Sunday, June 23, 2024

A Story of Survival

hologram on window at
Jacksonville International Airport

Today's post will be memories from the past 7 years, punctuated with pictures. I have found that although the past is past, gentle re-visiting that past is normal and often is a good way to figure out what has happened so we can move forward.

borrowed from Pam at
Closed Doors, Open Windows

The past few days have lured my thoughts to a time in 2017 when my late husband and I began a much bigger adventure than we expected -- relocating ourselves (meaning since he was retired, there was no corporate employer to pay expenses) from Colorado to Florida. 

mug purchased at Jacksonville airport gift shop

The move was an uncharacteristically impulsive idea from my husband; but I (always up for adventure) eagerly agreed and in the span of just over two months from the suggestion to the moving van, the deed was done.

beach walk to the Atlantic

At the time we already had 14 family members living in Florida (which eventually increased to 19), but we chose to live hours away from them so as to not disturb their everyday lives with new expectations with our close proximity. 

Jacksonville Beach on the Atlantic Ocean

I was excited to live on an ocean coast since eight of my girlhood years were spent in California's Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Fernando Valley.

our house in Mandarin, Duval County

To be accurate, we did not buy a house on the beach, instead unloading our furniture some 30-minutes away by freeway. But this was still a huge change from living in Colorado's Front Range (for the geographically challenged, that means we had lived on the east side of the Rocky Mountains).

Dames Point Bridge

In addition to visiting the thundering ocean waves, Jacksonville provided us with many bridges across the St. Johns River, some quite high and breath-taking to traverse. 

This past week (even today) marks the 7th anniversary of that move to Jacksonville.

However, as can sometimes be the case with impulsive actions, a time comes when more pensive thoughts edge their way into reality. Jacksonville was a great place but for several reasons we decided to move a couple hour's drive south and west, more to the center of Florida's peninsula. Facing reality can usher in change, or at least, that's what happened with us.

my late husband (aka "Beloved" on my blog posts),
just under 2 months before his passing

Those who have been following my blogs for years know what came next. We had been in our new house in North Central Florida only 20 months when my husband suddenly passed away from COVID, along with a lot of other people. 

How does one describe how it feels to lose her mate from the past 50 years? In 2008 I took a very hard fall that shattered my left shoulder, requiring surgical replacement and a long recovery with permanent reduction in range of motion. For a time I could do extremely little with my left arm and hand. But I am right-handed, so my handicap did not leave me totally helpless.

first cemetery visit after headstone was installed; 
engraving in stone is intense, so final

But when Tom died, it was like I had lost my right arm completely; I was at a loss to do much more than dress myself and rummage through the fridge to find something to eat. The shock and helpless feelings were new and frightening, so unexpected.

one of my current reads

One could say I was in "good company" since the pandemic took many loved ones but since we had not lived here for all that long, my roots in this new community were shallow. Thank God for the friends and neighbors who did rise (very quickly even) to the occasion to minister to me. My family, still hours away, also spent a lot of time, money, and certainly emotional energy, to help me through the toughest experience of my 70 years of life thus far. I am deeply grateful. 

It was scripture, Bible verses, messages from Holy God Himself that helped me the most. I was living in a big house, alone, just me, so I could do anything I wanted. Typed verses in a very large font were taped to bathroom mirrors, plantation shutters, doors -- everywhere my eyes would see to minister to my broken heart.

a gift of verses from blogging friend,
Lea from

While I had been through the loss of family and friends before that time, this was profound (to use a word from my GriefShare support group). Decisions I made in the ensuing months were a little like a child throwing darts and hitting marks in every direction labeled terrified, impulsive, thoughtful, smart, and a lot of places in-between. 

In all of this grief, I always knew God had not forgotten me. I accepted Him as my Savior and Lord at the tender age of six and had grown up in a very strong Christian family, so the Lord and I had a long history before this ever happened. But I did feel lost. 

a new favorite place:
Crumps' Landing June 20, 2024
Homosassa, Florida

Advancing now to a later chapter in my story ..... the passage of time has proven to me (very convincingly) that God never forgot me. It was just time, in His purpose for my life, to leave some things behind, change to other interests (even hobbies), other places, and other people. 

the day Natalie and Bryan 
introduced us

One day nearly a year to the day after Tom's passing, a friend introduced me to another of her hurting friends, a man who was widowed at just about the same time as me. There is the saying, "misery loves company," but for us it was a case of "I have a good idea of how you feel." Gary brought a smile to my face like nobody else could and he seemed to enjoy my company.

what was so funny?
I have no idea....

