Welcome to Christian Widow's Walk

Dear Readers,

Thank you so much for visiting. If you care to follow my story from the beginning, I encourage you to click on the oldest post first and make your way to newer entries. In so doing, hopefully, you will see the hand of God in my healing journey that started in April, 2009.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Buck's Battle Was Over, But He Won The War

My husband, Buck, was a powerful man of God! Anyone who knew him for very long saw the tangible evidence that this man knew Jesus in a personal way. He didn't talk about his faith a lot; he just lived it out quietly, and his actions spoke loud and clear! His passion was to serve on short term mission trips and that is where his gift of servant-hood shone most brightly! He was known for taking vacation time without pay so that he could participate in these trips with our church family, most often to rebuild in disaster relief efforts after hurricanes. I'm certain that there was a powerful battle going on in the spiritual realm, trying to wipe out this godly dynamo. I have a dear friend who told me she had a vision of Buck in his hospital bed, with an angel defending him standing guard over him with a huge sword. I have no doubt that a battle raged in the heavens all during Buck's illness. I am so thankful that God blessed him and us with another four months, as that gave him the opportunity to show the world what he was made of. We will probably never know just how many lives were touched by our story.

When our journey began on New Year's Day, 2009, I took advantage of a website called Carepages, offered to my family through our hospital. Setting up our Carepage had an impact that I never anticipated. My goal was to use it to keep all my family and friends informed about how Buck was doing and I would share updates and specific prayer requests as the needs arose. I was amazed at the community that our Carepage created as there were over 230 people following our journey. Even Buck's caretaker's were checking in to see how their patient was doing when they weren't on duty. We acquired a whole new family because of his medical emergency. The memory of it still blows me away!

When we entered the hospital on the day Buck was called home, it was beautiful and sunny. Ironically, when we left, a storm had come up and there was rain, high winds and even lightning and thunder. I could imagine the powers of darkness celebrating the fact that there was one less Christ follower to get in the way of their agenda. Little did they know that Buck's impact would not die with him. I feel confident that more people will be in heaven because of Buck's example as he faced the valley of the shadow of death with such courage and enthusiasm.  His attitude of faith, acceptance, cooperation and sweetness, in spite of all he went through, made me so very proud to be his wife! I believe in my heart that God never wastes anything and that He would bring good out of this heart-breaking situation. And indeed, He has done just that! Buck was more than a conqueror and his legacy will not soon be forgotten!

Romans 8:37-39

Amplified Bible (AMP)
37Yet amid all these things we are more than conquerors and gain a surpassing victory through Him Who loved us.
    38For I am persuaded beyond doubt (am sure) that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things impending and threatening nor things to come, nor powers,
    39Nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Free At Last!

When Dustin, one of our dearly loved nurses, gently informed us that Buck was gone, he encouraged us to step out of the room to give him a chance to prepare his patient for our final visit with him. I didn't anticipate what we would find when he invited us back into Buck's room! The room had opened up to more than double it's size because Dustin had removed all of the life support machines that had helped to keep Buck alive for the months he inhabited the largest room in the Open Heart ICU unit. But the most dramatic difference was that Buck was unencumbered by all the connections to his machines. He was at Peace in a brand new way!

Now that the maze of wires was gone, I could finally touch my husband and I laid across his chest. Sarah and a friend wrapped Buck's arms around my back and shoulders and I soaked in his warmth and wept in his arms. How I had longed to hug my husband over those months, as there were only several occasions when he was well enough to initiate one of his famous Papa Bear hugs that made everything right in my world! This embrace was going to have to last me until God reunites us again someday. I don't know how long I stayed in Buck's arms, but I knew it could never be long enough, so I made myself break away, giving Jessi too, the opportunity to cuddle with her daddy. Leaving his embrace was one of the most painful moments in my life! 

The absence of lines and tubes was symbolic of his true freedom... freedom from everything that kept Buck tied to this world. Now he was free to enjoy his new world and the beginning of his eternity, where he would be forever celebrating the fact that he was a Christ Follower and a Child of God! I was so happy for him, but my heart was shattered like never before. I knew also, that The Lord would be Faithful to heal my heart and put the pieces back together in time. I was very thankful that my faith was strong, otherwise I don't know how I would have been able to go on without my soul-mate. This was the beginning of my reality of widowhood, starting a journey I never dreamed I would be facing so soon. I'm so grateful I wasn't called to make this voyage all alone. The Lord "Faithfully carried me"  through those days of fresh grief, along with the love and support of my family and friends, until I was able to walk again with Him.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Day My Sweetheart Was Called Home

As I traveled home after receiving that life-changing phone call, there was only one thought that consumed my mind: the love of my life would be going home to heaven today! Buck fought so hard, so courageously, to get well for those nearly four months of hospitalization, but he was ready to meet his Lord on New Year's Day when he had his life threatening heart attack. He made that very clear as he asked the Emergency Room doctor, "Is there was any chance that I might be seeing Jesus tonight?" My husband was not afraid, but rather, he was excited at the thought that this could be the day he would be meeting his Savior! I was proud of his attitude, but I did not share his enthusiasm then, and selfishly, I didn't share it on that beautiful day in April either! All I felt was shock and numbness!

I wasn't home very long before I was surprised by a knock at my door. I knew it couldn't be my daughter, Sarah, because she had an hour and a half drive to reach me. Sarah had called my step-daughter, Jessi, and she decided to pick me up and take me to the hospital. Sarah would meet us there. Jessi too agreed; this is what her daddy would want. She assured me and confirmed that I was  making the right decision. I was so thankful because I really don't know what I would have done if we didn't all agree! However, I knew while I was speaking to the neurologist that gave me the news about Buck's stroke, that I was doing the right thing; what was in Buck's best interest and fulfilling his wishes.

