Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Leslie's Story

What happens when you're vacationing in Disneyland one week, and picking out a casket the next? When you're face down on the bathroom floor crying out to God? The following conversation with my friend Leslie tells of her widow's walk, God's grace and the truths she learned.
View Leslie and DeWayne.jpg in slide show
Leslie and DeWayne. This photo was
taken by their daughter for a photography
class. One of the kids in the class said,
"It's so nice to see old people in love."
She was 45, and DeWayne was 48.
Leslie, although we've not met in person, I've gotten to know you a bit through Facebook and emails over the past few years. It's so cool now to look back and realize you didn't know how you'd make it without DeWayne. But then you started, one step at a time, turning things over to God. I remember the singles group you got involved in and that you started on staff at your church. Then you met Dave, and now you're remarried! I was thrilled when you sent me a picture of your engagement ring! You're also using my book for a widows group at church, which is also exciting for me. But let me turn it over to you now. Would you please summarize about how and when you were widowed?
View Last photo.jpg in slide show
The last picture of Leslie
and DeWayne
I've been amazed over the past several years too. My husband, DeWayne, passed away rather suddenly on April 1st, 2008 from an antibiotic-resistant staph infection (MRSA). We had just returned home from California on Spring Break. One week we were walking hand-in-hand in Disneyland, the next week I was picking out his casket.

People are never really prepared for death, but when it's so sudden it's such a shock. What was the first year like?

In a word--- Overwhelming. Because his death was so sudden and unexpected, there was a lot of "unfinished business"--shutting down his small business, overseeing our major house remodeling project that was already underway, helping my daughter through a tumultuous senior year of high school, all on top of grieving.

How did you begin to grow through your grief?

My super-spiritual analogy of grief is that it comes upon us like an unwanted cosmic truckload of manure that permeates every corner of our lives. But God provides us with a shovel and He also shovels alongside us if we allow Him. We can choose not to shovel, but we all know what happens when manure just sits--it stinks and attracts flies. But if we shovel it and spread it, we can end up with a pretty sweet garden. I recall specifically, after months of shoveling, when that first little blade of green popped up through the dirt. Now, five years later, I see a lovely, fragrant garden!

That's a great analogy for the "manure" in our lives, Leslie! Were there any key turning points for you too, that helped you along the way?

When I came home from the hospital, I found myself face-to-floor in my bathroom, pouring my fears out to God. I knew both my daughter and I were spiritually very vulnerable and compromised, and so I prayed to God, "please don't let me be consumed--don't let my daughter be consumed." I was led to Lamentations 3, where it says that because of God's great love we are not consumed, his mercies are new every morning. But in that passage it also says that though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love, for God does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men. So my first realization was that DeWayne's death also broke God's heart, as death was never His plan for mankind. Sin changed that. But also, because of His unfailing love, we are not left high and dry when someone we love dies. Christ's sacrifice changed that. He then reminded me of His past faithfulness and invited me to trust Him once more, which I did. Now I look back on the journey and see His fingerprints all over my life!

As you look back over your experience, and now with working with your church and widows groups, have you found effective steps for a widow to begin to rebuild her life?

Although grief is experienced differently by each of us, I think everyone can start by building a team. Find other widows. Even those who have been widowed a short time can offer some helpful perspective, and it is a huge encouragement to know that you are not alone! Also enlist the help of a pastor or a good friend--someone who cares but who is far enough removed that they can see your life from a healthy distance and help steer you if they see you are headed in a bad direction. Get to know your church's care ministry and benevolence programs. Make grieving a priority--find a GriefShare or a hospice program.
View 037.jpg in slide show
Dave and Leslie at their wedding
a few months ago.
What advice do you have especially for new widows?

Take a deep breath (or a thousand) and tell yourself that one day you will be looking back on this season instead of looking forward into it, and everything will have worked out. It will be just a matter of days or weeks when you will be able to look back and you will be amazed to find that even the smallest accomplishments are empowering.

Thank you for taking the time to share about the hope God has worked into your heart, Leslie. I'm sure it's encouraged each reader today. Before we close, is there anything else you’d like to add?

I am so thankful that God in His abundant grace allowed that Christ's sacrifice on the cross paved the way for me to not only have life after death but abundant life now. I do not want to waste that piece of salvation.

I couldn't agree more! There is, indeed, not only eternal life after death, but also abundant life in the here and now available to the widow. Not pain-free, of course, but very precious. ferree

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