An Air Compressor, A Screen Porch, and Hammocks: A pathway to healing —a grief journal.


Just another day on the calendar,

November 19, 2014,

A Wednesday morning-9:05

My world was rocked, changed forever!

The journey a person is forced to undertake when coming face to face with a life changing event includes a mixed bag of emotions! Everything from apathy, doubt, deep sorrow, and anger to paralyzing fear. Yes, lots and lots of fear! The kind that takes your breath away, that makes you unable to move, that stops you cold!  WHAT happens now? WHY this? HOW do I face a totally different, unplanned future?  WHEN will it be over?  So many questions, too few answers!

But an air compressor, a screen porch, and hammocks?—an interesting blend of items and places. How do they connect to healing when death claims your mate?

-the love of your youth and your life, your soul mate!

-the retirement partner, you were to travel with in a beat up RV!

-the nursing home companion, your fellow wheelchair racing competitor.

“Come grow old with me, the best is yet to be”!  Shattered in one phone call from a hospital chaplain far away.

So, an air compressor, I sold this prized possession after five and a half years.  Not even gonna lie!—I cried buckets full as it rolled off the driveway on someone else’s trailer! But it needed to go—it was a waste of a good piece of equipment gathering dust, accumulating cobwebs, and getting rusty as it sat in the back of his workshop! STILL it was hard to let go! I resisted the urge to get in my car, chase the guy down, declare NO SALE, and force him to return it to where it rightfully belonged.

(Seriously, you all know what I am talking about here—the I need a “bungee cord” feeling —like when your kid drives their car down the road alone for the first time, you feel an urgency to yank them back to where it’s safe! This is happening too fast—just one good yank, then everything will be okay)

Come on,  it’s an air compressor, I am an emotional wreck! Breathe, let it go! Then it hit me— keep taking that one step forward just one tiny step even when it is extremely painful.  Isn’t that how we journey through this thing we call life?— One step forward as you strive to live out your dreams? One step forward when you get married, have a child,  etc.  One step forward as your baby starts kindergarten, one step forward as she graduates high school, then college. One joyful step forward as she marries, gives you grandkids, works to achieves her dreams, goals, etc!  One step forward as you move 2 1/2 hours away from the place you called “home” for 53 years. One Step Forward!  ISN’t THAT LIFE?— the steps forward BOTH joyful and painful? Embrace them or begrudge them, but all of them will always be forward in their direction. That is the only way it works! God used an air compressor leaving my yard to remind me to keep stepping forward.  Joy-filled or sorrow-filled moments that say life goes on, step into them even if it’s a baby step.

Next, I have this wonderful screen porch connected to my garage.  It was constructed  June,1974!  Wow, I was 16 years old! It certainly has stood the test of time! Better than I have—in my opinion. It was one of the major selling points when we bought the acreage. Unfortunately, the last 5 years have taken a toll. (on both of us)  It has been badly neglected, honestly, it has been used as a storage space for all the clutter, useless garbage, and unnecessary junk I just had to hold on to.  Well, I gave the old girl a make over— new screen, new doors, and a good power washing. She looks terrific! Getting rid of the clutter, useless junk, garbage  etc.,—tossing it all in the dumpster was cathartic.  Well, I realized this old girl ( me )  has been getting a make over too .  Ever so slowly, all of the “grief” clutter, garbage, and junk has been getting tossed. It’s been happening for awhile I think, I just haven’t been aware of it. Truth, my personal dumpster has reached capacity! Time to dump it! Sincerely, this is the hardest part of my journey! Choosing to de-clutter my mindset and attitude does NOT mean I will no longer have heartache/ sadness when I think of my loss rather it means I will NOT linger in that dangerous place for too long. I must choose JOY!  I readily/gratefully admit that I need to ask others to help me choose joy. BUT mostly, I need a great big dose of Jesus daily to make that kind of joy happen. He is the ultimate power washer!!  When he washes the junk away. It is gone forever! Today, I Choose Joy and Jesus

And now hammocks!  My porch has two hammocks — his and hers!  Six summers ago was the last time I laid in “hers”!  But here it was the last Sunday in May, The breeze was a bit gusty, the temperature was good, the music (George Strait) was better, and the view to the west was inspiring.  I spent almost 6 hours in my hammock!  FINALLY,  I could be at peace next to that “empty” hammock. No longer running or hiding from the memories that bring both happiness and heartache. For those unaware, one of the worst parts of grief is that  “empty chair”, that one less plate you no longer set at the dinner table, that one less pair of shoes/socks that no longer need picking up, or that big, vacant side of the bed as the night closes in!  (Many nights spent in the recliner to avoid that vacancy)  The empty seats, recliners, bedsides, or hammocks—OVERWHELMING!  They are a stark, physical reminder of the empty spot that now exists in your heart, forever. People say time heals all wounds, WRONG.  This wound leaves scars, messy ones. Time can’t fix those, the scars become part of who we are!  Forever changed, forever marked by it all!  But co-existence between happiness and heartache happens somewhere on the road to healing. Time has nothing to do with grief!  So. “When will it be over? Answer: Never, it just changes! One day we realize that although the emptiness reminds us of loss it also reminds us of love. It is not about time, getting over it, or learning to live with it.  Grieving people have no time frame. 

Hammocks, who would have thought they were healers? When the memories of a life shared drew me back to “our” hammocks swinging side by side, I knew a great deal of healing had taken place within me.  When I can look at the now ‘empty’ hammock  swinging slowly next to mine in the afternoon breeze and think, “I’d Still Say Yes!” (like the old song says) with both tears and smiles, I know,  I just sense, that it is a “milestone moment!”  My moment. Our moment. Still sharing, just differently. He from one side of heaven and me from the other!  Until...that grand reunion when Jesus brings us together again! 

An “Aha” moment, an awakening that tells us “loved ones are never lost”!  So, in the meantime, my guy, lives on through shared memories, he lives on through our grand kids that were so little yet remember so much about their “fun papa“, he lives on through the adult/kid with the wacky, fun loving sense of humor just like her dad. AND, he lives on through me, as bittersweet as it may be I will never forget the joy of the ride!

Knowing everything, Babe  “You’d better believe, I”d do it all over again!”

Lessons from learned from the journey:

(so far)

1. Keep stepping forward - in joy or sadness -life goes on- stop/rest/step/repeat

2. De-clutter/remove the junk — Choose Joy and Jesus daily

3. Happiness and Heartache are able to co-exist. Look for/anticipate your “milestone moments”! As we remember, they stay with us, Always. Forever!


About the Author

I live in Gowrie, Iowa. We moved from NW Iowa (Hull) 9 years ago. My husband and I were born and raised in that little Dutch community tucked just 45 minutes from 3 state borders. We lived all our married life (33 plus) on 4.4 acres just 3 miles from our families. Moving was difficult but my husband insisted on being closer to our daughter and her family! A teaching job took her from NW Iowa to Central Iowa. We were barely settled — 3 years into the move when he died. Gowrie is a small town located about 1 1/2 hours north of Des Moines. I teach K12 Talented and Gifted Students in the local school district and coach some girls basketball on the side! I serve as a chaplain for my church and before my husband passed away we frequently did marriage mentoring mission work in other countries with a group called International Messengers.  His sudden passing from a massive heart attack at 59, rocked my world! I was not supposed to be a widow at 57!  But here I am almost 6 years later walking the grief journey and learning how to move forward!