Earp Takes Aim | Faith, Culture, Life

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Launching

Some friends and I have been creating a new way for everyone who has been following our story to stay connected. We are still tweaking stuff, the “look” is still very much under construction, but I couldn’t wait to tell you about it.

Caring Bridge has been a wonderful resource for Cindy and me. This site {along with Facebook} has enabled those who love us to stay informed and prayer-armed in real time. But now I believe it’s time to release the bandwidth we’ve been so gratefully using to other deserving people who also need support and love and prayer.

For that reason, I am launching a web site that will permanently house the writings Cindy and I began several months ago – www.stevewyatt.net. All of our previous posts have been moved to this site with many new ones still to come.

As you know, I have struggled with whether to continue these, at times, gut-wrenching writings. But I believe that Cindy’s legacy of faith demands that I stay the course. So, with her example as my compass, I will continue to write this blog with the same honesty and transparency my bride displayed. And it will continue to be a raw, unfiltered journal of Steve and Cindy’s journey toward faith — a journey Cindy has successfully completed but one Steve is still struggling to make.

As time passes, and life brings additional opportunities and obstacles, my blog – aptly named Confessions of a Faith Wimp - will expand to a larger scope of topics — but my raw and unfiltered take will remain.

In order to give everybody enough time to migrate to www.stevewyatt.net, I will continue to post on Caring Bridge for a short while, but here’s how you can make sure you remain connected to Wimp:

•  You can receive updates to your email via The Roadster, a weekly resource published by The Crossroads. You can subscribe by clicking here: www.thecrossroadsaz.com. Through this site, you can also access audio files of my most recent teachings – another resource you may enjoy.

You can also follow along by subscribing to the RSS feed {Don’t let that scare you! It only means Really Simple Syndication”} and it’s a really cool and easy way to stay in touch. When you subscribe, you can choose to receive these Wimp posts via email or through a blog reader. Click on the orange RSS link on my blog.

You can also follow and subscribe to updates through my NOTES tab on Facebook by clicking on this link.

Or…

If you’re really hip, track me via Twitter: www.twitter.com/stevewyatt

In case you’re wondering why I’m writing with such transparency – it’s because writing is how I heal. And I’m posting them for you for this reason: God sent me and my bride on this exquisitely awful journey — and He did it to give us a platform to reflect His glory. I don’t know why He has now asked me to walk this painful path alone – or why my life of impact has been far too interrupted by loss. But I do know this: This painful trek has greatly expanded my perspective, deepened my compassion and yeh, increased my wimpish faith.

I also believe that God intends to powerful use me – primarily because He has chosen to painfully hurt me. I don’t like pain, but I am choosing, by a very tentative faith, to embrace it.

To be completely transparent, I have no clue where God will take me next. I can’t see everything I wish I could see, but by faith — I hope for it.

If you decide to come along for the ride? Just know that you will get a raw and unfiltered view of what real faith looks like. A path often cluttered by debris and frequently marked by mind-bending twists and disappointing turns. But here’s the thing: Maybe, if I walk it well? And if you see something in me that makes you want to walk it, too? Maybe together – we can move beyond our wimpishness.

Not someday. But…now.

Not at another time or for some other person in some different circumstance. But living by warrior faith…now.

 

Three Months

 

Three months ago tonight, my life was forever changed.

During those awful days immediately following Cindy’s death, a fellow widower {wow…I’ve never typed that word before} told me that month #3 was the hardest part of his early grief journey. Please note: Not the hardest part, just the hardest of the early part.

At the time, I couldn’t imagine my grief being worse than it already was. Wrong! Even though I don’t like the fact that he was right, I’m beginning to realize that he was right.

In the immediate aftermath of a catastrophic loss, what I can only describe as shock immediately overtakes you. It’s not that you don’t feel anything…it’s just what you do feel is numb. Friends have to remind you to eat and your family discusses how they think you’re coping in the third person – even though you’re in the same room.

