Category Archives: Married Life

Surviving Algebra? Again?!

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I’ve learned a lot the last few months about the role best performed by my late husband’s calculator brain rather than my illlogical. creative one. I never wanted to learn or do all this administrative stuff he did so well; things I cared less about under normal circumstances, and especially despise, in the middle of unbearable sorrow.

Paperwork. Forms. Systems. Numbers. Rules. Regulations. Institutions. Bureaucracy. Red tape. Makes my eyes cross, my brain turn to mush and my blood pressure rise. I feel like I’m back in Algebra class wondering who decided letters and numbers should go together. And I flunked algebra twice then passed by one point the third time around. In summer school. With tutoring!

Apparently I’m a bit smarter than I’ve ever given myself credit for (notice I said ‘a bit’) and Mike might be proud of me. Unfortunately, I’m being forced to learn this stuff because he’s not here to do it anymore. It’s amazing how you can rise to a challenge when not given a choice.

Anyway back to what I’ve figured out and what will save you some hassle should you ever (I pray not) be in my shoes. So for what it’s worth:

Most financial institutions no longer honor wills. Yep. You read that right. “Wills can be contested,” I’ve been told. So a will is no longer the top dog of the legal document pile.

Most banks, especially the larger ones, now have in-house beneficiary forms. If we had known about this and used it, I wouldn’t be retaining a lawyer to access funds from a savings account we forgot to put my name on. Ask your bank if they have this form and by all means name your beneficiary and sign it. If you each have separate accounts and would like your spouse to have access to it immediately upon your death, this form should take care of it. But ask to be sure.

(By the way, here’s something I didn’t know; Power of Attorney, is only useful if the person you have it for is still alive. It’s useless once they’re deceased.)

Be certain both spouse names are on every single account you have if you want your significant other to have immediate access. It’s better to use the word ‘OR’ between your names whenever possible, rather than ‘AND’. ‘Or’ means either. ‘And’ means both. Even when supplying a death certificate, I’ve had issues depositing an insurance check for hurricane roof repair because Mike couldn’t sign it when it used the word ‘and’.

Be certain both names are on car titles joined by the word ‘OR’. I am able to sell either of our cars and easily transfer registration solely to my name because of this little word. ‘Or’ means either one of us can make decisions about the car without the other. If there is someone you want to have immediate access to your car when you’re no longer here, go to DMV and pay the $80.00 (cost where I live. Fees may be different in other counties or states) to add their name (along with that ‘or’ word), otherwise the car will have to go through probate because the owner is unable to sign the title.

The same is true of real estate, houses or property. Make sure both names are on everything. Ask, when you open accounts, buy property or perform any legal transaction, what can be done to insure this asset passes to my spouse immediately if I’m deceased. Then take the time to do it.

Speaking of cars, be sure you know who your roadside service is. What mechanic, garage or dealer services your cars and whether you still have a valid warranty. I‘ve already had to deal with a car that wouldn’t start. Car maintenance was another task I never thought much about. Mike always took care of it.

Unless you plan on hiring it out, be sure you have general knowledge of other maintenance items such as pool pumps, filters, chemicals, and cleaning / Service for Air conditioning and heating systems. AC filters and when and how to change them / House water softening or purifying systems / Know where your whole house water shut off is to avoid a flooded house should a pipe burst or some other indoor water emergency occur.

Much bill paying, banking, even investing is now done online. Can’t emphasize enough!!!! How important it is to sit down together and take the time to make a spreadsheet listing ALL accounts with contact info, account numbers, user ID and password. Keep all online access info current by updating passwords as they change. Believe me, this will simplify your transition to single-ness if you’re not the one who takes care of the family finances.

Keep a list of reoccurring monthly and/or yearly payments with account numbers, amounts, passwords to online accounts and what bank account or credit card they’re tied to. Also list bills that are still paid by mail.

Write down active credit cards by account name and number along with online access information to credit card statements and payment if needed. And don’t forget to update any and all info (especially passwords) if/as it changes.

Keep a file cabinet organized and up to date. Organize by categories: Bank accounts, credit cards, life insurance, car insurance, health insurance, real estate, loans, IRA’s, taxes, etc. Go through it once a year (at least) and update or remove old or invalid information from your files. This will make it easier to find everything needed when you’re heart is aching and your brain has turned into sad, unfocused mush.

A few side notes; You’ll be asked for your deceased spouse’s social security number often at first, so make sure you have a copy of it available or have it memorized. Also don’t cancel your spouses cell phone account immediately. You might need it to search for important information or the phone number may be tied to some vital accounts, text or email notices you might not know you need at first.

No one wants to talk about the possibility of death and couples never want to think about living without each other, but I’m now a certain statistic that it can happen and sometimes without warning. Whatever practical steps can be taken to minimize panic and ease the burden of grief will be worth it, someday, for one of you.

Take the time to prepare just in case, with hopes you’ll have a long and wonderful life together.

