To Lose a Wife

This is the first post that I’ve written in over two months. I do not know how long it will be till I write again, though I know I will. I’ve meant to several times, but there is a handicap in doing the things that you used to love. Reading, writing, listening to music, laughing…The window of desire for things of old is so short and if there’s a moment where I desire to enter it, it tends to shut before I can even make the first move towards it. It’s not apathy. It’s confusion.

Two months ago, tomorrow, B. passed away. My love and my life. Less than two years earlier we married, less than three years ago we met. What most people consider a blip on their timeline of life was my eternity, and in a split second, with the screech of tires, my eternity was from ashes

I do not recall our final words. I called her at 8:57 a.m. A moments hesitancy before the phone call, since I knew she had an important career conversation scheduled at 9:00. “She probably won’t pick up,” I thought. But something compelled me to call her. It wasn’t an eerie phone call for that minute and a half. I had no idea what was to happen at 8:59. I called with her to joke about how some husbands don’t wake up in the morning to take care of the kids. I let her sleep in that morning as I took care of the kid’s breakfast and I saw an opportunity to jokingly make her aware…I remember her next words with lucid clarity: “Baby, those guys are scumbags. You’re a good husband and a good father. I’m thankful for you.” Those are words I will never forget. She could have been sarcastic back. Thank God she wasn’t. I have spent sleepless hours trying to recall what the next words were…a few sentences, probably of no real importance. And then…gone. I hear the crash in my head every day. The crinkling of the car like paper. A dog barking in the distance. And then, silence.

The silence has never stopped.

When you get married and start a family you think about death, routinely. What if something happens? What will I do if I lost my love or my children? How will it feel? Will I ever recover? I can promise you, the abstract thinking of such ideas is a million times further away from the heart than the reality. You may wonder what it’s like if the person is gone, but until you stare through that empty spot on the bed only to see the pale, white wall and an empty pillow, you will never know. This is not the sorrow of something temporary, now lost. It is the sorrow of one’s “now” becoming “never again.”

“Put the laundry on the bed and I’ll take care of it when I get home,” she said that morning. The laundry sat on the bed for days. Handwritten notes. The hair in the drain which I hated, but in the aftermath immediately came to love and wish would appear one more time. No more walking in church together. No more quirky voice mails. No more movies. Half my music is ruined because of memories. But those things matter half as much as the realization that we will have no more dates. No more children. No more kisses. No more arguments. No more ‘I love you’s’. What I wouldn’t give to merely hear the sound of her breathing again. Time has become my enemy.

We never had a perfect marriage. Trying to raise two kids, go to school, work two jobs, etc. takes a toll. We struggled at times, but I’ve come to love those struggles. How can I wish any different? That was the passion of her personality matched with mine. It was the life we joined into together and the marriage vows we took together. And it’s true…you never know how much you love somebody until they’re gone. I found a letter today that she kept at work…a letter I forgot that I had written when she was gone for a week, but she apparently thought it was important enough to keep. My last line: “I got the chance this week to realize what life would be like without you. I hated it.” To this minute, I still expect to hear her voice behind me or to watch her come down the stairs or to wake up next to her. I know she won’t. It’s a dissonance that I’m living with right now and I see no end in site.

What a sick and twisted world this is. It stripped her away from her family, her children, her friends. It stripped her from me. And how is it that some people believe this world is not that bad after all? Only when you find your world shatter before you do you realize how broken this world really is. Only when you see death do you realize the enemy that it is. I hate it. I want to destroy it. But this is my inevitable future, either tonight or tomorrow or next week or five years or fifty years. I am shackled, just as she was.

Some people have tried to offer comfort, and some legitimately have. But to talk about “this is God’s plan” seems naive and vain. It tells me that somebody has never stared death in the face in such a way. The same people who say this will turn around and say “She should be here, Randy.” Well? Which is it? She should be here or she shouldn’t? If, by “should”, you mean “statistically” she should be here, then yes, I agree. But you should say just that. This is why neither atheism nor theological determinism has any chance of over running me. If by “should” you mean what I mean–that this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be at all!–then I agree. Can God work through this? I suppose, though I haven’t come to know that yet. It is what my faith holds to though, and it is what I have to believe. But to say that God “designed” this or to say that there is no God and that this was all a bunch of hellish bad luck cannot do justice to this situation and it cannot do justice to this world. I stare at that wall every night and she should be there, in every sense of the word. This wasn’t meant to happen. The world is broken and that’s all there is to our world at the moment. Please, do not tell me that this is part of God’s plan. This is the world, crumbling in on itself.

The one thing I know is this:  There is no “answer” to this. I searched for that answer in vain and have recently realized any pursuit of it is futile. I can search my entire life and there will never come a day where I can say ‘Ah, that’s why.’ But B. found redemption. And redemption isn’t an answer. It’s a Person. And that Person suffers with me. That Person suffers with her family. That Person suffers with the children. And that Person fixes brokenness. That Person is the one who can destroy death and who can conquer the crumbling of this world. That Person is the one that B. put her trust in, her faith, her future, and her present. How can I walk away from what was so central to her life, even though I don’t understand Him. “Your God will be my God” (Ruth 1.16). That was our marriage verse. And if there’s anything I do, even in grief, it is to commit myself to her testimony, her witness, her life, her God even in the silence.

