Pam The Encourager

The Butler's _ Fall 2012 (17 of 114)

I find myself in an antithetical dichotomy of disbelief (for those who know me well you will see the use of those words for what it was intended, a serious mockery of myself).  None the less… it is completely true and sadly accurate.  In the same instant I can’t believe Pam has been gone for a year and a half, it seems like she was here filling my days with laughter and security AND it also seems like it has been forever since I felt the warmth of her affectionate embrace or heard her kind words of loving strength.  18 months.  When she was here, I didn’t think there was any way I could live 18 minutes in a world without her and yet, here I am.

Lately my mind has thought often of what an encourager Pam was to everyone.  I was blessed to receive the lion’s share of her cheerleading.  She would constantly tell me that I was the most handsome man in the world, that I was the best preacher she had ever heard, that I was really smart… and on occasion she would even encourage me with the truth like, God knows what we are going through and we can trust Him or, in spite of how you feel right now, you did the right thing and God is pleased and I respect you more than ever and am so thankful that God gave you to be my man.

Recently I discovered some old letters from when we were dating and when we were first married.  Reading her constant encouragement to me in those letters made me realize that I must have been much more pathetic than I remember.  I must have been a pretty needy little guy because each letter was full of superlatives and hyperbole.  In reality, those letters said much more about Pam than me.  She was so full of the love of God, it flowed out of her in abundance to all who knew her, even to those who mistreated and hurt her deeply.  She still delivered God’s love to them; I saw it over and over again.

It is the absence of that encouragement and support that has made the last few months that much more of a reminder that she is gone.  There have been many changes, Houston is gone to basic training, Molli is in Illinois for her internship, changes at work, some hard changes.  With Pam’s counsel and encouragement we plowed through this life.  Now, alone, it is different.  Different because even though she is gone, her legacy remains in all who knew her.  Different because even though she is gone, God hasn’t moved.  My dependence on God’s instruction to direct my paths has never been stronger.

I will never forget those last days we had together.  We would talk at length about God’s plan.  We knew that her passing was in God’s plan.  We didn’t know why it was in God’s plan.  Neither of us struggled with not knowing why because we trust Him completely.  God is God and there is no one like Him.  He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.  He created all that was, all that is and all that ever will be.  He sustains all things.  He created Pam and He created Tom and He blessed us by bringing us together for 25 years.  He gave us 3 great children and wonderful supporting families.  God brought into our lives the kind of deep meaningful, familial friendships that most people live their entire life hoping for.  God is good!  God is great!  So when it was evident that God was going to call Pam home, the response was a natural one, “OK”.  God you want to call Pam home now, “OK”.

Today life isn’t as easy or as fun as it was with Pam here but life is good because God is good.  I think every day, “what is Pam doing right now?”  She is where she was created to be, in the presence of her Maker.  It encourages me to think how happy she is.  It encourages me to know that she doesn’t have to struggle with the garbage she had to deal with in this life.  It encourages me to know that she is with Jesus whom she loved.

Pam encouraged me every minute we shared together.  She is still encouraging me.  I miss her more completely than words could begin to convey, at least words written by me.  In humility I have to admit as excruciating as the pain I feel at the loss of my sweetheart, I can’t begin to understand the pain that Jesus felt and God Himself felt as they were separated.  Jesus left the presence of the Father to come to this earth and live a fully human life as God and to experience life as we do with all of its pain, temptations and sorrow and to be beaten, mocked, betrayed and ultimately killed by crucifixion.  But all of that, as bad as it was, wasn’t as bad as what followed.  Jesus took on Himself the sins of all mankind while hanging on the cross and because of that sin, in some unexplainable way, God the Father and God the Son were separated.  That is an anguish that I can’t begin to understand.  Pam would want to encourage you with these words, turn your life over to Jesus and receive His free gift of eternal life.

If this all sounds a little preachy, it is Pam’s final encouragement to you.  When we were talking about her funeral Pam was clear, she told me I had to preach it and the good news of Jesus had to go out loud and clear.  Pam continues to encourage us all.

How did she encourage you?

