Does God Send Balloons?
By Elaine Williams ©2008

One day, a little over three months after my husband's cancer diagnosis, was the first time I really thought he was going to die. He lay in bed and he could not get up from being so weak. I was so incredibly frightened. I knew with certainty there was a good chance he was going to die that day.

His holistic doctor and I had been trying to convince Joseph to try a new treatment for detoxification. He was adamant he wasn't going along with any of it. I told him again about the research supporting the treatment and how it was important to rid the body of poisons and toxins. That morning, when he lay so weak in bed, I again begged and pleaded with him. When he refused I slipped out the back door of the house since I didn't want the kids to see me crying.

I couldn't control my emotions, feeling so overwhelmed with fear and stress, a helpless witness to his constant pain. Pain control was an ongoing struggle since nothing prescribed seemed to be effective.

As soon as I left the house, I saw the balloons in the tree way across the yard from our house. Several months before we had had a party for our oldest son. My husband had found out he had cancer that week, but he wanted to go ahead with the party anyway, as he was intent on keeping things as normal as possible for the kids.

The day following the party, I was surprised to see two helium balloons high up in the tree by our backfield. It had been windy the night before, so we thought that the wind had somehow brought them there and they had become entangled in the tree branches. Even though I knew they were there, I had never actually looked too closely at them.

Now, crying quietly, I walked out to the tree, totally devastated by what was happening back in the house. I stood under the balloons and saw for the first time what both balloons said. "Get Well Soon." Immediately, I stopped crying, as it felt like a sign. A voice inside told me something I'd heard many times since my husband got ill, "No matter what happens, we'll be okay."

I went back into the house, feeling buoyed up by something positive. I just had a feeling that somehow God had sent us that message. Back in the house, I told my husband about the balloons and what they said. To my surprise, he said he would try the new treatment.

Within one half hour following the treatment, he was out of bed and outside puttering around in our barn. I was amazed. I couldn't believe he wanted to go outside, much less that he was no longer weak. He also said he didn't need any pain medicine, he felt fine.

After that first successful treatment, he had an influx of energy, as if he'd been rejuvenated. I kept very precise records of all the medicines and supplements he received. From that day until three days later, he had very little pain medicine, and he swore he was very comfortable.
This was the only time in the entire 11 months he was ill that he had such an alleviation of pain. It's incredibly hard to understand how or why this happened. Many times after that I would stare out the window at those balloons and just as many times, I think God was just trying to give both of us a break.

A Journey Well Taken:
Life After Loss by Elaine Williams

Sometimes You Need to Cry
Elaine Williams ©2008

I recall a period in time, at about 18 months after my husband passed away, that I felt pretty good about myself. I had handled what life had thrown me and come out battered, but mostly okay on the other side. After caretaking my husband for almost a year, I was battling some minor health problems of my own, related mostly to stress, but most days I was certain my life was on track. Steady and focused, my three boys were also adjusting and it seemed we all had a grip on reality.

On this day, I was on my way to an appointment with my holistic doctor when the radio began playing a song I had never heard before. The singer's words stirred something inside me. The song spoke of loving someone through the years, and even with that person gone, the threads of memory remained.

The words reverberated through me, and I experienced almost a kind of shock as their meaning sank in. Out of nowhere, I began to cry so hard I had to pull off the road. I had no control over the rush of anguished emotion. All my hard won calm fled, chopped off at the knees as I hugged the steering wheel of my car.

I cried as if a great well had opened inside and pulled my guts out. When I finally began to calm and the tears subsided, I had to wonder where this emotional outburst had come from. How could a song open a wound of such profound loss?

I arrived at my doctor's office, and as usual with holistic doctors, they not only want to know about you physically, but they dig deeper into the emotional aspects of your life. I hesitated only briefly before telling him what had occurred on the way to his office. I felt embarrassed by my earlier semi-breakdown. I tried to explain that I'd been feeling good, and then to suddenly have this upheaval had thrown me for a loop.

