Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Making "Good" of Even the Worst

Several months ago I heard about "Hello, Mornings!" an online website/group that helps women who are trying to develop a more productive, positive start to their day.  I've never been a morning person, and I knew that what I was doing -- rushing around in the morning, feeling cranky and out of sorts with the world -- wasn't healthy for me or the people around me. I signed up for the summer session with pretty high expectations; in all honesty, those expectations have been exceeded! But that's a post for another day. :) "Hello Mornings" is offering a wonderful opportunity for a blogger to attend for free the "The Declare Blogging Conference 2013", so I'm departing from my normal topic of redesigning your life after a devastating loss to focus on earning that opportunity. I do this only because I firmly believe that attending this conference will help me be a better blogger, which in turn will help me better achieve my goal for this blog. With that in mind, let me share with you my one and only goal for this blog and how it came to be.

When my then-47-year-old husband was diagnosed with cancer in July 2009, , I couldn't see past the next moment, the next doling out of medicines, the next doctor's appointment, the next treatment. I couldn't see how any good could come of what was happening to my husband, to my children, to my in-laws, to me. I definitely couldn't fathom any good coming from Steve's passing 6 weeks and 1 day after his diagnosis. I knew, though, that Romans 8:28 declares that "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." And I clung to that. I clung to that promise when I saw my husband suffer, when I and my children held his hands as he drew his last breath, when I stood alongside my children at his gravesite, when I saw my children's raw pain and grief, when I watched my in-laws age before my eyes, and when my future seemed so uncertain and frightening. I clung to that promise when, moment after moment, day after day, even month after month, I couldn't see any good; when, in fact, the mere idea that my husband's passing could somehow bring "good" repelled me even as I clung to it.

And then one day, I mentioned on facebook that I felt like I was redesigning my life, a life that I never expected to live, and something I said in that post prompted several friends to suggest I start a blog and share my experience. I resisted for months. It seemed so self-centered. I mean, who was I to presume to be an authority on the subject? I was just doing the best I could, like so many other widows and widowers. I was nothing special. And then one morning, I read these lines, written by Henri J.M. Nouwen: "Often we think that we do not know enough to be able to teach others . . . It is only by giving generously from the well of our knowledge that we discover how deep that well is." The next morning I read more from Nouwen: "But when we want to drink the cups of our lives, we need first to hold them, to fully acknowledge what we are living, trusting that by not avoiding but befriending our sorrows we will discover the true joy that we are looking for right in the midst of our sorrows." I knew then I couldn't, I shouldn't, sit back and wait for the promise of Romans 8:28; I had a responsibility to make something good from the greatest loss of my life. I'm a fervent believer in the power of the written word to change lives, to make them better and to make the world better, and as a writer and teacher of writing, I stress that power to my students every day.

And so, I decided to "practice what I preach", to blog about my experience. I'm not the best blogger on the internet, nor the wisest. But I am honest, even when it would be so much easier to either paint a better picture or draw the curtain on the scene. I believe that by sharing my experiences and what I've learned about not just surviving but overcoming and rebuilding after tragedy, and that by offering others who have walked this same road an opportunity to share their experiences, I might be able to help someone. Someone who has just lost their spouse or their child. Someone who can't imagine anything good coming from that. And if I do -- if I help just one person -- than something good will have come from my husband's passing. And that, my friends, is my goal each time I set  down in front of my laptop, read your comments, and then write another post.



  1. oh wow! I already love you!! This, this "the mere idea that my husband’s passing could somehow bring “good” repelled me even as I clung to it."

    I so get that sentence!! I am a cancer survivor and although my story is much different than yours, I saw no good coming from the cancer detour in my own life. In fact, I was so honest with God I told Him I wanted to say yes but I couldn't. And it has been that intersection, of faith and catastrophe in my own life where ministry is birthed.

    Looking forward to knowing you better and hoping we both make it to the conference. Blessings!!

  2. "I’m not the best blogger on the internet, nor the wisest. But I am honest, even when it would be so much easier to either paint a better picture or draw the curtain on the scene."

    I'm so glad you are sharing your story! I think honest bloggers make the best bloggers! Praying God is glorified through you as you cling to the truth that he is good!!

  3. wow Patti! I'm blown away by your story and your dedication to see God work good out of tragedy. Praying God makes a way for you to come to Declare so I get to encourage you in person!!

  4. Lisa,
    I'm so glad you found me and that you shared a bit of your story. I simply cannot imagine walking in your shoes. I would watch my husband and wonder what is he truly, truly thinking; I didn't want to push -- he was a quiet man to begin with.

    On a side note, I didn't win the contest. Because I decided not to teach summer school this year (my first semester off since Fall 2005!), my summer monthly income won't cover the conference and hotel accomodations, meals, etc. I could swing one or the other, but not both, so I won't be able to attend. I hope you are able to attend, and I look forward to reading more of your blog!

  5. Thank you for your kind words, Katie.

  6. Thank you, Heather, for visiting and for your kind words. I wish I could have met you there and learned from all the wonderful presenters, participants, etc. but as I explained above/below (? lol) to Lisa, I won't be able to make the trip -- I can't quite swing everything. Both of my children graduated this past May (one from med school, one from college), and I helped both of them move (one to start his residency, the other to begin a Masters in bioterrorism), and I'm so glad I was able to help them in that regard; a few other things came up as well. I'm disappointed I won't be able to attend, but I'm so happy for the person who was chosen. In the meantime, I'll keep on writing. I will definitely check out your blog and look forward to reading it!