There are many people who have stood by me after my husband passed away suddenly last November 2017 from a massive heart attack. I have no words that could ever express my gratitude for faithful family and friends. They not only love me, they loved "us."
God is using me right where I am and over the last few months I have been asked to speak to various groups of women about how God is healing me. As we journey through this life it is a fact that we will always experience tragedy and joy. If you are experiencing one you can be sure the other will follow.
I believe it's best to learn how to find peace in every trial so that joy can emerge and be the catalyst that moves us forward. What is written below is only part of my journey.
Conference at Fort Myers, Florida, March 10, 2018.
Good afternoon. It's a pleasure to be here with you today. As Yvonne said, I'm here to share my testimony of how God is healing me after the loss of my husband. I'm not healed yet, but because of Christ, I do have hope.
On November 3 last year, my friend Yvonne told me the Lord put on her heart to have a Day of Joy Conference in Chattanooga.
Well, she said, No way Lord! I'm too tired & too old for that!”
Then she read a chapter in my book "Kairos Moments," entitled "The Resistance." As soon as she read it, she said “okay Lord, I'll do it!” Then she asked me to give my testimony at this conference.
I didn't know what testimony I would share at that moment. Yvonne suggested I talk about when I was saved. The older I get the more testimonies I have. So I was confident something would come to mind.
What I did not know was that the very next day my husband Richard would pass away from a massive heart attack.
He collapsed into my lap as I was driving him to the hospital.
Building my testimony was difficult for me to say the least. It was like a wild ride at an amusement park and the seat belt suddenly breaks. I was trying to hang on but I was all over the place.
I felt this way, every day for quite a while. It was like I was melting away and frozen at the same time as I cried out to God.
One of the reasons I have not given up is that God gave me a dream of inspiration within a few days of Richards passing.
In the dream, I was holding a piece of wood on each end and the fire in the middle was going out and it needed to stay lit.
I remember how my son learned to control his breathing from playing the trumpet for many years. So I was trying my best to use that same force.
Anthony was watching me and walked up to me in the dream and asked, "Did you do it mom?" I said yes! I did!
I looked to my left and there was my husband. He had one of his feet resting on a chair and leaning on his propped up knee. He was looking at me with a smile that was like a ray of sunshine penetrating my heart.
I will cherish that dream because I know God speaks in many ways.
I think the smoldering fire in the piece of wood was symbolic of me in the dream because I don't ever want the fire in me for God to go out.
My husband grew up a survivor in an alcoholic family.
He had no idea what a family was until he married me and we had our son, Anthony.
He was an amazing man who never complained. He was always optimistic and I'll tell you why; it's because he had a wonderful relationship with Jesus Christ every day.
His smile and laugh were contagious and would draw anyone to him. If I was to meet him someplace, all I’d have to do was listen for his voice or his laugh and I could find him.
He was a patriot, a veteran who served in the Navy and Air Force. I decorated his office in red white blue about six months prior to his passing.
I had no idea then, but it was fitting for the military burial he received at the National Cemetery in Chattanooga. I've always thought Military ceremonies are beautiful but somber. A soldier was playing Taps under an enormous oak tree and it resonated throughout the rolling hills of the cemetery.
The men in uniform folded the flag in front of us with such precision. It reminded me of how my husband was methodical about folding everything.
When the flag was folded and inspected they kneeled before me one at a time. Their eyes focused on me like I was the only person there. Then they presented the flag to me by gently placing it into my open hands. Then they spoke of our country's gratitude for Richard's service.
My son and I were thankful to be honoring him in such way.
At 74 my husband worked a full time job from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. His coworkers called him “burn 'em up Sherriff” because he had so much energy. He was a forever student and always said the word retire was not in the Bible.
Two years ago he received his Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice and was currently finishing up his thesis for completion of a Masters degree in the same field. His desire was to teach at college level, so he could interact with the youth of today.
We both spoke a message of hope to the inmates at Silverdale prison; Richard to the men every Sunday morning before church and I once a month to the women. Together we mentored married couples. We were elders at our church, involved in prayer ministry and community outreaches. Jesus blessed us with things we could do together. My husband was my best friend and the love of my life. He was the father of the son I dreamed of having.
