In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Film of Before and After

This space on the internet still seems to be the place where I continue to work through death. It's so sacred and precious to me. I have had so many distractions from death, since Dave died.  I had back surgery, I've had a new marriage, I've had step sons.  I've had the task of raising kids.  Some of these things are good, but mostly they are just plain hard.

About six months after Dave died, I heard, second hand, someone say that they didn't want to move on from the death of their husband, because they liked the attention they got. I decided right there, in that moment, that I was NOT going to be that person, so I was going to move forward.  I think that I may have short circuited my grief with distractions and determination.  It wasn't because it was too painful, it was because, I just want to be a normal person. A person without so much crisis in my life.  A person with too much crisis, is a person who tires people out. That's the belief that I have held.  It's a lie, but I can't seem to shake it. I can believe that other people carrying so much chaos need grace and care, but for me, I believe that my chaos is just plain tiring.

Anyway, here I am, back to dealing with death. What has struck me so hard lately is that death casts a shadow in every direction. It feels inescapable. What brought this to such clarity are the earthly possessions that most of us would grab first if there is a fire in our house.  Photographs. They are precious and irreplaceable.  They help bring memories into focus.  They evoke sentiment and emotion.  But when unexpected death crashes into life, all photographs take on the shadow of death. Every photograph within a 10 year span is now categorized into BEFORE and AFTER.  The closer they are to the crashing, the stronger the shadow.

This idea came into focus the other day, when I was looking for a computer cord. I never found the cord, but I came across this picture.

I completely crumbled. This picture was taken about two months before Dave died, at mother/son dance. All I can see in this picture is Spencer's look. I can almost hold the innocence in this picture. Little did either of us know that our lives of comfort and safety were soon to be challenged.

Every. Single. Time. I get a little "memories" picture when I open up Facebook,  the first question I have is, "will this be a before picture or an after picture."  There are few pictures that stand alone with just the value of the picture. It's so frustrating to not be able to adore a picture or experience the memory of the picture, without that shadow. These following are all pictures that would normally elicit a sweet memory feeling or the simple capturing of an age or event. They do that, yet each one, also, has a film of sorrow on it for now.
                                                                Sweet Leah!
                                          A daddy and his baby, getting to know each other.
                                           Leah catching her second fish at the Lone Duck.
                                                            Spencer, the little boy.
                                              Meeting Macie for the very first time, ever.
                                                   Charlie's first day in the Aldridge family.

They are all just normal pictures.  Some with Dave in them and some without Dave, but all having that shadow.

If there are any pictures or stories that I can not classify into before and after, they are a sort of gift.  They get to stand all by themselves, holding only their own meaning and memory.

Pictures taken after December 21, 2012 have the same shade thrown on them. They can still have joy and laughter and new life, but many of them have a, "Dave is missing this," proponent . . .especially, as it pertains to the kids doing something new or displaying the personality of the kids. Dave didn't ever really get to see Leah as she has come out of her shell. She was always funny, but he never got to experience her humor as it keeps developing.  He never saw Spencer swim on swim team or play goalie in soccer or do a million different things. He never got to really get to know Macie at all and to see how far she has come, physically and emotionally.
                                          Was Spencer really this little, after Dave died?
                                                    Leah's third fish she ever caught.
                                                               Unlikely (nearly) twins.
                                                          Leah loving her new dad.
       Practicing for their first ballet recital, shortly after Dave died.  They looked so cute, but most               everything about that performance was empty without being able to share it with Dave.
                             I still can't figure out why anyone would WANT to play goalie?????
                                                                     Leah, the comedian!
                                                             Macie riding the waves!

Will this ever change?  Will I ever be able to look at the pictures surrounding December 21, 2012 without a film of loss over them?  Will their value ever be restored to the simple value of the memory being captured? I have no idea?  I hope the layer of grief over them breaks down at some point, or that the film will have more of a sweet hue, rather than a sticky film of sorrow.

