Matters Of The Heart
There’s a popular poem by Mary Stevenson called, “Footprints in the Sand.” In this poem, the writer dreams that she’s walking along the beach with God. She sees scenes of her life flashing in the sky and notices that during her most difficult days, there are only one set of footprints in the sand. When she questions God about it, He says that He carried her during those times. I love this poem because I know it to be true: God has carried me when I could not walk for myself.
It was Oct. 22nd, 2004. I was married to my high school sweetheart, Steve. We had celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary the previous June. For our anniversary, I surprised Steve with a brand new motorcycle – something he had always wanted but we had never been able to afford. He was sooooo excited! I would catch him in the garage cleaning it, polishing it, just staring at it. He would tell me, “You’re the best wife ever! I can’t believe you bought this for me!”
We had two children: our son, Cameron, was 6 years old and our daughter, Caitlin, was 3 years old. We had just found out that I was pregnant with our third baby. Steve went with me to the ultrasound and was excited to be expecting again. I was 10 weeks pregnant.
That morning, I woke up as Steve was getting ready for his job as a firefighter. I saw him kiss his hand and make the sign of the cross on each of the kids’ bedroom doors. I had never seen him do that and I remember thinking how odd it was. I knew that he didn’t want to wake the kids up with a kiss goodbye so I didn’t think much more about it. We had a conversation but I can’t remember what we talked about. He left for work and I went back to bed.
As I was leaving for my job as a high school counselor with Caitlin in the car (Cameron was already on the bus on his way to 1st Grade), I checked my voicemail. There was a message from my friend telling me about a car accident on the way to work. She said it involved a motorcycle so I should check on Steve. He did ride his motorcycle to work that day, so I immediately called him.
No answer. I left a voice mail. I called his fire station. He wasn’t at work yet. Now, I was getting worried! Steve was NEVER late to work and he should have been at his station by now. His captain told me to call 911 and ask about the accident. I did. They told me that he wasn’t involved. Relief!
Steve’s fire captain called me and said that he was on his way to the hospital. He asked if someone could drive me there. That made no sense to me since I was already driving! I said I would head straight there but I was so confused because 911 told me that Steve wasn’t in the accident. What I would find out later is that I called 911 in the county we lived in but his accident was in a neighboring county so he was involved in a different accident! I called Steve again and left him a voice mail. I didn’t want him to worry about me and I told him that I was on my way to the hospital. This was the love we had…I knew his first thought would be about me and I could never imagine that he was fatally injured.
Our daughter was still in the backseat, overhearing all of my telephone conversations. She was asking me questions so I told her that Daddy was fine and the doctors would make him all better. I called several people to meet me at the hospital: a friend to get Caitlin, my pastor, and my cousin (my only family member that lives near me). I was still thinking he would be okay. Lots of people survive motorcycle accidents, right?
When I pulled up to the hospital, fire trucks were parked all the way down the street. Every truck from his station was there. One of the firefighters took Caitlin from me and I went into the hospital to try to see Steve. All I was told was that he was in CAT scan and a doctor would talk to me soon. It seemed like an eternity. No one would tell me anything about his condition. I could tell from the way people were looking at me that something was not right. More people started showing up at the hospital. Friends from church, firefighters, work friends. It seemed as though people were showing up magically because I still didn’t know how badly he was injured.
A police officer talked to me about his accident. It wasn’t making sense. I couldn’t place the intersection where they said he was hit. No doctors were around. I stopped a nurse in the hallway and asked if someone was going to talk to me about my husband. Her reply was, “I know he still has a heartbeat.” I called Steve’s dad and told them they needed to get to us as quickly as possible! (His parents lived in Michigan and we were in Georgia).
I saw two doctors walking down the hallway towards me with my cousin, pastor, friends and firefighters following them. It was like a movie scene to me and I didn’t want to go into the room that they ushered me into. I sat down and they all sat around me. I knew before the doctors opened their mouths what they were going to say…..the love of my life was gone! How was this possible? We were having a baby! Our family wasn’t complete so he couldn’t be gone! I was sure they had the wrong person! Steve didn’t even drive that way to work (I still couldn’t place the intersection) so I needed to see him because I was sure they had made a terrible mistake.
My pastor went with me when I finally saw Steve. I knew it was him as soon as I saw his hands…..those hands had held me and touched me for 19 years. I held his hand and my pastor prayed. My life had changed in an instant.
I was a Christian before Steve died but I had never relied on my faith as I did after he was gone. Losing him thrust me into a world that was foreign to me, one where I had to ask for help from others because I couldn’t do everything by myself. Neighbors mowed our lawn. Friends drove me to the hospital and cared for my children when I was admitted for pre-term labor. Family members drove to Georgia from Michigan to care for my children when I was hospitalized for an extended period of time and eventually placed on bed rest. Strangers collected money for us and bought Christmas gifts for my children. Co-workers gave us gift cards, firefighters put new tires on my van, and friends brought home cooked meals to us. The list goes on and on but throughout all of it, I felt God’s love encircling us and meeting our every need. I was so overcome with grief and exhaustion that I could hardly take care of myself, let alone the two little souls who needed me. God placed people in our lives that took care of us during those early months without Steve and I could not have survived without all of them. It was then that He carried me.
It has been more than seven years since the day Steve went home to Heaven. My journey into widowhood has been a long and hard one but I have felt God’s presence in my life each and every day. Sometimes, He is with me. Other times, He is carrying me. I know for certain, however, that I would not have survived even one day without Steve if I hadn’t had my faith to get me through the loss. I surely would have curled up to die too but God had bigger plans for me so he made sure that others cared for me until I could do it again for myself. Thank you, Lord.