(Note: This is a very personal, soul-searching piece that may make some uncomfortable. It deals with my search for reasons why my wife had to pass away and my subsequent findings. It’s a longer article than most I write and may make some people uncomfortable. I hope it will bless you just the same.)
When my beloved Cindy passed away on the morning of August 1, 2015, the world as I knew it ceased to exist. The person who filled the roles of my lover, confidante, and best friend was gone. For the first time, I felt truly alone and responsible for my life. Prior to meeting Cindy, I lived with my mother and she offered guidance, love and unwavering support. From the time I was 19, I was with Cindy and we were always there for each other. We always could count on each other no matter what. Now, in many regards, it was just me.
Before I go too far, I must acknowledge that our son, Kevin, has been by my side through it all and we have been blessed by many, many family members and friends. I don’t want to diminish their importance and contributions at all, but even their love and support couldn’t push away the sense of loneliness that I started to feel that first day, and that has continued each and every day since.
LOOKING FOR ANSWERS
Since that awful day, one word has constantly been on my mind: why! Why did Cindy have to die? Why didn’t God heal her? Why didn’t the facility caring for her do more to save her life? Why? Why? Why!
No matter how loud I yelled, how much I prayed, or how many tears I cried; I just never seemed to find the answer.
GRIEF, GUILT, AND BARGAINING…
From the very moment I first saw Cindy’s lifeless body lying in that rehabilitation facility bed, my mind started running through all of the things I had done wrong in our nearly thirty years together. Although by many accounts, I was a good husband, I suddenly felt that I was so much less than she deserved. I should have more. She deserved much better than she got.
My prayers were often filled with cries and bargaining. I promised God that, if He would only give me one more chance and bring Cindy back to me, I would be the husband she deserved. I would do better. I would BE better.
…TURNED TO ANGER AND BITTERNESS
When it became apparent that God was not going to bring my Cindy back to me, I started to become angry and they “whys” came back, but in a different form and much more intense. Now my questions were:
- Why did God let me meet Cindy in such a fairy tale way, only to take her away from me so early?
- I had always tried to live a good life. I had never been a drinker, smoker or drug user. I was never promiscuous. Why was God treating me like this?
- If God is going to treat me like this, why should I care what He thinks and why should I worship Him?
I have studied the Bible my entire life and I suddenly found myself using scripture against God. I was taking the Bible out of context to accuse the creator of the universe of wrongdoing and injustice. This only caused my bitterness to grow.
One day, I remember asking my pastor, Reverend Patrick Malone, why Cindy had to die. This loving man, who is probably my best friend on this planet, searched his mind and his heart for answers. He explained the fall of man from Genesis chapter 3 and that, because of that fall, mankind had incurred the penalty of death (Romans 6:23). Although in my heart, I knew what he was saying was absolutely correct, my anger became explosive.
“So, you’re saying that my wife had to die because two people ate from a forbidden tree thousands of years ago? God created man and knew the nature of His creation. Why then, was he so foolish as to put the tree in the middle of the garden?” I asked defiantly.
“Where would you have had Him put it,” Pastor Malone asked, “outside of the garden?”
“Yes!” I exclaimed.
For the next few minutes, my pastor and I had a tense, but loving conversation. He never lost his temper or his compassion for me, but I wasn’t hearing any of what he had to say. My bitterness was taking my broken heart and slowly turning it to stone.
“COME DOWN HERE AND FIGHT LIKE A MAN!”
At one point, my anger at God had become so hot that I barely could pray and, when I did, it came off more like a pro wrestling promotional interview. I accused God of all kinds of sins and malfeasance and even challenged Him to a fight. My exact words were along the lines of, “It’s easy to be a bully when you’re all-powerful, but if you’re so big and so bad, why don’t you come down here and fight like a man!” Much to my surprise, one day he did. That, however, is a story for another day. I promise that I’ll share it. Right now, for the sake of keeping this article a reasonable length, let’s move on.
Even though my bitterness and anger were growing, there was still a tenderness in my heart; thoughts of Cindy could still bring me to tears. Bitter moments were balanced out – if that’s the proper phrase – by moments of tender longing for my Cindy. In those moments, I continued to pray for my second chance. In a way, I got it.
MY SECOND CHANCE
On February 1, 2016, exactly six months after Cindy’s passing, a beautiful lady named Deborah came to work in my office. She was in the same department, albeit on a different team. I had the assignment of setting up her new computer and helping her to get settled in. As a friendly gesture, I took her to lunch that first day. That lunch time ritual would be repeated regularly over the next several weeks.
From the first time I saw her, I knew that Deborah was something special. She had many qualities that reminded me of Cindy, but she was uniquely different and that made me love her all the more.
Before long, Deborah and I were dating and finding out just how much we had in common. I often say that she picked up the pieces of my shattered heart and carefully and lovingly put them back together.
Deb and I were thrilled to have found each other, but it was not to last. We were amazed at how comfortable we were around each other and how it felt that we had known each other for years, instead of months. On August 12, 2016, I asked Deborah to marry me and she said yes. We set a date for January of 2018.
