Would I Say “I Do” Again?

Posted: June 17, 2013 in Uncategorized


Twenty-four years ago today, I said “I do” to my best friend. The vows we read were traditional so much so that a few of Patrick’s aunts were uncomfortable with the “submit” part and told me later I didn’t need to do that! LOL! Like every young bride, I truly meant every word I spoke even though I couldn’t have possibly understood what it would be like to really live them out. It’s like reading about having a baby…you don’t fully understand until you are in the delivery room.

At the end of the vows we looked each other in the eye and said “til death do us part.” Those are probably the words I thought the least about. Who thinks about death when they are 23? Now here I am a widow in my 40’s. Eighteen months ago, when we received the diagnosis of ALS, I started thinking a lot about dying and now six months since Patrick’s death, I am still wrapping my brain around it. Like reading about it before, it didn’t really mean much until now when I am actually living it. It’s a million times worse than anyone can imagine. Each step is painful and the hole is huge. I have read a lot of books on grief and the best illustration I can find is that losing a spouse is like losing a limb. It’s complete amputation….without anesthesia. And even when everyone else has moved on and thinks the amputee is doing ok because they are functioning, that person is keenly aware that their former life is over and nothing will ever be the same. Some days the fog is thicker than others, but everything requires effort.

Without God, I don’t know how people survive this…It is only with His Word and His Spirit that I am daily getting out of bed and doing the next thing. I am not strong – quite the opposite; I’m not hanging on by a thread…God is carrying me. Many passages of Scriptures get me through each day. I’m so thankful for years of memorizing because sometimes I can’t even open my BIble, I just quote verses in my head all day long. Thinking of Christ on the cross and His suffering for me is comforting…along with the fact that He is suffering with me now and holds all my tears in a bottle. Psalm 143 is my current favorite and I feel like David wrote it for me – I am breathing it in and out all day long. My head believes the truth, but my heart lags behind…It’s a battle to focus on the eternal perspective when the pain is overwhelming.

But looking back on my wedding day and knowing now what the journey brought us…would I say “I do” again? Without a moment’s hesitation….DEFINITELY! Our marriage wasn’t perfect, but it was solid and we had many more good times than bad. Patrick was my best friend and we were partners in everything. Life with him was an adventure filled with joy. God allowed us many, many times of blessing….the privilege of serving the Lord next to him was so fulfilling. Bringing our two children, Paige  and Parker, into the world and sharing the joys and challenges of parenting, is a forever blessing. After so many years of marriage, you become a lot like each other and there are many qualities of Patrick’s that changed me for the better. I could go on and on. It was my privilege to be his wife and my honor to care for him through the ugliness of one of the most debilitating diseases there is. And although I never could have imagined such a thing, I am thankful I was by his side and able to hold His hand and watch him take his last breath, knowing that God was welcoming Him into Heaven. And now he is in a perfect place, pain free and he’s talking, eating, singing, laughing and running in the presence of His Savior.

Yes, I am still struggling and some days I selfishly want him back with me. Honestly, I do not look forward to the future without him. I still have a long road of grief and mourning to go through. But I know I am right where God wants me to be. Faith and suffering do go hand in hand; sadness and belief are not opposites.

“For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life; In your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.” (Psalm 143:11–read the entire chapter when you have time)

  1. Colleen Rose says:

    I was just thinking of you and praying for you the other day. Thank you for your transparency. I will continue to pray for you and for you to be able to be comforted by the God who continues carrying you.


  2. Joe & Gail Asaro says:


    Your love for each other was always evident as we observed you from afar. Watching you both up close when all of this started didn’t change a thing, love was still there and it was the kind of love that only a strong relationship with the Savior can bring. Continue to walk strong in Christ and bless others in the process.

    Joe & Gail
    ps. 68:19

  3. Jennifer Peck says:

    Thanks for sharing something so personal, it must be hard and cathartic at the same time. You have a great writing style and would make a great author. I am still praying for you!


  4. Pat bradford says:

    As I told you before…it’s a day at a time……some days you will feel His everlasting arms carrying you…other days you may not feel them………..but always remember they are there….”I love you and pray for you..”….that hole will always be in your heart…but fill it with new memories……..ttyl. By the way..I have cried myself through his book….what a blessing..I can just hear his voice and laugh…

  5. Lee Ann Hedges says:

    Dena I too understand where you are, having traveled the same journey with my wonderful husband. You are so right ALS is without a doubt THE MOST TERRIBLE Disease. So sorry to hear of your struggle, but I do understand.

  6. Lisa Garr says:

    “My head believes the truth, but my heart lags behind…” Very profound, and true in so many instances. Continued prayers for you and your children…

  7. Brenda Friend says:

    You are on my mind and in my prayers weekly. Thank you for sharing with us it truly does help us to pray. I wish I could wrap my arms around you and fix it all. But no one can. Never feel that you are forgotten. We can all pray and we will. Love you

  8. Bea Lovins says:

    praying for you, it’s hard, but God will continue to carry you.

