How I’m Doing (Written by Angie)
I would like to thank you for all of the emails and cards that have been sent. I have read and truly appreciate each one. I am sorry for my lack of response to the emails.. it’s been difficult to know what to say.
But, the question of how I’m doing has been posed a few times, so I thought I would try to write. I don’t have an answer that anyone probably wants to hear. I feel like most people want to hear or are hoping that I’m doing alright. I’m getting better. I’m finding hope and peace in the Lord. The truth… I’m not. I’m not alright. My hope in the Lord does not give me peace or comfort in each moment that I’m alive… it only gives me comfort that my hope doesn’t have to be here in this life. For me to try to “be happy” or “be okay” minimizes the depth and reality of the pain I face each day. It minimizes how much I love Will, what he was in my life, the intense suffering, the terribleness that death is. So what I am is sad and mad and I miss Will with an excruciating intensity with every breath I take. The hell of this past year didn’t end with Will’s passing. I re-live the hell each day, each moment, only now I live it alone.
We live in a world where we all want to be happy. We want to feel safe from harm and pain and grief. We want those around us to be happy and fun and to enjoy life. Life is more fun, the days are easier that way. But, what do you do when you’re the one who reminds everyone that we’re all going to die…that your world can go dark in an instant…that there is no protection from it and no one is exempt? What do you do when you know that the moment you walk into the room the dynamic will change…laughter and fun will turn to heaviness and grief, unless you put on a happy face so that others don’t have to experience your reality and go where they don’t want to go? What do you do when you look in the mirror and all you see is pain? And, what do you do when you feel like you might for the first time ever, actually see the world for what it is…how the majority of the world lives each day, instead of through the American lens of a “long, healthy, happy” life? It’s lonely. It’s a deep, painful loneliness. It’s a loneliness that makes me miss and grieve Will even more than I already did, if that were even possible. It’s a loneliness that I feel like only he would understand as I would cry and tell him of this new world I live in, the one without him. Because he knew how to sit with me in my darkness like no one else. He wasn’t afraid of it. He wasn’t trying to protect “a happy life” from it. He knew of the deep darkness this world holds in a very real way, so he wasn’t afraid of it in others, in me.
So, what do you do when you feel like you live in a completely different world then almost everyone around you?
The lives Will and I were living already looked quite different than the norm. Will was brilliant. He could have done anything he wanted. We could have lived a quieter, calmer, maybe easier or less stressful life if we had chosen a different path, but Will (and I) never ordered our lives so that we would live “long, healthy, happy” lives. Will wanted to live, really live. This past year he fought harder than anyone (myself included) could ever comprehend, but it wasn’t just to enjoy life longer. It was because he believed he had more work to do. His goal, our goal, was never to “protect” our lives. He told me when we were dating that he didn’t think he would live to see 30 yrs. That completely freaked me out and I would think about it often, especially when 30 got closer. Will didn’t make decisions to live life longer or safer. He made decisions in an effort to pursue excellence at whatever cost to himself because he believed so deeply in what he did and in the people around him and in the God he served. When I met him, my dreams were not couched in “safety and security,” but I also lived with a lot of fear. Those two together collided quite often and left me confused and emotional. With Will, the fear that I lived with became less because what I really wanted, I saw him live. Marrying him was not at all “settling down.” It was jumping on a roller coaster with many highs and many lows that sometimes left me feeling sick and other times exhilarated. Whether we were in a low or high or somewhere in the middle, we were always together. Many times, Will was asked about getting a “real job” or “putting a deadline on chasing his dream.” But, it wasn’t about any of that to us. It wasn’t just a dream. It wasn’t about trying to achieve some great success. We were just living our lives, at least trying to. We were living them with a mindset that did not include length. Of course, if we could have picked we would have chosen to live a long life together, but that wasn’t our first thought. That wasn’t the thought that ordered our lives. So, now I sit here, with this worldview where we already felt alone at times, but had each other and a hope we held on to. Only now, facing that same direction, the veil has been completely torn down for me. And, all the fear that I’ve ever had is gone. I now see the world through the eyes of suffering and pain and I’m not afraid of it. My greatest fear happened…I have nothing left to be afraid of. That changes the way I view myself in this world. It changes the way I view others who are hurting and suffering.