The funeral director tells you every decision you need to be making – meanwhile a few of the family second guess the decisions you do make – but it’s no big deal, because everything is just a blur anyway. You feel so completely disconnected, as though you were a spectator to your own life.

But by month #3, the numbness is gone {even though you desperately wish it wasn’t} – and your now uncontrollable feelings have become so intense that you have a meltdown over something as silly as candles or rotting food {read my last post, in case you have no idea what that means}.

This particular anniversary has been even more striking than it might have otherwise been – since I’m at a conference right now. A conference where I’m typically surrounded by many of my oldest and dearest friends. A fact that has been repeated this time – except this time? The familiarity has cut both ways.

I saw my high school buddy, Kim, last night. She gave me a huge hug and her eyes immediately filled with tears. Not knowing what to say – or whether to say – I just kinda stood there. I was comforted by her care — and yet, the only thing I could think about was that this very important person in my life never got to meet the most important person in my life.

Then I spoke with my roommate and his wife. Though a very eloquent man, John couldn’t string four words together without stumbling. Not that I cared. I was so deeply moved that he was so moved.

I also met with Tom, a fellow preacher who lost his bride several years ago. I peppered him with questions for nearly an hour – and spent listening to him with eyes clouded by tears.

This morning, I had breakfast with another Pastor – my friend Don. Don’s wife passed away a little more than a year ago and though he’s marked his three month anniversary three more times than me – he contributed his own share of tears to our encounter.

I’ve often said that I’m determined to feel every feeling and experience every emotion that grief demands from me. The way I see it, if I have to travel this journey — and I do — I don’t want to waste one minute in denial. Neither do I want to delay my healing even one day by some stupid and stubborn refusal to admit what everybody knows is true — that I don’t know how to do this thing – and sometimes I’m not sure I want to.

So today hasn’t been easy — but here’s what I’m thankful for as this day finally comes to an end.

At least I can feel again. And several times this week, I’ve laughed and enjoyed the company of both friends and family.

My life has been forever changed. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that my forever changed life can’t still be a good life.

Different? Most definitely.

Painful? More than I could ever describe.

But I’m straining to find a hope rising up inside me. And sometimes I do catch a glimpse of hope — and usually that glimpse is just enough to make me want to get some rest, pray up some more courage and live to hope another day.

And so I will.

Good night, my love.

 

 

House

Josh and I got back to the house about an hour ago.

My more perceptive friends will note that I said “house” – not “home.”

See, this is my third trip since Cindy went to see her Beloved face to face, and although it’s always good to get away — since April 7, it is never good to get back.

For years, coming home meant getting to see her. I would be gone for some ministry travel and it never failed, whenever I pulled into the driveway? Cindy would meet me at the door – looking, of course, like a million bucks. Plus she’d have a candle burning and fresh flowers on the table — with the sweet aroma of a wonderful meal ready for us to share.

But best of all, she’d flash her captivating smile and then plant a passionate, yet so-soft kiss on my lips — an encounter that communicated to me, in no uncertain terms, “Relax, babe. You’re home now…and I am so glad you’re here.”

Then we’d sit down to a delicious meal and she’d patiently listen as I eagerly shared every detail I could remember about my trip.

Fast forward to an hour ago.

Although it was good to have the drive behind me, the ambiance wasn’t even close to what I just described. Instead, I was greeted by some awful stench! {Duly noted, cruel and inconsiderate house, I guess I probably should ditch all unconsumed food items before leaving for several days, especially since I live in Phoenix…and it IS July!

Will you understand when I tell you — after that ignominious greeting? It was pretty much all down hill after that.

Not that it wasn’t a good trip. It was really good. I spent a few days with my best friend, Bruce, over in Huntington Beach. We played golf, swapped the same old stories we always swap – except they get better with every year that passes.

He also helped me dig through some places where I’ve gotten stuck – something that only a very good friend can ably do. I also went to church and heard Bruce preach again – another welcome treat. He’s such an effective communicator!

