9 Months a Widow

Posted: September 26, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

ourhandsfinalBefore, during and after….mentally that’s how I divide my life.

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.

But God…
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

  1. David Whiting says:

    Thank you for sharing this Dena. We love you and are thankful for your honesty. We continue to pray for you.


  2. Julie Goodyke says:

    Dena, Thanks for continuing to share and being real. I think of you often and lift you up in prayer.
    Hugs and more hugs ~ Julie Goodyke

  3. Kathi Sherrill says:

    Dena, Although I haven’t had much of a chance to talk to you in person, please know that you and your family are in my prayers daily. As you said, going thru the grief process is different for each of us. When we lost our son, the grief was overwhelming. But God carried me thru, as He is carrying you. You are loved and you and Patrick shared something so special that in days, weeks, months and years ahead God will use to comfort you and bring that true smile back to your eyes and life. One step at a time, leaning on the everlasting arms!

  4. Jim Lytle says:


    Thank you for opening a window into your “after.” We have not stopped praying for you and the kids!


  5. lorie and albert smith says:

    thank u 4 speaking truth in ur pain, u r welcome here anytime to unload and get a hug

  6. Chris Woodward says:

    Haven’t stopped praying for all three of you!

  7. Kathy says:

    I praise God for your open and honest post. Thank you! My prayer is that you will feel God’s arms of grace around you each minute of every day!

  8. Rich Bouvier says:

    You probably have no idea who I am, but Patrick had a huge impact in my life in one little face to face….no, nose to nose meeting. I was on his soccer team, JV at BBC when one day I decided to skip practice and instead play pickup basketball over in the gym. The game was going along perfectly….when all of a sudden he comes walking…briskly…right into the middle of the game. He looked right at me and pointed to the ground in front of him, as if to say get over hear…NOW! I walked over to him and he got right in my face and said, “Bouvier, you just let your team down”. Needless to say, 25 years later that has stuck with me my entire life and I now have conversations with my own kids, students and players on my teams about being a good team mate, being a good person who does unto others as we would like done to us. When Ron died I was so afraid I would lose memory of him, honestly my biggest fear. But it has been just the opposite. People, no matter where I am at tell me stories about him, the legacy he left behind. Patrick left a legacy behind…even if he impacted nobody else, he impacted Rich Bouvier with 7 simple words I will never forget. Thanks for sharing him with the rest of us and may God continue to lift you, bless you and use you.

  9. Lee Ann Hedges says:

    Thanks Deena I can totally understand what you are going through. Even though Tom and I were at a different time in our life, no one that hasn’t experienced ALS can understand the devastation it brings. I am constantly thinking,”last year this time”. Some days are great then others not so much! Currently I am recovering from knee replacement and find myself thinking “if Tom were here, this or that would be different”. My kids are great, but all have their own lives and familie. I thank Tht Lord for wonderful friends and a great church family. I pray for you and trust things will get better as time pSses.

  10. Ruthanne O'Brien says:

    Dena, I cried when I read this. I can’t really feel what you are feeling – only by imagining what it would be like to lose my husband. I will keep praying for you! I don’t see you often, but please know that I am praying. I was just talking to someone last night whose father was in the hospital with cancer, not knowing how bad it was and not a believer. She suggested that he read Patrick’s book. She gave it to him – he read it and really liked it. Later she was able to lead him to the Lord at 58 years old! She thinks the book softened his heart for the gospel. I know that doesn’t ease your pain, but I wanted you to know that the Lord is using the circumstances to bring people to faith in Christ.

  11. Brenda says:

    Well said my dear friend!!! Well said! Love u & May your grief be lifted soon!! He is faithful and he will!! Brenda

  12. Lynn Wagner says:

    Thank you for continuing to share your heart so openly. It allows us to learn about compassion and transparency more deeply. It also allows us to pray more specifically for you. I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to lose one’s soul mate. I’m 48, have been married for 27 years, and the thought of losing my godly husband creates great fear in me. My dad was a godly man, who died at 58, and that really shook me up. Intellectually, I knew he was in Heaven, with no more pain, but it still caused tremendous, lingering sadness. I sought the Lord’s help daily but felt terrible that as a believer, a pastor’s wife, and one who knew Dad was in his eternal home, I wasn’t having consistent victory over my grief. One day the song “If You Could See Me Now” came on the radio and the Lord really used that song to minister to my heart. And, the Lord reminded me that this life is a vapor and while I’m here, He has work for me to do. Thank you again for faithfully, transparently sharing your days and life with so many. I know that I, along with numerous others, will be praying more specifically for you. ~ Lynn

  13. Tim Vermilyea says:

    Dena… thank you for opening this window on your soul. It was a reminder to pray for you and your kids, even though we have never met.