The Blessings Continue

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The 17+ months since Pam has been gone have been challenging.  Dealing with the pain and sadness seems, at times, impossible.  The natural desire is to plead with God to remove the hardship.  The reality that God has revealed to me through His word and through His Spirit is that He is with me in the grief.  Just as Paul said in II Timothy from prison when everyone abandoned him and he was about to be executed, “the Lord stood with me”.  God has helped me see that the time I shared with Pam was an extravagant gift with which He, for reasons all His own, blessed me.  Money can’t buy what He gave to me, I couldn’t create what He gave to me, it is humbling that He loved me enough to do that for me and I will shout my gratitude to the world for the rest of my days.  God is great and greatly to be praised!!!!

 

 

 

The Hits Keep Coming

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This picture was taken 2 weeks ago on the morning Houston shipped to basic training.  Every day I wonder what he is doing, what is he experiencing, how is he being treated?  It marks another milestone.  Houston will never live in my house again.  He will stay here from time to time but when he gets home from training he will go off to college.  Pam’s niece Natalie got married a few days later and I was privileged to say a few words.  Half of those words were direct quotes from emails Pam had sent to Natalie when Natalie was in Peru. The wedding was outdoors at the Salisbury house and both of my daughters were bridesmaids and they looked stunning.

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At the end of next week Molli is moving to Illinois to start an internship at an ethanol plant.  She will be there until Christmas.  Aimee, my youngest daughter, is now driving herself to school as she starts her sophomore year at Ballard.  On the work front, business is really good.  Earlier this summer I switched to a different real estate company.  I also joined the investment group that is opening a new office in Ankeny.  It is an exciting time as I am hiring staff, building a team and creating a brand.

Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future.

There are days, actually almost every day, that the thought comes into my head that I can’t believe she’s not here.  It’s been 17 months and she is in my thoughts and heart continually.  My love for her has only grown.  My appreciation and thankfulness to God for His gift of Pam to me for 25 years has strengthened my relationship with Him.  Really, the gift goes far beyond 25 years.  All of the events that I mentioned at the beginning, she was there.  She influences every decision I make, every piece of advice I give, every business decision I make.  I hear her voice of affirmation when I ink a contract and instruction when I wrestle with a decision.  I hear her laughter and joy at Natalie’s wedding and feel her tears of concern and pride as her baby boy leaves for basic training.  Even though she is not here physically, she is very much here and making a difference.

What an extravagant gift God gave to me in Pam.  She was the strongest person I have ever known.  She was fearless, kind, compassionate, loving, funny, fun, smart, hardworking, humble and on and on the list could go.  And for good measure she was stunningly beautiful.  Every place we would go, other women would comment on here beauty.  For a time she couldn’t wear her wedding ring because it didn’t fit and men would approach her to ask if she was single.  She was extraordinarily gorgeous.

Pam’s absence has left a huge hole in my life but Pam is also still a large part of my life.  Losing Pam has revealed in a very tangible way just how generous God has been to me.  And He continues to be.  All of the life events that have happen in the last few months have attended a sadness that I don’t have my sweetheart to share them with me but at the same time, her voice is very much here and the God that blessed me with her is closer to me than ever.  God is good all the time!  He can be trusted.

Proverbs 3:5,6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.[

16 Months and Counting

The Butler's _ Fall 2012 (105 of 114)

 