On Saturday, while Bruce put the finishing touches on his message, I decided to walk the beach and take in the sights and sounds of bustling holiday crowd. It wasn’t until after I got there that I realized – this was the last beach Cindy and I ever got to walk…together. Last May, in fact, when Josh graduated from college. On that Saturday afternoon, one that seems so very long ago, we were optimistic about her recovery. We never even dreamed that it was the last pier we’d walk together — and embrace each other, exchanging those three wonderful words I so wish I could hear once more.

Well, once I got stuck on last May, that beautiful beach was the last place I cared to be. So I raced back to my truck…but before I got there, I had already started weeping.

Later, at church, though Bruce talked about freedom in Christ and never addressed anything even closing resembling the hurt of my heart, I again wiped away my gathering tears…trying to be inconspicuous even as my heart screamed for someone to know my pain.

He and Connie invited me over after church, but I declined. I manufactured some reason…but the reason is not that I had any plans.

I didn’t have plans. I was stuck. Again.

So I spent the next three hours driving aimlessly around Orange County {you gotta know I was miserable if I actually wanted to drive in that zoo}. But see, I couldn’t bear to be with people – and I didn’t want to sit in a motel room, either. So I just drove.

I even tried to find some movie where I could burn some time – but my GPS failed me – and after three failed attempts to locate a theater…I drove instead.

Then today, I drove some more. And now, I’m back at my house again, but my heart is so very, very far from feeling at home. Cindy’s heart is my home…but the smile and the kiss and the conversation I so long to feel again – will never be. Not ever again.

So DID try. Just as I’ve tried for three painfully agonizing months. I tried to do something that would help. I tried to be with friends who want to help. I tried to hit golf balls. I tried to walk on a breezy sun-kissed piece of paradise. I tried to get a change of pace and a change of scenery.

I tried.

I really did try!

But here’s the thing — every trip must eventually come to an end. And every trip that does end…brings you full circle. In my case, back to a house that was once my home.

I do believe that even this painful trip through grief will someday end. In fact, I believe all the right stuff about this. I’m not mad – at least I don’t think I am. I’m just terribly, desperately sad.

So please!

Don’t tell me to be strong.

Don’t tell me that things will get better.

Don’t tell me that my life must and will go on.

Just save it. I’m not in the mood right now.

I don’t want to hear things I have already told myself…at least a thousand times these last 100 days.

I can’t bear to hear platitudes…and I don’t need empty cliché, either.

What I want – I can’t have. Period. And although the smell of rotting food is gone, the pain of my grieving heart lingers on. And although candles are once again burning around here — they’re not burning to add aroma, but to cover the stench.

 

Pictures

I have just emerged, for the most part, from a series of events way too painful {and too personal} to describe.

That’s the bad news.

The good news? I have finally managed to pick my way through the ugly debris {worked through the last few ashes late last night} and I now realize that I have learned yet another lesson from my bride.

What lesson have I learned? That true love accepts the person loved — as she is. Not as she was. Not as you wish she had been. Not shaped by the choices you wanted her to make, but those she did, in fact, make.

I’ve also learned that if you try to capture your loved one in the moment you believe most defines who she was? You will lose, in the process, her true essence. Your very attempt to contain her will cause you to miss her altogether.

For example, I have been greedily sorting through pictures with one goal in mind: I want to find THE photograph that captured the “perfect” fullness of everything Cindy’s had come to both mean and be.

I pulled out our wedding video and I not only watched it – I actually edited a copy of it so that it featured only her. Wow! Was she a knock-out or what?! Her beautiful hair, those sparkling eyes, the way she would glance at me kinda sideways and then flash that quirky grin…? Looking at her and then cringing at the sight of me, I felt like we were in a re-do of Beauty and The Beast!

During Cindy’s treatment, I began a mammoth project that still isn’t complete. I am taking every family photograph we own and I’m scanning them so that I can gift a full album of all our pix to our six adult children. Over the course of 18 months now, I’ve been scanning pictures of Cindy as a kid, Cindy in her teens, Cindy as a teacher, Cindy as a mom, Cindy at the keyboard…and every other sort of pose you can imagine.

