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Five Years May 21, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — westgoeseast @ 11:34 am

Five years! Kids change so much in five years. Bruce left us five years ago today to go out on a bike ride-a bike ride-and never came home. For some reason the number five brings with it an extra heaviness. This fifth year anniversary surprisingly brought with it unexpected anxiety that I did not even realize as anxiety. What is it about the number five?

Recently our pastor spoke on entitlement and gratitude. The message tugged on my heart. I don’t want to be one of those people who miss out on so much good in their life because they focus on what they should have had. I am not entitled to a long life period. I am not entitled to a loving relationship with my husband for all of life. Each day is a gift that should be treasured. I cannot do anything about my past, but I can do something about my future.

Bruce’s life and death changed me in so many ways. It continues to change me. I devote this year five of living without Bruce as the year of gratefulness. I believe that everything that comes into my life is allowed there by my heavenly father. I will try to be thankful for everything, even the things that seem like challenges and struggles. I will be thankful in all things (Philippians 4:6-7). Today, I am grateful for the seventeen years that I was able to be married to my incredible husband—Bruce Bond West.

I hope that next year, as I look back on this 365 days of year five, I will be a different person.  I will look at life differently.  I hope gratefulness becomes a natural part of my life.  Today, I am grateful for five years of transforming pain that created a beautiful new story that I call my life today.

 

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Happy Birthday My Love September 28, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — westgoeseast @ 11:57 am

I don’t write much anymore because at this point, there isn’t much new to say. It still hurts. It still swells up at unexpected moments. I still feel angry that my kids were robbed of having their dad in their lives. He was such an amazing dad.

Today, he would have been 46. The days leading up to his “would be” birthday are always emotional for me. We still plan how we will celebrate his birthday, although he isn’t here. I try to do something that the kids will remember. This year Joanna made him a delicious cake. We will have dinner together and talk about our memories with him. This isn’t limited to one day a year. I try to share memories of him every time one comes to mind.

This morning my heart feels extra heavy. It’s just past 7:00 in the morning. I decided to come and write just because it makes me feel in a way like I am communicating with Bruce. I was floored to see that 17 people have already visited this site today, on his birthday. Seventeen people who still remember him. Seventeen people who miss him dearly and just want to have a word from him or about him.   Thank you to those people. It gives me comfort to know others are in this experience with me. Together we miss him. Together we think of him.

We were all created as relational beings. We need people in our lives. They make our journeys better just by their presence. God knows this. He is faithful to us even when things happen that we don’t understand. I was recently running with a friend and sharing with her how many different people I have in my life right now that knew Bruce at different stages of our lives together. It gives me incredible comfort to be able to mourn with people who knew him. As we talked, tears flowing from both our eyes, we were comforted just in the exchange.

It reminds me that God still cares. He still knows what we each need. I struggle with fear that something will happen to another one that I love dearly. Watching my kids drive off to an event, especially on a rainy night sends chills up my spine. When the phone rings unexpectedly at an odd hour or when my son in college doesn’t respond to my texts for several hours, my heart skips a beat. What I must cling to is that I know that if God allows another tragedy in my life, He will be faithful.

So we keep moving…keep breathing…keep striving. Trying to be the best mom I can be. Bruce was the fun one. My friend reminded me that I have taken on some of Bruce’s qualities. Death teaches you to stop and smell the roses. It teaches us to laugh more and not put things off to tomorrow. It teaches that people matter more than our plan. Although I still get mad when my kids are late, Bruce’s life and death helped shape me into who I am today. So today, I remember my husband and thank him for changing my life for good!

 

Treasures October 25, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — westgoeseast @ 8:57 pm

I’m sitting on the patio that Bruce built for what may be the last time (hopefully this house will sell soon!)  Yet, I’m thankful for the time to return and the time to slowly let go.  I thought getting remarried would somehow close the door on all the pain from losing Bruce.  And although I am extremely thankful for Mike, my heart still misses Bruce and somedays even longs to depart this world and fly to him.  I still look at my children and feel sick to my stomach that they were cheated so many years and memories with their father.  In times like these, I remind myself that Bruce had a beautiful ending.  The kind many of us dream of.  He left this earth into the arms of his Savior on a beautiful sunny day in a beautiful wooded forest when he was in the prime of his life.  Never to feel the sorrow and pain that so many of us are called to walk through.  In this treasure, I rejoice!

