Every morning I make the choice to live a faith-driven life. Marriage is the most intimate of human relationships and when that relationship is severed by death, deep sorrow follows. I have lost my grandmother that raised me and my birthmother, but none of these losses compared to the intensity of grief of losing my friend of 42 years, my husband of 39 years. My husband passed away on June 12, 2013. Each day was and is hard but God can bring you to a place of joy. My husband’s death created a huge hole but I want to assure you that you can grieve with hope.
We had planned that when our kids finished school and moved out, we would travel and go on mission trips together. But God had other plans. In 2008, after several tests and biopsies, my husband was diagnosed with cancer and over five years he underwent surgeries and rounds of radiation and chemo. We were told in January 2013 that the cancer had spread to his liver. That same month I lost my job. But it was ultimately a huge blessing, a blessing because I was able to spend the last six months of his life right alongside him. After a month in the hospital, we arranged for hospice at home. I’m grateful to God that my husband died at home as he wished and not at a hospital. I saw God powerfully that day.
Over the past year and a half I have realized that I need to continue to move toward God in the midst of my grief. He is my rock and fortress. The truth is that God is always by my side and he is always faithful.
With the death of my husband I lost more than just a person; I lost every role he played in my life. I miss our conversations, advice, laughter, companionship, dreams, someone to do bills with, cook with, someone to sit with at church and dinner.
One night I was lying in bed helpless and feeling so afraid of the future. I told God that I couldn’t stand one more day of this sorrow and worry. Right then, a song played on the radio, I need a miracle. I offered my pain to the Lord and I’m sure he was smiling at me saying it’s about time. This is an everyday struggle; I daily surrender to the Lord asking that he transform the pain for the good of others.
Although the pain will never completely disappear, it won’t always hurt as much as it does now. My willingness to choose to move forward has allowed God to comfort me. The only way to find peace is to surrender fully.
There is hope. Scripture says that the Lord will turn your mourning into dancing. So I expect that at some point I will be dancing again. I praise God that I will see my husband again. I also praise him for the wonderful memories he has provided me with since my husband’s passing. The sweet new memories with my six wonderful children and grandbabies that keep on coming! I’m grieving with hope because God is my hope even though there is sometimes the absence of joy. God will take us where we do not want to go in order to produce in us what we could not achieve on our own.
I was brought up in a very strict home by a Jehovah’s Witness mother and a father who believed in a God but was not exactly anything specific (loose Catholic upbringing). The strictness of my family home, where I grew up in near complete isolation except for school, left me wondering just what kind of God would allow this deprived existence to be my life. It didn’t help that Sunday worship at my mother’s JW congregation was excruciating to sit through, and their beliefs felt stifling.
For this and other reasons, I left both my family home & religion at the young age of 17. I went to college and somewhere along the line I became an atheist. Years would pass and nothing challenged my new belief system that there was no God – that God was an invention of a primitive mind seeking to make sense out of a world that didn’t make sense.
Until one day. One day in August 2006 I had the strangest experience. I was lying down in my bedroom when I felt what I can only describe as a strong presence next to me. Nothing was visibly there, but it was an overwhelming sensation. Not knowing what to think, I went on with my day. I would soon find out that my brother had just passed away in a violent car crash on his way home from work.
My brother’s unexpected passing and the strange presence I felt would launch me headfirst into “paranormal research”, a “field” that had gained popularity on TV shows and that seemed innocent enough. It wasn’t, and it isn’t.
This unfortunate choice led me down a dark path. I made bad choice after bad choice. I started being haunted by things I didn’t even really believe in. They not only affected me, but they affected my entire family as well. I will never forget the day when it got so bad that I, still an unbeliever, got down on my knees and prayed to a God I didn’t believe in. And yet He heard me, and He helped me.
It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t right away. I had dug myself into a pit only God was able to rescue me from. So I sought God like I’ve never sought anything before. And somehow God turned a very bad situation into an extremely valuable learning experience. Not only did I leave with a sense of how merciful God is, but I know personally, without a single doubt, that He is Real, He knows what happens to us in our lives, and He will not forsake us even if we have been less than faithful.
Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 11, 1997, our son Peter started on a journey filled with shadows and light, with many disappointments and great triumphs, with hope and faith, not on any particular outcome, but only on the fact that God is in control of our lives and His will will be done.
May 2, 1997, about 2 months before his 12th birthday, Peter’s life would be changed along with all of ours. Boating accident, propeller cutting his body, traumatic brain injury, surgery, coma. I was in Europe with my daughter. I came home to find my son strapped to a hospital bed with staples holding his scalp together and stitches all over his body. Two metal probes screwed into his head. Too many IV lines to use his arm, so they had a shunt attached to his thigh, a bag of a stranger’s blood flowing into his veins and a machine breathing for him. A monitor beeped every few seconds keeping count of the pressure in his brain. How can anyone pray for 7 days about a beep from a machine? This I did, every few seconds. Lord don’t let the brain pressure be up. There were people praying for our son across the nations. It was a good thing; all I could pray for was the beeping of a machine.
For 7 days we waited to know God’s verdict…would he live or would he die? After the danger of death passed, we waited 3 more days to start seeing what the impact of this injury would be to his abilities. We were told the worse.
That Sunday morning, as Mandy, Daniel and I were in the kitchen of the Ronald McDonald House by Children’s Hospital, eating our Mother’s Day lunch, a call came from my husband Pete. The doctor had removed the respirator. Peter had talked right away!
