• sarah@healingeyes.org

Author Archives: Healing Eyes

Moving out

Today I make the final goodbyes to my house. I am emptying the last of it…cleaning it…and remembering Andy at every turn.

sitting on the floor in our bedroom with yoshi at my feet. They know it’s not the same, it’s empty without Andy there papa. 

Praying tomorrow goes well for the closing and I can keep it together while signing the paperwork. Can’t forget the death certificate. It’s amazing how much you need that stupid piece of paper reminding me of the loss.

Stop and breathe…and remember
valentine 2012

Healing Eyes

Tears of change

God has turned my tears into tiny crystals of hope. Each day is a blessing waiting to be opened. Each hour of the day is a test of faith. Each minute of the day is a test of my strength. What have I learned from this? Well, I am weak and I have no control over my life. My life is not my own, I have been pursued by God relentlessly. His patience and perseverance is amazing! How he never gave up on me years ago is shocking. When you allow your eyes to be opened and your heart to be touched, then be ready for astounding things to happen. From the smallest interaction with a stranger to an intimate conversation with a friend miles and miles away (cough cough St. Croix:))
I have faltered over the year.. I have tried to do everything..I have tried to be independent.. I have tried to live my life. Silly Sarah, God wants to take that control away. What a relief to let go of control and open my heart to something more. Not to say that makes everything peachy keen but at least it’s a step in the right direction. Yesterday I was a mess as the snow consumed my house and roof, the rain flooded by apartment, and my spirits were low. This morning I cried out for a blessing and strength to live today. He answered my prayer with the tiniest details in mind. It’s amazing how he moves people around on the world called life. Even just an interaction with another person going thru their day can be a blessing if you allow yourself to open up. Let the walls down and share your story..share your pain.. share you mistakes…God wants to love ME of all people. Ha!

 

This morning at Degage Ministries I served breakfast for the homeless..people in need of a bit of food and love. I saw Andy serving toast (my 88 year old version of what I like to think would have been Andy had he lived). Once again Andy made sure I took time to EAT a breakfast haha. I shared my plans with the other volunteers there, I shared my story of St. Croix and Lighthouse Missions on the island, I shared my heart.. ME opening up my heart to others in order to touch there’s thru God. I prayed this morning, God use me today to speak for you…use my voice..just use me for something because I am awake. What does God do? Well he said, “OK, sarah let’s get to business and talk to people”…  I even prayed in front of a group of people for the morning breakfast, lol, ME..little ole me.

 

Song after song on the radio God is talking to me..the verses of each one touch me and I cry out enough, enough

Take me apart.. I give all of me for all you are.. here I am … TAKE ME APART and rebuild me into something glorious!

Break open the stars.. to save those who cry out his name! Thru the winds and waves of pain. During cancer the pain is overwhelming. During death the pain is overwhelming. How can we ever expect to hear God when pain is just throbbing thru every part of our veins. My gift from God is PAIN, but that’s ok, we all have gifts and skills to give so why not let God turn that around for something better. Our sins, our pain can all be turned around for good once we say, “Why not!?”  While Andy was in the hospital leading up to his death I asked, “Andy should we pray?” he said, “Why not? It couldn’t hurt”.  OH ANDY…I love you, your stubbornness, your forgiveness, your unconditional love even when I disappointed you. Today I listened to a song called “Oh My Dear” By tenth Avenue North. It was as if you were talking to me and saying how much you loved me. My love, my otherself..you are amazing even thru death.

“Oh my dear.. I will wait for you… Grace tonight will pull us thru.. Until the tears have left your eyes..until the fear to sleep at night.. until the demons that you are scared of disappear inside.. Until this guilt begins to crack and the weight falls from your back. Oh my dear..i’ll keep you in your arms tonight..

I miss your arms Andy.. You understood me so well. There is no way any of us can understand why you had to suffer for so long or why you had to leave us so young. I know that you are finally sleeping..ever so peacefully in Jesus’s arms. God pursued you and won you over in the end. The angels rejoiced the day you said, “Why not?” Love me from afar, love me forever, love me thru the storms of life I will face without you.

