In this spot a couple weeks ago, I identified four ways - in addition to God's ever-presence and unconditional love - God provided for Honey and me during her illness and since her death in March 2015.
You may remember the first and primary provision was simply who Honey was. The second was the unbelievable support system - our Herd - of friends and family, people we knew and some we still have never met. This third stanza speaks to all the writing she and I have done the past three years.
Nearly fifty years ago, a cousin and I were sharing ongoing experiences from our respective college campuses, and I distinctly remember him reporting that his journalism class required that he write a piece every day. Apparently, that nugget impressed me mightily because it's the only thing that stuck. To have to sit down every day and write something, anything worth anyone's reading, sounded awful. I was glad all over again to be studying music - performing it, not writing it.
Day 5 into our cancer journey and seeing the flood of phone calls and messages I was trying to manage, our daughter Weslee suggested we set up a Facebook page - a central site to keep concerned family and friends updated with current and correct information. Thus began our writing.
The Facebook page began as informational only, each post intended to last a day or two when it was replaced with something new to report. But as we wrote on, our updates seemed to evolve into something more, something larger than specifics of Honey's condition and our dealing with it.
For short periods of time through our married life, Honey kept a journal, usually part of a Bible study group assignment. But, journaling has never been a part of my Bible study group or routine, so I never have. Looking back though, our Facebook updates - nearing 350 by now - acted like a journal.
Doing all that writing was one of the absolute most helpful things for us. It was pivotal for our new journey, not from informational or relational standpoints - although both were important - but more for its therapeutic and cathartic value to both Honey and me. It allowed us a vehicle and discipline to express our feelings, fears, and faith. From the outset and just like a journal, we determined to be honest and candid - when things were bad, we said so; when we were afraid, we said so; when Honey was down; we said so. We wanted to be transparent and believable; no reading between the lines was necessary.
Many nights, there wasn't much to report, but we'd write something anyway. After dinner, one of us would ask, "are you going to write tonight or am I?," and whoever drew the short straw was up to bat. I always wanted her to write when she felt up to it because people wanted to hear from the patient rather than the caregiver. I haven't counted, but I think we each wrote about the same number of updates. The last one she wrote was about a month before she died. Each time, we'd read our update aloud to the other to be sure it was clear, that we had written complete sentences, and that information shared and feelings expressed were accurate. When people would respond with comments to our updates, Honey was always amazed that anything she wrote would be an inspiration to anyone.
Midway into her illness, people began to suggest that we compile our updates into a book. Yeah, right! I'm sure that will happen! But not long after Honey died, Tom McAfee, Celebrating Grace CEO and now decade-long compadre, called to ask if I would be interested in doing just that. What a gift that, too, has been! Building the book, some of the journey has been painful to relive, but recalling and writing it helped me better process the hard part, to make greater sense of it, and to put it all in better perspective. The book project has extended the hard part of the journey for sure, but it also has made me more grateful and joyful at the total journey Honey and I traveled together.
Bottom line, the writing routine and regimen helped each of us deal with our "stuff" and you can bet we both had stuff to deal with. Thinking, saying, and repeating something exist on pretty much the same level, but both of us found writing to reach and reside at a different level - higher and deeper.
I hope our writings, condensed and compiled in Notes from Susie: Choosing Gratitude in Life's Low Places, will be a blessing to you, and perhaps encourage you to consider writing your journey.
The book will be released May 21, 2016.