The original version of chapter 27 before editing for publication.
P A R T IV
Picking Up The Pieces:
The Rest of Life
2:01 P.M. Sunday, March 9, 1980
The Present Day
On Linda’s birthday, Tuesday, March 18th, I felt a sudden need to honor her memory publicly one more time. That morning I phoned WSAI, the radio station that had awarded her that “Good Gal of the Day” recognition on January 30th, 1967 and spoke off the air with our favorite of the DJ’s then, Jim Scott.
A short while later, about 7:35 A.M., on the air, he dedicated one of her favorite songs to her memory, commenting that she would have been 31 and adding a warm comment or two of his own. His delivery of the dedication was very moving. I knew he’d do it right. He cares about people and it shows. The song I had chosen and asked him to use was The Statler Brothers’ “Flowers on the Wall”. I taped that dedication and have two copies of it. I kind of think that this song was one of her favorites because of its storyline. That storyline mirrors her early years of loneliness and “isolation” in her room, the secluded life she’d led before we met; before our lives crossed that wonderful day of Tuesday, March 8th, 1966. That would always lead to the realization that she didn’t have to live like that anymore; of how wonderful her life was with me, and a surge of wonderful emotion would flood her whole being as she thought of our years together and the deep, ever so meaningful love that we shared. That she had found someone who truly loved her as she had always wanted to be loved. For the person she was.
Also on her birthday, and again on our 12th wedding anniversary that year I placed a dozen roses at her grave.
During the first 2-6 months following her death, I couldn’t function if she was out of my sight for any length of time. I had large 18x24 inch enlargements made of two favorite photos of us. One was the one taken in my parents’ basement the first spring we were together, my senior year. We’d just recently revealed how we felt to each other at that point and exchanged class rings, intentionally making them prominent in the photo, ironically enough taken by my father using that original Polaroid camera he and mom had given me.
The other was the photo of her senior prom that appears in Chapter Eleven – the beautiful, white strapless formal.
I framed them both, took them to work, and alternated each week or two which one was on the wall of my office area. No one asked me why they were there. Linda had visited frequently so they all knew the relationship we had. Why the photos were there made sense to all of them, and I appreciated their consideration. The week after the fu-neral, when I first returned to work, I wrote a note and hung it on the outside of my office area for all of them to see.
The summer after she died, when I’d see or hear part of a Reds game and one of the announcers would ask a question about a player’s statistics, or a related question that they didn’t have an immediate answer for, or if my dad would call me up and ask me something similar when he was watching a game, I’d immediately realize that Linda would not only have been able to answer the question, she would have openly enjoyed the chance to not only clear things up, but to talk about the Reds, PERIOD. Each time this happened it felt like I’d been punched in the stomach by Ali in his prime; it killed me that I couldn’t ask her.
In July of that year, Judie, who had found the storefront for me when I opened The Piano Man in 1977, and her husband, Bob called and asked me if I would come over to their house and discuss the Grand Mal seizures with them. Their 16 year old son, Todd had just started having them and the doctors were working on his medica-tion refinements. Naturally I was only too happy to help. Helping spread the word on dealing with these seizures was one way I could honor Linda’s memory consistently. That would hopefully help the public be less fearful of epileptics as a whole. I spent 2-3 hours with them and laid it all out. They said then that Todd had had his first seizure a month earlier. They’d waited until a second one came to be certain what was happening before contacting me. Needless to say, they were very grateful for my willingness to help, my understanding, and the guidelines I gave them.
The following month, however, I received another call from Judie. Their son Todd had drowned. He’d gone on a boating trip with some friends, and must have felt a seizure coming on, as Linda had on occasion. Witnesses said he stood up in the boat, put his hands to the sides of his head as if it was about to explode, cried out “Oh, my God!” and fell overboard. They couldn’t get him out of the water in time.
(Some months later, Judie called me about 1:00 AM one weekday morning and asked me to drive her to a local rehab center. She wanted help with an alcohol problem. She would tell me later that losing Todd was only one part of the problem, that there were other issues involved. Naturally I drove her there, supporting her all the way. She wanted me to do it because her husband was refusing to believe she had a problem. I re-member thinking that it seemed interesting that the addict admits to the problem but the spouse is the one that goes into denial. But it made me feel very warm inside that she felt strongly enough about our friendship to call on me for help at that hour, and to allow me to see her in that condition. Shortly thereafter, when she got out of the rehab program, she called me at work one day and said I shouldn’t call their house anymore because Bob was furious that I’d helped her. I would end up honoring that request for 18 years. At that point, as it turned out, we would be reunited.
Also for about six months or so, maybe a bit more, after Linda died, I made very frequent midnight trips to the grave. Usually at least twice a week or more. Often I stayed an hour or more, sometimes standing, often kneeling, in prayer with my hands in the air, letting the Spirit bring the words that needed to be said. I didn’t even care if the ground was wet from a good rain and my pants got wet or muddy. If I felt I should kneel, I did, regardless. Without a single thought or hesitation. In that always-so-peaceful setting I always let the Spirit lead. Like Linda in ’77, I had no idea what I was saying, but I knew it needed to be said – the Source was unquestionable. Those were very quiet, peaceful and reassuring times for me. A graveyard can be intimidating for many people, even in the daytime, much less at midnight or later. But for me, from the day of her funeral, it had become, and remains today a place of serenity. I have to believe that being In the Spirit has a lot to do with that.
It was roughly during that same 6-month period, too, that the original version of this book was committed to paper. I decided I absolutely had to capture every bit of those years on paper that I could. I had to have a way to recall them when I became too old to clearly do so from memory so that I could still enjoy the memories. I quickly de-veloped a routine that I rarely disturbed. I would come home from work, grab a bite to eat, and hit the typewriter from then all the way to bedtime, or sometimes later if I wanted to get a complete thought or event on paper before I had any chance of forgetting the exact words I (or was it the Spirit?) wanted to use. (Yes, I said typewriter. We didn’t have PC’s back then – smile.) It didn’t take long before another thought entered my mind: whether it was my own desire not to forget what had been the best years of my life to this point, or the Spirit working for His own plan, I didn’t know, but I had to start considering that possibility. The idea that it could be the Spirit really didn’t gel in my thinking until much later, but it probably was His plan. Things fit much better that way: the hours I was willing to put into the project, often until 2:00 AM or so, later on weekends, and the level of detail I found myself remembering from 14 years before. Names. Dates. Events. It had to be the Spirit.
The typewriter was a Smith-Corona electric portable that my parents had given me after graduation, anticipating I’d use it in college. I still have that typewriter, and it still works. That original draft is what made this book possible. During that time period my mind was literally reliving what often felt like every minute of those 14 years togeth-er. I’d just sit down and the words would effortlessly flow to the paper. Just like the prayer language words Linda spoke of that night as we left the Luther’s, and as I am now also able to do, for which I still thank the Lord. No effort needed on her part then at all; nor on my part when that original draft was being done. The names, dates, events and vivid descriptions you have read here are mostly from that original, though quite a number have been added in these succeeding drafts. Those additional ones were brought back to my mind in various ways by the Spirit and went as flawlessly to paper as the original ones. As I said above, I have to believe, now, that the Spirit had a definite role in my reliving the relationship and remembering it to such detail; and for that I most sincerely thank the Lord and will continue to do so. During those marathon evenings and even longer weekends, though, I would often break down and cry when certain events or conversations came to mind. I’d just stop in midsentence, let my heart cry itself out for 10 or 15, occasionally 20 minutes, then pick up and go on.
For at least that same six months, likely longer, about 2 or 3 times a week I would find myself reliving specific times or events with her: the night of the Junior Class Play when she found out I still loved her in spite of the epilepsy; the day-of-my-prom afternoon in the cafeteria when I proposed to her; her prom a year later; our small but never-more-meaningful wedding in Newport, Ky.; an ordinary quiet evening at home enjoying each other’s company, whether reading or sharing some of those more intimate moments. Or, simply a very enjoyable, fun loving evening with her family, like the one I included in chapter 26. Then, suddenly, I would awake and realize it had all been a dream. Only it didn’t FEEL like it had been a dream. I had BEEN THERE; except she wasn’t laying next to me. At those times, too, I would break down for a while.
I was in my rightful place for the Lodge and Chapter inspections that year, where she would have wanted me to be. And, for the Star, Maryanne was at my side in Linda's stead. Just what Linda would have wanted. I didn't continue through either line. I couldn't bring myself to go any further in the Chapter line than she had been able to go. It would just have felt too empty, or as if I was enjoying something that she loved so much and had been denied. Not to mention the feelings and memories that would have come to mind if I’d gone through with it, then one day looked to my right and seen another woman sitting where she should have been, in the presiding officer’s chair. No; no way could I have done that. And there were too many wonderful memories of things we had shared in terms of Lodge and Star for me to handle the Lodge line, either.
