I started this writing retreat with high hopes. The set purpose of intentional, dedicated time would bring results my word counts increased. Each day would be full of the quiet contentment that comes from writing. I had a plan of action, and Christmas-like anticipation rose in my spirit.
Then, life took a sharp turn. While I have no idea today how God will use all that happened and didn’t happen, I know He will.
Here’s my retreat week in review.
Days 1 & 2:
It’s taken me until almost 8 PM of Day 2 to find my focus. Discovery: I don’t let stress go easily. It takes intentional effort to breathe a little slower, ponder my writing projects, and take in the opportunities less social media offers.
I miss my FB family and friends. A lot.
Pacing and pondering my way through our house, I felt the quiet settle around me. Sometimes on my journey up and down the hallway and dining room, Sophie walked with me and tried to “herd” me into the living room.
The solitude is, at times, heavy. Gray and wearing. Strangely distracting.
Day 3: January 13, 2021
Our beautiful, sweet, sassy, enthusiastic Sophie is gone. We are grieving deeply. She filled up holes in our lives we didn’t know we had. She talked to us. Smiled at us. If all else failed, she nibbled on our ears to get our attention.
I miss her curly fancy tail wagging at me and her enthusiastic love.
We knew she had cancer in her little body and that today was coming. We talked about it, prayed about it, and did our best to prepare our hearts. As long as our girl continued to eat, enjoyed her walks, and did most of the things Sophie did, we would wait.
She did her very best until she couldn’t.
Preparation works for many things but not the loss of a beloved friend.
This writing retreat isn’t at all what I expected. And it surely wasn’t the day Sophie Star (Tucker has the same middle and last names) DeKok hoped for either. She loved life, but today, that beautiful little girl’s heart no longer beats in the energetic and enthusiastic rhythm that kept us at the center of her life.
Writing more than this is impossible. All I have left is tears. In a year of losses, here is another. They have all cut deep. One on top of the other before the sorrow before it had time to stop bleeding.
Day 4: January 14, 2021
FB tells me I posted this photo of Sophie on January 14, 2019. 2 years ago today.
I sat at my desk, determined to work on my novel. To push ahead. To be brave. It didn’t work, but I tried to purge the pain by setting it from my heart, through my fingers, to the page, which is a useless effort because the sorrow will live inside me long. But facing the aching head-on through words is one of the ways I grieve. Although my novel word count has not increased, my journal is much longer than it was. And my box of tissues is emptier.
Today, the loveseat in my office is empty. No little writing buddies snuggled in, gracing my space with their contentment. Tucker is with Jon – he needs his best buddy. He will snuggle with me later – he’s faithful that way. You might ask if I mean Jon or Tucker. The answer is both. Yes, in the middle of this, I know I am blessed.
I’m thankful we have Philippians 4:13, which says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
All things. Grieving included.
Day 5: January 15, 2021
When the words didn’t come again, I walked. This photo illustrates the way it feels when I try to write. I know it will get better. The chill in my heart will thaw, and the heaviness will lift. Then the story will tumble from my mind onto the page again. But not today. And that’s okay. When I planned this retreat, I had a plan. God had a different one. In the sadness, I trust Him.
Day 6: January 16, 2021
My retreat is complete. It wasn’t about writing – at least not yet. It was about taking the time to pray and grieve. The loss of a sweet friend in early December. The return of cancer in my body and my first radiation treatment. (We hope it’s the last for this spot but won’t know until March.) And our Sophie. These three heartaches collided and refused to be ignored. The solitude demanded I face the grief. The solitude was no longer a distraction but a place in time to pray, pace, and cry—a time to thank God for Amy and Sophie and to grieve our joint losses with Jon.
A time to be.
Of course, this involved coffee – a lot of coffee and rides with Tucker, who still loves going to his favorite parks and the drive-through at McDonald’s. He gets treats from us, and that’s a big deal for our handsome little buddy.
On Monday, I will go back to my desk and read what I have written so far. I figure each time I go there, my heart will find it’s way back to the story.
Until Next Time,
P. S. One of the ways I eased the sorrow back was to read. During this difficult week, I took brief moments of respite with author Michelle Griep’s The House at the End of the Moor. The author asks this question on Amazon:
What Can a London Opera Star and an Escaped Dartmoor Prisoner Have in Common?
These lines from the book snagged my heart. They are not in order, so I am giving nothing away other than the author’s talent to keep a wounded heart focused on the story and not her own grief.
“Rain cries down the windowpanes in a steady pat-pat-pat.”
“Though she smiles, a sadness hangs about her, a hint of desolate music in her tone, like the singing of a dirge on a very rainy day—and I suspect it has nothing whatsoever to do with my absence from the stage.”
“I dine with ghosts.”
To learn more about this book, click on the cover below.