Is it really better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?
Little did I know, in August 2009, that the man who insisted on holding my arm instead of my hand would soon hold me through some of the best years of my life. As a friend, boyfriend, fiancé, and then husband, Eric Lindberg showed me great depths of love and closeness that I had not expected even existed.
We weren’t a perfect couple. In fact, we weren’t really even compatible according to the tests and types. Eric had plenty of flaws, quirks, irrationalities, and struggles just as I did. In our relationship we faced many difficult days and rough patches. We argued passionately and we were able to hurt each other more than anyone else could–and we did. Yet, the love we began to have for each other continued to grow until it was an unstoppable force. It was like something that sticks harder the more you try to pry it apart. And it was also like a passionate tango between two awkward people… just ask one of my siblings. By the time we were married, Eric had become everything on earth to me and he loved and cared for me well. He was kind, generous, and faithful. He encouraged me, he laughed at my attempts at humor, he supported me and helped me to get back on track when I fell or failed. He showed me grace, lifted me up and pointed me toward Jesus. Our marriage was not complete bliss, or even mostly bliss, but it was deep and precious.
Eric’s sudden passing in 2016 nearly crushed me. On that day my heart was ripped open – I felt the most acute pain I had ever experienced. All at once I lost my beloved, my best friend, my co-parent, my spiritual leader and the one person in the whole world who could make me feel beautiful. The agony of that moment, of the reality of his death, was exactly as difficult as my love for him was deep.
At that time and even right now I wonder, was it worth it? Was it truly better to have passionately loved Eric and to have felt the tearing anguish of his absence than to never have loved him at all? Most of the time my answer to those questions is a resounding “YES.” Other times, when breathing becomes like rocket science and surviving is the only reachable goal… I wonder if love is worth the pain of loss.
During the time since Eric passed, I’ve been learning something entirely unexpected about the “better” to which Alfred Lord Tennyson might have been referring when he said “tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
When Eric stood next to me, I turned to him in everything. When I had a hard day, he was only a look or a text away. When I felt like an incapable mother or an inefficient wife or a bad friend, he was there. When I was unsure of my work, Eric encouraged me to keep going. When I was afraid because of a world event, or a noise, or a terrible dream, Eric’s arms wrapped around me in a safe embrace. But on the day that the unthinkable happened, I could not run to Eric.
On the morning of Valentine’s Day 2016, I woke to the crashing reality that Eric was not and would never be next to me. The weight of my limbs and the sickness of grief paralyzed me into the mattress. In desperation, I called out to God. “God, I can’t. I cannot get up from this bed. I am physically unable to move even a finger unless you take over my body and move it. I need you to be my strength today because I have nothing left.” The miracle of that morning did not come in the form of a risen husband returning to his wife and kids. Instead, my kids’ mother got up from that bed and stood on her feet in God’s strength and kept on living.
Had I never loved Eric deeply, I may not have felt the void that I did when he was no longer with me. If the one to whom I held the tightest had not been ripped from my grasp, I may not have felt a need that would lead me to ask for God to fill it to the extent that I did. If I had not called out to God to be my strength, I might never have felt him do it. When I could no longer find comfort in Eric, I turned to Jesus. He caught me and held me and began to teach me a closeness with Him that I had never imagined existed. Even my sweetest memories of Eric fall short of the abundant love I have in Jesus. When I collapse into my bed after a long day or when the loneliness creeps into my bones like an inescapable coldness… when I am unsure of the next step, when I am uncertain of my future, I turn to Jesus. I lost the one my heart loves, but I will never lose access to my Savior who hears, holds and answers me.
For Advent this year, the services and sermons at my church centered around Isaiah 9:6-7. We meditated on what Jesus’ coming meant to Mary, to Joseph, to the shepherds who saw Jesus in a manger and to the wise men who brought Him gifts.
Today I had the opportunity at my church to tell a little bit of my story and the reasons I am personally thankful that Jesus came UNTO US. Here is what I shared:
I was raised with a heritage of faith and within the church, learning the stories of the Bible. I was taught about our need for Jesus and about how He came as a baby to be with us and bridge the gap between us and God. I accepted those truths, and decided to take each step with Christ in mind, to be as much like Him as I could possibly be.