I have also taken all the pictures I ever took of Cindy and I’ve assembled them into playlist that I can show on my Apple TV. Cindy and me in Hawaii, Cindy and me in Vegas, Cindy and me at the Grand Canyon, Cindy and me…, well, you get the picture.

Two weeks ago I was in the attic digging through some items to give to Emily. And I found a picture that is about 20 years old – but one I had never seen before. And her beauty so took my breath away that I sat all alone in a stifling attic in Phoenix in the summer – and I just couldn’t stop crying.

I still cry…every time I see it. But here’s the thing: That picture isn’t Cindy. It’s nothing more than a very flat, split-second screen capture of Cindy.

I can’t hug that picture. Well, I can – and I did – but it didn’t hug back. And the paper wasn’t nearly as comforting as her cheek pressed against mine had always been.

And that’s why my plan was so terribly wrong-headed! Photographs are one-dimensional; Cindy was three-dimensional. Photographs are constant; Cindy was constantly changing.

Part of the reason for my search is that I am haunted by Cindy’s most recent pictures. The pictures we’ve taken since February 2009 when she wore way too much pink and not nearly enough hair. Don’t get me wrong, there were still flashes of that same old Cindy. Her smile was always quick and so very infectious. Her sparkling eyes always did shine through.

But see, I didn’t want to remember her in a ball cap and a bag of chemo. So I tried, in my own stupid way, to re-write HER story! I know, Steve! Let’s just remove every memory of sick Cindy – and only allow pictures and only visit memories of the vibrant, powerful and uber-amazing Cindy!

Have you ever done that? Have you ever tried to hold on to someone you say you love by making THEIR story read the way you wish it HAD read? Have you ever chopped away all the chapters you consider undesirable so that the “her” you would like to remember is the only “her” you DO remember?

That’s what I was doing – even as I complained about others who were doing the exact same thing. What an idiot! And it was only last night that I finally realized:

As long as I search for THE perfect photograph of my bride…?

And as long as I cling to my mental image of the Cindy, the one I have carefully edited so that I only remember what I choose to remember…?

As long as I believe that some glossy 8x10 could ever fully demonstrate for me the powerhouse of a woman Cindy Wyatt had come to be…?

I’m the one who loses.

Cindy doesn’t. Her story has already been etched into stone and will remain so for eternity. And no one can change even one line.

When I tried to make her who she was and not who she is? I put a huge roadblock in my healing journey. Because the Cindy I met many years ago was way different than the Cindy I eventually married. And my “bride Cindy”? As great as she was, she couldn’t hold a candle to the “survivor Cindy” who endured a vicious cancer journey with grace and beauty and such unspeakable strength!

And having had a daily front row seat in the arena where she fought her battle? And having witnessed in so many ways and on some many levels how she beautifully blossomed into this living testimony to the greatness of the God she so desperately loved…?

Here’s what I’ve learned: I can’t keep seeing her treatment pictures and her pink pictures as “sick Cindy.” I need to see them as “survivor Cindy.”

I’ve also learned that even if I could find “the perfect picture”? I would still lose. Because I would end up holding onto her picture and throwing away her person. I would cling to the unreal and toss the real. I would grasp an imperfect, one-time image of who she was — and I would wind up doing what I have complained others were also doing:

Loving Cindy for who she was…and not who she is.

Gulp.

What I thought was a blindness in others, I now see in me. Because Cindy is no longer “survivor Cindy,” she is more whole today than she has ever been.

And since home really is where the heart is? Cindy is now, finally, AT home. Home is not here with me. And her home is not any other place on earth, either. But she is, finally, home.

And if she were to come to me this morning and tell me how to get unstuck from this need to fully capture the person she was? I believe she would say, “Honey, let me be who I now am. Because you will be as I am soon enough. What we had then was amazing. The life I lived, the home we made, the family we built, the ministry we shared…? It was quite a ride. But don’t hold me there any longer. Because who I am is far better than who I used to be.”

 

 


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