Our lives were forever changed the day we lost Corey. He was an amazing man who loved the Lord and his family with all that he was. The pain of losing him is like no other. Our only comfort comes from knowing we will see him again someday.

I have moved the slideshow played at Corey's service to it's own post page above, titled "Corey's Memorial Service - August 10, 2010"

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Corey and Chuck Norris...What do they have in common? They are both amazing!

I know I made some of you cry with my last post, so this one is pretty much guaranteed to give you a laugh...        I was looking through pictures yesterday to find some of Corey to put on FB and wanted to share a fun memory of Corey that these pictures brought to mind.  Corey and I had the chance to see Chuck Norris, (ahhumm...I mean Mike Huckabee) and hear Chuck speak on behalf of Huckabee at a political rally back in January of 2008. Corey wasn't on FB in 2008 but if he had been, these pictures would have made it on his page. Corey was beyond thrilled at the chance to see Chuck in person (I think he grew up watching Walker, Texas Ranger) and in preparation began amusing himself by looking up various "Chuck Norris Facts". These are hilarious statements that fans have come up with to attest to Chuck's amazingness...The dictionary doesn't think that is a real word...but that's because it is another name for Chuck Norris ;) So, to show his love and loyalty to Chuck, aka Walker (Texas Ranger), Corey decided to create his own Chuck Norris Fact and made a T-shirt with his fact prominently displayed. He really got into it even buying a kit at Staples that would allow him to print out his design on our inkjet printer...I wish I had a better, more head on shot of the front but am thankful just to have this one...I've never been able to find the T-shirt itself :(  Not sure what he ended up doing with it...I don't think he took it off and threw it up on stage at Chuck during his speech...I know he wanted to, but I would've remembered that if it had really happened ;)
     Corey's design was a picture of a Brake for Moose road sign that you may have seen on the side of a NH or Maine highway...Since Chuck would be visiting our state, Corey decided to incorporate it into his fact. Here it is:  
Brake for Chuck - It will save your life. Hundreds of collisions. 
and the most important part: 
"Chuck Fact 298: Chuck Norris does not look both ways when crossing the street. He just roundhouse kicks any oncoming traffic." 

Chuck Norris and his wife...Chuck looks pretty invincible to me...all dressed in black...
which leads me to another Chuck fact I found online (there are hundreds of them! just google it)...
"Chuck Norris invented black. In fact, he invented the entire spectrum of visible light. Except pink. Tom Cruise invented pink."
and we can all use to laugh more...
"Chuck Norris can speak Russian...in Chinese."
"Chuck Norris doesn't call the wrong number. You answer the wrong phone."
"Chuck Norris and Superman once fought each other on a bet.  The loser had to start wearing his underwear on the outside of his pants."
And now a couple of Chuck's favorite facts about himself: 
"Chuck Norris is suing NBC, claiming Law and Order are trademarked names for 
his left and right legs."
And finally...
"When Chuck Norris does a push-up, he isn't lifting himself up. He's pushing the earth down. "

Monday, August 5, 2013

3 years without you...through love and grief

     Three years ago today. I think that will continue to be the hardest thing each year on August 5th...the thought of another year of time separating Corey from our lives and the fact that memories do fade.
     New beginnings just 3 months ago...a new husband from the hand of God...a page has turned in this world (song title that was sung at our wedding)...I have so much to be thankful for, and I am. But, I will never be the same or look at life the same having experienced this pain called grief.  People who have lost someone so close to their heart tell me the pain will never go completely away...even after a remarriage, and I would expect that would be the case. So, even 3 years out and with the start of a new chapter in my life, the grief still rears its ugly head at times - at times. Thankfully, the grief swells come with less frequency as the days and now years pass, but when they do come the pain still puts a physical ache in my chest that feels as painful as it did in the early days of my grief journey.
     In my days dating Kevin, as I contemplated a future with him, a friend helped me gain a different perspective on Corey's death as it pertained to Abi and Ali's loss of their daddy and the thought of a new man coming into that role in their lives.  She said how blessed they are to not just have had one earthly daddy who really loves them but to have the blessing of 2. So many people don't even get the chance to have one loving relationship with their father and my girls get to experience the love of two in their lifetime. So that is also how I choose to look at my marriages...both huge blessings that God is using to enrich my life. Some people don't even get the opportunity to experience one loving and satisfying marriage and I'm getting the opportunity twice. Of course, I wouldn't have asked for Corey's death, for his pain, and the pain that has come with losing him but since this is the hand I've been dealt I will continue to trust that God is working all things in my life together for my good, not my harm...to give me a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).
     I've joked with many of you that I met Kevin because God dropped him on my roof..I'll explain more about that in a minute but first a little background info.  In the spring following Corey's passing I made the decision to have the 2nd level of our home (previously just open attic space) finished. After speaking with multiple contractors I made my choice. Kevin, one of the crew's carpenters, walked up my driveway the first day of the job and put his hand out to shake mine as we said hello and exchanged names. Over the following days and weeks (he was at our house every day for 3 straight weeks!) several things drew me to Kevin...He reminds me of a character in a children's book (this is a good thing) that I read to the girls called, "The Princess and the Kiss".  It's a story about purity and marriage where the princess struggles to choose a husband from the various suitors who call at the castle - Prince Treasure Chest, Prince Peacock (very proud), and Prince Romance...Seeing what was in their hearts made her turn them all away. This is the description of the one she later chooses to marry: "The next day, a common man came to the castle. He asked to see the princess. The man was dressed in farmers' clothes and did not look like the suitors who had lately come to call. Strong and handsome, his hands were rough from working in the king's fields, and his face was tanned from the sun...kindness was in his manner." Humble is the single best word that comes to my mind to describe this common man. Humility is one of the first things that drew me to Kevin. Kindness is his manner. He has a tender heart but is strong in his convictions. He puts his trust in God and desires to live a life that is pleasing to his Heavenly Father. He is a gentleman who desires to protect and provide for the girls and I. He has a servant's heart and is always looking for ways to help someone out. He is a hard worker, dependable and committed.  He loves my girls, and it is a sweet, genuine love. (And despite still really missing their daddy, they adore Kevin and have a beautiful relationship with him.) Kevin has cried with me in my grief and has supported me in ways that one friend described as divine, in that he was God-sent. I know that most men would not be able to handle coming into my situation and handle it with such grace. He has allowed me the space to grieve and our relationship has given me a nudge on several occasions to move forward in my life and in my healing. I remember making the hard decision that it was time to stop wearing my wedding/engagement rings. It was the day of our first date...just 3 weeks after we had met. God knew the time was right and he helped me take those hard steps of change, time and time again.
    Now, back to the roof...days before our first date, before either of us had expressed interest in the other, Kevin was working up on the back side of my roof. I was sitting on a swing as one of the girls pushed me. I watched him up on a ladder (actually Corey's ladder) taking apart the chimney piping that Corey had put in place a year or two earlier.  (Hard as I tried, I just couldn't make the chimney placement work with the floor plan for the construction project, so I made the decision to remove it altogether along with our wood stove). The image of Corey on that same ladder in that same spot came vividly to my mind. He posed for a picture for me just after he cut the hole in the roof. He was inside the house with his head sticking out. It made for a funny shot that we both laughed about later. He was so pleased with the job he did putting that chimney in himself. I almost started to cry that day sitting there on the swing watching Kevin take it all down and close up the hole Corey had cut.  Little did I know then that God would choose to start using Kevin to patch up and heal the hole, the wound Corey's death had left in my heart.  It was a memorable moment for me when I saw what couldn't be seen by another's eyes - the possibility of what was happening up on my roof that day and in my heart. Having the desire to be married again one day, if that was God's plan for my life, I remember thinking, could he be the one? I'm so glad the answer God gave was yes!