Knowing that this very well could be my second chance, I did the very best I could. Knowing that Deborah is Roman Catholic and I was raised Protestant (and more specifically Pentecostal), I read books on the subject of Catholicism and went to adoration and mass with Deb a few times. In addition, I discovered that she and I both shared the same primary “love language” of touch, so we made sure to touch often. I bought flowers, and gifts and told her, at every chance, just how beautiful she is and how lucky I was to have her in my life. In short, I tried to be for her, what I wasn’t always for Cindy. I was keeping my promise to God.
One thing needs to be abundantly clear: Deborah was not a replacement for Cindy. They are both unique ladies and I’ve been a very lucky man to have been blessed with both of them in one lifetime. Although each lady holds a special place in my heart, they are separate places.
Alas, it wasn’t to be. The differences in our religious beliefs became too much for Deborah to stand. I won’t go into it any more than that, at least not right now.
On April 7, 2017, Deborah and I had a dinner date at an awful Hawaiian barbecue joint appropriately named “Ono” (as in “oh no, I don’t want to eat there!) During dinner, Deborah took off her engagement ring and put it in my hand. I was devastated! I think we both were. Tears flowed a lot that evening.
I’m very proud to say that Deb and I are still friends and, if I’m truly honest, I must confess that I hope someday we can be a couple again. If that’s to be, that would be wonderful. If not, and I’m destined to just be her friend, I’ll take that too.
THE RETURN OF WHY
After Deb broke off our engagement, I went into a very dark place. I didn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel and I really didn’t want to be here anymore. I wanted, with all my heart, to be reunited with my Cindy – the one person whom I felt really loved me no matter what. Only the presence of my son, kept me grounded to this life and this world.
Why had God brought Deb into my life only to take her out again? Why had Deb been so loving and careful to help put my heart back together if she was only going to smash it on the ground and trod it underfoot? Why? I had many more questions than answers.
As I was trying to get back on track, I turned to the one place that I hadn’t turned a lot in recent years, I turned to God. I started to earnestly pray and seek His face. In the months prior, I had started taking online Bible courses (mainly as an intellectual pursuit), now those classes were like water to a man dying of thirst.
RECEIVING MY ANSWER
I started to not only study my lessons, I started to read (and listen to) other books and publications as well. It was while listening to an audiobook version of “The Bait of Satan,” that the answer hit me: God used these dark moments to bring me back to him in a real and meaningful way. There were two areas of my life that were in bad shape and were placing my immortal soul in jeopardy. They were:
- Unforgiveness – I still held grudges in my heart that I couldn’t get rid of, some that I had held on to for decades. As long as I held onto those grudges, God could never forgive me and I could never be reconciled to Him (See Matthew 6:14-15).
- Lukewarm Christianity – As I wrote earlier, I have been studying the Bible for my entire life. I never stopped believing in God, even when I was angry with Him. I carried scripture in my head but had allowed the spiritual fire to go out in my heart and soul. Believing alone isn’t enough. Scripture tells us that the demons believe and tremble (James 2:19). What is important is faith and trust. Those two facets, I had lost. The passion was gone. Lukewarm Christianity is damning for the soul as Jesus told the Church of the Laodecians in Revelation 3:15-16.
These two conditions were enough to put me in the spiritual ICU. My soul was in trouble and I needed to rectify it fast. Life is short and fleeting. We don’t know when the Lord will call for an accounting of our soul. I know now that my soul was in great peril and God took action to bring me back to Him.
SO GOD KILLED YOUR WIFE TO SAVE YOUR SOUL?
I can imagine some of you asking this question and my answer is a resounding “NO!”
In no way do I believe that God is responsible for Cindy’s illness or her death. I believe that those things do arise from living in a fallen world. I do believe that God chose to step back and allow Cindy to pass away when she did as a way of giving me one last chance.
You see, my Cindy wasn’t a committed Christian when we met. She was a cultural Methodist because that’s what her parents were, but the church was not a regular part of her life. Through the years, even as my faith grew lukewarm, her faith grew passionately hot! I watched her transform into a Godly woman who loved the Lord with all of her heart. She developed the faith of a giant. Don’t get me wrong, she still had her human moments when pain and illness would lead to outbursts of temper and doubt, but, overall, she always returned to her faith. This was especially evident in her last days.
I believe, with every fiber of my being, that God looked down on Cindy, seeing that no cure was to be and that her salvation was secure, welcomed her home to Him with loving arms. He didn’t cause her death, but He was willing to allow the timing to work a change in my heart and in my life.
ON THE ROAD BACK TO GOD
Now, that I see what I was lacking and what a good work God has done in my life, I know that I need to serve him with my heart and not just my lips as I had done (Isaiah 29:13, Mark 7:6, Matthew 15:8).
My prayer life has improved 1000% and getting better every day. I even bought a prayer kneeler for my fiftieth birthday as a gift to myself. I’m working on serving my Lord more and more each day!
I take great comfort in knowing that, because God allowed me to spend time in the depths of grief and despair, I will someday ascend to the glories of Heaven where I will spend eternity with my loved ones including Momma, Cindy, and Deborah, just to name a few.