On September 26, 1980, Cathy and I married. If you recall, she was my business partner in the piano shop in 1977. I asked dad (George) to be my best man. He asked me why not my father. I told him I still thought of him as my father. He almost cried as he accepted. My mother told me later that it hurt my dad. I paused at that, but not for long. I had to have the one there that meant the most to me. It was my wedding.
Three months into the marriage, doctors discovered a brain tumor that had sur-rounded Cathy’s brain stem and was also laying across the top of her brain like a pan-cake. At the time of the discovery she was just a week away from graduating the Nor-wood Police Academy and becoming an officer. She asked the doctor if the surgery could wait that week while she completed the training. She was told she wouldn’t live out that week.
She survived the surgery (the possibility that she might not was very real; she was on a respirator for quite some time before she began breathing on her own again as the traumatic effect of the surgery on her brain stem subsided), but the aftermath was more than she’d figured on. She had to learn to walk and talk again, and reconstructive surgery was needed to allow her to control one eyelid and one side of her mouth because those nerves were severed when the lower part of the tumor was removed. And, the nerves choked off by the lower portion of the tumor explained why she had lost the hear-ing in her left ear some years earlier.
Subsequent counseling she received to deal with the magnitude of the situation and the few permanent effects of the tumor also led her to the conclusion that family life was not what she really wanted. We separated, on quite friendly terms, early in 1985, and drew up our own divorce settlement which became final on March 13, 1986.
I put everything I had into the relationship with Cathy, as I did with Linda, even trading Linda’s wedding rings in on Cathy’s set, a move I now regret quite deeply. I sold Mr. Swisher Linda’s violin for the same $100 her family had paid Mr. Wilson for it years before. I had been tempted to keep it, but since I couldn’t play it I felt Linda would rather another deserving student be given the chance to learn and enjoy good music as she had been given. Remember how George had reminded me, that night he told me why she had visited them and not me, of how she always helped anyone she could if they gave her a chance? I decided she would want me to do no less, especially with her pride and joy, that violin.
Every single time I hear the beautiful sound of a violin, now, I think of her. Even after 21 years. It doesn’t even have to be a solo part. It can be a harmony part. As long as it’s distinguishable in the sound, and I hear it, I think of her and see her playing. I miss watching her do that, too. After all; our instruments are what brought us together. (JAW 6/19/01)
Tuesday, April 7, 1985
It's been just over 5 years, now since Linda passed away and a few weeks since Cathy and I separated.
Gram (Linda's maternal grandmother, who’d ridden in the back of the Cadillac with Cork to the funeral) joined her in the Lord's House in 1984. Pop (her maternal grandfather) had passed away in 1976.
My aunt Cindy, my cousin Buster’s mom, who’d supported Linda and I all along, had been the one to tell me “your mom would be better at running a business, not a home; she doesn’t really know how to raise kids”, and had made that wonderful, white strapless formal for Linda’s senior prom in 1967 died of cancer in 1984. (remember - Buster’s the one that read mom and dad the riot act about how they were treating Linda and I). Grandma (my maternal grandmother and Cindy’s mom, the one who so innocent-ly told my mom how great she thought our engagement was) joined all of them early this year at the age of 99.
I ran into Charles Kachel at a lodge meeting recently. He and Gladys are still ac-tive in Ida Chapter, and, needless to say, Gladys is still the organist. Finding that out made me feel great. Charles says there's no way she'll ever retire. I'm all for the lady!
I've lost touch with Don, though I keep tabs on him through Dennis, with whom I have consistent contact. He (Dennis) lives in Michigan now, married with a son of his own, in college. No, he’s not married to Barb Sullivan. His wife’s name is Pat, and she’s a neat person. He made as good a pick for a first mate as I did. Gotta be careful, though (smile); he works for the IRS. Enforcement division. Don is living in Atlanta and is mar-ried to his second wife following a divorce. Don’t remember right now if Don has any kids. Dennis occasionally hears from him, but not frequently. I don’t think it’s intentional as much as it is Don doesn’t seem to be the letter writing type.
My mom is the same as ever, though she's mellowed a little. Just a little. Only this past summer has she been able (willing?) to admit to me that she didn’t realize how much Linda and I meant to each other. I wanted to say (shout?), “I tried more than once to tell you and dad how much we meant to each other, mom, but you just wouldn’t listen,” but I didn’t. Suddenly, I didn’t want to talk to her about it any more than I had to. Too little, too late there, too, mom. Why couldn’t you have been willing to listen 19 years ago? If you had, everything would have been different. That comment became the only concession she's ever made (other than her reaction at Linda's visitation) that's been obvious to me.
My dad and I, on the other hand, get along better now than we ever did during those years when Linda and I were together. Aunt Cindy must have been right (not that I didn't believe her at the time); dad must have learned something from all this. It's great, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. But, while the love is there, there’s an aura of slight distance, too. We hug when we part company, but the warmth I felt doing the same with Linda’s parents is not there. Somehow, with my father it will always fall a little short of what it should have been.
Cork, 28 now, has her own apartment. She's never married, at least to this point that I know of.
Dad (George) has had cataract surgery on both eyes. He's got 20-15 vision. Praise the Lord! Says it's great to be able to watch and distinguish traffic from a plane. He just had to rub it in!! My new contacts only give me 20-20. (Ha-ha).
And me? I did become active in the Lodge line again in 1982, picking up where I’d left off, in that “dreaded” 4th-in-line position where I had to introduce the visiting dignitaries. By then I’d realized that, with our mutual feeling for and dedication to the Masonic fraternity she would not only want me to finish what I had started, but that fi-nishing out the Lodge line and becoming Worshipful Master was something specific she would want me to do. I hope to have the courage to face memories of her (and us) the Chapter room will bring back by this fall after their summer break.
I'm back in the building I grew up in in Norwood. Only now I'm renting the 2nd floor from my mom and dad. I guess I've come full circle. I'm still waiting for the Lord to bring me that next ideal relationship. The waiting's hard, but He's teaching me in the process. And it's still worth the wait. The ol' dating jitters will probably be back, even when I meet the girl of His choice. Because I'm human. But I'll just let Him handle those, too.
Thursday, September 23, 1999
Praise the Lord! Here I am, once again deep into the book He led me to write fol-lowing Linda’s death in 1980. How I came to be here at this time is also a story that needs to be told, so we’ll include that as we bring you up to date on people and places.
Since the time Cathy and I split, those frequent dreams of reliving events and evenings with Linda returned. I relish each one, but continue to be greatly disappointed when I awake and find myself alone again.
Most importantly, I finished going “up through the ranks” in the Lodge line, be-ing elected Worshipful Master in November, 1985, and serving in that capacity during 1986. Needless to say there was no doubt in my mind at the time that Linda saw my In-stallation ceremony and smiled approvingly. I knew that is where she felt I should be.
In December, 1986, a month after our annual lodge election of officers had made me a Past Master rather than the current one, at our monthly business meeting I was pre-sented with the two traditional emblems of a Past Master, as tokens of the Lodge’s ap-preciation for my serving in the Master’s chair. But one would have far more meaning than I ever would have thought possible.
First, the newly elected Master presented me with my Past Master’s apron. Deco-rated with many of the symbols of our craft as Masons, reminders of our Biblical roots and that the Bible is our guide, I relished it, and definitely planned on wearing it at all future appropriate meetings with a great deal of pride. Then the Master spoke again:
“Worshipful Brother Jim, Worshipful Brother George Hart will now present you with your Past Master’s Jewel.”
I saw the look of love for his son on his face as he stepped up to me.
“Worshipful Brother Jim,” he began. He swallowed hard, put his hand on my shoulder, and continued: “Son, I felt so proud last year, when you were elected Master of this lodge, that I knew then I had to do something very special to show you how I felt. I now present you your Past Master’s Jewel. Please look at it carefully,” he finished, his emotions becoming obvious in his voice.
The moment I looked at it I knew why he’d become so emotional. It wasn’t a new one, as most Masters receive. It was 15 years old. It was HIS jewel. He had had an extra crossbar added beneath his name, and had my name engraved there. He had passed his most cherished momento of his year as Master (1971) down to his son. I looked back up at him as the tears built in my eyes, too.
“Thank you, Worshipful.” “That took care of the required protocol,” I said to myself as I decided to do as he had done, and get personal. “Dad,” I said, “this means far more to me than a new one ever could. I love you.”
We embraced, and both shed those tears of love we’d been feeling. But only for a moment. We were, remember, in the middle of a lodge meeting, and everyone was watching the presentation. Not that our wonderful, emotional exchange had bothered anyone. When we broke off the embrace, the whole room erupted with applause and a standing ovation.
Later, in the banquet room afterwards, many of the members congratulated both of us. And I liked it that way. They were congratulating me on my year, yes, but also congratulating George and I on our relationship, which was now openly visible to them all. Truly a father and son.
(After serving as Secretary of the lodge in 1987 and 88, we merged with Evans-ton Lodge #695 in 1988 in order for both lodges to survive amid declining attendance. I took a few years off but would return later, as you will see.)
