Jerry Deans who is the local author of Lost But Not Forgotten has endured many wilderness experiences with his wife Patsi and his family. These experiences have unfolded over 3 decades and include the following:
Loss of their 16 year old daughter
Loss of their first granddaughter
Spinal cord injury of one of their 3 sons
Substance addiction of another son and
Jerry’s 21 year battle with prostate cancer
If I asked you “Have you ever spent time in the wilderness most would respond. Nope…always lived in civilized society.
But what if I asked. Have you endured a wilderness life experience. One that took you into unknown, uncharted territory where you found yourself stripped of your belief that you are in control of your life.
There are many different kinds of wilderness experiences; loss of a loved one,job or maybe a diagnosis, injury or addiction. All of these and many others change our lives as we have come to know them. If you have undergone a significant loss or tragedy you already know why I describe them as wilderness experiences. We find ourselves in a place that is totally unfamiliar. We have no previous experiences to guide us through this territory, no map, no handbook, no survival guide.
In the wilderness, we are faced with serious problems we have never before encountered, while at the same time we are struggling to get from day to day.
We are ambushed with emotions that come out of nowhere when we least expect them and at an intensity we have never before experienced. Those feelings and our reactions to them bring with them problems of their own.
Stripped of any sense of control or notion of well- being, we can no longer convince ourselves that the world is safe and predictable. Overwhelming vulnerability descends upon us like a dense fog, limiting our ability to see clearly. We find ourselves wandering in circles thinking the same thoughts and feeling the same feelings over and over and getting nowhere. We feel alone and isolated, somehow cut off from even our closest loved ones and friends. We want to find our way out of this desolate territory quickly. The sooner, the better. But there is no quick and easy way back. So, we trudge forward with growing despair, searching to find a way out of the wilderness.
The wilderness is much closer than we think. It can be right outside our door or descend upon us at our next doctors appointment. I can come unexpectedly in the middle of the night. We have no control over the events that thrust us into the wilderness.
But we can control how we respond. We have a choice. Will we allow these events to destroy our faith, our hope and our ability to go on living and loving those around us? Do we spend the rest of our lives asking Why Me? and resenting the unfairness of life. Or do we do the work that grief and loss requires of us…the really hard work. And ask the better question: What Now? But who do we ask that question to.
Jerry and Patsi believe that there is a loving God who seeks to heal us and guide us through the wilderness. He wants us to draw closer to him and learn to rely on Him rather than ourselves. If we do the wilderness can positively transform our lives forever.
Jerry has written his book as a survival guide, a handbook for wilderness walkers. He clearly describes the difficulty of the journey. but he also provides very practical steps and actions we can take to hold on to hope and allow God to lead us home. Home will never be the same as it once was. It can actually be better…even in the face of our losses.
Jerry and Patsi have led the Grief Support Group at Cool Spring Baptist Church for 15 years. This group is open to anyone in the community and usually meets on the 2nd Sunday of each month at 5:30 pm. Contact Cool Spring Church at 804-746-0800 for additional information.
Jerry’s book Lost But Not Forgotten is available on Amazon and on the shelf at Books Beads and More in Mechanicsville Village