Life in boxes, once again

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We have boxed up our belongings and rented a storage unit to store them. Again. The few remaining items we use on a daily basis are ready to be boxed up, our clothes in suitcases ready to be zipped shut and rolled out the door. On Tuesday, September 15, the local Two Men and a Truck moving company will come to pick up our boxes and move them to the storage unit.

My life is in boxes once again. Since we have lived in a small furnished rental for the last eight years, we have no furniture to move, just boxes. We have not owned a vacuum cleaner or couch or a bed or a table and chairs in 11 years.

Since our landlord unceremoniously dropped the bomb about us having to move out by the end of September, we have run the gamut of emotions. First, we were in shock at the unkind, unwarranted, horrible manner in which we were treated by someone to whom we had tried to show kindness. Next, we embraced this as an opportunity to make some changes for the better, to try to find that elusive place to finally be “at home” in a home of our own. We have been trying to decide where that might be. We looked at homes in Charleston, where our daughter lives. We have looked at homes where we currently live. We are trying to find a nice, comfortable, affordable home without breaking the bank, so to speak. We would like to be near family (with our daughter in Charleston and our son in Seattle, they are coasts apart), but either one would involve me giving up my job and trying to find another – in the middle of a pandemic and on the cusp of turning 65 on September 30. Plus, any place we want to live the housing is very expensive. There’s no way we could qualify for a home loan – or even an apartment rental – on just Joe’s Social Security, and as much as employers are not supposed to consider a person’s age, I am cognizant of the fact that my age not in my favor in looking for a new job somewhere else.

We have tried to find a short-term, furnished rental or vacation rental to buy ourselves some time to work things out (and so I can continue working at my job), but that, too, is proving nearly impossible. Vacation rentals are booked because it’s headed into fall and “leaf peeping” season here along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Other rentals, such as apartments, want long-term leases. We don’t have time to find a place to purchase. We just don’t know what to do any more. Right now, my emotions on the verge of full-on panic.

We have no place to go and have to move out in 17 days. We continue to look, but it’s not hopeful. I guess there’s always a hotel.

I’ve hit lots of other emotions, too. I’m so worried about how all of this stress is affecting my husband who had a heart attack a scant nine months ago. Once a person has a heart attack, his chances of having another are greatly increased. I am struggling to hold onto my carefully constructed facade of togetherness. I wake up in the middle of the night, desperately searching for a place to live. I sit alone in the dark, break down and cry for all we have lost. Too many losses over the years. The losses easily come to the surface when one is stretched so thin. I’m embarrassed that we find ourselves in this position at our ages. It has not been an easy road since Jason died. We have lost our home, friends, income, security, hope, faith. My faith in God and in his people has not been the same Jason died.

My sister has tired to encourage us, recently sending this Bible verse and her interpretation of it.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”

Jeremiah 29:11-14 – NLT

God has had plans for you all along. They are good plans, not plans for disaster or poverty or hopelessness. Rather, they are plans that will cause a spring of hope and joy in your hearts when you think of them in your future. Even now, today, when you reach out from that place of uncertainty and pray in faith, God promises that he will hear you. Your words won’t just bounce off the wall, but He will actually listen and take to heart the words that you are saying. He will reveal Himself to you, bringing comfort and direction. You will begin to notice the sadness and emptiness that has dogged you for so long, come to an end and a real joy and hope will return. You will begin to see things that you’ve lost be restored to you. Your wandering will end and you will return to your home again to your own land.  These are the plans that God has for you, Plans that will give you hope and a future, says the Lord.

My response:

I truly appreciate that you are trying to encourage us. It has really been a discouraging time, that’s for sure. 

I will tell you that I used to wholeheartedly get behind this verse. So much so, in fact, that I had printed it out on nice heavyweight paper with a pretty font. I purchased a incredible frame, put this printed verse into the frame and gave it as a special gift to Jason as an encouragement for his future. It was sitting by his bedside on the night he died. Both Joe and I truly believed from the minute he was born that God had a special purpose for Jason. I used to wake up in the middle of the night nearly every night, go downstairs and pray for our kids, for their friends, for their futures, for their future spouses, for our grandchildren, for protection and blessing for my family. I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that my prayers “availed much.”

But no one told me that God would turn a deaf ear to my earnest prayers for protection for my kids and allow Jason to die, that he would not protect Jason, that the “plans” and “future” (and as a promise from the Bible I used as an encouragement for him) that he had for Jason was for him to die at the hands of a drunk driver at the age of 19, that Eric would marry someone who has so undermined our relationships with him and our grandchildren to the point where our grandchildren hardly have anything to do with us, that so much would happen to Jenna that has cost her so much, that our good “Christian” friends would leave us so alone when we needed them the most. Joe, Jenna and I have paid a high, high price because Jason died, a higher price than anyone truly knows. [Although I have written about what we went through, there are still many things I am not at liberty to write about.] I’m sorry and I don’t mean any disrespect and I by no means mean to sound harsh, but I just do not so blindly believe this any more. If God has some special plans for us, he needs to show up pretty soon and prove it. 