Son,’he said,’ ye cannot in your present state understand eternity…That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory…And that is why…the Blessed will say “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven.” – C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

  • Toni

    Hi Randy,
    I’ve read your stuff and watched your videos for quite a while and it’s always touched me on a deep level but I’ve never written to you. I just wanted to say how sorry I am for your loss and that I will keep you and your family in my prayers. I wish I could say to you that someday, this will all make sense, but i don’t know if that is the truth. You will get through this because you must, for your kids and for your own sake and even for B. I can’t even imagine what you’re going through and I wish you weren’t going through it. There’s nothing I could write that would really help you, I just wanted you to know that there’s folks out here that care about you and are praying for you.

    • i lost my husband over 17 years ago and i still have days where i dont undrstand we had a house fire he was standing in the hallway telling mr to get the babies and get out. thats what i did , he was fine and after it was all over my pete never came out on march4.1996 my whole world was shatter my two girls didn;t have a dad or a place to live. we were standing in the freezen cold waiting for him to come get us he never did, i said all that to say this GOD IN CONTROL ‘ WE MUST TRUST HIM ; WHEN YOU COME TO THAT PLACE YOU WILL START TO HEAL. RANDY YOU DONT KNOW ME I KNOW TRISH VERY WELL BUT YOU MUST FINE YOUR OWN RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD NOY JUST B S. THAN YOU CAN START TO FINE PEACE. IT TAKES A LONG TIME I AM NOT GOING TO LIE; PEOPLE TOLD ME TO GET OVER IT , HOW DO YOU JUST GET OVER LOSING SOMEONE , NOTHING OR N OONE COULD CONVINCE ME IT WAS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT. I TELL YOU FROM MY HEART AND EXPERIENCE THAT YOU WILL LAUGH AGAIN DO THE THINGS YOU LIKE; YOU JUST HAVE TO THINK YOU HAVE SOMEONE IN HEAVEN REALLY LOOKING UOT FOR YOU. I HOPE YOU FEEL A LITTLE BETTER KNOWING SOMEONE UNDERSTAND XIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII

  • Thank you for writing, Randy. Keep writing as you can.

  • Randy, although you don’t know me, you have been in my prayers. I grew up in Wilmore and was there visiting family (my sister works at ATS) when the accident happened. My heart ached for you and your family. I was widowed unexpectedly nearly 12 years ago, and I understand the feelings you express. I had to bite my tongue when people said, “everything happens for a reason” or “God will never give you more than you can handle.” I look back now and see how God saw me through everything, although I questioned and railed at Him. Where was He when my husband was dying? I did not understand the verse, “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” What did that mean? The footnote in my study Bible explained, “precious, not as valuable, but as CAREFULLY WATCHED OVER.” That verse, along with all the Psalms, became my lifeline. I did not read them, I LIVED them. I recently began a website for the grieving where I talk about all the feelings you have expressed. Thank you for sharing so honestly. You remain in my prayers.

    • Karen W

      I was widowed by my husband’s suicide on August 30, 2012. I have heard the question a lot from non Christians especially ‘where was God when………?’ I have only heard one answer that satisfied my soul. ‘He was exactly where He was when they/we so cruelly tortured and crucified His only begotten son, Jesus!’
      This sin filled world is to blame for all bad things, death and destruction. It happens to the just AND the unjust for that very reason. The difference for those of us who are children of God, is that He uses ALL things for His glory and our good.

  • Karen W

    Sweetheart, it breaks my heart to know another is suffering as i did. I am a widow 10 months now. I am very glad you are clinging to God. He will make Himself known to you.
    There is a verse of scripture:

    2 Corinthians 12:10 KJV
    [10] Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

    I studied and studied this verse, because I knew I was weak, and I also knew I was not strong! Then I noticed that it says ‘for when I AM weak, then AM I strong’. The second part of the phrase is merely stating a fact ‘THEN AM I STRONG’. Because we are not strong, we have His strength when we are weak, and this is very liberating because it takes the pressure off. Give everything to Him and He will uphold you. You don’t have to try.
    Please, if you do nothing else but pray “God help me!” That’s all I could pray for months, and He did, does and continues to.
    Thank you Lord.

  • Rachael O.

