This is a true story about a period in my life when I was challenged almost beyond my limits. I had a sick husband, two small boys, and a house payment to make. I needed to be strong for my family. I was accustomed to being an independent, "I can handle it" gal. I tried to handle this on my own and fell short. Trying to look and act normal was monumental. I was forced to depend on God and my family and friends. The Lord walked me through safely to the other side, I was scarred, but still on my feet. Scars come with wisdom if we look for it. Throughout my struggle, I learned many lessons. This is the story of that time and some of the lessons learned from it.
I found great comfort in the words of a friend who told me that death was the last blessing God could give us on this earth. A smile crosses my face when imagine the instructions God gives to the Death Angel. "This is so hard to watch. My child has suffered enough. It's time for you to go to Earth and bring him/her home." I look forward to going home.
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If You Can't Put It Down, Learn to Carry It Well
By Nancy E. Glover
Balboa PressCopyright © 2015 Nancy E. Glover
All rights reserved.
Second Time Around
But there are some things that you cannot 6e sure of. You must take a chance. If you wait for perfect weather, you will never plant your seeds. If you are afraid that every cloud will bring rain, you will never harvest your crops.
Ecclesiastes 11:4 Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)
It was a glorious winter day! The sun beamed down arrogantly as if to say, "July, you have nothing on me!" The deep azure blue sky housed a few wispy clouds, but there was a crispness in the air that hinted of a coming snow. February 14, Valentine's Day, this was the perfect day for a wedding, my wedding, our wedding. OK, so this will be a second wedding for both of us, it was still a perfect day.
Second weddings may not have all the glamour of the first, but the excitement and anxiety are still there. The same familiar feelings and questions crop up. "I want this to be perfect." "I am so happily in love!" "What did I forget?" "Did I make the right decision?" "Is this really forever?" "What will it be like growing old with him?" and "What if something happens to us or to him?" New questions are added to the old ones, when it is the second time around. "How do I know it's the real thing, this time?" "Do I love him enough?" "Is this best for the children?" "Can we blend these two families successfully?" "Will his ex-wife or former in-laws cause trouble?" "Will mine?" "Do we need to sign a prenuptial agreement?" "How will we manage holidays with our former families, our new families and the children's step families?" "WHAT AM I DOING?!?" "I must be crazy!" My mind danced across thousands of possibilities, most of them had already appeared before. After considering the worst and best case scenarios and all those in between, I made the decision to go ahead and try this one more time. Hopefully, this time my fairy tale would have a better ending. I was sure the same process was going on in Charlie's head as well. I hoped he would come to the same conclusion that I did and the wedding would go on as planned. It did go as planned for the most part. Every wedding has its glitches that you look back on and laugh about. This one was no exception. A snow storm began and caused us to rush the wedding a tad. About half way through the ceremony, I noticed with amusement the minister's was still wearing his snow boots. It was only then that I realized that I had forgotten to put on my shoes. I was literally the barefoot, blushing Southern bride. We still laugh about that.
Being a second wedding and not having my parents foot the bill caused me to plan a smaller wedding than the first one. The first one was small by some standards, but repeating those wedding vows in front of 100 people was monumental to this small town girl. This wedding would be considerably smaller, with only our immediate families in attendance. My husband-to-be and I were combining two complete households, so we really didn't need anything for housekeeping. Because the guest list was short and consisted of the kind of folks that we turn to for advice anyway, we decided to ask the guests to write us letters of advice in lieu of more traditional wedding gifts. It was like soliciting "Dear Abby" gems, only our guests knew us better than Abby knew her correspondents. We asked for the advice in writing so we could peruse them at our convenience, and we could toss the ones that we really didn't care for. Besides, we really believed that all the letters would be positive with well-wishes for us, prayers for long and happy lives together and maybe a few pointers on blending our lives and families. If we found something really great, we could read it over and over again to brighten our day, like sunshine, only on paper. Having been through one marriage already, we both knew that there would be times when we would need something to massage our bruised egos, emotions and troubled spirits. Salve for the Soul. Maybe we wouldn't even need it.
As the appointed hour drew near, I couldn't help but think about my first wedding day. It, too, was a glorious day, a hot summer day, fifteen years earlier. I never thought there would be a second one. That day was the beginning of a journey that made me wiser and more resilient. After all, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."CHAPTER 2
The First Wedding
then do what will make my joy complete: Agree with each other, and show your love for each other. Be united in your goals and in the way you think.
