“So how did your husband die?”
This question can be a real conversation stopper for some widows.
I have been learning this lesson for the past five years. The final moments of one chapter of my story and the beginning of the next have changed my perspective dramatically. Only God really knows our whole story, and sometimes it is complicated.
“I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.'” Isaiah 46:9b-10a (ESV)
My husband’s death certificate states cause of death as suicide, although the circumstances surrounding his death were so different than what people expected to hear.
I answered honestly when people asked what happened, so it hurt when false assumptions were shared about how and why he died. It did not change the truth, but it hurt because some did not seek the truth before they spoke to others.
They did not know that:
- due to insomnia he was on a prescription sleep medication that began to alter his personality for thirteen days before he died. Our family witnessed his strange behavior but we all, including him, linked it to his lack of sleep.
- he called me for help that April morning, panicked and confused in his hotel room when he realized he had wounded himself in his drug-induced haze.
- we had eleven precious minutes on the phone to say “I love you”: I promised to get help to him as quickly as I could and he, struggling to breathe, whispered repeatedly how much he loved me
- as I begged him to hold on, I could hear the paramedics yelling as they broke in the hotel room door. They closed his phone as he said the last “I love you” I would ever hear from him, then they worked unsuccessfully to save his life. At that moment, God wrote the final word in my husband’s story.
As I received the
news of his death rather than expected news about his hospital transport, God began the new “Widow” chapter of my life by giving me “the peace that surpasses all understanding”. Although there were times when I had to push back against fear of the unknown, there was never a time when I doubted that God was still writing my own story. He taught me to rejoice in suffering, and He taught me to trust Him with the future.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV)
There are still things people do not know about my husband’s story. None of these things change who he was, the life he lived, or how he impacted my life for good. He was a sinner saved by grace just as I am, and I will see him again one day.
This experience changed me and showed me my own limited view of life –now I try not to assume
anything about a person’s story; each one is unique. Only God knows how any life plays out from beginning to end. He always knows what is for our good and for His glory, even if we cannot see it at the time. In our family we have heard some of the good that has come from my husband’s death. Many people have said their faith was strengthened and at least one person chose not to end her own life because of our testimony; my husband’s death was not in vain.
Hebrews 12:2 tells us to look to Jesus because He is the author and finisher of our faith. I know He can be trusted to write the end of my story as well.
Father, please help us
to give grace to others who don’t seem to understand the daily struggles we experience, and help us not to make assumptions because we do not know what others are going through. Please give us daily peace and faith to trust that You alone are the Author and Finisher of our faith and to trust You to write our whole story. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Terri Oxner Sharp is a wife, mother, grandmother, homeschool teacher, and a writer for aNew Season/A Widow’s Might Ministries. Her first husband passed away suddenly in 2012. She gives God all the glory for how He has grown her spiritually on her widow journey, in preparation for her new journey into a blended family. Terri and her second husband live in Arkansas with the final child still living at home from their combined family of seven children, two son-in-loves, and two grandsons. She loves to be with people who love to laugh, enjoys spending time with their grandchildren, who know her as “GiGi”, and feels called to minister to other women who find themselves bewildered to be on a widow’s path as well.
If you are interested in having Terri or any of our writing team speak, please contact us via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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