Until Death Do Us Part, No Regrets

On August 12, 2016,  my life changed forever when two police officers knocked on my door in the middle of the night with the distressing news:

“We found your husband deceased in a truck stop in New Jersey,” the police officer said.

In a split second, I was a widow, and our 40-year marriage was over. My hopes of reconciliation were crushed. The dreams I had about renewing our marriage vows while surrounded by our family, children, and grandchildren, as our favorite song played in the background, would never come true.

And what about all the hours I spent in fervent prayer and the tears that fell over my open Bible as I read scripture and pleaded with God to restore my marriage? Had all my prayers been for nothing?

First the abandonment and now he’s dead? Was this some kind of a sick joke? Had I not been through enough? Those were the thoughts swimming through my head when the police officers left my house that night. Thankfully, God soon replaced those thoughts with his perfect peace that passes all understanding.

As many of you know, my husband and I were separated.  He left with no warning six years ago and moved to Ohio to live with his girlfriend. He also broke all ties with our children and grandchildren when he left.

He filed for divorce several years ago, but due to a glitch in the court system the divorce had to be postponed. My attorney stated she never had anything like that happen before. I had traveled to Ohio for the court hearing and our divorce was to be final that day. I was minutes from the courthouse when my attorney called to tell me the hearing was cancelled.

I met with my husband that day. We laughed and talked. Things felt comfortable. He hugged me several times, kissed me,  and told me he loved me. He seemed as relieved as I was that the divorce hearing got postponed.

The hearing was rescheduled for six weeks later and once again got cancelled. After the third rescheduling, my husband sent me a text message in the middle of the night stating he called his attorney and canceled the divorce. He said he needed time to think.

A few days later, I received papers in the mail stating the divorce had been canceled because we had reconciled, even though we hadn’t. I thought the way it was worded was interesting and was another sign from God that I was to remain committed and faithful.

Friends and family members urged me to file for the divorce, but I never could bring myself to do it. I never felt right about it. I felt strongly that God was telling me to continue to live as a married woman.

I even went to see an attorney to discuss filing for divorce and left feeling so physically sick I could barely drive home. I truly believe for some reason our divorce was never meant to happen.

It wasn’t easy, and many times I grew frustrated and thought I was crazy for standing by a man who was living with another woman. I had many ups and downs and tons of mixed emotions. Yet, one thing never changed. I always felt God nudging me to stay married.

I can’t count how many times I wanted to seek revenge on my husband and the other woman during our separation, but Romans 12: 19 always came to mind.

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay, ” says the Lord. (Romans 12: 19)

If not for being grounded in the word of God, there’s no telling what I may have done. I’m sure the outcome would have ended in disaster.  My Christian testimony would have been destroyed, and I’m certain I would have regretted my actions.

My husband and I communicated on a consistent basis over the course of the six- year period. I sent him cards and pictures of the kids and grandchildren. Most of our conversations were pleasant. I was even able to complete a 30-day marriage challenge with him through texting and phone calls. Again, the challenge was something God placed on my heart, and I witnessed a definite softening of my husband’s heart by the end of the challenge.

I believe when we follow what God puts on our hearts, and we walk in obedience to his word, even when it’s tough, blessings will follow. Never once did God leave me during the past six years. Never once did he fail to provide for my needs.

I often think about how different things would have been if I would have pushed for the divorce and broke off all communication with my husband. How horrible it would have been to hear the news knowing we had no contact for years.

I spoke with the other woman several times over the past six years.  She always made a point to tell me I was only married to my husband on paper. “It is just a piece of paper, nothing more,” was her justification for living with a married man.

At the time of his death, she found out the value of a marriage certificate, and I never had to say a word. A marriage certificate means everything. The next of kin is the only one who can manage someone’s affairs at the time of death.

I was the one the police notified first. I actually had to call the other woman and tell her he passed away.  I was the one responsible for planning his funeral arrangements. I was the one the Marines honored and presented with a flag at the cemetery with full military honors during the funeral service. Social security also provides widows benefits for surviving spouses. Living together does not provide the same benefits as marriage.

