Dust in the Wind

Five days to go before I have to be out of this place and the donation truck is coming today to lighten my load. Over the last couple of weeks as I have been packing, donating and preparing to move out, I am intrigued by the perceived value of things. When we were younger we had all these ideas for businesses, many of which we actually tried for awhile. Some things worked out, some didn’t. Some were her ideas, some were mine. What is interesting is the value to me of the things that no longer have the valuable person to accompany them.

What were once our our hopes and dreams together, I find now that they are not my hopes and dreams. Items that fit in that category are of no interest to me at all anymore. As I loaded up the last item from the storage unit to cart off to Goodwill the wind was blowing and I was engulfed in a dust cloud. Rolling down that road for the last time was bittersweet. I was glad to not have to deal with those things anymore but I also know that going down that particular road for the last time was one more thing that we will never do together again. She is gone from this world and I was thinking so are the hopes and dreams that we have together. As the song says, “like dust in the wind”.

Of course I still have my own hopes and dreams to keep me going but it won’t be the same. So I guess the lesson here is to not invest too much in the things of this life, the things that you can’t carry with you into the next. We need to make sure that the things left behind are valuable, even without our presence. And as the bible says, we need to be thinking about the next life, storing up treasures there so that we have something to look forward to at the end of this short existence when we too become “dust in the wind”.

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Layers of Stress

`At first, upon Tricia’s death I was even more stressed out than I was before. But as time passes I can feel myself unwinding, as if it is one layer at a time. For so long I have been in a race against time, running one errand at a time and coming right home to see if everything is OK, followed by a sprint to another errand or appointment. Doctor’s appointments were literally an all day scramble to get ready and get there on time. A missed appointment could be a catastrophe, another week without medicine, pain pills or referrals to necessary treatments. Too long at any one errand and I could find a plugged air hose, a missed medication, or a relapse into AD.

So now I find myself still racing around, heart pounding, running and racing, skipping meals and forgoing my own needs. But each day is a little better, a little more relaxed, a little more like I used to be. Today I was on my way to Denver via Black Forest and I noticed I was speeding and my heart was pounding, and I thought to myself, why? There was no real possibility of anything going wrong, I just had to make a little drive and come back. And if I could just slow down, I could even make a nice day out of it. So I forced myself to think of the pleasant things that would come after my appointment. Lunch, I wanted to have lunch. I haven’t had time to stop for lunch anywhere in a year. So when I got back to the Springs I decided to get a salad at the salad buffet on Garden of the Gods Road. And I forced myself to not hurry.

View through the keyhole

View through the keyhole

Soon I was proceeding past Garden of the Gods and I thought, why not pull in? Why not drive through it instead of past it? But what about the time? Well what about it, I have plenty of it now. Once in the park it was so beautiful. Brilliant snow covering the peak and the early spring light bathing the red sandstone spires with beautiful afternoon glow. The weather was perfect as I was hurrying through, and I thought, why am I hurrying again? Why not stop and take a walk? I have been wanting to try the Spring Canyon trail for a long time, so I forced myself to pull in and park. It was so worth it to see new parts of the park that I had no idea even existed from racing past on the road. Fantastic views of the peak, rock features that I had never seen or even heard of. I was hoping to snap a couple of pictures so I would have something to do tonight and I ended up with eighty. I will be busy from these for a while!

Finally I let the boy kitties out the back door for some sun and exercise. For some reason they didn’t take off as usual and were just hanging around the door as if they wanted something. My chair in the backyard was in the sunshine and it looked so inviting, so I just decided once again to stop everything and just go watch them play. They were happy to see me out there once again after months of having to entertain themselves. Soon they were back to running back and forth, batting around various objects that have collected in the yard over the winter. I forgot how much I enjoyed my kitty time. As I sit there watching their fun my mind slows down and the important things manage to bubble to the top while the days unimportant problems sink to the bottom.