It’s not that I don’t ever want to laugh again or have any type of happiness or enjoyment again, but those things for me come with grief. I can’t laugh without immediate sadness that Will isn’t here to laugh with me or enjoy anything without wanting to enjoy it with him. I don’t want to ever be “okay” with this because it’s just not okay. But, who wants to be this person? Who wants to have the veil ripped down? And who wants to be around someone like this…the person that brings down the room? My guess is no one. No one who can’t enter into that darkness and understand where the hope is and what the hope looks like. The hope that for me, that keeps me breathing each day, just isn’t here on earth, but is still a hope that is real. I don’t blame anyone who can’t or doesn’t want to enter in. I think the darkness can be so much darker than we would ever think. I know mine is and as much as I would have hoped that I could or would enter in with someone else, I know that I never did until this last year with Will and I don’t know if I could have with anyone else. It was a deep, unconditional love and togetherness that made the darkness not seem so dark at the time. But, I just don’t think we were created to experience the kind of darkness that exists in the world. I think that is why I had to make the choice to shut down all of my emotions this year just so I could function and be what Will needed. And, why it’s really hard now to not live my life in the third person, disassociating myself from what I face each day. And, why I think it’s so hard to sit with each other in the darkest of dark places and not be afraid of it. I just don’t think we were made for this. It is too much to bear. Maybe that’s depressing to be around and to hear…I doubt that it’s what anyone really wants, but it’s real.
And, the hope…The hope is a real hope in the world where there is no darkness to sit in. And, in a hope where more times than not we try to enter in with each other to truly love, knowing that the darkness may be much darker than we think but the darkness may also not seem so dark if we’re in it together. My hope is real in the midst of a deep darkness that is just as real.
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Christopher LakeDecember 14, 2013
I don’t know if you remember me; I’m the blond-haired guy in the wheelchair whom you and Will talked with and gave a ride to and from church, from time to time… I can’t believe this, but I just learned tonight that Will passed away during the summer. I am so, so sorry. I am also sorry that Will and you and I fell out of touch… A few years ago, I lost most of my friends in the DC church circle that the three of us used to be in.. but I knew that you and Will would still talk to me and spend time with me, if you were living in the DC area… I wish that the three of us had re-connected before he passed. I am crushed tonight… crushed for your loss and crushed for how people can lose touch all too easily.. and I completely hear you about not being alright about Will’s death. I’m not alright either. I’m crying and wishing that God had given him so much more time to live and love in this world… I am thankful for how Will and you both made a difference in my life at CHBC. Please feel free to get in touch with me through Facebook if you want. (You are still on my friends list there.) I’m so very sorry that I didn’t hear about Will’s passing until now. I would have been in touch if I had known. I’m praying for you.
StephanieNovember 7, 2013
You and Will borrowed our leather recliner. I wish I had some profound beautiful words to type here….I really don’t. I am so, so sorry for your loss and deep pain.
That leather recliner sits in our family room. I just want you to know that for the rest of my life, when I sit down in that chair…I will be reminded of you and of Will and of your beautiful, sweet relationship. I saw a love in you both (for each other) that I have honestly never witnessed. I only saw you that one time and I will never, ever forget it.
SharlieNovember 6, 2013
You are very brave for posting your true experiences, rather than what you feel others are hoping to hear. I barely knew the 2 of you as a couple, but I knew you both from a distance. I used to blare Will’s Eclipse album in high school every morning and admire you as woman with a naturally pure heart. When I read of Will’s illness and eventual death, I wept for you both.