I saw my relationship as sort of one sided at that point… he had done an amazing thing for me, for us, and now it was up to me to tell everyone about and do my best to be good for Him since He had been so good to me. I believed then that my eternity was secure, so my efforts to do everything “right” were not an attempt to earn my salvation, but rather in hopes that I could prove that I deserved it.
It wasn’t until after I had gone to college, gotten married, had children and moved to another state that I realized more fully what it meant to love and be loved by Jesus in an intimate responsive relationship.
In February of 2016, one of my worst nightmares came true. My husband went in for a fairly routine procedure, a cardiac catheterization, to assess the situation with a heart that was performing poorly. The surgery went well, but the closure device failed so that Eric bled internally and his heart could not handle it, so his heart stopped beating. Days later, after terrible oxygen loss and massive trauma to his brain, Eric died.
That day I lost not only my husband but also my coparent and my best friend. Eric was the one to whom I’d turned in everything from little life choices, to parenting decisions. I felt scared, lost, helpless and unsure. It is then that God reminded me of what I had learned when I was younger. He said to me, “Lizzie, I am with you. He’s not going to be with you, but I will never leave you. I love you.” He had warned us that terrible things would happen in our lives in this broken world, but He had also promised me that He would never, ever leave me. He was my Wonderful Counselor.
It has been nearly two years since that day, and God has not left my side, He has been faithful. In the little things, and in the tough single-parent decisions, I am not alone. The other night I was feeling sick, worn, exhausted. The toils of the day and the anxiety after my failed efforts ran me rugged. But when my head hit my pillow, I knew that God had not left me and I called out to Him. He heard me, and comforted me, and I felt His embrace. I felt the Prince of Peace still my anxiety and give rest where I had weariness.
No one in my life can give me that kind of comfort. My husband could not, my children cannot. My parents, my family, and my friends cannot. Only God can. He is my Wonderful Counselor and Mighty God. He is an Everlasting Father to me and to my children. He is the Prince of Peace. Because of these things, I know that He is good, and I can trust His government & direction for my steps. (Isaiah 9:6). I am so very thankful that Jesus came unto me, that He came Unto Us.
When most people in America think about Christmas, visions of reds and greens (and maybe sugar plum fairies) dance in their heads. This is likely because sometime in autumn, stores begin to fill their shelves with glittering reds, shiny greens, and banners of “Happy Holidays” and “Merry Christmas” from floor to ceiling. There are thousands upon thousands of color schemes that could have been chosen to represent the holiday, but why do we usually think of red and green? In any other context, these colors sort of clash with each other. Why do we think of Christmas when we see red and green together?
This question has been bothering me for some time, so I decided to just sit down and research it (okay, I Googled and clicked on several links). Much to my chagrin, I found that there does not seem to be a definite answer to my quandary but rather an assortment of theories as to why these two colors first became and are now so widely associated with the season. My favorite of the theories stems from ancient traditions from the Egyptians and then Romans, who brought green plants and red berries indoors during the cold, dark winter months to remind them of life that would be coming in the spring. This reminds me of our evergreen Christmas trees—some of the only plants that keep their color in the winter months when the world turns chilly white and dying brown. I can’t help but think about how Jesus came into our world with life and truth to juxtapose the darkness and gloom.
When I was a little girl, my family started an Advent tradition to celebrate this coming of Jesus into our world. Every night in December, before we went to bed, my two siblings and I joined my parents in the living room, where we clustered around our small coffee table. I remember everyone clothed in clean Christmas jammies and nestled into each other with warm blankets. (I’m sure it wasn’t always this smooth, but I’ll choose to use a certain suspension of disbelief here). With the fireplace lit and all family snuggled together, my dad began to read from a little green devotional book called The Advent Jesse Tree.
“Isaiah 11:1… ‘A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.…’” read my dad. “What’s a shoot?” asked one of my siblings. My mom explained that a man named Jesse would have a child, who would have another child, who would also have a child, and from somewhere along that line would come Jesus. The stories that followed on each devotional day from the Old and New Testaments brought context to the account of Jesus’ birth and aimed to illustrate that he is the messiah who fulfilled all of the recorded prophecies.
When my dad finished reading each Advent night, our eyes returned to the coffee table, to a basket of tiny wrapped packages. Inside each one was an ornament that my mom had crafted according to the devotional. (At first she bought the ornaments with the book, but as time went by and the ornaments weathered, she replaced them with her own.) My siblings and I took turns opening the ornaments and hanging them on a simple garland above a living room door.
