In May of 2017 I lost my husband, my best friend the man who called me Babe for 33 years. It was unexpected. I dropped him off to go kayaking and He went home with the Lord instead of coming home to me.
The journey isn’t one I would wish on anyone but sadly I know it happens every day. Initially I journaled the journey because that’s who I am but then I had a friend of a friend hit the same storm I was walking through. In an effort to keep everyone updated and to be transparent about this leg of my journey I started sharing my heart on Facebook page.
In an effort to keep it where others can use it. I will be going through adding in all my moments from a WIDOW’S HEART. While nothing can take away your loss or fill the space on the other side of your bed, sometimes just knowing that the pain you are walking through is ‘normal’ is a help.
AND IT BEGINS.
May 5, 2017
Hello family near and far, Lenny got a pass to go straight to Jesus… and he’s gone. Please pray for me I just lost my best friend. Sherry
I HAVE BEEN ASKED WHAT HAPPENED AS MY INITIAL POST WAS BRIEF. HERE IT IS FULL BUT I WILL BE SLIDING AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER AGAIN and will check in and read all your post when my heart stops skipping a beat.
However I thank you for they have been a great encouragement to our families. I just can’t read them yet. LOVE YA’LL…
Last Wednesday night Lenny & I left for our getaway to the river just like always… ready to escape for just a few days and be alone and together all at once.
Thursday it rained and we played lazy watching movies, sleeping in and grabbing catfish for supper.
Friday he woke up ready to fish and set his kayak in the water and headed down toward Pangburn. Three and 1/2 hours later he called and said he was done and asked me to pick him up so we could play some cards.
When I got there he was so excited about the number and size of the trout he’d caught… fishing has always been one of his favorite pastimes clearing his head and heart while casting a line with the Fisher of Men.
After I beat him at hand and foot the first game – he beat me on the second game making us even. We had an early supper and then he said he wanted to launch his kayak at the boat ramp and float down to campsite. It was almost 6 so he wouldn’t be long… he just wanted to cast around a bit. So I dropped him off and went back to try to find something to do to kill a bit of time.
Feeling a bit edgy – a bit flustered for no good reason – I figured it was because that kayak and those fish kept trumping in in on my time. So I decided rather than sit and wait I would drive across the dam to watch the sun set and check the water levels as we’d had a LOT of rain.
I came back an hour or so later and Lenny still wasn’t at camp however it’s not odd for Lenny to head over to another campground to visit so I didn’t think much about it. Then it started getting dark my heart skipped a beat when I realized the kayak wasn’t there either.
Ducking inside the camper I saw no sign of his return, normally he would have grabbed his phone and checked messages as soon as he got back, but there it lay on the dresser. Picking it up I saw there were several messages and hit play.
A gentleman’s voice came over the line… he just wanted to let the owner of the kayak know they had found it submerged and retrieved it and then left his number so we could arrange a pick-up.
Fear gripped me as I jumped into his old red truck and raced up to the Campground Office. They couldn’t help me and advised me to call 911. I did that as I rushed back to the campsite hoping beyond hope that he would be there and chastise me for being silly.
No Lenny. Nowhere. So I did what comes naturally when there is an emergency… I called and asked folks to start up a prayer chain. Then I did the thing I didn’t want to do, I conceded I might need more than prayer and called Lenny’s sisters, my siblings and then our 2 children.
I could feel the weight of it rolling over me as I kept praying for a miracle. Lenny was one of the most faithful, compassionate men of God I had ever known. Surely God would grant us a ‘grace card’ and he’d be walking into camp any minute. Maybe he just landed on the wrong side of the river and was waiting for daylight or a ride as three gates ahd been running wide open from the dam.
But between every prayer my heart grew numb-er and sobs would wash over me in waves – then faith would answer, “God does miracles everyday.” However I also knew that God has an appointed hour for every heart.
Breaking down I realized I hadn’t even told him I loved him today.
The couples next door slid in to check in on me as I had asked them if they had happen to see my husband earlier and therefore knew he was missing.
I wasn’t okay but I couldn’t move. It seemed like an eternity before the sheriffs office showed (though I doubt it was). Their concern became the opening of another water gate in an hour. Urgently he began making calls to halt the water release and then another deputy showed up, then another. While one talked to the Corps of Engineers about stopping generation, another was on the line calling in Game & Fish people with the right boats for the now low rolling river, who had knowledge of the Little Red.
Then they begin asking me questions: When did he leave? Where did he leave from? What was he wearing? My head was spinning. I couldn’t swallow or think. All I could do was give them their answers. When they stepped off, I broke down then I was forcing myself to prayer and I repeated those two actions again and again.
