Saturday, June 1, 2019

Camping and Rambling

Which is worse, a sudden death or a terminal illness?

Ed's family has experienced both, and I think it would be impossible to choose even if we could. The sheer shock of the first is devastating, but slow suffering is equally hard.

This week I found both a pro and a con of Ed's terminal illness.

I appreciate that Ed could prepare for his death. In many ways he lived life as normal, but as soon as he heard his cancer diagnosis he began making me pay the bills. Ed had always took care of all financial matters, and I didn't pay a bit of attention to it. I wished it could have stayed that way. While I appreciated his efforts to teach me, I hated every minute of it. I didn't want to have to learn.

But last week when I sat down and quickly paid the month's household bills, I was so glad for the ease in which I could do it thanks to Ed's training. Family finances is one job that is no longer stressful to me.

But one thing I find very difficult with Ed's illness is that when I think of Ed, all I remember is the last months. The frustrations of lack of communication. The daily reminders of his declining brain function. Maybe if his illness had been only physical, I would remember the "real" Ed better. But brain cancer stole the man I married while he could still walk and talk. When I try to remember real conversations and "normal" life, there is only a fog.

I know those memories will return with time, and our little vacation this week helped bring back some of those memories.

I took the children on a short camping trip. I told them that it was a test. If we survived (maybe even thrived) on this trip, we'd try a longer camping trip.

The children rose to the challenge. Camping was so much easier than it was even a few years ago. The older ones could help put up tents, build fires, and pack the van.

The little girls are old enough to hike on their own two feet and entertain themselves with coloring books.

One friend told me I was amazing, but I may have been just crazy. Tent camping with six children? As the only adult? But every time I would start to panic I could hear Ed saying, "Of course you can. You'll be fine."

One of the greatest gifts Ed gave me was his confidence. Whether is was starting a blog, volunteering in prison, handling the family finances, or speaking to a group of ladies. He would never let me say I couldn't do it. He just assumed that I could, and he gave me the confidence to try.

So, we tried camping. And it worked.

We stayed at the Shenandoah National Park in VA that stretches the length of the Skyline Drive. We were able to use our A Kid in a Park pass again. Our children had never been there so it was fun to introduce them to the park. 

We stayed at Matthew's Arm Campground within the park. It was rather primitive with no showers, but we enjoyed our stay. We hoped in vain to see black bears. A mama bear and her two cubs were daily visitors to our campground, but we didn't catch even a glimpse. In the middle of the night, curled in a tent with my two little girlies, thoughts of bears wasn't good for sleeping, but we did wish for a distant glimpse of these furry creatures.

Skyline Drive curves around the top of the mountains with frequent overlooks. The views are stunning. The many visitor's centers gave us opportunity to enjoy several ranger talks about the wildlife and the history of the park.

Three days was not nearly enough time. There were so many hikes off Skyline Drive that we wanted to try. We are already planning where we will stay and what we'll do when we go back.

The hike to Dark Hollow Falls was all downhill into a ravine (and then back up), but the falls were worth the hike. The height of the falls and their beauty cannot be captured in a photo.

Camping brought back so many memories of Ed. When we were first married we did a lot of tenting. From sultry July evenings along the Conocheague Creek to a freezing November night camped on the beach. From July sunshine on a New Hampshire riverside to the pouring rain on the Clarion  River in northern Pennsylvania. I'll always be grateful we packed in so many fun experiences in those first years.

Our tent camping ended when we had three children in as many years, and we switched to cabin camping. But the memories continued. So grateful that Ed made family time a priority.

On the third day we drove over to Luray Caverns, just outside the park boundaries. The children had never been to a cave or cavern before. Usually we look for free or very inexpensive vacation spots, but we had been given money to spend on something fun as a family so decided to use it for tickets. The children loved the cavern tour and it was the highlight of the trip.

Now we are back home, and my brothers continue to work at replacing our AC. They finished pulling out all the old insulation which made an appalling mess. Don't worry. They cleaned it up.

And we are in time to enjoy our strawberry harvest. The berries are huge this year, and we've filled several large bowls with their yumminess.

Camping, home projects, spring harvest. Remembering Ed. Making new memories. This is our life today.


  1. Seeing you doing these things with your children alone brings a lump in my throat. But I'm so proud of you! You are being such a good mom to your children by giving them good new memories and fun times. It will be hard, but I have a feeling you will thrive. With God's help, you have what it takes! Blessings to you, Gina....

    Mary Beth Martin

  2. Gina, I think you are amazing too. Most people would be deeply depressed at this time and I think it is wonderful that you have the courage you do have. Any illness to do with the brain is so hard to cope with. I know from experience. It is difficult sometimes to separate the illness from the real person but I know that in time the memories of these last few months will dim and will be replaced with the memories of Ed when he was healthy. Big hugs.

