This day marks the seventeenth anniversary of losing my fun-loving husband David and dedicated father to Andy and Ben. It was a Thursday much like today with lots of white puffy clouds against a sunny blue sky. The beauty of the spring day faded later around dusk. David suffered a fatal heart-attack on the basketball court while playing with Andy and some other boys after school. Even after all these years, my heart beats to a different rhythm as I rewind the events of that day. It is a challenging day, but time has given us ways to remember all of the goodness that David shared and lives on in each of us. I catch a glimpse of him when Andy and Ben smile. I hear his laughter when his best friend from childhood comes to visit. I feel the strength of his hugs when Ben or Andy give me a tight hug around my shoulders. I see his compassion for others lived out in all of us as we try to help brighten someone’s day. I jump with his sense of joy when his beloved Virginia wins the Final Four. I see his hope and radiance in his grand-daughter’s face as she sees a bird flying in the sky. I feel my heart expand with the warmth of his love when I draw closer to my family, friends, and even strangers on this journey of living life to the fullest! Seventeen years brings understanding to loss and gives me a deeper appreciation for the one and only David Butterworth.
Almost 16 years ago at Thanksgiving, my family and I adopted a golden retriever who has given us unconditional love every day. I’m so thankful for her undivided attention by our sides all these years. When we selected her, I recommended that we get the runt of the litter. My sons and husband stared at me like I had lost my mind. They thought that was a terrible idea, but I persisted. I reminded them that our other 2 golden retrievers had been roly-poly fluff balls and lived relatively short years. (Our first golden named Nugget had died at 6, and our second golden named Kelly had lived to be only 8.) After an hour of playing with the puppies, they decided that I could make the final decision.
I chose the smallest and slimmest girl puppy, and we began our journey back home. While traveling, we had a fun time trying to think of names that suited her. Finally, I said, “Let’s call her Maggie after my grandmother,” who had died when my sons were very young. Without hesitation, we all agreed that was a great name for our darling golden girl.
Maggie continues to be a ray of sunshine in our lives. She has traveled over the miles of ups and downs that we have seen in her long life. Maggie loved retrieving in her younger days. When she was a puppy, I taught her to retrieve the newspaper and take it to my husband David in bed. On the days after David died, she would grab the paper in her mouth at the mailbox and race upstairs to make her speedy delivery.
After several weeks of watching her frustration and confusion as to his whereabouts, I sought help with our dog trainer Sally. She confirmed that Maggie was grieving just like all of us. Sally took her to her home for a month until we could begin to manage our own grief better. When Maggie returned, we were better equipped to cope with our grief and to love Maggie in spite of our sadness. She still wanted to take the paper up to our room, but I was able to teach her to take it to one of my sons instead. (It still brings tears to my eyes thinking about her wanting to bring the paper to David after he died.)
The days and years that followed our loss have held changes for all of us. But, Maggie has remained our faithful and loving companion all the way. She doesn’t move so quickly these days due to her arthritis, but her devotion to us has never faltered. Maggie takes her sweet time when fetching up the paper, but she can almost knock you down racing to her food bowl. She’s kind of a dog foodie.
Her reddish furry coat is turning white especially around her face. Our time together won’t last forever, but I know I’ll treasure her devotion and unconditional love forever. She loves me with all of her heart! As I think about her almost 16 years of greetings, handshakes, boundary border keeping, running, walking, swimming, fetching, begging, eating, hiking, exploring, and ever present desire to settle in by me, I just love how my dog loves me!
May 16, 2017 means that 15 years have slipped by since my husband David suffered a fatal heart attack while playing basketball with our son Andy at St. Christopher’s School. That day seemed to shatter our rose colored world of happy endings, but the hands of those surrounding Andy, Ben and me made sure that our tragedy didn’t define our destiny. There are no words in our English language that can ever fully capture our gratitude for the shoulders we leaned on or the hands that reached out to us during those darkest hours.
After spending the week-end on a scout hike with David and Ben at a boy scout hike, our friend Briscoe described David in a sympathy note. He wrote about the wonderful campsite that David and Ben had created where “everyone had a great time, and in the center of it all was a big guy with an even bigger heart making people laugh.” These words still ring true about my big-hearted husband who loved and lived life to the fullest. In some ways, he lived more life in his 45 years than many of us can fathom. It makes our hearts happy to know how much love David shared. We have found solace over time in hearing and sharing memories of his life.
We have surely grieved in agonizing ways, but we have found countless silver linings scattered along our way that have kept us moving forward one day at a time. From the first moments after his fall to the cold hard floor of the gym to this beautiful blue sky May morning, we have been privileged to receive glimmers of silver light lining the storm clouds that hover overhead.
The first shimmering silver lights were the first responders who worked on his lifeless body in spite of knowing full well that he might not recover. I recently met the man who gave my husband mouth to mouth resuscitation until the medical team arrived. It is odd that in 15 years, I never had met Brock Lively who tried desperately to revive him. You have to admit that Brock’s last name is interesting given his willingness to step forward to help David. You simply can’t make this stuff up. He told me about rushing over to help Andy and the other boys that huddled over David. Brock said, “It was like everything was in slow motion.” His description summed up our foggy recollections of that first hour.
Although Brock and I had never met until this January, his mother and I were friends through church. I knew that his own father had died at an early age leaving her a widow with 3 children to raise. When Brock and I talked recently, he told me that losing his own father at an early age had motivated him to learn C.P.R. He wanted to give others a second chance at living even though his father didn’t get one. Knowing that he tried to help David in spite of his own loss was a ray of sunshine I hadn’t expected to learn about fifteen years later. Helping others find hope in their stormy times encourages me to write about transforming our losses. My sons and I have helped others face adversity in their lives. Our compassion grew out of our own loss in much the same way as Brock’s.
There are so many connections or silver linings that have given us new directions and full hearts in these 15 years. This short blog can’t contain them all. We want to give you our thanks for lighting our path. Without these illuminations, we may have lost our way in the shadows of death. We know that silver linings really do exist! In memory of David, we hope you will continue to brighten another’s journey! A song written and sung by the Honey Dewdrops named “Silver Lining” inspired my title today. From their lyrics, “You’re my silver lining when it don’t look good, I’m always finding, you’re my silver lining.” (www.TheHoneyDewdrops.com)
After my husband died, hundreds of people came to see me to offer sympathy. After several hours I excused myself from the living room where some still were gathered. I just couldn’t shake another hand or shed another tear because I was exhausted. I fell across my bed as my son Andy came in to check on me. He wanted to know how I was doing. I swallowed hard and replied, “Right now I’m starving.” I asked him if he would go down to the dining room to make me a plate of food from the banquet laid out by my friends on our dining room table. He disappeared and returned moments later with a silver platter. As he sat the tray in front of me, I realized that he had brought me a tray consisting entirely of homemade brownies. I smiled at him as I reached for one of them. He told me that they were really good. It was one of those moments I can never forget. Eating brownies from a silver tray with Andy was a bitter sweet moment of grief. Grieving makes you hungry and why shouldn’t I eat a whole plate of chocolate brownies!