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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Year(s) (01/20/11)

TITLE: The Years That Followed
By sandra hoolihan
01/25/11


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The funeral director told me that it generally took three years before the shock of the death of a loved one would begin to wear off. “I don’t suggest you make any radical life changes during this grieving period.” he said. I remember nodding expressionless thinking that somewhere in the recesses of my mind, tiny angels had to be gathering the flood of information he was giving me, processing it into neat piles and then storing it for me to recall at a future date.

Dan used to time himself from the moment he called to say he was heading home to the moment he arrived. Instead of yelling a greeting as he stepped into the house, he would yell out his travel time with the enthusiasm of a child. It was never more than fifteen minutes. It took only fifteen minutes to change the direction of my life when he crashed his car on the way home from work. The suggestion of waiting three years before the numbness subsided seemed overwhelming.

The first couple weeks felt like one long exhausting day. The arrangements, the funeral, the visitors that never seemed to leave or stop dropping off food. I let the dog eat most of it. He didn’t seem to have lost his appetite the same way I had. Friends insisted on staying with me. Some days the company was nice while other days I unsuccessfully wished them away. Eventually, I either convinced everyone I could take care of myself or the passing of time bought back my privacy.

It was unsettling to be alone again after fourteen years of marriage. I still made his coffee, black, every morning and cried every night when I poured the cold contents of the mug down the sink. I knew I was torturing myself by calling the house every afternoon from work just to hear him talk on the outgoing message. I had conversations with him and then cursed myself when I came home and had to listen to my sad desperate messages. At night, I brushed my teeth with his toothbrush and wouldn’t toss it until months later when the bristles splayed out flat from use.

Grief was as sneaky as an alley cat. One minute I would be watching television, the next I would be screaming about the unfairness of it all at his empty recliner, at his photo or toward God. I meekly avoided his side of the bed then eventually moved to the living room couch. That didn’t stop my waking up everyday to disappointment. To solve that I simply stopped sleeping.

On the first anniversary of his death I drove to the gravesite wondering how I could possibly keep moving forward. His presence was still so very real to me. I heard him criticize my driving the whole way there.

Over the next two years I randomly saw Dan at shopping malls. I saw his eyes in the face of strangers. He sent me songs on the radio and visited me as characters in books I read. He held me at night and surrounded me with his lingering scent still woven into his pajamas I wore. I cursed time as it slowly surged forward.

I slowly surged forward too. A small box simply labeled “Dan” now sits in the attic holding memories for me. The rest of his things were donated. I replaced our king sized bed with a queen and tossed the dark brown comforter we shared. I may have gone overboard with the bedding. It seems to look as if an english garden attacked my room. I suppose things will be different in the new house: I met with a realtor yesterday.

This morning I woke with a start. There was no need for a calendar to tell me that I had arrived at the three year anniversary I had been instinctively fighting to get to. A proud smile eased its way onto my face. As a reward, I nestled into the bed and allowed my mind to indulge in wonderful memories of Dan. I reminisced about our wedding day. In my mind’s eye I could vaguely recognize him. His face was a blur. There is a photo I keep next to the bed for these moments so I pulled it out and gazed into his blue eyes. Sometimes I miss missing Dan. I hope he will forgive me for letting time carry me forward.


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Member Comments
Member Date
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 01/29/11
You did an outstanding job describing how grief just eats away at you. Too bad the funeral director didn't say it takes most people a year. I've found there is no set time. I've been grieving daily over my mom for close to 17 years. Both my brother and sister grieved in totally different ways. Great message.
diana kay01/31/11
fantastic piece and so well written. I do hope you get placed in the top few with this.
your descriptions of grief are moving and i think many who have lost loved ones will be able to relate to this.
some great descriptions such as grief creaping up as an alley cat
Bonnie Bowden02/02/11
The description of the grief and loss could not be more true. Dan sounds like a wonderful husband!

I am glad you can sometimes concentrate on the happy times.

My brother died 15 years ago, but I still have times when I see something that reminds me of him.
diana kay02/03/11
YAY!!! well done!
Bonnie Bowden02/03/11
Congratulations on your well deserved win! Your story really resonated with me.
Margaret Kearley 02/03/11
This is so touching and so well written. Congratulations on your well deserved win.
Lisa Fowler02/03/11
Way to go Sandra! Great story and well written.
Wilma Schlegel 02/05/11
I cried the whold way through this. Though so often I've been frustrated with my husband, your story made we realize how fortunate I am and how much I love him. Thank you. And congratulations on your first place!
Wilma Schlegel 02/05/11
I can spell! I meant whole, not whold!