I have never had the courage to go back to Ida Chapter and face the memories and pictures that room and ritual work would bring. Whether or not that will happen now I have to leave in the Lord’s hands because I know now it’s something I simply am una-ble to face on my own.
1986 was also the year that Cathy and I officially divorced. Looking back, though, I have to believe that the Lord meant for that relationship to be there too. With-out my medical insurance, with the nature of her father’s job, her parents could easily have lost their home trying to pay her medical bills following that surgery. Even after our insurance there was still about $20,000 to be paid. The way it played out He saved her life and her parents still have their home with her father about to retire.
Also in 1986 I moved into a house in Anderson Township. First house I’d ever owned in my life. At first it felt unfair that when I finally get into a house Linda’s not here to enjoy it with me. Ironically, this house is not only in the same subdivision where Linda and her parents had lived, it’s one street behind their home and about a half block to the left. And it’s two streets behind and a half block right of where Don Loheide and his parents and brother lived. His parents still live there today. Don’s younger brother, Richard, who had been a teacher at Anderson for many years, died of cancer a few years ago. My trips home after school, riding with mom, around 1959-60, would take me passed the main entrance to this subdivision as it was being built. And later, about 1966, sometimes I’d see Linda’s bus turn INTO this subdivision taking her home as we drove by.
Within a month or two of that move into this house I changed jobs again, taking a Programmer / Analyst position with Midwestern Indemnity insurance (which was later bought out by another company, but after I had left)..
About 1988, a rift developed between myself and Linda’s family that at this point is still unresolved. George and Ginny moved to Florida in 1996. Suzie and Russ were divorced some time ago. Anderson High School held a school-wide reunion in 1996 to celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary. The book issued to honor the event and the school shows that both Marcia (Cork) and Suzie are now married. Cork, now an accountant is still living here and has a daughter, Katherine, while Suzanne, a homemaker, is living in Virginia and has six kids, four of them from her marriage to Russ.
Remember Debby?. Back in chapter six, when Linda told me the other reason she wanted that big wedding, I needed a time frame and asked her “Debby will be what… two this year?” I wonder if Suzie ever told her daughter Debby that Suzie had been pregnant with her at the time she and Russ married. Just so she wouldn’t be caught off guard hearing it from others who might have known or figured it out. But that issue was Linda’s other reason for the big wedding. She felt her mom had gotten cheated out of it with Suz and Russ and she didn’t want to disappoint them again. I hope someday to re-solve the rift with the family, and am steadily praying for the chance to do so. But I leave the timing and manner of that opportunity to the Lord. Any effort on my part compared to His would be clumsy at best; and I don’t want to mess this up. It’s just plain too important.
In 1989 I moved from the programming area of Midwestern to the Operations area as a senior operator. I’d decided I needed a break from the stress level I’d been in for the past 18 years on the programming side of the profession. It meant going back to shift work, but that was fine by me. Now working second shift, I’d begun rather consis-tently stopping at a local United Dairy Farmers store (usually a couple times a week) on my way home after work to pick up an item or two I’d overlooked when doing my gro-cery shopping the previous weekend.
The girl that was usually behind the counter seemed the hard working type. If no one else was in the store when I entered she was usually mopping the floor or wiping down the soda fountain area.
As the weeks passed and we carried on various short conversations it got to where I’d look forward to stopping in. I didn’t skip anything in the weekend’s shopping to have an excuse to stop by or anything, but once in a while I’d just stop in to chat since I wasn’t going to bed for about 3 hours yet anyway.
As our conversations continued I started taking a closer look at her. Interestingly enough, she was fairly short, too; about 5’ 1” or so. Didn’t have an hourglass figure, but she had one worth noticing. Dark hair, cut short in one of those easy-to-care-for styles. Got to the point where I was disappointed if I walked in and she was working behind the counter. I liked getting the full view when she was out on the floor. Her name was Paula.
Over the next three years those conversations grew in frequency and length. I’d often wind up staying there and talking with her for an hour or so. Toward the end of that time, when she was also working second shift, now at Friendly’s, we started going back to her apartment to continue those discussions. Yes, that’s all we did – talk. Often from about midnight till 4 or 5 in the morning, then I’d go home and hit the sack.
As that time passed, we started noticing that we agreed on a lot of the basics. Things like how other people should be treated, how we thought kids should be discip-lined, and that we both had a firm belief in God. Then one Friday, or should I say Friday night, about 2:30 A.M., I got another one of those overwhelming feelings that would not be denied:
“Paula, you know where this conversation is leading, don’t you?”
“It sounds like we should go pick out a wedding ring set.”
“Seriously??” she asked, totally surprised. Her face and neck got so red it looked like she’d fallen asleep at the beach for 7 hours and her more rapid breathing was easily evident. Her facial expression said, “Are you serious? Is this really happening?”
I pulled out a credit card I’d gotten quite some time ago from a local jeweler when buying a watch, held it up for her to see then sat it on the bar in front of me in open view. “Seriously.”
“Um… you really think so?“
Sounded to me like she was either too nervous to think straight, or stalling while she thought it over. “Yes, I do. What do you think?”
“Okay, let’s do it,” she said smiling.
Within a couple weeks, we arranged a dinner at the local Olive Garden so our parents could meet each other and get acquainted. I don’t remember how the subject had worked its way into the conversation, but at one point our fathers were discussing the issue of dealing with teen age kids and their problems. My father commented that he thought kids should be willing to come to their parents with their problems and concerns. My mind immediately flew back to those numerous days, and discussions at our kitchen table when I had found myself desperately searching for a way to prove to him how im-portant, how serious, and how RIGHT my relationship with Linda was; and how nothing I said got him to change his mind about my not seeing her for a while. After he finished his statement in that discussion at the Olive Garden, I just looked at him and said quietly, “I tried, Dad. Twenty-five years ago, I tried.” He nodded, knowingly, and said no more on the subject.
On May 17, 1992 I married Paula. This time my father was best man. And he relished the opportunity.
In May of 1997, we took in a 7 month old girl on an emergency placement from Clermont County Social Services, Tiffany Renee Raynovich, whom we are now in the process of adopting. We’ve had full custody for the last two years and haven’t seen or heard from the mother since before that time. She didn’t appear at Juvenile Court for ei-ther custody hearing. While the paperwork is a mess (one name for the father on the birth certificate, another on the custody papers, for example) we hope to have the adoption completed before she starts school so she doesn’t have the hassle of a name change along with the usual school situations.
After being borderline neglect when we got her, she turns 3 next month and has become a normal, energetic, pain-in-the-butt youngster. Smart as a whip, too. She’s going to be a challenge to keep up with (or ahead of) as she grows.
My mom got to know Tiffany but Tiffany’s not likely to remember her. Mom had been a reasonably heavy smoker most of her life and it caught up with her. She’d quit a few years before on doctor’s orders but the damage was done. She’d had emphysema for years, so when they found a tumor in her left lung they tried radiation for 6 months be-fore she even told the rest of us. It was early 1997 when we found out. She was too old for chemotherapy, wouldn’t survive surgery because of the emphysema, and radiation didn’t touch the thing. So, she came home to await the inevitable.
Mom died of cancer in late January, 1998, at the age of 79.
Paula likes to rearrange things every few months. About June of this year, shortly after she had done some rearranging of our bookshelves, I found that the one printed copy I had of this book’s original manuscript was not where I had left it – high on one shelf, laying flat across other books, well out of Tiffany’s reach. When I asked Paula where it was she didn’t know. In a mild state of panic, I checked all the bookshelves my-self, to no avail. As time permitted I started checking other areas; closet shelves and the like. I did not want to lose the only detailed record I had of not only 14 years of my life, but of that wonderful relationship.
While continuing the search when time permitted, I began using lunch hours at work and time after Paula and Tiffany had gone to bed to recreate as much of the book as possible from memory. Paula wasn’t too fond of the idea, and maybe she felt a little threatened by it, or jealous. I tried to explain to her that it was only to document the rela-tionship, and those years of my life, if for nothing else than to refresh my own memory when I’m too old to recall those years clearly, and that I intend to do the same for our relationship. She still didn’t really see the sense in it, but seemed to accept the fact that it is something I definitely have to do. But then, she’s not the sentimental, romantic type that I am.
And that’s when I think the Spirit once again reminded me that He’s with me. I’d been turning to Him in nightly prayer consistently and, I felt, openly, but hadn’t really been allowing the Spirit the freedom I should have. And yet the Spirit showed only Love, even after being “ignored”, if you will.
About 3 weeks or so after I’d started working on the new copy of this book, Pau-la gave me a box of 5 ¼ “ floppies and said, “This might be what you were looking for.” Indeed, they were a partial set of the floppies for my old Commodore 128 on which the last version of the original manuscript was typed. It was missing the first seven chapters, but it beat having nothing to start from. Unfortunately that set turned out to be unreada-ble. So, I kept plugging away at the new copy from memory.