Healing Eyes

Control is just a word

My life is not my own…it never was.. 

It can take us our entire life to realize that but when it finally sinks in and you accept it than doors can open. Doors you never imagined in your life!

It’s snowing back here in Michigan..a record snow fall. I like to think that Andy has some part behind that. I look outside my window and I see the snow fall and the tree branches collect it ever so softly. Winter is just another extreme of God’s beauty. Yes it’s cold but doesn’t it just make you feel more alive! It’s Gods natural blanket on the earth which in the Spring will bring new life.

My journey to St. Croix and my renewed faith in something larger than myself is now my oxygen. I breathe in and exhale but it’s not my lungs or my will behind it..God is keeping me alive and teaching me each day that it’s ok to smile and see beauty all around. I read a book while in St. Croix that analyzed Psalm 23 (The Lord is my shepherd). This book touched me in a way that only God could have predestined so perfectly. Placing me in the right place and the right time to just read a book perchance I learn something. My heart cried when I read the part about .. “It is not a death bed, it is sleeping in Jesus’s arms. It is sweet to die in Jesus..”
That night andy died he looked peaceful as he took his last breaths, he was truly falling asleep ever so gently in Jesus’s arms.

Psalm 23:3 ‘He restores my soul’  Restores vitality, vigor, strength..

I went to St. Croix not knowing what to expect but I returned knowing God wanted to woe me over and remind me of his love. He wanted me to fall in love all over again with him.

It isn’t easy grieving..the tears will take your breath away and punch you right in the gut without any warning. It’s like living on ice, you never know when it will crack beneath your weight. I kept Andy’s wallet the same as he left it, he has old receipts, his license, credit cards, business cards, a spare key, random passwords. He was here one day and then gone the next. A life permanently on pause. My life is now full of lonely moments and memories that haunt me. If pain and empathy is my gift from God than I sure hope I can put it to use because right now it’s overwhelming and deafening to my heart.

Healing Eyes

Night Before

A day before I leave ‘The Island’ and many thoughts are filling my heart. I say my heart because with life we use our Mind too much when all it takes is a little faith to believe in something larger than ourselves.

What if there was a God that loves each of us so much that he had this crazy plan all along to win us back. An individually tailored plan that we aren’t allowed to know but if we just trust him the blessings would be more than imaginable. I always tend to think negative first and then positive after (based on life experience up to this point). What if that mentality was wrong?

I took a shower yesterday that lasted a minute and it was sooo thankful it was hot water. I was overjoyed about a few drops of water that were not frigid and lasted a minute long. I looked up and saw the full moon thru the window and it made the moment even more magical. At that moment I felt this amazing love fill me and I just felt Great. I took water for granted. I took heat for granted. I took everything I had for granted before coming to the island. It’s as if God sent me here for 2 weeks in order to win me back and show how much he loved me and to make me fall in love with him all over again. You know that magical feeling when your a kid and life seems simple and you trust in your parents and trust in God? But then you grow up and life’s trials and stresses take over..sometimes you have considerable pain in your life and sometimes you don’t. But somewhere along the way I lost that feeling of Trust…Our life is not our own! I have tried over and over to make it my own and to control it. I still want to…but honestly, I can’t. I’m tired and God knows that…he always wanted to take care of me but it took the death of my soulmate to make room for that. A hard road to take but if life was easy how would we learn anything and grow.

I know I can’t sum up all the ups and downs of the past weeks in a blog post. I can’t sum up a hearts pull in a blog post. All I know is that something has stirred in me that was long dead.. but God knew otherwise. Maybe there is hope for this lost soul yet even if she is only half alive. Some nights I cry and scream out for the loss felt but sometimes I just don’t think and take time to breathe. One thing for sure is around sunset the pain is overwhelming and the tears do flow but I know its not quite as dark as it could be. It’s a long road ahead when grieving and honestly it began months ago when cancer took hold. It will never go away and will always be my dark friend.