I honestly do thank you, though, for thinking of us and for caring about us. You are really the only one who has stuck around at all, despite all those people on Facebook who say that they care or are praying for us. Perhaps they do care and do pray, but it’s difficult to trust in people any more. It’s difficult when people say something but don’t follow up with actions. I’m not fooled; I remember which ones of them stood by us when Jason died. They were few and far between. They told us they prayed and cared, but then left us so alone. They did nothing and that hurt. It really hurt. I’ve always said that my head understood that we were difficult to be around but that my heart didn’t understand. It’s still true – my head still understands that they just didn’t know what to do to help. My heart still hurts at being abandoned. I don’t really want an answer or discussion or a sermon. I just wanted to let you know this verse doesn’t necessarily mean to me or to Joe what it means to you. 

My faith in God was shaken when Jason died. It’s never really recovered. I want to believe and I honestly try, but I still struggle. At first, I prayed God would use this horrible evil and loss for good. Then, I hoped and believed God would restore and bless us as he did Job in the Bible. It’s been nearly 19 years and I’ve yet to see such a thing. My faith in people was shaken when people died. Many have disappeared from our lives, never to return. Only my friend Mary stepped up. I miss her. I have a hard time making friends any more. I have a hard time believing in friendship. My heart was a broken beyond repair. I still miss my boy so much. I miss the life we had as a family.

You never could have convinced me that at 72 and 65 years old, respectively, Joe and I would be in the position we are now in. Unless we find something to move into in the next 17 days, we will once again be houseless/homeless. We faced a similar time in the big 1993 Seattle Inauguration Day storm when a big tree fell on the house we were renting. The house was so damaged we had to move out the next day, putting all of our things in storage. We were without a home for several months while we looked for a place to buy. We stayed in a hotel, stayed with friends for a while, I went on an extended trip to visit relatives in the Midwest. We ended up renting a small apartment while we had a house built.

One difference between then and now – other than our ages and the fact that our Eric and Jenna are grown, live on different coasts and Jason is dead – is that it was easier for me to have hope. I had hope that things would get better, that we had time for things to turn around. I had not yet gone through so much loss. We had not yet traversed for so long on such a long, rocky, tiring journey. The whole “He leads me beside still waters, restores my soul” thing has been an elusive promise. We just don’t know what to do any more and we’re running out of time.

Our days are numbered and I am well aware of that. Both of my parents died when they were 78 years old. Joe is 72 and had a heart attack nine months ago. He has been struggling with some memory issues lately, now exacerbated by all of the stress we are under. I am very aware – probably more than most – that those we love die and that each moment is precious. I want to find a place where we can enjoy the years we have remaining, a place close to family, a place where we can be “at home.” I want the illusion to become a reality.

Meanwhile, our lives are in boxes once again.

~Becky

© 2020 Rebecca R. Carney

My Life in Boxes

Last fall, we went to Oklahoma to get the last of our things out of storage and to move them to North Carolina where we now live. They’ve been in storage for seven years since we moved from Oklahoma. We spent two days repacking things into smaller, uniform moving boxes and and once again whittling down our earthly possessions. Again. Deciding what’s important to keep and what’s replaceable. Again. Taking boxes and boxes and boxes of household goods, kitchen items and clothes to Goodwill. Again. I’ve done this process too many times and it’s hard on me every time. If I never again hear the words “we need to get rid of” or the phrase “Are you really keeping that???,” it will be too soon. It seems I always feel pushed into giving away something that really was important to me or that I later wished I had kept.

The last remaining things of our life in Seattle. The last remaining physical items I have that connect me to Jason. The history of our lives. Photographs. Scrapbooks. Christmas ornaments. Momentos of our lives when the kids were little. Jason’s chess set. A few books. A couple of my dad’s Bibles. Tax records. Important papers.

Less than 50 12″ x 12″ x 18″ boxes. Less than 50 boxes is all we moved. That’s all we have left. Seriously, that’s all we have left that we can call our own (since moving from Oklahoma seven years ago, we have lived in rented, fully-furnished one bedroom apartments in both Florida and North Carolina, so we don’t have any furniture, etc.). Less than 50 boxes. It seems like such a small amount of things that reflect the busy, fun, full life we had before Jason died and the big house and home that was so filled with love and activity. Sometimes it feels like my life has shrunk so small since then.

But, those items in those boxes also are a reminder that physical things are just that – things. They are just things. I lived without seeing or physically touching those things for seven years. Although those things may remind us of Jason and the time he was alive, there is no way those flat, one-dimensional items can truly reflect the real Jason – the awesome person he was, his intelligence and humor, his beautiful blue eyes, the many facets of his wonderful and Godly character, and his truly kind and loving nature. Those are things that can only be held closely and fully in our hearts and memories.

Holding you close in my heart and in my memories today, my precious boy. I miss you and I love you more than words can say. I look forward to the day I can see you and hug the real you once again.

~Becky

© 2016 Rebecca R. Carney