  9. Shannon Friend Nally says:

    Dena my eyes are filled with tears. I can’t even imagine the pain. When my baby was diagnosed with heart disease and on the brink of death I felt like my heart had been ripped right out of my body. I look back now knowing that the prayers of many are what carried me through the worst days of my life. Thankfully God’s plan was to save Grayson’s life…. and it pains me when I read about the journey of others whose outcome is different. I don’t know how they go on breathing. It is hard to wrap our minds around why things like this happen and why they happen to such amazing people. Know that the rest of us will continue to pray for you as you continue to discover God’s plan. Know that the impact you and Pastor Pat had on our lives continues to live on. Know that you are loved.

  10. lorie and albert smith says:

    praying, , ,

  11. Mandi says:

    I still tell my mom on she and my dad’s anniversary – Happy Anniversary! It cannot be easy and experiencing the first Father’s Day without him was probably more than you and your children wanted to bear. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I thought of you in church on Sunday and said a prayer for you because I knew that the pain might be greater that day than another day. Above all I am just so thankful for your Godly spirit even though you may not feel like submitting your mind to God I know that you are trying and I will continue to praythat you will continue on in your faith. You are such a Godly example to those around you and to your children…..Keep pressing on Dena – I love you. Mandi

  12. Ruth says:

    Dear Dena:

    Thanks for sharing your heart with us. I remember saying those words, too, and they were the hardest ones to speak for me at our wedding as well.

    Patrick always had a twinkle in his eye when he would mention you. It was so very evident that you were the love of his life, too. After a day’s work, he couldn’t wait to come home to you and the kids. It was so sweet. I’m sure his heart was also heavy knowing you would grieve deeply over his departure in this life. He always urged us to look after you when he was gone. I once asked him if there was anything I could help with, and he told me to keep in touch and pray. So, I do so regularly, not out of obligation, but out of love for you, Paige, and Parker.

    I am so thankful that you have a strong faith and know in your heart that God will strengthen you each day for the journey ahead. And, as you stated His heart is filled with compassion at your grief. Continue on, my friend and sister in the Lord, and He will continue to direct your path.

    Love, Ruth

  13. Diane Knopf says:

    Dear Dena, Thank you for your honesty. The beauty of your words say what many of us have experienced, but as believers, we do have God’s word that our Lord is indeed our comforter and protecter. Lean on our Lord and even let Him carry you and your path will become smoother That’s God’s promise and we can do no better. Patrick had the best wife for his time on earth. God knew you were perfect for each other. Keep leaning on the everlasting Lord. PTL

  14. Darlene says:

    Dena what a beautiful post! You helped me understand what my Daughter is going thru! She lost her Husband few years ago. She is in the same place! Going to share your post with her! You will continue to be in my prayers! My Daughters name is Lorie I pray everyday that God will see her thru! Love sent your way! Darlene

  15. Jon and Kim Spink says:

    What can any of us say to truly comfort you? The God of all comfort is carrying you through these days! We are weeping with you as you go through these days. Thank you for sharing with us your deepest pains as you walk through this valley of the shadow of death. Keep clinging to the scriptures and the author of the scriptures, since He understands and can perfectly comfort you like no other.

    Jon Spink

  16. Faye Moore says:

    Dena, your transparency is incredible. Walking, with God, though this journey, I learned to live a moment at a time.

  17. Jim Knight says:

    Patrick is truly one of a kind. Anyone who spent more than a moment with him could sense that. He was resilient and from what I recall, he didn’t tolerate the unrighteousness of self-pity. And that is why I am responding to your post; it beautifully differentiates the divine purpose, which is your godward orientation by way of a sorrowful and indescribably grievous providence; (that faith-filled perspective) from the angry, bitter, stagnant and myopic view of grief held by the faithless. Your words reveal a depth of experiential faith, growth and wisdom that you may have been quite content to forgo, “thank you very much”, but which you have embraced, and have allowed to embrace you. With western civilization bobbing around in the sea of pretense, fraud and inauthenticity…and western Christianity (may I even use the word) following right behind, your transparency has graciously cut through the paltry arguments of the skeptic so that the Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief might be seen in all of His glory.
    Grace to you, and peace in Christ alone.

  18. Lori Yankee says:

    Dena, both Tim and I are touched by your post today. When my mom died 10 or so years ago it was a complicated grief my dad and I dealt with because of her mental illness and other issues. To me, it felt like waves. One day I was fine, the next I was crushed under a wave of pain. The verses that were most precious to us were Romans 8:38 & 39. Sometimes it felt like the only thing I could grasp or tell myself was that God loves me – no matter what I know that God does love me and that never changes. I just wanted you to know that we are praying for you and Nothing can separate you from God’s love – Nothing. Love and Hugs, Lori & Tim Yankee P.S. Guess who was at our church on Sunday?? Pastor Greg Bishop! That sure was a blast from the past 🙂

  19. Delphine Warbington says:


    I also thank you dearly for sharing your grief with your family of believers. I am not a writer. Never have been. But I can see the benefits of sharing in this way, as it not only allows others to minister to you but you a way a ministering to them.