This picture reminds me of just how sweet our love was, how I adored her and she me. It causes me to really think back and consider all of the subtleties that comprised that hug. How she hugged so tight and said, “I love you so much” or “you are the most handsome man in the world”.  I remember that she was in a lot of pain but at the same time was so happy to get these pictures taken.  I remember how she smelled and what it felt like to hold her.  It has been a long time since I looked deeply into her eyes or even thought about that wonderful part of our communication.  There was so much said without words as we just gazed into each other’s eyes.  She would look up at me and I would look down at her almost looking straight through her.   The product of 25 years of intentional relationship building through the fiery crucible of life was a closeness that most people will never experience.  I spent my entire adult life counting the number of years Pam and I were married and celebrating each anniversary.  Every year brought a deeper love and sweeter communication.  I continue to count today, only this time I am counting the time since Pam left.  Instead of celebrating new levels of intimacy I am marking the passing of time that robs me of the details of my memories of her.  She gets further and further away from me with every month that passes.  The full reality of my life without her becomes clearer with every day.  So I have a decision to make.  I want to feel sorry for myself and fight the loss and point to what everyone else has that I don’t.  I would never say these things but deep down inside it is easy to think; why me?  It isn’t fair!  The truth is that the magnitude and difficulty of my loss is in direct correlation to the generosity of God’s perfect gift to me in Pam.  God blessed me with the perfect mate for me in Pam.  Now what?  She’s gone.  Yes, she’s gone, but the God that created her for me isn’t.  The rest of my life may be difficult, alone and less fun, but, this life is not the end.  God has not promised me my best life now.  He may want me to walk a path like Jesus or Paul.  My focus is one of thankfulness for God’s unbelievable blessings to me and His never failing faithfulness.  In the darkest times of despair, He is there.  In the frustration of disappointment and hopelessness He is there.  Instead of focusing on the loss, I focus on the reality of what is store for me.  I will live with Him, I will reign with Him, forever.  I will see Him as he is.  Oh and I will see my sweetheart again.  I spent a few hours last night watching home movies.  She was so beautiful, caring, giving and fun.  She was almost too good to be true and God made her for me.  He must really love me.  I can’t wait to be with Him.  As I uncover new things that remind me of her like this morning when I lifted up the treadmill and there were her running shoes, this week finding another page of detailed notes.  There are so many reminders of her every day that it would be easy to focus on the loss.  But then I am reminded of how she handled life with such common sense, such pragmatism.  She didn’t even understand going to the cemetery because nobody is there.  I can hear her voice saying, “what are you sad about?  We are going to be together with Jesus forever”,  “Our separation is just for a short period of time”, “focus on the big picture!”  When I start dwelling on the bad and feeling sorry for myself her voice is loud and clear, “Seriously Thomas!”  To which I reply, “Yes, seriously, it has been even more difficult this last month to do life without you”.  That’s just real.  What is equally as real is that if I focus on the fact that Jesus is with me step by step I am encouraged because He never leaves me to grieve alone and  He has my future secure, a future with Him and with Pam.  That is something to look forward to.  I can’t wait to hug her again but until that day, Jesus is more than enough for today, He is the joy of my life.

Seasons

Ozark Vacation 2012 132

Pam’s favorite season was definitely summer time.  Whenever she would feel the warmth of the sun on her skin she would instantly smile.  It didn’t matter what she might be dealing with, what problems may be challenging her, that touch of light would immediately transport her to her happy place.  This picture epitomizes the “Momma Like” joy of her favorite spot under the summer sun.  But alas, summer is but a season.

When I was a child, time seemed to crawl.  The school year took forever to end.  Life seemed very constant, steady and stable.  The way it has been is the way it will always be.  Or so it seemed.  Even though we moved and circumstances evolved, there was sameness within the comfort of my family.  It was all that I had ever known.  What I know now is, that was a season.

The next season was my college years.  In many ways, it was an exciting extension of the first season.  Those years composed a season of discovery, growth and new experiences.  The new friends, burgeoning freedom and independence as well as a maturing personal identity exhilarated me.  Life was getting better and better.  What I didn’t know then was that the best was yet to come.

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It was the fall of 1987, the beginning of a new season in my life.  It all started when I saw this girl for the first time.

All I could say was WOW.  She was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen, and she spoke to me.  This season started off like a dream that was too good to possibly be real.  You couldn’t wipe the grin off of my face.  Every season surpassed the previous.  I thought it would always be that way.  It wouldn’t.  This season began with unbelievable excitement, expanded to deep joy as we were blessed with three children, wonderful friends and close family.  For 25 years this season was a rich time of blessing, love and pure sweetness.

And then shock.

For the first time I was faced with a season that I did not want.  Instead of excitement, anticipation and wonder there was a much darker path in front of me.  This unfamiliar path was paved with fear, uncertainty, loneliness, intense sadness, overwhelming responsibility, dread, darkness, helplessness and hopelessness.

A season of brokenness.

A broken relationship – Pam was no longer my wife

A broken heart – Completely shattered emotional wellbeing

A broken life – Pam & I were one flesh, she was a large part of who I was, now ripped apart

The strange truth is that even though I hate this season of pain, I don’t want to move past it to a place of happiness again.  The reason for this reluctance isn’t that I enjoy sorrow but rather it is the place that I feel closest to Pam.  I don’t want to get over the loss of her.  I don’t want to move on.  It is hard to allow myself to enjoy life, laugh and smile because it feels like closing the Pam season.  I don’t want to do that.  The reality is, that season ended March 3, 2013 at about 9:00AM.  Now she is ecstatic in the presence of Jesus her savior and God the Father.  I haven’t shed a tear for her since she left, only tears of pain for myself and my family.

