Thirty-three years ago on August 5, 1983, Ray and I became man and wife. The ceremony, held in an un-air-conditioned sanctuary in conditions that make the word sweltering come to mind, was the culmination of months of planning and anticipation. Family and friends, many of whom still refer to our wedding as the hottest they’ve ever attended, looked on as we said our vows and pledged ourselves to each other no matter what came our way. We were young and optimistic. Although we had a number of pre-marital counseling sessions with two different pastors, like most newlyweds we went into our marriage expecting more better than worse, more health than sickness. And the idea of death parting us? Well, that possibility seemed decades in the future.
I’m somewhat chagrined to admit reality hit soon after we returned from our honeymoon. I’m an only child and an introvert by nature. I was used to having time and space to myself. Suddenly I had another person to cope with ALL THE TIME. Granted, I loved Ray very much, but part of me kept waiting for him to go home. That thought of course was quickly followed by, “Wait! He is home!” And so it went. The early months were difficult as we learned to live together and accommodate each other’s needs and idiosyncrasies.
Before our 1-year anniversary we managed to buy our first home, a townhouse. Several months after our third anniversary we welcomed a baby girl, Mary. A second daughter, Jessie, joined our family a few days after our sixth anniversary. In 1991 the company I worked for decided to transfer their carpet group to Georgia. Ray was fully supportive of the move. We put down roots and settled into our “raise the kids” house the following year.
Bit by bit we became partners, working together on our shared goals, trusting God to guide us . . . and then the unthinkable happened. On April 19, 1997, a mere thirteen years after our marriage began, death parted us. Some weeks after Ray’s passing, I contacted Focus on the Family to request materials on grieving and widowhood. The woman who answered my call was so kind. I explained what had happened and told her I felt like a part of me was missing. I’ll never forget her reply: “Over the years you were married you and your husband became one and part of you is missing.” God had undeniably knit Ray and I together as we sought to honor Him by loving and serving each other and raising the children He blessed us with.
Indeed, those early notions of, “Isn’t it time for him to go home?”, were replaced by fervent prayers that God would watch over Ray. Journal entries documented my concerns. In one such entry I wrote, “Please keep Ray in good health . . . Sometimes I worry about him because of his dad’s early death. I don’t know what I would do without him, Lord.”
Almost 20 years have come and gone since Ray went Home and I’ve come to realize my implied question (“What will I do?”) would have been better stated, “What will you do, Lord?” After losing my husband, I clung to the One who promised to be with us always, through times of great joy and heart-wrenching sorrow, for better or worse. I’ve found Him to be faithful and his grace to be sufficient. Furthermore, death will not part us. Instead, it will be my passage Home.