Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A Widow's Story---She Dated My First Husband!

Dear Readers,
Shortly after I spoke to the widows group at Colonial Baptist Church in Cary, North Carolina, in March I received an email from one of the attendees which made me laugh with delight and just shake my head. My dearly departed Bruce... once again I was reminded that I was the last in a long line of girls he dated, lol.

But this lady, Terri Tangeman, and I had more in common than having lived in Ohio and a date with Bruce. As she told me her story I realized that she and I would have shared a wonderful friendship if we'd have ever met. But then I realized that as Christians we will have the eons of eternity in heaven, and I don't know which I look forward to more---getting to know her here, or There!

I hope her interesting life and the challenges of widowhood she met and overcame by God's grace will inspire you as much as they did me. Here's a peek at what she shared with me:

Hello again Ferree,

My husband Tony and I were married in July of 1977, a year before you and Bruce. We met at Tennessee Temple University in Chattanooga, TN. Although we were both from Ohio, we didn't meet until our sophomore year. Then we dated three years at school, and married after graduating.

After the wedding we worked in a Christian school near Tampa, Florida for five years. Then we went on a short term mission project with Trans World Radio to Monte Carlo, Monaco and Swaziland, Africa for 18 months. I am a TWR missionary kid, so I was thrilled to be on the field again! When we returned to the States we waited on the Lord’s direction for 1 1/2 years and then became career missionaries with TWR, to the island of Bonaire for 13 years. Both of our sons were born in Bonaire. The Lord didn’t send us children until we’d been married for 11 years, so I always said we had our retirement years first!

Let me back up a bit though. Tony was born with only a single ventricle to his heart. He was never supposed to live! But as he would say, “No one ever told me that, so I just kept on living.” He loved life and lived well-- just at his own pace. During our first furlough from Bonaire, much to our surprise, his cardiologist sent him to Mayo Clinic for an evaluation. He became a candidate for a Fontan procedure, which essentially rerouted his circulatory system. This greatly improved his overall condition (but in the end, it was complications from this surgery which contributed to his death). We returned to Bonaire after a very long recovery and served another 10 years.
Visit this additional website of TransWorld Radio for
tremendous (and free) Bible and ministry resources!
In July of 1999 our boys got sick with a simple virus. Tony caught it from them and it tipped the balance in his system. He started going downhill quickly. We were able to fly back to the US on an air ambulance and take him straight to Duke University Hospital. They stabilized him and he was released from the hospital 3 weeks later. But things were still not right. 

We made another trip to Mayo Clinic but they couldn’t really help with anything but a heart transplant. So Tony went on the heart list at Duke in March of 2000. He got a hospital infection on his skin at the end of April and died from that infection 3 days later. He had been so close to death on numerous occasions and the Lord always restored him to us, but not this time. This time I knew Tony was going Home.

When we first entered Mayo Clinic back in 1990 I asked the Lord to speak to me daily from His Word and show me what He had for us. Time and time again that Word promised life! I hung on to those promises and saw God heal him. In 1999 when he was sick, I again asked the Lord to prepare my heart. This time the message was “trust me and praise me.” That’s what we did. When he passed away, I was able to come home from the hospital praising the Lord and trusting Him for my future.

Like you when Bruce died, everything in our world changed too. (Everything except that I was still the homeschool teacher for my 2 sons). We had to move back to the US from our home in Bonaire. In doing so we lost our home, our country, our ministry, our church, our friends, and our pets...besides losing Tony. We lost it all. But because the Lord had prepared my heart I could continue to praise Him and trust Him. I knew that how I responded to Tony’s death would greatly impact how my sons responded. I made it my mission to teach them that God is good and we can trust Him. God provided all we needed.

My guys graduated in 2007 and 2010. They married in 2011 and 2012. It was THEN that I finally understood that I was alone and Tony was gone. I grieved when he died. But I grieved in a whole new way when I was alone.

I never realized how much focusing on my sons had kept me from focusing on my own loss. As our Social Security benefits disappeared because the boys were grown, I went to work with TWR right here in Cary....first part time, now full time. My kids live in the area and I am a grandmother now. New joys!

In some ways our stories are very different: while I knew of my husband’s condition, we had seen God raise him up from death’s door over and over again to live strong again. I really didn’t know until 3 days before he died that it wasn’t going to happen this time. I did however, have more warning than you did when you lost Bruce. But it speaks to me deeply that even though I married a man who some thought would leave me an early widow, your strong, healthy husband actually died before mine. Tony was 47. Bruce was 46. I love Ps. 139:16 and cling to that truth.

God’s great faithfulness has sustained me and the many lessons that He taught me during our Mayo Clinic experience in 1990 prepared me for leaning hard on Him. I still marvel at the fact that Bruce was your husband! And that we have met in this unusual way.

May God bless you as you continue serving Him,

Psalm 139:16 New International Version (NIV)
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.


  1. I have been widowed for 2 1/2 years. 5 months after losing my husband to pancreatic cancer, my daughter, her husband and their almost 1 year old son moved in with me. My daughter was pregnant and in the 2 years they stayed with me she had 2 more babies! Needless to say, a household with 3 babies under 3 was very busy. Though challenging at times it was also a blessing in many ways. They recently moved into their own home and I have found I am grieving "in a whole new way" as the writer of today's story says.I find myself again grateful for this blog that helps to remind me that I'm not "crazy", and points me to the One who can handle it all!

  2. "Grieving in a whole new way..." connects with me too. Life is a series of loves and losses, is what I'm gradually learning. I'm grateful that God can and does see us as overcomers through his Son our Savior Jesus, and I'm grateful for Teri and others like her who quietly live out that truth every day. Thank you for commenting and please keep me posted about the new doors of opportunity God will make available to you in your empty nest.


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