What made you feel most alone?
I felt alone because I was a foreigner in a land that wasn't my own, and did not have my parents with me. However, one particular moment of loneliness stands out: the moment when I realized that my husband was going to die and I was going to be left on my own. God was going to take my husband and I had to glorify Him in the death of my beloved.
What brought you comfort?
During my husband's illness, living day by day was what brought comfort. Then, when he was gone, my greatest comfort was remembering that I did not regret anything. There was no regret or remorse in me about anything that had happened or anything that I had done. I knew that everything had been done in such a godly way. Scott and I had this thing, where he'd say "God is good," and no matter how bad the situation was or how sad I felt, I always had to respond: "All the time." It felt sweet in my lips and bitter deep inside. Yet it was important, because it was a way of acknowledging that God is sovereign and I am not.
How did people encourage you during your husband’s illness and after his death?
A couple from church helped out with the burden of rent on more than one occasion. A lady friend drove me up to the hospital every day that my husband was there, and then at night a couple would drive me back home from the hospital. At the time, I was working at two schools, and both school principals helped with me paying for groceries and visited at the hospital. Once my husband went to be with the Lord, the whole community put on an evening fund raiser for me in the school lunch room. There were people singing, reciting poetry, playing instruments, and just raising money for me. They were simply amazing to me—a stranger, a foreigner, a widow.
How would you recommend that others encourage someone whose spouse is terminally ill or who is gone?
Visit her, bring her food, do practical things, do not say or ask uncomfortable questions, empathize. Let her do the talking, listen, acknowledge the absence and the grief, be compassionate in the tears, be patient. In the listening, you'll know what you should do.
Most of all, continue being there; don’t leave. In the midst of a lot of change, some things need to remain constant, so let the friendship continue in the same way that is has been. I had so few people visit me, and I longed for more visits, but then I could not bear to be with people for more than a few minutes each day. So they understood, but never stopped inviting me to be with them. They would expect me and tell me they missed me if I didn't show up. That meant a lot.
Were there times when people were insensitive to your needs as well?
Oh, certainly. Sometimes, the same people that did encouraging things also did insensitive things out of their own grieving. (At least, that's how I explained their actions to myself.) What I most remember is people wondering what was wrong with me and why I didn't act "normal" again. But I could not be "normal" ever again. You never go back to "normal,” though you do start a new normal. You find yourself in a state of, let's say, compromise, where you're willing to say, “This is ok for now. I'm ok with this new normal.” That helps to make the absence more bearable.
How did your husband’s death affect your faith?
Everything crumbled and fell apart. There was no belief that was not shaken or disturbed. I realized that I had been in a false religion, a false faith. I had believed all my Christian life in stuff like positive confession, faith seed, purpose-driven doctrines and prosperity gospel. When my husband was gone, I ended up questioning everything I believed. I still haven't finished investigating about false doctrines and heresies, but I have learned that God is sovereign and He is good. He is God and I am not.
How did the experience change you, and in what ways did you remain the same?
My husband used to say that I bounced easily, meaning that whenever there was a conflict or a problem, I had the courage to come back to being ok, often within moments. That resilience is still there. I am still the same in personality, but my beliefs have changed. I no longer see myself as the all-powerful person I once falsely thought I was. I no longer hold control of my life. I have surrendered to the truth of God being sovereign and Lord, and not me.
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.