He was an amazing father to Anthony, who graduated from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville only five weeks after his father passed away. Anthony is a lot like his dad when it comes to studying and learning. He majored in psychology and minored in Neuroscience.
The loss of his father has been devastating and life-changing for him. I didn’t know how to help him and sometimes still don't. But when I turn to Jesus for help, He tells me to simply love my son.
The way my husband spoke to me was somewhat different several months prior to his passing. I couldn't put my finger on it, it just was.
Richard thought I should be open to speaking and writing in order to giveaway what The Lord has given me. When I shared the text message from Yvonne he looked at me and said, “Denise, this is exactly what I've been telling you!
Then he pointed his finger at me and said “it's beginning now.” His voice was more compelling than I've ever heard it before.
I told him I would like to help Yvonne prepare for the day of joy in Chattanooga but wasn't sure how to do that. He said, Denise, it’s important that you step into this and learn because you will need to know how to do it.
It was the way he spoke that was different. He addressed me by my name. It was strange, but it seemed there was something God knew and was speaking through my husband. We don't usually notice those things when they happen.
The night Richard had his heart attack, we were looking forward to Saturday night football and his favorite meal of a simple turkey sandwich. Personally I don't like turkey sandwiches, but for some reason I made one for myself that night.
While watching the game, we enjoyed what was to be our last meal.
I think Jesus wanted us to share that meal together which is why I made that extra sandwich for me.
After dinner my husband began to struggle with breathing. He appeared to be having severe indigestion. He got up and stood behind the couch. I looked at him and lost every other focus but him.
I asked him, “Are you having a heart attack?” He said maybe. Then he placed his hand over his heart, looked at me and said, “It hurts so bad.”
We headed for the car. I picked up my purse and car keys and noticed he was standing on the front porch barefoot. I said, “honey you want some shoes?"
He said “no.” And there was a certain calmness about him.
My husband would never ever go anywhere without shoes.
Those were the last words we said to each other.
I believe he knew where he was going and that God and the angels were with him as he got into the car.
24 hours a day I would eat, sleep, pray, laugh, cry and then do it all over again. The anger, pain and sadness were excruciating. I just wanted to explode from the inside and be done with the whole thing.
I began to understand the part of our wedding vows 'until death do us part’, Because physically, emotionally and spiritually I felt our covenant separate.
I screamed at God, Why did you take him from me like that?! We were married and living as one. You ripped him away from me and I had no defense. No warning! Nothing!
My husband was gone in the blink of an eye and I wasn't finished loving him or being loved by him.
Richard was the man God created to be my husband. And He knew him better than I ever could.
He was not a man to be terribly ill or bed ridden. That would have crushed his spirit and his zest for life would have withered away.
My husband was with me and that's exactly where he needed to be. Not at work, not driving home, not with a customer. No matter how awful it was to see him in pain, I know it meant a great deal to him that we were together. The Holy Spirit gave us our final connection when we looked into each others' eyes. We will see each other again.
Now, instead of thinking that God robbed me, He is showing me more deeply about the amazing character of my husband and the devoted father that Richard was.
For six hours my son and I greeted people at the visitation and listened to story after story about their connection to Richard. My shoulders were saturated with their tears as I hugged them.
Those who observed Richard, saw how he loved and prayed for people consistently. People seemed to notice he was a man who walked his Christian talk.
I've seen special touches of God's grace along this journey. A meal was prepared after the service and the dessert was banana pudding. It was my husband's favorite dessert and the caterer had no knowledge of that.
God really does think of every detail.
I saw the perfect sign of synergy-which is the young and old working together;
as I watched six men carry the casket. Two of them we're close friends of our family; then there was my son with three of his best friends.
Someone asked Anthony, “How are you able to be a pallbearer?” And his response was; “How can I not carry my father?”
Anthony and I are the legacy Richard has left. We will do our best to live our life well & honor him. So will those who knew him. Especially those he mentored.
Many things Richard wanted to accomplish he didn't get to do. It hurts to see many of his dreams never manifested.
I often found myself questioning God; was my husband's life complete? Because of course I didn't think so.
I shared this question that tormented question with a dear friend. He responded immediately and said, “Without a doubt his life was complete." God is a God of completion!