My family has attempted several traditions throughout the years, but none of them has stuck as fondly in my memory as our Jesse Tree tradition. The world is full of evil, darkness, and pain. It’s an inescapable reality. However, just like green and red were brought into ancient homes during the long winter months, this family tradition reminds me that there is life, hope, and joy. Jesus did come unto us. He did fulfill the prophecies. He brought joy with him. And there is life because of him.
Silver and Gold | Blending the new with the old – Part One
Christmas Tree Shopping
On the day after Thanksgiving, my family has traditionally gone to a tree farm to cut down the perfect tree. If we weren’t able to go on the day immediately following Thanksgiving, we’d go shortly after that. As a child, I absolutely hated getting the tree. I refused to sing the Christmas carols and I pouted during the entire trip. I have no idea why I was such a sour apple about the tradition, but I do know that it is a big deal in my family to this day, and it is one that I continued after I got married.
Last year, for the first time… I chose to stay home while my family went out. My parents, whom we were living with at the time, took my children out to find the perfect tree. When my husband died on the day before Valentine’s Day, I knew that day would always be difficult for me. I did not anticipate that other holidays might also be difficult without him. But the late Autumn and early Winter Holidays are often difficult for families who have lost loved ones, and my family was no exception. While my family was out, I spent a lot of time crying and thinking of more traditions we would either have to carry on without him or the traditions we would just decide to give up. When my kids and parents arrived home from the tree farm I had pizza with them, and smiled gratefully, but still could not bring myself to open the storage bins of our Christmas decorations.
Silver and Gold
There is a little saying about friends that I have always loved. It goes like this: “make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold.” Sometimes when we make new friends, the old friends start to fade into the distance. For some friendships, this makes sense… some people come into our lives and we into theirs for a specific time and reason. And as hard as it is, as painful as it can be, I have found that when some time has passed, it is ok to let go of them and move forward with what you’ve gained from each other. There are other friendships, however, that run deep and long. Those are the friends you might not see or with whom you might not talk for months or even years, but you still consider each other close. Friends that span the tests of time, life stages, conflict and distance are like precious gold. New friends, with bright perspectives and energy, are like shiny silver.
I think that traditions are like friends. With each passing holiday, or special day, or just with life in general, we build traditions. Sometimes the things we do will stick for another year and then fade. Other times, they will last for years upon years and even pass through multiple generations. When I was growing up, my mom attempted to create many traditions for our family, but they weren’t all as successful as our Christmas Tree acquiring process. Some of my favorite traditions that did stick were Irish soda bread for St. Patrick’s Day, an outdoor music festival on Labor Day and themed birthday parties almost every year. The traditions that stood the test of time are golden traditions, and many of them are things that we still do today.
But, just like friendships, it is good to also make new ones as we learn and grow and go through new situations and circumstances. When something happens, especially like a tragedy such as the death of a loved one or a joyful event like a wedding, it’s a good idea to look at the “whys” of the tradition. What makes this thing worthy of doing again? Would it enrich your life to continue this or would it be more stressful than helpful? Is there a way to alter the tradition to fit your life better this year? Is it time to create something new?
Finding My Blended Tradition
About a week before Thanksgiving, I felt ready to attempt more traditions, both old and new. I searched for and found those red and green bins of decorations in my mountain of storage. Slowly, at first, I opened the bright red lid and peered into a box full of artificial greenery and lights. I dug beneath it and found a porcelain Christmas village all wrapped up in newspaper. In the next box, I found Christmas books and movies, stockings and some noisy toys. The third box contained many colorful ornaments. A tear slipped down my cheek, but a smile stretched across my face. Was I enjoying this? I felt a little bit like the Grinch in that moment, with my heart expanding a little bigger and the Christmas Spirit beginning to light up the box in front of me. After a few minutes, the emotions began to overwhelm me so I closed the box, but began to look forward to what this Christmas might hold as I brought some of the old into the new.
When the time came to get the tree after Thanksgiving, I decided to stay back again. During that time I was able to begin preparing for the Winter holidays. I did a little bit of writing, sipped some holiday flavored coffee and listened to an old playlist of Christmasy songs. As I diffused some “Christmas Spirit” essential oil, I began to feel happy. When my boys returned with stories from the tree farm of tractor-pulled trains, horses and treats, I was excited with them because I felt refreshed. My boys and I decorated the tree with beads and ornaments, both new and old. There is a lot of silver on our tree, but there is also plenty of gold.
