I’m sitting here staring at that title, and I am contemplating that word, strong. Am I, strong?
As I went through the cancer battle, and afterwards, I was told I was strong. Even as most only knew what they saw. They saw me accept the diagnoses. They saw me accept the treatments. They saw me deal with the effects of those treatments. They did not see, the person behind the curtain. The person who plodded on, stubbornly and with determination. The person who would have loved a moment of help, but would not -actually absolutely refused- to ask for any.
It is like a compliment, if it isn’t offered voluntarily and freely, it is not a gift but a considered obligation. So I stumbled, bumbled,, struggled along. And I made it through.
What made it more difficult, was at the very same time, my husband was looking for work. I was determined to help in the quest. I would go in to work, go for a radiation treatment, come home to prepare supper and then go online to search for places to put in applications.
There was one at work though, every day the plant manager would make it a point to come find me, to see how I was.
Every day. I was told I was strong. But… it wasn’t my strength.
When I got the call that my husband had been found dead in his truck. The truck was parked at a truck stop idling, he was on his bunk slumped forward as if he were tying his shoe. (It just dawned on me that if I am correct, and I’ll need to check, but my paternal grandfather was found the same way. Sitting on a cedar chest, slumped over as if tying his shoes in preparation for going to church.)
I had to face getting his body home. I had to face all the dozens of things one has to face on the death of a loved one. Family helped what they could, but when they went home, when they hung up the phone or ended a message, I was sitting here in a quiet room, out on a quiet porch, alone.I was told often, I was strong…but it wasn’t my strength.
On March twenty-seventh of 2020, I answered the phone call that informed me I no longer had a job. The statement the day before that I was essential, had been untrue. I was a boat whose anchor rope had broken and I was set adrift.
I found ways to get everything taken care of as far as unemployment, as far as handling the roll over of my 401K with the help of a wonderful financial advisor. The difficult part, was now the daily connection I had with people, was broken. I had to learn how to deal with the lack of a schedule. I had a freedom that I had never had.I learned how to make use of my day. I learned how to help mom and dad respectfully and allow them to keep their sense of worth.I finally realized that the comment that I would be called back to work, was as untrue as the comment on being an essential worker. I decided to go ahead and take early retirement so to be here for my parents.
The hard part has been the loneliness.I have been told, I am strong…but in truth, it hasn’t been my strength.
I know, where my strength comes from….
When I walked back into the plant where I worked right after having a needle biopsy, I knew. I didn’t have to wait for the results, I knew. I walked through the department where I worked, stood beside a box and whispered, “I don’t want to go through this.” Immediately, as clear as any conversation, I heard, “How dare you? How dare you not want to do this for me,, after all I have done for you?”I knew then, that what ever came, I was not alone. Even at my lowest, my most afraid, I wasn’t alone. Every day was a gift. Every afternoon when I walked to have that moment of peace, there was a different gift waiting. A new flower, butterfly, deer, something to remind me, I wasn’t alone. It wasn’t easy, but then life isn’t meant to always be easy. Our journey has difficulties. It is those, that are there to strengthen us.
When my husband died and as I fought to get his body home from out of state, the emptiness was tangible. The silence at times nearly unbearable. One night, just before sleep claimed me, I heard him call me. I shoved back the covers and started to get out of bed it was that real. Then I remembered. But as I lay back down, I was comforted. A couple of days later, as I was looking for a new dress for the funeral, as I crossed a parking lot empty of other people, I smelled the cologne he always wore. I looked around to be sure, I was alone in the parking lot and I was. Then there was the moment in the big box store when I looked up and inside the store, near the ceiling was one of the largest butterfly I have ever seen. I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t dealing with, I wasn’t facing this, alone.
When I found myself without employment, I felt as if I had been thrown away like yesterday’s unwanted trash. Slowly I began to understand that I had been taken out of that place, as a gift. I was given the time to learn and grow. I was taken out of a situation where my time was controlled, where later I was left exhausted. I may have been cut free from a scheduled life, but I was set free onto an ocean of growth and adventure.
I have always said that in faith, there is a difference in religion and relationship. I had a relationship with the Lord. But, in truth, at the time it was not as strong as it could have been as far as the deep understanding. The feelings of being close.Now, after countless conversations, a multitude of prayers, I have gained much, even as there is much yet to be learned. I understand, and accept why I was set free. Even as I still struggle on some things, I am getting better. For I know, it is not my strength, for I am weak, I am fallible, but He, is strong and He, is always with me. https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Strength-Of-God