Grieving Our Losses Day 16 – The Loss of a Spouse—Chris’ Story
Narrated by Ruth P. McDonald
How do you live after being cut in two? That was the echo of my heart at the passing of my husband of almost 56 years. There was no way to prepare my heart for the crushing grief that pressed in at his loss, and it could have consumed me had it not been for the strength given from my Heavenly Father.
On a day that started in such an ordinary way—my husband on one side of our bed and me on the other—we pulled up the covers, ready to face the day together. Looking back, that simple daily rhythm would come back with striking clarity.
After a day spent with family, my husband felt ill. Being that he rarely complained, we encouraged him to go to the hospital. Never did I believe for one minute that this was a serious condition, and when they hooked him up to check his heart, and told us he was having a heart attack—I did not expect that news. Having no cardiologist on staff that evening, we received the news that he would be medevac-ed to Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem.
We were allowed to say our goodbyes before the helicopter took him away. As I kissed him, his face covered by an oxygen mask, he had a question for me: “Do you have your housekey to get back inside the house?” That was Stan, always looking after me. I assured him that I did, and told him, “I love you and I’ll see you over there.” He had a moment with our daughter too, but his words to her were these: “Look after your mother.” Again, he was always taking care of me in the very best way.
Arriving at Baptist, it took us a while to locate Stan. A little later, a nurse returned and asked that we follow her to a small room with a lock on the door. My daughter, her husband and myself all sat somewhat puzzled, awaiting the news of his condition. Two doctors came in and we stood to receive the news. “I’m so sorry to tell you this, but we lost him,” one of them stated. “We did everything we could, but it was just too late.” Still, I hesitated, dumbfounded by what I was hearing, and so I asked more plainly: “So you’re saying he’s dead?” With his affirmation, I simply collapsed into the chair, too stunned to even cry. How could this be true?
After getting permission to see him, I reached for him—he was still warm. So close to life, it seemed, and yet gone. I kissed him and I broke down with my daughter and just wept. A kind and compassionate doctor put his arms around us and lifted up a prayer that touched me and comforted me, asking God to receive His faithful servant of so many years. The one thing that made that moment easier was thinking of where he was—spending his first few moments with Jesus, and seeing Him face to face!
The hardest thing I’ve ever done was to leave that hospital and ride home—without him. Never would he accompany me again—I could hardly grasp that truth! My family sat up with me through the night, sometimes just sitting in sad silence. In the morning, I went to our room to get changed for the day, and saw that bed—the one we made together just the previous morning. Oh, the grief that crushed me! I yelled and cried over and over, asking God how I could go on. How could I handle this? I picked up my Bible, searching for comfort, help, and strength for the days ahead. I turned to Isaiah, a book in which I had underlined many passages, and found this:
For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you (Isaiah 41:13, NIV).
God is so kind and gracious, even in the midst of our grief and heartache. He gave me those words at that precise moment, promising to help me in the days ahead. It was exactly what I needed to hear, and I wept with the comfort those words offered. And He did help me. He’s faithful to His Word. Gradually, one day at a time, I got through it.
I stayed in our home for two years following my husband’s passing. In that house, I felt him with me. I heard his voice when I went about my day, and sometimes, I almost felt I heard him joining me for our morning coffee. I didn’t initially want to leave because I felt our memories were all there. But, in a way, staying kept me stuck in a place where healing seemed further away because I didn’t want to move forward. This was a house of mourning. And so I packed up our home and moved to another town where I could start over again—alone, but hopeful.
Stan was my caretaker in so many ways. I looked to him to sustain me and he became my rock. While certainly that is a good thing, perhaps it kept me from fully leaning on Christ as my Rock in the way He intends for us to—as our Provider, Comforter, Guide and Friend—as our all. In my days as a widow, I’ve learned to love Christ deeper, and give Him His rightful place in my life. He is my Rock! I’ve learned what it means to truly depend on Him, and He has faithfully carried me through this season of life in ways that continue to humble and amaze me.
And so how do you move forward when your spouse of almost 56 years is taken from you, when it feels you’ve been cut in two? You fill yourself with the Lord! I’ll never stop loving and missing Stan, but I’m learning that Jesus is the only One who can fill all the places in me that are lacking. He has proven Himself over and over again to me. May any who are searching for strength to move forward after a heart-shattering loss find hope in the Lord. He will give you every bit of Himself to carry you through if you trust Him with your grief.