    Hi Randy. I know I don’t know you. I am a friend of Katie W. and Kara N. I just wanted to let you know I’ve been praying for you and your children. I cannot say I understand what you’re going through because I haven’t the slightest hint of it. But I resonated deeply with what you said in regards to people’s comments about pain and our experience of pain in regards to God. Much like I communicated with Katie in the immediate days following your wife’s death, It often angers me to hear the ways some speak of pain. People falsely claim that because they believe in God, they will be shielded from harm, and if it finds them it will not hurt too badly. Equally insidious is the false claim that if pain finds you it is evidence of a failure in your beliefs. That is a lie that I think we may sometimes tell ourselves so that we can feel like we are in control. That an unexpected tragedy could be avoided with effort. I do not believe that is the message we were intended to hear. Life is full of beautiful people, believing in God, yet experiencing dire pain. No, our lives will not be absent of pain, but the way we process that pain is what will be different. The journey of those experiences is what differs, and you nailed it on the head when you said the answer is in a person…Jesus. And you are 100% right when you say this is not how it’s intended to be! Life is not supposed to be this way. You were not created to experience pain like this. We were not created to experience death. God did not create the world and life to be this way, and it is because of its hellish brokenness that Jesus came. He came to be a rescuer… to rescue us from this world that is not how he made it. And one day, he is returning, but not as a humble, gentle baby this time, like we celebrate on Christmas day. This time, Jesus is coming as a Warrior, coming to complete His rescue mission, coming to make everything right again. And until then we live smack in the middle of “the already” and “the not yet.” The already meaning that Jesus has died for us and sent us the Holy Spirit, and the “not yet” meaning the world is not restored back to the way it was intended, and this middle ground we live in is incredibly, incredibly broken…but not without hope. So like you said it’s not about an answer but about a Person. And although the word “hope” gets obnoxiously thrown around in Christian cliche during times of tragedy, we know that Jesus is Hope and she met him 2 months ago. Jesus. The one who created her. The one who sustained her entire life. The one who loved and pursued her. She met him. She stood before him, before Jesus. The fulfillment of hope for her. The longing of hope for those still here. So although it’s coming from a really dark place most people have never even touched, I pray the Holy Spirit gives you deep-seated Hope through the Person and on-going work of Jesus.

    • Karen W

      Rachael, those words were absolutely amazing and wise. I fear you have had to experience some very dark times to be able to express these truths so exquisitely. The Lord hand selects people for this kind of suffering and gives His strength to endure. Thank you for being so open and honest about the reality of this broken and dying world. I too hated the world, when my husband died under such horrible circumstances which are continuing to invade my life. Then I read a book by Ken Ham which basically says what you said about this world. It is called ‘How could a Loving God………..’ It confirmed what I was feeling.
      Thank you, you are a blessing! And I can only pray for the boldness and clarity of which you express of God and His Son.

  • Martha Allender

    Randy, I live in Wilmore and my children knew Bethany. What beautiful expressions of pain, you are so raw and real and I so appreciate it. I have not lost a spouse but have buried three children, one as an baby and one as a teenager and one as a young man. All I know is this is not how our God intended life to happened, and yes good people try to bring comfort by saying some interesting things. What a book we could write! One breath at a time is how the family that is left has lived. Scholars have noted that the letters Y H W H represent the sound of breathing ( aspirated consonants ) God has named himself that which is the sound if our own breathing! As long as we are breathing our lives are meant to say yes to God, whether we realize it or not. The first thing we do on this earth is breath and its the last thing we do, wow, the name of God is the sound of our own breathing. Everything that then has breath is praising the name of God whether they know Him or not. I have found peace isn’t the absence of the dark, peace is the assurance of God’s presence in the mist of the dark. Peace is a person not a place. His nail scared hands form the perfect canals to hold our tears. “All that we have once enjoyed we can never loose, All that we love becomes part of us ” Helen Keller. Praying for your family in this journey of incredible pain.

    • Martha, you and I grew up together in Wilmore. I am Sandy (Seamands) Sheppard. Even having lost my husband under tragic circumstances, I can’t imagine the pain of losing three children. After Rick died there were people who wanted me to move on more quickly than I was ready to do. Grief has no timetable, as I wrote about in my blog. But by the time six or so years passed, I could honestly say I was content, and even happy. The memories which brought tears now bring smiles. That doesn’t mean you ever forget, and even now the strangest things can trigger a sudden pang of longing. Randy, you will reach that point–I’m sure Martha would agree. Right now you are in the midst of the deepest grief. It is a journey no one chooses to take. But I discovered that God never left my side. Hold tightly to His hand. Even if you feel you can’t hold on any longer, it’s ok. God will never let go of you.

      • Sandy,

        Thank you for your words as well. I am sorry for your loss, though like Martha your words will be an encouragement for me in the future.

    • Martha,

      I’m so sorry that it took me so long to respond. Thank you for your words and prayers. I am so incredibly sorry for your losses as well.

      We should meet sometime for coffee…There are a few in this town that can relate to some extent and the fact that you know God through and through your struggles is encouraging to me in all of this. And maybe think about writing that book you mentioned!

  • Mindy Morgan

    We go to GCF and we can’t even imagine what you are going thru! We are glad you could express yourself in writing.
    We will cont. to pray for you esp. that God’s Spirit of Comfort will engulf you!
    Love and Prayers,
    Mindy and family

  • Alexa

    Thank you for sharing, will be praying for you friend.

  • peg

    Please keep writing.

  • k

    I’m so so sorry for your loss. You know, you seem to be such an intelligent man, I wish that we could do someting, anything to help you. I really hope that one day you will be able to look around and notice that the world is more or less a beautiful place. Please fight for yourself and for your kids.