I feel like I need to add a dash of cheer, to this rather somber post.  Perhaps a quote from the Bible that says, "Joy comes in the morning," but I'm just frustrated by this haunting.  One of my more comforting verses lately that is not one that is found inside many frames or the front of Hallmark cards, is an easy one to memorize.  "Jesus wept." He wept, because his friend died. Jesus knows the sting of death. Fortunately, he also knows the victory over it. Maybe that is his promise that death's shadow will fade . . . someday.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Jesus Day

Four years ago today, I stood in my kitchen while my girls insisted that they could see Jesus in the kitchen.  More specifically that they could see him standing behind me, with his hands on my shoulders. I remember thinking, "My life is fine right now. What a weird time for them to see Jesus in my kitchen." 

Four years ago from tonight my life was normal.  As normal as life could be.  A  cute husband with a new position at work, three kids, and Christmas coming in a few days.  Not a day since then has felt normal.  Not one single day. At least, I don’t think so. Every day since then has felt like I was walking with one foot on a railroad track and one foot on the ground. Like I’m tilted. Or that I’m hobbling. Nothing is smooth or glidy about life, ever since Dave died.  I’m on a track and it’s not like it’s the wrong track, I suppose, but I just can’t get upright, entirely.  I can’t make it feel unbumpy. I can’t get in the groove of it. 

Tonight, I sat in Spencer’s room as we watched a couple videos of Dave with tears streaming down both of our faces.  Normally, I have something to say. I think of something. I ask if he want to read the Bible. Or I remember something from a sermon. But tonight. . . .I had nothing. I just stared at him and cried and said, “I don’t know what to say.” “Sorry your dad died.” I just sat there and cried.  He just sat there and cried. One video had Dave’s voice in it. More tears. Spencer said, “It’s just been so long since I heard his voice.”  “I wish he didn’t die.”  

Maybe a better analogy is that I’m wearing a pair of glasses, but they have been knocked a little sideways on my face and I just can’t quite see straight.  I can’t quite get back to normal vision. No matter what I try, the vision just won’t go back to normal. Supposedly, the new vision is something that can be used by God, but I can’t see straight enough to see what that is supposed to look like.  

Leah, even with the flu, sees the sadness and just tries her best to lighten the mood.  For a little girl that can throw down a pout at the slightest infraction, she is a the queen of making sure nobody is emotionally down. She is very crafty at what she does. 

Tomorrow is the longest night in the year. That is so true on so many fronts.  It feels so dark, for so long. I hate it. 

I have that feeling again, that my body was not meant to know how to deal with death.  This was not part of what we were created for and we were not created to do death well, or pain free, or easily or gracefully. We were not created to be broken.  

I miss Dave. I just miss him. I never dreamt that four years later, it could still feel so yesterday. So many good things have happened since that day. A million laughs, hundreds of sunny days, the best friends in the entire world, a new marriage that is growing into something healing and unique and strong, a desperate dependence on God. However, through thousands of days and millions of good things, there is still a sting of death that I thought maybe I would be above.  I thought I wouldn’t have to feel this forever.  And maybe I won’t?  Maybe that sting will continue to lessen, but maybe it won’t. 

I’m surprised on days like this, how I consciously think to myself, “How can I position my thoughts, so that I don’t have to feel this kind of pain?” Then I realize it’s no use and so I just cry a little more.

Tomorrow, I’ll wake up and know just how dramatic I was tonight.I'll probably try to delete this.  I’ll go to the North Pole and remember how Dave was so childlike at this place when he finally got to take Spencer and Leah there for the first time. And I’ll remember that God is with us.  Emmanuel!   And the days will go on.  The good and the bad and Jesus will continue to challenge me with his desire for my life to be abundant and full.

