Saturday, October 22, 2011

How Do I Go On Alone?

It was the first year our son had gone off to college in a state an airline flight away. I was sad to my bones. He'd been home for Easter and had already flown back. I'd taken to my bed, crying. Jim tried and tried to get me to perk up but to no avail. I missed my oldest child to the point of depression. But Jim wasn't one to give up.

"Do you want to go for a ride?" he said. I told him "no." He asked if I'd like to drive up the coast to visit my parents. I gave the same answer. "How about going out for lunch?" Same answer. So it went, on and off most of the morning while I lay in bed feeling ever so sorry for myself. "How about driving out to the desert to see the wildflowers in bloom?" I shook my head no. "Come on, Sandy, you love flowers. I know you'll feel better if you get out of bed and get outdoors. You always enjoy yourself when you're out with nature."

He had me there. So I did as he suggested and although I'm not crazy about the long drive to the desert, I always enjoyed being with my husband and I began to feel my mood lift a bit. When we finally reached Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, we didn't even have to stop at the Visitor Center to inquire where the flowers were blooming the best. We just followed the line of cars. We had to park in a quite illegal spot so I could get out to take photos, but I didn't care. I was dumb-struck. I'd lived in California since I was sixteen. I'd been to the springtime desert more than a few times. But I'd never seen it like this.

I felt as though God had put on a spectacle just for me. Flowers everywhere, all kinds, all colors, spreading off into the horizon, over every nob and down every swale. I felt surrounded by beauty. And love. It was nearly too much to take in. Creeks seldom seen had sprung forth, their gentle bubbling over sand and rock teasing the air with a soothing song; gentle breezes cooling the back of my neck and pestering my hair out of place; a silly roadrunner passed by, looking for all the world as if it were trying to make the Olympic track team. Or outrun Wiley Coyote. Comic relief for an intense day.

Jim stood quietly beside me. His arm wrapped tight around my shoulder. His wisdom had worked. He knew me better than I knew myself. He leaned down and kissed my forehead. He always had to lean down. He was six feet tall; I 'm barely over five feet. We always looked like the giant and the midget but we cared not. I put my camera down, noticing I'd already shot a full roll of thirty-six and was sorry I'd not brought more film with me.

"Want to walk up Palm Canyon?" he asked. I considered that a great idea. Wild sheep lived up there and visitors often spotted them hiding out on the rocky ledges. I guess they were on vacation that day. We saw naught but birds and bugs and bees. By the time we returned to the trailhead and walked back to our car, the light was beginning to wane. I stood amidst the flower fields, making small circles as I surveyed the 180 degree majesty of the desert that day.

Nearly everyone was gone now and we had this perfect place to ourselves. "I'm not depressed anymore," I yelled over to Jim. He smiled that ear to ear grin that was only his. "I'm so glad you brought me here," He smiled again. I skipped over to where he stood by the car and gave him a kiss. "Thank you for doing this for me," I said. He nodded. "I knew you'd like it."

"Today is the first time I've really understood why God loves the desert," I said. Jim grinned. "It's beautiful, isn't it?" he said in his usual soft voice. He looked at his watch. "Want to catch a bite before we start home?" he asked. "Yep," I replied. "All this happiness had made me really hungry. Do you think Borrego Springs has a decent place to eat?" He smiled and gave me a big hug. "Guess we'll find out," he said.

They did and we ate. Jim drove home. Inside, my heart was singing. I still missed my first-born. But I had gained insight today into something I'd not previously understood about the Lord. I thought about it on the long drive back to San Diego. The mountains are beautiful any time of year. So is the Pacific Ocean. But only the desert, with just the right amount of rain at just the right time, puts on a spectacle by God's decree. It doesn't happen every year. Sometimes it doesn't happen at all. In my heart, I considered this year  a Command Performance created just for me. How fortunate were those who had gotten in on my ticket.

Author's Comments:

From the very beginning, Jim always had my back. When our first baby died shortly after birth, he laid his head on my hospital bed and wept to the point I wondered if he'd be able to stop. We spent a long time crying together and consoling one another, and then he picked himself up, made all the funeral arrangements, chose a lovely pink dress that had been a shower gift and delivered it to the mortuary. By himself he chose a tiny white casket and a burial spot in a beautifully kept cemetery and then made the arrangements for a family-only graveside service.

