During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, I wrote a book “Coping with Crisis: A West Virginia Doctor’s Perspective.” We were surviving an uncharted course with no vaccination to protect us. Our economy was on life support aided by massive federal bills. After publication in the Fall of 2020, I first addressed the professional and service employees of the Upshur County Schools Board of Education, walking them through four sessions of the book’s pearls.
Then I turned to our extended Almond Family, offering guidance and support.
Now we are all coping again with the Holiday Season including Thanksgiving and Christmas. This time around, my turn comes needing aid as I work through the grief that comes from the death of my beloved wife, Araceli Ganan Almond, on May 17, 2021.
Already I have learned more coping skills beyond the ones in my book “Coping with Crisis.” For example, I have learned practical steps toward healing, as I have lost more than one person. I have lost everything that this person means to me. I have sustained multiple losses:
1- Araceli prepared food as a chef. She fixed broken things in our home as an engineer. She saved for a rainy day like a banker.
2- Araceli nurtured and snuggled our granddaughters, our kitty cats, and me.
3- Araceli sought a deeper understanding of God and His ways. She served our family as a spiritual guide.
4- Araceli carried in her heart hopes and dreams for our children. She declared they would be “mighty on the Earth,” basing this on Psalm 112.
5- Araceli imagined our growing old together. She planned for our retirement and our milestones. Through observing her and how she dealt with suffering, I learned growing old is not for sissies.
I found myself drifting last summer. I scarcely could set an agenda—even missing some Board of Education meetings, which I have rarely done in more than 10 years serving as a member of the BOE. One hot July day I determined to go back to my roots. I wanted to plant some stakes! So I drove to Hemlock, West Virginia, to seek solace at our family farm that we affectionately call “The Wilderness.”
There under a massive hemlock evergreen rooted deeply in the bank of the Middle Fork River, I meditated on Habakkuk 3:17-19. This is an Old Testament book that Matilda and Warren Braine, who owned the farm at that time, were reading when Doctor Dad and I answered a need to make a house call. My friend Ricky Summers had just died in a tragic farm accident. We were fourth graders set on joining the Boy Scouts and 4-H together. We looked forward to a great life. What a loss!
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to tread on the heights.” Habakkuk 3:17-19
I remember listening to Mr. Braine, Sunday School Superintendent at the Hemlock, Mt. Olive Methodist Church, telling Dad, “It is hard to be a Christian.” Now after a lifetime of living in these wild and wonderful West Virginia Hills, I know what he means.