He left before I woke up and long after I was up in the middle of the night baking him cookies for the race. Another strange night it was. I had crashed early in the evening, many hours before my bed time . . . not that there is a usual bed time, that is. I am still up very late about 2 nights per week yet that is a huuuuge improvement from my years as a night owl. But my tummy hurt and I just couldn’t stay asleep. All I could think about was those cookies that I wasn’t able to bake as promised and the risk of my beloved River Bear collapsing in the river the next day. So I got up and started mixing up the ingredients sometime after 2:00 a.m. The story was unveiling vividly in my mind as the scent of baking chocolate chips and Irish butter filled the air . . .
My beloved would be paddling a new-to-him Wenonah J203 carbon-fiber marathon canoe, probably putting him at the back of the more accomplished river rats on Saturday. They all would be pushing their limits in the cold and rainy weather, trying to get back into shape for the upcoming race season. RB would be no different. The only difference is that he would be competing with a sinus infection on top of some chronic breathing issues. The realization of the risks was just enough to drive the mind wild of a kayaking-turned-canoeing “widow.” Yeah, I don’t see him much during the Spring-Summer-Fall racing season so temporary paddling “widow” I become!
Today was especially of concern. If he got a coughing spell when on a remote part of the river, spread out for miles over the course with the other dozen-or-so racers, there’s a good chance that only a real bear in the woods would have heard him struggling. His brown, furry cousin probably would not have minded my beloved’s residual garlic breath as he munched on his serendipitous, soggy lunch feast. But that was not the worst of my worries. More likely another racer in an equally tippy performance kayak would see my beloved slumping forward, splash into the water to save him, and be unable to do much of anything about it. I foresaw in my mind’s eye that probably would be LB, of course.
She in her 4-foot 10-inch frame would jump out of her boat, neither one wearing a life jacket despite the cooler water conditions, and wrestle with RB’s muscular/lifeless body as it flopped into the current of the Tippicanoe River: he almost 70 pounds her senior and her struggling to keep both of them afloat. The river would win and down he would go. She would be traumatized and exhausted from the fight against the swirling water, the soaked mass of a man, the expensive boats and paddles flowing downstream, the desperate feeling of not being able to save him no matter how hard she tried. I could see it all in my mind’s eye, of course, in an instant. I had been in a similar situation myself just 8 years ago during my first encounter with a performance sea kayak on the Allegheny River. I feared for my life!
Back at the boat launch or maybe when she could signal for help, LB would desperately reach out. The fellow racers would leap into action, scouring the shoreline for signs of the man who teased them hours earlier with a craft beer for any seasoned canoeist who could beat him on his maiden voyage that day. They may or may not find him or his gear. The rescue boat would eventually arrive, find and take his body to a local hospital for the fateful pronouncement. The paddlers would stand in a circle at the take-out speechless, none volunteering to call the wife over 100 miles away who had sent along home-baked cookies for the annual meeting afterwards. No one would be brave enough to call her or maybe the Fire Department would at least leave a message?
Do they ever really tell you all of the news anyways that you need to know when you get a dire phone call at a time like this? I would then be in my own racing seat as I made the 2-hour drive to the Lafayette area, wondering if I had the right name of the facility where my RB was being held under refrigeration. Perhaps I would drive from facility to facility searching for my loved one? And what would they tell me when I found him? Would anyone be there to tell me the story of what happened? Would the racers have taken a luscious cookie but gone on home anyways, themselves suffering from the trauma of the friendly competition gone wrong?
And what would I do next? What about the pup at home, the phone calls that needed to be made? I would probably have to stay over a few nights to release my hubby’s body to return to our home town on Monday morning and begin preparations for the worst event of my life: a funeral! I have done this in the past a few times and it is exceedingly and painfully difficult. Oh dear, what would become of my elderly family member out of state for whom I have become a measure of a caregiver? Where would my beloved’s children stay, what would I say when they arrived grieved beyond belief from all over the country and 2 foreign countries? Holy cow. Maybe I would just sink and die myself right then and there rather than deal with it all.
Or maybe not.
Twelve hours and 2 naps later, I heard the side door open. My River Bear was home!!! I was in shock. Where did I just go in my mind and my heart for way too many hours? In what or where have I placed my trust? And why the heck am I so very needy, so weak, such a worry-wart when the Lord has been faithful to lead me through horrible tragedy dozens of times before. Is this mental exercise really helpful at any level? The answer: NOOOOOOOOOO!!!