     And so the story of love and grief continues for me and it is so bittersweet...as life goes on, please don't hesitate to share with me the things you remember and/or miss about Corey.  Even though life moves on and I have another love in my life now, it still helps to hear that people love and remember Corey and the wonderful person he was. It helps to hear his name spoken. It's okay if what you say makes me cry...they are healthy healing tears. Feel feel to use Corey's Facebook page to post things/stories you remember about him. There have been a few people who have in the past year and it has really blessed my heart and it's nice for others to be able to share in those memories too.
     I can't recall where, but I copied down this little blurb written to those grieving the loss of a loved one. It has been especially helpful to me (I promise I'll try to find its author) I used brackets to indicate where I added Corey's name or other ideas.

"Take the time to grieve so completely, so fully, that you never have to feel guilty that you didn't; guilty that you let life take over and you 'moved on' too soon. Your grief, and the way you share it, helps us to realize that it's not about the grieving process but rather the person you lost. It's about [Corey]. Your grief [often times seen with tears] reminds us that there was a [Corey - that he lived], and that he is so special and deserves everything you do for him, including grieve, [including sharing memories of him, speaking his name]. If others cannot experience all that [Corey] is by way of him, they can still do it through you. No matter how busy life is, he was here - and no amount of time without him takes away from the beauty of his life."

Sunday, August 5, 2012

More memories...

Here's another entry written by Corey's friend, Jeff Collins. I think this took place back in their high school days.

One day Corey was riding with us on a day of snowboarding adventure. The season was spring. A Twix bar someone had brought had become melted in the warmth of a sun showered car. We gave up on the Twix. Corey had other plans. At his request, we pulled to the side in a construction zone where he proceeded to harvest the also softened road tar that was to be found holding a roadside reflector to the pavement. (I'm sure you've seen these in road constructions sites. They are usually used to mark the lanes before they have painted the center lines. The reflectors stick up straight like little tabs coming off the pavement.) Corey built a sticky little matrix of road tar and adhered it to the Twix bar. After a few miles of this matrix adhering the Twix bar to the oncoming wind side of the passenger's side mirror, the Twix was hardened again and ready for this crafty passenger's enjoyment...Corey!

And this one was written by Corey's friend Cliff Collins (Jeff's brother):

I have so many memories with Corey and most involve some of his impromptu craftsmanship. One day, upon returning from snowboarding at Sugarbush, VT, it began to rain.  When Corey hit the wiper switch...nothing. So, we pulled over to witness the magic that was Corey's ingenuity. At that time snowboard leashes (safety straps) were about 2 feet long. Corey detached the wiper arm from the failed motor, tied the two together with one leash and used another at each side to make "manual assist wipers." We made it, but that's not to say we could see! Fortunately, the ride was quiet thanks to the snowboard binding straps that he had attached to help the doors shut tightly, eliminating that annoying whistle!

And here are some others:

We enjoyed playing softball with Corey. We knew we could always count on him for 3 things:
1. He'd be there.
2. He'd bring the orange drink cooler with Gatorade and cups.
3. He'd always have a positive, caring attitude.
Although he wasn't playing for the Journey anymore, we still enjoyed seeing him at the Grace team games - still with his cooler and great attitude :)

From Shirley who we went to church with at the Journey:
Corey was a great guy; so smart and so very funny. Corey helped bring Randy and I closer to the Lord, especially Randy. Corey gave me a CD that showed us evidence of the existence of God. Randy used to ask, "Why should I believe?" Now he says, "How can you NOT believe?" I'll always hold Corey in my heart.

From Holly at Liberty (coworker):
He is one of the sweetest, nicest people I have known at Liberty. He always had a wonderful smile and will be missed dearly.

