Today marks 6 months since Jack's death. I wanted to give you an update on what has happened since then. The first weekend in December I took Jack's ashes up to Iowa. My family and several relatives gathered at my home church for a little service. Jack and I had both known the pastor there for many years and he did a nice job with the inurnment. Our nephew, Micah, sang and it was beautiful. My brother, David and his family did so much to make the service so special. They prepared a hole in the ground in our cemetery plot for the box with Jack's ashes. They bought beautiful red roses that each of us could take an place around the hole. David spoke and shared such wonderful memories of Jack. They planned the luncheon. My sister, Darla and brother Mark were also there and really helped with everything. I was still so immobile from missing Jack that I really couldn't do anything. I felt so encouraged, supported and loved to have so many family and relatives with me that day. It was really a very special day for me and I had a certain sense of peace to have Jack's ashes in the cemetery at my home church. My sister and I had mowed that cemetery many many times when we were growing up. I knew so many of the people who were buried there. Jack knew a lot of people who were buried there. Our plot is next to where my parents will be buried. But it was a difficult weekend too. I hadn't thought much about the drive up. I'd done it many times before by myself, but this time was different. I didn't have anyone calling me to make sure I got there okay. I didn't have anyone waiting for me when I got home. Twelve hours in the car to think about Jack and my life without him was completely overwhelming.
I have ordered a gravestone for us. It will be installed this Spring. The woman I worked with at Forest City Granite Works has been so wonderful and so helpful. It's amazing how much the kindness of people during times of grief, stress or difficulty can make such a difference.
My life has been completely different since Jack died. I am told that it will get easier. I have not experienced that yet. These first 6 months have been filled with incredible loneliness and being completely overwhelmed by the decisions, the work, and just living each day without my husband, the man who I love, had lived with, and planned my future with.
So, I went through Thanksgiving without Jack. We usually go down to Winnsboro, Texas for a family reunion on Jack's mom's side, but there was no way I could drive down there so soon after Jack was gone. A co-worker invited me to her home and that worked out just fine. I was only there for a few hours and then I was back home again. Then came my trip up to Iowa and the burial of Jack's ashes. I pretty much tried to ignore most of the Christmas season. It was just too hard. I went to our Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at church and cried through most of it. I had a very nice Christmas dinner and time of visiting at our good friends Bruce and Laura's. I missed Jack, but it was good to be with caring and loving friends. I drove back up to Iowa for my family's Christmas and for the Gangestad Christmas on my mom's side. Both gatherings were a lot more difficult for me than I anticipated. It was very lonely for me to be there without Jack. I was glad to get back home again. But when I returned, I found our little Annie (the cat that loved Jack so much) in distress. A trip to the vet confirmed that I needed to let her go too. She slipped away peacefully in my arms at the vet's office. I cried through New Year's Eve.
Then came 2020. It's been more than I thought I could handle, but so far, I'm still standing. I weathered our wedding anniversary in January. Our dear friend Dean passed away the end of January. He was in our CORE Group--our Bible Study Group at church. I rode down to Tyler, Texas with Jack's brother Tod and his wife Kay in February to see Jack's mom. Her health had been failing and she had not made it up to Kansas for Jack's service, so I wanted to give her a chance to ask me any questions or talk about Jack. It was hard to see her struggling with her health and her grief. It was really hard for me to be away from home and I was very glad to get back home. Then Valentine's Day came and went. Then my uncle passed away and I drove up to Iowa alone for his funeral.
By then the country was talking about the Coronavirus and the precautions we all needed to take to keep ourselves healthy. We were issued stay-at-home orders in March. You may be experiencing or can imagine the incredible loneliness of being at home and not seeing anyone or going anywhere for weeks. I have made a trip to the store every other week. Jack and I would have been working on tons of projects, but I have absolutely no motivation or energy. It is a big accomplishment for me if I get one thing on my list taken care of. Abbie (our skittish cat) and I continue to make progress in our relationship. She is very strong and determined. It was always a two-person job to deal with her, but she and I are learning to work together. She has been a source of comfort for me these last several months. Then on March 27th, Jack's mom passed away. She was a wonderful Christian woman and I really loved her and enjoyed spending time with her. I will miss her and I'll miss spending time with her.
One bright spot during my time at home has been that my sister Darla and her husband, Woodie, come down and spent a few days with me and helped me get going on some outside projects. We rented a stump grinder one day and Woodie really ground out a lot of stumps for me. They did so many projects and I was so grateful for the help and the company. They came at a time that I was really struggling.
So, I've had some challenges these past 6 months. I know we all have--especially as our lives have been so disrupted by this Coronavirus. But I've also been so encouraged, and felt so loved through your cards, notes, e-mails, texts, phone calls, invitations and visits. I have wonderful friends who have come over to help me with various projects and the things that Jack used to do. Friends have been so wonderful to spend time with me and invite me to their homes or out to eat. It really means a lot to me. I am so thankful for our Church family, our CORE Group Bible Study, for our friends and family and for my counselor who has been a huge source of encouragement to me. As I thank God for you, I am also praying that He will see you through this unprecedented time in our world. It's a time of uncertainty, finding "new normals", isolation, job loss, health risks, deaths and so much more. And it affects every one of us. I am so thankful for God's promises and for His presence in my life. Even on my darkest days, I know that He is with me and that I am really not alone, even when I feel like I am. I thank God for all of you and I am praying for better days ahead--for all of us.
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