50. One Day at a Time

50. One Day at a Time

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength

One Day at a Time

It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link of the chain of destiny can be handled at a time.

~Winston Churchill

“Dear God, I cannot do this! I cannot take care of everything by myself!” I sobbed as I collapsed halfway up the stairs. The despair and fear came from the depths of my soul, and it was so intense that it felt like physical pain.

My husband Dave’s funeral had been the day before. My daughter had returned to her home five miles away and my brother-in-law and his wife had left just moments before for their home a thousand miles away. I was alone in the house where my husband and I had lived for thirty-six years and raised our children. I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. I also felt like the most “alone” person in the world!

How could I take care of the acre of property, the big house, and the vehicles? Who would I call when I needed a repairman? What would I do if something went wrong after regular business hours? I had literally crumbled under the weight of these fears as I lay sobbing on the stairs. How long did I lie there? I do not know. What were my next thoughts? I cannot remember.

This was my reality until I realized that I had a choice to make and a challenge to overcome. I could either curl up in a ball and let life pass me by, or I could somehow face the hours, days, and weeks ahead. I knew I would have a helpful support system in my church and personal friends, but that did not alleviate my anxiety about stepping into widowhood. I even had difficulty checking the “widow” box the first few times on insurance and medical forms.

Dave, a healthy man who never knew what it was to be sick, had died just six weeks after being diagnosed with cancer. The suddenness seemed to make the shock even greater as I struggled with all the responsibilities of my new role. Dave was one of those unique men who could do almost anything — painting, plumbing, wiring, framing in a new room, mowing the property with the tractor, and keeping the vehicles in pristine condition. We never had to call a repairman. I had one living with me! Now I had the responsibility of finding the right people for the jobs.

A few days after his funeral, I recalled a conversation that Dave and I had several months before. Out of curiosity, I had asked him what attracted him to me all those years before when we initially met in college. I expected him to say something about my appearance or my outgoing personality, but he surprised me with his answer. “I saw a strength in you that told me you could carry on with our family if anything ever happened to me.”

Dave had faith in me. Now I needed to have faith in myself. I knew it would not be easy, and it would not come overnight. I also realized something else that was adding to my burden. I was looking too far into the future — to the weeks and months and years ahead. That “distant vision” was defeating me, and I knew I had to take one day and one circumstance at a time.

“Lord, help me to take one day at a time because You know I always look into the future. You will have to help me reprogram my way of thinking, but I know I can do it with Your help,” I prayed.

I returned to work after three weeks, although I was still reeling from the shock. My co-workers and supervisors understood when I would break down in tears and have to leave my work area to pull myself together.

During a counseling session that dealt with grief, the counselor explained a very helpful visual concept. She asked me to hold both arms out in front of me, which I did. “Now take one arm away. This is your situation now. All these years, you and Dave worked together as a team, each balancing your share of responsibilities. Now one member of that team is gone, and you would not be normal if you didn’t feel as you do. This is an abnormal situation, and you are behaving quite normally.” Her words gave me reassurance and made me realize that I was not, after all, losing my mind. I left her office that day with a renewed sense of my capability.

The weeks slipped by, and I found myself feeling a little more comfortable in my new role. I kept remembering Dave’s words about the strength he saw in me, and I wanted to honor his trust. As each situation arose that needed a repairman, I would find the right person. My daughter took over cutting the acre of grass, and I continued to do the “prettying up” around the house with flowers. I knew that our inner emotions can often be affected, either negatively or positive, by our outward surroundings. I did not want my surroundings to reflect the difficult situation to which I was adjusting.

The initial twelve months were especially difficult, as it was a year of “firsts” for everything — holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and special events. Each time I reminded myself that it would be the only “first” and that each one coming after it would be a little easier. Some days were better than others. I was able to traverse situations that I had expected to stop me in my tracks, but other times I would feel immobilized by the smallest task or comment. I came to realize firsthand that the healing process is like a roller coaster ride. You see some of the dips coming, while others take you completely by surprise.

As the adjustment continues, I keep reminding myself of the two valuable truths I have learned. First, I cannot look far down the road and try to anticipate things to come. That will keep me from making the first small steps necessary in the healing process. It will also burden me with all the situations that I know will eventually arise. I absolutely have to take it day by day.

Secondly, I have a strength within myself that I can call up when necessary and, when that strength is not sufficient, I can ask God to supply the added courage that I need. I also know that because God loves His children beyond measure, He will not fail me when I need Him.

As I look back over Dave’s and my years together, I have come to realize that what seemed like small things at the moment have turned into precious memories that will last my lifetime. I will make it — one day at a time!

~Carol Goodman Heizer

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