One of the best gifts that was given to me after Corey died was from one of his Liberty coworkers, Brian. I had never met Brian but he kindly introduced himself via email just days after Corey passed away and continued his correspondence with me throughout the first year following Corey's death. Sometimes he'd just check in to see how the girls and I were doing or he would send us cards in the mail for different holidays just to let the girls and I know we were thought of and Corey was remembered. He also shared a few photos he had snapped while sitting in the same row of cubicles at Liberty with Corey as well as many stories and things he enjoyed about Corey.

Corey's Recycling Bin photo
This photo show's Corey's - offbeat - humor. (just my speed!) Liberty   distributed a bunch of refrigerator magnets with empowering (and lame) statements such as "if the printer is out of paper, I refill it." About this same time, someone carelessly tossed a used battery into a recycling bin and that somehow caused it to catch on fire. Well, shortly after this episode, a new knick-knack appeared on Corey's desk - complete with miniature recycling bin, an empowering (and lame) magnet & cardboard flames. It was classic Corey. This was actually the first time the digital camera came out regarding your (offbeat) husband.
Special note from Jill:  This recycling bin was later brought home and given to the girls to be used as a bath toy  ;)

Ali and Abi's Daddy
We heard many stories about Ali and Abi. One went skiing with him last winter (and was quite good!). One enjoys being a princess. Both are dancing ballerinas. We heard about how pretty they are. We heard about the fire-works display that he carefully prepared for them for the 4th of July.  (we made him account for each finger and toe afterwards) We saw their photos and drawings on his desk. Corey took much pleasure in being their Dad. He loved to talk about Ali and Abi.
Picture taken in Dec. 2009

Corey's Petri Dish Corey's desk would not quite pass a health-inspection. At any given time, you could find a partially eaten pizza crust, the stale remains of a cheeseburger or green-colored potato chips. Well, that may be a LITTLE exaggerated, but...you get the idea. (He would laugh if he read this) We used to accuse him of intentionally growing bacteria on his desk. He had his pride, though. No amount of ribbing could shame him into clearing the remnants until HE was ready! - a random follow-up: We enjoyed getting him to laugh; his laugh was contagious.

Corey's Health Food' or (as he put it) 'The Last Meal This was taken the day that Corey was moving from our aisle into the "IOC."  As he came back from the cafeteria...proudly juggling the Coke, the cup with Ice, and the ever-present cheese-burger...I halted him, pushed my seat back, and snapped the photo.  It was at that time, that Corey descibed it as the prisoner's 'last meal' in our row.  Despite its red-eye and other imperfections, I like this photo.  The grin on his face makes me chuckle every time I look at it.  I should also add:  a bunch of us 'mainframe dinosaurs' were disappointed when Corey moved to the "IOC."  His presence added a lot to our aisle.  People liked Corey.
Picture taken in March 2010
More from Brian:
Corey's humor: It didn't take us long to discover that Corey had a sense of humor after he moved into our aisle. He could take a 'ribbing' as the young young wipper-snapper. And he could certainly reciprocate in kind. His humor could be directed towards other (playfully), but it could also be directed back to himself - a trait far too uncommon w/ some of the Liberty Mutual staff. His desk was alway decorated with knick-knacks that could make you laugh outright - or, just make you want to play with them (and get addicted to them)...like this collection of little magnetic, metal balls that he was always reshaping.  Corey' s humor was contagious. 

His tender heart: When Corey's dad spoke (at the memorial service) of his tender heart, it was a "Eureka" moment. I hadn't had that thought per-se. Yet I could easily see that. I could easily picture Corey's deep sensitivity and concern for others even as a child. I think that I had just responded to that trait without really recognizing it. It was a part of him that you just found yourself responding to. And liking.
Corey was also private. He would be there for others, but didn't readily jump in to talk about himself. The net result: when he did share of himself, you felt a little honored.

The Theologian: A couple of days before Christmas last year, Corey sent me a link to an NPR show called "The Socratic Method." In this particular show, the central question was: can there be one, true religion? I lay down on my (covered with cat hair) sofa, and listened to the show. Twice. And afterwards, Corey and I had a couple of emails about it.
This was my introduction to the introspective and analytic side of Corey's thinking. And it was probably the biggest eye-openner to me about your husband. I had had no idea of the depth of his thinking and it amazed / impressed me tremendously. In many ways, I think of this attribute as one of his most special. And the loss of that grieves me so very much. I had - and continue to have - much respect and honor for that husband of yours, Jill.

Many thanks Brian! I will cherish these "gems" for years to come and I know they will give Abi and Ali a better sense of who their daddy was as they grow older.  Thanks for being such a good friend to both Corey and to me!

Gone for Biscuits

As a way to honor Corey on this 2-year anniversary of his passing, I thought I would take some time to share some entries from the journal that people contributed to at his memorial service. If you were there you might remember that we had a book available for people to share stories or memories of Corey.

This first one is dear to my heart because the story goes beyond the pages of this precious book. Corey had a group of friends from high school that he enjoyed snowboarding with. Over the years beginning in high school they made several trips to Tuckerman Ravine located on Mount Washington where they would hike 3 miles to the floor of the ravine with snowboards and gear strapped on their backs. This entry is about one of those trips and was written by Michael Gatti, titled:   
 "Biscuits, biscuits, biscuits."

