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24 Days Later

 

It’s been two dozen days since Steve flew away home. Since then we’ve had a memorial, a graveside service,  escaped to the beach for a week, and returned to the land that we love. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

 

 

  • I’ve never felt as much pressure to make something beautiful and right as I did Steve’s memorial service. I wanted so badly to celebrate his life well. Somewhere in the mix of planning and stressing I realized I was feeling it was my last chance to honor Steve and it occurred to me how silly that was. We will always remember and celebrate Steve. Our lives are a reflection of him and in actuality, the days and generations ahead will be a much more authentic retelling of the story of Steve than one service in a church could ever be.

 

  • Having said that, I loved his memorial service.  The music, the people who shared, the pictures of his life. All of it was beautiful and meaningful for me.  I didn’t expect to love it because it is, at the heart, a really sad event – but I did love it and last night I worked up the courage to watch it for the first time and I felt so close to Steve and to the people who loved him like I did.

 

  • Grief is physical. It’s emotional,too, but I had no idea it would wreak such havoc on my body. For me, this has manifested in the form of fairly relentless migraines and just generally feeling sort of flu-ish.  I think the clinical term for what I’m feeling is “cruddy” (I actually think it’s call the Lethargy of Grief, but tomato, tomahto, you know?)  I read parts of A Grief Observed while we were on our beach getaway and CS Lewis describes it as “feeling concussed,or in a slight state of drunkenness” and I would agree except a slight state of drunkenness sounds way more pleasant than the headaches I’ve been wrestling with.  I ended up seeing a doctor in Portland about the whole thing and as of today, I think we’ve got it solved, but it was honestly one of the more frustrating issues to deal with immediately after losing Steve.  (Also worth noting: I’m loaded up with lots of helpful remedies including essential oils so no need to email me about that. )

 

  • Our time away at the beach was…rough. We were sad, several of us were sick and all I can really say is that nothing worked much like we had hoped. However, at the end of it all we decided we would be glad to leave that week and some of our sadness behind and return to the safety of home.  Sometimes what you think will be a refuge becomes a dumping ground instead and that’s okay too. I still believe we’re better for having gone, and we look forward to happier trips in the future.

 

  • My goal in the weeks following Steve’s death was to try to process the past four years and build some sort of plan for my future. I am, by nature, a rational thinker, so I reasoned I would be able to figure this thing out.  But when I arrived at the doorstep of that pursuit, I really didn’t know where to start. Make myself cry? Not cry? Sink into sorrow? Sink into memories? Look on the bright side? I was like a cross-eyed archer just wildly shooting arrows, hoping one would hit something that should be hit and not something that shouldn’t. I turned to a few books and found some helpful ideas and some not-so-helpful ideas and my takeaway is that, much like falling in love, grief is wildly subjective. We all go into it carrying a different suitcase full of emotional triggers and layers of history that create the lens through which we see our journey of sorrow.  I’m just now beginning to figure out what works for me and I wouldn’t dream of giving advice to anyone else except for this: be gentle and generous with yourself.

 

  • I had four years to get used to the idea of losing Steve, but I look back on the moments and days following his death and see clear evidence of shock. For instance, two days after he died, I sat down and wrote this post, detailing his last day on earth. I cried while I wrote it, but it wasn’t difficult for me – it was cathartic.  Just a few days later, however, I find I’m unable to go back and read it without the adrenaline and anesthesia of shock that was numbing my heart in that first week.  I joked to my sister recently, “I think I like shock.  What I hate is when the shock wears off.”

 

  • Sorrow really does come in waves. I’ve read it a million times, but now I’ve lived it about a hundred times. It builds and bubbles and then hits full-force and just when I think I’ll drown in it, it begins to recede. I don’t know if it’s true for everyone, but for me the wave runs its course in about twenty minutes. It’s not that I feel happy in twenty minutes, but I do feel like I can breathe and think clearly. Knowing how the cycle works for me (at least at this moment) has helped me know what I can control and make peace with (or get help with) what I can’t. I’m infinitely grateful to the people who kept their cell phones on 24/7 and took my desperate phone calls when I felt I couldn’t surf the wave on my own. Infinitely grateful.

 

  • People are amazing. I mean, really and truly amazing. I would tell you some of the creative, intentional ways they cared for us during this season, but I’m going to save that for another post. I have, however, been taking copious notes so that I can remember the brilliant ways we’ve been loved and served so that I can do the same thing for others when they travel through the shadowlands.

 

I know this is the most random post ever, but that’s how I’m thinking right now and I can’t seem to jolt myself out of it. In conclusion, I want to say that I am well.  I feel secure and loved.  My memories of my life with Steve are a warm blanket around my heart, rather than a painful reminder of what I’ve lost and that’s a relief to me because I wasn’t sure which direction that would go. Our home feels safe and peaceful and it’s really strange to be able to come and go as I please. Not bad strange and not good strange, just strange.  I am taking a month or so off of work and I can already tell I’ll be really ready to get back into the swing of things.  My kids are also well and I am so proud of them.

 

So, that’s the update.  Thank you for caring, loving, calling, texting, facebooking and just generally being the most awesome army in the history of war.  I love you.

 

With hope,

 

Bo

 

 

August 11, 2015 - 9:58 am

Arlene Hiatt - Prayers continue for you and your family. Love you, Bo.