While the ending of my marriage was tragic and unexpected, God gave me such a peace through it all. I have accepted my husband’s death as part of God’s will and plan for my life.

I remember feeling that same peace that passes all understanding when my mother died unexpectedly 25 years ago. I was a fairly new Christian. My mom was my best friend, and I was looking forward to sharing my new little daughter with her. We lived away from home when the first three children were born. We were out of the military and living near our parents for the first time in 14 years when mom died suddenly at the age of 55 from a massive heart attack.

Though devastated by mom’s untimely death, I was able to write and read the eulogy for her funeral. With God’s amazing grace, I also wrote the eulogy for my husband’s funeral. It was very healing for me. I was able to focus on the good things throughout our marriage and not dwell on the sin he fell into during his last six years of life.

God also gave the kids peace about the last six years. As we planned his funeral services, we were able to release the hurt, pain, and suffering we all experienced when someone you love so much walks away without a warning. We decided to focus on the good memories and not dwell on the bad.

I look back over the past six years with no regrets. I’m thankful for all the times I was able to witness love and forgiveness to my husband during our late-night phone calls. I’m thankful I never gave up on him. I am so thankful for every phone call and text message between us.

I pray that somehow he had a chance to make his own peace with God before he collapsed and died of a heart attack in that truck stop last summer. Only God knows if he did, but It’s also something I have peace about. I find it ironic how many times we talked about other truck drivers getting killed in accidents, etc. I often asked my husband what would happen if he was one of those drivers. I always urged him to get his life right with God. Many times I said to him, “Even if we never reconcile, please get right with God before it’s too late.”  And that is how I always prayed for him. That he would get saved first and foremost.

I will never know this side of heaven exactly why my husband was gone for six years only to die in the end. I do know God is sovereign over all things. I know I was to stay married for a reason, and I have complete peace about it. No regrets.

My last communication with my husband occurred two days before he died. Our sixth grandchild, Ethan Wesley, came into the world that day, so sweet and precious. I texted my husband a picture of the new little addition to the family, and he replied back to thank me for the nice picture. I never imagined two days later my husband would be gone.

Life is so uncertain. My husband was only 58 years old with no history of heart disease. He just passed a DOT physical for his job as a truck driver weeks prior to his death.  He never realized how little time he had left. I’m sure if he had known how things would end, he would never have chosen to spend the last six years of his life apart from his children and grandchildren.

It’s been a huge reminder to me of how little time we all have. I think of how often I put things off until tomorrow or next week. I think of how I want to grow more in my faith but allow the things of this world to take priority over spiritual things.

Today is the day to do the things we have been putting off.  We are not guaranteed tomorrow.

As I adapt to my new life as a widow, I continue to be amazed at the ways God has made provision for my needs in this new season of life. The peace I feel is real. It is the result of following God and not listening to the ways of the world. I truly believe when we follow what God is leading us to do, even when the world around us is telling us to do otherwise,  blessings will follow.

Is God nudging you to do something that seems crazy by this world’s standards? Are you hesitating to follow God’s leading because others might think you are crazy? Don’t be afraid. Step out in faith and walk with God. Blessings are sure to follow!

 

2 thoughts on “Until Death Do Us Part, No Regrets

  1. Dear Joni,

    Thanks so much for sharing your heart! You write and speak truth from God’s word so beautifully! I am so thankful for Christian bloggers and writers like you who are willing to share so much with someone like me who doesn’t even have a blog. Your words have inspired me and encouraged me so many times! I have nothing to offer back except prayers for you and your children and grandchildren. So often the Lord brings you to my mind and I offer up prayers for you and your loved ones! Isn’t it so amazing and so wonderful how God takes care of His children and provides for all of our needs!
    I will continue to keep you in my thoughts and prayers! So sorry for your loss but so thankful for God’s peace that you are experiencing through all of this!
    Love and Prayers,
    Sue

    1. Sue, it’s such a wonderful blessing to know you are praying for me and my family. What a beautiful gift prayer is! I was feeling a little discouraged today. Your words have lifted my spirits and motivated me to keep pressing on when the going gets tough. Thank you!

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