Sunday, May 26, 2019

Do the Next Thing

I've always liked to detect possible challenges and find a solutions to avoid future problems. I like to think that trait is an asset, though it probably caused a lack of sleep in the last months.

I've had several scenarios surrounding Ed's impending death rolling around in my head these last weeks. Now when I look back I see that some of the thinking and discussion with others allowed events to glide smoothly.

I had hoped that Ed could be part of our family life as long as possible. We placed his hospital bed in our dining/living room right by the window to the back yard. I'll always cherish the memories of that last week when we pulled the rocker and the loveseat by Ed's bed and filled them full of friends and family. Almost never was Ed alone, day and night. Until the last day he still had a firm grip in his right hand and often someone was beside his bed holding his hand. In his last minutes on earth both his brothers were by his side.

I have regrets in life, but not about how Ed was cared for in his last days.

On Monday I took the children in to the funeral home to have a private viewing. I had worried that the three-year-old would be upset with burying Ed's body. I had told her several times that Daddy's body was sick, and God would give Daddy a new body in heaven so he wouldn't need his sick body.

The casket was a great curiosity to her. She kept standing on tiptoe and peering in at Ed. I heard her say to herself "That is Daddy's sick body."  I know she understands very little about the impact that Ed's passing will have on her life. Right now she does not know what she has lost. But I was relieved that she wasn't upset at the funeral and burial.

I had thought (worried) a lot about the viewing. I knew there would be many people who would want to honor Ed and his family by attending the viewing. I've stood at the funeral home when long lines zig-zagged across the room and out the door. I dreaded the stress of greeting friends while knowing that a line waited.

Ed's brothers and I had numerous discussions on how to best arrange the viewing. With the help of the funeral director we chose to have longer viewing hours and arranged the room to keep the line moving.

Six hours of a viewing is a long time. The children soon tired of standing next to me shaking hands and joined their cousins. Ed's family and my family were spaced around the room, but I was alone by the casket. I didn't mind. I wanted to stand by Ed, and, in a small way, still be a couple one last time.

I was humbled by all those who made the sacrifice to attend the viewing and funeral. Church family and friends who have supported us through these last two years by their presence and prayers. Old friends and neighbors who knew Ed as a child. My parents' cousins. My cousins. Ed's cousins. Ed's cousins' children. My fourth-grade teacher who saw the obituary in the newspaper. Several of Ed's grade-school teachers. Blog and email friends who know me only by written words. Childhood friends who have known me since birth and could tell my secrets. Ed's work and business associates. Widows who also lost their husbands to brain tumors who have encouraged me through their phone calls. Ed's school friends who helped make him into the person I knew. Friends of Ed's siblings. Friends of my siblings. And Many More.

But never was there a long line. If I wished I could chat with friends knowing there wasn't a long line behind them. When I was leaving the funeral home I stopped to thank the funeral director for how well the evening went. He asked me if I knew that we had 900 people through the line. I was shocked. And thankful. All the planning had paid off, and I wouldn't have changed a thing, even though my eyes felt red-rimmed and scratchy, and my body sagged.

The funeral on Wednesday also went smoothly. It was held at my parent's church since our church is too small. I sat on the front bench at exactly the same place Ed and I had sat at our wedding. Hearing old familiar hymns sung by a full audience and hearing words of worship to our Sovereign God were soul strengthening.

The burial was hard. The finality of the grave could not be ignored. I have no idea who attended the burial. I stayed composed only by not looking at anyone. I knew if I saw tears, my own would flow.

The meal after the burial was a beautiful example of love. Many women from various churches worked together to prepare the meal. Again I was surrounded by the love of family and friends. I enjoyed hearing their stories about Ed and their reminders of God's grace at work in their own lives.

My parents brought us home from the funeral. My dad saw my terribly weedy garden that I've been ignoring and got out the tiller. I typically enjoy gardening, and we spent the rest of the evening pulling weeds. It felt so good to do something with my hands instead of my head and heart.

That night I slept better than I had in weeks.

What does a widow do the day after her husband's funeral? I didn't know the rules, but I jumped into Thursday thinking I would return my house to order just like I had my garden. The house was generally under control (constant company made sure of that), but the corners and cupboards needed attention. Every May when school ends I have a desire to declutter and organize. This year that desire was magnified ten times. Maybe because house cleaning was something within my control. Maybe because the house has been so neglected the past months.

