by Cheyenne Bell
Today was supposed to be my 8th wedding anniversary. Today was supposed to be a day that my husband and I celebrated our commitment to one another, our promise to love one another until death parted us. But just over a year ago, death did part us, much sooner than we could have ever expected.
Last October, I watched my husband die from a sudden heart attack. He was a strong, fit 36-year-old man with no known health issues; yet somehow I was scrambling to try to save him as his body failed him on our bedroom floor. Later, as I stood guard over his lifeless body in a cold hospital room, I tried to comprehend what was happening, but how does one grasp something such as this? Still uncomprehending, I returned home the next morning to my two small children, just 4 and 2 years old, and tried to find a way to tell them that their Daddy went to heaven to live with Jesus. To say that that was the most difficult day of my life is a monumental understatement.
From that day forward, I have had every reason to be angry, sad and bitter. I have had every reason to let this tragedy pervert my faith and prove to me that God is not good or He would have stopped this from happening. Believe me, I have had plenty of those moments. I would be lying if I told you my faith has not been shaken and my trust in a good God has not been tested. But, the funny thing about God is that He tends to show up in these situations in the subtlest of ways. If you are paying attention, He whispers into your pain and moves with you through the darkness.
The night my husband lay dying, I ran for help to a next-door neighbor whom I hardly knew, having only moved there a few months before. By God’s grace, they answered the door. And while he helped me with Garry and with calling for the ambulance, his wife agreed to sit all night with the kids while I followed the ambulance to the hospital. Later, the neighbor told me, “We were going to put our house on the market right about the time your family moved in. But something stopped me. I felt like God wanted us to stay and help you.” Little did she know at that time how precious and necessary that help would be.
In the days after my husband died, my house was filled to overflowing with family and friends who just wanted to be with me and take care of the mundane tasks of everyday life so I could grieve. At my husband’s memorial service, the building was filled to capacity with all the people who loved him, and who also loved me and his kids. Within a week of his passing, my friends had raised more money than I could’ve imagined so that my kids and I could survive for a while without me worrying about how to pay the bills. Food and gifts and cards flowed to the house morning, noon, and night for two solid months. In those first painful, dark days, God was moving through those people and whispering to me, “You are not alone.”
A few months after my husband died, I faced the harsh truth that I couldn’t afford to stay in our brand new home. I made the difficult decision to place it on the market, despite the fact that it was a terrible time of year to sell a house. Within a month of listing my home, it was sold. Within a couple of weeks of signing the contract, I found a home to rent near a good elementary school, and only 20 minutes away from my sister, my parents, and my in-laws. Within two weeks of moving, I found a mom’s group who welcomed me with open arms and began praying for me and helping me and my kids get connected to the community. In those months of fear and upheaval, God was quietly putting puzzle pieces together and showing me, “I’ve got you.”
In the last few months of my first year of widowhood, I have started making efforts to rebuild my shattered life. I have been on a journey of self-rediscovery of sorts. I am learning who I am now, because I am certainly not the same woman anymore. I think this part of my journey has been the most difficult for me emotionally. I miss my husband, I miss being a wife, I miss our old life, and yet, I know those things will never be again. I have started the process of letting go of what was and opening my heart to what can be. Every day I have to choose to be brave and step out in faith that God will bless these hard choices and new adventures that I am forced to take. In these months of letting go, God is patiently encouraging me with His promise, “I will make all things new.”
So today, on my would-have-been wedding anniversary on the cusp of this season of Thanksgiving, I look back on my first year of widowhood and can honestly say that I am thankful. I am thankful for the wonderful husband that I was given, if even for a short time. I am thankful for the ways in which God has quietly moved in my life during these dark days of pain and fear. I am thankful for the blessings of family, friends, and community that have rallied behind me and continue to support me even today. Mostly, though, I am thankful that even though He did not take this burden from me, even though He hasn’t spared me any of the hurt or the pain, even though I still have to walk through this valley, I can look back at how He has surrounded me thus far, and know that He is still good; and because I know that He has been good thus far, I will trust His promise to give me hope and a future.
And for that hope, and that future, I am so grateful.
Cheyenne is an attorney, writer, and blogger with a slight obsession for old homes and good coffee. Cheyenne’s blog, Sense & Serendipity, focuses on inspiring others to create a home well loved and a life well lived. Cheyenne lives in Buda, Texas, with her amazing children, Aislin (5) and Hawkins (3).