The holidays are supposed to be a fun time; full of traditions, gifts, and time with family. But what if it isn’t? What if this holiday is going to be different? That’s what happened to me.
I had always dreamed of a wonderful husband, children and happily ever after.
It all started out that way and then my wonderful husband got sick. It was totally unexpected. We were living life, making plans for the future. I was going to school full time and he was working. When I finished school, he was going to go back to school. His passion was fixing things, especially motorcycles.
One day I decided to make enchiladas for dinner and when I was adding some pepper, the lid came off and poured way too much in the filling. I scooped out as much as I could, but they ended up too peppery for my taste. My husband loved them, but by morning he was sick. I was convinced it was the food. After a couple days of not keeping anything down, he ended up in the hospital dehydrated.
Still, I was sure that I had caused the whole problem, but the doctors couldn’t find anything wrong. They decided to do surgery thinking it was probably his appendix. After four hours of surgery, I knew something wasn’t right. The doctor came out and told me they had found cancer in his colon, removed as much as they could, but it had spread and was growing around the main artery to his intestines.
He might have said more, but I went numb. My mind was racing trying to take in what that meant. I was imagining the worst, thinking about my kids, my friends, my future, and how I was going to tell him what they found. I had friends there with me, which I will never forget. Right beside me, they felt the shock of the words which hit so hard. I’m sure they helped me walk out of the waiting room and were there with me through the months that followed.
There was chemo which seemed worse than the disease, there were good days and bad days, there was hope and discouragement. My job was to hold everything together, trying to make life seem normal with school, work, family, doctors and all the other things that life holds. I believed the best, hoped for the best, spoke of better days to come.
We had one good “normal” year with him working, me going to school and all our normal family activities, but then he started declining. It is so hard to notice the changes which come gradually when you are there every day, but others noticed. Family and friends that weren’t around us every day were shocked by the loss of weight and strength.
There was another surgery followed by radiation. We kept hoping, believing and encouraging. He never was bed ridden, he got up every day and kept moving, but one Sunday morning when we normally headed to church, he decided to stay home. The kids and I went and afterwards, I invited a couple to come over to visit. When I got home, I found him on the floor. He was alive, but not making sense. I had no idea if he took a sleeping pill and was groggy, or he took a pain pill and forgot and took one more. The couple came over and he called the doctor to find out what was next. The doctor said to get him to the hospital. Together we got him in my car and he followed me to the hospital while his wife stayed with the kids.
At the ER, they came out, put him in a wheelchair and rolled him away. I had been here enough to know the procedure. I was on auto pilot, walking through the motions. After about 20 minutes, I went to the desk and asked if I could go see him. The woman made a phone call and said someone would be out. Then she added, “You know he is very sick, don’t you?” My response was, “Of course, why else would I bring him to the hospital!”
Soon a nurse came and escorted me and my friend to an empty room. That was strange, I knew my husband was in a different area, why bring me to an empty room?
The ER doctor and a nurse came in to tell me that my husband had died.
I’m sure he said more, but I was trying to grasp what that meant.
There was no more room for hope, no more “us.”
There was no more…
I was so thankful that someone else was there with me. He made sure I got to my car and followed me home.
At the age of 29, I was a widow with 2 young children.
I coped pretty well for a time. I was in school, my children were in school, we all kept busy with life. But during the holidays, things change with breaks from school and more time to be home. But home wasn’t the same!
The future, and someone to share it with, was gone, because my future was “our” future.
I had no idea what “my” future looked like.
That first Thanksgiving, I didn’t even want to get out of bed.
I felt so alone and didn’t want to socialize with anyone. I had a group of friends that I could call on normally, but at the holidays, they were all busy with their families and I didn’t fit in there.
I realized I had focused on trying to make things normal for me and my children, but I was dreading the reality that this time of year would be anything but “normal” or “jolly.” My children missed their dad as much as I missed him, but I was the adult. Wasn’t I the one who was supposed to fix it and make it better?
I want you to know I did make it through the holidays, and yes, it was tough.
Here are a couple of things that helped me…
I accepted the help of my friends.
My friends did take time to call and include us in activities that were fun for the kids. Just seeing them smile and laugh helped all of us. I didn’t always feel like getting out or doing anything, but I made a point to go. I always felt better when around other people.
I found a way to focus on others.
I found that as long as I focused on me, I could be miserable. When I focused on others, I did much better.
I decided that it wasn’t “God’s fault.”
The most important thing for me was that I had established a knowing in my heart that God is good. I certainly didn’t understand why this all happened, but that didn’t change God, just me.
I dreamed new dreams.
Here’s a quote from my favorite book:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NLT
That was what I needed to hear. I needed some hope for a new future with dreams of my own. That quote got me through. I believed it. And here, years later in retrospect, I can tell you… it’s absolutely true.
It happened to me, and I survived… daresay, I even came out victorious. It changed everything, but it did not devastate. It was difficult, but not impossible. I came out on the other side a bit more… Lovely.