So it's finally here. It's been a year since the love of my life went to be with the Lord. Did you notice how quickly the year passed by?
When I was visiting my friend in Bakersfield, we spent our first night together catching up. We really hadn't seen much of each other since high school and she has this function on her TV where we can stick our SD cards into it and watch our pictures as a slideshow. I've had my camera for a very long time. And I delete pictures every so often, but I have pictures on there from Anderson's first surgery in 2006, from his recovery, from random things we did over the years... Valentine's day 2008... here why don't I just show you.
From Anderson's first surgery, UCLA Medical Center 2006
From the beanie days...
went to Disneyland a lot thanks to some pretty awesome friends... and we always, always, always took a picture on the tram ride
chest bumps on timer... valentine's day 2008
our beautiful friends
the first meal I cooked for us as a married couple.
went to the Disney lot as Mr. and Mrs. Chen
at the Dodger dugout
Dodgers v. Astros at Minute Maid Stadium in Houston
baking cookies during occupational therapy at M.D. Anderson
As I was looking at these pictures... it dawned on me... how much has happened these past few years. We were happy. We found joy amidst the suffering.
I was at work the other day and a patient from another hallway had wandered into my patient's room and started talking to one of my patients and her husband. I was down the hall but I heard my manager tell the wandering patient that she needed to go back to her room. So I walked over, I put my hand on her shoulder and asked this lovely (but slightly confused) patient, if I could walk her back to her room. She said "yes"... and she also said, "I just wanted to go talk to everyone because everyone here looks so sad... except you. You have happy eyes."
It made me remember something I wrote a while ago...actually... in two days, it will be exactly a year ago.
Day 2: I want to let you all know that I do cry. I do not restrain myself and I do not put on any front for anyone. I'm actually having a hard time controlling other emotions as well... like anger or irritation. I can't open the floodgates to let out my grief without also letting all the other stuff out as well. When you see me, I may be just as stoic as you remember me... but with slightly sadder eyes.In the past year... that I've been widowed... so much has happened.
Here's a little bit...
visited friends in New York
left some of Anderson's ashes in SF...
I went to Maui
I've fallen in love with my family again...
I got a job
I graduated... again.
I went to the Bahamas
Did some volunteer work in Bakersfield
we had our 2nd annual Dodger game day for Anderson. He would have been so proud of his lovely wife sporting his name and his favorite numbers. He probably would have been more proud had I remembered to pack my dodger cap.
went to SF again
In thinking over this entire year... my eyes have definitely been very happy. My heart has been full... filled to overflowing. I have experienced a peace and a joy that I have never known my whole life and I know for a fact that it all originated with God's lavish love for me. His love which has surrounded me and protected me like a force field... His loving staff which has led me to green pastures... to drink at quiet waters...and out of the valley of the shadow of death... His love which has touched the hearts of so many people around me and compelled them to use their hands to reach out and cradle my heart, to wipe away my tears, to experience joy when I joy... and hurt when I hurt... for ears to listen to my emotional outbursts... for eyes that read the novellas that are my daily thoughts... to all of you whose hearts have beat with mine on my journey through my first year of widowdom... I thank God for all of you. Thank you for smiling with me. Thank you for experiencing life with me. Thank you for taking care of me. I couldn't have done it without you.
I've been having really horrible sleep lately. Bad dreams mostly. The absolute worst dream was a few days ago. I dreamt about Anderson. I dreamt that he came back to life... but only for a limited amount of breaths. We didn't know how many breaths he had... we just knew that once those breaths were used up... he'd be gone again. We were at a restaurant. One of his female friends came by and started flirting with him. I got incredibly angry. I stood up and yelled at her to stop it, to get away from us... how dare she this and that... full on screaming in public. As we were leaving the restaurant, I felt a tugging on my heart to go apologize to her... but I ignored it. I figured... I'd just do it later and we left. I got into the car first. Before he could come in after me... he decided that he wanted to run. He wanted to run as fast as he could... just because he felt like he could do it and he hadn't run in a long, long time. Before I could protest, he had already taken off. Do any of you remember how he used to run? Speedy Gonzalez? Anyway, so I went running after him, screaming at him to stop. He finally did and he said, "that was awesome". I was relieved he stopped but I didn't think that it was awesome at all. We got into the car and he was hugging me... tired from running. I was looking ahead and I thought to myself... that running couldn't have been very good... it was wasteful. Wasted breaths. I looked down at him... and I felt him limp in my arms. He was gone. He had died in my arms... again.
I woke up abruptly and gasped sharply. I was motionless and speechless for a few minutes. And then I burst into tears. I was just thinking to myself that I hadn't cried in 2 weeks before I'd gone to bed that morning. I normally cry every few days. I cried that morning like I hadn't cried in a long time. There was a pit.. .a pang... a hollow circle of pain deep within my chest. If anything could have consumed the whole of my heart and make it throb with sorrow, anguish, and regret... if you could imagine that someone had hit the middle of my chest like a mallet hits a gong... the blunt force of the hit hurts like no other... but then, like a gong... the pain reverberates outward from the point of initial impact, spreading concentrically in waves like an earthquake from its epicenter... and I could not breathe. That's what it felt like.
I experienced the silent screams of anguish with every exhale... again.
This time... it wasn't the loss that was driving me to anguish... it was the regret... the shame... mostly the regret. I shouldn't have yelled at that friend. I should have taken the time to apologize. I should have enjoyed dinner instead of being upset. I should have run with him. I should have been WITH him instead of trying in vain to protect and guard that which... was only gifted to me for a short amount of time. It was like I had another chance to be near him and... I wasted it. He didn't waste his breaths... I wasted mine... in vain. And that was what was killing me about the dream.
My dreams affect me a lot. They're so real to me and I get so emotionally involved in them.
I learn a lot from my dreams though. This particular one... a few things came to mind... 1st thing... was that verse... those who want to save their life will lose it... those who give up their life will find it. 2nd thing... was that I don't want to squander the gifts of my life. There is wisdom in saving... but there is also wisdom in enjoying what you've got when you've got it. There is a time to guard and protect, and there is a time to stop doing that and to live in the moment... go with the flow... laugh with your whole heart... embrace life... embrace people... let go of the worry and let things just take care of themselves. Most of what we worry about... doesn't need to be worried over. My room's not going to implode on itself if it's just a little bit messy in here. I know my mom's probably not going to like that I said that, but it's true. My room kind of looks like a hurricane blew through here... but I'll get to it. Not the greatest example but... yeah. OK here's a better one. If it came between putting hours and hours into writing the perfect essay... to get an A... versus spending time with God and spending time with people... not being lazy and shirking my responsibilities... but choosing to spend quality time with God and with people... I'll take the B. God and people are more important than papers. And somehow... when I aligned my priorities in that way... I never got the B. I always seemed to be able to get my papers done. I got to hang out with people... I spent time with God daily... and I got my A's too. What a gift.
It's been a good year. A very, very good year. I don't know what's in store for me in this year to come. Hopefully more good things, but if this year is a year to suffer again... I'm sure it will also be a good year of learning, growth, and refinement. I'm excited for whatever lies ahead. I'm really not sure what it is, but I know that it'll be good.
In the meantime... (Psalm 130:5) I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word I do hope. With happy eyes... I do wait... with eagerness... with hope... with anticipation... to experience more of His lavish love for me.
Thank you for reading. I really appreciate it. :)
Tiff (Ng) Chen