    My prayer is that you continue to take comfort in these verses that I’m sure you know so well….

    Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16


  20. Kayla says:

    Maybe this isn’t the place to do this, I’m not sure, but my friend’s father has been diagnosed with ALS. If you want to hear more about them here is their blog-ish link. http://www.gofundme.com/3avg84
    Thank you.
    And Mrs. Dena, I pray that you are getting stronger. I pray that you will be comforted by God.

  21. Brad, Noelle, James, Jon, & Joe says:

    Thank you for sharing, Dena. We’re praying for you!

  22. Amy Ayers says:

    I think of you often, and pray for you, as well. No, I’ve not lost my husband and I don’t understand what you are going through. I have lost my dad, who I was really close to, and that loss is unbearable at times. I agree with you; without God, I don’t know how I could bear it. God bless.

  23. Amy Longwell says:

    Dena, I only know your family from TLC. My husband is also a Pastor. I have been praying for you and your family through all of this. I can’t imagine how difficult each day is. Your testimony of God’s daily strength and faithfulness is so encouraging. He is good! I will continue to pray for all of you as the time passes. Thank you for sharing your heart:)

  24. Richard Arnold says:

    Dena, Thanks for sharing your thoughts on your wedding day and your life with Patrick.  It was beautiful.  We just want you to  know that we’re still praying for you and your family as we have been since we first heard of his illness.  Your strength is amazing and it’s very evident it comes from the Lord.  Give your folks our love.  We continue to pray for them too.  Take care. Our love in Christ, Dick & Loy

  25. Beverly Stewart says:

    Dena, Parker and Paige, we continue to be touched by your family. We thought of each of you this past weekend with Father’s day and know it was a difficult time for you. Your thoughts of your wedding, Dena, were so reflective. Patrick’s touch continues to make a difference through you. Again, our thoughts and prayers are lifting you up. Love, the Stewart family in Ky.

    Date: Mon, 17 Jun 2013 16:00:31 +0000 To: bjstewart356@msn.com

  26. Mike and Shelly McMahon says:

    Thank you for your willingness to share your heart and let
    us know how you are and how we can be praying for you.
    We will continue to pray for you and your kids.
    Love the McMahon Family

  27. hi dena i can’t say i understand what you are going through but one i know for sure is that God is right there with you as you rightly said. your story has encouraged me and i just want to share a simple thought with you. “along life’s pathwath troubles come that God will help you to bear; then you can look beyond the pain to those who need our care. God will either spare you from suffering or give you the grace to bear it.” in your case He did not spare you so he will give you the grace to bear it. trust me He will, though we may not understand it. (‘play in pain’) my sister. please read Lamentations 3: 1-3;25-33 especially verse 32.

  28. Lily Staker says:

    I know what you are going through. Take one day at a time and keep focusing on God. Thank you for sharing.

  29. […] It was six months ago last week that my sister lost her life-long partner. On her first anniversary without Patrick, she wrote on her blog: […]

  30. I was reading your blog “Would I Say I Do Again” and I started to cry. No I am not a widow, but have had a husband (who was into porn) and I was not valued as the high value woman that I am.
    So now I have been single over 7 1/2 months & look to the Lord for all things.
    Be truly blessed. I so enjoyed you post.

  31. Around the time when your husband past away I had just moved into my 1st real place by my self. I was in panic mode for a short time not knowing how I would make it. I always had either my kids or my husband always around. I discovered that I would just be fine, but needed to go through a morning period of the loss of someone who was suppose to be there for me for a life time and chose his own road to travel. Now the place I am in my life is a good place for the most part. I am happy, very confident with in my self and happy with how I managed to get to where I am knowing that with God’s help I will be just fine. He has blessed me beyond compare. Not monetary wise, but in other ways. I am happy, confident and have a good support group around me which I didn’t have when my ex was around.
    I pray all is going better for you day by day as time goes on.
    The Lord bless you 🙂

  32. […] away, so I assumed, would the blog. No one was as surprised as me when six months later, I wrote another post. I had something on my heart and God encouraged me to share it. Journaling had become an important […]

  33. Beverly Stewart says:

    Dena, this is from Bev Stewart. I hope you won’t mind me contacting you. I have a friend whose husband has been diagnosed with ALS. Would you have any thoughts to share with them.? They have 4 children under the age of 10. He is a lawyer and my friend is the director of med-surg nursing at St Elizabeth. They are informed and are pursuing treatment but I thought you might have some suggestions. They just took a trip to Disney which had been planned for the fall so I am sure he is advancing with his symptoms. Thanks for sharing. Bev Stewart (CBC)

    Sent from my iPad

  34. […] But 6 months later, when it would have been our 24th anniversary, I put my thoughts on paper and shared that if I had known when and how he would die, I would still say yes. I continued to write on […]

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