One of my fondest memories of Corey revolves around one of our many trips to Tuckerman Ravine. Having spent the day hiking and riding the bowl (of the ravine), we retired to the lean-to. Several in our group had not packed wisely, food-wise, and bellies were rumbling. Corey suddenly declared that he wanted beans and biscuits, and that he would hike back down to the car (a solid hour and a half, 3-mile hike), get his giant camp stove, go shopping (10 miles away), hike back up (another 2 hours) and make beans and biscuits. We, of course, thought he was crazy and wished him well, and went to bed hungry. Later that night we were awakened by a clanging and a rustling. Thinking an animal was about to get in, we were all wide awake and alert when Corey popped his head in the lean-to and asked, “Who wants biscuits?” What I remember most is his chant of “Biscuits, biscuits, biscuits” as he headed down the hill. Oh, and he made orange juice from a can with a duct tape funnel.(that is SO Corey!)

In May of 2011, the guys headed back up to Tuckerman to leave a memorial of sorts in Corey’s honor.  Here’s are some pictures:  
For those of you who don't know, Corey's first name is Jay but he has always gone by his middle name. 

  Front: Mike and Cliff,  Back: Steve and Jeff

               Steve, Jeff, Corey and Cliff ready to hike up to the ravine in 
April of 2005

Thursday, August 2, 2012

silent August night

     This Sunday, August 5th, will be the second anniversary of Corey's passing. It has been a tough few weeks. Two weeks ago we celebrated what would have been Corey's 37th birthday while at our annual vacation spot in Maine. We spent 3 family vacations there while Corey was still with us and it became a special spot for our family. We always went the week of Corey's birthday (July 20th) and typically enjoyed his favorite meal, Mexican, for his birthday dinner. Just 12 days after arriving home from what was, what I believed to be, our best family vacation yet, Corey left his life here with us and went to be with Jesus.
      It has been just about a year since my last blog post. I have started posts on several occasions since then and have struggled to publish them. It feels harder now to write about my grief. My thoughts feel scattered, and I just can't seem to put a post together. I think I just don't feel much like writing about the pain of my loss anymore, and despite knowing there is no standard timeline for grief, I really had hoped to be further along in this process by this point. There have been some really big blessings this year for the girls and I, but the waves of grief have continued to roll and being a single mom has brought many moments of feeling overwhelmed with all I have to manage and feeling insufficient for the task. I know God has been and will continue to give me the strength to do what He asks me to do, but most of the time His strength is not something I can feel or see in myself. I just have to trust it's there and that can be very hard. I know God will never leave me but most of the time faith isn't about how you feel or what you can see. It's about what you know to be true. Aside from God's presence, I am alone in my grief journey, and I think as time has moved on I have felt that loneliness to a greater degree. (Please know, by alone I do not mean unsupported. I have had wonderful family and friends in my life to help me get through this, but no one else can "be in my shoes" and experience my emotions and the pain of my grief with me). Life for me and for others continues to move beyond Corey and beyond the life I had with him, and that is so painful. His name does not come up as much in conversations now and it takes a more deliberate effort to keep the memory of him alive for Abi and Ali. His birthday felt harder for me this year and there are hints that this second anniversary is going to be harder for me than last year. It's painful just to think about the fact that we have been missing him and living without him for 2 years. It doesn't feel like that much time has passed.
      Corey passed away on a Thursday night, so in a sense tonight is another kind of anniversary for me (with Sunday being the actual date). It has been hard not to relive the nightmare of this week 2 years ago. To think about the "lasts" I had with Corey. The last kiss he gave me before leaving for work that last Thursday. The thought that he already knew what he was planning to do and knew that was the last time he would kiss me goodbye. I remember the afternoon phone call I had with him as I was heading out of town for the night to pick up the girls. I remember feeling the need and being intentional about saying 'I love you' as we ended our conversation.  And then there was that dreadful final phone conversation when he called me one last time to tell me good-bye.
     I found a poem a couple of months back (ironically, the poem began the chapter titled, 'August') that brought me back to the moment after that phone call. The moment when I stood outside of my mom's RV trailer in the darkness of night under the coverage of trees (I had gone outside to take his call because my mom and the girls were asleep inside and my reception was cutting out).  I remember kneeling down in the dirt and pine needles to pray and plead God to spare Corey's life; to let him live. I remember feeling a calm in the midst of my fear; a peace at the thought of Corey being in God's presence and free from his struggles and pain. It was such a strange mix of emotions. I remember wondering if Corey was watching me from above as I knelt praying desperately for him to live. I prayed that his attempt would have failed and would find out 90 minutes later that it had not and he was gone. In those moments, God gave me what he promises in the Bible, a peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). I knew in the midst of my shock and heartache that all was well with my soul. Here's the poem written by Joyce Rupp:

silent August night
the words I'd long held
surged out in whisper;
almost as though rustle
of the forests' oak leaves
bid the truth be told;
"I am so afraid."

words of truth, air-suspended
softened by tender-rounded moon,
sparkled on by a million stars.
suddenly night seemed so bright.

the wind that rustled oak leaves
was wind moving through me.
the tiny trickling stream
was bidding me to kneel,
to be humble-poor before Holy,
to lay my overwhelming fear
in gentle, outstretched arms.

oh, for a moment, swept up in God,
stilled, awed, and quieted.

this presence is Holy, Holy, Holy.

God has taken my fearful heart
and wrapped it in deep love.

As I remember that night, I am ever thankful for the deep love that God has wrapped me in these last 2 years; sometimes not felt but still known. Please pray for me these next few days, that through this grief journey God would continue to lead me toward healing.

Friday, August 5, 2011

One year out...still praising His name!