No Time To Say Goodbye

D04A261E-5434-4A2C-AE9F-71B8C0A188E2He’s gone. Just like that. Suddenly. No suspicion. No warning. No alert. He came home from the office, changed his clothes, cleaned the pool, took the trash to the road. It was a typical day like any other. I left to do some errands and he was fine. When I came home my husband was dead.

I wonder what it was like for him to be here alone, those last few minutes, when breath left his body. I wonder if I could have helped him or saved him somehow if I’d been home instead of wheeling a cart up and down store aisles trying to decide what we’d have for dinner next week. He was my partner in life. We depended on each other and I wasn’t there when he most needed me. And there was no way for either of us to know I needed to be. There was no way for us to know our life together was ending that day.

There was no time to say goodbye.

I don’t know how to process this. It haunts me in the night hours. I can’t stop thinking about it. Maybe I never will. It has changed me. Drastically. Do other’s look and see a sadder version of the same Diane? I‘m not the same. Something has shifted. On the inside, I don’t recognize myself. I‘m a totally different me.

Time flies away. We live like there’s no tomorrow. We plan as if we’ll be here forever. But we won’t. The day finally comes when its over and we move on to eternity.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that. James 4:13-15.

Love like there’s no tomorrow. Do and say the things that need to be said everyday. Don’t live as if this is all there is. Live with eternity in mind, always, because we never know when we’ll have to say goodbye.

Or if we’ll even have that chance.

Flying Solo Now

I 64A3576D-A59A-4DE3-A044-27CDEFBD1BF2write this on a flight to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to celebrate my son’s first published book release. He’s hosting a book launch party this weekend. It seems to be a thing authors do now and it’s a rather big deal.

David’s father would have been excited to attend this event. My husband should be here next to me. But the seat is as empty as the gapping hole in my heart.

We often went places without each other. I’d go and Mike would stay home with Jon or the reverse. Though we didn’t always enjoy our necessary separations, we accepted it as how things had to be. And I always knew he’d be waiting for me when I returned.

This flight feels different than any I’ve taken before. I’m surrounded by people, crammed together inside an Allegiant MD80, yet it’s so lonely. As the miles are absorbed beneath me and the land slides away, the one person on this planet, who knew me better than anyone, who made history and a life with me is missing. I could fly all the way around the circle of the earth in this plane, and not find him.

My husband won’t be there when I go back home. I’m flying solo now.

For those who say “He’s still with you,” or “He’s watching over you, I say “No. Maybe. I don’t know.” There’s no scriptural basis I can find for that. If he is watching me all the time he’s sad at how heartbroken I am without him. There’s not supposed to be any sadness or heartache in Heaven. So I have my doubts.

And right now it’s not enough to think he might be watching me from wherever he is. It’s just not enough for me. I can’t see, hear or touch him. I can talk to the air and tell him how proud we are of our kid’s accomplishments but Mike isn’t here with me to share in it. He doesn’t answer. All I get in return is silence.

Saying he’s with me doesn’t help. It doesn’t make me feel better. In fact, hearing that he’s watching from somewhere I’m not, makes it worse. Only a reminder Mike’s physical presence is sorely missing from mine.

Maybe I’ll be more accepting of such platitudes later. In a year. Or two. Or three. But not now.

So Mike, if by some chance you are listening and if you can see, I’ve arrived now and I’m holding a copy of our son’s book in my hands. It’s amazing. So is he. Just like his father.

And it’s cold in Chattanooga. You’d be complaining right along with me. Wish we could lay here together under this fluffy, warm comforter and talk about it all.

Just want you to know this weekend, you’ll sure be missed at this celebration of what we, and then our son, created.

Lonely and Not Alone

IMG_0243I’m asked a lot these days, “How you doing?” I’m not sure if people want the standard answer or the real answer. I’m not even sure I know the answer. Trying to get through another day without my husband is pure agony. I still can’t believe he’s gone or that I’ll never again hear his familiar, “What’s up!” coming through the door at the end of a work day.

As a staff pastor and the financial administrator at the church where he ministered and worked, he was somewhere in the building anytime I arrived there. If he wasn’t waiting for me, I could always find him. Trinity Church is and always will be associated with Mike in my heart and mind and it’s difficult for me to be there right now, because he’s not.

Five Friday’s have come and gone since the evening he died. Friday was Mike’s day off. Our ‘date day’. Jon’s caregiver would come to the house in the early afternoon and we would leave for the day; go shopping, see a movie, eat out, spend time together. Our date days have ended. I don’t like Friday anymore.

I have no ability to categorize any of this right now. It all swirls around in my head and becomes a wrecking ball of pain and sorrow for my heart. I try to fill up my days with tasks clamoring for my attention, those that used to be his and those that have always been mine. Evenings and nights stretch eternal and each morning sunrise is another reminder that I’ll live another day without him.

I’m being told by so many I’m not alone. God is with me. I’m aware of this completely. He’s here in the middle of it all. I’ve sensed Him in my deepest sorrow, have not blamed Him for any of it and in some unexplainable way, I trust Him.

But I still wear skin. My spirit exists in a physical body and world, one that involves taste, touch, sound and sight. I long for my partner with skin on, a man I could see, hear, touch, whose presence filled up my life and years.