Another 3-5 weeks later, I found another box of the old 5¼” floppies on a closet shelf. This set of disks turned out to be readable. In order to preserve it before anything else could happen, I stayed up at night for a couple weeks running and printed a few chapters a night from those floppies on the old Commodore 128 (with its CPU running at the fantastic rate of 2 MHz) and its dot matrix printer until I had the whole original ma-nuscript back. But, by now I had done about 12 chapters again from memory, and on my Pentium system. So I decided to “merge” the two versions, using the original for accura-cy and adding anything from the new one that was not in the old one since other memo-ries had come back in the process.
While that process was going on, again on lunch hours and at night, Paula called me at work one day and said, “I think I found that stupid book you’ve been looking for.” Sure enough, when I checked that night, that was it. I now have it back up out of Tiffany’s reach, but in plain sight for me so I know where it better be. Using the extra copy I’d already printed, I completed merging the two versions and decided to use our scanner to add more readability and authenticity to the book by including photos and images of some of our love letters and other documents.
What you have been reading here is the eighth draft from that effort.
Why did I feel that the Spirit was involved directly with this project as well as working actively in my life again? As usual, the answers are simple:
1. God has to have a plan for this book. Otherwise there would have been no rea-son for any of the floppies, or the written copy to turn up again, let alone so soon after I’d started doing it from memory again. He obviously wants it completed for at least one reason of His own.
2. Getting back into the book has brought a flood of memories, both exciting and heart-wrenching back to the forefront of my mind. But He had a purpose in that, too. I said above that I hadn’t let the Spirit manifest itself the way I should have in recent times. Shortly after Linda died and I’d fully given over to the Spirit, God gave me the foresight to ask Him never to let me backslide so far away from Him as to lose His Spirit. I knew from past times with both Reverend Myers and Pastor Miller that such a thing is possible, and I wanted to make sure it didn’t happen to me. This flood of memories not only reminded me of that request that I never lose the Spirit, but of the fact that I hadn’t been “fed” by the Spirit for that same long period. That brought an urgent need.
One Saturday I commented to Paula that I needed to go back to First Christian Assembly; that I just didn’t feel spiritually “fed” by the Lutheran church around the cor-ner from our home that we’d been attending in recent weeks. She wasn’t thrilled about it, but she understood, partly because a family across the street from us is also a 2-church family (she pointed that out to me), and because her mother had changed religions when she and Paula’s dad got married. But I think the Spirit was involved here too, because she did quietly accept it without argument.
I had written Pastor Miller a letter, asking to meet with him privately. I was very pleasantly surprised, when we ran into each other shortly before the service the next Sunday, that he actually remembered me. It had been 19 ½ years since we’d seen or spo-ken to each other, and First Christian is far from a small congregation, yet the man re-membered me on sight before I’d spoken a single word. Now if that’s not a sign from the Spirit that I’m supposed to be there, I don’t know what is!
I met with Pastor Miller a couple weeks later, to make certain the strength of my faith was back on track, and it was evident to both of us that my doubts about that were Satan’s effort to pull me back. Simply because, since I HAD asked God to never let me lose the Spirit, that WOULD NEVER HAPPEN. Yet I’d been worried about it.
I began attending First Christian Assembly regularly from then on.
As a family moment, Paula and I decided to attend the family Christmas party at the lodge in December. As I got involved in discussions with a few of the others present, it became apparent that the lodge George and I had been so close to and so proud of all those years was once again in trouble. By the time we left that night, Paula knew I was going back to lodge, and possibly taking over publication of their monthly bulletin as a first step to cutting costs until we could get membership back up to the old levels.
After the business meeting in February, 2000, the bulletin was in my hands.
The Lodge’s annual Inspection that year was scheduled for March 1st. I had come back too late to help much with preparing the current officers for that night, but I made sure I was there to support them. Dark suit and tie, my Past Master’s Apron, and the Past Master’s Jewel I now shared emotionally with my father, George Hart, proudly hanging on my breast pocket for all to see. And on my hand, dad’s original lodge ring. Color gone, emblem slowly wearing off, I felt as proud of it as of that jewel. It was the first time either had been worn since he presented the jewel to me in December, 1987 (he had given me the ring quite some time before Linda’s death).
Saturday, March 18th, 2000 would have been Linda’s 51st birthday. In the late af-ternoon, with the sun casting a beautiful array of colors and shadows around me (I couldn’t help but think she knew I was there!), I brought her the dozen long stemmed red roses she loved so much for the first time in years, and quietly spent a wonderfully peaceful half hour or so at her gravesite, mostly in prayer with the Spirit doing the talk-ing, though I did say a few words myself in those prayers and did talk to her between them.
PRAISE THE LORD. His timing is always perfect. The very next day, Sunday, March 19, 2000, as close as it could have possibly been to her birthday, my church at-tendance came full circle as I officially rejoined FCA as a member.
The torrent of memories that this book has rekindled has made it difficult for me to listen to many of the songs on the radio that Linda and I grew up with. At least those that refer to being in love or meaningful relationships. One song that fits the “love” cate-gory is “I Saw Linda Yesterday”. Every time that title is mentioned in the song, my mind flashes back to something we did together, even if it was just an evening at home. Some-times it would remind me of those dreams I had where I’d relive an entire event that we shared, then awake only to find it was a dream and I was once again alone.
One that definitely fits the “relationship” category is Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”. One day last week, when introducing it on WGRR FM, Jim LaBarbara, the “Music Professor”, referred to it as “one of the best love songs ever written”. I must agree with that. Listen to the words carefully and you will hear a great description of the devotion Linda and I held for each other. When that song was played that day I had to turn my head and look out the side window of our van as Paula drove. She wouldn’t understand why I was literally crying all the way through that wonderful song. (And it had to be the Spirit that kept my sobs from being audible to her. JAW 12/29/99)
So, I can’t listen to a fair number of those old songs very often or I break down. But that’s OK, too; I’ve started listening to tapes of hymns and related songs whenever I’m going somewhere alone, or with Tiffany in our truck. I get emotional singing along with them, too, but that’s a different story than the old songs. Getting emotional over these is happening under the Lord’s watchful eye, as I always turn to Him in prayer be-fore starting the tape. I’ve always been that way about really good spiritual music. I can’t say there aren’t some thoughts of Linda in there, though, because there are. Only this time, with the Spirit in control, I know that there is a purpose of His behind what I feel, so I let Him guide me. If I get through one OK, that’s fine. If I break down, that’s OK, too. It’s up to Him. When I do break down, sometimes it’s tears of joy. Sometimes I lose it because something in the song will remind me deeply of what Linda and I shared, or I visualize her ascent to Heaven. Like with these words from How Great Thou Art:
“When Christ shall come, with shouts of acclamation,
and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.”
Hearing those words I see her flying into that tile wall, her spirit soaring upward and her body falling into the tub.
“Then I shall bow, in humble adoration, and
there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art.”
Then these words have me seeing her bowing low before Him and making that proclamation. Then, from The King of Love:
“This is my blood, which I must give; I will die,
so you may live.”
Those words bring two thoughts to mind. Both usually make me break down and cry for a moment. One thought reminds me of the end to that letter that she had written me after that big argument: “If it would make you happy, I’d die”, and that it took her death for me to truly live In The Spirit. I still wish it could have been done another way, and I still break down heavily when thinking about this one. The other thought reminds me that if God asked her if she was willing to come Home if it would ensure my full sur-render to Him, that she went most willingly, out of love for me, not to mention ob-edience to Him. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that her love for me was so great that she would indeed have been more than willing to make such a sacrifice. Re-member back when she told me she was an epileptic and I didn’t walk away? When “… the look in her eyes was not only a feeling of absolute relief, total peace and contentment and the fullest possible feeling of gratitude, but also an outpouring of the deepest, most sincere, utterly boundless and unending love imaginable”? When she said, “I only hope I can find a way to show you how much your love really and truly means to me.”? Then there was her prayer that same night as she headed up to her room: “Thank you, Lord, for making my dream come true. Please show me a way that I can prove to him how much his love really does mean to me.” And that letter she handed me after the big argument, when she said, “I would give up all I have for you because I love you. I would give you up only for the Lord…”? And, finally, there’s the day she died, when she got so romantic before I left the house and said, “I’ve always been so very thankful that you didn’t walk away like everyone else. I just feel like I haven’t been able to find a way to really show you how much I love you and how very much you mean to me. I hope and pray I’ll get that chance.” And she finished that thought with, “… I don’t think there are words that can tell you what I really mean to say. It’s not just in my heart, honey, it’s become part of what I am, and words don’t convey that kind of feeling.” As I said above, there is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that her love for me was so great that she would have been more than willing to make such a sacrifice. But, even so, I can’t help but wish we were still together. This one, too, makes me break down and cry for a moment before I can continue whatever I’m doing. Then there’s “I Believe”:
“I believe for everyone who goes astray,
someone will come, to show the way…”
What I feel hearing these words should be openly obvious to the reader at this point. While I hadn’t actually “gone astray” I had been quite a distance from Him for a number of years when Linda came into my life. And the story told in these pages more than proves that her mission here was to show me the way; the way back to Him. Yes, she came into my life to show me the way; I only wish she hadn’t had to give up her own life to make it happen. Like every couple, we’d looked forward to growing old together. These words break me up every time. Then, there’s Who Am I?
