A few days ago I was acutely missing Chris so I thought I’d go out to Cedar Lake and sit for a few minutes. In my mind I had it planned out. I would go stand outside in the cold autumn air for a few minutes and take in the view. When we were dating we would occasionally sit out there under the stars. The night sky was breathtaking over the water. With it being on the same road as my parents’ house, we could easily stop briefly at the end of a date before he dropped me off. Over the past year I’ve enjoyed going there when I miss him.
When I’m there at the lake I’m lost in my memories. I think about all my teenage drama and how he was a steadying force in my life. I think about the way I thought no one would ever be able to love me and yet, at my lowest, here was Chris to prove me wrong. I think about the first time we ever drove to the lake to stargaze and what happened when he took me home. We were in my parents’ driveway and he told me “I love you” for the first time, three months into our dating. I was seventeen; a little overwhelmed and confused by his saying that. I said it back but the words were so weighty. I later admitted I’d been freaked out when he said it. Talking made me feel better and soon saying “I love you” became normal for us. We loved one another—wanted to care for each other unselfishly. His actions even in those early months proved that they weren’t empty words.
I feel a connection to my boyfriend/husband/children’s father/best friend when I’m there looking out over the water. It’s not something I feel at his grave—after all, the body he left was just an empty shell. His soul is in heaven, not there in the ground. Yet at the lake, steeped in memories of precious time spent with him, I feel connection. I remember what it was to sit in his Hyundai Sonata holding hands and the smell of the BOD cologne he wore back in high school. I remember what it was to think my whole world was falling apart… and how the stress would kind of melt away when Chris was there with me.
So there I was last week, driving the familiar twists and turns, tree limbs hanging over the road as a canopy. I got to the place where the road begins its descent to the water and was met with roadblock signs. My heart dropped and the disappointment was deep. I turned around and went on my way but I was struck by the metaphor. The giant roadblocks in the picturesque setting summed up my life, didn’t they?
My life lacked little before the death of my husband. We had experienced huge loss but in my estimation, had weathered that storm and only had good things ahead. My husband and I owned a beautiful home. We had one healthy, funny, toddler and were expecting another baby. I loved my career as a nurse and he was finally realizing his dream of being a youth minister. We had family and friends. We were driving along a proverbial road together, taking the twists and turns until one summer day the road was blocked off.
Widowed at 28? Never would have seen that coming. Obviously this called for a change of plan, no other option but to go on with life differently than expected. If we’re still talking roadblock here—and in this case it was one my car couldn’t get around—what were my choices? Well, I could have sat in my car and bemoaned the fact that I couldn’t go where I wanted, chosen to give up and stagnate. That would have been a choice but not a very good one. Instead I went with the only logical choice, turning the car and going the other way to find a new path. I couldn’t give up on life when Chris died. I had to go on living—if not only for me, for my daughters. You know what? I am so very grateful that I did.
When I go on living, I honor the memory of the man I loved, the one man who ever loved me (that way). When I go on living, I choose to defy death, the curse. I choose to say—you cannot have me, death—not yet. You will not take me by proxy. I will not die while I’m living nor will I end my life.
By continuing to live without Chris, in the good times and the bad, I am honoring my Creator. God made me with a purpose. It is revealed little by little like turning the pages of a book. Part of my purpose here on earth is to raise my sweet daughters—to love them and to teach them to know and worship Christ the King. Part of my purpose is to care for mamas and babies on labor and delivery. Part of my purpose is to be the daughter, sister, friend, aunt, etc, that I am to others. Yet my central purpose comes together under this umbrella: that in everything in do, whether in my words or deeds, I am to glorify Christ Jesus. He has redeemed me and continues to bind up what is broken in me. The offer He extended to me stands to you as well.
Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (ESV)