In the midst of the confusion and conflagration raging in my heart, soul and mind God speaks.  In April I lost a good friend, Keith Bell.  Keith was 92 and lived a wonderful God centered life.  Through the years he taught me so many lessons as I observed his life.  No lesson was more important than the last one.  As his health failed toward the end, he was moved into a care facility and out of his house.  When asked if he was sad to leave the farm that he had worked since he came home from WWII, he said with a smile, “That chapter is over and I’m happy to be here now”.  What a genuine expression of deep faith and gratefulness toward God for His generous blessing.  That was an echo of the words Pam spoke in the video I posted in April, Pam said, “This 25 years we’ve had were God’s plan and that’s it and it was sweet”.

God used these words to open my eyes.  Two of the people I respected the most in this life said, this is God’s plan and I accept it.  I agree, clearly this is God’s plan and I accept it.

What does the next season look like?  Great question!  Whatever it is going to be, it is going to be God’s gift.  I can honestly say that even though I am still in the throes of grief over the loss of my sweetheart, I am fully surrendered to God’s plan and willing to walk with Him.  I am beyond grateful to God for his extravagant generosity toward me.

4 at Grad

Thank you God for blessing us with Pam and for what she is experiencing today.  Thank you for creating her uniquely the way You did.  Thank you for loving her.  Thank you for bringing her into her final season in your presence!

Facing Change

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This last year has presented me with a lot of change and for the first time in my adult life, I doubted myself.  That may seem to be an odd or arrogant statement.  You never doubted yourself?  But with Pam as my life partner there was surety in the choices we made.  One of the blessings of being married to Pam that I miss the most is her advice and perspective.  During our 25 years together we experienced seemingly non-stop change.  Some of the change was forced on us but much of the change came as the result of decisions we made.  The process of making those decisions seemed so right, not always smooth, the discussions didn’t always end in total agreement but the process brought safety.  There was safety because she was so different in her approach to everything than I am.  Between the two of us, we covered most issues with amazing breadth and depth.  Honestly, I think I enjoyed that exercise more than she did.  Pam was the most confident and decisive person I have ever known (no hyperbole).  Normally she would make a decision quickly and it was the right one.  It was always satisfying to me to bring a perspective that she had not considered and watch her eyes get wide and her hand move up to cover her open mouth as she would laugh and say something like, “you’re right, you’re right, I never would have thought of that but YOU ARE SO RIGHT”.  Then I would say, “I’m sorry, what did you say? Say that again!” It was so much fun to be married to her.

I was thinking this week about the relationship we had and it dawned on me that the one constant for both of us was respect.  I had so much respect for her, her love for God, her love and care for her family, her love for others, her work ethic and the one thing that really blew me away was her ability to discern both people and situations.  My tendency was to see things the way I want them to be, she saw things for what they were.

Facing change with Pam at my side always was doable, deliberative and safe.

Change did not stop when Pam left and lately it has been more challenging than normal.  A few months ago our son asked me what I thought about him joining the Army National Guard.  Believe me, that conversation would have contained exponentially more interrogation if Pam was here.  All I could think of was how proud she would be of him.  So he is going to graduate (change) and leave for a year (change).  Our daughter Molli had the opportunity to take an internship that would be a great opportunity but push back graduation by a semester.  That was another discussion that I would have loved to have her thoughts.  The decision was for her to take the internship and move to Illinois for a semester (change).  The third big decision was whether or not to make a move to a different real estate company.  I loved the office I was in, but for business reasons and stewardship issues, I knew I needed to make a change.  I talked to several people I greatly respect and decided to make the move (change).

Call me a whiner but the advice I valued above all others was not available during these decisions (and so many more) and that shined a spotlight once again on the gaping hole of her absence.  I never realized how much of my self-confidence was the result of standing next to her.  She was strong, decisive, intuitive and “take your breath away” beautiful!  Lest you think she was all show, she backed it up with results.  Whatever she put her mind to; she knocked out of the park.  Her words carried so much weight because her actions produced so many results.  As she always said to me, “Just make it happen, Thomas”.

I have spent all of these words discussing the human experience of facing change, change that causes me to have to face her absence in new and painful ways.  But that’s only part of the story.

James 1:2-4 “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.  Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.”

God is faithful.  When the darkness of grief moves in reminding me of my loss, God’s Spirit ministers truth and provides wisdom.  I don’t think I will ever have the confidence in the advice of anyone like I did with Pam but with God’s Spirit living within me and the love and counsel of family and friends, I will always have all of the guidance I will ever need.

