I think I have learned how to push down the grief and let life take over. But, there are moments when it catches you and you have to take a deep breath to gain control. We are coming into the really hard part of the year for Elizabeth and I. Father's Day followed quickly by our anniversary. These are the hardest days when our hearts hurt the most. So if you could pray for us, we would appreciate it and gain much needed strength from it.

Elizabeth has finished up her 7th grade year. It was more of a struggle than last year. She missed a lot of school, had weekly counseling appointments, but somehow managed to end the year in style. I am so proud of all her accomplishments. We were able to go the Dallas Museum of Art yesterday and she got to meet her hero Rick Riordan, author of The Lightning Thief, Kane Chronicles, etc. We stood in line forever and she got him to sign her two books that she brought with. She told him that his books were her sanctuary this year after her Dad died. He said something to the effect of I am sorry for you loss, but I am glad the books helped. I wish as a parent I could explain to him the depths of strength that she pulled from his writing. She not only read the books, but listened to the books on her IPOD. She feel asleep to them. She retreated to them when she needed to retreat. She used them to escape too.

At Extreme Camp the speaker really helped me work through some issues that I have had since Mike went to heaven. Here is my big revelation: My heart wallows so much in my sadness that it is taking away from my ability to move. God really spoke to me about moving in the past week and it is time to move. I have to find my life and my purpose now without Mike. I have to stop waiting for whatever I have been waiting for. I have to jump/take a step in faith/change. I have been frozen in fear at the top of the ledge for too long.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Finally, she posts!

A few more months have gone by since I posted. I know the shock and fog is wearing off as time goes by. It is hard to explain, but looking back, I am just more aware of my surroundings and able to handle more things than a few months ago. No, I don't miss Mike any less. Yes, I still find myself at times crying myself to sleep. But somehow I am just more aware of my senses.

In a way, the year mark made things more difficult and harder to process. I think I still was in the military spouse mode where you just do what you need to do to get through it. He will be back in 6 months, 9 months, 1 year... but the year came and went and Mike is not here. Words can't explain the loss I feel.

This single Mom thing is tiring. There are some days when you just want your help mate to go pick up Elizabeth so I can start dinner or finish the laundry or go to the grocery store. I am handling it, but our life has changed. I have a stock of frozen dinners, that we pop in the microwave. Laundry sometimes sits in the washer and dryer and therefore we wear wrinkled shirts. We drive thru way too much. I have set aside more money per month that I would like to in the "I can't fix that" fund.

Speaking of the "I can't fix it fund" this Spring has been crazy. Storms, wind, temperature swings. It finally got us and blew down a section of our fence. This coupled with a injured foot, bad teenager day, and a robbery down the street brought on the tears of frustration, loneliness, and fear. So I happened to ask a few of the guys at a Youth Meeting if they knew any fence repair companies. To make a long story short, I had 3 adults and 2 youth over here this weekend that repaired my fence for $10. It blessed me beyond words. But I have to admit, when I let the guys in the backyard, I went in the house and let the tears flow. I was so grateful and embarrassed at the same time. I need help, but I don't want to ask for it. I don't want to do this on my own, but at the same time, I want to be this strong person who can do this. I mean I am not some teenager. I am not weak. But asking for help makes me feel incapable and weak.

But it this weakness comes the blessing and knowledge that God is still here. He is still watching over us, blessings us, protecting us. My church assigned one of our Deacons to me. I didn't know this, but what a net. To know that I can call on the Ewings and they will do what they can is a great relief. The fear I feel is not from God. I am not alone, Christ never left me. I am weak, but am made strong in Christ. So we keep moving forward and I keep working on my pride. God place me here for a reason.

For those out there that still check in on me and this blog. Thank you. For those out there that still pray for us, please keep praying. Thank you to my church (both local and everywhere) for everything. I don't know that it is possible for you to know how you carry me!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Stuff.. how much of our lives to we spend wanting stuff, changing our stuff, buying stuff, envying others stuff. Mike would fall into the category of "minimalist stuff enthusiast" for sure. When we married, EVERYTHING he owned fit into a two door Geo Metro and that included a large TV. Even so, all of Mike's stuff is still here. Mike is not. I wish it was the other way around.

So after Mike went to heaven, some of the stuff that I really wanted to clear out quickly was his medical stuff - wheelchair, iv poles, medicines, etc. I didn't (and still don't) want to remember Mike sick. I want to fill our lives with memories of him laughing, healthy, and doing what he loved. The story I am about to tell can only be a visual of how God truly does move on this earth and has a plan for things far beyond our vision, our imagination, and even our national boundaries.

After Mike passed away, I had in my refrigerator thousands (literally) of dollars worth of Neupogen and other drugs. At one point, I saw on a medical insurance bill that the Neupogen was billed at $1,000 per shot and I had 15 left. Neupogen is one of those miracle medicines that has come along to increase the white blood cell production in your blood. That is very important to a cancer patient. Chemotherapy can kill white blood cells and without white blood cells even the common cold can kill you. I tried for a long time to give them away to people that might be able to use them. I was not going to throw them away. Every time, I would come up empty and they just sat. At church, I ran into Dr. Armstrong who not only treated Mike twice in the emergency room, but also leads a Medical Mission Trip to Africa each year. We actually have things in common like our daughters play the oboe together in band and his wife led the summer musical that Elizabeth was in two years ago. We don't run in the same circles, but cross paths all the time. Anyway, I asked him if he could use some of Mike's medical supplies. So he came over one afternoon last year and went through all the medications and supplies with me. We dumped some and he took others. He left the Neupogen and went about researching if they could use it in Uganda and then how to transport it 20 + hours and keep in cold with all the other medical equipment and supplies he took over there. He was able to take them and Dr. Armstrong told me he would take pictures and get them to me. I didn't need them. I knew God had a plan for them. I had tried so hard to give them away here, and things seems to fall into place so quickly and easily for them to go to Uganda.