So as I continue this journey it is like stress is falling off in layers. Entire levels of worry melting away. New plans forming, messages I need to send to old friends, and most important of all… I am starting to feel closer to my God again. He has felt so distant for so long but as I rested in the yard with my critters it started to sink in that He was never distant, only obscured by so many layers of stress that have been piling on gradually without notice until they had become an unbearable burden. But time passes and with each day another layer falls off. I don’t know how long it will take, but I hope soon the burden will be lifted.

Scrambled Brains

Woke up early this morning with my mind running hard. For some reason I was thinking it was the 17th already and that I had missed making mention of the training kickoff of the Patriots’ Festival bike race, which is the 16th. Then I felt the gut wrenching fear that I had forgotten to  do my taxes which is what finally woke me up completely. Of course today is only the 15th of March, it isn’t tax day yet and training for the bike race doesn’t open for another month. So today is Sunday, church day, and also the day young Rachel’s family is going to come and get Tricia’s power chair for her. I hope this small legacy of Tricia’s suffering can make her life a bit better.

So once I get some coffee down it looks like I have my work cut out for me this morning. I have turned this place upside down getting ready to move out and the front door is completely blocked with the stuff that is prematurely ready to go out. Now I am going to have to clear that all away, find the parts to the chair, remember how to drive it and get it out the front door, all before church. Pastor Robert is working out of town for the gas company and will only be in town today so I need to get with him to plan Tricia’s memorial. Then I have to get back home in time to meet Rachel’s family get  the chair.

I know Tricia will be smiling in heaven as a result of Rachel having the chair. Even in the depths of the valleys of her suffering she had so much love and compassion for Rachel, of course knowing how difficult life without legs can be. She also admired her greatly for continuing to love and praise Jesus in the middle of her storm, even when the Walls are Shaking. So today is going to be a busy day, but I think it is going to be a good day as well.

Time

Time is a funny thing. It is supposed to be a constant force, marching on without regard to its effect on us mortals. Though it may be a relentless enemy, when we are hurting time can be our friend. Time heals it is said. Father Time’s advance is supposed to be steady, but there are circumstances in which it seems to slow down or race ahead uncontrollably. For example, prior to my trip to Denver I needed to get my truck maintained and time seemed to stand still while I waited the estimated hour for the work to be completed. Occasionally time flies by unnoticed like the six years that have gone by since I have had lunch with my old friend. For the fifteen years that we met weekly for lunch, time was steady and the years long and memorable. Yet in these difficult years since Tricia’s diagnosis, almost half that time has slipped by without notice.

Yesterday’s trip to Denver was a compacted combination of all those phenomenon. Had to stop in the Springs to pick up my final check at the medical company where I don’t work anymore. It seemed like yesterday when I made my first trip there to take my tests and learn of the company’s policies and procedures. My time there was like a vapor and now I will never see any of those people again. Before long, it will be like working for that company didn’t happen at all.

Colorado Springs was the same, as I left town time seemed constant. I see it every week and it hasn’t changed much over the years. Same with I25 on my way up to Denver. The route is mostly unchanged and the effects of time seem normal. The freeway is being widened near Park Meadows. It was being widened when I moved away and it is being widened again. Nothing unusual here. But when I made my turn off onto Arapaho road I began to notice some odd feelings. Arapaho and the Valley Freeway looked all different to me. I made a wrong turn and had to make a loop under the bridge and try it again. Home Depot is still there and I remembered that is where to turn so I pulled in off of Clinton Street, but the shopping center looked different and I didn’t see JD’s where I remembered it to be. It seemed like a lifetime since I had been there.

However as I approached Home Depot, I found my old parking place and spotted Dennis’ car there as well. Suddenly I felt as if I had been there last week, as if no time had passed at all. Dennis looked the same, save for a few more gray hairs and we quickly picked up where we left off. We still have the same friends and interests and a common past. Soon we were discussing our internet problems, some things never change. However, as we discussed megabytes and gigabytes and data rates we had to laugh. If someone would have described these numbers to us thirty years ago it would have sounded about as likely as Star Trek. Thirty years ago we had an acoustical modem that you used by sticking a telephone receiver into rubber lined holes . Our data rate then was a whopping 100 bits per second. Then we upgraded to 300 and then 1200. Later 9600 bits per second was warp speed. The five million dollar mainframe we worked on had 65k of memory, not 65 megabytes, just 65k bits. We typed our code on card decks. Those times seem like a million years ago, maybe even another lifetime.