I can tell you that it is true that there is joy in the growth toward God that I have experienced this year.  I can also be honest and say that I have wondered if it is worth the cost.  Would you give up your dearest human relationship to grow closer to God?  Almost audibly I can hear Pam screaming, “YES!!!”

Change is always going to be more difficult without Pam by my side, but really, I will never face change without her. Her words, wisdom and legacy will shape every decision I ever make.  She was a gift to me from God.  She always told the story of how she prayed for years for her husband and God gave her one that met her needs before she knew what she needed.  I would say He blessed me 100 times more by giving her to me.

James 1:17 “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

Pam was a gift from God, but not just for me, she was truly a gift to all of us, a fun, cheery, loving, super sparkly gift to brighten our lives and give hope to all of us.  Even after more than a year, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t say, “I still can’t believe she’s really gone”.  The depth of my pain is in direct correlation to the magnitude of His gift.  What must the gift that Pam is experiencing right now be like?  She faced her final change with grace, courage and strength as she rested in the promise of Jesus.  It is right that the gift that God blessed us with is now enjoying the gift that God prepared for her!

Starting The Second Year

3.3.13 – 4.3.14  The beginning of the second year without Pam.  There is an internal pressure to move on, whatever that means.  But how do I transition from mourning the loss of my life partner, from living with unimaginable pain, from the shock that the life that we have worked so hard to build, is gone?  That life, that future is not coming back.  How do I transition from that place to…to anything, to anything that can begin to compare to what I had.  The sweetness of the blessing of THAT life was so much more than I ever could have dreamed it would be.  From the very beginning she made life fun.  Here is a clip recorded in our first home, a mobile home!  She was down on the floor making sure her nephews and niece were having a ball!

 

 

Pam made life fun.  She made life interesting, unpredictable and rich.  I miss her desperately.  Move on?  The reality is that “Moving On” is out of my control.  How long will it take?  How will I know?  Will it ever happen?  Am I going to live the rest of my life alone, looking back?  The answer to the last question is an absolute no.  Pam would not want it that way.  And we all know that what Pam wants, Pam gets.  After all she told me I had to preach her funeral, when I told her I didn’t think I could she just said, “Make it happen”.  Here is Pam in her own words, 38 hours before she met Jesus face to face, encouraging me.

 

 

 

Man, that is one strong woman.  Pam was by far the strongest, most determined, most fearless person I have ever known.  There is a lot I don’t know about this grieving process.  This is the hardest experience of my life.  It seems like I find new ways to hurt every day.  But, if Pam used her last few breaths in this life to encourage me to keep living, then that’s what needs to happen.  What an example she was, not just in her words, but in her life.  She was smiling and saying goodbye, she was ready, I think, as she realized the end was close, she was excited.  I don’t feel sorry for Pam and I don’t feel sorry for me.  As I move through the sadness, loneliness and disappointment, I look to God.  The rest of my life is in His hands.  When will relief come?  What will that look like?  God knows.  He blessed me with every good gift I have ever received, including Pam.  What does He have in store for my future?  I don’t know but I do know that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning”

 

Pam was looking forward as she was leaving this life, I need to continue to look forward as I live the rest of mine.  How am I going to do that?  I have no idea, stay tuned, God is going to show us the way.

 

A Night To Remember

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This picture was taken at sunset exactly one year ago by my daughter Molli’s friend.  She was in the Grace Church parking lot heading into the celebration of  Pam’s life.  You can clearly see the shape of a huge heart in the sky.  How appropriate as we gathered to thank God for this special woman that personified love.

I have been looking back all week reliving what we were all going through last year.  What happened at Grace Church that night was the most amazing, God encounter I have ever experienced in my life.  I knew something really special was going on as the service moved along, but I had no idea of the magnitude to which God was moving in that room.  Many people have explained to me that while they were sitting in the service God spoke in dynamic ways to them.  It is so rare to experience the presence of God corporately in such a powerful way.  I know I will never forget that event.

The reason I wanted to post this tonight was to thank all of the people involved in making that night possible.  Pam would have been thrilled with it all, the stories, the music and the fact that the clear gospel message was proclaimed.  I honestly think she would have been blown away by the number of people that made the effort and travelled to be there.  Some estimates were that over 1500 people attended the visitation and or the funeral.  What an overwhelming outpouring of love and compassion we experienced.  Words fail me and thank you will never be enough.