Monday, May 25, 2015


I have, for the most part, only written on my new blog for the better part of a year now, but it feels right to revisit this homey plot of the world wide web tonight. It feels a bit symbolic as I am excited to move forward, but sometimes struggle to know where the balance of honoring, remembering, and letting go of the past, lies. 
This last month or so has been so full of periphery.  Tony selling his house, me selling my house, the two of us buying a house together, Tony losing a job completely out of the blue, Tony finding a job here in Colorado Springs, head colds,  continuing to work on my relationship with Macie, planning a wedding, deciding the best place for my dog, Charles (that is a post in itself), kids getting out of school - not to mention - continuing to all the regular stuff a single parent does.  None of it is all that big of a deal, but I think it has kept me from tending to some of the actual big stuff in life.  And, as usual, Tony is the one to point this out.  
Yesterday and today, I have spent some time, de-Dave-izing, my house, where Tony and I will live for a few months, before our new house gets a bit of a makeover.  Pictures were taken down, decorations that were from places Dave and I have visited were removed and other random items have been put in boxes or the Goodwill pile.   I've been a bit robotic about it.  There's just too much to do, to weep over each item, or any of the items.  However, before Tony left tonight, he said, "Will you do me a favor?"  "Will you please take some time to really think about how you feel about taking all those pictures down?"  He also asked me to take some time to really think about Dave tonight.  So, instead, I'm writing a blog.  That actually feels less emotional.   
How is this supposed to be done in the healthiest way?  I have the excitment for the wedding down.  I am super excited to marry Tony and go on a honeymoon and spend the rest of our lives learning how to love Jesus and each other more and more.  But, what about Dave? It doesn't seem quite right to have wedding pictures displayed all about, while married to Tony.  It doesn't feel right to have any kind of reminders of Dave in our bedroom?  But, it doesn't feel quite right to just tuck everything Dave, away in boxes, in the garage, either?  Do I cram all those framed pictures in my kids' rooms, as if it were just them and their dad, but not mom, dad, and them?  It's all just kinda weird, for lack of a better term.  
Well, whether or not I figure out the best way to take down pictures, I'm sure Tony and I will be learning how to do this dance for years to come.  All I'm saying is grace.  Grace for each other and the grace of God, will lead us through these tricky widow/divorce waters.  
I do love, love, love that I have found love again.  I do love that my relationship with Tony is so different than with Dave.  I do love that a new chapter is starting.  But, my little Sicilian, Latin-like lover, Tony, is right.  I really shouldn't just plow through to the wedding, without giving attention to how I feel about Dave in the midst of it.  Because, as much as I don't want to admit it on my wedding week, there are some bubbling emotions there, that are best uncovered now.  I think I will take tonight, even with a to do list a mile long, to sit with Dave's book, and take this bundle of emotions and plop them into the arms of Jesus.  He'll know what to do with them.  I bet that sounds a little crazy, but that is just what I picture.   I love that Jesus.  
P.S. - probably most of you have found your way over to my new blog, but if not, it is at   

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Letter to Kara Tippetts

ON a different blog site that my friends and I are experimenting with, we are writing, "Thirty One Letters to Life."  One for each day of October.  This is the letter that I wrote for yesterday on that website, but I wanted to put it here also, because it feels so personal to my story.

Dear Kara Tippetts,

When I first started reading your blog (I'm sure anyone reading my blog has read hers), and learning of your plight with cancer, I felt like I had something to offer to you.  I felt like I wanted to sit down with you over a cup of coffee and tell you that your kids will be OK should your cancer progress.  I wanted to tell you that they will be lovers of Jesus, heaven and you in the most genuine and pure way.  That the lines between this life and life to come will in some ways blur for your kids.  But after months and months of following your blog, I'm pretty sure I have nothing to offer you that you don't already know.  I am quite sure that I have learned more about living after the death of a family member, from you, even though I should be the expert.     

Shortly after my husband died, I wrote a post about feeling like I was in a pile of hot coals, and to touch me, was to burn yourself.  In a way, I feel a bit of a parallel with your story.  Your story can feel so painful and so hot to the touch, that to even read your blog, it could burn a little.  Sometimes, I even turn away for a time, so I can gear up to read your latest thoughts.  But what I have found, in continuing to read each post, is that I find the warmth and not the burn.  In a story that feels so wrong, so scary, so what we all don't want to happen to us, you give it warmth.  You offer Jesus as the safe, place in a story full of scary.  You have reminded me that love never ends.  You have encouraged me to extend grace, patience and love, even when I was in so much physical pain over the past year.  You kept bringing my eyes back to Jesus.  You make suffering, much more than pain.  You even sometimes allow it to be named beautiful.  You have given permission to love Jesus in the most difficult of circumstances. From the outside, you seem to have grown less and less fearful and more and more confident of grace and the road God has called you to walk.  Yet, you have never pretended that this is anything, but the most difficult hard to walk through.  I am so humbled by your story and your story has given me so much freedom in loving Jesus through every hard piece of life and every beautiful gift of life.  

