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Don't Panic

Sunday, January 23, 2011

©Brenda Coffee. All rights reserved.

Molly has developed bare spots on her tail, right rear foot and around her neck. The vet suggested it’s from the stress of James’ death and gave her some oral and topical medications. I’ve developed an itchy patch on my back. It’s in one of those weird places you can’t see by standing in front of a full length mirror and turning your head around to look at it, or with the help of a hand mirror. To my great relief the urgent care doctor said it wasn’t shingles, but like Molly, my skin problem is probably due to stress. Goldie, our Shepherd/Collie mix, looks like she could use an antidepressant. She just lays her head on the floor and, without moving, her sad eyes follow me around the room. And then there’s Sam Dog, our Beagle mix, the shy one who’s emerged from the corner of the bedroom and has taken to sleeping on the rug on the other side of James’ chair. Dogs are so intuitive. I feel like they’re looking to me for a signal to be happy, but so far, the best I can do is let them run free of me, in the yard. <PREVIEWEND>

Last week I went to stay with my friend, Gayle, in Austin for a couple of days. It’s one thing to be alone at home, but being alone at someone else’s home is really being alone. Unable to get online or discover which of her clickers turned on the television, I opted for the nearest Starbucks. I’d never stayed in Starbucks for five hours before. Did you know at 2:30pm an instant line of listless looking office types materialize for their mid-afternoon caffeine fix, or that at 3:30pm a swarm of already hyper 12-year-olds come in for mocha lattes? I was amused by the geeky kid in the orange t-shirt who bought a second, double mocha latte. I’d be willing to bet his parents were later in need of a second gin and tonic, with extra gin.

While at Starbucks, I read a Vanderbilt University Medical Center study that said breast cancer survivors with a strong social network and a feeling of social well-being live longer. While the one person who made me feel safe is no longer here, I am surrounded by wonderful friends. My Bible study group has each taken a night to call and check on me, and while I’m touched and grateful, it’s not the same. I still feel alone. A friend who lost her daughter in a car accident said, “Even though you know they’re with God, and they’re doing better than you are, it’s just not enough. There’s a huge hole, and nothing can fill it up.” I’m wondering how my ever-changing sense of social well-being would rank in the Vanderbilt study?

I now understand what the elderly Rose’s character in Titanic meant when she said Jack Dawson saved her “in every way a person can be saved.” James did that for me. He brought meaning and unconditional love to my life, something no one, not even my parents, had ever done, and bigger still, he introduced me to God. As Rose and Jack were clinging to the floating debris in the icy water, Rose promised Jack she would survive and go on with her life. While James and I didn’t have those last moments, I remember we talked about what the remaining one of us should do: go on with our lives. Neither one of us wanted anything but love and God’s grace for the other, but right now, I’d like to know how the elderly Rose went “on and on.”

This afternoon I smelled James’ cologne and became obsessed with trying to find where it was coming from. It was most prominent when I sat at my desk, so I stayed put. For a moment, I wondered if his scent was meant to make me aware of his “presence,” but it wasn’t long before I realized the smell was coming from his iPhone. Earlier, a friend had called James’ number, and after we hung up, I placed James’ iPhone on my desk. Because he and I have the same black rubber protective covering, I’d assumed it was my iPhone laying on the desk. When I realized it was James’ phone and the rubber had absorbed his cologne, I was disappointed, but I know I’ll go there for a smell fix from time to time.

I know James’ love still blankets me, but right now, I’m feeling a bit lost. Every now and then I’m going to need to remind myself not to panic. James is alright. He’s where he’s supposed to be. Like Rose, I’m the one who needs to go on with life. I’m the one who needs to embrace my strong social network and rediscover some semblance of social well-being. James and God saved me for a reason, and I must go on and find it.

Today our minister delivered a great sermon about suffering. We all suffer. It’s a reality of life, but it’s how we view our suffering that determines the outcome in our lives. God gives us the power to endure. I think that’s another way of saying He doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle. I hope all of you are doing better than enduring. I hope you’re thriving, surviving cancer and life and, like me, finding your way. Please write and let me know when you’ve found it. I’ll do the same.

