To God be the glory. I'm about two weeks away from being finished with my first nonfiction/ministerial project. It's been a five-month journey, and what a journey it has been. The writing of I Shall Not Die has taken me on an emotional rollercoaster at times. Not a bad ride, but a rollercoaster still.
Revisiting this time in my life has sometimes brought laughter, and other times it has brought tears, but the tears have not left me sad or depressed in any way. I guess when it comes right down to it, it doesn't matter how many years pass after you have to bury someone you adore...the reminiscing will always spring forth some type of emotion. Regardless of what others may think, I'm still convinced that while a true lover may die, the true love never does. It's amazing how God can heal our hearts and allow us to move on and even love again without forcing us to stop loving the love we lost.
In this writing of I Shall Not Die, I have reached a point in the manuscript where I want to include a pictorial account of my first husband, whose amazing, determined spirit is the inspiration behind this motivational tool. In order to complete this section of the book, I had to go into my garage and unearth a box that had been taped up and placed there twelve years ago. Inside the box were eight photo albums filled with captured memories of my former life. Turning the pages in these albums and reviewing pictures that reflected so many happenings from the time I became a blushing bride all the way to the time I became a weeping widow...it was all so surreal. At times, it became overwhelming.
DAY 1 was Friday, March 12th, and it was the hardest. After opening a second retrieved box I pulled from the garage that is marked "Jimmy and Kendra's Wedding Memories" and seeing the wedding memory book, then pulling out the carefully wrapped glasses that we drank from (still clearly engraved with our names and the words "bride" and "groom") and the engraved stainless steel knives that were used to cut the wedding cake and the actual still-corked full bottle of Espirit De Vie Sparkling Non-alcoholic White Grape Juice that awaited us in our honeymoon suite...it was impossible not to have a "moment." I needed a shoulder and resolved to call one of my best friends who I knew would allow me to use hers (it's a blessing to have friends like that).
DAY 2 was Saturday, March 13th. It was still tough to try and go through the items I found, but God made it easier than the day before. I went back down to the garage to see what other things I'd stored there that would be useful in the completion of the book. A case of video tapes that I hadn't seen in twelve years was pulled from under the garbage bag filled with clothes that my daughters haven't been able to wear in forever. In that case, there are about twenty-five VHS tapes, most of which have footage of Jimmy preaching or singing at different church programs. I felt like I'd dug up a treasure chest, but I didn't feel ready to watch any of them. So I took them to my youngest daughter, and she spent much of the afternoon watching the memories play out in front of our eyes. She couldn't recall most of the happenings, but she seemed engrossed in the visual. She was just shy of three when her father passed and now she's seventeen. In her watching, I hoped she was forming a deeper bond with and appreciation for the man she never really got to know.
DAY 3 was Wednesday, March 17th. I didn't look through any of it on Sunday, I had an 8-hour photo shoot on Monday, and I just chose to focus on other things on Tuesday, so on those three days, the items went untouched. On Wednesday, as I migrated back to the boxes of memories, I found that God had given me the courage and strength that I needed to do a thorough search for the pictures that I would use in the "Captured Memories" section of I Shall Not Die. I attached a couple, as teasers, to this blog posting - you'll have to buy the book to see the others :-). There were no tears, but endless smiles as I explored page after page of photos. I even watched a video and saw Jimmy render a soul-stirring rendition of "Eyes on the Sparrow" at a scholarship memorial event. It's the first live recording of him that I've seen of him in years.
Just as He promised He would, God has really been with me throughout this project. I'm headed down the home-stretch now, and I can clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel. I Shall Not Die is going to be a book that blesses many, and whatever hurdles that I had (or have) to clear along the way in order for it to get complete will be well worth it.