Then my brothers were rained out of their barn painting project and decided to work on our AC project. Replacing our AC means pulling everything out of our attic to remove the old insulation. Soon my dining room was covered with boxes and the house with a layer of insulation dust. It was almost laughable.  My house had went from generally clean to disaster. I started sorting and organizing, glad that at least I was in a decluttering mood. Nothing like a funeral to make one willing to get rid of Stuff That Won't Go With Us.

In desperation to not trip over boxes for weeks, I looked for any empty spots - not easy in a rancher that contains six children. I opened Ed's half of the closet, pulled out clothes, stuffed them into bags, and carried them to the van to give away. I never would have chosen the day after the funeral to put away Ed's clothes, but I would do it sometime, and it gave me a place to stuff boxes. It made sense even if it was crazy.

When I told a friend how I spent the day after the funeral she said that in a thousand years she'd never would have guessed cleaning insulation debris and bagging clothes.

Elisabeth Elliot suggests, "do the next thing," when faced with hard life circumstances. I guess that is what we did.

But the weekend wasn't all work. The children and I planned a short camping trip for next week. Ed's brothers helped us plant a memorial tree. We enjoyed cookouts with various friends and family on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings. Volleyball, S'mores, mountain pies, banana splits, discussions on heaven, and more.

Do we feel relief, grief, or something else all together? I don't know. I won't attempt to figure out the jumble of my emotions. Just holding on to the promise that God doesn't forsake the widows and the fatherless and doing the next thing.

55 comments :

  1. May God fulfill his promise to care of the widows and fatherless. It's not easy but he always gives grace.

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  2. You are truly wonderful Gina. God bless you and your family xxx
    Helena

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  3. Dear Gina,

    Your post is beautifully and thoughtfully written, as usual. I am so glad to read that the viewing proceedings went so well and that there were so very many people there to honour Ed and to support you and your loved ones.
    I think you made a wise decision to decide to stay busy and do “the next thing” as you said. You have been so busy caring for Ed and managing everything at home, it would likely feel very empty without those tasks if you didn’t keep busy with other things.
    I just wanted to tell you not to be too rigorous in throwing away Ed’s things.. maybe keep a shirt or two for the boys to grow into? It might be meaningful to them growing up xx
    Wishing you all the best and I will keep reading and following how you are getting on. Blessings, Linda

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    1. My boys took a few things. Thanks for the suggestion.
      Gina

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    2. Just a suggestion: a widowed aunt said she wished she had kept a suit, shirt, work shirt, a few of my uncle's clothes as she felt his scent or that of his cologne on his clothing would have been so comforting to her.

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  4. We are blessed to read your words, so honest and heartfelt. My friend died of a brain tumor almost 2 years to the day your Ed died. We still support her family with practical help, I help guide her daughter's like a mother would and as a family we help her husband just by being there. Through God and people's love they are doing well and learning to enjoy life and the pain of remembering has gone and is replaced with thankfulness for having known my friend. May your family find peace and happiness with the help of God and those around you. Xx

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  5. Gina, I am in tears here halfway across the world. I have been praying for you and your lovely family and am so pleased that you have let us know how you are getting on. You really have amazing support. This is such a hard time for you and you will all miss your Ed so much. Thankfully you will see him again.

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  6. Thanks for updating us. I’ve been thinking of you a lot these past few days.
    I would have loved to come to the viewing and funeral. I don’t know you personally but, I feel like I do!
    It makes sense to me that you would “do the next thing.” As you said in another post, you have been grieving for a long time now. So it would feel right to do that.
    My mom used to say the worst time after losing someone is when everyone goes home and then you feel the empty place that they left.
    I’ll continue praying that you will find all the right “next things” to fill your life with peace and fullness.

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  7. You are a very brave woman. It is good that your little one doesn't understand and your families are such help.

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  8. the warmfireplaceMay 27, 2019 at 9:12 AM

    Grief is a personal thing and something that you will ebb and flow with, and you just do what you feel you can do or want too there are no rules. Our dear Lord will be with you every step of the way. Keeping you all close in prayer. Sue x

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  9. Such a beautiful memory you have. I dont think there are set rules on when to pack stuff up. When my youngest child passed away we came home from the hospital the same day and packed up his crib and things and stored them away. It was so painful to look at them but we kept them packed away for several years and when we were ready we let go of them. We had and still do pictures of him hung up but the crib and clothing etc hurt to look at on that day. My husband works at a funeral home and everyone grieves or handles things differently so what works for them is what is right. Your a good mama and with a strong family you are so blessed with these to bolster you. I loved the weeding of the garden to me that would be so grounding and would help center me and calm me after such a long day.

