Lover Of My Soul

Four years ago this week a family friend brought a slip of paper to my husband with Psalm 23 handwritten. He asked Robin to pray the Psalm daily. Every morning Robin would faithfully take the piece of paper out and recite it. Even at the end of his ALS battle, when he could barely utter a word, he would have me read Psalm 23 to him. It changed his life. One scripture. It has taken four years, time alone to reflect and the unraveling of a nation for me to grasp the magnitude of the power behind this prayer.

We are all familiar with the battle cry “even though I walk in the shadow of death I will fear no evil“. This Psalm; however, is not about the end of life as I originally assumed. No, it is about the One who gives life! I believe this Psalm could save us all. Right now, yep, in this very moment in history.

When I’ve been asked to professionally speak about the year we battled ALS I’ve done a mediocre job, at best, describing that moment in time. I have yet to come up with any other word than “supernatural“. Those that witnessed it? They concur. We watched in awe as the Holy Spirit transformed my husband in front of our eyes. He transformed our lives. It was the most beautifully heart breaking eleven months of my life. It was beautiful because we had a front row seat to witness glory. Heartbreaking because we finally got life so perfectly right with so little time left to live.

When we examine how we respond to extraneous relationships and circumstances it is in direct correlation to how we feel inside. Most of us look for someone our entire lives to fulfill that need to be seen, heard, known and loved. Our response to the world is largely based on how that void inside is or isn’t filled. Psalm 23:3 tells us “He refreshes and restores my life; He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake.” God desires to fill and meet all of our needs. God is promising us a renewed life in Him. He is the lover of our soul! He knows us intimately. He knows every hair on our head. He is the only One who can fulfill us.

My husband died at peace. He had confessed his sins to God. He had forgiven everyone he needed to forgive and he spent the last eleven months of his life praising God, offering thanks, laughing hysterically and loving everyone who crossed his path–even the difficult to love. This started me thinking, what if we all confessed our sins, forgave freely and meditated on Psalm 23:3? What if for the next month the whole country just forgave? What if we didn’t doubt or ask questions? What if we just read the words of Psalm 23 and waited for the Holy Spirit? What a wonderful world it could be.

The Best Thing

When my husband died he left a letter to be read at his service. There was a line that said, “Elizabeth and I literally grew each other up”. Nothing could be any truer. We met at a Halloween party our freshman year of college. We were both just 18 years old. We married 5 years later. He died at age 51. The night he died I thought I had died too. And I guess in some aspects, I’m discovering, an enormous part of who I was is now gone. But what I’m also finding? The young woman that I never had the privilege of becoming due to an early marriage and babies? Well, she’s a grown arse woman now and I really sorta like her!

After listing my home and before moving to Raleigh, I had a friend say to me, “Are you sure you want to start over? Trying to make friends again at your age? That’s a tough crowd up there”. Along with everything else that had been thrown my way, I tucked it in my back pocket, and took it as a challenge to be pursued at the appropriate time. My friend wasn’t actually wrong. I reconnected with old friends, college friends, met young friends in a bible study, and one friend that I know for certain was a God ordained gift. But for the most part, it was not like sorority Rush week. So when I bought my house further out in the county I decided, yes me the introvert, I was going to meet one new person a week. Admittedly, COVID has made this a bit challenging.

My community has a message board for the HOA. There was a post by a woman about something that had occurred at her families home. I sent her an inbox. We had several exchanges. Today we met for lunch. Turns out we had 2 hours of things to talk about 😀 I made a friend. It was good day.The old me would have never branched outside of my tree–ever.

I look back on the past 3 years and it’s almost incomprehensible to me to believe that I am a widow. It’s like Nellies singing in my ear “It’s only just dream” (or Anna Kendrick from Pitch Perfect which ever you prefer). Every time I go “home” at least one person will say “I still can not believe he is gone”. My husband was just that man. That legend. And, yet, there has been something so profound about being out from under that heritage. It’s been terrifying and heartbreaking, yes. I am just me. I never got to be me. We lived in his town. His school. His neighbors. His teachers. His family. I morphed into his life. And yes we built our life. And it was a safe, delightful way to raise children. But Now? I am now the me that can get banned on twitter for making political statements. I am the me who can reach out to people I do not know from Adam and ask them to lunch. I am the me who can re-register to vote unaffiliated. I am now the me who uses her pantry door as a bottle opener in a pinch. I am the me who has not washed her car since March. 😂

My friend Lisa and I do a show on Instalive every week about widowhood. Last week we discussed “Best thing about widowhood”. I think the best thing has been discovering who I am on my own, while walking with a God who loves me enough to make sure that I’m okay during the process. Yes, that’s the best thing.

“Trust that if He changes your plans, it is a chance to walk by faith” 2 Corinthians 5:7

I’m In

I join my friend Lisa every Monday night, live on social media, to talk about widowhood.  When she first pitched me the idea  I was completely reluctant. I didn’t want to be on camera. I didn’t want anyone knowing my flaws. Seeing my flaws. Hearing my sad tale. As a writer it seemed okay to put “it” on paper for people to read. Actually talking out loud on livestream? Absolutely not. I’m a terrible talker. I ALWAYS say the wrong thing. I’m convinced I have a miswired brain. I know in my mind what I’m trying to say and it invariably comes out construed. Writing? Much better platform for someone like me.  But, for whatever reason,  I texted Lisa back and said, “I’m in”. 

