I’ve never had a new beginning without a huge loss at the same time. My husband, Keith, had cancer the year we were engaged. My dad died eight hours after my son (the first grandkid) was born. My husband died one month before our daughter was born.
For me, new beginnings are complicated.
I’ll never forget waking up in the hospital on New Year’s Day 2015. Keith had been admitted on New Year’s Eve for breathing issues and the kind nursing staff found an extra bed so my almost-nine-month-pregnant belly and I could get a decent night’s sleep. It was kind of like a vacation, honestly. We knew change was coming, so we soaked in the time together while the two-year-old was with a neighbor.
Baby girl was due in a little over a month and, as my sister-in-law always told me, having a kid changes your life, but a second kid changes the way you live. We knew life would feel upside down very soon.
And yet, life already felt very, very upside down. We’d spent the last three months in and out of doctor’s appointments, trying to figure out why Keith was having night sweats. We knew the diagnosis wouldn’t be good, but we held on to hope and prayed like crazy. The week before Christmas, we received the news we’d been dreading: Keith had an untreatable, incurable cancer that would take his life in less than a year.
Each day in the hospital, I prayed “not yet.” I begged God to do a gigantic miracle. My heart was breaking as the reality of my kids not growing up with a dad hit hard. We continued to pray for healing, fully knowing that God would probably do the healing by bringing Keith to heaven that year.
What we didn’t realize was that God would heal Keith by bringing him to heaven four days later.
Leaving the hospital, leaving Keith behind, feeling the wiggling of a new baby in my belly was the kind of new beginning that words cannot adequately describe. There was the desperate, gut wrenching grief of having to fulfill the pledge “til death do us part.” There was the comfort and anticipation of the baby snuggles, the new life, the hope of the baby on the way. There was a whole lot of anger that God would allow injustice to begin a new year, to change all our lives forever.
And then God did some real miracles.
Libby was born and she brought the joy and laughter to my heart that I thought would never return. She captivated the heart of her brother and they were immediately (and still are) the best of friends. They may not have their dad, but they have each other. They’re not perfect and have perfected the art of sibling fights, but my mama heart sings when I see them embrace as Caleb gets off the school bus each day. I didn’t understand how God would allow me to be pregnant when my husband was dying, but then He gave me Libby: pure sunshine in a little human.
I did not get married hoping to be a young widow. And yet, it’s because of my widowhood that my life has changed in wonderful ways. I have learned what God meant when He said His power would be perfected in (and because of) my weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). I get off-handed comments all the time that I am so strong. I’m really not.
I can’t actually parent alone or grieve out of my own abilities, but I can rely on the strength of the One who spoke the universe into existence.
Each new year, I remember that I can do hard things. I can parent my children and love them, even if our family is broken. I can pursue my career, hobbies, and passions, even though the partner I had hoped to share them with is gone. I can learn to love deeply, knowing it means I have to learn to sit with my grief, my disappointment, and my shattered heart.
My life is not what I dreamed of when I got married ten years ago, but God takes broken things and makes them beautiful. New beginnings, whether exciting or excruciating, mean Elohim (the powerful creator) and Jehovah-Rapha (the healer) is still creating and healing in my life.