Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day, Sweetheart

For the first few years of marriage, my husband and I followed all the usual traditions, but as we aged, we found other ways of saying, “I love you.” 

When he repeats the same story, I listen as if hearing it for the first time. I make the bed, cook his favorite foods, and clean the kitchen without complaining. When he leaves his used napkin beside his chair, I pick it up without announcing it. 

We both take turns getting up with the puppy and letting the other one sleep. One of us offers to do the chore we both hate — with a smile. We don’t say cruel things when we’re angry and think the best when it looks the worst. 

The list goes on, encompassing a lifetime of little things that all add up to one big, “I love you.”
As the marriage vows state, we love and cherish each other through lost jobs, health challenges, forgetfulness, and sometimes feeling taken for granted. 

Words are important too. I tell my husband I love him, admire him, respect him, and appreciate all the things he does for our welfare. I say it often, not just now and then. He tells me the same. We are a partnership, built on mutual respect and admiration for the other’s abilities and contributions. 

Today we won’t go out to dinner. We’d rather eat at home, away from the crowds. We
won’t exchange cards. Instead, we will restate our love in the kitchen over coffee. We will spend the day doing our usual things, peppered with touches, kisses, and long conversations. For us, Valentine’s is every day.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Why, O Why, Can’t I?

It started with the birth of my first son. My brother died of SIDS when he was three months old, and for whatever reason, I became terrified that my son would die at that age too. I didn’t sleep, slipping in out of his room every hour checking for breath. After he survived those first three months, I relaxed, certain the danger had passed. 

But another fear took its place. 

I’ve written about my ex-husband’s abuse before, so I won’t go into any details. However, the residual fear, which I now understand is a form of PTSD, will never completely go away. I will always suffer from occasional flashbacks, nightmares, and panic attacks set off by certain triggers. Bullying is one of them. I vowed once I escaped from that environment that no one would ever threaten or abuse me again.

This last week, a scene in a movie triggered a flashback. Videos of some protestors assaulting pedestrians, torching cars, and destroying property brought on nightmares. The verbal bullying on social media, even though not aimed directly at me, inflamed panic attacks. I couldn’t sleep. I panicked at the thought of going outside. It took tremendous strength not to curl in a corner and sink away to a dark, quiet place where I could escape the terror.

God met me in that pit. He sent my husband to listen, to comfort, and vow to protect. He gave me encouragement through scripture in my daily devotions. 

Psalm 27: 1: “The Lord is my light and my salvation, of whom shall I fear? The Lord is the protector of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?”

Gradually, the nightmares, panic attacks, and flashbacks dissipated — for now. They’ll be back when another trigger strikes.

This morning another fear replaced the one I had just conquered, one that happens too often. I lay beside my husband listening for his breathing and watching for the rise and fall of his chest. 

After losing two husbands to early deaths, I know the pain and sorrow of being a widow, and understand it is likely to happen again. My husband is nine years older than I am and although it certainly isn’t a guarantee he will pass away before me, it is a reasonable probability.

My morning devotions listed Psalm 23:4: “Though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evils, for thou art with me.” 

He will be with me, and just like in my favorite song all my fears will melt away, over and over again until I fly from this earthly home to my heavenly one, where there is no sorrow, pain, or fear.