When God made the first human he said, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). He was right. It’s not.

Yes, God is here. I’m not alone.

But Mike is not and I’m so lonely.

Just another life contradiction I don’t understand.

The Final Vow

IMG_0011The first two promises Mike and I made to one another weren’t always easy to keep. We laughed, cried, fought, rejoiced, struggled, walked together and at times, far apart through “for better, for worse. In sickness and in health.”

Many years ago we stood at an altar and repeated, “Until death do us part.” I was a young, starry eyed, romantic, full of warm, fuzzy dreams of how my life would play out with the guy I loved. Those five words, stated so innocently, so glibly have now come full circle.

“Until death do us part.”

Forty two years later I’m experiencing the final vow. This one I get to keep without Mike by my side. That’s how it usually works. After decades of sloshing through the history of our life, one of us got to go. One got to stay.

“Until death do us part.”

My covenant promises to Michael Connis ended abruptly a few weeks ago. The last vow has been fulfilled. The stark, harsh reality of it has left me reeling, gasping, longing.

But the living of it in between the “I Do” and this parting, I will never regret.

The combining of two bodies, souls and spirits is a most wonderful, difficult thing. If you’re still privileged to be living between the first two vows and the last one – BE. ALL. IN.

Love ferociously. Struggle determinedly. Give it all ya’ got until the final vow comes calling.

In the deep grief of a broken heart and the loneliness of long, sleepless nights there will be a spark of joy in realizing you kept the promises.

And it was worth it!

Matthew 19:6 “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Love Never Fails

IMG_0177I was barely twenty years old when Mike and I married on August 23, 1975. I confess now, though I didn’t think so then, I knew nothing of love. I was ‘in love’, but was unaware of the truth that love was not much in me.

Love was all feeling. All desire. And so much about my personal happiness. Of course, I wanted to please Mike, make him happy and keep our love alive and growing, but I had no clue how the melding of two entirely different souls would forge and shape us. I had no idea the process would continuously be both marvelous and difficult, until our last breath.

Over many years of marriage, I have failed all of love’s definitions.

Every. Single. One. And have often prevailed in love’s opposites.

After all this time, I have yet to perfect even one of these:

Love is patient. Selfishness demands, “Now!”

Love is kind. Selfishness retaliates.

Love does not envy. Selfishness is discontent.

Love does not boast. Selfishness demands recognition and approval.

Love is not arrogant. Selfishness doesn’t admit, “I am wrong.”

Love is not rude. Selfishness must have the last word.

Love does not insist on its own way. Selfishness says, “My way or the highway”.

Love is not irritable. Selfishness has many moods.

Love is not resentful. Selfishness is bitter and accusatory.

Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing. Selfishness retaliates.

Love rejoices with the truth. Selfishness hides in lies.

Love bears all things. Selfishness says, “I’ve had enough. I’m done!”

Love believes all things. Selfishness cancels faith.

Love hopes all things. Selfishness feasts on distrust and fear.

Love endures all things. Selfishness builds walls of protection.

Love never fails. Selfishness gives up and walks away.

One year followed another and as time moved forward, my selfish heart awakened to the idea that love isn’t all about me. And the perception that I, in my own strength and by my human effort, could love as God loves, completely and unconditionally, is now banished. I desperately need His grace and help here. I am a work in progress. Always.

Forty two years ago, two imperfect people merged to begin a journey of growth and improvement. Iron is sharpening iron and two are still becoming one, as we continue to practice what love should be. I have deep gratitude for my husband who steadfastly forgives and doesn’t give up on me, though my love has often failed.

At this point, I think we understand a bit better, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” I pray a year from today, I’ll fail less at this love thing as our Love Never Fails learning continues.


From~1 Corinthians 13:4-8 & 13

 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh.” Mark 10:7-8

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

Ornery Love -The Secret to a Long Marriage

“Can you believe it’s been forty years?” I asked Mike.us web

“Yes and no.” He answered. “It seems like yesterday and like a long time ago all at the same time.”

“When you’ve been married this long, people wonder what the secret is. People ask me that now? So what do you think it is – the secret to making it?”

My husband said exactly what I’ve been thinking lately, “There’s no big secret. It’s hard work and a lot of showing up and not giving up”

Our son, David, recently wrote a great song to his wife, Clara, for their fourth wedding anniversary titled, “Ornery Love”. You can listen to it here.

The word ornery doesn’t typically have a positive connotation but one definition is, stubborn. I like the idea of using it to describe a long lasting marriage because an obstinate commitment to each other is what it takes to keep a marriage alive and growing in a culture that does everything possible to slaughter it.

I’m thrilled our son and his wife are discovering this early on and hope both sets of parents, his and hers, have modeled ornery love well enough to be certain our kids will take the marriage journey from four anniversaries to forty and beyond, as we are doing now.

We’ve done an incredible amount of ornery loving through our years of togetherness and by a miracle of God’s grace we’ve never quit.

August 23, 1975 – 2015! Happy, Ornery #40 to us.

1 Corinthians 13:7 “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”