• Debbie Salter Goodwin

One Year Later


Today it’s been one year without Lisa.

One year without her multiple phone calls, her pesky persistence, her unexpected wit, her syncopated walk, her hugs, her catastrophes, her compassion, her generosity. One year without her color-coordinated style, her hats and sun glasses, her smile. One year!

It has been a year of reconnections, transition, and major changes. We have slowly moved from the aching pain of “How can this be real” to an acceptance of the reality and the willingness to allow this new reality to shape our lives in productive ways. We are still in the shaping stage. Today, as I think about this year, I am able to recognize some of its gifts. They haven’t been wrapped in paper and ribbon or stuffed in a gift bag overflowing with tissue paper. They have been subtle, sometimes almost hidden, but treasures all the same because they cost us dearly. Here are the ones I have been able to identify:

  • There is the gift of a deep need for each other that offers the choice to be vulnerable in raw and uncomfortable ways. Accepting this need as gift rather than ignoring it or resisting it has deepened the onefleshness of our marriage.

  • There is the gift of time. Supporting Lisa took time. We both had to reinvest that time in ways that brought some measure of fulfillment. Wasting it would have felt like dishonoring Lisa. We took impromptu trips and returned to long-delayed projects. We invested in people around us. We took time and let that time be its own gift.

  • There is the gift of perspective. Life has a beginning and end, a birth and a death. Those bookends come with few choices. All choice lies between the two. I am painfully aware that Lisa had less time to accomplish her God-given purpose than I have already been given. Am I making the right choices so that I fulfill my purpose in the same way she fulfilled hers?

  • There is the gift of memory. Slowly, very slowly, our memories of Lisa are more about her humor, her generous heart, her funny ways, her essence than those excruciating last days of losing her. She lives strongly in our hearts and we don’t have to see her picture to know it.

  • There is the gift of new opportunity. For us it has meant the move to Georgia we could not make with Lisa because of her needs. While it is a bittersweet truth that we have made the move she so desperately wanted to make, we live with her spirit invading every art of our lives here, except without the complicated push to meet her needs. Someone else is taking care of that now!

  • There is the gift of healing. Hers and ours. We no longer worry about her next loss or crisis. We know in the deep part of our hearts that she is whole in a way she never could have been here, and it brings a healing even through the unavoidable grief attached to it.

Please understand that I do not believe these gifts make up for Lisa’s loss or fill the hole she left. These gifts support us in our loss without numbing the pain of losing her. They fortify us in our grief so that we do not lose ourselves in some bottomless pit of no return. They have a timed release nature so there can be ongoing healing as we accept them and let them rearrange and deepen our lives.

We were three for this day of remembrance for Lisa was with us by memory, by her journals, by her underlined Bibles, by her artwork and by her giggle in our ears. We went to Cracker Barrel and ordered chicken and dumplings, her favorite. It was a time to cry and a time to laugh; a time to grieve, but we saved some time for dancing.

We put on Andre Crouch’s “Soon and very Soon,” the song Lisa has danced to since I met her at age four. It invited our hearts to dance to the invigorating beat and the living truth that her life mattered to us and many others and that the God who created her has taken over her full care. In her healing we continue to find ours as well.


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