There is one person that I want to extend a special thank you to, my brother-in-law, Steve Jones.  From the time that Pam’s passing became imminent through the burial, Steve was the leader of our family.  He took gentle leadership and provided experience based guidance that proved to be sagacious (really good).  He encouraged us to have the visitation and funeral on the same night and that was key to everything that happened that night.  Steve took the leadership determining the order of service, working with the various people involved in the service making sure that everyone knew what to do and when.  He practiced with the musicians and lead the music during the service.  The biggest gift Steve gave to me that night was his willingness to be my back up.  Pam insisted that I preach at her funeral and what Pam wants, Pam gets.  I told her, “I can’t do that, you don’t know what you are asking”.  I will never forget her response, she looked at me, struggled to breathe, smiled and said, “just do it” and smiled again.  I knew I had to do it, I didn’t know how I could.  So I put my thoughts together, prepared, and told Steve that I had no idea what would happen when I get up there on the stage looking over the open casket.  I really thought I would just fall apart.  Steve told me to just try and if it didn’t work he would come up and deliver my message.  I gave him a copy of the hieroglyphics I called my notes.  Steve carried the family through that whole week and especially that night.  How do you thank someone for that?  I think when Steve saw, as we all did, what God did that night, he knew his labor wasn’t just appreciated, it was significant toward the advancing of the gospel.  Lives were changed for eternity that night.  What was accomplished that night was by the hand of the All Mighty Sovereign God of the universe.  God’s instrument in doing this work was a humble, godly, loving brother, Steve Jones.  Thanks Steve, I will never forget your ministry to us.

If you were not able to be there that night we have the audio posted on this blog but I will include a link here as well.

Never Alone

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3.3.13 – 3.3.14  Unbelievable.  Simply doesn’t seem possible that it has been a year since she left.  Those last two days seem like they just happened.  Friday brought a struggle to breathe and communicate, in her eyes there seemed to be an acute awareness of the brevity of her time with us.  There wasn’t panic but a sense of urgency.  Saturday it was touch and go all day as we thought we were going to lose her at any minute, she didn’t communicate much at all as she spent the whole day in bed.  Then Sunday morning, she rallied for just a minute to smile and look me in the eye and uttered her last words, “I love you too, honey” and then…her chest stopped moving, she was gone.

I never would have guessed that you could remove the spark plug of this family, the spirit of this home, the spontaneity of our lives and we would do as well as we have.  The reason is in the title of this post.  We are never alone.  While we miss Pam terribly and sometimes the tears just come out of the blue, we are not alone.  I long for the special companionship that only the husband and wife share, but I’m never alone.  Many times I feel inadequate to perform in social situations the way I have for the last 25 years under the direction of the best, still, I am not alone.  It is more than a cliché, it is reality.  I loved being married to Pam, we were, in Pam’s words, peanut butter and jelly.  Our union wasn’t just blessed by God, it was orchestrated by Him.  The sweetness of her smile, the hilarity of her laugh, the unpredictability of her humor, her intoxicating smile, irresistible charm, her enthusiastic hugs, her passion, innocence, sophistication and intuition were just a few of the blessings she shared with us.  What an amazing woman!  What a truly spectacularly special human being.  What a joy and a privilege to know her, love her, share my life with her and learn from her.

As she said in this prayer, we are not alone.  Typical Pam, in this audio file you will hear her get choked up twice, once when recalling a story about our daughter Aimee and the other when she is praying for our friend Jim who was serving in Iraq at the time.  Pam genuinely loved and cared about people.

We have made it through this year with a strength that is not our own, a strength that is not from us.  Many people are praying for us as a family and God is honoring those prayers.  He is showing us mercy and showering us with grace.  God is good.  God is faithful.  God can be trusted.  He is real, His Spirit that lives within all true believers is real.  Because of God’s faithfulness and presence, we live.  We don’t just survive this indescribable pain, we have love, joy and hope beyond measure.

It is exciting to think about what she is doing right now.  I am so happy for her.  Sadness, pain, betrayal, heartache and disappointment can’t touch her anymore.  She is experiencing the abundant life that God created us for.

