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Months ago, I was interviewing author Tosca Lee when she told me about a book.

Tosca is a New York Times bestselling author who lives south of Fremont.

But the book she mentioned isn’t one she’s written.

It was written by a Lincoln woman named Roseanne Liesveld and it’s called “The Collision of Grief and Gratitude: A Pursuit of Sacred Light.”*

Like me, Roseanne is a widow.

Roseanne’s husband, Curt, was doing yard work on May 16, 2015, when he collapsed and died suddenly. The cause of his death would be listed as a cardiac arrest.

Family and friends have grieved deeply, but Roseanne tells how she’s been blessed by many kind, caring people.

Yet a few days after her husband’s funeral, Roseanne feared she’d never be able to adequately express her gratitude to those who made such a difference in her darkest hours.

So, she began by writing a short Facebook post thanking her son, John. The next day, she thanked someone else.

She kept writing and sharing her feelings.

Roseanne would discover she felt better after writing these posts.

In her posts, she’d try to find that grain of gratitude even amid the deep grief she was experiencing over the loss of the man to whom she’d been married for almost 44 years.

In process, Roseanne would write 366 posts, which she compiled into the book, sharing her struggles, achievements — and what she learned along the way.

While reading the book, I was struck by the commonalities between Curt and my late husband, Chuck.

They were both great listeners and very affectionate.

Both loved the Fourth of July and did the Christmas gift wrapping.

And both loved our God and their families very much.

As I kept reading, I was touched to learn that Roseanne played the song, “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” on the piano at her husband’s funeral.

That song played in my head repeatedly when Chuck was in the intensive care unit after his accident.

It was one of the songs we had at his funeral.

While reading, I could relate to the heartache and things Roseanne dealt with after losing her husband.

Like Roseanne, I know what it’s like to wake up in the morning and have the first thought on my mind be that my husband is no longer here with me.

I, too, miss the look on my husband’s face when I’d dress up. I remember the sad switch in pronouns from “we” and “our” to “I” and “mine” during everyday conversations.

And I remember the frozen dinners in front of the TV or computer. I quit eating at the kitchen table.

These days, I still don’t eat alone at the table, but I’ll cook a turkey burger on my little Foreman grill and a potato in the microwave, then head to the bedroom that became my home office.

I like Roseanne’s book — not just because I can relate to another widow — but because of her determination to be grateful even in the midst of profound grief.

She’d admit that sometimes the grief won out over the gratitude, but she kept trying.

My favorite entry in the book is something Roseanne wrote about her grandson, Johnny.

The segment on Day 97 is called “Metaphorically Speaking” and involves something that happened the night before Curt’s funeral.

Friends and family had gathered for a time of sharing that evening, when Johnny got up to speak.

He talked about learning to ride a bike and how he’d get discouraged when he fell on the sidewalk.

That’s when his grandpa, whom he affectionately called “Poppo,” gave him some advice:

“Keep between the lines. Stay focused. And don’t give up.”

Then Johnny said, “Metaphorically speaking, I think what Poppo said will stay with me as good advice for life.”

With that, Johnny sat down.

Now, most kids (and many adults) would be hard pressed to define a metaphor, but that 10-year-old boy managed to provide insight and encouragement to those around him.

It reminds me of the boy, Jesus, who was 12 years old when he and his parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of Passover.

After the festival ended, his parents spent three days looking for him — only to find Jesus in the temple court, listening to the teachers and asking questions.

And as the Scriptures say: “Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.”

You could expect that Jesus — the son of God — would have astounding insight even at a young age.

But I love how God can gift us with tender wisdom and encouragement when we need it.

God can use grief and hardship to shape and mold us, too.

And he can work through the Scriptures and the stories of others to let us know we’re not alone and to give us hope.

I like Poppo and Johnny’s advice about keeping between the lines, which to me says I should stay within the protective borders outlined in God’s word.

We need to obey God and do what his word says.

I also believe we must stay focused as we run this race called life.

As the writer of the book of Hebrews says: “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

And we can’t give up.

I’m reminded of this every time I read Bible verses like:

  • “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9).
  • “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11-28).
  • “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31).
  • “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13.

I think it’s tough to be a widow. It’s not what Roseanne or I wanted at all.

But I believe we know where we can find strength in our most trying times.

We find it in the one we sing about — our Lord — because as the song says: “Great is thy faithfulness.”

* “The Collision of Grief and Gratitude: A Pursuit of Sacred Light.”* 2017 copyright, Roseanne Liesveld, Illuminato Press, Omaha.

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Tammy Real-McKeighan is a reporter with the Fremont Tribune. She writes a weekly spiritual column.

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