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Previous Comments
Anonymous commented on 23-Jan-2011 08:43 PM
Finding our way? Hmmm...I, like you, am having trouble doing that! I began going through Mark's things today, I suppose I turned of the emotion and got into a production mode! Yet, at the end of the day, my heart aches for him all the more! I imagine you feel much the same. The quiet house, the empty chair, the loneliness of it all! I don't have a Bible study group to connect with me the way you do so the nights are difficult! I continue to lift you up daily. What more can I do? I believe nothing is by coincidence, I believe we were meant to meet for such a time as this, until we find our way!!
Blessings, XOXO Cindy
Anonymous commented on 23-Jan-2011 10:39 PM
Today has not been a thriving day for me... simply surviving. Feeling lost as I moved throughout the day and wondering, as a breast cancer survivor, when I'll get into the rhythm of life again. I know it will come... I think it so important what you said about having a support group. I don't have that yet but am going to call the social worker at the hospital tomorrow (she's a gem) about talking with her and seeing what might be available to me.

Thank you, Brenda, for sharing your heart so openly and allowing me to walk alongside you in this season. Prayers for you, as well as for my good friend Cindy, as you move through these days of tremendous grief and mourning.

Anonymous commented on 24-Jan-2011 07:18 AM
Dear Brenda, thank you so much for sharing your heart with us. As I read your words my heart hurts so much for you. Although we have never met in person I feel like you are a soul sister. As we bare one anothers burdens and share each other's joys I know that there will come a time when you will see joy again. Brenda I have been praying for you and will continue to do so. May your day be filled with peace my friend and sister.
Anonymous commented on 24-Jan-2011 08:10 AM
I think I know why you were saved. You have helped so many people with your blog, book and other activities. Now is your time to benefit from others' prayers and help. I know you feel alone, but you are not alone. God and so many people are holding you in their hearts.
Anonymous commented on 24-Jan-2011 09:44 AM
Brenda, Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about grief. Grief is such a personal and difficult thing to honestly open up about and you do it so honestly and beautifully through your words. Your life experiences with all this stuff must be for the purpose of teaching others, you do it so well. I know that doesn't help with the alone part, but... I'm really happy to see you have not lost your sense of humor! The Starbucks stuff, pretty darn funny! And your poor dogs, I relate so well to that. Pets grieve as well. They really do. Yes, you must do as Rose did, go on with your life. That's what James would want. It sounds to me like you are doing a pretty amazing job of doing just that so far. Take all the time you need to find your way again. You'll find it.
Anonymous commented on 24-Jan-2011 12:12 PM
Thank you for your comments on my blog. Please know that I am so sorry for your loss. Early in my journey with cancer, we had an unexpected death in the family. One of my husband's cousins died suddenly leaving behind a wife and young children. I sent off a sympathy card to the widow, her loss making my cancer journey seem so insignificant. Weeks later I received a card from this woman wishing me well as I underwent chemotherapy. That card now holds a place of honor in my prayer spot. You will be in my prayers as I look at her card. Danell
Anonymous commented on 24-Jan-2011 05:10 PM
Dear Brenda, I can't even imagine what you must be going through. I almost lost my youngest son in an automobile rollover accident before Christmas. The operative word is "almost." God spared him for a reason, but He could just as easily have taken him, leaving me in that grieving hole you describe so eloquently. As it is, he suffered a fracture in his spine, and my back hurt for days in sympathy and stress.

Please be assured you are in my prayers. And don't let go of that strong social network you mentioned. After reading that Vanderbilt study I thanked God for the variety and wealth of friendships He's given me. It's such a blessing. I lead a home Bible study on the friendships of women and look forward each week to the excitement, fellowship, and enthusiasm shared among those who come. Hold on tight to those who are lifting you up.

May the Lord guide and bless you richly in the midst of your loss.

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