1016767_10100593252669097_676158783_n

 Making flowers with my favorite Kids! Perla, Gracie, Atisha 🙂
My heart will never be the same…a little piece was returned.

1011254_10100594116957057_1692880592_n

Serving Breakfast at the Missions (yes it is mac and cheeze and chicken:) Great Food and Great Volunteers!
I love them soo much and they have really touched my heart beyond belief.

 

Healing Eyes

Miracles

Why has God sent me to St. Croix after the biggest traumatic event of my life?

God knows ha …

Seriously, getting on the plane to come here was one of the hardest things to do. Planning a funeral a day after Andy died was just a step I had to do and it was structured, check I can do that. Crying with Andy day after day while struggling with Cancer, Check I can do that (mostly, that really wears a soul down). Now listen to God when he is screaming to get my attention and try and show me a side to life that can be happy, not so good at that one. Why is that? Am I that against trying to smile and be happy that I fight it so much? Yup I think I am that messed up.

Even if I fall sometimes God is there to slap me in the face and say, ‘Sarah come on it’s ok to live’. Try it for an hour each day and then a bit more as time goes by and maybe, just maybe you’ll get used to it.

Today I had a birthday cake that I wasn’t expecting. My birthday is the 15th and I am dreading it. Two reasons: first one without Andy and its right after Valentine’s day. Did I cry when I got sung to and tried to blow the candles out, Yes yes I did. Did it make me think of how Andy and my friend back home used to do Cake off’s on birthdays, Yes yes it did. Do I need to just suck it up and be ok with enjoying a birthday, Yes yes I do. But I also need to cut myself some slack because it’s ok to grieve and cry. The 15th of Feb will be 2 months from Dec 15th, that’s a pretty big deal.

Back to what God has in mind for this trip. I think he wanted to crack open my heart and stretch me a bit. Learn how to give up my daily baths in exchange for cold showers in order to appreciate the water he gives me back home. Appreciate electricity since we really do take it for granted back home. Appreciate the kindness of others is far up the list of what to take home with me. Let people be nice and accept it as a good thing is another thing to accept as ok. Slow down and just enjoy the day and watch as it enfolds…its amazing how unexpected a day will be when you don’t force it into something it shouldn’t be. Meaning that if you ‘Let it be’ than God can work his ideas for the day in. For instance, Saturday I asked God to Bless Me, not someone else but ME. Give me an opportunity or something to just be blessed. So what happens, I’m walking on this beautiful beach on the West end with tourists and locals.. The fisherman down the beach interested me the most because they had no fishing poles but just wheels of fishing line. Now that’s cool, I wonder if I have the guts to just say Hi. Ok I pass one guy and chicken out, then another and the chance disappears. On my walk back I decide ok just Say HI and don’t be shy. The first guy I say, “What you catching?” and he says “To eat”. I smile and clarify, “Did you catch anything?” .. and so our conversation begins, he has several fish in his bucket and he’s so friendly and he asks if I am on vacation. I say yea kinda on vacation but also helping out at Lighthouse Missions. He says I should come back again and vacation here.. I smile and say Yah 🙂  Anyways I continue down the beach and talk to each fisherman and look at there fish and we all smile. It was something out of my comfort zone but I found it nice to just Talk to strangers about fish. Later we went miles away to a spot to hike and who do we see? The first fisherman in his truck and he recognizes us.. such a small island I guess. It’s just neat how God works in building relationships, even if they are small ones, it’s nice to connect in life. Most of the time we are too busy are stuck in our own bubbles to just say, Hi.

That’s it.. not a super exciting story but it’s just one way God is trying to open my mind to.

A friend sent me this song and it sums up how falling isn’t always so bad because it shows our strength thru faith in God. We are all stronger than we know and should never give up no matter how dark it gets in our hearts.