     My clock reads 10:10 pm. That is roughly the time last year that I got off the phone with my neighbor, Mark, after he told me he had to hang up to call 911. That was approximately the same time that Corey met Jesus face to face in Heaven. One year has now passed since Corey's death...and we made it! I feel like I've been running a marathon this past year, and while I will never reach the "finish line" until I reach Heaven, this leg of the journey feels to be coming to a close. The dawn is near. I can feel it.  I know my journey through my grief is not over yet. I guess I’d be naïve to think that. The average time for someone grieving the loss of a spouse is 3 to 4 years!! Add an unexpected suicide as the cause of the loss and that number is supposed to increase. I do, however, feel like I’m in a different place then I was even 2 months ago with my grief. I believe my weekend away in May was a turning point in my healing. My heart feels lighter these days and I've had people tell me I truly look happy again; that my smile seems genuine, not just an attempt to put on a happy face.  
     Today was a positive day. I won't say it was a good day but it definitely was positive. I had minimal expectations for how the day would unfold but believed God would lead me in the details...just as he has been doing throughout this past year. He is SO faithful and as I've said before, I owe him a life of gratitude...I owe Him my life. So in my long list of thanks, I first want to thank my Great God. As I said in my eulogy for Corey, "... God is awesome. He is pure goodness. He is holy and he is sovereign. He has authority over everything including life and death." He has been ever faithful to us this past year. I also want to clearly reiterate that any good that has come out of Corey's death has come from the hand of God. 
"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows."(James 1:17) 
Any strength you have seen in me has been more than a positive attitude and it has not come from me. It is God's strength given through the gift of His Holy Spirit. And I have Jesus' sacrificial death on my behalf to thank for that! If you have never grabbed hold of God's love for you and the gift of his son Jesus, what are you waiting for? It will mean a life filled with purpose and true joy. Your life won't be free of suffering but it will be a life filled with great peace and hope. I was thinking today about the reflecting pool that is part of Corey's gravestone. I remember that when I was planning the engraving for it I had wanted to try to put a verse on the side about Christ being the living water. There wasn't going to be enough room on the stone, so I'll share Christ's words here: 
John 4:13-14 "Jesus answered...'whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'" 
Revelation 22: 17 "'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life." 
     Consider this my invitation to you and also God's invitation to come. God is waiting with open arms to welcome you into a relationship with Him through his son, Jesus Christ. I would love the opportunity to "chat" with anyone who wants to know more about how to receive this free gift of grace. Feel free to email me at corjilly@gmail.com
      I also thought a lot today about the people in my life I am thankful for. There are so many. I always hesitate to mention specific names out of fear that I will forget someone but on this important day I will make an exception. 
     I want to thank my mom and dad who have never ceased to love and support the girls and I, especially over this past year. My mom was by my side that awful night one year ago when I was told the news that Corey had indeed passed. She cried with me and I told her there was no one I would have rather had with me at such a time. And my dad...He, along with his wife Peggy and my sister Jami, upon receiving my phone call with the news at almost midnight that night, got in the car and drove 4 hours in the dead of night to help us try to pick up the pieces. My sister was like my personal attendant as I planned the funeral in the days that followed. She practically followed me around with a notepad recording all the important details and making endless phone calls to get all the arrangements into place. After hanging up with Mark that night and dialing the Milton Police, my next call was to Corey's parents asking them to be praying for the situation. What an awful phone call to have to make...to tell my husband's parents that I didn't know if their son was dead or alive. It wouldn't be until 90 minutes later that I would call them back with the grave news. They immediately started trying to find a flight to get them up to NH as soon as possible. They left early that next morning and spent the next day...the entire day...in flight having to make at least 3 plane changes/connections to get here finally by that next evening. I can't imagine what that 24 hours must have been like for them. They blessed me with their full involvement and support in all my decisions relating to Corey's memorial service and burial. 
     I have many more thank you's to express, lots of photos from today to share with you all as well as details about how I spent the anniversary today. And most importantly I want to honor Corey's memory...not by focusing on his tragic death but by remembering how special he was to me and so many others. Unfortunately, all that will have to wait until tomorrow. It's almost midnight now and I need to get some rest. 
     One final thank you for the night...Thank you all for helping me feel SO loved and supported today...my inbox was filled with facebook messages from you all. I received several cards in the mail and had beautiful flowers delivered this morning too! I love you all! Can't wait to share more about how good God was to me today :))

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Happy Birthday Corey!