That Sunday was the beginning of a very long road to recovery for Peter. Yes, he could talk, but the damage was great. Two weeks after, at the rehab hospital, he was evaluated by the head psychologist. She told me, “You need to look for some vocational training for his educational path, as your son will never be able to go to college. I can still feel the pain as those words stabbed through my heart. Lord, he is the youngest one; will he see his sister and brother being so much better than him? Lord, he is a child now, but he will be a man one day and will want to have a family and need to support them. Lord, have mercy and help him!
It was a year of therapies for Peter. Physical therapy, walking eventually – he actually started running long distance on his own, about 3 miles per day in order to get the atrophied muscle of his leg to work again. Occupational therapy. Speech therapy. Vision therapy. He had to learn the alphabet, the calendar, holidays – his own middle name and how to spell it. It was incredibly frustrating for both of us. I tried to encourage him to look to God for the outcome; not to listen to what all these professionals would forecast. The Lord had a plan for him and whatever that plan was, He would give him the ability to fulfill it. The therapists did not know what God’s plan was and neither did we. We needed to be faithful and do what we needed to do with what we had at hand, just leave the outcome to God. Peter should have been in 6th grade that year; instead we spent it driving, every day, to a rehab hospital.
To this day we do not know whom the Lord used as an instrument to help Peter be accepted to Auburn University. Although Peter worked extremely hard throughout his high school years to obtain an excellent GPA, his SAT scores were lacking due to the nature of the test. I can still feel the joy of that day we opened the letter – Peter had not only been accepted to Auburn, but to their College of Business!
In typical Peter fashion, he attacked his college career. Every semester for those four years, even to the last one, my heart would ache for my son as he would leave for school. Lord, help him! We would have the same argument, why are you taking so many credit hours this semester? I want to graduate in four years. Then there were all of the other activities. It seemed he got involved in everything – RUF, church, honor society, executive club, business club, politics. “Peter, where are you?” “I am riding on the bus with the governor of Alabama.”
Well, 11 years after that fateful May day, Peter graduated from Auburn, May 10, 2007. He has since married, has 2 children and owns a successful business! He has become an example to us all of faith, courage, and perseverance. He did not know the outcome, but I believe he has trusted in the Lord to be with him and to give him the grace that was sufficient for the day. Peter never gave up, but persevered. Every day, he has gotten out of the bed and done what he needed to do that day. It’s just that simple and yet so difficult for so many of us.
Our words cannot express our gratefulness to our God for his mercy and grace. We praise Him and glorify Him. Great things He has done!
OH SING TO THE LORD A NEW SONG, SING TO THE LORD, ALL THE EARTH!
SING TO THE LORD, BLESS HIS NAME; TELL OF HIS SALVATION FROM DAY TO DAY.
Have you ever had one of those, like the kind you see in a documentary? An experience when you are outdoors somewhere, and you see something in the wild that you may never see again, or will rarely have a chance to witness again? I know of professionals and hunters that sit in trees for hours or days, and never have one! I was lucky. I remember one time…
I guess you can just be standing at a window and see two love-struck birds or squirrels going through their mating rituals, or catch two lonely lizards well, “finding” each other on a limb. These homegrown moments however, are more frequent, but I once saw a baby bear, snatch a salmon out of a river! He had just come out of a single bush on the water’s edge, as I happened to look in his direction. (Now mind you, spotting a bear alone, is pretty exciting, as many of you know. At least for us Floridians! This was on an Alaska day-tour, and we had been hoping to see one – all day.) We had just stepped off our tour bus, safely off the road, before our last miles home. I was among the first off the bus, while others slowly disembarked, some even grumbling and awakened from sleep. Only a few of us were lucky enough to see the bear that day; the only bear. Most folks were taking landscape-view, family pictures – on the other side of the bus, and completely missed it! Tourists!
As wonderful as the bear-sighting sounds, what came next was what I consider “the moment.” This hungry little bear thought his dinner was set, but it was not to be. He never had enough time to turn around with his catch, when out of nowhere, a bald eagle swooped down and grabbed it right out of his grasp! Yup! True story. I couldn’t believe it either! I had no thought of pointing my camera. I was amazed at what I had just witnessed. I probably would have missed the picture anyway. (The others on the bus decided it was best not to share their pictures of the mountains – from the other side of the bus, after that stop.) Some of them wanted the driver to go back to that spot! What was that going to do? The moment had passed! Dumb tourists!
We had a moment back in August, when Nathan had his second ENT specialist appointment. It was the day we learned that his swelling and sore throat was not the result of an infection. It was the moment we were told that his overall good health had just been snatched from his hands. (I knew again, how my little bear felt that day.) I will always remember the doctor’s face, his words, our expressions. I remember my stomach sinking and, strangely, I even recall the way the light crept in the window! It was all very surreal.
We all know what the last six months of our lives have been like. Six months. I still can hardly believe it. But here we are today, looking forward to his return to work next week, on a more limited basis, and that is very exciting news! God is so good! He has a new serving of mercies for us every day! Nathan has begun working from home, and is anxious to move past this, and work a few hours a day in the office. If you have seen him lately, he looks quite good in his slim jeans, and is feeling so much better. Praise God!
There are milestones to this care. He will be tested again in a year, two years, five, something like that, and we pray for “negative” tests and only “positive” results, if you know what I mean.
(An update 3/11/15: Nathan has recently had a CT scan and another test has been ordered. Please pray for his continued healing.)