Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"The Long Goodbye" by Carole Jones

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After battling breast cancer and struggling through the aftermath of her husband’s tragic accident, Carole Jones emerged a survivor. Today, Carole continues to share her personal experience and faith with widows, cancer patients, and their families. She resides peacefully in Portland, Oregon, with her family.

The Long Goodbye, by Carole A. Jones is a poignant first-person account about two things many women fear the most: breast cancer and the tragic loss of a spouse. It’s a story that raises the age-old question: How does a person hold on to faith when terrible things happen, one after another?

Carole Jones gives an answer—not a simple formula or pat response—but a wisdom refined in the crucible of pain. Her story, The Long Goodbye, is a graceful memoir of her struggle with breast cancer, her husband’s tragic bicycling accident, and the saga that followed as he slowly slipped away in a persistent coma.

How Carole and her family hold on to their faith is a remarkable story, told with piercing candor, grace, and, ultimately, great joy. It is a must-read story for every woman facing cancer or life-threatening illness or for anyone who has lost a spouse.
Available online at Amazon, Target, Barnes & Noble, and IUniverse.

Carole was nice to provide an excerpt of this book for you. It's just another example of a widow who understands and did something positive after everything she's been through. She is dedicated to helping other widows understand what life is like and how you, too, are not alone.

“To Love and To Cherish”

Day after day, life was the same. Tim was either well or he was sick, but other than that, his condition didn’t change. I went to see him every day, usually twice a day, and I washed him, shaved him, combed his hair, gave him a haircut when needed, and then I sat with him. I’d tell him about the kids’ doings, read to him, but mainly I just crawled up on his bed and held his hand or put my arms around him and laid my head on his chest.

I stayed overnight in his room when he was sick. I helped the nurses change him and dress him. I marveled at how our relationship had changed. Tim had always taken care of me, and yes, I had babied him, too, like a lover would. But now, it was as if I had become his mother.

Our kids were living a dual life. They loved and missed their dad, but it had been almost a year and life had gone on. I didn’t want life to stop for them. They were young. Their whole lives were ahead of them. They seemed like well adjusted, happy kids at home, at church, with their friends. But a change would come over them as we drove up to Sunbridge. They became quiet and distant and depressed and walked down the long hallway to their dad’s room looking at the ground.

Even though Sunbridge was a nice facility, my kids still saw shocking things from time to time. I tried to come up with things for them to do with their dad. I said they could read to him or sing, and they would try, but pretty soon their voices would trail off, and they would be choked up with tears. I could relate because often as I sat with Tim and tried to talk to him, I would fight back my own tears. Most often, they would sit and read and not interact with Tim very much. I understood why. Even though they knew that their dad couldn’t help it, they felt rejected by him. He never looked at them; he never talked to them or responded to them. Rae blurted out tearfully one day, “It just doesn’t seem like my dad!”

People who stopped by to visit Tim would often tell us how much Tim had responded to them. Even though we knew that most of the time Tim’s responses were being misinterpreted, we never said anything, but that made the kids feel even worse.

“Everyone keeps saying daddy responds to them. How come he never responds to me?”
I would patiently explain that those well-meaning folks might have been mistaken. I told them, too, that everyone loved their dad and it meant a lot to them to feel like they had a special moment with him.

I finally said to them one day, “I don’t think it is good for you to visit your dad everyday.” They looked at me with shock and began to protest, “No, Mommy, we’re sorry that we’re not more happy there. It is just so sad to see him like this. We’ll act better …”

I said, “You don’t have to feel guilty about this. This is my decision, and I am doing what I think is best for you. You can visit your dad any time you want, but I want you to take a break. It looks like your dad could be like this for a real long time, but I know that he would want you to keep on living. He wants you to grow up and be happy. He knows that you love him. But you need to take a break from Sunbridge.”

The kids still visited their dad frequently, but not every day.

In May, Tim’s leave ran out and his employment with the Department of Defense ended. I was so thankful that we were given so much time to see what would happen with his condition. Things would get “interesting” financially, but I’d just had a crash course in remaining calm. Like the great missionary Hudson Taylor, I had an opportunity to see what God could do.

I sat down one night and, just for kicks, added up all the paid medical bills from the first of the year. I was stunned at the total, and completely in awe of the Lord’s provision. It reminded me of our earlier, leaner years together when Tim supported our family on Guam with just his teacher’s salary.

We always got to the end of the year with the bills paid and no debt, but we really didn’t understand how that had happened. We were both pretty good at math, but two plus two didn’t equal four in our budget. It was more like two plus two equals eight. Another of the Lord’s specialties—multiplying fish and loaves. I thanked God every single day for His faithfulness in providing for Tim and me and the kids.

I was also thankful for Tim’s wacky sense of humor, which was genetically transmitted to all three of our kids. The kids and I had been discussing our situation before prayer time one evening and we finally decided that if things got really tight, we’d just start visiting all the relatives that we’d never visited or imposed upon before!

As the months progressed, God worked on my heart. For some reason, in my heart and in my mind, the anniversary of Tim’s accident became my D-day for God. I felt that if God didn’t move by then, He wasn’t planning on moving. I had been telling Him all along that there were two possible scenarios that I would accept from Him. One was that Tim could get all better or even some better. It would be fine with me if he would just wake up enough to know us. I didn’t mind taking care of him if he was disabled for the rest of his life. I had no life to get back to once this was “all over.” Tim was my life. I loved him, probably even more than ever before, and he needed me.

The second scenario was that God would take Tim to heaven. I wouldn’t even have minded if He let me tag along! Heaven was such an attractive option at this point. There was a third scenario—that God allowed Tim to stay exactly as he was.

Thanks Carole,

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