Healing Eyes

I don’t know

Buck island tour

Buck island tour

Reflecting on life

Reflecting on life

Where to begin.. it’s been a week on the ‘island’.. this strange step into the unknown as a Widow.

A young widow jumping on a plane in the middle of winter to leave behind mountains of snow to fly over the ocean to a tiny little island to meet people she never met before all on a Leap of Faith. My husband of 13 years passed away right before Christmas from cancer. My life has been flipped upside down, my house is most likely selling, my dogs are confused, my stuff is disappearing to Goodwill, and here I am on an island. It’s almost as if my life is now an island.. a tiny new little island being formed amidst this huge storm of suffering and pain..wondering what will become of it all…and what will God now do with the shell of a person left behind.

How do I describe my first week of discovery and healing. Well we can first say I panicked and almost wanted to flag down any passing ship or plane to get me the hell out of here. Or I could say that never crossed my mind and everything is perfect because life always works out like you plan.. cough cough .. not really. Yes it’s true I had my ‘doubting God’ moment every single day here.. I cried myself to sleep and was homesick for my home that really is disappearing back in all the snow. If you think about life as a Widow there is no normal anymore. Everything is different when your soulmate dies, even though over the year I watched Andy suffer endlessly and fade away I still knew he was breathing my air. Now after the storm its a strange feeling of loss…that no words can express.

Back to the island.. I have met many friendly people. Sometimes the generosity and kindness overwhelms me because amidst all the pain from cancer its easy to get sucked in and be blind to any good around you. One thing about pain is it is suffocating. You don’t fully comprehend it when you are swallowed up in it. Everyone is on the outside of your heart and you build walls to protect yourself from any other forms of pain that could penetrate the defenses. So step one in God’s plan is to annihilate those walls and let people in that care and just accept kindness. Perhaps that is the biggest thing to take away from week 1.

Next on my agenda is to try and SLEEP. Ok sounds simple.. just mix hot weather, exercise, mental exhaustion and that should equal blissful sleep. hmm not when you are grieving. Why? Well there is this little thing called missing your husband while you sleep, the little hugs, the little sounds of breathing, all the things you take for granted in a marriage. Tonight I hope and pray sleep will be restful…but there still is time to remedy that if it doesn’t happen yet. You can’t rush grieving.

Don’t underestimate the power of prayer. Yes I know..me talking about prayer? Holy cow who is this person right? Well let’s just say maybe prayer works..maybe it’s ok to cry in front of strangers while praying..maybe God really does listen and cares..maybe he wants to hear our ramblings and concerns.

Lastly, next time you pass a person maybe it’s not such a bad idea to say hi and smile. Here on the island you have strangers just saying hi and blessings to you. Maybe its the sun and nice weather talking or maybe it actually can be healing to build passing relationships with strangers. It’s amazing what you can feel and learn when stopping to listen to a person you might not normally give the time of day. Serving breakfast this morning it was fun to say Good Morning and to learn people’s names and street names. Their smiles had the power to make this broken heart smile … even if for a moment.. it’s hard to see outside our own pain sometimes. One guy said to me, “It will be ok, you will be ok”.. Really? how did he know I was struggling, it must be written all over my face. This guy used to be a thief and homeless, he talked to me my first day serving, his story was pretty interesting but he turned his life around and now helps out at the mission…

Enough sappiness for one night.. Hang in there everyone struggling with either cancer, grief, or any kind of loss. Maybe someday things will calm down.

Healing Eyes

Who?

I’m sitting in the Chicago airport waiting for my flight to San Juan and it just hit me. Most likely the people going on this plane are going as couples and possibly honeymooners.

Talk about being a complete a complete oddity here.

As I was writing this a couple came up to me and said, “not to be creepy but I think I know you”.
I laughed because I recognized him since leaving from home on the first flight. The odds of flying with an old boss from the store world market. He was the manager there and remembered my face from 8 years ago. I uses to run the cash register there at Xmas. They are catching a royal Caribbean cruise from San Juan.

