A one year survivor….

“Be humble under God’s powerful hand so he will lift you up when the right time comes.  Give all your worries to him, because he cares about you.”
 I Peter 5:6-7 (NCV)
“My brothers and sisters, when you have many kinds of troubles, you should be full of joy, because you know that these troubles test your faith, and this will give you patience.  Let your patience show itself perfectly in what you do.  Then you will be perfect and complete and will have everything you need.  But if any of you needs wisdom, you should ask God for it.  He is generous and enjoys giving to all people, so he will give you wisdom.”
 James 1:2-5 (NCV)

I’m home.  Back in Texas, where the temp here at almost 7pm is 109 degrees.  The boys and I made it through the Kansas trip.  It wasn’t easy, and there were times I wished I could’ve been anywhere but there, but with God’s help we persevered. 

A friend suggested we compile a list of accomplishments, things the boys and I had done since Mark’s death.  Whenever we sat down and thought about it, there were alot of entries.  I asked the boys if they wanted to accompany me to his grave, so I could read the list to him.  They both declined, and I certainly don’t want to force them to do anything such as this before they are ready.  I would be fine if they never went to his grave.  I’ve assured them he’s not there, anyway, it’s just the resting place for his earthly body that couldn’t be healed.

So, while aunts and uncle took boys to the local water park, I grabbed my journal, a box of tissue, a bottle of cold water, and headed for the truck.  I drove the 1/4 mile from the farmhouse to the cemetery.  The grass was so dry and prickly, I ended up sitting on the top of his mausoleum.  I didn’t feel disrespectful, it almost felt like I was sitting on his lap, as I’d done countless times while he was alive.

As a hot breeze swept across the central Kansas prairie, I opened my journal to the list, one and a half pages long.  Before I realized it, I was not just reading it to him.  I was conversing with him, laughing, adding extra commentary, sometimes crying, too.  It felt like he was right there, like I could practically reach out and touch him.  I imagined his smile, big as Texas, as he nodded his agreement, his approval, his pride at what we’ve been able to do without him.

It must’ve been an hour or more before I wrapped up the lop-sided conversation, blew my nose for the umpteenth time, and gathered keys, journal, and water bottle.  I bent forward to kiss the inscribed plate which reads “Mark H. Howell   Oct.25, 1955  July 30, 2011  Phenomenal Dad”.  A few more tears dribbled down my nose onto the granite.

I walked back to his truck and noted a large bird swooping overhead.  It was a bald eagle!  Now, I’ve been visiting Kansas for over 25 years.  Never have I witnessed a bald eagle in that part of the state.  I cranked the truck and slowly drove the 1/4 mile back to the farmhouse.  The eagle swooped, then landed in the top of a cottonwood tree.  Lingering only a few seconds, it took flight again, sort of keeping up with my path, until it landed into a huge tree not 50 feet from the driveway.  After I parked the truck and got out, it took off for places unknown.

I was speechless.  Do I tell my relatives?  If there aren’t any known sightings of eagles in the area, will they think I’m crazy?  But I know what I saw.  It was so majestic, it couldn’t be mistaken for any other bird. 

I decided to phrase my sighting in the form of a question to Mark’s mom, asking if there had been any reports of bald eagles in the area.  Surprisingly yes, she stated, nearby at Lake Kanapolis, and other areas.  Then I felt confident enough to tell my story.  She simply looked at me and said, “That was Mark’s gift to you.  He was there.”  And I believe it.

I now count myself as a one year survivor of widowhood, officially.  It has been a year of ups, downs, and everything in between.  I have gone from the deepest depths of grief and bewilderment to the heights of glory, as God is intricately, actively, and lovingly weaving a beautiful future for my boys and me.  That future, with its possibilities, doesn’t come without a price.  We had to let go of so many dreams we had with Mark whenever he died.  But God knows what He is doing.  He has a plan. 

New dreams and plans are on our horizon.  We may not be moving to Kansas in July 2013, as Mark wanted, but we are building a cabin there on our 51 acres of pasture, hopefully starting this fall.  The cabin will be a place the boys and I can escape to, where we can look out the back door and observe sunrises, where we can walk to our pond and fish for supper, where we can relax on the front porch and watch majestic sunsets, unobstructed views all-round. 

The cabin will be furnished with odds and ends, most taken from that old farmhouse that my husband loved, drafty upstairs and all.  We’ll bring his bird dog there, and she’ll point pheasant and quail for A.J. and me. 

I’ll use the quiet, tranquil spaces to begin on my book, which I’ve been writing in my head for months.   The outdoors column will get countless material from the Kansas landscape, two Howell boys, an unpredictable bird dog, and an outdoors mom.  Mark, I know, is bursting with pride. 

It’s not the same dream….it’s different.  Life is what you make of it.  If plan A doesn’t work, go to plan B.  As long as God is the architect of your dreams, they will turn out to be life-changing and life-affirming. 

I’m following the roadmap Mark left behind, but I’m adapting the details with my own interpretation and twists.  I think he heartily approves. 

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