Walter’s Birthday

Walter’s Birthday

I found this photo (shot by my sister-in-law’s talented father, Gary) last night. September 18, 2010 – my 39th birthday, four years ago. Walter’s birthday is September 30th – today – so we were celebrating both. Grey and his band had turned our backyard into a tiny 80s progrock concert hall. It took something that awesome to bring that day to an end like this. But when I look at this photo I just see everything I was holding back.

At the beginning of this concert, Walter and I weren’t speaking to each other. Aslan was seven months old; Elspeth, three. I looked okay, but inside – physically and emotionally – I was a mess. And what Walter witnessed our midwives do the day Aslan was born – let’s just say some people should never, ever play with scissors (or anything that’s alive or otherwise important, for that matter) – had freaked him out. He had PTSD, no question. He wouldn’t start opening up to me again for two more months, when I finally cornered him and asked, “You’re grossed out … aren’t you?” He didn’t answer. At least I had an answer, then. Or the start of one.

It’s not like we weren’t trying to fix things. Couple’s therapy, all kinds of physical therapy for me, then repair surgery. Two years after this photo was taken, we were finally, finally starting to find our way back into the sun – I remember a precious flirty smile at breakfast with the kids at Natalia’s in Camas (me realizing, “Damn this guy is hot … and awesome with these kids … and he’s still here. After all this, he’s still here.”), a sunny late-summer day at Mt. Hood (me realizing, “I don’t even remember how to have fun anymore”), my birthday at Tad’s Chicken and Dumplings. The romance was coming back. Still, I was holding back.

And then, his birthday – his last birthday. I messed up. I could give all sorts of valid, good reasons – busy with the kids, my not-yet-fully-returned health, my return to work, our growing photography business – we were like ships passing in the night. But in the end, I talked about how much I loved him, but on his birthdays (and too many other times) I didn’t show him, and he finally told me how much that hurt.

Less than two months later he was dead.

About nine months after he died, I finally learned what I had been missing.

I was let go from my job on a Friday. My artist neighbor gave me the most amazing pep talk about making it as a photographer that Saturday. And on Sunday, church met at the Heberlings, where the elders had just installed, of all things, a zipline. Something inside me knew I was supposed to ride that thing. And for the first time in my life, as my kids watched (so I HAD to make it look good), I experienced firsthand that I can take what I feel in my heart (abject terror), and let Jesus forcefully turn it around for good (total exuberance). I did it to look good for the kids. Inside me, it did so much more.

At first, I thought the point of that zipline was to teach me how to let go and fly as a photographer. Now, I think it was also to teach me how to love: Feelings follow actions. I’d heard it, but I’d never learned how to do it. I can be a good gift-buyer. I can be a good party host, a good … lots of (much more important) things. Feelings follow actions. Jesus can do a lot with actions. But excuses? Not much good follows excuses.

I love you Walter. Happy birthday, my sexy postal pirate angel.



It didn’t even register that it would have been our eight-year wedding anniversary today, even after one sweet friend remembered, sent me a message. My mind checked out. I could not go there. I sat in bed catching up notes in my kung fu bible at bedtime when it finally hit me. I considered going right back to forgetting about it when I remembered this beautiful box I never look at, full of three cards for each holiday, love notes, sorry notes. Full of all the evidence that I am a good woman fiercely loved by a good man – watching, I am convinced, from Heaven, desperately hoping I will not do what is so easy to do in my loneliness and grief: Be not alone at any cost. And I pulled out the box, and let Walter’s prolific note- and card-writing do the job I bet it was meant to do, in this time God knew was coming. And Walter can rest in a job well done tonite. ‪#‎widowed‬ ‪#‎desertblossom‬‪#‎copyright2014narrowpathphotography‬ ‪#‎narrowpathphoto‬ ‪#‎love‬ ‪#‎soulmate‬‪#‎truelove‬ ‪#‎loveneverdies‬

These words keep following me.

These words keep following me.

These words keep following me.

Recently my sifu observed that I’m trying to walk forward while holding on to a boulder with both hands. That boulder … “is it fear?” I asked. He confirmed, but … fear of what?

This saying crops up a lot on pages that address narcissism … um … fallout. I’ve been staying up late for days trolling such pages, trying to figure out why I feel so gutted, a little crazy, and mournful; let that suffice as explanation of my summer. I do not think Walter’s up there pulling strings to see me (us) hook up with … that. But I felt so *led*. And then … I fell pretty hard. So I spent most of August extricating myself, but it hurt. Still hurts. Guess I was more vulnerable than I thought.

Then, this last Saturday night, God says, “I see you” through a friend. And this week, in conversations with my cool friends Judit and Helena, I start to see where God might be pointing me now. I see recurring themes of open-ended ministry, and I see need. Then I arrive to kung fu last night to – surprise! I’m leading basic class?! *terror* And Sifu Tristan coached me not on my fear of public speaking, or the fact that I’m choreographically challenged, but my fear of leadership.

Leadership: Like, the role you can’t escape when your husband dies. Of course. And I’m surrounded by the fallout of broken people raised by broken people who turned inward and embraced their brokenness, instead of turning outward and joining God in healing others’ brokenness — essentially, leadership. But have I been embracing it? Well … not exactly.

So, I ask Sifu Tristan this morning: Is it fear of leadership? “How about letting go?” He answers.

And wouldn’t you know it: This morning at Thatcher’s Coffee, Sheri says, “Look!” and here it is: “‘What if I fall?’ Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?”

And Sheri and I have this beautiful walk on the Vancouver waterfront, and talk about the recurring theme of letting go in scripture, and I tell her all the stuff that’s been happening this past week. And it all falls into place.

Helena says revival’s happening all around us. Yeah, I think she’s right.

Pin It on Pinterest