    I have never commented but have read your blog for years I have enjoyed it so much.

    Erika

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  10. I only know you through your blog, but I have prayed for and thought of you and your family several times over the past several days. You are so blessed to have such helpful family members. I will keep praying for you in upcoming days as you make decisions that need to be made. May the Lord bless you and your family. Darlene

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  11. Thank you for the update. It was such a combination of what happened, how you were/are feeling, and practical advice, specifically concerning your 3 year old. I saw the picture of her peering into the casket on your brother's blog and now knowing what she was told, it is even sweeter.

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  12. Dear Gina,
    Praying for you all, I was in tears just reading this. I have always thought you were an amazing lady. Sending you hugs,
    Blessings
    shelley p
    from over the pond

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  13. When in distress, I often think of Elizabeth's instructions, do the next thing. It seems sometimes we are looking for some mysterious, deep revelation or instruction.........when "do the next thing" is good, needed and therapeutic.
    What a blessing to have had so many people honor Ed with their presence at visitation and the service.
    May I say that I admire the many, many people who helped your family out over the past 2 years. That, too, is instructive for all of us who read here. Well done!
    Gina, you are stuck with us. We aren't leaving you now. We are here to pray for you and your precious children down through the years and years.............or perhaps until just later this afternoon when Jesus might return in the air to take us all Home. We never know. We do know that we are one day closer.
    Doesn't Heaven become a dearer and dearer destination!

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  14. You are a strong and wonderful woman. "Her price is beyond rubies...." I'm not sure if That's correct, but you know what I mean. Prayers continue.

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  15. Thanks so much for sharing these details! I love how that you felt amazed at how well the visitation went & that you didn't feel the pressure you had feared with a long line waiting. And your dear little girl, I love the way you explained it to her and that she wasn't upset during those precious, sacred, painful moments. Your path is hard but you are a brave woman of courage. We are praying.......

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  16. Gina, My tears flowed as I read this perfectly written account of your days. I am amazed by the grace and detail that you shared with us. You are truly blessed by having family so close by.
    We're praying for you and your children even though we have met.
    Blessings,
    Betsy

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  17. Elizabeth ParkinsonMay 27, 2019 at 4:07 PM

    I have been thinking of you this past week and continue to pray for you and your family.

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  18. I will be keeping your whole family in my prayers as you are facing these difficult things and changes.
    -Alisa

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  19. My thoughts and prayers are with you. May God hold you very close during this time. 💕

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  20. Oh my dear Gina,
    I know firsthand some of the emotions you feel. I lost my husband when he was 53 and I had a 5 month old baby. Those first few weeks, I did the next thing. Emotions will come, often when you least expect them. Everything from grief to relief to rage to overwhelming sadness. My husband has been gone nearly 13 years. I still feel those emotions, but not as intensely. Mostly I feel sadness at what we've missed not being able to grow old together and my son never knowing his father, as well as my older son's children never knowing their grandfather.
    Just 2 years ago, a dear friend of mine found herself in a situation much like yours. She lost her husband to a rare cancer after about an 18 month battle. He was also in his early 40s and they also have 6 children of ages similar to your, 4 girls and 2 boys. I pray daily for them and I pray daily for you. As much as we sometimes feel we are, we are never alone.
    The next few months will be a big adjustment and will bring a wide range of emotions. You will realize your strength and you will realize how much you need your God, family and friends. And you will be the victor. We don't have the power to be the victor over death, that belongs only to God, but we can be victorious in how we live our lives and continue on to honor those we have lost. Prayers for you every day!! You are never alone!
    Kathy

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  21. What a beautiful soul you have Gina. I eagerly await, as I have a feeling hundreds if not thousands do, watching to see how the glory of God will enfold you and your children as you faithfully ' do the next thing'. Because you are faithful. Because you love Him.

