Friday, December 23, 2011

And so, it has been a Year.


Months ago, I began reading Henri Nouwen's book, The Genessee Diary.  

It is his published journal from inside a Trappist Monastery; he felt his life had become too mechanized, too secure, too predictable, too busy, too much writing about prayer instead of actually praying, too much thinking about theology and not actually worshipping, so he stepped away for a season.  He became a monk.  And he wrote about what this was like, what he learned.

In an ironic turn of the pages, he finished his seven months in the monastery just as I am finishing my first year as a widow.  Both he and I had sidestepped our lives as we knew them, reluctantly embraced a new season, and now together we embark on the end of the year.

(Never mind that he took his journey in 1981.  When I read your writing, your story becomes my present day.)

Henri, as I like to call him since we are now dear friends, wrote in his journal:

"I will have to ask myself what these months have meant to me.  I am still in it, but I see the end and the slow moving away to new experiences."

I set down the book with pause.  The same is true of me.  What has this year meant to me?  I am still in it, but I see the end.  And I see the turn of 2012 bringing new experiences.

I want to say I have learned nothing.  I want to say Robb's death was without meaning, these months have been empty, and I am bitter and angry because I got screwed hard out of everything I had planned for the rest of my life.  I want to say these things, boldly, with the strength that only comes from vindication.

But those things are not true.  I have learned much; these months have been sacred.  I have long said, if I will tell this story, I will tell the truth.  

So, here are my thoughts.

I have lived an entire year of winter.  There were sunny days that peeked through on occasion, but my heart stayed cold, bundled, protected.  Still, there are things to enjoy only in winter: good books, shorter days, enveloping blankets, and isolation.  I have relished in these.

In January, when I began speaking to God again, I made a deal with him: if he would just get me out of bed and safely to Starbucks, I would visit with him there.  I might not talk, but I would listen.  My mornings have been my sacred hours.  Starbucks has been my sanctuary. 

God has met me there.  My journals are filled with schizophrenic psalms, from temper tantrums to triumphant praise.  His companionship has been nearly tangible, certainly a presence I could feel strongly enough to know I wanted more.  In reading the Psalms, again and again, and again and again, I have let the psalmists cry out on my behalf, when I had no words left.

There's a reason why Psalm 88 made the cut into the final manuscript.

I have learned that there's no one way to be a perfect mother.  But there are a million ways to be a good one.  And, with God as my witness, his grace as my strength, I have been a damn good mother this year.

I have been willing to learn this year.  I have trudged ahead with my eyes open, insistent that this wrenching pain would not be wasted.  I have written a million words, unafraid of anything that might show up on the page.  I have found honesty and the beauty of saying things out loud.

A friend of Robb's recently wrote to me.  He said, "Tricia, when Robb talked about you, he always said you were an amazing woman who could handle anything."  My precious husband... he knew me well.  I never imagined the strength inside this frame.

I have learned firsthand that love is greater, stronger than the grave.  No matter what happens next, no matter the path I take or who walks beside me, I will forever love Robb Williford.  

This year has been the closing chapter of our marriage: I honored him, even after death parted us.

I choose to borrow some words from Henri, because great words should be shared, and because I can't say it better.

"For me, this is the end of a most blessed and graceful retreat and the beginning of a new life.  A step out of silence into the many sounds of the world, out of the cloister into the unkept garden without hedges or boundaries.  In many ways, I feel as though I have received a small, vulnerable child in my arms and have been asked to carry him with me out of the intimacy of [this place and] into a world waiting for light to come. 

Why was I here?  I don't know fully yet.  Probably I will not know fully before the end of the cycle of my life.  Still, I can say that I have a most precius memory which keeps unfolding itself in all that I do or plan to do.  I no longer can live without being reminded of the glimpse of God's graciousness that I saw in my solitude, of the ray of light that broke through my darkness, of the gentle voice that spoke in my silence, and of the soft breeze that touched me in my stillest hour."

Thank you, Henri.  You write my heart.

Thank you, Robb.  You hold my heart.

Thank you, God.  You heal my heart.

And so, it has been a year.

30 comments:

Terri Fisher said...

What a beautiful testament to God's sustaining grace in your time of need! I have been following your blog this year, and have appreciated the honesty and beauty with which you have chronicled your journey. I know that God will continue to use you to minister to others through the words you so skillfully construct in your writing. Many blessings on the new year ahead!

Janeen said...

Amen, and Selah.

Joline said...

We've never met, (I know your precious Mom) and yet I woke this morning wondering if there would be a post from you . . . I'm glad there was.

God bless you and you family. Thank you for sharing your year with us - and beyond.

Joline Atkins

Cheryl said...

I've been waiting for this post. Thinking of you today, dear lady.

The VH Family said...

Tricia, within this year you have also inspired me ( and I am sure, many more people) to take hold of what you have and be ever so grateful to God for it. To not take things for granted. To be thankful in our circumstances. Tricia, I pray for you and feel like we are friends, although you do not know I exist. Thank you for your fight, your boldness, your openness, and your love. I will keep reading, please keep writing. May God's love be with you and give you peace.

Jenn said...

I have been a faithful follower to your blog this past year and although I haven't always commented I have prayed for you and your boys. Last night before bed I thought about you, so I prayed. And this morning when I woke up you were on my mind again, so I'm praying you through this day. May God give you the strength to continue on this journey.

Robert said...