  3. Happy to hear you had a such a blessed family time!
    Praying for many more for you all. Still keeping you in prayer.

  4. How wonderful that you took the children camping! I have a friend who has done this for many years (taken her children camping by herself) and it has always amazed me. I'm so thankful you can do this.

  5. Gina, you are an amazing woman, mom, and an inspiration to all:-) I'm glad you and your children are making memories and finding a new normal. Thank you for sharing your life with us. You and your family are being prayed for in Hawaii.

  6. Beautiful post Gina. I believe both the good Lord and Ed are smiling on you and your lovely family.
    Prayers continue.
    MaryE Osborne
    San Pedro CA

  7. When my dad died a few years ago, grief clouded my good memories too. All I could remember is when he was sick with cancer, and his sudden death that wasn't suppose to happen after they removed all of the tumor and he was proclaimed cancer-free. As time goes by, I am able to remember the good times and his laugh again, and more and more dear memories are returning.
    Be patient with your grieving heart. What a wonderful camping trip, and such a good way to begin healing and moving forward. You are amazing.

  8. Cheering you from Minnesota . . .

  9. Gina, I'm glad you and your children were able to go camping. It's good to get away for even a short time. My idea of camping is being in a nice cozy cabin. Treasure your memories of Ed. I'm sure he was very special and a very godly man.

  10. I think you are amazing too! I love how you are keeping things going as normal as possible with your children and doing things that you always did with Ed and keeping his memory alive in that way.From past experience, many, if not all, of your memories will gradually return. I keep you in my prayers daily.

  11. A beautiful post!

    Making new memories while remembering the old. xx

  12. You are a super Mum, caring,thoughtful and practical. Life does go on but Ed and the good Lord have given you the tools to thrive. Keep making these wonderful memories for yourself and your family. God's blessings to you. Diane C x

  13. Oh my I read this and thought what a brave woman!! camping with 6 children..but then I remembered you homeschool and your with your children every day, so it's a level of interaction and busyness that's normal for you. I think a lot of woman today would crumple at the thought. It's such a joy to read your getting on with life and doing fun things with your children, that they experienced with their Dad too. I'm sure your dear husband would be so proud of you. ~ Blessings to you - Linda

  14. After my husband passed away from cancer, I asked the very same question - is a sudden death easier than a prolonged illness? I still don't know if either way is easier on those left behind. It is what it is I'm afraid. God in his mercy gave me the time with my husband to say goodbye. I wanted to say that the photo in front of the waterfall is stunning! It almost looks like a painting. It looks like it was a wonderful trip. Prayers for you and your family.

  15. My mother died when I was 13 after smoking destroyed her health. I never actually appreciated the fact she might not always be there despite numerous heart attacks and hospitalisations. My father died later in life 8 days after a cancer diagnosis. Both are devastating in their own way. As a child I was not prepared because I could not comprehend the alternative life without a mother. As an adult losing my Dad and caring for him I knew how hard the pain of loss would be. In the days when I lost my mother there was no help or counselling offered. I told almost no one because it was hard to talk about it. She died in the summer school vacation so no one saw the raw grief and I did not take time off school. If someone asked "What does your Mum think?" I would just tell them what my Dad thought.
    Trust in the remarkable resilience of your children.When I have endured hardship I have been amazed how the young can rise to the challenges. I just want to tell you that your, your children and extended family are an inspirational witness and brave beyond imagination. I know you may rage and grieve against this most terrible loss and the accompanying burdens of loneliness and additional responsibility in private and that is understandable. Please know that folk from far afield are thinking of you as you take these first tentative steps. I am reminded of a saying "I know not what the future holds but I know He who holds the future."

  16. Gina - you are an amazing woman and an inspiration to us all.

  17. Thank you for sharing your first steps in your different life...and reminding us how stubborn life is in requiring us to live it forward. There is simply no other way, and camping is some good medicine.

  18. Yay! I’m so glad you did this and that it worked. 😊
    I still think of you almost daily and pray for peace and comfort. Joy and fun too.

    We’ve been wanting to do the Skyline Parkway for some years now. So this was a nice “review” of it. Thanks.

  19. Gina, I love reading your posts. You are a brave lady. I am sure life isn't easy but your attitude about life is so positive but also realistic. thanks for sharing

  20. Gina, this made me so happy and put a big smile on my face. I am in complete awe of your strength, relience and positivity. You said it was crazy but aren’t the crazy things often the best? I bet this trip really did you and the kids a lot of good. You all deserve it. Much love.