This is the second year I’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving without you. After you died, there was a shadow that hung over every memory of you because of the gravity of your absence. Holidays, special days, and milestones have been some of my hardest times because they amplify the memories we made and the unfulfilled futures we had planned. In the lowest places, authentic happiness seemed impossible, and each step into the future without you felt unbearable. Yet, grief has been one of the greatest classrooms into which I never wanted to enter. God has been teaching me a lot about who He is, who I am, and what it means to be strengthened by Him. Slowly, I have started to be able to enjoy things again. The boys and I are doing well, and I think you would be proud of us. We have been creating new family traditions for special days and the times in between. They ask about you often, and I am delighted to tell them stories about who you were and what you liked. We smile and laugh in remembrance of you.
This particular holiday is all about thankfulness, and it’s those cheek-to-cheek grins I’m thanking God for today. The time we had together was a treasure from Him, and I’m grateful to you for the ways that you honored that gift, lived life to the fullest, and loved us so well.
Thank you for keeping your vows. You had me and you held me, when I was lovely but also when my inside ugliness came out at you. In good times and hard times, in laughter and tears, through prayer and with honesty you stayed by me. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we were rich in love. Even though you won’t be here all of my days, I’m grateful that I got to stand beside you until the end of yours. Thank you for your enduring faithfulness.
Thank you for leaving me or letting me go alone sometimes. There were several times throughout our short marriage when I had to learn how to do all the things without you. Sometimes you were gone on an overnight work shift or a youth trip, other times you encouraged me to spend a week at my parents’ home or have a girls weekend. When we were absent from each other, I learned how to kill the bugs, what to do when the car broke down and where to find the key to our safe. Those times prepared me more than almost anything to be a single parent.
Thank you for making me feel beautiful. I have aways struggled with my body image, but when you held me in your arms and looked at me the way that you did, I felt that I could be the most gorgeous person on the planet. I miss that.
Thank you for making mistakes. We fought a lot. We hurt each other other a lot. You were not a perfect husband, a dad devoid of anger or a friend without flaws… so you made a way for grace; you lead the way to apologizing and accepting forgiveness. I have many faults. I was not always a good wife, I’m sometimes an awful mom, and I didn’t always take time to listen. But your example of asking forgiveness for every single failure deeply impacted me. You lead me to the cross, and to accepting the truth that Jesus has already taken my punishment and erased the laundry list of our sins.
Thank you for maintaining healthy relationships with your parents. When I entered your family even before you and I were married, I treasured time with them because you held it dear. As I witnessed the way that you loved and respected each other I learned how to also have a healthy, loving relationship with them. I could not have asked for better in-laws. They took me into their hearts as their own daughter, and I still call them Mom and Dad.
Thank you for dragging me to church. I’ll be honest here, you knew it and I knew it, but there were many mornings that I just wanted to sleep in. Especially as a newlywed, the last thing I wanted to do was leap up and out into the cold to see people I didn’t yet know. But you kept insisting, and I kept going. Because of our continued involvement in church — as attendees, volunteers and eventually the youth pastor’s family, we made friendships that may last a lifetime. When you died, the Church came alongside me and our families to uplift and support us. People from churches across the midwest, and even some from other parts of the globe, reached out to me with letters, food, financial support, and practical help. It has been nearly two years and help is still coming. Thank you for insisting that I continue being part of the Church family.
Thank you for encouraging my friendships. One of my friends said at your memorial that she appreciated your generosity with my time… and I do too. I will never forget that the reason I met the person who is now my best friend is that you insisted on it. When you were lying in a bed from which you would never get up, and all I wanted in the world was to talk with you, I had friends who let me fall on their shoulders.
Thank you for doing the dishes… and most of the other housework, when I was pregnant. Through your words and actions, you showed me time after time that my needs (and wants) were more important to you than your own.
Thank you for playing with our children. On a walk the other day I pushed a double stroller as our boys talked with each other. Plenty of cars passed loudly, and drowned out the sound of their conversation, but through a pause in traffic I heard Bingham say to his little brother, “Daddy loved us, did you know that? He used to tickle us. We loved that…” Now, when I tickle my boys or wrestle with them, they smile more brightly than at any other time. I think it is because their Daddy taught them that sometimes the best way to relate is to play on the ground together and laugh.