Philippians 2:2 Easy-To-Read Version (ERV)
We had been high school sweethearts and even survived after my parents insisted that I date other guys. "Too young to be getting serious about one boy ..." and "lots of fish in the sea" comments were almost daily rituals at home during that time. I really think it pushed Don and me closer because we had to get creative with our dating. Having a friend's boyfriend pick me up and switching dates was one of the most successful plans.
After graduation, I went off to college. Don went to college too, but his "Uncle Sam" wanted him to fight in Viet Nam so he was drafted into the army after his first semester in school. Then he was off to basic training and war. The war in Viet Nam was very heated at this time during the late 1960s and early 1970s. I was devastated, but Don felt compelled to serve his country. He extended his time of military service for another year thinking it might keep him out of Viet Nam or at least the worst of the conflict. He was wrong. A few days before he left for the war front, he asked me if I would marry him. The following day, he asked me again just to make sure that I really had said "Yes." He had no idea that I had been hoping for that question since our high school days. In fact, I was beginning to think that he wasn't going to ask. I actually considered asking him, but that was something that respectable young ladies just didn't do back in 1970, at least not in the Bible Belt. And he was worried about whether or not I would say, "Yes." Cute, huh?
He wanted to wait until he got back from overseas to get married, "just in case". At one point earlier on our relationship, he had told me that he wouldn't live to be thirty. There had been no "probably" or "I think" to it. It was a very matter of fact statement. I never did figure out how that thought came into play. Perhaps he had had a premonition or was just worried about the war in Viet Nam. Anyway, we both knew there was a very real possibility that he might return home injured or not come back at all. So many of our nation's young men had gone to serve in Viet Nam, only to return maimed. Prayers, faith, tears and letters would have to get us through.
The war was all over the news those days, with constant reminders of the dangers to our young men in the armed forces. At first, I watched every news broadcast trying to get a glimpse of him or at least see the area where he was stationed. The news was always so disturbing and depressing that I soon stopped watching it altogether and just waited for his letters to arrive. Even though we wrote letters to each other every day, some of them never arrived. Don later surmised that all mail was screened and letters with too much detail were somehow "lost." Don wrote to me that he could buy a pearl necklace at a very reasonable price and wanted to get one for me as a wedding gift. He wanted to know the length I would like. That letter never reached me, so I received a pearl necklace that fit him. It was the perfect length. A smile comes to my face every time I think about him trying on that necklace.
Another letter described an audio reel to reel tape recorder that he had bought. This opened a new means of communication for us. We were able to exchange audiotapes. It was wonderful to hear his voice. I would close my eyes and imagine him sitting beside me as I listened to his tapes over and over. He would describe the the area, his friends, tell me about the puppy he adopted, refer to the locals who worked on their base or talk about his day in general. Very seldom did he express concern or the uncertainty of his day to day existence. If complaints were voiced, it was usually about the daily rains and wet socks. No matter what else was communicated, always he told me that he loved me. As I made the tapes for him, I imagined him relishing my every word just as I did his. On several occasions, I would go for days and not receive any word at all, and, then, as despair was setting in, I would get four or five letters or a tape in the same day. I suppose that was one of those life lessons playing out ... It is always darkest just before the dawn. Cliches become cliches for a reason - most contain a lot of truth.
One afternoon as I sat and watched one of David Lipscomb College's baseball games, a friend pointed out a florist delivery van in front of our dorm. We joked about how the flowers must be for us and whoever got them was really lucky. After the game, when we returned to the dorm, we discovered that the flowers were for me! One dozen, long stemmed red roses from Don! It was only then that I realized that it had been exactly one year ago that he proposed to me. How sweet! And as if that wasn't enough, I got more roses the next day on the anniversary of the second proposal. I wondered how he had managed such a feat from Viet Nam, especially when the mail service was as erratic as it often was. Later, I found out that his mother had been the one who actually ordered the flowers with his instructions that they arrive on the two consecutive days. How could anyone not love a guy like that? I knew that I was a very lucky young lady for more reasons than Don. His mother was one of a kind. In fact his entire family was one that I was proud to marry into.
Time seemed to pass so slowly! It was as if each moment lasted for hours. Another one of life's major lessons slapped me in the face. The speed at which time passes is directly related to the amount of anticipation attached to coming events. I spent a lot of time writing to my fiancée about my classes, professors, classmates and college life in general, trying to give him something to think about other than the almost constant awareness of gunfire and fear of being bombed. I often stared at the diamond ring on my finger and prayed for his safe return. My studies became my refuge, so I would have less room in my mind for worry. I suppose it paid off, because my grades were good and I graduated from college in three years, just two months before he was to be discharged. We set a date and planned our wedding via the mail service.
