For six months, Jaime and I chose to not cry in front of one another. Looking back, that “act” was nothing short of a miracle. Hearing that you or someone you love has cancer is enough to make the tears stream. Knowing deep within that it is over…before it is over, should have broken our unofficial agreement. Composure…no, divine strength would hold back the sobbing while I sat with Jaime those final days and hours. However, I can say that there wasn’t a day I would leave the hospice that I didn’t sit in the car and just cry. And then I would cry at home, as I forcibly got adjusted to life without Jaime. One time, as I drove through the Chick-Fil-A drive through, I began to cry when they told me they didn’t have light Italian dressing. I know…pathetic! Jaime, enjoyed that salad dressing and I was offended on her behalf!
I have been told over and over again that sharing how I am really feeling is therapeutic. Even though I continue to choose to keep my emotions close, in the privacy of the early morning hours, in my home, I couldn’t agree more. There has been a tremendous release as I have chosen to deal with truth, walk through my pain, and embrace this bend in the road. Again, as I look back, this experience began long before the late hours of December 6, 2012. By force and by choice, Jaime and I began letting go in the summer and fall of 2012. We quickly found that our earthly treasures were not as important as we once regretfully believed. We sat one early morning and just let go of things that we had done and said to one another. Jaime let go of “her” schedule and plans and readily admitted she had never been in control of the 29-year journey she would soon end. I let go over the selfish quest of being right and the self-pity and destructive lie that God was laying siege on my home. And, on a late evening in the month of October, Jaime released me as her husband.
As difficult as this is to express in written form…any form, really, let me share with you that very painful, yet releasing conversation. Following seizures, earlier that month, Jaime was finally home again (for a short time) and I sat with her one evening and shared my heart. “Jaime, I am your support, but I am worried.” I hated telling her that because I felt I was letting her down – like I wasn’t cheering her on anymore. Of course that wasn’t the truth. It was just that the reality of what was unfolding began to hit me. I had already been pulled aside by doctors and counselors at the hospital asking me if I was prepared for what might happen. Of course I wasn’t! I would ignore their advice and at the same time know that my wife’s death was becoming a reality each day. Jaime never addressed my concerns. Instead, she said, “James, when I am gone, do not become bitter and shut out love from your heart.” Jaime and I had our fair share of arguments but I will have to tell you that those final pieces of advice were some of the most painful words to receive. I was paralyzed by her solemn delivery. How in the world could someone speak of “when” they would be gone and have such a hopeful look on their face? That evening, around a year ago this time, Jaime let me know it would be ok….painful, but ok. She had released her false control over her own life and surrendered to the faith in God she now knew to be greater than true…it was so very personal. And it set up a chain reaction. We released one another from pain and guilt, so that we could release one another to experience the fruitfulness and joys of life, planned long, long ago by the One who had released us from the curse and sting of eternal death.
And that initial, painful, act of release has continued to impact me a year later. I do not say, “I’ll never forgive….” because I know what it is to be forgiven of sins far greater then I have been wronged. With a heavy measure of grace, I do not try to remind people of everything they have said and done, because I was forgiven not only a lifetime of mistakes, but an entire marriage’s worth in the course of an early morning conversation. In letting people “off the hook”, that doesn’t and hasn’t ever belonged to me, I am released to do what it is I have been called to do. I don’t fully know what that is at this point – small parts are unfolding along the way – but I am eternally grateful that I am carried and no longer carrying the past with me. I have been released to live and live abundantly.