Thank you for leaving your handwritten words. You were never fond of your penmanship, but I am so grateful that you engaged with me in my love language in this way that I can keep forever. This note hangs out in a box on my desk at work, and I pull it out whenever I need encouragement.
Thank you for insisting on discussing “just in case.” I didn’t want to have those conversations about what we would do if one of us died before the other, especially not before gray hair. But you told me your thoughts anyway. In the days and weeks after you died, your instructions provided a practical map for my next steps.
I have learned a lot in your absence. I’m thankful for the way you prepared me when you were here.
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. – Philippians 1:3-5
On the one hand, I want to think of this October holiday as just a sweet little cultural tradition. It’s always been a chance to dress up in whatever way I’d like, and having children has made this even greater fun. Someone once told me that any candy consumed on Halloween would contain zero calories, so this day is an excellent opportunity to eat ALL. OF. IT.
There’s something darker, however, that looms just below the surface of the masks and under the face paint of this holiday. Halloween has a dense and controversial history. The day was originally a Celtic holiday, set aside to honor Druidic gods with sacrifices. In another century, people believed that the Lord of Death actually sent evil spirits to assault humans. The only way to escape those spirits was for the humans to trick them by disguising themselves to look like nasty spirits as well. Yikes. Later, Christians tried to redeem the holiday by celebrating the Saints (All Saints Day). Throughout my childhood on Halloween, many of my friends dressed up as innocent things like princesses and superheroes and pretty much ignored the history. Some of my friends holed up in their homes, turned out all the lights and didn’t really want to talk to me about why. My own family did a little bit of both.
I remember my parents sitting down with my siblings and I several times at different stages of my life to talk about the disturbing things behind the catchy facades of Halloween decor and festivities. We discussed the history of the day and the very real scary things that happen in our world. My parents explained that Satan himself wants nothing more than for us to ignore evil and to pretend it’s not a threat. This all seems very religious, and I didn’t understand it at first, which is why they continued to talk about it as I grew up. Based on how we were processing things, according to what my parents heard from us about the state of our hearts, we participated and refrained from participating in Halloween differently nearly every year.
The only consistency for Halloween was dress up. My mom was a drama director and I was privileged to always have handy a few costumes. On a regular (daily) basis, my siblings and I had the chance to become royalty from different eras, movie characters, lions and dinosaurs, local heroes and important historical figures. Halloween was certainly no exception to the dress up clothing shenanigans. In October of every year, we crafted full costumes whether or not we participated in something around our neighborhood on the 31st. I remember donning a special outfit on more than one occasion and making trips to the store which I felt were specifically intended to show off my costume. (I have to admit that they were always better when I let my mom help make them).
Things I have tried on Halloween throughout the years:
Trick or Treat (In neighborhoods, at nursing homes, or businesses)
Game/candy/costume family night
Church Harvest Festivals (gatherings with candy and activities)
Handing out goodies (candy, stickers, pencils, snacks… tracts…)
Pizzas shaped like pumpkins
Candy. So much candy…
Ignoring the holiday all together
Things I don’t love about Halloween and choose not to engage with:
“Innocent” references to death (skeletons, ghosts, tombstones…)
Before I had experienced first-hand the trauma of the death of a loved one, I thought nothing of these things. Now, many of these references are triggers into some disturbing memories and questions in my head.
Immature but not illegal shenanigans (egging, toilet papering, large groups of teenagers yelling profanities while my kids try to sleep)
Gross. No. Stop it. Can we not!?
Crime and terror
Rates of crime skyrocket on halloween… there’s something about wearing disguises for some people that help them to believe that it’s okay to harm others. Some of the crime may seem harmless even if it really isn’t and other things that happen are unspeakable and should be punished to the highest extent of the law. It’s important to be aware that real evil does exist, that it’s closer than you might think, and also that there are steps you can take to keep your family safe.
Making light of evil (haunted houses, horror movies)
I believe that Satan does exist. He and his bounty of demons do terrible evil in the world. Pretending that they are not a threat is like giving them permission to wreak havoc. Dismissing him as a threat is contrary to what Jesus instructed and said about the devil. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Yes, Jesus has defeated him, and he is on a short leash, but until the return of Christ, Satan still comes to “steal and kill and destroy” (John. 10:10).