The very first broadcast I belted back two shots of Titos in my dead husbands  35 year old KA shot glass before signing on. I am woman hear me roar! Well, not really. The entirety of my 27 year marriage I had never done a single shot. I figured what better time to start my new boldness with, well, boldness!  I don’t remember much except that I survived it and I said “yes” to the following weeks Instalive. With each week that passed, I began to realize I was verbally exposing parts of myself that I hadn’t  talked about with anyone except my grief counselor. I said a lot of things wrong. I said a lot of things to evade  real issues and  instead provoke laughter. And still, I kept returning, and so did our tiny little following of women.

We have talked boldly about missing having sex  yet not possibly imagining  being with anyone else. No, wait, maybe we are ready to date?! Wait, just kidding,  on second thought? Maybe not yet. The roles our dogs have played in our healing. Our kids. Our faith. Our communities.  All of our dialoging and processing is the exact kind of nonsensical rambling that would have sent me over the freaking edge 5 years ago. And yet? LOL here I am. I’ve held in all this crap for all this time that I thought was inconsequential. Evidently it matters to a number of other  women too who just won’t say it out loud either. They keep tuning in and contacting us. It has been a joy  making connections. 

I had no idea who I was after my husband died. My entire identity was stripped away. Couple that with moving to a metropolitian area? I went from somebody to nobody pretty dag gone quickly. It’s humbling. But I had to make a decision to be me or to hang on to being Mrs. Robin Wooten for the rest of my life. I chose me.  I still don’t have the majority of it all figured out. But I do know this:  I’ve believed God would show me. I’ve believed God would place me where I needed to be. I’ve believed God at his word of never leaving me nor forsaking me.   The day after Robin died it was chaos in our home.  I was in the bathroom trying to just get away from all the people. I sat down on the bench in the shower and tried not to cry. That’s when I heard the Lord say, “trust me”. 

Terrible things happen. Life has to go on or it doesn’t. You can Trust or not trust.  Once you’ve decided to Trust him? I’m finding life is a whole lot more fun just saying, “I’m in”.

“Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you”~Hebrews 13:5

Grief Is Like A Box Of Chocolates

Forrest Gump’s mother  was certainly wise with her iconic life lesson

“Life is like a box of chocolates you never know what you are going to get”  

I have found that the grief process has been exactly like a box of chocolates. Contrary to everything I’ve been told and read (about grief and its many stages) mine is so uncategorized and random.  I never know what attribute of grief is going to pop up  or when.

My 52 year old wiser widow self knows better than to expect grief to fall into a box of categories landing on specific goal months. However I do find it ironic that I am almost 15 months into this gig and I can’t make neither head nor tails of where the emotions are supposed to land. I guess, like  many things in life,  you have no idea what to expect when you aren’t expectant.

For those of you who have children do you remember the books ‘What To Expect When You’re Expecting’ and ‘What To Expect The First Year’? In 1991 my husband and I  read every single page. We anticipated each change my body would make. If a symptom did not coincide on the month the book said it was to occur?  We became worried and secretly frantic. Our 24 year old minds were captivated with the mind blowing prospect that this little person was going to be growing and as if on command “performing” milestones in utero. The reality was each pregnancy is different and some things occurred on said months and some didn’t.

Likewise when our oldest daughter was born we devoured the pages of  


‘What To Expect The First Year’   
because,  well, we had no idea what to expect!  If our daughter didn’t achieve the milestones the book said she should on the exact  time, day and month? We were full of worry and angst.  Our 25 year old young first time parental selves thought every single thing must occur according to schedule.

I have never gone through ”Grief In A Box’ per se or grief  in the appropriate order that Elisabeth Kubler Ross & David Kessler write about in ‘Five Stages of Grief’.  This is the gold standard of grief for our country. But it doesn’t fit my grief. And that is okay.

I’ve never felt anger. And that might be because my husband had a terminal illness.  ALS afforded  us time to fulfill bucket lists, cross t’s, dot i’s, throw parties, say ‘i love you’s’. I’ve felt betrayal and anger at my circumstance surrounding my family but never angry at my husband or God.  I have felt anguishing deep pain, heartbroken, empty, lonely, unmotivated, hazed, distracted and unfulfilled but never angry. And all of these feelings do not come at once. They come at random times. They may hang on for months or be fleeting after several hours. And it is not depression. Undoubtedly depression is a very real component to grief. These feelings are grief.

The hardest part of grief for me are the ever changing emotions. After 15 months the daily non stop crying has ceased but new feelings are now at the forefront. Things I haven’t felt before or dealt with before. I have a new found sense of independence. Yet the awareness that I am now absolutely unequivocally alone is luminous in every aspect of my life. I often feel a  sense of disbelief. It is as if a light has just been turned on and illuminated the fact that Robin is truly gone. I found great comfort, just as recently as six months ago,  being surrounded by couple friends and their families. I now find it an agonizing reminder of what is no longer.

And through it all I know that it will eventually all be well. But it is not well with me  yet. It is hard. I often think how much easier it would be  if grief came in absolute stages and steps. Then we would all be able to check off each emotion:  “done”…next.  Until then? All we can do is trudge forward. Know that we will never  know from one hour to the next what we are going to get in this journey called grief. And that is okay for today.

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