It was early in December, 1993. The sun had not yet come up as I sat in a hospital waiting room down the hall from the emergency room with my children, my pastor and a few loved ones. My mind was still living the shock of the glaring ambulance lights as I sat quietly, begging God for a miracle.
Was it possible they revived my husband?
I was afraid if I stopped praying, I would lose God’s attention. I needed God to stay with me. I needed Him to make my husband live. The wait was long.
Finally the door opened, and the doctor stepped in and looked at me. I didn’t move as I stared at him. Maybe he would tell me my husband made it. I’m sure he must have said something, but I don’t remember any words. I only remember him shaking his head slightly back and forth and closing the door.
I felt weak.
A nurse walked closely beside me, and we made our way down a hall that emptied into the corridor crowded with family and friends. Their faces were blurry, and they seemed to move in slow motion. They began to quietly speak, but their voices seemed muffled. It was hard to breathe. It was hard to walk. I tried to respond to their embraces and thank them for comforting words, but I was too numb to answer.
I wanted to leave that place. I wanted to take my 14-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son home and start this day over again. I wanted to escape from the fog. I wanted to wake up.
I stopped in the middle of the crowd around me; my legs were weak, and I felt unsteady. As I stood still for just that moment, I knew God was trying to get my attention, and I heard Him speak to me.
“Do you trust me?”
I cringed. I thought, Oh God this is too hard, I can’t do this. I CAN’T DO THIS!
But once again God quietly asked, “Do you trust Me?”
How do I answer that? What choice do I have? Oh God, I can’t even think. God I can’t answer that! I tried to focus.
And then a whisper came from beneath my breath, “God, I don’t understand You, but I trust You.”
When we arrived home, my house was filled with people, but all I wanted to do was hold my kids. Where were my kids? My friends assured me they were okay and said I needed to sit down. I felt so separated from my kids, but I was constantly told they were fine.
They weren’t fine, how could they be fine? I needed to hold them, for myself as much as for them. Food and water were being pressed toward me. I wanted none of that. I just wanted to talk to my kids. People were everywhere. I couldn’t move, and I couldn’t think.
My mind kept going back to my husband.
When I married him, I was all in — for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, till death do us part. But no one ever really considers the death part. The vows are for living, committing, doing it right in hard times. Not for dying. I never thought about the dying part.
The funeral was over, and Sunday morning came. There was no rush to get ready for church because we had all gotten up early after a night of restlessness and little sleep. My husband had always driven us to church, but now I was sitting in the driver’s seat, and it felt very odd. We had taught a class of young married couples for several years together. Someone else would teach it now, and I felt stripped of the familiar. Church now felt strange and uncomfortable.
As I tried to navigate this new life, two of my closest friends kept showing up. They listened while I spoke of things that none of us had gone through. They didn’t pretend to have answers. They didn’t pretend to know what I needed. The whole grieving thing was as strange and unfamiliar to them as it was to me, but they stayed. God gave them the ability to be authentic as they were also striving to trust God to show them how to help me. They were willing to be vulnerable in a place where they had no experience, and we were learning together to trust God.
Days went by. I had decisions to make, and I made them. I had a budget that no longer worked, and I struggled to fix it. I was raising my kids alone and felt so inadequate. I feared making decisions. My kids needed to feel safe, so I tried to act confident.
Those two kids were all I cared about, but I struggled to know how to help them. I prayed my love for them would be enough. I prayed they knew how much I loved them. I felt like I was in a fog day after day, week after week. I fed them, washed their clothes, went to their school concerts and activities, talked to them, but I felt I was failing miserably. I found comfort on the bleachers watching my son play baseball and taking pictures of my daughter as she sang in school performances. But I questioned if any of my actions were anything like what God had intended for me to live out.
I grew tired of being told how strong I was. I didn’t want to be strong anymore. I didn’t want to hear that it would get better because I doubted it ever would. And my heart broke when I was told that sometimes things like this happen so we can help someone else someday, as if that was some kind of privilege.
What a Friend
I began to read my Bible every morning. The more I read, the closer God seemed to be. Decisions were still hard, but I started to realize it was okay if some of them weren’t perfect. I began to tell God how I felt and that I still didn’t understand how my life could be so messed up. It wasn’t easy to face what I didn’t understand, but every morning I spent time reading and wondering and talking to Him.
There were times I felt I had accomplished hard things and done them well. Other times I failed. Sometimes it was hard to know whether I had won or lost. I didn’t always get it right, but I began to see God in a different light. He had been my Savior, but now He seemed to be my friend. I was starting to see it was not just about getting it right or being strong. It was more about His righteousness and His strength that I was learning to depend on. I realized this was a relationship He had formed between us. He was slowly teaching me how to love Him and how to let Him love me.
I don’t always understand Him, but I’ve learned to trust Him.