Reading what you’ve written hear, I relate very much to this dark place you describe, as I experienced it after Annie Carter died. We were incredibly close, and when she died, I entered this darkness. Your words sum up my experience: “My greatest fear happened…I have nothing left to be afraid of. That changes the way I view myself in this world. It changes the way I view others who are hurting and suffering.” This is a miserable, excruciatingly painful existence…but its wounds open the heart and mind to tolerate the pain of others.
Misery is a natural part of existence. It is something we must all endure and should therefore not feel ashamed of. You are now a veteran of this condition, and with that experience, I guarantee you will be better equipped for something which lies ahead- even in THIS life. You are too beautiful a person to collapse. You will arise again more beautiful than before and once again find meaning in this life.
For me, it took years, and honestly I’m still not the same 9 years later. Because of loving and losing Annie, though, I am a more sensitive person, which comes in very handy as a therapist. I think about life in terms of what I can do to reduce suffering for myself and others. I have said before that Annie always saw the light through darkness, rather than around it. Well, now I do to, and frankly, I prefer it.
You are fortunate, Angie, for having been so close to Will and still having so much life to live. My advice is to allow yourself to grieve fully now, while reminding yourself that you WILL once again live.
Brooke ConnallyNovember 6, 2013
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.
Rejoice in that day
and leap for joy
is your reward
in heaven. “
Becky MillerNovember 6, 2013
“You’ll Get Through This” by Max Lucado
JillianNovember 5, 2013
Thank you so much for sharing. This morning I was trying to write an email to a friend to let her know how I’m doing after my son passed away and we are now faced with infertility. This is as far as I got to her question of my prayer life…”It’s not just that I’m angry or bitter, although I suppose I still am….it’s that I have nothing to say to Him. Because I doubt that anything I say makes any difference anyways.” I don’t know if time heals the wounds. But I do know that I am different for it. In some ways for the better, but mostly I would rather be who I was before. If my crackly throat can utter a prayer, I will say one for you friend.
Sarah (Kelli's friend)November 5, 2013
Angie – If I lived near you, I would wish to sit and just be sad with you.
Carol & BradNovember 5, 2013
Angie. We think of you often. Although we are “getting on” with our lives, you are always in our thoughts. Yes it makes us sad to know that you are in pain but I would happily walk into your space and be in the sadness especially if I thought it would help. Life changes quickly and I imagine you are facing many paths. I’ve been to that dark place you are at and it took me many years to see that my journey wasn’t over. I rode it out and remapped my future, scared and taking chances. You will achieve some level of normality but don’t let anyone push you into their “happy” world. Take it step by step. You are a wonderful person and I appreciate your continued updates whether happy or not, you are cared about deeply.
Poppy Shell (Haley's mom)November 5, 2013
ALOHA: I have left you a brief message before. Your brother came to visit us on Kauai last year, when he had a brief break from work and needed, well, a break. So, knowing John, I’ve kept reading about all you’ve been through. I am the mom whose 21-year-old son Ethan died suddenly three years ago (natural cause, a heart problem we didn’t know about). Many of the feelings and thoughts you’ve expressed here, I’ve gone through too. It’s different, I know, losing a spouse – who you hope is your life companion…and losing an adult child, who lives his own life and is no longer with you everyday. But, they are both terrible, sad, awful situations. What I wanted to tell you, is that if you too need a break, my big house on Kauai is a great place to get away, spend time alone or with new friends (me and my husband) or just relax on the beach or hike a tropical mountain path. Ask John, he had a relaxing yet adventurous visit here. We will be gone during Christmas time, but come now…or at the end of January or Feb or ? So, this is an offer, if you no need, no problem. Send me an email if you want more info. Poppy
margauxNovember 4, 2013
Hey Angie, Just a few nights ago, I started reading Tim Keller’s book, “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering.” I’m actually only on the first page, but I don’t think I need to read the book now because you’ve pretty much said it all. I know the last thing you need is the burden of explaining yourself and trying to help us understand, but I am (selfishly) grateful that God has used you in this way. I know that I am forever changed because of Will’s life and legacy, but also because of how you and others have shared the pain and truth and that particular hope along the way. In any case, here’s the opening blurb from Keller’s book: “I think that taking life seriously means something like this: that whatever man does on this planet has to be done in the lived truth of the terror of creation… of the rumble of panic underneath everything. Otherwise it is false. –Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death”.