The time for lunch to end was upon us and just as always we sauntered into the parking lot and vowed not to let six more years pass. Leaving was as always, like it was just last week and we were on our way. But as I proceeded down Arapaho towards the east, time warped again. Everything is different. There are new businesses, new buildings, new roads and new signs. Even the intersection at Parker Road is different. Seemed like forever since I had been there. Parker too is quite different for the same reasons. Feels like much time has passed since the 20 years I lived there.

However, the instant I passed the town of Parker, I was jolted from the future to the past. South of Parker nothing has changed in six years. It was like I’d never left and I could have been driving down the road yesterday and I wouldn’t know any different today. My subdivision is also unchanged, the same deer are still standing around in the yards eating the grass and the forest along the street looks exactly like it did all those years ago. My old house is different though and I’m glad Tricia didn’t have to see it. We worked hard to make it look and feel like the mountains so the house was surrounded by rocks and trees and a beautiful rock garden in the center with a colorful crab apple tree in the middle. In the years we lived there some of our pines reached at least 50 feet. However, it appears the new owner doesn’t like trees. Majestic old pines chopped down and disposed of, the rock garden, the tree, the flowers, the juniper bushes all gone. Twenty years of loving attention to detail all wiped away. Now the house could be something transplanted straight out of the sterile  and monotonous neighborhoods of barren Aurora.

Finally, my destination. The storage unit to pick up my photography studio stuff, and the weirdest part of the entire journey. Here, time had stood completely still. I can still remember being miffed that my studio wasn’t making the trip. We were going to get a new start in the mountains, but it did not appear that my photography was going to be a part of it, and it wasn’t. The daily war on cancer soon consumed us and the years passed by quickly, almost like a blur. But now standing here looking at my backdrops, my wall prints, brochures and office equipment it seemed that time had stood completely still. Almost has if I had been transported out of my life and into someone elses for six years. But now I feel like Father Time has waited for me, patiently standing by while I dedicated the years to another person’s  needs. It was like I had been suddenly transported back to a life that has been faithfully awaiting my return. In fact it was like the clock had actually gone backwards six years to pick me up where I left off.

I don’t know if I will want to have a studio again, probably not since my interests have changed and I am more at home outdoors than in a studio. But I know one thing, my equipment wasn’t doing me any good up there with me down here. Time marches on and I am eager to find out what he has in store for me now.

The Gift

As I have been going about the business of moving on I have also been stopping in at all the places Tricia liked to make sure everyone has been informed of the sad news. In doing so I have been continually astonished at the effect her life, her suffering and her passing have had on all those who came in contact with her.

Everyone who knew her was impressed by her faith, perseverance, hope and joy. Her Christian friends say that she taught them how to be a Christian, how to believe and hope when it looked as if there was no hope. Her non Christian friends remember her big smile and thumbs up trademark that were never dampened by her suffering and never subject to her circumstances. It is apparent from the looks on their faces and in their eyes that they know that her spirit was being carried by a force greater than anything this world could throw at her.

Her life and her death have changed people. Her friends see the world differently now. Many have commented that they now regard their own problems as small and I can quote many as saying “When I think of my problems I think of you and it makes my problems seem like nothing.”.

So the gift she left us is the gift of faith, an ability to look beyond the problems of the day and to something greater. A closer connection to the life beyond and a closer bond with everyone who participated, from the one who opened a door for the wheelchair to the one who came and sat with her in our home, to those who took timeout to call or email and pray and to those who were able to help out financially. And most of all to our church family who provided the solid rock to stand on when everything else was being shaken.