August 11, 2015 - 10:02 am

Dianna Salciccioli - Love you Bo~ glad you are taking time to breathe, to recalibrate. Praying for you all.

August 11, 2015 - 11:10 am

Claudia Lee - Bo,
I, like you, was completely shocked at the physicality of grief. I was ill off and on for a year after Becky died – this for a ‘never sick for a moment’ person was so out of the blue. I just found myself nodding my head at every aspect of this post. Thank you for taking the time to let us know you are OK in a broken kind of way. Do whatever you do in this month off — I know God will be in it with you.
Love and prayers! Claudia

August 11, 2015 - 11:17 am

Karen Hermann - Have been praying for you and your family all along. You are all an amazing testimony of the power of gods presence in your life. You have given a map of how to negotiate the shadowlands. I am so grateful to have been a glimpse of it. You are missed and I look forward to your return. Continue your gentle and grace filled treatment of your self. It will never be the same but the passing of time does help.

August 11, 2015 - 11:31 am

Karla J - Oh gosh Bo, I’m so glad to know you and the kids are well. We’ve wondered…
I can’t tell you how much I agree with your first bullet point and the shock bullet point. Having lost my father in November, I can’t tell you how many times I said I preferred when I had the “shock shield” on. And the celebration service, it was just tremendous. I only wish we could have been there in person. You honored Steve well. Quite well.
Please know that we continue to pray for you daily, sometimes several times a day…for all of Team Stern. We hope that you stay in touch with the Steve side of the family… we love you so and can’t thank you enough for caring for him in such a loving wonderful way. Many blessings to you and big hugs! <3

August 11, 2015 - 1:46 pm

Jody Collins - Bo, it hardly seems possible that it’s been 24 days since Steve passed. Wow.

You are wise to take your time with your grief and let it be what it is–and yes, be gentle and generous with yourself.

May the fragrance of Heaven be a balm to you….

August 11, 2015 - 2:35 pm

Heather - You and your family continue in my prayers. Thank u for sharing your heart. We love you!

August 11, 2015 - 3:47 pm

carolyn - How you are loved, Dearest Bo. You are on my heart ever so many times each day…lifted in prayer and held closely. The path of grief is indeed individual, as individual as God Almighty created us. Embrace the grief and the comfort that He extends. Know that you are surrounded by the many who love you. I am blessed to be one of those.

August 11, 2015 - 8:23 pm

Mike spencer - I like your posts. I have gone through what you are going through and even more since it has been 4 yrs since my lovely of 43 yrs flew off from the evil ALS. She is suffering no more. I have done all the “right” things. Written a book, found God after a long time, serve my fellow person through the ALS Society and church. My kids have been there for me. My parents are still alive and I am blessed by their love, support and help. I have done Bereavement classes. Like you, I have this big void in my heart. My biggest issue, according to my children…Dad you need to move on! I can’t! If you remember Top Gun where Tom Cruz could not let go of Goose! That is me! I am afraid to let go. I hope I stay in step. I hope you find your peace.

August 12, 2015 - 6:04 am

Molly - Thanks for sharing. Been thinking of you daily. More n more prayers coming your way to get you wholly healthy.

August 12, 2015 - 4:13 pm

Laura Black - Iv’e been waiting on your post. Waiting on your random, yet wise thoughts. It was so good to read your post. It is a sort of promise to me that I will make it through this messy world of ALS. That living with someone depressed and dysfunctional will not last forever, that one day my husband will be whole and healed and exactly who the Father made him to be, not the scared shell of a man he is right now. Bo please keep writing. Those of us living in this hard place hang onto your every word. THANK YOU FOR BEING YOU. Thank you for sharing your hurt and your real. I’ve never met you, yet you bring me such HOPE.

Praying for all of you,
Laura Black
Greenville, SC

August 12, 2015 - 9:45 pm

Mike Davis - Bo,
First of all, thank you for sharing your experiences with Steve’s passing into Glory. I have cried like I didn’t know I could. I never got to meet Steve. But, through your words, he is totally my brother.

Secondly, Lord Jesus, heal the headaches of this, Your daughter. Heal her to to full completeness in You. You took the stripes on Your back that we are healed. I claim this healing, in Jesus’ name, for Bo, this minute. We pray for the sick, and they recover. Bo, be healed in Jesus’ name.

You are special beyond your wildest dreams. Steve is soooooo proud of you.
Mike

August 14, 2015 - 12:02 am

Donna - In every instance that I have had the privilege to witness a sermon of yours or read your blog, it is wholly evident that you lead with your heart. Your prose is a gift that reads like poetry and it must give you such solace when you are overcome in the “shadowlands”, as you call them. It is indeed a great honor to be allowed to walk with you through this exquisitely beautiful, profoundly painful journey. Praise the Lord; raise the roof, there is no doubt that Love is in the house!

If I could share a memory of your Steve: I saw him, walking somewhat haltingly at Costco a couple of years ago. We made eye contact, nodded our heads at one another and he smiled such a warm, glorious smile and he continued beaming as he exited the warehouse as if the Lord whispered something so lovely in his ear that it made his day. I felt compelled to watch him because it was so apparent that God’s light was shining on him, through him. I’m glad I have that little tidbit to pass on and even though I didn’t know him personally, I had a tiny glimpse into this man of God.

Be safe and be well.

Donna