  21. Gina - my husband and I returned to church today after a long absence (a Brethren church here in Maine) - one of our ministers, Nathan Meyers, talked about you and Ed this morning - I found it hard to hold back tears because I have been following your journey and knew instantly who he was talking about (Nathan attended church with you, he said). My husband, Mark, looked perplexed at me as I was clearly choking up and I quickly scribbled a note to him "Ed was the spouse of my favorite blogger" - Mark was not sure if I was remembering correct and I assured him I was. I showed him Ed's obituary after church (I could not remember the name of your blog, but Google helped me find that). Then to get a blog update in my email today made me smile and just realize how amazing God weaves us all together in beautiful ways. Please know that the Wales Brethren Fellowship, in Maine, was praying for you and your family today!! God bless!

  22. So good to hear how Ed very practically prepared you for life without him! How very loving.
    Also good to hear about your successful camping trip! I think it was a wise move and a brave, hopeful way to mark the start of your new life without Ed. I am still sad for you.
    I was with family over the weekend at my uncle's memorial service - with my aunt, the new widow, and with another aunt who lost her husband instantly to a heart attack when their children were quite young. I don't have a big point to this remark, other than thinking of you and of the people I know who have lost partners. . . my heart goes out to you.

  23. You and your family continue to be in my prayers and on our church prayer list. I am so glad you have the support of your family to help with projects and such. Knowing he loved to camp, I am sure this trip is what he would have wanted.

  24. What a beautiful post. So happy that you and the children were able to spend this quality time together. Your strength is such an inspiration and may God bless you abundantly as you take these next steps in your life. Thank you for sharing.

  25. I'll admit, Gina, I thought you were a bit crazy, too, to go camping solo and this quickly after saying "see you later" to your dear husband, but then as I continued reading...I changed my opinion. :-) To think how you were able to share the fun memories with your children of your and Ed's tent camping trips with your children and make new ones together as well! How healing! I am so proud of you and I know Ed would be, too! I'm so glad you took time to get away and soak up a new to-you part of God's beautiful creation! Continuing to pray for you on this journey...thank you for bravely sharing it with us and faithfully pointing to Jesus even in the pain! Love you, Gina! ~Eunice

  26. Wow! You, and our God Who fuels your stength, are amazing!!! Such courage!

  27. Gina, I've praying for your family as you adjust to a new normal, and seeing this post made me grateful to see the grace of our Lord over your lives.
    As hard as it is, I'm glad you are making happy memories with the children and finding joy in the daily life. You are still in our prayers. God bless you

  28. What a beautiful positive post your children are
    credit to you and Ed.
    Praying for you all.
    love to you from Sheree.

  29. So glad to see you making memories with your children! I can just hear them as adults saying... Remember the camping trip we took after dad died, how reassuring and healing it was!
    Not my own experience, but I was told of a widow who was a care giver to an ill husband, she said she 1st grieved for the husband she just lost and then for the husband as he was when healthy.
    Praying for you.

  30. Blessings to you Gina. I did it with one, you're doing it with 6. Enjoy these precious times with your children. Keisha and I made some very special memories together on adventures we enjoyed. Some thought I too was crazy but I wouldn't want to give up those times we had. Keep looking to Jesus for your strength - he's promised to be a husband to the widow and father to the fatherless. I can attest to his faithfulness. Hoping to connect with you soon.

  31. I see Ed in your son sitting by the fire with his sunglasses on his head. :-) I am sure it is frustrating not to remember the Ed you married as much as the Ed of the last months/weeks. However, perhaps a clear memory of the "real Ed" would be too painful right now. Perhaps your soul needs to feel the relief of caring for healthy children instead of a dying husband. Like someone else said, it is what it is. And God is with you in it. Praying for you! Sarah Sauder

  32. Hi Gina, It's wonderful how Ed made sure you knew how to handle the finances while he was still there to help you. When my father in law suddenly died, my husband's mom had no idea how to properly manage the money and it made her grief and life doubly hard.

    I'm continuing to pray for you. ❤


  33. I'm thankful you have had a community/family of support and also that you are able to have a getaway with your children. Prayers for you. Chris W.

  34. Dear Gina,
    I hope the change of scenery was good for you all. Praying for you all at this time for good memories and healing hearts.
    blessings to you all
    shelley p
    from over the pond

  35. Wow that was brave of you but I'm sure one day you all will look back and be glad for the memories made. God is good even in the hard times. Your 6 children need a strong mama! Prayers

  36. Meghan said. Naturally you are most comforted by Ed in being around your children. Since the day that God formed them in the womb a part of you and your Ed lives on. Our children are a living part of us that God uses in our walk with Him. The bible shows us time and time again how He views our children as a present reminder of us. May God bless you and comfort you.


I love to hear from you.


Related Posts with Thumbnails