“Who am I that the King would bleed and die for?”
Here I break down because not only did Jesus do this for me, as He did for all of us, but, if the Lord did ask her if she would be willing to come Home if it would com-plete my commitment to Him, then Linda died for me, too.
“Who am I that He would pray ‘Not my will, thou, Lord’?”
I break down here every time as well, knowing that this is what she prayed for throughout her life (that His will be done): remember that argument letter, when she said, “That’s why I believe so much of what the bible says. I’m too dumb to think it could be wrong…”?
And finally, the toughest words for me to take are from The King is Coming:
“Oh, The King is Coming, the King is Coming,
I just heard the trumpets sounding, and now His face I see.
Oh the King is Coming, the King is Coming,
Praise God He’s coming for me!”
Needless to say hearing this I see her reciting these words to herself as He opens her eyes to the journey Home. It feels as if she’s saying these words to herself as she rea-lizes He’s really coming for her. I see what went through her mind in the last split second(s) before she hit that wall. She’s told He’s coming and she hears the trumpets. Then I see her entering His Kingdom (“and now His face I see”), and I remember an ear-lier line from that same letter: “Unfortunately, I can’t go there till He calls me…” Well, Squeek, you don’t have to wait anymore, darling."
Painful, yes. But the Spirit is moving freely within me again. I’m praying in the Spirit often as I just walk down the street now. Or walking between my office and park-ing space on weekdays. And turning to the Spirit gets rid of heartaches and hassles far faster than doing it “the old way”.
There are a few songs, however, that I can listen to safely, and even feel are a positive for me, and some that slip in at certain times when that timing is just too good to be a coincidence.
One example of the old songs I can still listen to, and even consider in a positive way, would be A World of Our Own, by the original Seekers:
Close the door, light the light, we’re stayin’ home tonight,
Far away from the bustle and the bright city light,
Let them all fade away, just leave us alone,
And we’ll live in a world of our own.
We’ll build a world of our own, that no one else can share,
All our sorrows we’ll leave far behind us there,
And I know you will find there’ll be peace of mind,
When we live in a world of our own.
Oh, my love, oh, my love, I cried for you so much,
Lonely nights without sleeping while I’d long for your touch,
Now your lips can erase the heartache I’ve known,
Come with me to a world of our own.
We’ll build a world of our own, that no one else can share,
All our sorrows we’ll leave far behind us there,
And I know you will find there’ll be peace of mind,
When we live in a world of our own.
We’ll build a world of our own, that no one else can share,
All our sorrows we’ll leave far behind us there,
And I know you will find there’ll be peace of mind,
When we live in a world of our own,
And I know you will find there’ll be peace of mind,
When we live in a world of our own.
In many ways, Linda and I did exactly that; we built a world of our own, that no one else could share, and we made the most of it. Our world, our special times, with only each other, was the most important part of our life together. That’s one of the reasons we were so very close, and one of the biggest reasons it took as long as it did to get over her passing.
But I think the definitive expression of our love, and therefore another song I can still listen to, most willingly, and often do, is I Know I’ll Never Find Another You, also by the original Seekers:
There’s a new world somewhere, they call the Promised Land,
And I’ll be there someday, if you will hold my hand.
I still need you there beside me, no matter what I do,
For I know I’ll never find another you.
There is always someone for each of us they say,
And you’ll be my someone, forever and a day,
I could search the whole world over until my life is through,
But I know I’ll never find another you.
It’s a long, long journey,
So stay by my side,
When I walk through the storm you’ll
Be my guide, be my guide,
If they gave me a fortune, my pleasure would be small,
I could lose it all tomorrow, and never mind at all,
But if I should lose your love, dear, I don’t know what I’d do,
For I know I’ll never find another you.
But if I should lose your love, dear, I don’t know what I’d do,
For I know I’ll never find another you, another you, another you.
That song, like Bridge Over Troubled Waters, tells very accurately how Linda and I felt about each other. But it brings only good memories to mind, and reminds me that our love is still there. While we're not physically together, I’m well aware that she is living, as He was after the Resurrection, and that she is watching over me; she is my Guardian Angel. So our love is still there.
But probably the best song for me these days, other than the hymns, has to be I’ll Go To My Grave Loving You, by the Statler Brothers:
I’ll go to my grave, loving you, loving you, loving you,
I’d give all I’ve saved, loving you, loving you, loving you,
And should I live again,
Even then it won’t end,
For I’ll go to my grave loving you, loving you, loving you.
Oh, to take his place forever,
There’s nothin’ I wouldn’t give.
I’d prove to you daily
What a man really is.
I’d lay down my life, loving you, loving you, loving you,
I’d work day and night, loving you, loving you, loving you, loving you,
And when life called us both Above,
Honey, you’d know that you’d been loved,
For I’ll go to my grave loving you, loving you, loving you.
And when life called us both Above,
Honey, you’d know that you’d been loved,
For I’ll go to my grave loving you, loving you, loving you.
"Bridge Over Troubled Waters" speaks of our devotion in great detail. "I’ll Go To My Grave Loving You" takes our devotion to the ultimate level, as we did in our lives, and most certainly expresses openly that Linda did just that.
The songs that turn up at certain times can be from a larger group of them, all putting only a positive spin on my day when I hear them. I know it has to be the Spirit, or Linda, or both, bringing these about as the timing is just too precise to be an accident. It might be when the radio comes on to awaken me in the morning for work. Or the first song after the news headlines on the hour. Or the one that’s playing right at the time I start the truck to go to work or come home, before I can start the tape of His songs. One more minute in the shower, or eating breakfast, or walking to or from the truck, and they wouldn’t be the ones I would hear. That’s too precise to be luck. And there’s also the fact that it doesn’t happen EVERY time. Usually when I really need the lift because something’s been really tearing at me. When Satan’s been busy working on me, these turn up. They reassure me of His love, and Linda’s, remind me He is with me and that she is watching over me, still loving me as much as she always has; only that she has to show it in a different way.
(Thankfully, over time, this problem of not being able to listen to the old songs has taken care of itself and I am able to listen to those wonderful songs again. JAW 3/17/06)
I’m not sure if this part of my faith will eventually be a problem for Paula and I or not. She has no current desire for this part of “the church” (my phrase), but I think Sa-tan’s trying to hold her back from the beauty of it. How do I know? I said earlier that one of the things we agreed on before my proposing to her was the way other people should be treated. Race is not a problem with us. Yet she says she doesn’t want to come to First Christian with me because it borders on a black community. That’s a contradiction that smells of Satan’s hand. (She has since come with Tiffany and I a couple times but is still very uncomfortable in the Pentecostal environment. JAW 10/10/00)
So I will leave that in His hands as well, and ask Him to guide me where He wants me to go. If it’s to help bring her closer to Him, then so be it. That, and giving lit-tle Tiffany a chance at a decent life, are the two reasons I can see Him bringing this rela-tionship about. But that’s strictly my reasoning. He may have countless other reasons, and that’s fine by me. Things are a little rocky with Paula and I right now, but I’m leaving that in His hands as well.
I did have a thought come to mind, though. Those dreams where I’d relive entire events or evenings with Linda, then wake up and find myself alone first came after she passed away, then returned again between my marriages to Cathy and Paula. The first time I chalked it up to missing her; that made sense. But why did they return? I can’t help but think I should have seen the pattern there, listened to it a little more and not married again. If Paula and I don’t make it, that may be what He’ll want me to do. That’s great by me. I can live on the memories of Linda and I until I see her again with absolutely no problem. JAW 7/5/00)
(Paula and I have not had an intimate side to our relationship for most of our nine years together. Over the past year and a half, as my frustration grew, she said she just didn’t consider intimacy that important. That she was very satisfied with the current rela-tionship. That she thought that was normal. I responded with, “If it was normal for a married couple not to have any intimacy between them, your parents wouldn’t have had any children.” She tried a few times, but was unable to bring herself to deal with it. In mid year this year (2001), I finally reached the point where I was tired of waiting for things to change, and tired of trying. I had no more interest in any effort to be intimate with her, and have started putting documentation together to quietly end the marriage. She agreed we do better as friends anyway. Things like we have completely different ideas of what we like to do on vacations. I’m not sure whether we will be able to keep Tiffany or not; that part hurts a little. But we’ll see. We do have full custody, so joint custody should be possible. But my years with Linda remind me of the pleasure, and the importance of an intimate relationship. And I’m not ready to live without it. JAW 10.31.01)
I’m also greatly looking forward to finding out what other purpose(s) He has in mind for this book.. Work begins now, adding whatever memories, photos and other documents He brings to mind; and some of those I already have noted on paper.