My wedding day was amazing.  Even with the rain, everything was exactly how I hoped it would be.  We were surrounded by most of the people who walked with us through our darkest days.  Chaplain Baker spoke of our losses and God’s goodness.  God was present!  It was a celebration and I couldn’t stop smiling.  In this treasure, I rejoice!

In a way, smiling is a choice to each of us, every day.  I knew there was potential to feel great sadness on my wedding day but I decided that I was going to be happy–and I was.  One of the most important lessons that I learned through Bruce’s death, is that you don’t get second chances.  Each moment we live, will never get a redo.  That silly phrase “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” has much more meaning to me.  I am thankful that this lesson has caused me to live each day more fully.  In this treasure, I rejoice!

We have had a lot of changes these last two months.  We moved two hours away.  Blended two families, six kids, an exchange student, a cat, and a dog!  We are learning to be a couple with all the strange things that go along with that.  It seems easier, this time around–easier to see my mate’s point of view–adapt to a different way of thinking.  It is also easier to forgive–probably because I know now that tomorrow, he may walk out the door and never come home.  I treasure each moment we have together.  Each breath I hear him breathe in the middle of the night.  In this treasure, I rejoice!

 

Perspectives from a Friend August 19, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — westgoeseast @ 2:11 pm

Marnie and I have been friends since Bruce and I were newlyweds. She walked closely with me as I journeyed through losing Bruce. She was a huge instrument God used in my life to bring healing. The following is her perspective on my journey and a great summary of my past three years.

By Marnie Deaton

Years ago, when Exreme Makover, Home Edition was at its peak, I watched an episode about a widow with a handful of children and a crumbling house. I can’t remember how her husband died, or much about the makeover, but I do remember that in the middle of touring the gorgeous new home Ty Pennington and crew had just created for her, she stopped and, with a look that was somehow a mixture of both hope and resignation, she said, “There is happiness for us, in this life.”

I remember this because I was enduring my own hardships at the time. Like many believers, I had a slew of Bible verses and stories at my fingertips and I knew about Gods love, His ability to make beauty from ashes and rescue His children from danger. I wanted to find comfort in these things, but I know the truth, which is that God doesn’t always make beauty from ashes and some of His children don’t get rescued from danger. (Don’t waste our time trying to talk me out of this point. I’m a Calvinist, and I’ve been to Ukraine.)

Besides, reading about the end of someone else’s story, even if they do get rescued, isn’t all that helpful when I happen to be in the middle of my story and might be headed for a different conclusion. I’m glad Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead but He hasn’t been doing that sort of thing lately, so it looks like I might need to accept the alternate ending for my own time on earth.

What I really wanted was someone here, now, who was enduring some of the same things I was enduring, with no promise of an imminent miracle, but could still look me in the eye and say, “yeah, I don’t really get what’s going on here. I’m in agony and I hate this but even so, I know that God is good.” That widow’s happiness, even in the midst of all her sorrow, was more along the lines of what I needed to hear.

Fast forward to 2014. I don’t hate my life, but I have been in a bit of agony. A few years ago, I wrote about the death of our good friend, Bruce, and his funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. It was three years ago, last month, that we buried him.

When Bruce died, I told his wife, Maryann, to call me anytime (day or night) that she needed to talk. Her mom had died when she was in college and her dad died a few years later. I hate the idea of anyone feeling alone in this world. So, I kept encouraging her to call me and to my great relief, she did.

That first year, she called every day and sometimes two or three times in a day. Once or twice she called in the middle of the night. I didn’t mind. I was grateful that she trusted me with her grief.

Often when we talked, the first thing she would say when she got on the phone was, “I miss Bruce!” Then we would both tear up and I would ask, “what would you tell him if he was here?”

So, that first year we spent a lot of time together. We had Thanksgiving together and Christmas. We made sure she had plans for things like their anniversary, the anniversary of Bruce’s death, Bruce’s birthday, Maryann’s birthday… It’s bewildering, the extent to which events that are usually so very wonderful become so very not wonderful when someone is missing.

Sometime toward the end of that first year, I ran across a friend of ours from church. His name is Mike. I was in a women’s Bible study with his wife, Brenda, a few years earlier. She had been fighting cancer for a long time and tragically died about three months before Bruce.

As we were talking and catching up, Mike, in his charming way, mentioned that he had a date, which meant that he was open to dating, which meant that I could start plotting.

I waited a few more months, and then I introduced Maryann to Mike.

So, there was a year of loneliness, then a year of dating.