He explained it was to be expected there would be days where emotion could still catch me by surprise. With the loss still relatively fresh in my life, how could I expect to be 100%? I admitted to him that I'd been feeling excruciatingly lonely, but I thought I was handling it. Some days my idea of "handling" it meant ignoring or burying my feelings. Always a very private person, I hadn't shared much of my thoughts with anyone. When friends asked how I was doing, I would usually say I was okay. Inside, I kept thinking, who wants to hear that I just want to get through another day?

I felt much better after speaking with him. Not only was he a sympathetic ear, it felt good to open up and share my worries about being alone, my concern for the kids' welfare and fears that I wasn't handling my finances to my best advantage.

We talked extensively about the triggers that stirred my own private misery. Something as straightforward as a song, or as complex as past memories, seemed to have the power to entrench me in great emotion. He made me realize there would be times I merely needed to cry as part of grief's healing process. There was nothing complicated about it. Each time we are brave enough to reach down and allow our true emotions out, it brings a little more healing into our lives. As time passes, and we remain true to ourselves, a new sense of empowerment emerges.

Tomorrow is a Gift
Elaine Williams © 2008

My husband chose to be cremated, and to that end I had arranged a time for friends and family to gather for a memorial service in remembrance. I gathered pictures of our twenty plus years together, creating a wonderful collage in pictures for the service.

On this evening, the hospice doctor who visited regularly spoke of my husband as he had come to know him during his illness. Friends and family were invited to add their remembrances, and I silently appreciated each of them. My sister-in-law read a short eulogy I had written in respect and love for our life together, because for once, I felt frail instead of strong. I knew I would not be able to read it myself. Overall, the day became a moving and inspiring tribute to a man who had cared about many.

My husband, being an avid sportsman, had wished to have his ashes put into a black powder rifle and shot up into our grassy back pasture. One overcast day in November, about six months after his passing, we fulfilled this final wish. With close family and a few friends, a buddy of my husband's loaded the rifle four times, once for myself and then once for each of our boys. We shot the ashes up into the overcast sky and across the field. The remainder of the ashes I divided and we then scattered them as our final goodbye.

Even though my husband was cremated, I decided to purchase a headstone in his memory. I felt it was important for my kids to know there was a tangible testament to their father. I had it inscribed with his nickname, and a rearing stag, which I knew my husband and kids would appreciate. It didn't matter that he wasn't buried in the ground beneath that stone. The stone told the world, and his children, he had been alive and meant something to all of us.

I prepared the grave site myself for the stone placement. I brought my shovel and buckets of crushed stone, dug up a small area, placed the crushed stone in the hole, then carefully placed a smooth piece of two-inch thick bluestone for the base. It had taken me a week to chisel across the bottom of the stone: "Tomorrow is a gift." When I carved the first letter "T", being relatively unfamiliar with using stone chisels, the "T"� ended up looking a little odd.

The day the company delivered the head stone was overcast, and as I drove toward the cemetery, the skies grew threateningly darker by the moment. The two men used a hoist to lower the headstone into place, but as they were almost finished, the skies suddenly opened and rain pelted down with unbelievable force. I watched as they quickly lowered the stone, and it dropped the last inch or so. I fearfully checked the base, afraid it might have cracked, but luckily it had not. The men left, and I stood in the rain looking at the crooked headstone. As the rain poured around me, I carefully straightened it and then satisfied, I ran to my car for shelter. I just sat there staring at the headstone, my body chilled and my mind blank. As I drove home, the sun appeared and steam rose from the wet summer pavement.

At the time, my youngest son was ten and still in Sunday school. He would take his snack in the quaint little cemetery each Sunday after class and eat it on the stone wall next to his father's headstone.

In the early days, feeling lost or at a particularly low moment, I would visit the cemetery and sit by the stone. Even though I knew he wasn't there, I would talk to my husband about the fears or problems I currently faced.

My two older boys never mentioned visiting the small, tree-shaded cemetery. If they had, they kept it to themselves. Perhaps they will share this with me at some time in the future. There's also the possibility they may never mention it. We've all learned to deal with different points of pain in our grief process.

For myself, I still occasionally go to the cemetery, especially in the Fall. I carefully brush away any debris from the stone's base, so I can see the carved inscription.

"Tomorrow is a Gift" is a reminder that today and each day is a gift not to be taken lightly.

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