It’s been seven years since I got the worst news a wife could receive. Life was in slow motion as they told me they couldn’t save him despite best efforts. I learned I was a widow in a tiny cry room off the ER waiting room at Deaconess Hospital. I learned my toddler and my unborn daughter no longer had their Dada to raise them. Just 24 hours before, life had been simpler… so much simpler. I’d known Chris had my back no matter what life threw at us. The bottom had dropped out. Even laying there dead in the ER trauma room, he was still the beautiful boy I’d fallen in love with. My hands did not tremble as I touched him; my body was steady as I placed my head on his quiet chest and put a kiss on his cheek. We met at fourteen and I had a crush on him even then. Our love story officially began at seventeen when we met again and soon began dating. I fell hard and fast, as did he.
(senior photo, 2004, by Andy Thomson)
We loved talking on the phone for hours, swimming with friends, watching movies, camping, hanging out the with the Third Baptist youth group... He was outgoing, athletic, and a talented actor. He probably could have had a career in comedy if he had pursued it. Though he was known as a hilarious guy, he could be serious when needed. He was incredibly caring and kind. He forgave quickly and fully no matter how deep the slight.
(cast photo from MHS’ production of Donavan’s Daughters. He played a goofy lumberjack and most of his lines were ad-libbed)
He grew into the most wonderful man. He matured. He had always been a hard worker the whole time I’d known him. His family had never been well-off, so he worked through high school and into college. He bought his first car on his own dime.
(Boise, Idaho, 2008)
I never, in my wildest nightmares, would have thought I’d be widowed after 8 years. One can never be prepared for that. Chris was a diligent employee, a faithful servant of God, a loyal friend, a devoted family man, and so much more.
It was trauma to pass the wreck site that night. It was trauma to see his body on that stretcher, so still, no smile to greet me. Despite a smooth labor and birth with Aurora, it was trauma to do that without his presence. It was trauma to leave the hospital, responsible for raising a happy toddler and a grumpy, pukey, baby alone. (Not that I was without help, but it’s not the same as a spouse in the home).
(Photo I took 2 days before his death)
The trauma was more than an overwhelming sadness. It was the thief of my sleep for greater than a year. It was like a lead coat I could rarely shake off. I had counseling, and prayer, and years later, medication— but the trauma desired to hang on. Eventually the toll on my body was far more than I could ignore. I had bronchitis all winter three years in a row. I’d cough until ribs were dislocated and once, broken. This is not something you expect in a non-smoking 30-year-old.
My body hit an all-time low several years after his death. I had migraines constantly, my cycles were messed up, my body hurt all the time, and I had fatigue I just couldn’t shake. My primary care provider and I finally landed on a diagnosis— fibromyalgia. It took us a long time to find a medication regimen that gave me quality of life back.
Being widowed doesn’t just mess you up emotionally— it can negatively affect your health in a major way. As if the suffering of his death wasn’t enough, I was to feel as a stranger in a terrible country in my own body.
(Shaving, age 18?)
As for today, I don’t have something uplifting or inspirational to say. It’s supremely painful in this moment. I’m grateful it won’t feel like this forever, but right now it’s just hard.
I loved him then and I love him still. Death days are rough.