Don’t get me wrong, I miss her every minute of every day, when I go to bed at night and when I wake up in the morning.  I think about her when I am driving, when I am at my open house, when I am cleaning the house, especially when I am cleaning the house.  One of my kids asked me last night if I had draped the blanket over the arm of the sofa.  I said yes, the way your mother used to do it.  To which the un-named child informed me that it was not “exactly the way she did it”.  It looked more like a guy did it.  I loved being married to Pam, I don’t like being single, I loved being married to Pam.  I miss her with every fiber of my being.  Every bit of the pain I feel at her loss testifies to the magnitude of God’s blessing in giving her to me in the first place.  I have no idea what this next year will look like but there are two things I do know; I will continue to miss my sweetheart with a pain that cannot be expressed with words and I will never be left alone, God has promised not to leave or forsake me and to be a friend that is closer than a brother, He has been and He will continue to be.

A Gift From My Sweetheart

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3.3.13 – 2.3.14  It’s been eleven months without my sweetheart.  Eleven months since she smiled brightly, opened her eyes and said, “I love you honey”.  It seems like yesterday, it seems like 10 years ago.  February has two significant dates, Valentine’s Day and Pam’s birthday.  Pam and I never really made a big deal out of Valentine’s Day, our love was so strong and so deep it seemed unnecessary to celebrate it differently on that one arbitrary day.  On the other hand, her birthday was a different story.  Pam always loved a good birthday party and no one could throw a party like her.  She made every event SO MUCH FUN.  Pam brought an energy that lifted everyone, never more than at birthday parties.  She loved celebrating people.  We had a superbowl/birthday party last night.  It was fun and it was great to have everybody there, it really, really was but… I think we all noticed.  It was Pam’s house, there is an expectation of what a party at Pam’s house is like.  It was fine, but it was not a Pam hosted party.  She brought a level of excitement and engagement that can’t be replicated.  There were two new girl friends that would have had a completely different experience if Pam had been hosting the party.  It would have been a night that they would never forget.  As it was, it was a nice night, but probably not one that will carry a great deal of significance for them.

It is for this reason and many others like it that the grief is still getting harder.  The process is not, in any meaningful sense, getting easier.  Each day still produces new reminders of her absence; a sick child not being comforted and cared for as she did so well, a challenging issue about which she is not providing insight, an accomplishment that goes unshared and hollow.

This week brought a body blow of sorts.  An electrician came in to do some work in the family room so I had to empty the cabinet beside the fireplace for him to do his work.  It was the cabinet that we use to store our photo albums.  What I found when I unloaded that cabinet stunned me.  There was a folder that nobody new existed.  A gift from my sweetheart filled with some incredible treasures.  There were two calendar books covering the time from our first date (9/12/87) to our wedding (8/13/88) with something written on almost every day.  They were filled with the thoughts of a 19 year old girl trying to handle this new relationship rightly.  I was transported back to a hallway in the convocation/gym building on the campus of Faith Baptist Bible College circa 1987.  She wrote, “Gave Tom 25¢ and talked to him in the gym, 1st time.”  You see she needed to use a pay phone and I told her that I could get her into the coach’s office to use his desk phone.  I was a big shot, an RA, and I had a set of keys (insufferable even then).  Undeterred by my idiocy, she gave me the quarter she was going to put in the pay phone and I told her that I would keep it forever.  I carried it in my wallet for years.  When Pam got sick I looked all over for that quarter, it wasn’t in my old wallet anymore.  Also in the folder that I found in the photo album cabinet was an envelope that contained a transcript from our wedding which was another complete surprise.  And to my complete shock, in the bottom of that envelope was the quarter.  I could spend hours telling you about the contents of that folder.  There is simply no way to prepare for discoveries like that.  So precious, so interesting, so sweet connecting me back to her.  At the same time invades heaviness, loss, sorrow and longing.

I continue to walk this unfamiliar path.  This is the first significant loss in my life.  There is no context for processing this experience.  The dichotomy of a wonderfully blessed life being lived in deep sorrow leaves me at a loss to know what comes next.  It is like a roller coaster that has deep drops and only comes back to level ground, there are no steep climbs building eager anticipation of exciting experiences yet to come.  The important truth I want to share with you is that I have not and will not give up.  I know in my mind and am convinced in my heart that God has amazing things in store for me.  There is no promise that my life will end like Job’s did, being blessed more in the end, but the only promise that matters is that He will never leave me or forsake me.  Whatever He has for me, pleasant or painful, it is my privilege to live this life for Him, the One who showers me with blessings, who sacrificed everything for me and gave me the gift of eternal life that I could not earn.  Blessed Be The Name Of The Lord.

A clip of that song from the night of Pam’s service