Finality

I wasn’t going to write again on Tricia’s passing, but the events of the day have again turned my thoughts to the grieving process. As I awoke this morning, before I had completely come to full consciousness, I looked over to see if I was going to be able to start moving around without awakening her. Of course I quickly realized she wasn’t there.

Part of my day’s activities involved sorting through possessions in preparation for moving out by the end of the month. At one time I came upon a box of antique quilts that she was particularly fond of and quite indignant with me for misplacing when I moved it here. Funny it was within three feet of her the entire time she was here, I just didn’t remember that I had put it there. So of course I got excited and my immediate reaction was, I can’t wait to tell her I found the quilts! And there were a couple more incidents like that where I came across or had a thought or got a call from someone and my immediate thought was, I can’t wait to tell her.

Some friends had me over for dinner this afternoon and when I returned I discovered packages delivered by UPS on the doorstep. It only took me a fraction of a second to ascertain what the packages were. A couple of weeks ago she spent at least an hour on Amazon, combing the listings for some of our favorite movies. In her wheelchair bound state, watching movies was about the only shared activity we had left that we could enjoy together, and movie time was our favorite time of day. It was with great sadness that I opened the packages to find a couple of our favorite John Candy movies, some wildlife documentaries, a season of the old TV show Rawhide that she loved, and a book she had been trying to find for a long time, the “Cancer Battle Plan”. The packages unfortunately arrived well past their projected delivery dates and ultimately, too late.

That’s when the terrible finality of what has happened really began to sink in. She wasn’t ready to die, she wanted to go on fighting, to glean every bit of life from her time of earth that she was able to experience. But there are things left undone, unseen and unheard. In this mortal life I will never again be able to tell her of the little victories like finding the quilts again. I will never see her in the morning, and we will never have movie nights again. Fortunately final in this mortal world is not final. I know her salvation is secure as we experienced it together on our knees at the altar. The bible says life is but a vapor, but I intend to live the remainder of my years on earth to the fullest and I know that time flies and I will see her again in the next life. So final isn’t that final after all.

Dreams

Today’s sorting through the chaos of the last few years was a journey through the dreams we had together. Tricia was always up for some new venture and we tried a lot of them! And as I was combing the cottage looking for things I would need I ran across remnants of all of them.

Tricia running her sound mixer

Tricia running her sound mixer

There was the wedding photography business in the early 90’s memorialized by boxes of prints, glossy previews and piles of negatives. I found office supplies, flyers and advertisements for the photo studio that we ran in Denver for awhile. There are CD’s, costumes and props from the mobile DJ service we tried in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. I loved that business and will never forget some of the beautiful parties that we had the privilege of MCing. She was so beautiful all dressed up in character for the sock hops, the disco parties, and in her tuxes for the weddings. The house is filled with trinkets left behind from our attempts at the collectibles business. I can still remember her scurrying around the house packing sold items and running off with armloads of stuff to take to the post office. Don’t miss the days of dealing with the post office and once when they lost something Tricia furiously told the postmaster that she was going to sue the post office, to which he sanctimoniously informed her, “You can’t sue us… we’re the federal government!”.

We came to Woodland Park filled with hope when we found a commercial property for an antique store. I think she would have succeeded if the cancer had not begun to take it’s toll. But it didn’t work out and we turned our minds to retirement. She dreamed of parking our camper trailer by a stream and going fishing, something she had never done. She excitedly asked me, do you know how to fish? I had to laugh since my dad worked for Berkeley Fishing Company his whole life and I was probably fishing before I could walk 🙂 Her idea sounded fine to me and I hoped we would get the chance. Today as I was digging through the past I was saddened when I found my rod and reel stashed in a corner, knowing that she would never get the chance to try it out.

Fishing on Crystal Creek Reservoir

Fishing on Crystal Creek Reservoir

On the other hand, what would heaven be without some pristine streams filled with trout, or mountains and the smell of pine trees? I will see her again there and maybe she will be fishing, accompanied by wolves, bears and our beloved dogs and cats that have already made the journey. As for me, the dreams have not died and I will carry on. She would have wanted me to.