  14. John Kohlmeyer says:


    Patrick would be so proud of you today. The way God has made you to grieve in some ways is such a testimony to the oneness you and Pat had. Such a strong testimony to all of us of the deep love you shared. The realness you’ve shared is so much of how I knew Patrick wanted people to live their lives. The roller coaster image you paint in my mind is a reflection that comes from the passion and “all out ” way you all lived life together. No one will forget that. You’ve always had a way with words that has been honest and forthright. You’re really truly being true to yourself and Pat. We miss him terribly.

    Thank you for sharing your life with us today. We love you.

    John and (Robyn)

  15. Paul Golden says:

    Dena, You are still in our thoughts and prayers. Thank you for your authenticity….we love you. Paul & Marbeth Golden

  16. Kristin says:

    Prayers for you. A quote I read today lead me to breathe a sigh of relief as I struggle through the “during” period of ALS. “The notion of the incarnation of the divine becoming human, the Word becoming flesh, places before us the challenge to embrace not only Jesus’ humanity, but also our own.” – Lawson Stone Thank you for sharing your journey.

  17. Russ L. Arbuckle says:

    Dena I pray for you and the kids (adults) often. I miss Patrick, but nothing compared to your lost. Continue your forward progress and I know you know God is with you always.

  18. Amy Hudson says:

    Thank you for sharing this and for being so completely honest about where you are at. We love you all, and continue to pray for you. I am so very grateful to God for his faithfulness to you! Sending you our love!!

  19. Sherry Boyle says:

    Thank you for sharing so honestly and beautifully where you are in your journey. I sent it to our pastor whose beloved wife was called Home last Nov. 7th. I suspect he is in a similar place of grieving, but he has the added burden of having lost a 27 yr. old daughter to suicide just a few years ago. May Jesus continue to be your rock in the midst of your deep pain. Lifting you up to Him, Sherry Boyle in CA

    Sent from my iPhone

  20. Brent says:

    What an awful, beautiful post. Thank you for facing the pain I am sure was there in the “putting down on paper”. Your life will never be the same. You are being transformed into an incredibly intimate disciple. One who knows Jesus and lives daily in the beautiful desperation that acknowledges our utmost need for his grace and presence. You are going to come out of this forge of pain with an incredible mission and your story and all of it’s anguish will be used to reconcile countless to the Shepherd. You are loved, friend.

  21. Caroline Viviano says:

    Thank you for your beautifully articulate and honest witness, Dena. You are stronger and braver than you think because there is tremendous grace and hope in the humility you express. As you pass through this dark night of the soul contemplate the wounds of Christ and trust in your complete surrender to the Father’s will. Although you may not feel it yet, we see that He is forming you into His beautiful child by calling forth from your dear and tender heart much courage in love. You and your beautiful family remain in our prayers. God bless you.

  22. Leah says:

    Your total honesty and trust in God is beautiful. You all are in my thoughts and prayers.

  23. Pat bradford says:

    Dear dear Dina …50 years ago today Mary was born….I miss Turtle so much at times like this as I have memory fooling my heart..we can’t set a time on grief…it was 10 years ago on Fathers day that he went to meet his savior.and I miss him everyday too…I can’t say I know how you feel because we had 53 years together….but I still want him in his chair…it’s only at times like this..when I read your story and think about mine..that I have to feel His everlasting arms holding me up…depend on our Lord everyday..and minute…He will meet you where you are..up or down…I love you and thank you for sharing with us….

  24. Janine Rossol (daughter of Doug and Helen Arntz from Cornerstone) says:

    Just this morning I was reading as many verses as I could find on waiting….and then your post. I lost my father last month, and am waiting on the LORD for the same as you, though it is different. I pray for you and all of us who have lost someone we love dearly, that we would know the comfort/ compassion/graciousness of our loving Heavenly Father deep into our hearts and minds. That we might find our reality in HIM alone, that we would recognize and protect the LIFE OF CHRIST in us. “YET, the LORD longs to be gracious to you; HE rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a GOD of justice. BLESSED are all who wait for him!” Isaiah 30:18

  25. Dear Dena,
    I cannot say that I can identify with what you are going through ~ I have not lost my husband/best friend. I can only imagine what I would be feeling/thinking/living on a daily basis. I have experienced the loss of close family members, but it is not the same as the loss of your spouse. You have given me a glimpse of the grief and sorrow, and the total dependence on God to help you get through, daily/hourly/minute by minute. Although your children are away at college, and that is filling their lives for the moment, I am quite sure that they too are still grieving. You are such a Godly example of how to allow God to help you through, even though you may not think so. Losing a loved one is never easy, even when you know that it is coming, even though you know where their eternal home is ~ they are fine, it’s the one’s left behind, that going on, is so very difficult for. Thank you for allowing us to see through your eyes, Thank you for allowing us to feel your feelings by sharing them transparently with us. God is building you to use you mightily In the future. Just as you are being mentored by other young widows, you may be learning, so that you may also be used to mentor others. Please KNOW that you, Dena, and your children, Paige & Parker are continuing to be prayed for as often as God brings you all to mind. Love & Hugs, Larry & Shirley

  26. Lisa Davis says:

    I read this with tears rolling down my face. I wouldn’t expect anything else from someone who has lost what you have. Thank you for not hiding the feelings – for not making the feelings any less than they are. I will continue to hold you up in my prayers.