We found not only shared feelings but quickly learned we could make each other laugh loud and long. Our first outing together, which we now refer to as our first date, was a trip to the cemetery where our late spouses are both buried. As much as we still love them, we all understand the living need to continue doing just that -- living. 

visiting Edith's grave

We continue to visit the cemetery every month or so, usually taking florals with us. We sit at both locations in our lawn chairs, quietly sharing about the good times, absorbing nature's beauty that comforts pain.

going to the Christmas party

Not long after that first date, we dressed festively for a neighbor's Christmas party. And my long-time readers know all about the classic car in Gary's garage that just added more fun to the first blush of our romance.

Us with Gary's 2002 Ford Thunderbird,
 from camera of blogging friend,
Terri at Your Friend From Florida

Good times had come back into both of our lives, peppered with the occasional reminders of real life. Even before we sealed our commitment to each other with rings, Gary had to take me to the Emergency Room twice, and in later months I've sat beside his hospital bed three times. (not to worry, we both have recovered) As my blogging friend Linda likes to say, "Just keepin' it real!" But these ups and downs have verified the truth that it's good to not be alone.

laughing (again) at grandson's wedding

A consummate romantic, Gary has put on soft music many times, pulling me in to his arms to slow dance us around the lanai. He's taken me on adventures I've never (ever!!) thought I'd enjoy, he does most of the cooking, and if that's not enough, this man does his own laundry!

To wrap this up, the memories this past week of my move from Colorado to Florida sobered me for a time. But life does go on. We bring joy to God when we make the best of what He allows into our lives. While grief hurts like the dickens, the Lord is not done with us at the grave site. 

He has shown me His compassion for the brokenhearted and given me the desire to dance again. My hope is that the lessons I've learned through these past few years stay with me so I can be of encouragement to others who are in a world of grief.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
In all your ways acknowledge Him
And He will direct your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6

What personal grief has taught me:

- listen to people with not only the ears but with the heart
- don't judge, even if they seem misguided at the time
- give people space to work things out
- forgive those who handle my feelings roughly
- grief is a wound felt most deeply and takes time to get better
- grief doesn't completely go away but the pain lessens over time
- and more ....


Mari said...

I remember many of these events in your life. I appreciated your honesty as you lived through these times and also your testimony of your faith in times that were so very hard.
Thank you for sharing again.

Terri D said...

I love all the photos. They illustrate your 'story of survival' so well! God is good, all the time!! Love you!! xo

Sandy said...

Wise words and yes, I found your blog right about the time you moved to Florida. We could never have seen any of that coming, but His compassions fail not. Thinking of you:)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this open and honest story of these past years since your move to Florida. That is when we first connected and I am so thankful for the friendship we have enjoyed since then. You have been a testimony of God’s grace and love through much sorrow and adversity. What I love is how God reached down and brought you through those difficult days to a new place of joy and happiness and comfort. Thank you for sharing your story with us. May God continue to guide you all the days of your life.

Anonymous said...

That was me, Pam, from Closed Doors Open Windows.

Martha Jane Orlando said...

Barbara, you are a living, breathing testimony to how God can mend our broken hearts and restore new life in our souls. Our Lord Jesus is the source of all hope and the best example of how to love one another in this life, and live life to the fullest. May He bless Gary and you always! I'm sure Tom and Edith are smiling in heaven for the love and comfort God has given to you both. Blessihgs!

Joyce said...

What a wonderful attitude you have about life with all it's twists and turns. I'm glad you've found someone to share your life with, who understands and relates to your grief, but also the need to keep living life. Such a lovely testimony to the goodness of God.

Robin in Virginia said...

What a beautiful post to read this morning, Barbara! Your openness and honesty through this portion of your life's journey has been inspiring, touching, and guiding. Thinking of you!

ellen b. said...

A meaningful post that can be a help to others in the midst of grief and facing the same challenges.

Lea @ CiCis Corner said...

I'm so glad the Lord saw fit to bring you and Gary together to enjoy your lives together. I pray you both will enjoy many more years of good health and fun times.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing.

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

You've really poured your heart out to all of us and it means a lot. We all go through loss and suffering in this world and need to understand how to deal with it and survive. Thanks for these words of wisdom. Hugs to you both, Diane

Victor S E Moubarak said...

Thank you for this wonderful and touching post. I am praying for you and your whole family.

God bless always.

Carol said...

So many changes in your life, Barbara, but your strong faith and the love of family and friends have brought you to a happy, secure place in life. So happy for you and Gary!

Victor S E Moubarak said...

I've commented here ... and it's gone! In the SPAM folder perhaps.

Thank you for a lovely post. God bless.

Victor S E Moubarak said...

God bless you.

Becki said...

It was so good to read this, Barbara. It is good to know you a little more. This post is just filled with grace - as if the Holy Spirit guided your fingers as you typed. Your words at the end are wise, and definitely make for a happier existence in this world where we have little to no control over many things. You have been such an excellent example of faith and grace for many people through this blog.

Becki said...
This comment has been removed by the author.


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