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  22. Bless you, Gina. My aunt was recently, unexpectedly widowed, and my sister spent the weekend with her. I was with my sister this evening listening to her talk about Aunt E and how strange the path of grief is. . . .life goes on and it's odd and normal at the same time.

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  23. Hugs to you, and prayers for you, and your family. One day at a time...

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  24. I lost my husband (38yrs old) this past January. You sound like me... I cleaned and organized and donated some of my husband's clothes...not all, but a lot. I stayed very busy for weeks after and then I hit a wall. I'm now struggling to find motivation to do the big projects around the house. We are praying for you and the family. God bless...the road is not easy.

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  25. Gina, my heart aches for you, having met you so recently at WAC. I've been praying that the Father would carry you.

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  26. Thank you for sharing with us during this hard time. When I read your post I see that all the love you've shown to others and all the strength and support you've given to others is now coming back to you. It is no surprise that so many came to support you and your family. I know there were hundreds more who were with you in spirit. You and your family are in my prayers. I know the Lord will be with you all.

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  27. Gina, I am so grateful to you for continuing to post through this difficult time of grief. If you were to be silent, I would be silently worrying. I hope that writing is therapeutic and healing for you. Keeping you and your children in my thoughts and prayers. May God rest his hand gently upon your shoulder and hold you up through the difficult hours. Work and staying busy, and most especially gardening, can be so good for the soul.

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  28. As always, I'm blessed when I see an email with a new post from your blog. God has continued to uphold you. I am sad when I read your post, but I can't but praise God for the beauty He has placed within your heart. I laugh through my tears as I picture the day after the funeral. That is very much how I was following the death of our first child after a long illness. It's like God gave me permission to move forward because my girl was safe in His arms, just as your Ed is safe in His arms. Much love and prayer to you and your precious children!

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  29. May God give you grace for each day! "Doing the next thing," fits into any hard thing we face. And will no doubt be something you think of often. My dau in law has a teddybear made from her dads shirt, after he passed away.

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  30. May God give you grace for each day! "Doing the next thing," fits into any hard thing we face. And will no doubt be something you think of often. My dau in law has a teddybear made from her dads shirt, after he passed away.

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  31. I too only “know” you from your blog. You’ve come to my mind so many times the last few weeks. I’ll continue to pray for you and your children. What a wonderful mama you are.

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  32. Continuing to pray for you and yours as you do the next thing. XO Randy & Eunice

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  33. My mom passed away on December 19, and the visitation/funeral were the 22nd and 23rd. So what did we do in-between the death and funeral and afterwards? Christmas! Her death changed our plans (I live 2 hours away from my parents and my dad decided to come down to me instead of me travelling home), and so the night before the visitation, I was at the grocery store buying ingredients for all of our traditional Christmas treats. And the day after the funeral I cleaned the house and baked and cooked. Alas...

    You have to do *something* as live does go on (albeit very differently), but I agree at how it seems so absurd and hilarious, but also completely normal, to take on a huge project.

    On another note, would your girls like a teddy bear or pillow case made from Ed's clothing? It might be a nice way to help them remember too, and to use his clothes.

    Peace be with you.
    Jen from Ontario, Canada


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  34. I have been thinking of you and your family.
    Your children are blessed to have a mother like you.
    As others have said grief takes different paths for each of us
    Praying for you all love to you.From Sheree

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  35. I only know you through your blog which I have followed the past 2 yrs. I have been praying for you and your family and enjoy reading the next "blog" you write :) Yes, the advice from Elizabeth Elliott is something I did when my husband had his esophageal cancer in 2008 and we flew to Zion, IL from Alabama to the cancer hospital up there.What a blessing to have a family lose by to help you. So good to hear the comment your 3 yr old child made....I recall you were concerned about how to tell her of her dad's death.....Amazing how the Lord helps us in these difficult times. We had 3 men on our prayer list who had brain tumors and they all went to see the Lord the same week. Gerald Kraybill in Pa was one also a man in Canada who has family at our church. Blessings as you learn a "new normal"

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  36. Oh Gina, as I read your letter I cried and laughed. I can remember when my Dad was so sick with Mesothelioma. I was my parent's caregiver and lived with them that whole year. Our home that year was filled with joy and sadness that year. We were so blessed with the short trips, the wonderful friends that stopped by, the Celebration of Life we had 2 months before he passed, and all the phone calls and letters. We were so lucky, he was not in pain until the last few days. Sometimes getting to say goodbye the way your family was able to makes a world of difference. There will still be hard times, but a lot of your grief has already happened. Everyone handles it differently but I always praise God my Dad is with Him now.

