I have come to the age where I no longer attend weddings or baby showers but funerals. Even though I'm only 56, several of my dear friends (who I know personally and also through social media) have lost spouses in the past year or so. I attended the funeral of a woman a bit younger than me. A wife and mother of two young daughters who I had known for years. Although I knew she was in heaven I wept constantly through the service. I can't imagine anything more devastating than losing your spouse and I have to honestly admit that it is my greatest fear in life.
It is especially poignant in light of the entire Joey and Rory Feek situation that transpired recently. A young, beautiful, new mother dies of ovarian cancer at the age of 40 and the couple had a blog that shared the entire experience with the world.
My next book (not yet published) was a what if. What if I lost my husband, Michael? The love of my life? How does one handle something so devastating? How do you go on? I asked Rebecca, my friend, who lost her husband a year ago March 29th if she would be willing to share her own experience in the hopes that it might help others who have gone through the same thing.
Here is Rebecca's story...
How did you meet your husband, David?
David and I both lived in a mobile home park when we met. He was a Sgt. Deputy Sheriff with Autauga County Sheriff’s Office, and I was an Assistant Manager at Prattville Credit Corp. One-day driving into our mobile home park, I stopped at the mailboxes to check my mail. As I started back to my car, this deputy who was sitting behind my car, motioned for me to come over to where he was. I got almost to his car and he said, never mind, I thought you were a girl we have warrants on for bad checks.
Apparently the elderly lady that live across the street from me, had a granddaughter that looked like me from behind and drove the same year, make, model, and color car I drove. A few nights later I started a part time job at night delivering pizza’s at pizza hut, and that night when we were checking out our tips, I got to talking to one of the other drivers, and he ask where I live. He told me he also lived there, and that he was a deputy sheriff. I said yes there are a couple of deputies that live in my mobile home park and I said one of them is an A _ _ Hole. He said why do you say that, and I preceded to tell him about the deputy at the mailbox that day, and about that time he pulled off his cap, and I was like OH S _ _ T!!!! , BECAUSE THEN I REALIZED IT WAS HIM. He of course, thought it was funny, I figured I was going to jail for sure next time he saw me but we started talking on a regular basis and started dating and soon it was LOVE. (excuse the bad words there, but I was not a Christian back then).
How long were you married?
David and I were married February 3, 1999 and He passed away March 29, 2015. So we were married 16 years, 1 month, 26 days. Those were the most wonderful years of my life.
What was the thing you loved most about him?
David was a very kind, loving man. He treated me like a princess. I can honestly say that the whole time we were married; He NEVER raised his voice to me. He was a very well loved and respected man in our county. He was my best friend, husband, and my hero. He was a man of God, and a priest in our home. He always made sure I was happy.
What were the circumstances that lead to his untimely passing?
David spent 20 years in the Air Force and retired. Then 22 years with Autauga County Sheriff’s and on November 1, 2014, he retired as a Lieutenant. On March 26, 2015, David went into surgery to have a Hernia Repair, which was a success, but the doctor went and clipped something on an old surgery, sewed him up then sent him home, this was a Thursday. Saturday morning David was having trouble breathing, so he was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. The last words we said to each other, was I love you. When they got him to the hospital they had to incubate him, and this is when I found out that the doctor that had done the hernia repair had clipped his bowel open. David was septic. It was all in his organs, and things began to shut down. The doctors did everything they could to try to save him, but it was too late. Sunday afternoon, we had to shut down the machines that was keeping him alive. My whole world came tumbling down.
I've had several friends lose loved ones this year. Please share how you dealt with this terrible tragedy especially in light of your relationship with the Lord.
I can say that I love my Jesus with all my heart, and I trust him. I thought I was a very strong person, but in the next few months following my loss of David, I started falling to pieces. It has been almost a year now since his death and I still hurt and long for him, but I know he is with Jesus, and I know that one day we will be reunited in heaven. If it had not been for my family, and this really includes my church family, and my friends, but most of all Jesus, I just don’t know how I would have made it this long. Some days I am okay, but a lot of days, I cry and feel so alone, but then I just have to remember that with Jesus I am never alone.
People often don't know what to say or how to comfort someone who has lost someone dear to them. What advice would you give?
I think the best thing to do is listen. Let the person talk about their loved one, and how they are feeling. There are so many emotions you go through, and you have to go through them. You have to work them out. I think the greatest person during all this time to me was my Pastor, Kevin McDaniel. He would call me sometimes twice a day, and just talk to me and let me talk to him. He would listen to me cry, and he understood every emotion I was feeling. When I would be angry, he would tell me it is ok but he was there and he listened. He has this way of giving advice that doesn’t even sound like advice. Because he knows, life is life.
I would have to say the worse thing to say to someone is, “it will get better”, “you will learn to live with it” , “Time will heal” , or even “ I know how you feel”. NO YOU DON’T. Even if you have experienced the same thing, you don’t know how I feel. You may know how you felt, or feel, but you don’t know how I feel. Another thing, If you say, let me know if there is anything I can do for you, [lease be ready to back that up when the person needs you. Or if you say, I am going to be there for you, not going to let you be alone, will check on you, make sure you do just that. Don’t ask what can I do for you to help you? Think. Oh if this is a woman, I will go cut her grass, and if I tell her I am going to take care of the yard, make sure it’s done. Ladies, go visit your friend, she needs you. She is going to tell you, she is all right but she really is not. This does not mean you have to be there all the time. Once or twice a week is good but be there. Not just for a couple of weeks. It takes a long time to get over the grieving, so be there. Most people do not want to put others out so they will not call you up and say, hey could you do this for me. And don’t judge. You are not walking in my shoes, so do not judge. I just lost my everything, my whole world has been turned upside down.
What are some of the best, most practically helpful/comforting things people in your life actually did for you that helped you?
When David was in the hospital, my church family was there, as well as other friends. When I would get up and move, they would surround me and move with me. If I would go downstairs, they were there with me. If I all of a sudden said I want to go upstairs, they all got up and moved with me. I was so numb about my husband being in there on his deathbed, that I literally felt like those people were carrying me, instead of me walking. Then of course, My Pastor was there the whole time almost right by my side, at the hospital, making the arraignments, at the funeral. My church family and other friends brought meals for a week, and they all started a fund to raise money and help me with some of the expenses, and to give me a little cushion to help me get by for a while. Friends would take me out to lunch, and spend time with me. I will have to say, I think I have the best church family, and the best friends, ever. I love them with all my heart.
Did you experience any special touch from the Lord at this time or more of His presence in your life? Please tell us about it.
I drew strength from Jesus. I trust in Him, and He was and is my strength. I spoke at my husband’s funeral. I know that God put it in my heart to speak, and I know that it was his strength not mine that got me through that. God is still holding me in His arms, and I truly could not make it a day without Him.
Is there any specific advice you would offer to someone who is facing losing someone close to them, like a spouse, relative or child?
I would say, just trust in God, lean on Jesus. Don’t be afraid to grieve, it is a process that you have to go through. People told me to wait a year to make any major decisions. Well I made one or two kind a bit too quickly. So I will tell you. WAIT!
Is there a specific bible verse that has come to mean a lot to you because of this painful experience?
Yes ! Right after my husband went home to be with Jesus, My Pastor did a sermon of Romans 8:28. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
ALL THINGS! ALL THINGS!! Work together for good to them that love God.
I stood on this word, through it all. It was a God Word, at the right time in my life.
Rebecca - thank you for sharing your story. I hope it will, in some small way, help others who are facing the same thing. Most of all, I pray for the Lord of all comfort to comfort your heart.