Of course they asked my plans and I explained my husband passed away from cancer and I’m going to help out at a mission on the island.
I guess that’s my new normal …casually saying oh yea my husband just passed away and I’m….fill in the blanks based on my current circumstances.
I think everyday is a surprise from here on out!

Sometimes I catch myself wondering or questioning what god is going to do with my broken life. But then I just remind myself that it’s the random conversations and relationships that are now popping up each day that give some meaning to life. It’s so odd since my comfort zone is to keep my head down and avoid conversing with people….but now I have no choice but to go along with the flow.

Healing Eyes

42 Days

Thats 6 weeks…

Since My Best friend died…

I’ve realized that I have failed to share the most life altering stage of Andy’s and mine story. The day Andy found peace and comfort with God and his battle with cancer. Let me rewind time back to October. In October the unwanted thief came back inside Andy’s frail body. It invaded his intestines by blocking nutrients and inflicting its pain on his body once again. The surgeon removed the unwanted obstruction in his body and days later he was told it was cancer again…Gastric Cancer..the same exact type as before.

Strike Two

November came and a series of events brought Andy back into the hospital where shockingly they found another mass in his intestines. This time it was a very greedy tumor that wanted to take all of Andy away. Andy fought with what little was left of his frail body. I returned from Germany and saw him in the hospital bed .. he got up and we hugged. He was wearing his brown striped kalamazoo college sweatshirt. It hung on his body frame loosely, I feared if I hugged him too tight he might snap in my tiny arms.

6 months to live was what the doctor told him. I didn’t know how to respond…our last bit of hope was shattered. I could see the realization of the news in his eyes. We talked, we talked like best friends facing hell together. What did this all mean and how painful would it be for him and me to watch. Caregivers everywhere know the immense pain inflicted by watching someone suffer. Day after day Andy would slip away, the Andy I knew from our 13 years of marriage was slipping away with each diagnosis and chance of hope.

Now with hope fading how do we face the inevitable when we have no faith or hope for a loving God. How can a man who is in so much pain believe that maybe God does care. That God loved him so much to choose him for such suffering. How can anyone comprehend that as being a gift? A gift to see how precious life is and how short it can be. How Andy’s life touched so many lives when he was strong and even when he was weak. God used Andy’s suffering in a fallen world to touch other lives…give hope to others that even in our final hours there is love.

The next day Andy was to have a colonoscopy to see what was going on inside him. He came out in severe pain. He looked weak. Soon after he went into septic shock from his colon blowing and bile leaking into his abdomen. I can only say as someone looking in that it looked extremely painful. Andy still sat up and was so patient with the nurses and doctors, never once did he lose his temper. He was screaming out in pain from the inside I know but he didn’t take it out on anyone.
Just like on TV the doctors and nurses came in with there machines and xrays to see what was the issue…that was when they saw the blow out and he had to have an emergency operation.
His surgeon talked to us both and explained the situation… most of it is a blur but I remember looking into that room from the hallway and thinking, this is it…Andy is fading away and I am helpless to stop it. I can’t make his pain go away.

The trip down the hallway with Andy laying in the hospital bed, sweating and writhing in pain. We reached the elevator and I leaned over and kissed him on his lips and whispered, “God loves you and I love you Andy… It will be ok” “I will be waiting”.  The elevator doors closed and my best friend was gone.

Hours later the surgeon came out to the waiting room and shook his head, pulled me and Andy’s mothers into a room. The words I feared since cancer began were spoken, “I couldn’t get the tumor out”… “It was larger than expected…he would have died on the table”.
Andy’s surgeon was the best, most caring, skilled, and amazing guy…I hugged him and said “it’s ok, you did everything you could and its no one’s fault. Andy always liked you and respected you.”

Strike Three…Terminal diagnosis…

I paced in front of the glass window of the hospital room, Andy was in there. Andy was unconscious. Andy was dying. Andy was on a respirator. Andy couldn’t talk. Andy was swollen. Andy’s body was losing the battle.