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  37. From the Jewish liturgy of Yizkor where we remember those who have passed on during the High Holy Days, two lines ran through my head as I read your tender post: (in death we are) "like children falling asleep over our toys" and our careful parents tend us to bed...and we pray for respite from tears and to "turn us back to the tasks of life". May the wide and deep love be a sense of support and may Ed's memory continue to be a source of strength and blessing.

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  38. Gina

    Again I am so sorry for your loss of Ed. 900 people attending Ed's viewing is amazing it just goes to show you how many lives he's touched and affected and how much he was loved. I am always thinking of you and of the children and I'm glad that they understand especially the littlest one that Daddy's sick body is here but in heaven he gets a new body and we'll get to watch over them. When my mom passed away almost three years ago now my grief was horrible undescribable and I just didn't know what to do with myself the cry so I applaud you for going on with the next step and busying yourself with lots of cleaning and Ed's Brothers doing the AC I wish I had done that had something to occupy my mind I did have four of my seven siblings take me to a Japanese restaurant that I've never been to and we got to see the flames when they cook which was nice. I hope you keep being surrounded by family and I know you will and the days and months to come when you are alone with your thoughts in the quiet nights I hope you know you are loved Ed love you so much in all of your friends and family do through this blog in real life and you will never be alone. I'm here for you God bless hugs

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  39. I've often used Elisabeth Elliot's words to help me get through stressful times much less troubling than yours. I'm glad you've made use of them as well. Praying here.

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  40. Growing up, I always heard my grandma saying...you don’t know how strong you are, till strong is all you have. I never understood until I got older how true her words were. You bring these words to mind as you begin this new journey. Continued prayers for you and the children.

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  41. Gina, this is such a beautiful post. Your strength is evident here and was evident at the viewing and funeral. The most beautiful part of all is to see God's light, grace, and faithfulness beaming from you during this most awful time of your life. Your courage to go ahead and do the next thing (I hope this makes a bit of sense)helps bring comfort to your friends. Thanks for being exemplary to all of us. Hoping, praying, and trusting that you will continue to feel God each step of the way whether through His word, His personal comfort, or through the love and care of friends. With love, Nola

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  42. Your words bring tears. Thank-you for sharing about those days that you will forever remember. Doing the next right thing sounds like the best thing to do. It will be different for each of us! God be with you as you take each day and do the next right thing.

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  43. You and your children have been in my prayers. Your life is a testimony to God's grace.

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  44. Hugs and love to you and your family.

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  45. Oh Gina,I am so sorry for your loss, while at the same time rejoicing that your husband is in heaven!! What hope that gives. My prayers are with you and your children, as you find your new "normal". Thank you for the inspiration you have given to others through all these trials! Sarah

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  46. You and your family are in my prayers! You just do as God leads you. Thank you for sharing all of this. May God be your comforter and friend! Cindy

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  47. "When you don't know what do to, do what you know." I read this once in a bible study I was doing. I can't remember the name of the study or even what the words were pertaining to but I think it holds true. God bless.

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    1. Donna, that's a great saying, thank you :)

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  48. May God hold you all tight as you go forward from here, working faithfully on "the next thing". Thank you so much, Gina, for sharing with us here. May the Lord grant that it helps you to process your thoughts and deal with your grief, but please don't ever feel obligated to talk to us here if it's too hard. We do love you as a sister in Christ even if we've never met, which I'm quite sure is true for a lot of us here :) , and you will continue to be in the prayers of many no matter when we hear from you. You will never go wrong following the Lord's leading.

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  49. I remember your previous top of the homepage writing "If you think my hands are full you should see my heart". Keeping your hands full is the way of showing that Your heart must be overflowing with emotions now. Giving away Ed's clothes seems so natural, it is like the way of saying "Ed is gone, there is nothing, nothing left". This is part of the grief. I wish you find bits of peace and unwind and have some rest little by little, and live through this hard time.

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  50. Grief is different for all of us; doing what is right for you is what is right to do. Please know there are no "rules" or what is right or wrong. Our hearts heal differently. May yours heal and always hold Ed's love tenderly.

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