Before the diagnosis of ALS…
During the sickness…
After he’s gone…
Two years ago my life was perfect…at least as far as I was concerned. Married to my best friend, enjoying our two teenagers, serving in life and ministry. We were looking forward to the next phase of life, anticipating a new position for Patrick and the kids heading off to Christian colleges. My new photography business was blooming. Our home was full of love and laughter and we were all happiest when extra guests joined us.
Then came the strange symptoms, doctor visits and tests. With the results that no one is ever prepared to hear…
A disease with no cure; A certain death sentence.
Immediately our world turned upside down; our future dreams shattered
Within 24 hours of the diagnosis, two thoughts kept crossing my mind
- my life as I know it is over
- my husband will be dead, my children gone and I will be alone
I was right on both accounts. I just didn’t know how quickly it would all go down.
During his sickness, we were in survival mode. We dealt with each new decline, while trying to maintain any sense of normalcy and enjoy our marked time together. Patrick led by example. He refused to let us stop our lives; he didn’t complain; his smile never waned. He trusted God completely.
Looking back, I realize that I stayed strong because I had to. We were still a team. Patrick needed me. I became his hands, feet and mouth. I helped him go wherever he wanted to go. I protected him when I knew it was too much. I became his advocate for everything.
Near the end, I told him I would be ok. I thanked him for being an amazing husband and wonderful father. I told him he had run the race well. Although he couldn’t respond verbally, I knew by his eyes that he loved me. He didn’t want to die, but neither did he want to stay on earth in a paralyzed body. So in the final week I asked God to release him from his pain and take him to his heavenly home.
No words can describe watching your soul-mate die. Heart wrenching is an understatement.
Nine months have already passed. I don’t know how. The minutes drag, but it still feels like yesterday.
I knew there were no guarantees of an easy life on earth and that I was not exempt from suffering, so I thought I could handle this. I was wrong.
I thought since I knew the scriptures and believed in God’s sovereignty, I would be ok. It would be just mind over matter. I was naive.
I thought God’s grace meant the pain would be minimal. I had no idea.
Grief hit me like a freight train. I was unprepared. The intensity of my emotions is visceral and beyond description. The pain of separation is palpable.
I wish I could say something different to the “how are you” question. I usually just give a weak smile and say “ok.” I’ve never been a good liar.
The truth is I am still struggling. Day by day, hour by hour, sometimes even minute by minute. I cry every day…it’s just a matter of how hard and how long. No one has been more surprised by any of this than me. I’ve been shocked by my neediness and ashamed of my weakness. Basically, I’ve never been more disappointed in myself.
He knew all along. He’s not surprised by my responses.
He meets me right where I am & accepts me.
He assures me through His promises.
I can’t get enough of His word.
Each step I take is a step of faith.
Initially I looked for answers of how to get through this grief process. I wanted steps that I could check off. I wanted to pass with a high grade. But there is no magic formula or short cut. No anesthesia to numb the pain. The only answer is God himself.
There is no timetable…it has already taken longer than I would have chosen. Although each person’s grief is unique, I’ve now learned that two to four years for the deepest part of the valley is considered normal. I’m not in control of any of it. It’s like a vicious roller coaster I can’t get off.
But I’m right where God has me.
The battle is fierce…to fight my flesh; to fight the enemy’s lies; to fight off despair. God’s Word is the solution and God’s people the support.
Three young widows, previously just acquaintances, have befriended me and taken me under their wings. One local and two out-of-state, each further along in their journeys, they have kindly opened up their hearts and shared their stories of pain. They assure me that I am not crazy and remind me of God’s goodness.
And I know God is good. He is faithful. I have much to be thankful for. Both Paige and Parker are doing amazingly well at their respective colleges. They are both where they should be, doing what Patrick and I had always hoped for them.
So I continue to walk by faith and not by sight. I function to the best of my ability for each day. I smile and laugh when I can. And I’m not ashamed when the tears come.
I will never be the same. My life as I knew it is over. But God has a plan. He has a purpose for me and I will be healed. For now the wound is fresh and the pain raw. Someday the wounds will cover with scars, but I will be transformed.
To this end, I pray and I wait.
“I would have despaired unless I believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord. Be strong and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:13-14