I have come to realize that there are a couple of coping mechanisms that come with enduring serious illness for many years that don’t work very well at all in a fit brain. One of them is living each day with a sense of impending doom. When virtually every night and every morning for the past 6 years was met with violent convulsive episodes, I lived every day with a sense that bad things were always going to happen. It was just a matter of time before they did. Well guess what? The convulsive episodes don’t happen every night or every morning anymore! I have got to let go of this “stinking thinking” as we used to say in my 12-step group days. Husbands virtually always come home. And if they don’t right way, they usually have an amazing story to tell that makes you fall in love with them even more!
Another coping mechanism that got exercised in writing this story was that of always needing a contingency plan. More recently, every time I would plan to do an activity at home or elsewhere I set up alternatives in my mind of what I would do in case I got sick. I told RB my plans for the day, I had every “rescue remedy” I could think of in a lunch bag with me, and kept running errands until I was exhausted — just in case I was too sick the next few days to leave the house. As you can see from the bit of paddling fiction above, I listed a few of the questions running through my mind but in my head, many more options and scenarios were playing out in my mental tool box. What a colossal waste of physical and emotional energy! While a “scarcity” mindset may work in times of famine or flood, I really don’t need it with me anymore. Me and the Lord will figure out whatever may come my way. Geez!
Of course an obvious failed coping mechanism is last on my list today: a false sense of control. I cannot predict anything that will happen, good or bad, and neither can you. If I truly trusted the Lord with my life in times of tragedy and triumph then I would not need these fantasy games to cope with the fact that I have a REAL MAN who LOVES ADVENTURE no matter if he is sick or well. That makes him who he is! And his passion for life makes him the man in whom I fell in love over 10 years ago. No wimpy dude over here! He pushes the limits to the admiration of his peers and sweat of his competitors because that is just how he is wired. I guess I am still understanding how different we are, how different the Lord wired each of us. It is a beautiful thing really. And, Lord willing, my beloved will always be home at night in pretty darn good shape too, I will add! :J
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
So the next time my man goes out to do that which he is called to do, I will pray for him and for me both! I will not respond with fear but anticipation of some great stories in which I may one day join in, Lord willing, as I get stronger each day. The day is coming soon when I will want to venture myself out into newer, uncharted waters, so-to-speak knowing that my Lord and King is already there, cheering for both me and my River Bear. This could really be a fun summer after all. I often cheer, “Goooooo Steeeeeve” from the side of various rivers when my beloved’s paddle hits the water at the sound of the starting gun. Maybe it’s time for a little, “Gooooooo Julie” too?
Stay tuned. There’s always another story waiting to be told around here for you Gentle Reader. The water awaits! JJ
A second trip is now behind me to see my Craniomandibular Specialist in a southern state and the problems plaguing me for 6 1/2 long years are significantly less and yet my progress has plateaued. Maybe it’s still the fatigue of travelling alone for the first time in 11 years? Holy cow, I did it! And ugh too. It was hard. Regrouping and resting now, changing up a few things, and I am noticing that those changes are already helping, for example, to reduce the daily headaches to a trace level. Amazing!
I am tempted to be discouraged about the plateau in progress and some setbacks but I will choose not to be so. Both happen in the jagged line of recovery from serious illness.
Life goes on and the care of a family member in that same southern state began before the first medical trip. Looks like the Lord had more planned than we originally thought when my hubby and I took a leap of faith to seek treatment 1,000 miles away from Indiana! We are now preparing to welcome my Aunt into our home for 2 months this summer after many hours of preparation, work, and communication with multiple parties. There is much to do!
Seems that the Lord wants me to keep moving forward as he has created a new role for me with increasing responsibilities: caregiver. I never thought that it would be harder to care for one tiny lady than the TWENTY I served in a day in my professional role as an Occupational Therapist. Right now it is!
My Doctor’s office cancelling 7 medical appointments already this year due to chaotic scheduling issues confirmed my pursuit of a new integrative medicine specialist. My Doc is upset and I am proceeding to transition some of my care to her anyways. The change is refreshing and creates hope in some areas not addressed of late.
Steve and I have several decisions to make should my family member decide to move in with us later this year after her summer visit. Some parts of our life could accommodate her easily, others not so much. We will have some financial decisions to make involving vehicles, housing, and several lifestyle choices. Could be good? We are exploring many options and leaning on the Lord as we go . . .