That day before he died Andy was writing on anything we could get, his hands were shaky and most of the time it was frustrating for him and me to communicate. “Pain” “Untie me” “Want to talk” “Pain”. My love was in pain and trapped in a body that was failing…a body that turned against him.

Next morning 5 a.m. The Phone Call. “Andy pulled the respirator out on his own and is talking”.
Oh Andy you stubborn man, you amazing man, you courageous man. On a snowy morning I dashed back to the hospital in a panic. Once there he was alive, breathing, talking. “I love you Sarah”. “I love you Andy”. “I am here”.

The day was a blur of doctors..nurses..tests..pain control..and finally acceptance. Each doctor heard Andy talk and answered his questions. Andy was amazing. He faced death with such certainty and courage. He was in so much pain but he still wanted to understand how he would die and if it would hurt. He said goodbye to family and friends. He said goodbye to the puppies. He never said goodbye to me…he didn’t need to because he will never leave me. That’s the problem with soul mates, you can never really say goodbye.

Eventually hospice came in and made Andy comfortable. I held his beautiful hand over the hospital bed railing. I squeezed it in our secret way to say I love you over and over, Andy replied back with the same squeeze. He couldn’t talk but he was talking to me.

10:03 pm Sunday, December 15, 2013 he breathed his last breathe in my arms and his eyes closed. His body hurt no more. His soul was free. Cancer lost that day because Andy lives. He lives in everyone he touched thru his journey thru life. He lives thru me and my journey ahead.

Andy was a goofy guy..he wouldn’t want us to all suffer after his death. He wouldn’t want us to not smile anymore. He would want us to be happy. These are all logical thoughts but hard to put in practice when someone so amazing is ripped from our lives. Those left behind must pick up the pieces and learn to live again. Every once and awhile I feel Andy’s love again..I see him in dreams and he says he’s not sick..he’s ok. Andy you keep on being Ok wherever you are and watch over Hope. I’ll keep surviving down here and maybe use all this suffering for some purpose that God has in mind.

Healing Eyes

Picture perfect Love

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am so glad a couple years ago we Tried to Adopt and got these photos made for our Adoption Profile. They were meant to show how cute and loving we were to a prospective Birth Mother and now they are a gift to me.

My friend was the photographer and these have to be the best photos of me and Andy together..they capture andy’s goofy personality and his passionate love for me. None of these smiles are fake  ‘cheeze’ poses:)
I miss you my Best Friend!

IMG_2074IMG_2121IMG_2140IMG_2165IMG_2173IMG_2200IMG_2202IMG_2232

Healing Eyes

What remains

Only a broken heart remains. Shattered into pieces on the cold snow…ever falling silently to the ground. Casting shadows on what once was a life of two hearts joined together. A sickness burrowed its way uninvited and slowly killed the most precious part. What remains shines dimly compared to what did shine before cancer took hold.
Without you Andy this world is cold and lonely. My other self…the better half of two hearts is now gone forever.

The other day I walked with you thru the woods in the bitter cold. Found our spot by the river and said goodbye to a part of you. The small bit of Your ashes scattered in the cold water…forever a part of the soil and water flowing thru the woods. Miko got close to the rivers edge and the ice cracked a bit, she always was fearless. But now in the dark of night I am scared. The reality of you being gone is like knives on my heart. Can you even hear this rant? Are you ok?
Are you finally rid of cancer? Free of pain?

Everyone says that you would want those left behind that loved you to smile and be happy … Your coworkers miss you and gave me the most amazing gift of kindness … I cried when I read the beautiful card they gave me. I have no idea what I can do to smile again, without you smiling hurts…

What should become of this blog? Even the name “sarah and Andy”…does that die with your loss? Can your story truly end when all I think of is you and our years together… Till death do us part but really you are still alive in my thoughts !

Healing Eyes