This year, I have chosen to celebrate again with my family. Although my own costumes have become much less elaborate throughout the years, I thoroughly enjoy watching my kids with get into the uniform of their favorite character. Or my favorite character.
My kids and I have been having a lot of discussions about evil this year, and I assume we will continue to do so. Martin Luther said that, “The best way to drive out the Devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.” Tonight, my 4-year-old will be Batman, my 2-year-old will be Superman, and I’m going to wear a Wonder Woman headband. Just as we feel the absence of the kids’ dad on every other holiday, we’ll likely feel it tonight. Instead of sinking into sorrow about that, though, we’re going to have fun as a family anyway. We’re going to consume some chocolate and tell Satan that we see him but are not bound by fear of him.
As I look toward Valentine’s Day this year, and to the days leading up to it which remind me of haunting sadness and terrible trauma from last year, one question keeps coming to mind: What am I going to do? Tradition has always been very important to me, just as it was for my family, for Eric’s family and for the two of us as we began to develop traditions in our own family.
On our first Valentine’s Day as a couple, Eric and I decided to have a date night in my college dorm room with a homemade meal, shrimp appetizers, and a movie. At that point in time, it would have been an understatement to say that I “hated” cooking. I really did and I wasn’t great at it. I mean, I’ve been known to set a 1-foot high fire in a frying pan of bacon ashes. I’ve messed up boxed macaroni and cheese. But it was a romantic idea, so I tried it. Luckily, Spaghetti is both elegant and relatively easy to make. It wasn’t even too cold when I plated it. Eric was gracious and smiled over the top of the lovely roses he had bought for me. After dinner we exchanged gifts. Without telling each other, we’d each purchased the same movie to give. That movie? P.S. I Love You, starring Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler. Yes. We actually gave each other that movie. No, I haven’t gotten up the courage to watch it again. Needless to say, we watched it together that night and ate the delicious shrimp which he prepared.
4 years ago, in addition to our dinner, shrimp, and a movie tradition, I decided to make a blood donation on Valentine’s Day. I had been giving blood for years but researching the facts about it for a design project excited my passion for donating. According to the American Red Cross, 1 person in the U.S. needs blood every 2 seconds. Each year, approximately 4.5 million Americans will need blood transfusions. This life source cannot be created by any synthetic process and it can’t remain in storage very long. In order for people to receive the blood that they need, people have to give of themselves. Because of all this, donating blood is almost always a good idea if you qualify. All blood types are needed. I personally have another compelling reason to donate: my blood type is O Negative. This rare blood type can be given to anyone with any blood type, which makes me a universal donor. O Negative is typically the blood type they give to people in emergency situations and to newborn babies. The very thing that flows through my veins, this gift that I have, is an undeniable blessing that I can share… and what better day to give life than on a holiday that celebrates love?
Eric listed himself as an organ donor. Because of his heart medications, Eric wasn’t able to donate blood with me. He did, however, cheer me on heartily, and helped me in whatever way he could to make sure I had opportunities to donate. He often told me that he appreciated blood donation because giving this vital thing to a person might give them more time to live, and that would be more time for them to hear about Jesus.
When Eric was in the hospital from February 11-14, 2016, his body received a lot of O Negative blood. He was losing so much blood internally, and he needed countless blood transfusions in order for his organs to continue to work. In the end, God had bigger plans, but I am forever thankful to the people whose blood kept my Eric alive long enough for us to say goodbye.
That is why I have decided to honor Eric by donating blood.
On the anniversary of Eric’s death, I’m choosing to do what I can to help others have life, and in doing so, I am honoring my Eric. I’m praising God for the gift that he has given me in my blood. This gift of love directly from my person could give someone else the chance to continue living. If it is God’s will, the blood that I donate may be used to extend the life of someone else’s husband, someone else’s daddy, someone else’s son or brother or friend.
When I donate, I plan to tell people that I’m donating in honor of my husband, who loved people, loved Jesus, and loved sharing Jesus with people. If my blood can extend someone’s life, I pray that His words through me can affect someone’s eternity.
I would like to invite you to join me from wherever you are in honoring Eric with a blood donation. Not only will you be honoring him by doing what you can to help others, you will be honoring me as well. If you’re unable to donate, but would still like to honor Eric with this tradition, please spread the word! #DonateForEric.