Having written all that, it turns out that I can't help, but to tell you one little story that I want to pass on to you.  I wasn't planning on it, but after I started this letter on Thursday, we had an event at church on Friday night.  It was a special worship service that revolved around loving our city One of the pastors asked if our family would join a bunch of other families in holding up signs that read, "God loves the broken hearted," or "God loves the homeless," etc. . .   The poster board that Spencer ended up with was, "God loves the fatherless."  When we went to the front of the church during the song, I had zero emotion.  I was just wondering where I should stand.  A few lines in, I saw Spencer a few people away from me on the top step, holding his sign, with such confidence.  He kept pushing it forward and holding it higher, as if to say,  "People, believe this!"  I don't even think that Spencer had any idea of what he was doing.  He wasn't intentionally holding his board like that trying to convince people that God loves the fatherless.  But it was a Holy Spirit moment. During the song, I was not watching anyone else.  I was just trying to hold my tears in (and I evidently wasn't worried about my zipper that was down, while I was holding a poster board above my head in front of the whole church).  At the time, I had no idea, what kind of impact this moment had on others until, countless people told me, with tears in their eyes every time, that they just lost it.  Nobody could totally explain why, but they all talked about his posture, while holding the sign.  Spencer was a walking testimony that night.  And he is all the time.  He has no agenda.  He is just walking around as a whole child.  Not broken.  Not cracked.  With a heart ten times the size as it was before Dave died.  He is not perfect, but there is something that God has done in His life, from the moment Dave died.  I believe that Dave sees it and that he knows all that, but it is something that I wish I could tell him.  I have no idea what Dave's death was like.  I don't know if he knew he was having a heart attack or if he just suddenly died, but if he knew what was happening at all, I wish that he could have supernaturally seen this moment somehow.

After Dave died, I was so beyond worried about my kids.  I still worry and I hurt for them that they don't have a dad, but it never occurred to me, when Dave first died, that my kids would walk around as little unknowing testimonies of God's healing hand and redemption.  I'm so fortunate to see it all the time.  Kara, maybe this sound presumptuous, but I know that your kids will be the same.  They get to just be them and God will be using them in every way to show His glory. After Dave died, a friend stated that God really will become so evident their lives.  I didn't totally believe her, because it seemed impossible that they would really be OK, but God has done immeasurably more in their lives than I ever could have imagined.

I'm still praying along with thousands of others that God will heal you.  That you will be on this earth until you are 101 . . . no if, ands, or buts!

You can't even see his face, but Spencer is in the top left of this picture.  

Friday, September 12, 2014

Forty and the Future

One gift that Dave's death has left me, is to not take much of life too seriously.  There are occasions when an apt amount of seriousness is required, but Picture Day, is not one of them . . . anymore.  I took a few extra minutes last night to arrange cute outfits for picture day, but as it turns out, zero out of three of my children are wearing what everyone agreed to wear last night.  Spencer was determined to wear plaid with stripes and I forgot to check for bed head until he was exiting the van.   Leah was dancing with becoming undone before I agreed to let her wear orange fluorescent tights with her soft pink shoes and jacket.  In addition to the jarring contrast of her color tones, if you are wondering why a usual bow-less Leah is walking around with a big bow in her hair today, it is there for the sole purpose of covering up the yogurt that was crusted in her bangs from yesterday.  And, if you know anything about Ethiopian hair, you can guess that three minutes is not enough time to tame that mane.  I'm sure the pictures will reveal the chaos of our morning, but not in a bad way.  Had I cared, even a little too much, it could have had disastrous results, but I don't.  Maybe I'm still just way too thrilled that they are in school each and every day to worry about how they look, even on Picture Day.