     I had really hoped to get on here to get a post published on Corey’s birthday but being on vacation with limited internet access has made that a bit difficult. I drove around town trying to get connected to several wireless networks before finally giving up. So, here is a post I wrote late last night before bed.
     Today was a full day. It was hard which I expected would be the case, but I think overall the day was well spent. I wanted to do some fun things with the girls and try to make the day about celebrating Corey’s life and reminiscing over memories of fun times we had together as a family. As we were pulling away from the camp to leave for the morning, the song playing on the radio was Blessed Be the Name of the Lord which was one of the songs used as part of the slideshow of pictures that was shown at Corey’s memorial service. It wasn’t even 10 a.m. and I was already starting to tear up at the lyrics “You give and take away, you give and take away…but my heart will choose to say, Lord blessed be your name.” The song that came on right after that was Healing Begins. I wrote about the significance of hearing that song in my recent post, Retreat into Heartache. I think I turned off the radio after that one.
     The girls and I drove to a spot we had enjoyed 2 years ago while here on vacation. It was a picnic spot that overlooks the ocean from the Camden Hills state park. Just a little ways off the trail that follows the shoreline is a steep trail that goes down over the bank leading to a rocky area with plenty of tide pools perfect for exploring. Corey and I had discovered it the last time we were here and probably spent a good hour, at least, looking at all kinds of little critters with the girls. We also were able to get some really nice pictures of all of us which I’m going to try to download to add to this post. Being that it was the second time around it wasn’t quite as much fun which was kind of disappointing. I was able to snap a few pictures and we headed back up the bank to have the picnic lunch that I had packed for us. After lunch we continued on the shoreline trail to where a swing set was located. Abigail had remembered enjoying the swings the last time but it was really hot in the midday sun so we didn’t stay too long.
     We headed home for our nap with plans to head back out for dinner in the late afternoon. We always celebrated Corey’s birthday when on vacation at our favorite Mexican restaurant, Dos Amigos. The last picture taken of the four of us was taken on his birthday at this colorful place. It’s the one I have posted on my home page for this blog. Corey and I have always enjoyed eating Mexican food, so for us it was a treat. The girls love Dos Amigos mainly because they have a sandy play area outside and they always get balloons and Wikki Stix (those colorful waxy sticks you can bend all kinds of ways to make different things). On several special days (at the cemetery on the day of Corey’s service, Valentine’s day, and on one other occasion I can’t recall the details of) the girls have released balloons up toward Heaven for their daddy, and so once again we made that part of celebrating him. The girls were each given a balloon at the restaurant and after they finished eating they spent a few minutes writing messages and drawing pictures for daddy on their balloons. We went to the beach after dinner and released the balloons there. Abi was eager to tell anyone who would listen about today being her daddy’s birthday and that her daddy had died. They got to hear all about the special birthday dinner and the balloon release. I think it must have really helped her to be able to talk about it and I’m glad she had the opportunity. 
     And I almost forgot…we bought Corey a present today; a red toy tractor that I plan to leave at his grave. I actually got the idea from my friend Kate who had tried to find a die cast model of the Kioti tractor Corey owned and loved so much. She wasn’t able to find one, however. I tried searching online as well but to no avail. Corey actually has a toy-sized version of his tractor, but I can’t bear to part with it at the thought of someone stealing it from his grave. I know it’s a little ridiculous but he had bought it for the girls a few years ago for Christmas. They never really played with it so he ended up taking it into work and putting it on display on his desk ;) It meant something to him so I just can’t get rid of it; maybe at some point but not yet. I managed to find a toy tractor in a gift shop right here in town. They didn’t have an orange one, so I bought a red one instead since his first tractor was red. The one I bought does, however, look a lot like his Kioti tractor…bucket loader and all.
     So, overall I think we did okay today. I was pretty frustrated about not being able to get onto my blog to do some posting, but I at least managed to get this post done and I was able to check my email at one point in the day. I really appreciated all the notes that many of you sent to me letting me know you were thinking of the girls and I today.  We have 2 more days left to our vacation. It has been a really nice time away for us this year, despite it just being the 3 of us. I'll tell you more about our time away in another post I'm working on. Here are some pics from today. 

A retreat into heartache - where light meets the dark

Note: This post was originally written at the end of May. 