Here are a few things I’ve learned about donating blood:
Donating blood is easy to do and doesn’t take long.
I can donate at several locations. The American Red Cross hosts blood drives all the time. There isn‘t a drive on the specific day that I want to donate so I found a local blood donation center (by googling) and will be able to walk in with my family during business hours on that day.
Donating blood is not any more painful or uncomfortable for most people than shots.
When 2016 began, my husband of 3.5 years and I were thriving in Beloit, Wisconsin. Eric wasthe Youth Pastor at Rock Valley Chapel, and I was privileged to stay at home with our young boys, Bingham and William. In January, Eric and I attended a couple’s retreat together, set a couple goals for the year and I received what I believe to be a calling to write more. We began waking up early to read our Bibles together before the boys woke up and we spent more intentional time with each other in the evenings. We talked about anything and everything, from silly inside jokes and lovely memories to short but intense discussions about the kinds of what-ifs that would leave our kids without one of their parents. We laughed together. We cooked together. We danced.
Eric’s heart–which operated mainly from two chambers as a result of a congenital heart disease and a corrective procedure called a Fontan–seemed to be doing OK. However, results from an MRI revealed that there was a little muscle tissue which had developed in the main chamber, and a stress test showed that it was impacting his quality of life. His cardiologist told us that Eric was mostly healthy, but that the muscle tissue would need to be removed via open heart surgery at some point in the next few years. The next step in the process would be to locate the exact position of the problematic blockage with a cardiac catheterization–a small camera insertion, a routine procedure with little anticipated risk.
On February 11th, we went to Madison, Wisconsin for that cardiac catheterization. The procedure itself went well, but the device that was used to close the insertion point did not function as expected. On February 13, after severe internal bleeding, multiple cardiac arrests and trauma to his brain, I said goodbye to Eric’s body.
On the hardest day of my life, I asked the Holy Spirit to move in my weakness and inability to function on my own. In God’s strength, we chose to praise the Lord because of the assurance we have that Eric is with Jesus in Heaven.
To the Facebook world, I said, “Through tears of God’s grace, I must tell you that God is STILL FAITHFUL. His promises are STILL TRUE. He is glorified. His love endures forever, for always and no matter what. Eric is in the presence–the glory, the splendor, the peace, the joy–of our Lord. In HIS name we take comfort because of His great sacrifices for all of us… that He died so that we don’t have to suffer lives separated from Jesus, that He rose again and conquered that death! That He reigns in Heaven and that we who know and trust Him will be with Him and praise Him together just like Eric is with Him now.” Eric’s headstone is located at Rural Home Cemetery in Big Bend, Wisconsin and it features Romans 8:28, which says, “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” (NIV).
In April, Bingham, William and I moved back to my childhood home in Southern Minnesota. We live on the 3rd floor of my parents’ home (Stan/Papa and Carolyn/Granna Miller) along with my sister, “Auntie” Abby. Shortly after we moved I took a part-time job as the Communications Director at Faith Church. I am blessed to be able to use my Graphic Design degree and knowledge of communication theory & systems in an encouraging environment with friends who pray for me and laugh with me on a daily basis.
Bingham is now 3 years old! He is tall, boisterous and agile. He is helpful, caring and nurturing of everyone around him, especially his little brother. In the 100% unbiased opinion of his mother, he’s brilliant with a gigantic vocabulary, elaborate memory and deep thoughtfulness. He loves to play with friends, make believe, operate toy vehicles, sing and dance. “Bing” is not without his childlike mischievousness, however. The proof is in permanent marker on his walls, bedding, toys and the recliner in his room (this literally happened in about 5 minutes on one night after I thought he was sleeping. Not even kidding.)
William–I often call him “Billy”–is growing fast as well. He is about a year a half with curly blonde hair and deep, joyful eyes. When he smiles, he lights up the room. When he’s angry, he’s quite assertive with eyebrows raised and guttural noises. He posesses a bottomless stomach… or at least he is very generous to Spencer the dog, who waits and feasts under the high chair. Billy loves to give hugs and kisses and enjoys singing, dancing, cuddling and following his brother anywhere and into anything.