Or maybe it is that I am one year older and wiser, as of September 8th.  I officially have to start checking the 40's box on the meet and greet folder in the pew each Sunday morning, now.  The funny thing is, that since I feel like I'm 65, due to being a widow and still feeling partially crippled from my back, 40 feels pretty young.  Some people take to the skies and head to places like NYC or Napa Valley for their 40th.  Me? I went for an impromptu twirl around the dance floor at the Ritz . . . Colorado Springs.  And I couldn't have been happier in that moment.  My two best friends from college had flown in, and those friends who happened to be available for a late night at the Ritz also found themselves where no husband would want their wives to be found.  Just kidding.  Seriously kidding!!!  It's not that bad - at least not from 9-11pm.  It was an interesting feeling to be thanking Jesus for his faithfulness with true sincerity, while I was reciting every last word of Salt 'N' Pepa's "Shoop," while on the dance floor.  I'm not sure that when Paul was writing to the Thessalonians, saying, "pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus,"  that this is what he had in mind.  Or did he?   I know that it does not mean that everything is beneficial, but I loved even being able to bring my gratitude to Jesus in the middle of the Ritz for my 40 Birthday.  I love that Jesus!

With the turning of a new decade range, I have thought a lot about time lately.  I seriously can NOT imagine living another 40 years.  I always thought that I would live to 103, based on a song that Jimminy Cricket used to sing in these educational videos I watched in elementary school.  Now, doubling my age seems quite impossible.  I still feel so delicate and vulnerable.  Maybe I just feel like my back could never last another 40 years.  I don't know, but it seems impossible.  It kinda feels like the glory days are gone and done with.  It feels like an endless stream of hard is what is awaiting me in future years, separated by brief interludes of relief.  But I don't want to feel this way.  I want to feel like there is still some glory in the days ahead.

I love the phrase Sarah Young wrote. "You accept the way things are without losing hope for a better future."   And even more than that encouraging little phrase there is Paul.  Bible Paul and one really cool verse that gives me a big bouquet of hope.  It's a verse that is quite easily skimmed over.  It is that last verse in the book of Acts.  It reads, "For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him.  He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ-with all boldness and without hindrance!"  I would bet that in the preceding years, Paul never even dreamt that he would get a stretch of time without "hinderance."  After all, his life had become just one hinderance after another for quite some time.   He was beaten with rods multiple times, was stoned a few times, shipwrecked more than once, was starving, sleepless, hated, and thrown into prison, just to name a few.  That is why that last verse in Acts is so huge.  If you know what Paul had to endure, it really lights up the fact that he was able to live unhindered, at least for a while.  So, when I am feeling like life will be nothing, but an uphill battle, full of hinderances and hard, I remember Paul and his rental house and my hope meter rises.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Reacher

Last December, I got a sweet and tender gift from a friend one night.  He's one of the more faithful Walgreens shoppers I know in real life.  He buys anniversary gifts for his wife, birthday gifts for his friends and Reachers for his less able friends, like me.  Every time I use my trusty tool, which is about 600 times a day, I have to remind myself that I am only 39 years old.  I haven't ever taken the tag off of my Reacher.  It's like a prom dress that you are tempted to wear and when the night is over, you return it.  That's how I feel with the Reacher.  I want to be done using it and then return it, as if all of this never happened.  After all, I don't want to have something in common with the 100 year olds that are on that tag.  They look so happy using their Reacher, but every time I use mine, I am reminded that I can't do simple tasks, like casually pick up my clothes off the floor.  It would be nice if I could go back to my teenage years and not be bothered by clothes on the floor, but now that I can't just bend down and pick them up, I am suddenly irritated by my clumsy looking floor.

Here is the deal, though.  I'm ready to do some reaching of a different sort.  I don't know how long I will be in a decent physical state, but I want to get after it.  Feeling physically better, mixed with my new future with all my kids in school feels like an approaching starting line for some new endeavors.  Some of my endeavors are pretty simple, like actually using Groupons before they expire.  Some are a little more involved like possibly taking a stab at writing a book?  Some are more unmeasurable like wanting to tip the scale the other direction to becoming more a giver than a taker.  I also want to be loving my kids even bigger.  It's nuts how much easier it is for me to love big, when I'm not in pain. I treasure that more than anything.  However, the other day, I did find myself reading a blog of a woman who I have only met once.  She is dying of cancer and has four kids. Her blog is at Her words have carried me through the last year.  However, the other day, she was talking about loving her kids big every minute and I was so inspired to do the same as if I knew my days were numbered, but then my kids interrupted me while I was reading this post and I was all irritated with them.  Whoops!  I got off to a pretty rocky start there.  One thing I won't be reaching for is anything athletic, as my serious athletic pursuits are looking shaky these days.  Which brings me to just a plain old physical update.