Today, Dr. Armstrong called and said he finally had the video and pictures for me. I was grateful, but honestly had forgotten about it and wasn't expecting what I saw. I literally cried when I saw it. in the video, when he hands the neupogen over and they talk about the milligrams and the eyebrows of the lady raise up... now that is "stuff" that is more than stuff..

Paul Harvy would always say "now for the rest of the story" and it would be cool to tell you about a patient that used it or something like that. But Faith is believing in what you don't see. My faith tells me God used it for a His glory.

I BEG of you to click on this link and scroll down to the bottom of the page and watch this video and then comment and tell me if it moved you the way it moved me!

Friday, March 4, 2011

And it's here... One Year

One year tomorrow. One year. What I wouldn't give for one more moment with Mike. To say that we miss him doesn't even come close to expressing the yearning we have for him everyday. I still don't understand how Mike got cancer so fast and so deadly. Even though it has been 2 1/2 years since Mike got cancer, it doesn't seem that long. It is one of those moments that defines your life. Marriage, birth, salvation, cancer, death....

I have to laugh at my last blog. I felt so strong and so ready to just go. Then the regression happened. Honestly, Valentines Day was the worse. I wanted to shrivel up that day. Our church has been focusing on marriage and that is a heavy blow as well. The last few weeks, my emotions were as out of control as ever. If someone happened to mention Mike, marriage, ask how are you, the tears would just flow over. It really is just a constant pain, sometimes dull sometimes sharp, that you just learn to live with.

Yet, it occurred to me that as much as we miss Mike, it is like a LONG deployment. It never occurs to Elizabeth or I that we will never see him again. It is just going to be a long time before we see him again (God willing). This may sound weird, but that is comforting. I can't imagine grieving without the hope of eternity with Christ. Heaven is a real literal place. No, it is not floating on clouds. It is vibrant and full of life. Honestly, I don't fear death because Mike is there. Christ is there.

One year later, the paperwork is almost put to bed. I was able to get the VA to adjust the DIC payment (they forgot to add Elizabeth) and now all I am waiting is for DFAS to catch up to that. That should be handled shortly. So, really all i's are dotted and t's are crossed...

One year later, it feels very lonely sometimes. It is hard. I am still good at the "everything is great" face. I still love and drink in every moment when people visit or call or write.

One year later, Elizabeth is good at the 'everything is great" face, probably better than me. She is excelling at school, involved at church, doing great in band, and developing closer and closer friendships. She is also working it out with God, which brings me the greatest joy and peace. She misses her father more than probably I even know. He had a way to stretch her, challenge her, listen to her, engage with her that I can't match (nor could he match my ways with her either). But Mike is her foundation and that will never leave her. I thank God for that.

One year later and I wish there was a big red EASY button to push. For me and Elizabeth, I know it is going to take more than one year to be ok or "get over it" as some might think. But in my mind, Mike's loss is more than your average. He was so much more. He was Mike, my beloved husband and the "best Dad ever created" to Elizabeth. And because of that, Elizabeth and I have decided not to mark tomorrow. We are not going to mark his death, but celebrate his life and his legacy by living as we normally would.

One year later, now what? I still don't know. I still pray for wisdom, for a job that fulfills me, for parenting skills, for health, and to continue to know Christ in ways that I have never known.

Friday, January 7, 2011

2011.. A New Year

New Years Eve... 10, 9, 8, 7... how is it possible to think so many thoughts in so few seconds. To leave 2010 behind was both good and bad. The good is the Hope that comes with every new year. To change things, to improve things, to start again. Yet, as I tried to hold back the tears it also meant leaving so much more than just a year. In a way, I am leaving Mike. I am going forward without him. I have to change what I thought was my future and help Elizabeth and I develop a new one. I was thinking one day about my future job and assessing my financial need for this imaginary (as of now) job. It was weird. Before cancer, I always planned with retirement in mind. We talked about places we wanted to go, places we might want to live, how many grandchildren we hope to spoil. All priceless things and moments because it was our dream together. So now as I am thinking what I need to save for the future, I stop and pause.. and actually stop thinking about it because it hurts to much to let go of those dreams that we had together. When you lose someone so precious to you, your loss is so much more than the person. You lose those plans, those dreams, those moments.

6....5...4...3 take a deep breath. Now it is time to accept reality. I am here now because I fell for Mike Phillips heart and soul and that I would not change. If I had somehow been given the vision of these last 2 years before we got married, I would have still said, "I do". The ride, the love, the moments, our daughter, our life... all worth it.

2...1... 2011 is here. Time to move forward and honor Mike. While Mike is gone, he left his heart, soul, and love here with Elizabeth and I. Elizabeth does things everyday that are so Mike. I can hear his voice cheering us on. Time to pull it together with Christ's help!