On weekday mornings, when Mama goes to work,Granna teaches the boys pre-preschool with books and activities related to those books. Both boys enjoy doing school, making things, watching educational videos and going on bear hunts. Auntie Abby joins the trio for lunch and then puts the boys down for their afternoon naps. Everyone’s usually waking up just after Mama gets home from work and the evening’s activities vary from week to week. We keep pretty busy on the weekends, especially visiting friends and family. Some of our favorite weekends are spent with Grammie (Cheryl) & Buppah (Scott) and Uncle Ian Lindberg at their new home in Wisconsin. One of many good things with which God has blessed us is the closeness we share, that we are family even without a connection rooted in law.
Grief is a strange thing; I am obsessed with it, with knowing how to cope with it or how to survive it or even how to overcomeor beat it. Yet, just as no grief is alike (because no person is exactly the same and no situation is perfectly similar to another) there is also no timeline, no way to measure progress, no “right” way to feel. I learn this again and again as I encounter people going through deep losses of their own and I haven’t the slightest clue what to say or how to help them. I am an extrovert, and I’m generally energized by interactions with people, but sometimes something inside just seems to “snap” and there is no one on earth I want to see. Other times I ldelight in life and my heart leaps with fullness of joy… like when I held my first baby niece, Elouise Jane on her very first birthday or when my boys sat for pictures with their cousin and kissed her forehead. Sometimes the smallest thing threatens to send me into a tailspin in a memory of a time and place in which I’d much rather be. Other times I laugh in the remembrance of my best friend and his quirks and the fun we had together. I have found that in my own, unique grief, there is almost nothing “normal” or simple. Nothing is light. Nearly all things are both bitter and sweet. Sometimes I am driven to seek connection on earth or to find and bring truth to those around me. Sometimes I want to hide and shut out the world. The longer I linger here, the more I realize that my greatest desire is to be where Eric is–Not because he is there, but because Jesus is there. Because I belong there. Because that is my true home. Nonetheless, this is the place God has put me and this is the time He has given me to glorify Him and to raise children who will do the same.
Sometimes it is difficult for Bingham, William and me to be alone together as the void where Daddy used to be is more evident in those times. The tears we shed together, however, the warmth as we hold each other and the conversations that follow those tears, are priceless pieces of healing for each of the three of us. Bingham knows and I think understands more than most 3-year-olds about life and death. He knows that Daddy’s body was sick and broken, that it was not able to get better or be fixed and because of that, he died. However, Daddy loved Jesus and trusted Jesus to forgive the bad things Daddy had done so that he could go to Heaven. When Bingham is asked where his Daddy is, he says, “Daddy died. But he’s with Jesus. He has a new body with Jesus.” And that? The knowledge that my son can say that? That is the most bittersweet thing of all.
As we have become fully enveloped into the holiday season, amidst the jolly reds and greens and sparkly dreams for the new year, I’m finding that the things that generally cheer and warm me are looming ominously and causing me to cower. Pine trees, peppermint flavored drinks, presents, lights and bells don’t truly excite me and I know that they won’t bring me joy this year. Eric’s absence is enough to make me want to skip Christmas altogether–until I turn my focus to Advent. This time of standing still while waiting for the hope at the end, the call for Emmanuel to ransom the captives who morn in lonely exile, the truth that is coming to us. One of my favorite authors, Shauna Niequist, explained it this way in her book Bittersweet,
“Advent is about waiting, anticipating, yearning. Advent is the question, the response to the howl…Advent gives us another option beyond false Christmas cheer or Scrooge. Advent says the baby is coming, but He isn’t here yet, that hope is on its way, but the yearning is still very real. Sometimes, depending on what we’ve lost this year, Advent is what saves us from giving up on Christmas and all its buoyant twinkling-light hope forever. Advent allows us to tell the truth about what we’re grieving without giving up on the gorgeous and extravagant promise of Christmas” (Niequist, 2010, p.91).
Thank you, friends and family, for your encouragements in words and gifts. Thank you for the financial support you’ve extended to us, for thoughtful goodie baskets, for sharing your songs and writing notes to us. Thank you for trusting the Holy Spirit’s promptings to speak or give at the most appropriate times and for sitting in silence with me when there’s nothing left to say. Thank you for your prayers. He is faithful to answer them. He is good and He is truly working in all things for the good of those who love Him.
With love and blessings for Advent,
The Lindberg Family