Thursday, September 30, 1999
Recently, He reminded me that when Linda went home, she had first spent 2 days making our home absolutely immaculate. And the moment I remembered that small detail, I was certain that He had not taken her from me just to end our relationship, but because it was her time. Animal instinct had taken over. Remember how I could stop her from whining after a seizure by stroking her head until she came to? Here, her mind knew it was time, but would not let her leave until her “nest” was in perfect order. It’s nice to know that she wasn’t taken just to end our relationship, or for something I might have done (as the devil is trying to make me believe), yet losing her is still extremely difficult to accept, even after 19 ½ years. Satan’s playing that up, too; trying to pull me back again: “Of course He wanted to end the relationship. Why else would He do it?” I’m just going to have to cling tighter to the Spirit and fight back with His Power. That’ s the best way to handle any problem. Praise the Lord!
Sunday, October 31, 1999
This morning Paula and I attended the second service at All Saints Lutheran church to be with her family as her youngest nephew, Matthew, took his first commu-nion. But this service held more for me than that. We’d gone there purely to support Matthew at this special time, and yet before I left that morning, I knew the Spirit had brought me there for an additional, much more personal reason.
I had been praying, steadily, for reassurance from the Lord that I will indeed join Him and be with Linda when my time does eventually come. This morning I received that reassurance. The sermon was “Sin is Insanity”. We mortals are unable to keep from being involved with Sin. But that problem is part of what we are. That being the case, with us not being able to remain totally free of sin, it’s not our fault, and when our time comes, God finds us Not Guilty by reason of Insanity, and we are forgiven and still ad-mitted to His Kingdom. As soon as this sermon was finished I knew I had my answer. I knew that I will, most definitely, join Him, and be with Linda, when my time comes. Needless to say I will steadily praise Him for that reassurance. Like many people, I feared death for a number of years by this time. But from the moment of her death, I have no longer feared it. And now that I’ve received this reassurance that I will be with Linda when my time comes, I have an additional reason to be at peace when that mo-ment arrives. So He is well aware I am ready to go whenever He is ready and willing to take me.
Sunday, November 7, 1999
In addition to making my wishes known to family, I pray daily that the Lord will see to it that when my time does come that I will be buried in the remaining plot I have, next to Linda. Our plots are not side by side, they are end to end. With Linda’s current location in the left hand plot, when I am buried in the remaining one I will be at her feet. That is where I should be. That is where I want to be. In that way I can honor her in a mortal way one last, final time for those 14 glorious years of “utterly boundless and un-ending love” (remember what she said the night of The Play?) and devotion she gave to me, to our relationship, and to our marriage.
Saturday, December 25, 1999
It couldn’t be more appropriate that what I think will be the final update for this (then) third draft of the book is made on the day we celebrate the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ. He who has guided Linda and I from the time we met. Likely even earlier, since He is the One who brought us together that wonderful night of Tuesday, March 8th, 1966 when the phone in Mr. Wilson’s office simply “refused” to work for her.
I recently asked Him to let Linda know all about that rift between me and her family, and to ask her to forgive me for even letting it happen. In so doing, I continue to honor that promise she and I made to each other so many years ago, before Him, that we would never lie to each other. Within about two weeks or less of that time I asked Him to please see to it that I continue to keep that promise to her throughout the remainder of my life. Making these two requests of Him has brought me even more peace of mind. To this day that promise we made each other remains unbroken; and thanks to His placing in my heart the desire to make that latest request I mentioned here, it will remain unbroken for all time. And that, too, brings an even deeper peace of mind.
Tuesday, June 20, 2000
PRAISE THE LORD! As you can see, this book is still a “work in progress”. He’s been bringing more memories to mind, and answering many prayers from the past.
The best of those moments to date came on Thursday, April 13, 2000 as I was responding to an email from a Christian friend in Chicago, IL, who, via email attach-ments, has been reading the fourth draft of this book.
Toni and I had been discussing her thoughts on various parts of the book. On oc-casion, she would ask me a question or two about the strength of my faith, or how I ap-ply it in my life, etc. In this particular instance I was responding to one such question in an effort to help her deepen her faith, when, in mid-sentence, the Spirit took me back to one of the four passages He had me read at Linda’s services. Matthew 16, 24-25:
Then Jesus said unto his disciples, ‘If any man will come after me,
let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will
save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life, for my sake, shall
find it.’ “
The Spirit then showed me that within that passage lie the answer to two of the most nagging, persistent and painful questions that I’d had since Linda had gone Home: Why give us such a deep, meaningful, all-encompassing love, then take it away at such an early age? And, Why couldn’t we be allowed to grow old together like so many couples? The answers?
As far as I was concerned, she was my life. When she went Home, I lost my life. But it was for His sake, as it took away the last of my perfectionist, “had to be in charge” attitude, and allowed Him to manifest His Spirit fully within me at last. Therefore, ac-cording to Matthew 16: 24-25, since I lost my life for His sake, I will find it. He knows how deeply we loved each other – He gave us that love. He knows how badly we wanted to grow old together. By her going Home at that time, he has given she and I far more than that. He has granted us Eternity together. We will do far more than grow old together now. Once my time comes, we will never again be apart. For all eternity! PRAISE THE LORD!
Wednesday, August 16, 2000
Our 32nd Wedding Anniversary
A few weeks ago I was putting together a short piece on the importance of mak-ing your relationship with your spouse the second most important thing in your life, second only to your faith in God, to help make others aware of how important both things are in a person’s life. In the process of doing that, the Spirit made me aware of how Linda and I had lived so closely to another bible passage, where we’re told not to become wrapped up in materialistic possessions.
We never had a house, or a fancy car, or an enormous amount of money in the bank. But to us, none of that really mattered. It would have been nice to have those things, yes, but they weren’t our highest priority, any more than taking the easy way out had been my priority that night 14 years before when she told me she was an epi-leptic. Had I done that I would have missed out on the most wonderful and rewarding years of my life. Linda and I were totally devoted to each other. We needed each other in ways most couples never envision as even existing in a relationship. We had made a promise, just after my graduation, that we would never lie to each other. And we stuck to that promise. It was never broken. Our priority was our relationship, and that relationship exceeded even our biggest expectations. Our bond of love and devotion was endless; it literally knew no limits. Make your relationship second in your life only to your faith, and you can’t go wrong.
Late this past Monday morning, August 14th, as I sat at my desk at work, it came over me. Again. That warm feeling of Love and Peace that only He could bring, once again letting me know He, and the Spirit, are with me. This time, too, His visit had a purpose, just like those visits years ago when I found the courage to confess that I loved her, and to ask her to marry me.
But this time it wasn’t something He wanted me to do. This time it was know-ledge. Back on Thursday, April 13th, as I said in an earlier comment in these pages, He had shown me that the act of her going Home had removed my perfectionist-style “have to be in charge” attitude and allowed His Spirit to manifest itself fully within me. He then told me that that meant she and I would do far more that just grow old together as we’d hoped to do; that we would now have eternity together. Naturally, that made my spirits soar. But part of me still wondered, at times, why it had to take place so early in our marriage. Also, I had been trying to decide, for months now, if I wanted to know the answer to one more very painful question, voiced earlier in these pages, beginning in Chapter 26: had He called her home, or had He asked her if she’d be willing to come Home if it would ensure my full commitment? Or had something else taken place? Part of me wanted to know, part of me wasn’t so sure. And He knew that.
This time He told me that that night, when she died, He had answered her prayer – the one where she had asked for so long, for so many years, for a way to show me how very, very much my love and devotion really and truly meant to her. That night He gave her a way to show me, and she took it.
She gave up her life to bring me over the last hurdle that stood between me and the true fullness of the Spirit; to bring me as close to Him as she had been since we were baptized in the Spirit at Ken and Joan Luther’s in January, 1977.
She had made the ultimate sacrifice, and it was her decision.
There was no doubt in my mind, after He told me that, that she had, indeed, finally satisfied that deep desire she had (“It’s not just in my heart, honey, it’s become part of what I am. And words can’t convey that kind of feeling.”) to find a way to show me how very, very much my love and devotion had indeed meant to her from the very beginning of our relationship, and throughout our years together. And that very act shows once again how deeply she was, and had always been, devoted to me and to our relationship.
After I stopped crying, which was quite some time (about 30 minutes straight, I think), that started me thinking:
Helping others any chance she had. Even in the face of rejection by many outside her family.
Couldn’t hurt Ron, couldn’t hurt me either.
Her unwavering faith in Him.
Her unconditional love, especially for me.
Her flawless and unfailing devotion, to me, and to Him. To me, she denied me nothing. She gave herself willingly and totally to me. Emotionally and physically.
In short, she lived as Jesus lived when He was here.
I began thinking, “How could that be? Could any human being really live that way and never slip?”