  27. Thanks for sharing Dena. We still think of you and pray for you daily. Mandi and I look forward to you being here next weekend!

  28. Lori Yankee says:

    I just wanted you to know I’m praying for you today! I know God is using you in ways you don’t even know for His glory. Thanks for your transparency, it’s what we all need! Hugs to you, Lori

  29. Shelly McMahon says:

    Dena, thank you for sharing, although I had a hard time reading the entire letter, I made it through with tears soaking the floor. We all need to hear this as believers, it reminds us to keep praying and keep our eyes off self and on serving the Body of believers, especially carrying each other’s burdens.
    You humble me by your honesty and give me hope to press on no matter what the circumstance..
    I pray for you often and keep your families picture on our refrigerator as my reminder for prayer.
    May God fill you with His Spirit of comfort and joy as you walk this difficult journey.

  30. Diane Lytle says:

    Dena, I SO appreciate your transparency – and be assured that you are not forgotten. We love you and pray for you and your kids!

  31. Emmie says:

    I am so grateful that you and the Lord are so tight, and He’s wrapped you in the security of His love with friends who have been where you are, and how He draws you and teaches you and comforts you. His heart goes out to you. Thank you for sharing and not trying to “look” like something phony!! He still carries you. You are loved, you are cherished, you ARE looked after:-) 🙂

  32. ken and eulaine prevost says:

    Dear dear Dena: We have prayed and wondered how you have been carrying on with a heart that is exceedingly heavy and sad. You gave us a glimpse of these past many months, as your darling Patrick was larger than life…. We learned to love him, and when we walked into The Service and saw his smiling face – bigger than life – I broke down and cried.

    He was so extraordinary, so one of a kind, so darling, there are no words to describe how we felt about him. He taught our Wednes. class…and we loved him to pieces. He took us on trips, and they were always a barrel of fun – because he made them fun driving us hither and yon. When we
    learned of his illness we were in a state of shock and stormed heaven with our prayers to our Heavenly Father. We know life for you has changed 180 degrees….your beloved is now waiting for you in God’s glorious heaven. He is in control, and His plan for you is sure and certain.

    We have grieved for you…I see you every so often in church…and yes, I wonder. We know our loving Lord has a most startling and magnificent plan for you and your sweet Paige and Parker…and in time will make it known to you. We have felt agony over your Patrick…his picture is still in our room…with his beautiful smile. He was a darling, and we loved him. We too have had our share of tears….many…and God is keeping them in His bottle. Thank you for sharing your life with us and your thoughts. Yes, we have wondered, and your words told us very eloquently and lovingly of your life. Thank you. We read with intensity with memories galore when he was with us. Love in our Lord Jesus, ken and eulaine

  33. sharettebeckford@rocketmail.com says:

    God bless you deena!! No one else but God can understand! And he will give u the confort and hope you need to carry on each day! Much love, always in my thoughts and prayers!! From yolanda (mc field)
    Sent from my BlackBerry® device from Digicel

  34. Judy Johnson says:

    We didn’t know you, but we knew Patrick (Wednesday bible study). You are in our thoughts and prayers, and Patricks influence is forever in our hearts

  35. Michelle Klassen Jones says:

    Dear Dena,
    Thank you for continuing to keep up with this post. It is just as important if not more to know now how you are doing as it was to know how Patrick was doing. It is so easy to be happy for him knowing he is home with the Lord but I am sorry that for you it came so early. Thank you for being so honest. We are thankful that His power is made perfect in our weakness and that His grace will be sufficient for you. Trusting God to heal your broken heart. Always thankful for you. I love you,
    Michelle Klassen Jones

  36. Amy Ayers says:

    Thank you for your post. No, I cannot say I “understand” what you’re going through. I do pray for you, though. The “right words” never are. I thank you for your honesty, and you openness. God bless you in this difficult road you’re traveling.

  37. Dear Dena, I came by here from your comment at my blog. To say that I am sorry seems so small and inadequate in the face of this much heartache. But I am. I am just so sorry. Praying for you and for your family. So thankful you have a relationship with the Lord, that you are finding hope and strength and comfort in Him. So thankful we are NEVER ever ever too needy for Him. He KNOWS we can do NOTHING apart from Him. And I believe He knows it is extra impossible for us in the face of the face of this kind of grief. Sending you love and hugs…even though we don’t really “know” each other. Blessings, K

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