I am nearing eight weeks post surgery.  My pain level is really pretty good, but on some nights and some afternoons, my nerve pain will rear it's ugly head and I will shoot into high anxiety mode.  The pain is nothing compared to what I have endured for months and months, so it's not the pain that is bad - it is the reminder that this healing could make a U-turn at any minute.  The strength in my leg is a little iffy still, too.  If I were a ballerina, I would be in trouble, because I can't quite go up on my toes with my left foot, yet.   And, my foot still feels like someone sewed a few acorns into the bottom of it.  As long as I wear a highly cushioned athletic flip flop, life is just fine.  Hopefully, that sensation with cease, before flip flop season is over.  Someday, I will most likely be back in the operating room for a fusion, since they removed almost my entire disk, but the doctor says that will likely happen anywhere between six months and never.  I was thankful that he cleared that timeline right up.  Backs are just plain unpredictable.

These days are a good exercise in living for and in each day.  I am continually reminding myself to appreciate this very moment and reach for the next . . . with thanksgiving for the last!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


When I was in tenth grade, my dad and I, took a trip around Colorado - motorcycle style.  Even though I wasn't cool, I felt pretty cool on the back of my dad's Honda, with my shiny helmet, Keds and french rolled jeans.  One thing that I secretly loved about that trip, was that every time we would cross another motorcyclist, be it a rumbling crowd of Harley riders or a retired couple on their Honda Goldwing, we would casually raise our hand, as if to say, "Yo! We've got something important in common.  Ride on fair friend."  The only requirement to be a part of this club, was that you were taking the road by hog.  I remember getting a bit giddy each time a new motorcycle would approach.  I told myself, "Be cool. Be cool."  I would casually raise my arm and none of them knew that underneath that helmet was a pretty average 10th grader, toting my teenage gear of Noxema and Carmex.  That brings me back off the open road and into real life.

I was born wanting to be a part of a club.  I grew up under the gentle guiding of two highly trained, "Love and Logic," parents, so I had many choices in life, including in what clubs I choose to enroll.  I was in sports, Girl Scouts, choirs, youth group, newspaper, a sorority of sorts, post college singles group (of which I was a card carrying member for many, many years) and the list goes on.  Basically, if there was a group of people, I wanted in, no matter what skill set was required.  

In the past two years, I have found myself ascribing to a new set of clubs and teams that I don't exactly appreciate. It is one of the first times that I would love to unjoin a club.  The clubs I want to exit are not the kind where we have written agenda, a common goal and matching T-shirts.  They are the clubs that change you.  And it doesn't tickle.  I feel like I could use the same cool motorcycle arm raise to anyone in these clubs and a world of words would have just been spoken.  Anyone, who is a single parent just knows the strain.  Anyone who has lost a spouse, just knows the unexplainable of it all.  Anyone, who has been through an unrealized adoption, just knows the years it took from your life.  Anyone, who has entered the world of disc problems and back surgery just knows the pure physical pain and fear of never being normal again.

I am sure I've learned a lesson or two through being thrust into these clubs.  I am positive my faith is sturdier.  Not because I haven't questioned and I haven't doubted, but because I have.  I am confident that I treasure each day WAY more than I ever have, yet I look forward to heaven WAY more than I ever have, too.  I am positive my compassion for others in these situations and in general has increased tenfold.  I am certain that I am so desperate for people to know Jesus, because I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that He made it possible for me to withstand the hazing of these clubs.  I am sure that being a member of these clubs is God's best for me.  For every inch of me, I do not know how that is true, but I believe it is.  I know that may sound nuts, but if I believe the Bible is true, then I believe He loves me and works for the good of me.  I seriously do not want to really believe that, because I want there to be some other equation where I love Him enough for life to go well and comfy for me.  That is not the case in God's economy, though.  But His economy is amazing.  No matter what happens, what clubs I join, good, bad, hard, easy, wanted, unwanted, He is there through it all.  Nothing I do, can change that.  

I bet there are a lot of people out there who are members of a club in which they never thought they would be a card carrying member.  Can I get an amen?