Then today, Wednesday, August 16, 2000, on what would have been our 32nd wedding anniversary, that final question was answered. He told me that she was an An-gel, from the very beginning. When He gave me that realization, I actually spoke those words aloud, in total amazement: “She was an Angel!” I didn’t even realize, till after I’d said them, that I could have been overheard. But even that didn’t bother me. I was simp-ly too amazed, too startled for virtually anything to bother me. The realization that I had actually, wonderfully, been married to an Angel shook me to the bone. But as I thought about it afterward, it’s the only way everything else makes any sense:
She had me teaching her how to be “the person, the woman, the housewife, even” that she so desperately wanted to be. Now I know why she had to learn so much that other girls already knew. And why she could never get enough of our intimately physical relationship. It was a wonderful, new, and previously unknown experience, and sensation for her.
She was the one who taught me about love, true love, and being willing to feel and show emotion. Putting others first. Simple caring. Enjoying the simple things of life. Like early hand-me-down furniture collections. Birds singing. Wind in the trees. Keeping the child alive in us. About His world, period.
Need more proof?
The things she needed to learn were common knowledge down here (on earth). Yet she hadn’t known them.
The things she taught me those of us down here don’t seem to see or think about. We’re too busy in our own world. And those things were inherent within her. Instinctive. Natural.
Both sides of this coin just plain fit too well to work any other way; to be any-thing else. I never could figure out how what I saw, learned, experienced and just plain loved and enjoyed all those years could be real. Until now. And I didn’t figure it out this time either. He told me.
Two friends of mine, both of whom have read this narrative, also saw and un-derstood what Linda was. After I had told them of His latest Words to me, Jane Coleman wrote: “It always amazes me when we realize what the Lord has in store for us. I’m glad you have been blessed with the knowledge you have been given, my friend. May it give you all the peace that the Lord has meant for it to give.”
And Dorothy Dada wrote: “A gift from God. That is so true. That was really Lin-da. She was God’s gift to you. You can treasure the wonderful memories that you and she shared for life. She was truly God’s gift to you and the world. Everyone she touched was blessed. She was a blessing to all. Her laughter and the fun way she looked at life were a blessing to everyone she met. She enjoyed life to the fullest. She did not just en-dure life as so many people do. She taught all she met something: Life is wonderful and beautiful (treasure the moment). …Now I know not only was she a gift from God, but an Angel from God sent to make your life on this earth more enjoyable and full of life as she was. You are so blessed to have shared those years with Linda. So many people go through life and never find true love or meaning to their life. You found them both in Linda. I know she is around heavenly Father's throne letting him know how happy she was on earth knowing you. May God continue to keep you in His divine love.”
Thank you, my friends!
It still boggles the mind, but in the last 24 hours I’ve noticed I’ve accepted that wonderful thought (of her being an Angel and my being married to one) much more al-ready than I’ve been able to accept losing her, even after 21 years.
I’ve got a lot of thinking to do to absorb the last 3 days, but all my questions are answered. For 11½ years I was married to an Angel. It felt that way all along. That’s why it never felt like we were married that long. I just didn’t have any way to prove I wasn’t crazy for thinking that way. Until now.
He has explained many things to me about her passing in the past year, and it has helped a great deal to finally be able to understand. I no longer have the haunting prob-lem of not knowing why (she went Home). There is no more doubt in my mind (as there had been in the past) about how and why she left, and what it means for my spiritual life and for the time I will join her.
These last 3 days have answered it all. And He brought this knowledge to mind at a most appropriate time, with the final piece coming on our 32nd wedding anniversary. Praise the Lord!
Knowing these things now made me wish that I’d known she was an Angel when we were together. But it took only a moment to realize (or did He tell me quietly?) that had I known that, I would have done many things differently, and I would not have truly been myself to her. And being myself to her is what she, and the Lord wanted. Had I been anything else but myself, she would not have been able to teach me all the wonderful things that she did.
But, with as deeply as I loved her, and still do, I can’t help but wish we were still together. The desire to have grown old with her will always be there.
Knowing those things now also redoubles the pain I feel each day at losing her at all, especially so early in our wonderfully loving and devoted marriage. I can look only to Him for this answer. None other can ease this kind of pain, much less do so and still let me keep all the wonderful memories, and warm, deep feelings that we shared.
“Lord, if I must keep the pain in order to truly keep the memories, the warm feel-ings of love and devotion, and all the rest from those wonderful, glorious and so very meaningful years You gave Linda and I together, then please let it be so. I will keep the pain before I will give up anything from those ever so precious years, which, thanks so very much to You, Father, were, are, and always will be the most important and certainly the most wonderful years of my life.
For every moment of those 14 years, Lord, and for Linda’s very presence in my life, and for making our beautiful relationship and marriage so wonderfully and deeply meaningful, I thank You, and Praise You with all my heart, and will do so each and every day for the rest of my life, right up to the moment that I join Linda, and You in Your House. In the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, Amen.”
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Paula and I divorced a few years back, on not so friendly terms. We have joint custody of Tiffany, whose adoption had been completed a couple years after my last en-try on that subject here. She turned twelve this past October 22nd.
My dad turned 88 this year. He sold his house about 3 years ago, moving in with his lady friend (they’d been together for at least 6 years by then). Only this year did he move into a retirement community after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Parkin-son’s. .
One of those two great friends I had in high school, Dennis Atkinson, died of cancer in July of last year. I found out when I arrived for an eye appointment later that year. My ophthalmologist, Howard Bell, was also in our class at Anderson. He told me he’d gotten a call from Dennis’ sister, Diane, that very morning. Dennis’ wife Pat told me, when I called her that evening, that it had been due to a fast moving melanoma. By the time Dennis found the lump behind his ear, it had already spread. A year of chemo and a year of radiation were not enough. Now I knew why, these last 3 years, I hadn’t received the annual Christmas card and family update newsletter he’d always included.
I married for a fourth time, on February 27, 2005. Marilyn is a Christian, and we’ve already developed a couple of our family “inside jokes”. One is that even if some-thing that happens is totally and obviously out of my control, it’s still my fault. She uses the same phrase every time, without fail, always with obvious humor in her tone: “It’s all your fault.” It can be the first major weather change heading for winter (she hates cold weather), or when her Fibromyalgia pains make it impossible for her to do what she planned on a given day. I still hear, “It’s all your fault.”
The other one is the way she loves to play up the fact that I’m four years older than she is. Whenever I can’t remember where I left something, or I get a sudden unex-pected Fibro pain myself (yes, I have it, too now), I hear, “Well you are so much older than I am, you know!” Then we both laugh.
We both have Fibromyalgia. She has a bad knee and a bad back. I have high blood pressure, like my dad, and type 2 diabetes. But we get through it all together. I have to give Marilyn a lot of the credit for helping me fight the diabetes. She plans meals that give me decent flavor without the calories. I’ve lost about 40 pounds, and am still trying to lose more. And one of the things we both agree on is this: Since Fibromyalgia is one of those “invisible” illnesses, we’re both glad that neither of us has the problem many Fibro people have: trying to explain the illness, and what it does to us, to a partner that doesn’t understand. When she says she hurts too badly to do much on a particular day, she knows I understand, that I will not get the idea that she’s just being lazy or something. Because I, too, know the pains she’s talking about. I get them. We under-stand each other’s position. And that makes things much easier. And we’re both glad that we have each other to count on as we get older, without having to explain everything to an “outsider”.
It was my wife Marilyn who first brought up the subject of actually publishing this book, roughly a year ago. Since that time, I’ve been working on a final edited ver-sion to be published. Trying to close up any “loose ends” that might leave the reader not knowing the answer to situations that are mentioned, to decide whether or not to make any changes to some of those more intimate scenes, and to make sure I haven’t forgotten to enter any of the recent memories that came to mind. I’ve also gone completely through the notes I had from the past, making sure that I have entered the events, names and dates noted on all of those. I want this narrative to be as complete a history of my relationship with Linda as I can make it. And I have no doubt that it is, considering all the help and guidance I’ve had on it from the Spirit since the week after Linda died.
I’ve already seen some of His plan for this book, as evidenced earlier in the way it has influenced those who have read the various drafts along the way. And it’s going to be very interesting to see where His plan for this book takes me in the future.
PRAISE THE LORD!
Sunday, June 28, 2009
This past Monday, June 22, I received a note from Suzie, the Harts’ oldest daughter. It read:
“I regret having to tell you this, but you need to know. Dad passed away peace-fully on June 2nd. He suffered from Alzheimer’s… as well as congestive heart failure, kidney failure and respiratory distress. Mom and I were with him some part of every day. He died knowing we loved him.
“Mother is very frail, dealing with her cancer and her diabetes. She is losing her eyesight. For now she is staying in her home - we have Life Alert and I check on her several times a day. Just remember:
GROWING OLD IS NOT FOR WIMPS!
I wish you and your family the best.”