All without me. For whatever reason, the hospital refused to discharge me. Something about my being too unstable emotionally. As upset as I was with them for keeping me, they did allow Jim to come every evening  and sleep in the bed next to me. It was empty, they said. But if they needed it, Jim would have to leave. He stayed with me the whole seven days, never once leaving my side except to go to work and always coming to visit during his lunch hour. As upset as I was with the hospital, I have to say that they tried to make amends. There was never any charge for Jim to stay with me and sleep in the empty bed. I have always been grateful for that.  

The album
with my son's
baby photos
seems to be mis-
placed at the
When it came time for the next child to be born, I was having such a difficult delivery the doctor pulled Jim aside and asked him to choose who he wanted them to save. They weren't sure we would both make it. Jim was requested to sign a document stating his choice. He chose me. He told me later he figured we could have other children, but he didn't want to lose me. I'm sure that's the choice every man would make in that situation. Yet through our many years together, it would sometimes come to mind that Jim's love for me was so great he had chosen me over the child he wanted so badly. I also have to say that never were two people so spoiled with love as our son and me. And never had I seen Jim happier than with that little boy in his arms.

For some reason I
never understood, our
daughter hated having
her picture taken and
fought the whole
experience. Just look at
that face and you'll know
the truth of my
The third time around, the delivery was not as hard as I was expecting, though to say it was a piece of cake would be a lie. Unknown to me at the time, the doctor had pulled Jim aside after our daughter was born and told him that I must not have any more children. I wasn't built to have kids, he said, and it was only a matter of time before I wouldn't pull through. After I was back in my room following the delivery, Jim once again sat by my bed, telling me what the doctor had said. With tears in his eyes, this man who wanted a boat load of kids, took my hand and said, "Sandy, I promise you with all my heart that I will never ask you to have any more kids. I don't want to lose you." It was a promise he kept for all the rest of our lifetime together.

I say again: He always had my back. Whether I was depressed or sick or maligned or simply angry with another person. He was always there for me. Not once that I can remember did he ever try to get me to see the other person's side. Or to tell me that I was making too much out of so little. Does that mean he was the perfect husband? I don't think there is any perfect husband. Or wife either. Yet Jim was slow to speak and seldom lost his temper. Unlike me, the chatter-box who said everything that was on my mind and lost my temper at the drop of a hat. But that's another story.

I so vividly recall the morning I was making breakfast and our son, now a tall teenager, was in the kitchen, giving me a bad time about something or another. To both of our surprise, Jim popped around the corner, grabbed our son by the back of his shirt collar, lifting him partially off the floor and said, "Who do you think you're talking to? That is your mother and I don't ever want to hear you speak to her like that again. Do you understand me? Now you apologize." I think both my son and I stood there with wide eyes. Our son because he'd been caught and me because it was so unlike Jim to lose his temper. To this day my son, now into his fifties, has never again been disrespectful toward me. I think Jim put the fear of God into him that day.

It is in remembering those stories and more that there came the day when I once again set myself in Jim's big recliner, bible on my lap, tissues at the ready, and called upon the Lord for help. Jim had always been my protector, always shielding me from everything he could. Who now would take care of me? I asked. I admitted that I had been spoiled by love and while I am a capable person who has no trouble making decisions, I had always known that Jim was behind me, that I could count on him, and now that I was bereft, what would I do? I no longer have a husband, I cried. I no longer feel the security of his physical presence.

How do I go on alone? I sobbed. My kids are grown and have their own lives. My grandkids are mostly adults, with jobs and their own futures to tend to. I don't know how to be alone, I moaned. I sat in Jim's chair for a long time, pouring my heart out to the Lord, crying, sobbing, and asking for the help I knew I needed if I were to have any sort of life from then on. I told Him I felt as though I'd been dumped into an arid desert devoid of anything beautiful, an ugly, wasteless expanse inhabited only by things that slinked or stung or crawled or bit. 

