Saturday mornings are easy at our house. Seconds on the clock don’t count against us like they do Monday through Friday as we scurry to school, work, and church. Children linger in pajamas, breakfast is eaten in random shifts, and I putz in the kitchen while my husband sleeps through the the soft singsong of children’s television in the next room.
On this particularly beautiful Indian summer day, when the weather betrays the calendar with 70-degree temps and sunshine, we are beckoned outdoors for a last romp without the hindrance of heavy coats. The trikes and pedal cars will race up and down the driveway on this last hurrah before exchanging places with sleds and snowboards in the loft of the garage.
As my little boys search for shoes and wooden swords — standard issue for adventures if you’re 7 and 4 — I go to invite my husband into our activities.
This man, this husband of mine, makes my world work. He opens my doors, my jars, and my eyes to possibilities I never imagined. He works two jobs so I can stay home with littles. He encourages my writing and he supports my dream of being a Christian speaker one day. He fixes everything I break, brings home flowers for no reason, and eats everything I put in front of him. He dances with me in the kitchen, and he plays on the floor with our children. When he wraps me up in his strong arms and kisses me deeply, I know that forever is not long enough to be married to this man. He makes me feel safe and loved and secure.
Finding him asleep on the couch, I lean toward him to whisper him awake. There is no response.
I speak louder. Again, nothing. I touch his forehead. He’s cold. Ice cold. I scream his name and pound on his chest with my fists. His body is hard. We call 911, and almost immediately men in crisp uniforms arrive, taking over CPR, assessing his body for signs of life. They find none.
My man is dead. Heart attack. The widow maker.
Time seems to warp, quickening and slowing as my mind and heart try to catch up with the news. Astonishingly, inexplicably, in the midst of the calamity in my home, peace envelops me like a warm, fuzzy blanket.
The Spirit of God whispers to me, “You are not alone. You can trust me. Your husband is with me and I will be with you.”
I have a choice. I can fight, rail, and pit myself against God for letting this happen to me, to us, to our family. Or, I can surrender, choosing to follow and trust God to take care of us.
I choose to surrender.
And as if He knows that even HIS presence isn’t enough for me in this season of sorrow, He mobilizes an army of encouragers and comforters. Women from my church come and pray. Moms from the kids’ school sit quiet vigil. Neighbors from across the street offer rooms and cars for out-of-town relatives, and strangers who hear about my loss are compelled to come over with chicken salad and jello jigglers. The mailbox fills with cards full of cash and gift cards for car washes and oil changes, for meals at McDonalds, and anything else I might want from Target.
There were days when all I had was a gossamer thread of faith that God would heal my hurt, restore my joy, and father my children.
It was the hardest season of my life, but I made it by letting God demonstrate His boundless love to my children and me through the whispers of the Holy Spirit and the compassionate, kind acts of the Body of Christ.
Twenty years have come and gone since that dreadful day. Now more than ever, I can attest to to faithfulness of God, the power of prayer, and the importance of living in community with God’s people. That trifecta will produce a victory of joy in spite of circumstances every time.