     Last weekend I had the opportunity to go away for my church's annual women's retreat. I was psyched to be getting away for 2 nights. My mom came from out of town to watch the girls - thanks Mom! It was a good weekend away but unexpectedly very, very hard. I expected to enjoy time away from the girls which I did. I was looking forward to spending some time with friends. I also was eager to have some time to just be quiet before God and have uninterrupted thoughts. All of those things happened which was really cool. What I didn't expect was how hard my grief was going to hit me while I was gone. I was an emotional train wreck most of the weekend. I started crying after one of the sessions, and it was almost impossible for me to turn it off. I was like a leaky facet ;) and I was totally unprepared for it. I think because I didn't have my normal routine and my kids needing something from me constantly, it left me lots of time to be thinking about things. I also underestimated the sentimental significance of the location where the retreat was held. I had been to this camp before...with Corey...10 years ago! I can't believe it was that long ago. I hadn't been back since. We had spent five days there for "family camp" with the church we were attending at the time. It was in the summer of 2001. We had been married not quite 3 years, no kids yet, didn't have the responsibility of our house, just unadulterated marital bliss :)
     So, coming back to this place was harder than I expected. The grounds of the retreat center are beautiful. Lots of woods, a beautiful lake, stone walls...it all reminded me of Corey. I spent some time by myself Saturday afternoon (we had free time) just walking the grounds. I wanted to find the cabin where we had stayed. I had to take a trail through the woods to get there. There was a stream that flowed under a bridge with lots of moss covered rocks. It was peaceful. I spent time just taking in the surroundings. I remember how Corey used to do that. I would often find him just staring off into nature. I always wondered what he was thinking about. I don't usually talk to Corey. It just feels awkward to me. But on my walk around the grounds I did. I found some large boulders along the shoreline looking out of Chestnut Cove at Lake Winnipesaukee. Mostly I reminisced with Corey about the best years of our marriage. I told him how sad I was that our marriage had to end while at its lowest point in almost 12 years. Maybe if it had ended on a high note it just would have made it all the harder to adjust to life without him. But anyway you cut it, there just is no "easy" when it comes to grief and loss.
     The theme of the retreat was grace. I spent some time telling Corey the things I was sorry for; things I had said or done through the years that hurt him. Our closest and dearest loved ones are unfortunately blessed or maybe I should say cursed, to see the 'real' us including the ugliest parts of our sinful nature. So, I asked Corey to forgive me for all the times he saw my flaws standing out clearly through my words and actions. The comment of one of my counselors came to mind - Corey's love for me has been made perfect now that he is in Heaven, a completed masterpiece perfectly reflecting Christ and Christ's perfect love. I know Corey has forgiven me. God reminded me that I need to forgive myself too. We cast stones into the lake at the very end of the retreat...stones symbolizing the burdens we carry that we're letting go of. Regret doesn't plague me but I would be lying if I said it wasn't still present for me from time to time. You know...playing the would've, should've, could've, what if and if only game...I threw a stone for my regret...all the would've, should've, could've, what ifs and if onlys pertaining to Corey's illness and death. I just keep reminding myself that I couldn't have saved him. He wasn't mine to save. All my love wasn't enough.
     Another experience over the weekend really spoke loudly to me. It was Saturday night and I was pretty exhausted from all the crying I had done throughout the day; in fact, I still had a headache from it that I knew was only going to go away by sleeping it off.  The evening session had wrapped up. Hold on, I need to back up to make this story even better. The evening session was very powerful and it culminated with an invitation for prayer. Just a couple weeks or so after Corey's death one of the woman from my womens' Bible study group had organized a prayer vigil for myself and Stacy (who had found out one day prior to Corey's death that the baby girl she was pregnant with was not going to live). There were probably about 20 or so women from church and our women’s Bible study group who came to spend an hour in prayer for the two of us. It was a blessing to have my sisters in Christ surrounding both of us with their support through love and prayer. At the end of the evening’s session this particular night of the retreat they gave an invitation for anyone who wanted to be prayed for to come up to the front and then their close friends could come stand around them and pray together. I am a firm believer in the power of corporate prayer. God says in the Bible (Matthew 2:18) that “...wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them.” I have seen God answer prayers in some pretty cool ways when the body of Christ (his church, a group of believers) comes together seeking God’s will, and it has been a faith building experience for me personally to have my sisters in Christ help carry my burdens to the foot of God’s throne through prayer. Most of you who know me well know that I don’t usually like to be the center of attention. I was reluctant to go forward because over the last 9 months I’ve needed a lot of attention (in the form of lots of support), and I usually find myself hesitant to ask for more. However, I really wanted the blessing of having my friends pray for me. I could see God’s hand in how he was working in my heart throughout the weekend, and I felt like he was giving me a nudge out of my comfortable place of just keeping things to myself. A friend sitting near me looked over at me and said my name (indicating to me that she thought I should go up) and that was all it took for me to feel like I had the validation I needed to go forward. As soon as I got up there my leaky faucet of tears turned on full force and I pretty much fell apart. I just felt so broken hearted with my loss and the fact that Corey wasn’t ever going to be a part of my life here again…the finality of that was hitting me like a ton of bricks just as it had in the hours and days after his death. Earlier that day when I was sitting on the rocks at the edge of the water talking to Corey and God, the last thought I had that I expressed was, “How am I ever going to get over you Corey?  How am I ever going to get over him God? How?” I think the answer to my question is simply that I’m not going to get over him, at least never completely. He will always hold a piece of my heart and my loss is now a part of who I am. My life is not dominated by it and it does not define who I am, but it has most certainly changed me, my relationship with God, and my outlook on life. But I think the deeper question I was feeling was what do I do with my brokenness? It was later that night during the prayer time that I got an answer. I didn’t hear God audibly, but I clearly heard him speak to me in response to my question, “Ask me. Don’t forget to ask me to heal your heart.” Sounds pretty simple, but I realized that, up until that point, I hadn’t really been asking God to heal my broken heart. I had asked him for help with all kinds of other things over the last year; help with decisions I've had to make, help with knowing how to help the girls, all the practical kinds of things. God strengthened my faith in him that night and in His ability to fix what is broken. I just heard a song on the radio this morning after I had been working on finishing this post last night. It’s called Healing Begins and is by the band 10th Avenue North. The lyrics speak about the need to be broken in order to be fixed (duh, right?) and that allowing ourselves to let our walls down and admit that we are broken and need God is what is needed for Him to step in and heal us. One of the verses talks about our place of brokenness being the place where the light meets the dark. The light of Christ’s healing hands meeting the darkness of our human condition. I had made the comment at one of my grief group meetings weeks back that the message of the gospel is all about fixing what is broken, saving what is lost, bringing life out of death. I know I sound like a broken record, but the truth of this is continually encouraging and exciting to me. It's where I get my joy from, even in the midst of my sorrow. So that was what I asked my friends to pray for me that night at the retreat; that God would heal the brokenness in my heart over Corey’s death. And for Abi and Ali’s hearts too; that they would not be hardened toward God because of their hurt over losing their daddy. I know we will still go on missing Corey, at some times more than others, but I know God is going to continue to carry us as we grieve and move us toward healing. He uses our lowest points in life to draw us closer to Him, and I know for certain that I’m in a safe place with Him as my refuge. 
     So, this all gets even better…after the prayer time finished that night we had free time to spend time with each other. It was almost 9 o’clock and by that point I was just about ready to drop from emotional exhaustion. Some women were playing games, some were scrapbooking, some were just snacking and talking and others were watching a video that had been played earlier that day called, How Great is our God. I had really wanted to watch it earlier but it conflicted with my plans to walk the grounds and have some quiet time alone, so I was kind of excited at the thought that I had a second chance to see it. I debated for a few minutes between going back to the cabin to go to bed or checking out the film. I opted for the film and joined some others about 10 minutes into it. The film is a recording of Louie Giglio, a Christian motivational speaker, author and Passion conference founder who uses science topics to affirm the Christian faith and the message of the gospel. It was SO Corey. He loved factual stuff like that…part of his love for apologetics. Giglio is a powerful speaker and the things he shared were really fascinating. It was toward the end of the video that I got goose bumps and started to tear up again. I had thought for sure God was done with me that night, but He still had more! Louie talked about a molecule in our bodies called laminen. My explanation won’t do it justice, so I’ve put the youtube segment of it below for you to watch. You really have to watch parts 3, 4 and 5 to get it all in context.  

