A Date with Grief
Chris and I were seventeen when we first stared dating. We fell in love so young. Only a few months in, I felt we would make it as a couple. He would eventually be my husband and the father of my kids. I wasn't wrong. Of course, I never would have fathomed at seventeen that I would only get eleven years with him; that I'd become a widow before we even hit 30.
We went to my junior prom and his senior prom two weekends back to back in the spring of 2004. Both nights were fun-- but then most things were fun if Chris was involved. He was full of humor and knew how to break the tension in difficult situations. He was slow to anger and quick to forgive. Where I was stubborn, he knew how to be flexible. We were both hopeless romantics. His creativity led to cool surprises for me along the way.
He was gentle with me in my dark times. I was a young lady with severe depression, anxiety, and who struggled with panic attacks. The panic attacks often resulted in self-harm. Did he know all the right things to do or say? No, but he remained constant in his love in spite of all that. Three months into dating I ended up in the hospital after a suicide attempt. He came to visit me, no judgment. He just brought me a stuffed dog and his compassion. He didn't use my sickness as a reason to run.
(CCHS Junior Prom, 2004)
The years passed and our life together blossomed. We got married, we got degrees, we bought a house. We celebrated holidays, birthdays, and our daughter Abigale's birth. We held each other tight at funerals. When we lost my dad, it was a tough blow to Chris as well. He told me about a month later, "I had a question about the Bible and my first thought was, I should ask Sam. And then I remembered I couldn't..." The night I was miscarrying one of our babies, Chris held me in his arms and we cried for the child we wouldn't be meeting on Earth.
I made a big deal out of Chris' birthday because in my mind, that's what we do for those we love. I always tried to buy some sort of a gift that was a surprise but unfortunately for me, he was very good at guessing them. I was with him for his eighteenth and I was there with him still when he turned 28. I had no idea it would be his last time to blow out candles.
(With baby Abigale, 2013)
On October 19, 1985, Christopher Shane Williams was born. He wasn't born to some prominent family, to wealth, to privilege. There was no glamour to his upbringing and almost half his childhood was spent raised by a single mom. He didn't have an easy life but in spite of that, he rose to be an amazing man. (I'm sure his mom's prayers helped with that).
A week from now, he would have been celebrating 37 years. It's uncanny to me that something as simple as a faulty tire could have the ripple effect it had. Chris died and it was earth-shattering to me, to our daughters, to our family, and to the community. I do not often dwell on how unfair it feels, but days like today, I struggle.
Chris' early death affected me in many ways. I had to give birth without my husband there and raise two baby girls by myself. I had to learn how to keep my car maintained, how to do little handy projects around the house, how to keep going on days when I was emotionally spent. I received the Pandora's gifts of PTSD and fibromyalgia from the whole ordeal. Being widowed at 28 is simply awful.
I'm here day after day doing the work to try to control my trauma responses rather than giving them the wheel. It's a struggle. For example, Halloween is coming up soon. I love many things about the holiday. I love carving or painting pumpkins with my kids. I'm all about doing fun dress-up and enjoying candy. I may or may not have something to do with Reese's peanut butter cups disappearing from the kids' candy buckets. Haha. Yet I struggle with the darker parts of Halloween-- I'm not a fan of the blood and gore. Unfortunately, having seen my best friend's lifeless body on an ER bed, I don't like pretend death. I saw the real thing up close and personal. It was one of the worst moments of my life and I can still picture it in detail.
My trauma, though, is not other people's problem. It's mine to work through. I can't expect Halloween to change for my comfort. I can't expect people to refrain from posting a photo of a wrecked car or ambulances to change the colors of their flashing lights. I can't expect movies to stop showing car accidents or sick fathers in hospitals.
For this moment I give myself permission to feel the weight of grief. I allow myself to really marinate in it. When the baby wakes up, when my children and my husband Don arrive home, I can wipe my face and carry on. I can be genuine in my delight to see them. This is all because-- after the dust settles, there is great pain but there is also great joy. Both are and will continue to be part of my existence.
One day, and I have no idea when, I will finally see my Savior face to face. All the pain I've ever experienced will wash away and I will be able to simply bask in His beauty. Though I will also see many dear loved ones, nothing will compare to the joy at seeing Christ up close and personal. My story will be complete and all will be made new.