As we drove to the hospital, Jessi tried to keep things light, making jokes about her daddy.  Buck would have been proud of the way she handled the situation. I knew this day was going to be equally as hard for her as it was for me, because Buck was her rock and her best friend. Neither of us knew what to expect when we arrived at the hospital. I remember walking down the hospital hallways seemed surreal on that day! I was moving but everything seemed to be in slow motion.

As we entered Buck's large room in the Open Heart ICU,  he appeared to be sleeping. He seemed peaceful and comfortable and that made this painful situation so much easier. He was unresponsive, of course, and I'll never know, this side of heaven, if he could hear the words that poured out of my heart. I just spoke to him assuming he could hear every heartfelt word.

When Sarah arrived, she found her mama at the end of Buck's bed, and held me tightly from behind as I gave her papa his last foot massage. Because of his complex medical emergency, he was attached to every possible means of modern life support and that meant a myriad of lines, wires and tubes attached to his upper body, arms and hands. His feet were the only unencumbered parts of his body. Early on, I suggested that he might enjoy a foot massage and it became part of his daily routine during my visits. We both looked forward to it. He would often fall asleep as I caressed  his skin. I wonder if he was aware of my tears as they splashed upon his feet.

Buck's most important component of his life support was a mechanism that was surgically placed under his heart called an LVAD, which was an acronym for left ventricular assist device. It was literally pumping his blood through his heart for him because his heart was so badly damaged by his heart attack. This was a temporary means of sustaining his life until he was ready for a heart transplant. He had a drive line that exited his chest wall and was plugged into a large, very heavy machine that measured about 2' by 2' and was approximately 4' tall, and it was plugged into the wall receptacle.  Without the support of the LVAD, Buck would have been heaven-bound the first week of his hospitalization!

Someone among Buck's caretakers called my church office to inform my pastor about Buck's condition. He was not able to come, but our associate pastor was soon at our side, along with the rest of our immediate family, our closest friends and the staff in OHICU, who had worked so diligently and compassionately to save and sustain Buck's life. We all took our turns at saying farewell to Buck, knowing we would see him again when we too were called home. There were no goodbyes!

My last words to my husband escape me, but I remember they were full of thanks for all he did and for all he was to me. I'm sure I reminded him that I would expect him to be the first in line to greet and hug me upon my arrival to heaven, when my appointed days were accounted for. I knew the time had come to set my sweetheart free and nodded to Danielle, our nurse practitioner, who was in charge of operating the LVAD. I know that was a really hard assignment for her, because she and all the staff that took care of Buck had grown to love him as well! It wasn't very long before the monitors indicated that he was gone. Everyone present, who were circled around Buck's room, were very aware that we were all standing on holy ground as we witnessed Buck's spirit being ushered into his future.

Now, it was time for me to face my reality; the love of my life was with Jesus and I was a widow! This was the beginning of an unknown journey. I think of it as a tandem journey; my Lord and I walking hand in hand. I had walked through the valley of the shadow of death and I was confident that the Lord would be with me every step of the way as I faced my new future! He had promised He would never leave or forsake me.  He had always been Faithful to me and I knew He wouldn't disappoint me now!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Phone Call That Forever Changed My World

My world-stopping call came as I traveled to my daughter’s home on that beautiful April 21st morning in 2009. I pulled off on the side of the road to answer my phone. I was not prepared for the words that drifted into my consciousness. The voice was familiar for a moment: the voice of one of my husband’s nurses. I sensed the urgency as he simply said, “I have her” and handed the phone over to a neurologist who explained as gently as he could what had happened to my husband. A CT scan had revealed that after four months of fighting courageously for his life, my sweetheart had been stricken with a massive stroke. The doctor explained to me that he could do his best to stop the bleeding in his brain, if I wanted him to, but he could not promise a favorable outcome, and he had to inform me that the stroke had disqualified Buck from being a candidate for a future heart transplant.

My heart pounded out of my chest as I tried to listen intently. I asked the doctor if he was a Christian. I was comforted when he said he was. I asked him, “If this was your wife, what would you do?” He told me he would not pursue any treatment because he and his wife had discussed what her wishes would be under circumstances such as these. Just a few weeks before, Buck and I had talked about end of life issues, because the hospital had a workshop set up to help families discuss Advance Directives. I did not attend the workshop, but it did inspire the difficult but necessary conversation. Buck made it clear he would not want to go on living under these kind of circumstances.  
I knew what I had to do, but I had to talk to my daughter for reassurance that I was doing the right thing. My cell phone rang again as soon as I finished talking to the doctor. It was my daughter, Sarah, who already knew what was going on because the hospital staff had called her when they couldn’t reach me at home and she too had talked to the neurologist. She agreed, there was no question; it was time to set my sweetheart free, just as her Papa would want. Her words still echo in my heart: “ Oh Mama, I can’t believe I can’t be there with you, while you are going through this!” She softly encouraged me to stay still until I felt I could make the drive to my home and she would meet me there as soon as she could.

I still remember the immediate numbness, as I spoke with the doctor. I’m not sure what happens in your mind when you experience emotional shock, but I suspect it is a measure of grace...a gift from God, to protect you from the total impact of your reality all at once. Thankfully, I was only about ten miles from home. I was physically shaken, but slowly pulled myself together enough to turn my car around and head back toward my home. 

There was a beautiful blue sky when I headed out for my hour and a half commute to my daughter’s that morning, but, I vividly remember the colorless landscape, void of anything but a tangible gray fog, as I slowly made my way home on the back roads I had just traveled. My world had lost all it's color and beauty. I looked but could not see; only the road before me was visible. Everything else was a grayish blur. I was thankful for the “automatic pilot” and God’s protective hand that got me safely home.

To be continued.