Tricia with the beautiful smile... being an "old man" now (I know I'm an old man because I was in my convertible, stopped at a red light, and a car of girls pulled up and whisled at me, and when I turned to look, the one in the backseat said "oh no it's an old man-I sold that car!), I look at the little girl whose dad I used to ride the school bus with... and then you ended up in my Jr. Church... my heart cries that you've had to go thru this HURT... and not only you but I'm sure "your Robb's" parents, and your parents and many others grieve daily, as you do... "Love always finds a way"... Thank you for lifting me up by being "real" about it all... "real" is the best compliment I can give anyone, i.e. they've been hit hard, and have gotten back up, and are getting their "sense of direction" reset to continue onward. I love you not just because you are Doyle's daughter, but because you are you, and I admire you more now because of the fighter I see in you... "you go girl!"

Donna said...

Well done Mighty Warrior, well done.

Elle's mommy said...

Wow...I was introduced to your blog by Amy Bates. I am inspired and encouraged by your words and I must get that book! :) I am so sorry for the ache that has invaded your life and I will be praying for you and your family. Our God is the God of all Joy and all Peace and I pray that all will be yours this Christmas...

Nicki Deem

Deanna said...

Brilliant. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

Majorsfam said...

HOLY HEALING!!!! WOW! I hope I don't ever have to find out, but I only hope I'd have the faith it takes to be like this, just one year later. And if tomorrow, you don't get out of bed, you're still a "damn good mother"! You are beautiful, your boys are beautiful, and your heart is downright GORGEOUS! Thank you for letting it spill out for us all to read!

Candice said...

Thinking of you and your boys today!

dr_writer said...

My kids have been counting down to the 25th (they're programmed to do that). I've been counting down to the 23rd.

Praying today. Remembering. Honoring. Shedding a few tears.

God bless you, dear lady.

momof3 said...

Beautifully written, I have been following you for several months.. you have taught me to slow down and appreciate my husband, my three girls here on earth and celebrate the ones in heaven. God bless you today and as you move the next year and the one after that.

Becky Johnson said...

Beautiful. Absolutely perfect; you are absolutely God's perfect creation.

Wender said...

Praying for you sweet Tricia.

Kelly Hickman said...

Praying for you as you "step out of silence into the many sounds of the world" knowing that you are a strong woman and that Your God is even stronger. Thanks for sharing this journey with all of us!

Melinda's Stories said...

I have followed you, your precious boys, your writing all year, you have inspired me with your strength and courage, your love and your faith.

I waited for this post, I was almost nervous for you and what you would write. Again a show of strength and courage. Thank you for sharing your year with us it has been a privilege.

You and your family are in my thoughts, bless you all for the new year.

Jennie said...

You do not know me, but Robb and I were in band together in high school. I have been following you through these months and holding you and your boys in my prayers. Your honesty and the gracious way in which you have shared your journey are a gift to others, a gift you have bravely shared. I am a pastor, and reading your blog has shaped my preaching this Advent season in a way that I know has reached others living in seasons like your own. Your words bear the the deep truths of both pain and gospel. Peace to you and your boys as you go into the next stage of this grieving season.

Honeycutt Family said...

Thinking of you and your boys today and tonight Tricia. You are loved by so many (several that don't even know you!!!!)
:)

Mrs. MK said...

beautiful, strong, lovely!

Patty Kline said...

Dear Tricia, you have walked through this year, sat through this year, grieved and written and listened and parented and learned through this year, with such raw vulnerability and open honesty, and I am thankful you have shared it all with me and others. I don't know what God's plans are for you in 2012, or beyond, but I pray for winter to gradually begin to thaw and become spring, full of new life and hope.

JESSICA RENSHAW said...

Tricia, this IS your book.

Claire said...

The hour is passed and again God has sustained you through the tragedy re-visited now only in memory. How does one offer solace to another when separated by time, distance and relationship-by-blog? Only with the peace of Christ, extended by the Father through the Spirit can this be shared. On the eve of the greatest gift ever given, my prayer is for your continued healing, growing faith, and sharing of His love as He manifests it through you.

Tonya said...

I think of you and pray for you and your boys often. Thank you for being so open for others to see. You are a blessing to so many!

Tonya in Oklahoma

theWidowB said...

Thank you for your writing. I am a neighbor to a friend of yours, LaRissa. I lost my husband in July. Your courageous description of Robb's death helped me to understand, in retrospect, the last hours of my husband's life. Bless you and your boys. God does provide for us as we learn to live without our husbands.

Janet said...

You are an amazing mom, an inspiration to your readers, and a precious sister in the Lord. It's been a privilege to pray for you and your boys this past year. Thank you for sharing your heart so fiercely and honestly.

Amy said...

This post was so beautifully written, so poignant, and so precious. It also resonated deeply within me, and if you won't mind, I will record some of your words in my own journal, to remind me that He is faithful beyond what we can even imagine Him to be. Not only for me, but for others that I haven't met. This is reassuring and comforting to me.

Thank you so much for sharing your journey this year. I have learned so much from you. Praying for you today.

Shelly @ Life on the Wild Side said...

I've been praying you through this week, and much of the past year, Tricia. It has been encouraging to see you wrestle things through with God this year and to see you allow Him to guide you through this pain. May He continue to bless you and your boys and to show you the way.

Jodi said...

Many prayers, more love, you are in my thoughts: yesterday, today, and many more to come, I'm sure. Well done, Tricia. God be praised.