JohnNovember 4, 2013
Thank you for being real and honest and allowing us into the reality of life. Of your life, of our lives. I’m so heartbroken you are walking through this. But you are walking, and I am thankful for that. Even in your brokenness, you walk, you cling to a greater hope – a hope that is greater than what most of us are hoping for (as in this world). My favorite line you shared, “My hope in the Lord does not give me peace or comfort in each moment that I’m alive… it only gives me comfort that my hope doesn’t have to be here in this life.” I love you Angie.
Steph StoreyNovember 4, 2013
Hey Angie –
Just wanted you to know, you are not alone.
When I was 18, I was at the bottom of a very dark, deep well of my own – different from yours, but I felt very much the same. As I battled depression and crippling fear, people used to wonder why I wasn’t “okay,” why I couldn’t just “forget it,” why I couldn’t see that “it was over. It’s not like it’s still happening to you now.” “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” they said with a smug smile on their face as though they were helping (while I fought off an urge to punch them between the eyes).
And the one that I hated the most: “You’ll get over it.” I always imagined “it” as a pile of shit that they just expected me to jump over – as though I would take a flying leap, land safely on the other side, and then that pile of steaming manure would just be “behind me,” like some sort of metaphorical road kill, a minimal bump in my journey through life. I knew there was no way I was going to “get over it,” but at some point I did start to realize that I MIGHT, just might, get THROUGH it, digging, clawing, stomping my way through a suffocating pile of bull dung. Once I’d been in the middle of that darkness, there was no way I was going to come out the same – unscathed and smelling like a field of lilacs. But I MIGHT, just might, come out on the other side – covered in a thick layer of excrement that I no doubt would carry with me forever.
Being “okay” isn’t possible because being “okay” implies some sort of comparison to who you were BEFORE. Your frame of reference is gone. You are gone. You’ll never be okay, in relation to who you were – because who you were is no longer here. You won’t EVER get “over it.” The people who tell you you will, don’t know what they are talking about.
But I pray every day that you will one day find your way to the other side of the compost heap, crawl out, shit still clinging to your skin, and think, “I’m through.”
ChristiNovember 4, 2013
Thank you for writing this. As hard as it is to say, I’m glad you did. Thank you for the window in. I can’t help but think how much I hear Job’s words echoed in yours. Thank for the honesty and courage you chose in writing.
Kathy B.November 4, 2013
Pain and darkness of grief are so very real, my heart aches for you. Hold fast to hope. Sending prayers of comfort and peace to you.
Suzette RiveraNovember 4, 2013
Thank you. I am a distant prayer friend in New York. Acquaintance with you is only through the website shared by a relative friend of yours who asked for prayer for Will a while back. I say thank you because I have been silently grieving the loss of both my mom and dad — mom an actual passing away a year ago and dad alive but no longer the dad I have known all my life. The pain of losing them is very painful and I am just now starting to accept that this pain will never go away. So reading what you say about the darkness, how present it is……… I am in a similar place. I breathe deeply, I thank God for all things, I thank Him for being present in the darkness, in my grief, with me. He doesn’t take the grief away. Its there when I wake up the next day. But I live with it. I remember when things were very different. I breathe, I sigh, I smile, sadly remembering when we were all together, happy for the remembering, but unable to change what is my now. Thank you for saying all that you said.
Lori CaveNovember 3, 2013
As I sit reading your update, the only thing I can think about is how raw your pain is. And how you ARE living life, just from a position that we all fear, or at least I do. Your words are powerful and eloquent at the same time. Your love for Will shines in each and every sentence, at the expense of your anquish.
I admire your honesty and your willingness to just lay it all out there. I am still sorry for your loss of Will, and will continue to pray for your peace. In the mean time, I will read your posts and admire the amazing power you have with your words.
Through His Love,