I stayed in my pajamas all day. I cried. I prayed. I searched scripture for encouragement. I spent a lot of time in bed. I ignored the phone.
I even took a two-hour nap that afternoon.
During that day, my boys understood and gave me some space. I made sure all of their needs were attended to but kept my distance. Told them that "Mom just needed the day to cry and pray" and that I would be better the next morning.
And I was.
I slept the best I had in weeks, and awoke with a fresh perspective and a renewed strength in what God expects of me.
He expects me:
*to get moving.
*to keep writing for outdoor enthusiasts, single mothers, and widows.
*to get off of my backside and reconnect with His big old beautiful world.
*to finish my book proposal and send it in to the editor that's been waiting for it.
*to strive to be the best mother and child of God I can be.
In other words, I get to keep my big girl boots on. Permanently. It's not pretty sometimes, but it's my life.
Instead of wishing for the one thing I cannot have anymore (the love and physical presence of Mark), I must focus on the many things I do have.
I. am. blessed. beyond. measure.
Armed with that fresh perspective, I faced a big hurdle and, with God's help, I cleared it. It may not seem like a big deal to many, but to those who know me well will understand completely.
I cooked crappie Saturday night. And we enjoyed it.
Why, do you ask, is cooking crappie a big deal?
Mark provided those fish, that's why.
As an avid outdoorsman, he took great pride in providing food for his family. Over the years we've had pheasant, quail, duck, crappie, catfish, and crawfish that he hunted/caught/harvested. The running understanding was, he would catch/hunt/kill and dress it---then I would cook it. That arrangement worked well.
Two days before his fateful surgery, I asked him what he wanted for his "last meal" (not knowing at the time that it would be, in fact, his last earthly meal). Ribeye? T-bone? New York Strip?
Nope. He wanted crappie, fresh caught from Lake Arrowhead.
I cooked my husband those crappie. Along with homemade hush puppies, coleslaw, and all the trimmings. He ate his fill. Then he ate some more. We laughed, joked, and enjoyed the family table conversation with our two boys and my mother, who was visiting from Kentucky.
Only 6 short days later, he was gone.
Everytime I have opened our freezer door in the past almost two years since, those crappie fillets, painstakingly cleaned, dressed, and portioned in Ziploc bags with his handwriting on the labels (species, location caught, and date) have glared at me.
But I could not bear to cook them.
I'd even gone as far as to pull out a bag and begin to thaw it in my refrigerator....only to have second thoughts as sad memories flooded my mind. The frozen bag went back on the freezer door.
This past Saturday, I was ready to try it again. I pulled out a bag, and smiled at the scrawled Sharpie printing, so distinctively Mark's, and began the thawing process in the refrig. The boys and I were having crappie.
And we did. With the boys' approval, I fried crappie and made homemade onion rings. We sat around the family table, the three of us, and gave thanks for the food.
We used the family blessing, one that Mark brought home from elementary school, probably 50 years ago (back when prayers were still taught in school):
For food and drink and happy days, accept our gratitude and praise.
In serving others, Lord, may we, express our thankfulness to Thee. Amen.
We laughed a little. We teared up a bit.
The three of us, the modified Howell family, pushed through the pain of eating Mark's favorite food without him. Knowing he himself had caught and prepped the fillets was key.
I went outside that night, alone, to soak up some of the cooler evening temperatures and have some time to reflect on the day. I thanked God for helping me over another big hurdle. I also talked to Mark for awhile.
Both he and God are great listeners.