I am a bit overwhelmed with the new modalities that have come since pursuing specialized Temporal Mandibular Disorder treatment, from application of a TENS unit to switching out dental appliances every time I eat or sleep. Wonder where I have been instead of writing updates on the Hope Beyond blog? I am still here, flossing my teeth 4 times per day! Spitting mouthwash into a baggie in my truck after eating between appointments when away from home is not that unusual for me now . . . from the back of the parking lot where no one can see me of course! Oh my!
The biggest change of late is having a bit more energy and mental capacity to do a little more a few days per week. I am exceedingly grateful for this. Thank you Lord! We anticipate a lot of changes, projects, and the need for both physical and mental stamina this coming year and looks like it is coming little by little. I hope the finances for everything will follow as my Go Fund Me campaign has also plateaued! We will figure it out, so no worries. The first of the two medical trips is now covered, gratefully. God is good and the Great Provider has always cared for our needs. I can see a possibility of working some within a year a so depending upon the needs of our “new” family member; she may move in with us permanently or choose to live closer to her adult children in Michigan. Just not sure yet.
I am tired. Healing takes sooooo much energy from healthy food and rest, good supplements, time with the Lord, and restoration activities with my beloved Stevers. Sunday was my birthday so we did that last one. A simple day was a great gift with my bestest buddy. I love him so much. I am so very glad that you are still here too. I could never have made it today without you Babe. Thank you Jesus for Steve. Please bless him this week and encourage him as he works so hard for both of us. Infuse him with your Spirit to lead us through this maze of life in which we bumble along. Help me to love him, respect him better and better too.
I know that the Lord has gone before me and been with me, drawing me to Himself and bringing me to the moments He planned for me yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I lay everything named here in your mighty hands as I prepare to go to sleep. I know that You are still here too.
And on that promise all of us here may rest. You too. Godspeed Gentle Reader, JJ
Who needs a padded insert to swim in the surf anyways?
I suppose you all figured out the item in the picture by now? I found it to be hilarious finding it on the sand of the beach at Port Canaveral, Florida earlier this month! My beloved and I were there to witness a rocket launch a mile away to the south along Playalinda Beach. It was surreal. I wonder if the gal missing part of her bathing suit top felt the same way? 🙂
That day was a bit of an oasis in the middle of a medical trip that continues to change my life for the better. I was exceedingly exhausted just 1 week after treatment began and felt out of place sitting on a sandy beach with large, acrylic dental appliances in my mouth. I was unable to eat without changing out appliances (which meant rinsing them in a Ziploc plastic bag with paper towels to soak up the mouthwash) and was nearly nauseous with a lot of head-jaw-neck pain from the aggressive dynamics achieved by the splints. On the other hand, Steve was geared up to hit the waves in our outrigger canoe! We both slathered on the sunscreen and lugged our stuff up a long flight of wooden steps, over the berm, and down onto the beach. With a big umbrella in-hand, I was going to make the best of things that 86-degree day . . .
And so we did. I sat in front of the most majestic view you would never find in our home State of Indiana (note new cover photo above!) munching on my lunch, brushing dental appliances, and taking pictures of the coolest dude on the shoreline. A few hours later I witnessed the magical sight of a rocket being launched into space: a satellite developed by the same company that Steve works for in Indiana. Steve had gotten an inside scoop from co-workers at the Melbourne headquarters of how to get the best view. (Incredibly Harris allowed him to work there remotely between my medical visits and before we would return home.) The launch was spectacular!
I have come to believe that the Lord cares for everything in our lives from the mundane to the big, spectacular moments in time. He attends to every detail, crafts them for our best good. I am thinking that many of the rewards in life generally come in some way or another when I am able to move off my limited view and trust that my Lord, Jesus Christ has a bigger plan. It just might be a good one. My change in perspective will help to find it. The fact that so many years have held me captive with much agony in the past is really no predictor of what the future holds. I simply do not know.
This leap of faith to pursue a new treatment approach 1,000 miles from home is changing my life day by day. The minor setbacks are easier to take than in the past and don’t last very long, gratefully. My perspective on most things in life, my expectations, my faith, and so much more have changed accordingly. One of the sweetest rewards is sharing this newness of life with my hero, my Stevers. I love him so! And I am so proud of him, grateful for him, and in awe of his strength, faith, and love during our eleven years together. The anniversary of our first date is coming up soon! Oh I could go on . . .
How about if I just end with another awesome sight from the beach that day. Isn’t he just the coolest dude ya ever did see? I love you Stevers! :JJ