His homecoming was the best moment of my life up to that point. My prayers had been answered. My soldier was home from the war. As he stepped off that plane, I ran to his arms. He dropped his duffle bag and ran to me as well. He looked wonderful in his uniform and he had a strength and maturity that wasn't there when he left. It was blissful. He was home, safe, with all his fingers, toes and other body parts, He was unscathed except for the mental anguish from witnessing firsthand the atrocities of war. Some soldiers come home from conflict with visible wounds. All combat veterans return with wounds that can't be seen or easily detected. It is a burden many cannot put down. Some conceal those internal scars or carry that burden better than others. Concealed or not, they are there, just below the surface. Family members, as well as the veteran, must learn to cope with this, whether by venting, finding a support group, getting counseling, digging deeper into faith in our Higher Power or some other method. If you love your soldier, you have to learn to love the scars as well.
We spent our time together getting to know each other again. He was now different somehow. He had left for military service as an easy-going, fun loving eighteen-year-old boy and returned as man with many years of experience crammed into 36 months. Months that had seemed like an eternity to both of us. His maturing had both good and bad elements. Physically he was stronger and more handsome than ever. But, he was now more distant, serious and troubled. There was a part of him now that I didn't recognize, a part that he kept from me. I'm sure I had changed, too, in some ways, after all, I was now a college graduate and thought I was ready to take on the world. Even with all our changes this was the man I loved and would marry.
I was nervous and excited as most brides are. The wedding went off without problems, except for the shock I received when I stepped through the door and looked down the aisle at my soon to be spouse. He had shaved off his mustache. What! I almost didn't recognize him. This was one of the few times I saw him without facial hair.
In spite of the budget that I was on, the wedding was lovely. Although I had lined up a job for the fall, I wasn't working yet and my parents had given me only $300.00 to have my wedding and reception, so I cut corners wherever I could. I made my own wedding dress with the help of my mother, and one of my college instructors. We also had the help of my sister, sisters-in-law and my new mother-in-law to make the dresses for my three attendants. We reserved a small local chapel and rented greenery and candles from our local Kroger store. We had so many family members and friends that we wanted to invite, but I knew the money just wouldn't stretch far enough to rent a larger place and provide reception refreshments for a huge number of people. Again we had to get creative, so we planned the ceremony for a late Tuesday afternoon. We knew that this would automatically eliminate potential guests who had to work late or had several miles to drive. Even with this, our combined guest lists filled the chapel. Each attendant wore a dress that could double for other events and they carried one long stemmed rose. The candles, the greenery and the sunlight coming through the stained glass windows softened the chapel and gave it a magical appearance. It was a simple, but beautiful wedding, not Buckingham Palace beautiful, but certainly nice enough for Gallatin, Tennessee. No one could have guessed how cheaply we pulled it off.
The reception was also a budgeted affair - cake, punch, mints and nuts - all at bargain prices. We borrowed his parents' blue Ford LTD for our honeymoon in Florida and took off without a care in the world. The car was "painted" with shaving cream and shoe polish and accessorized with about 20 cans tied to the back. Unfortunately the shaving cream damaged the paint job on the car, but we didn't realize that until we returned to Tennessee. That is how we started our new lives together. It was the classic story of young lovers in the early seventies. We had very little money, but we survived on love and a crash course in budgeting.
After Don's commitment with the U. S. Army was fulfilled, we found ourselves located in the small town of New Johnsonville, Tennessee. We had both worked hard and landed decent jobs. I was an elementary school teacher and Don was an electrician with Tennessee Valley Authority. We settled into this friendly little community and quickly formed ties with co-workers, neighbors and a church family. We weren't rich, but we had what we needed. My life was utterly and completely wrapped around my husband. Life was good. God had been so good to us. He was smiling down on us, pouring out his blessings all around us every day.
After five years of marriage, we decided that we were ready for a family of our own. It didn't take long at all to become pregnant. During the fourth month of my pregnancy, I arrived home from work to find Don, laying in the yard by the back door. I thought my heart was going to stop. He was conscious but in excruciating pain. He had been riding his motorcycle alone in the dirt hills near our home when he had an accident. He often went riding alone after work to help him cope with memories of Viet Nam and he would ride until dark. The area was a dirt biker's heaven, with hundreds of miles of trails. If he had not made it back home, I wouldn't have started worrying until dark:30. By then, searching for him along the miles and miles of trails would be compounded by the darkness and almost hopeless. He knew that he had to make it back home to get help. Otherwise, it could have been quite late when his biker friends and I found him because I had no idea which direction to go to start looking.
Excerpted from If You Can't Put It Down, Learn to Carry It Well by Nancy E. Glover. Copyright © 2015 Nancy E. Glover. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
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