He went on to say that the lives my husband touched were immeasurable.”He was a father image and genuine friend to so many. Richard's assignment with the young men he mentored was complete. They have been released to seek God at a new level.
One of the young men communicated with Richard by letter for two years. My son indicated he wants to read those letters one day containing his fathers' wisdom. They will mean a great deal to him.
The aftermath of a funeral is no easy task. My son and I did not know how to end a day.....or begin one.
It’s like coming to the last page of a book, but its’ not the end of the book, there are just pages missing.
I could not find my new place in life. I was a widow............I am a widow.
Everything was a first time without my husband. It was difficult going to the homes of couples we mentored without him.
Many times I curled up in a ball and hid in a corner. I just wanted to fade away. I cried out to God and he covered me with His beautiful grace.
It’s like he extended His hand and said; "Daughter get up."
In this moment I am in the midst of sorrow and grief. I miss my husband with all my heart, But I declare today;
I WILL GET UP....AGAIN AND AGAIN.
(The following I did while speaking in Fort Myers at a Day of Joy conference.)
Right now I’m going to do something that is symbolic and precious to me. It will be significant to my moving on.
In this box I brought with me is a beautiful necklace made for me by a sweet friend. I happen to know there's a picture of Richard in it but this will be the first time I look at it and wear it.
I remember this picture. It was taken on the San Francisco Bay as my husband performed a wedding ceremony.
I’m accepting the fact that he is no longer here on this earth but he will always be in my memory. I have hope that when I go home I will be able to look at all our family photos and see the incredible life we had together with less pain.
(The action of putting on the necklace in front of the audience of ladies was a commitment of sorts and helped me move forward.)
My book "Kairos Moments" came out in October. That was our last assignment together, because my dear husband passed away only one month later. God's grace again was that Richard got to enjoy the fruit of our labors with evidence of blessing others.
During this transition it's like I'm in a basket hanging from a pendulum, swinging back and forth, back and forth from Blessing to bereavement. I could never endure this season without Christ. I was trying to figure out how to make ends meet. There was so much paperwork I didn't understand. I had no choice but to do it ........... Right or wrong.
I still had to promote God's work that was in the form of my book. And Richard would want me to.
On top of all that my son ended up in the hospital twice and our sweet little dog Holly began suffering with a heart murmur. She has waited at the top of the stairs for Richard to come home for months now.
I was overwhelmed in this new territory, which led a friend to ask me a great question; Denise what are you holding in your hands....right now?”
Well, it seemed I had lots of things in my hands. But as I stared at my desk looking for an answer; I finally said; “The platform to share my testimony in Fort Meyers! That's what I'm holding in my hands!”
She said, “That's exactly right and that's what you need to focus on. Everything else will have its own time.”
2 Peter 1:5-7 says, Don’t lose a minute building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, revert wonder, warm friendliness and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing others.
This scripture is important to me because it's easy for me to lose sight sometimes of the main target God has given me. I fail at times to filter all the "stuff" of life that comes my way which causes me to have a bad attitude. And that does nothing but hinder me.
As I align myself however, with the character of Christ, it causes one good thing to build upon the other. The outcome then can be used for Gods Best.
Ladies, I hope with all my heart, my experience will give you a different perspective in whatever you may be going through or will go through.
No matter our circumstances.....
We can live and not die.
Please plant that in your heart.
NO MATTER OUR
WE CAN LIVE AND NOT DIE.
The Lord sees what we can’t. He knows what we don't.
He sees the table set in heaven, not the one here.
One of the great blessings in Heaven right now is that my husband is a work of art that God has completed.
I have asked myself another question. What do I do with the love I had for my husband? LOVE has to go some place. So I fully intend to keep giving it away.
There are many dimensions to healing. The worst was not the holidays or special events. It was our everyday life.
Richard and I used to slow dance in the kitchen. Recently I danced in the kitchen. I looked up and smiled with tears streaming down my face.
I realized the only thing,
THE ONLY THING
that can be birthed out of tragedy.....is Hope.
Hope for meaning in life.
And Hope for a future.
Jesus promises that this is what he wants for us and I put my hope in His promise.