After I got over the initial shock of the news, and realized this was why I hadn’t heard from him for a long time, I smiled. Why? Because I had a sudden thought: I have a feeling that dad and Linda are finally catching up on things over the 29 years they’ve been apart since her passing. And just flat out enjoying being together again.
Following are a couple final thoughts written a few years back, in 2000, and a final, most fitting tribute to Linda. Just as they were at the time I told her that I loved her in spite of the epilepsy, words are totally inadequate for the feelings that I have tried to express with what follows; but they are all I have to use in making that effort. Please read them with your current knowledge of our lives in mind. That will give you a deeper understanding of what I mean to say here, and make this closure to the book even more fitting.
To The Harts
The following are the final paragraphs of a tribute to the Harts that I included in one of the Lodge bulletins. The part preceding this was a simple summary of highlights from what you’ve read in this book.
If qualifications for the 33rd Degree were based on Family and Humanitarian standards, one recipient would have to be my father, Worshipful Brother George D. Hart.
Thanks dad, from the bottom of my heart, for stepping up and being my father starting when I was 17, when dads are needed the most. To this day you are, and always will be, my father. And thanks to all of you: George, Virginia and Marcia, for making me a welcome member of your family. That means so much more since I had to leave mine behind to be with the one who is still, today, the true love of my life. I do not regret that decision for any reason. Never have, and never will. Linda, and the three of you have made my life far more meaningful, loving, and rewarding than it ever would have been without you. You taught me how to love, what love is about, and not to be afraid to show that love or share it with others.
Though one of them is not what it seems, please forgive me for the errors I made along the way. They haunt me to this day and I pray about them daily seeking to make up for them. My love for each and every one of you has only grown with the passage of time. From the moment I went out on my own at 18 you have been my only real family, and you will be my only real family for the rest of my life. I love you.
Jim Williamson, Past Master, Evanston-Eversull Lodge #695, F. & A.M
I've known from the time of Linda's death that the Lord was opening a ministry for me. I even commented in these pages about that and said that He just hadn't told me what form(s) it would take.
Then, the words for the original draft of this book began flowing as freely as water onto the pages of paper in that electric typewriter in the months following her death.
Next came an occasional comment to a friend or relative, occasionally a stranger or co-worker about a specific event in our lives in response to something they said or the mood they were in.
Now, it's the refinement of this book and a bible study group I’m part of during a weekly session on lunch hour on my current (1999, 2000) contracting job as a mainframe programmer (at Convergys), in addition to the occasional single discussion. I saw some-thing coming together from these varied directions but still did not know what it really was or the true extent of it.
I knew I always enjoyed talking about her, about us. And that I'd never tire of it. Probably because of the very depth of our love, and feeling that talking about her makes it that much easier to keep her memory actively alive. All through these events above, I got to continue enjoying talking about her, and us, and still do.
I figured a while back that at least part of that ministry He had planned for me was the book. Up until the last month or two in Bible Study, I thought the book and the occasional single conversation were the ministry. Then things started picking up in Bible Study. More and more of the thought provoking questions at the end of each reading applied to Linda and I in some way and I was contributing more and more to the discus-sion, and getting that great Peace of Mind that only He can give after each session where I contributed. And the responses I got, and the looks on many of their faces at times made it clear my words had done something to many of those in the room, and I began to realize that this was part of the ministry too.
Only that still wasn't the end of it.
Yesterday, Thursday, January 13th, 2000, He fitted the last piece into this puzzle of "What's my Ministry?" He took me back to Chapter 26 of this book. The Thursday after Linda died. Dad breaks down at the bar in their family room when telling Ginny and I that what he had seen Monday night was Linda's soul, and that she was saying goodbye. I break down and shout "Why not me?" Later, when dropping me off at the apartment dad explains to me that she didn't visit them because she loved them more than me, but that she did it because that's the way she was - always willing to help any-one if they gave her a chance, especially those she loved the most. She knew my faith could withstand her passing but that her mom's was shaky and that a first-hand expe-rience could help her. Linda was that way - willing to help others - right to the end.
After the Lord took me back to that scene, He answered my "ministry" question, all right, and made my spirits soar! He told me that what He has had me doing all this time, and what I am to continue to do is carrying on her Legacy. Helping others anytime I can. The help I give is through sharing parts of the relationship Linda and I had be-tween us with others, as He guides me to them. Some will read the book. Others will have only certain specific needs or problems. But I will help them through sharing our life together with them as He guides me. He will use my words and the visible depth of my feelings that comes with those words, written or spoken, to help those people with their problems.
Linda helped others in any way she could, right to the end. Now, it's my calling, from Him, to carry on that Legacy, using our lives to provide His help and guidance to others, and to help dispel the many myths and misconceptions about epilepsy that still exist. At this point seven people have read various drafts of this book and all have said they have benefited in some way from its pages. I now have proof of the Legacy in ac-tion. Three more are reading it at this moment.
Realizing that He has me helping as she did, and as she would, with the only dif-ference being the nature of the help given, has really raised my spirits. And I know this is for real, because Satan is already working on me, trying to discourage me. He's got me getting torn up inside because she's not by my side anymore. He has me missing her al-most as much now as I did in the first few months after her death.
While it tears me to pieces, I like the fact that it also confirms the truth of the exis-tence of the Legacy the Lord has passed to me from her. Satan wouldn't bother with me on this if it wasn't something very important to the Lord. Satan wouldn't waste his time on me.
I have asked the Lord to allow me to continue serving Him through this Legacy for whatever time He plans on my still being here on earth, because it not only helps His work, but it helps me keep her love, her memory and her spirit alive, lifting my spirits in the bargain.
In that letter she had written me after that big argument, where she described His world, she said, "Unfortunately I can't go there until He calls me." Now, it’s my turn to say exactly the same thing. I do, though, keep letting Him know that I am ready and willing to go Home the moment He's willing to take me. Because I know that nothing I have here can come anywhere near the rewards of His Kingdom, and there is nothing that would please me more than to spend Eternity with Him, and with Linda.
PRAISE THE LORD!
A closing thought and also a fitting tribute
to Linda follow. It is my hope that, knowing us as you
now do, they provide a most fitting closure to this
story of our life together.
Thank you, Linda, for every single moment of our 14 gloriously wonderful and romantic years together, sharing a teenage love that never grew up, and therefore never grew old. For awakening my spirit for life, and allowing me to be the one to awaken yours. For keeping alive the child within me, by sharing the child within you. And for using your love, and your childlike blind faith, to lead me closer to God than I’d ever been before.
Heavenly Father, though it totally devastated me at the time, and still haunts me today, thank You, Lord, for not allowing Linda’s death to be in vain. For using it to ignite the writing spirit within me, to lead me to carry on her legacy, and to lead me fully and totally to Your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Whatever the Lord, and the Spirit have in mind for this book, and for me, of one thing I am, and always shall be absolutely certain:
Linda will always be a part of me (a very BIG part), and I of her. And no matter what He brings in my future, I'll stick by the Word, and praise Him for whatever comes; most of all, of course, for those 14 wonderful, caring, loving, devoted and rewarding years He gave Linda and I together.
Not all relationships that begin as high school sweethearts end in marriage to each other. Of those that do, not all can claim it was a marriage that really worked, and lasted. Linda and I are one of the few couples who could legitimately say that ours did. Such a feat in itself is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And there is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that the rock solid foundation of our relationship, and our life together was our faith, and my Angel’s – Linda’s – Unending, Unconditional Love.
James A. Williamson, Jr.
Friday, October 1, 1999
Linda’s Gravestone today (Saturday, October 2, 1999)
The abbreviation near the Eastern Star symbol (top) indicates that she
was Associate Matron in 1980.
The Dove represents the Holy Spirit,
The Cross her unwavering Faith,
The Praying Hands her Devotion to God,
And the Roses, the flowers she loved most, a final gift from me.
The dates are:
March 18, 1949
March 3, 1980
The line at the bottom says what she did all her life:
PRAISE THE LORD
TO LINDA, THE LOVE OF MY LIFE:
HONEY, YOU WERE MY LIFE, YOU ARE MY LIFE AND YOU WILL ALWAYS BE MY LIFE.
REST IN PEACE, MY DARLING, MY SWEETHEART. I WILL SEE YOU AGAIN
WHEN HE DECIDES MY TIME HAS COME; FOR I HAVE HIS WORD ON IT NOW.
PRAISE THE LORD!
SQUEEK, MY LOVE, YOU WERE, ARE, AND ALWAYS WILL BE THE BEST THING ON EARTH THAT EVER HAPPENED TO ME, AND I LOVE YOU!
LINDA, MY DARLING,
YOU WERE, AND ARE, TRULY AN ANGEL.
A GIFT FROM GOD, SENT JUST FOR ME.
AND FOR YOUR PRESENCE IN MY LIFE
I WILL THANK HIM EACH AND EVERY DAY,
FOR ALL ETERNITY.
--- YOUR DEVOTED HUSBAND, JIM
PS: I LOVE YOU!