I remained in that chair a long time. By then the tears were dried up and no more to cry. One thing I really did learn during this widow experience is that I really can stop crying. There are only so many tears and after a while, they cease. At least for a time. I felt drained to the marrow of my bones. It was then, when the sobbing was finished and my energy exhausted that it came into my mind to look up what God had to say about widows. I'd not done that before and had no idea what scripture said. 

I learned a lot in the next few days. I've been a Christ follower for most of my adult life and have always known He was there for me. Yet I also knew that the Lord gave us people with skin on to be our helpmates, our protectors, and our cloak of covering. I'd always known that to be one of God's children was precious in His sight. Yet what I found out is that to be a widow calls forth protection from the Lord that goes over and above anything I would have expected.

I discovered 129 scriptures concerning widows. I learned the God would now act as my husband, not only caring for my needs but measuring others by how they treated me. Nearly every scripture had "widows and orphans" listed as one, and it occurred to me that those are the people whose voice is ignored, for they are mostly invisible to the world at large.

God has promised the believing widow that He will defend her in every way. Psalms 68:5 says "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation." Deuteronomy 10:18 says "He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow..." In Exodus 22:22 it says "You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If you afflict them in any way and they cry out to Me, I will surely hear their cry and my wrath will become hot..." Psalm 146:9 says "The Lord watches over the strangers. He relieves the fatherless and widow." Jeremiah 49:11 states "Leave your fatherless children. I will preserve them alive; and let your widows trust in Me."

God's instructions to the church, as well as the world we must live in are clear. Isaiah 1:17 says "Learn to do good, seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow." James 1:27 says, "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble...In 1 Timothy 5:3,5 it says, "Honor widows who are really widows...Now she who is really a widow and left alone trusts in God and continues her supplications and prayers night and day."

I have long been aware of God's listening ear, his arms of comfort, and the fact that He runs to my defense. I've witnessed those attributes throughout my walk with the Lord. What I realized now was that without a husband to protect me, care for me, and defend me against all odds, God holds me closer to His heart, taking care of those things that had so long been Jim's scriptural duty to me as his wife.

Although I felt no different after my study of widows, I told the Lord that I was willing to learn. I've trusted Him most of my adult life and could honestly say that He had never let me down. Having God act as my husband was a new thought, yet I knew He always kept His promises, for Jim and I had always found him faithful. I prayed that God would bring me out of that awful desert I felt trapped in. That I might begin to laugh again. That I might have some semblance of joy in my life.

There are two scriptures that I've long loved. Both seemed so appropriate to this time of my life that I got my bible so I could read them again. Isaiah 35:1 says "...and the desert shall rejoice and blossom like a rose. It shall bloom abundantly and rejoice; even with joy and singing." And Isaiah 43:18, my particular favorite, says "Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert."

Only God could have known that years and years later, I would need the remembrance of that day Jim and I saw the desert in full bloom. Truthfully, I'd forgotten about it until the images stored in my mind began emerging and it was then I knew for certainty that someday my life will bloom again. I will keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how long it takes, to come out of this valley of grief and into a place of indescribable beauty. Knowing Jim as I did, I am certain that is what he would want for me. 


  1. I find your writing an inspiration. Your belief in God makes me feel slightly ashamed to have questioned Him. Thank you for reminding me of one of the reasons I wanted to be a Christian in the first place: finding beauty in the middle of a bleak Midwestern winter - or in your case, blossoms in the desert.


  2. Thank you for sharing this. Your husband sounds like an incredible man. I can't imagine what it would be like to lose my husband, but I appreciate your insights. Hopefully, it will help me to be more encouraging to the widows that I know.

    Thank you for linking this up to the Christian Women's Blog Hop! I hope you will come back and link up again soon!


  3. This blog is beautiful. Thanks for posting in my community. I'd really like to high light your blog to the other ladies, if you don't mind. Your strength comes through in your writing and I know many of us could benefit from that. Again thanks for stopping by.

  4. I need a box of tissue too! Thank you for sharing this special part of your life. You and your husband are a good example of true love. I'm sure he is so proud of you!

    Thanks for joining our vB ChristianWomen’s Blog Hop!
    Becky Jane