Part 3:  If you are pressed for time, you can start at 6:10 on the counter. 
Part 4: This is most of the part about the molecule called laminen. 
And finally, part 5: 

The part that really grabbed me was near where he talk about how in Christ we are held together. That God is intimately acquainted with all the circumstances in our lives. No matter what comes, God will hold on to us and literally hold us together in any and every circumstance that comes our way. In whatever storm we are in, Christ is the glue that is holding us together. Then he closed with the same verses that I had chosen to have read at Corey’s Memorial service. The ones from Isaiah 40:27, “Why do you say, O Jacob,and complain, oh Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” 
   I couldn’t believe my ears…the coincidence of it being those verses in the context of what he had just shared on top of what I had already experienced earlier that evening touched me deeply. It was as if God had meant those words just for me, that he was reassuring me once again that He was holding me together through this storm of loss, and I was moved to tears (by this point it didn’t take much). God is SO good…all the time! I am in awe of His love for me. He is faithfully at work even when sometimes it seems like He is nowhere to be found. I would really encourage you to watch the entire video if you have the time. 

     This weekend away really helped me take some steps forward in my grief. Thank you to all the people who made it possible from my mom who watched my kids to the women who organized the retreat. God reminded me over the course of the weekend of my deep need for Him and for His grace, especially the grace that he offers me through the love and support of my sisters (and brothers) in Christ. I continue to realize that I need to work on accepting this beautiful gift that God freely gives. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day Corey! We love you!

     Another first to get through today and we made it. Our first Father's Day without Corey. I wanted it to be a special day of remembering him. The girls worked on some drawings yesterday and we made plans to head to the cemetery in the morning to place them at his grave. I got the girls loaded in the car and made my usual 3 or 4 trips back in the house for all the little items I had forgotten. Corey used to chuckle at me on Sunday mornings when we'd try to get out the door for church. I'd have my arms heaping full with stuff for the girls (snacks, water bottles, coloring pads) and my stuff which usually consisted of my breakfast that I hadn't had time to eat, my make-up that I hadn't yet applied, my Bible, water bottle and I'm sure I'm forgetting something. Anyhow, now that I always have to be the driver I usually end up at church without having had breakfast and don't worry, I don't put my make-up on while I drive ;)  Corey could just never figure out how I managed to need so much stuff.  Moms often get stuck carrying everyone's things - that's how.  Thankfully the girls are getting older and I can have them carry more!  So, back to my morning...I ran back into the house to get something else and the phone rang. It was my friend Kelly. She called to tell me she was thinking about the girls and I today, knowing that it would probably be a hard day for us.  She shared some sweet words with me and cheered me on, telling me what a good job I'm doing helping the girls remember their Dad and work through their own grief process.  It was a real encouragement to me and the timing was perfect since we were just heading off to the cemetery. I thank God for the good friends he has placed in my life.
     We finally pulled out of the driveway and Abigail had mentioned that we should bring Corey a Reese's peanut butter cup since that was one of his favorite candies. I agreed it was a great idea so we made a stop and bought a king sized package. Once at the cemetery the girls bolted from the car. We sat around Corey's stone and the girls laid out their drawings for him and told him about them. It broke my heart to see Abigail's. Being the little artist that she is, she drew 5 pictures. One was a picture of her standing next to Corey's casket with a sad face and tears. Another said, "I miss Dad so much." A third one read, "I love Dad so much." Another one had a big sad face and the last one made me smile and cry at the same time. She drew a picture of a snowman, Daddy and her, all in a row and all wearing big smiles. This is one of her favorite memories with Corey. We have some beautiful pictures of the 2 of them out in the snow making a big 'ole snowman. Their smiles are so bright. I think Abigail was 3 years old at the time. Allison's picture below is the one with the big happy face. She did it on orange paper because orange was one of Corey's favorite colors.
We all enjoyed a Reese's cup with one left for Corey.
I have some more pictures to add, but it is taking forever for them to upload...I'll try to get them on here tomorrow...it's getting kind of late and I'm wiped.
     We left the cemetery and headed to Newington to enjoy lunch at Newick's. This was one of Corey's favorite places to eat and we would often end up there for birthdays and Father's days in years past. Corey loved their fried haddock. Lunch was great...we had a table next to the window so we could look out on the water.  It was a gorgeous day today and the girls and I had some really good time spent together.
     When thinking about writing this post I was reminded of a blog post I read 4 years back. A woman named Kim had lost her husband suddenly in March of 2007. Many of you will probably recognize who I'm talking about. She was 9 months pregnant with her 8th child, due any day and having regular contractions (if I'm remembering correctly) when her husband became suddenly ill and was taken to the hospital. I don't believe he lived more than 24 hours after they arrived. An aneurysm cut his life short at just a few days shy of age 38 leaving his wife widowed with 7 children and an 8th on the way.  Can you imagine having to plan a funeral while 9 months pregnant and due any minute? The emotions she must have experienced had to have been intense...to say the least! Seven days after his death, their son was born. I was 8 months pregnant with Allison at that time and when I received the emails asking for prayer for the family I was shaken by the tragedy of their situation. I couldn't imagine being widowed at such a young age with a large family and having to give birth only days after such a horrendous loss. I followed Kim's blog for a while and a few months later I was catching up on her site. It was Father's Day 2007, June 15th. I cried as I read through her post and listened to a song that she had picked to dedicate to her late husband as a gift to him on that Father's Day. I was so sad for her at the loss of her soul mate and could not imagine experiencing the loss of my husband at such a young age. Our new baby girl had just arrived not quite a month before and we were in the best years of our lives, people told Corey and I. Four years later, I can do more than just imagine losing my soul mate...I'm where Kim was...a widow trying to get through that first Father's Day without my babies' Daddy. I didn't cry too much today until I listened again to the song Kim had on her blog.  It took me a while to find her blog and to figure out the song. All I could remember was that it was perfect. It's called Breakfast Table, by Chris Rice. (Disclaimer: I like this video but was bummed with the beach picture that got thrown in...you'll see...sorry ;)

This is my gift to you Corey. I love you always and dedicate this song to you...You were my taste of Heaven. We'll have forever.