They went back and forth for a while and I really wasn’t sure they were going to make it. They lived two hours apart and were attempting to blend a lot of family history. Most of my conversations with Maryann were still about Bruce or their kids. She still missed him dreadfully and I wondered if her heart was really open to anyone new.

And then one day when I picked up the phone, to my great relief and joy, instead of saying, “I miss Bruce,” she blurted out, “I miss Mike!”

So, there was a year of loneliness, a year of dating, a year of engagement and last week they got married.

My friend Maryann got married to someone who is not Bruce.

I went to the rehearsal dinner at Maryann’s home and I watched Mike, so happy, smiling down at Maryann in the middle of the kitchen that Maryann and Bruce re-modeled, while their kids played pool together in the middle of the rec-room that my husband, Bill, and Bruce re-tiled.

I held it together though, because I’m just that good.

The next day, I watched Maryann, who is not Brenda, walk down the aisle to Mike, who is not Bruce, and get married.

I was really doing OK for most of the ceremony. It got hard in the middle because they had invited the families of their first spouses and I got a glance of Bruce’s dad sitting in the front row. Bruce’s dad looks almost exactly like Bruce and Brenda’s sister looks almost exactly like Brenda. That was hard enough to swallow, but on the way to the banquet hall, a friend of mine mentioned that I was the only person at the wedding who had been friends with both Bruce and Brenda. For some reason, this brought clarity to the one thought that had been lurking at the back of my mind all weekend, “Please… don’t let this be real.”

I totally lost it then, because I’m just that pathetic.

Of course, there were no tissues anywhere and the bathroom was outside the banquet hall and it was raining. I went over to the food table, grabbed a napkin roll and threw the plastic silverware in my purse. By the end of the night, I had a table setting for six.

I looked around and realized that I was the only one crying. I had planned ahead for this. I took on the job of decorating the getaway car. Bill and I found a few boys to help us collect cans, borrow a few hydrangeas from the table centerpieces and make a sign. Then we all went to the parking garage and decorated.

Wouldn’t you know, when Maryann and Mike left, he escorted her around the front of the car and the photographer didn’t follow them outside. No one saw the decorations besides me, Bill and handful of boys. To be fair, it was raining, but it was an awful waste of some good centerpieces on a mighty fine car. Unappreciated beauty is so tragic!

I realized as we walked back into the banquet hall that Maryann and Mike were handling things much better than me, even though they had lost far more. The upcoming week in Cancun might have had something to do with it, but even so, Maryann has mentioned that one of the hardest things about marrying Mike was the full understating that God might take him away too, at any time, just like He took Bruce.

It was not the same as other weddings I’ve been to, where God seems so much more kind and the world seems so much more safe. Yet here were Mike and Maryann, beaming as they got into that car. They were reveling in their supreme act of bravery—being willing to love another person, despite the challenges, the pain and the risk involved. It was not that God made beauty from their ashes. It was that they accepted His beauty, along with their ashes.

I’m starting to understand that look on the widow’s face. There is happiness for us, in this life.

 

A Mother’s Wrestlings August 16, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — westgoeseast @ 9:46 am

I lay here on the floor in a sleeping bag in an empty room. It is the last night my three kids and I will stay together in this house that we lived happily as a family with their father. The last few weeks have been very wonderfully emotionless. I knew what had to be done, and I did it. I pressed on. I told a friend yesterday, “I choose happiness.” Yet in the quietness of this house, in the stillness of my heart and this moment, my heart breaks for what was and could have been. All the memories from years gone by in this room.

Today, I drop Benjamin off at college. My sweet baby who smiled at every passerby in New York City as a six month old, while we were there on a summer missions trip, is going to college. Recently he has gotten himself in some trouble. Yet, even in the midst of it, he was able to bedazzle the authorities involved with his personality and charm.

As I lay here in my pseudo bed, my heart breaks for all the times as a mom I neglected to see into his broken heart. In allot of ways, I lived as a Pharisee in my parenting style. We always prayed before meals and at bedtime. If things were going well, and he was somewhat cooperative, I kept things at a superficial level, neglecting the deeper whispers of the heart. For anyone who knows Ben, you know he presents himself as one who doesn’t let things get to him. Nothing is a big deal. If I don’t acknowledge it, it won’t hurt so much. I remember as we walked away from Arlington the day we buried his Dad, how he leaned over and told me he was over it. He had worked hard through it over the past three weeks, and he was moving on.

I want to scream at the top of my lungs, “Benjamin, God has a plan for your life.” What I stopped giving him was the gospel. I think once someone is a Christian, they don’t need the gospel anymore. That was the biggest mistake in my parenting method and my life. We all need the gospel daily. We are all wretched sinners seeking to please others selfishly and satisfy our flesh, all at the same time. I forgot to remind my kids that, I too mess up daily.

The amazing thing about the gospel is that God shows up. He loves us…period. He is not surprised. In fact, Ephesian 2:4-5 states it beautifully,”But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Grace is getting what we don’t deserve.

Oh how I wish I lived a life that spoke that message to my children. When they messed up, I didn’t shine a list of how disappointed I am with them or harping on how awful their attitude is or how they should respect me. I wish I would have reminded them that none of us can do it on our own. We can’t do what is right…we can’t love sacrificially…we need Jesus. We need the gospel. We need the one who died on the cross to pay for our sins and provided us with the helper…the Holy Spirit…who comes along side us…convicting our hearts of the deeper truths so we can love with grace…the grace that was given to us.

Benjamin’s story is not over and neither is ours. Each day is a fresh, new day where we have a choice. As I drop Benjamin off today I hope to leave him free and hopeful. The gospel is freeing. I won’t give him a list of expectations I want him to live up to. I will simply remind him go God’s great love for him that is wooing him. He is wooing you. He is wooing me. All we need to do is surrender–inhale–look to the cross.

P.S. For those of you wondering about the wedding, I promise to write about that soon. It was an amazing celebration full of God’s faithfulness.

 

Joining Circles July 3, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — westgoeseast @ 11:43 am

One month from yesterday I will be remarried. I am amazed by God’s provision for me and my family. It was not an easy decision to make–to move on and start over with another. Mike sweetly persevered the course of come close/go away. The plans are coming together and I am looking forward to the day.

For as much as I would like to hurry up and close this chapter of my life with all the pain and longings, by stepping into a new one, I recently realized that is not what I am doing. I will always be the wife of Bruce Bond West. I will now also be the wife of Michael James Piirto. My life continues, but the past is not erased. That brings comfort to my heart as I struggle some with loyalties to Bruce as I contemplate my upcoming wedding.

I recently read my first fiction book since Bruce died. Joanna had begged me to read it, but I was afraid. It was the book The Fault in our Stars. I knew it was about two teenagers battling cancer. I loved the book. I have heard many people say that this book seemed hopeless to them. I had a different take on it. To me, it gave me hope. It showed that every life is significant, even if it is lived briefly, just battling a disease. Every person has the capacity to impact another just by being. The book reminded me to make the most of every day, which is a lesson I also learned from Bruce’s death.

August 2 will no doubt be a day of many emotions! Some will be happy. Some will be sad. In a weird sort of way, it will be a celebration of Brenda and Bruce’s life, which is and always will be intertwined with who me and Mike are. It will be a day to celebrate God’s provision for two families coming together–each with a big, gapping hole. Although those holes will never disappear, we join arms to enlarge our circle making the holes less noticeable, hopefully providing for all of us, some of the things that have been missing.

 

Still– Missing You May 21, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — westgoeseast @ 9:17 am

Three years and so much has changed.  The pain is still there–pushed down deep into my heart.  I still long for this to be a bad dream.   The thing that has changed is the size of the wave that cries, “No, let it not be so.”  It comes with the sights and smells of Spring since those are some of our last days spent together.  It comes in a monumental event that he is missing.  It comes in the quietness of a restless night.  It comes in a the laughter of his children.  Oh Bruce, we miss you so.

Today, I pause to remember the day that changed me and my life forever.  Although I choose to move on, I will never forget that part of my life that is slowly slipping into the past.  Slowly, I still find myself having to release the plans and dreams we had together.  Things are different now–so very different.  They are not better and they are not worse, they are plainly different.  

Life and death has clearer meaning to me.  I often fight against fear of another tragedy that will undo me.  Yet I know because I experienced it, that if God allows another tragedy to befall our family, He will be faithful still to see us to the other side.  

So today, I will give myself a little space.  I will take time to remember.  I will run. I will cry.  I will talk with a friend about Bruce.  I will listen to the funeral.  I will remind myself of all the ways Bruce changed my life through his life and his death.  And I will try to make the most of each minute that I am given to live on this life, knowing that time is precious.  People matter most and in the end, God will take us in His time to the place He is preparing for us that know Him.