Vicki (Lenny’s middle sister) and her husband Doug were the first to make it in and we clutched and wept. One by one other family and friends and our children arrived. Sherry and Don, came along with Don’s brother. Lenny’s baby sister Dindy and her husband Gary came in as well. Unable to sit and wait, they took off with our daughter Skyye who had arrived with Stephen & one of our former youth, Justin Haycook to walk along the rivers edge. Joey and Kathy drove up from the church we had been serving the past year and a half. We were all a mess… all of us. Some lingered on the outskirts others with flashlights and phones in hand spread out to do on land what the boats along 4 stretches of the Little Red had begun to do on the river.
Vicki & I just kept repeating, “Lenny’s an incredible swimmer he’ll be okay… Right?” Yet the minutes ticked by with no Lenny.
Our son Curtiss & Lindsay his wife made it from Little Rock. Our youth pastor and his wife showed up for support and to help. When my brother showed up, along with my brother-in-law and nephew, I just clutched him. There was nothing I could do.
Our phones just kept ringing… everyone was coming up ready to help or wanting an update. So many praying for this great man of God that was so easy to love and so loving, they were anxious to hear Lenny had been found. Old and new friends kept coming as we waited. About two hours in I felt IT coming as quietly one by one the sheriffs cars headed out. Finally there was just one officer remaining and when Vicki’s phone went off I froze. I had been clutching my brother’s 6’6 frame and when she yelled, ‘NO!’ and broke into tears. I repeated the word over and over until it was a wild scream as Frankie held me. Then I passed out.
I wasn’t out but a moment or two but when I sat up I noticed the last sheriffs car was gone. Family and friends who had been searching on foot were heading in and knew the very thing we had all dreaded had come to pass. The Bible speaks of wailing and while it was now edging midnight no one in that campground could have been sleeping.
Our hearts were laid out on the ground, our tears ran unheeded. Then it occurred to me… they must have found him yet they were all gone! Why hadn’t they told me! Where was he? Where were they?
In the core of my soul I heard the Spirit stirring again within me, “Go. You need to see him. Hurry.”
I asked someone which way the officer had gone and then took off running that direction. It was urgent I didn’t have time to wait for someone to move a car or give me a ride. I ran. I ran stumbling and weeping toward the boat launch, muttering under my breath,’No you can’t take him. I need to see him. No. No. I need to see him!!’
As I drew near the launch pad I saw a maze of patrol cars and an ambulance. They were closing the ambulance doors as I ran up.
“I have to see him. Let me see him.”
They set me down to explain he was gone but it didn’t alter my NEED to see his face. They said I had to have relatives but I’d left them behind. Then my nephew Cody came up to hug me and I told him, “You stand right here by me, they have to let me see him. We can’t be crying.’ When the officer came back over I had Cody and he said he would arrange it.
The family and others were gathering round but I don’t remember faces as they led me to the back of a pickup where they were pulling out a gurney. Focused on one thing, the tears had subsided as I watched and waited for them to unzip the body bag that encased my husband. Slowly they rolled the plastic away from his face and chest and there he was… lifeless.
I didn’t sob or wail I just wept quietly as I kissed a face that still looked perfect and full of life. There was no bruising, no scraps or cuts. He looked like he had hours ago yet he had no breath. And neither did I.
That’s when I noticed it…. a remarkable radiance seemed to come from his face. His eyes shone and upon those lips that I had kissed for 34 years there was a contented smile. Peace came over me and I spoke to him and stroked his face telling him how much I loved him and that it would be okay.
Gently I recalled aloud the servant he had been and how proud I was of him and the man he had allowed God to help him become… the lives he had touched including my own. I stood there, leaning upon him, running my fingers over his forehead, pressing my cheek to his own and then I touched my lips to his again and one more time before I stepped back and thanked them for giving me that time.
I knew the smile and the light meant Lenny had seen Jesus. Faith requires trust and a belief in what is not clearly seen and a release to a Holy God. Lenny was a man of faith… he was such a man and because of that I KNEW where he was and Who he was with when he left that body.
But you can’t assume everybody around you knows that truth and embraces it and while I had been saying goodbye my brother-in-law, Keith, was being compelled by the Spirit to say hello to the campers and law enforcement that had gathered around us. Purposefully he asked, “Do you know Christ? Would their loved ones have the same confidence at their death?” Compelling them to the truth and the gospel of Christ.
I didn’t hear him but others did and shared it with me and before Keith left he held me tight as he wept and encouraged me with these words. ‘Sherry, I did it for him. I shared the gospel with those around just like he would have done if it had been me in that bag. I did it like he would have done it.” And together we mourned and celebrated the man I called, Babe, my husband and better-half.
My partner in life’s journey. My lover and best friend. A man that lived out his life in Christ as we all should – with our hearts wide open and the name Jesus on our lips and a pocket full of grace cards.
He who is least will be greatest.
He who is last will be first.
He who obeys will be loved.
He who would be called His… will serve.
If you don’t know Christ… I pray you seek him with the same diligence they sought out my husband. You need Him – His forgiveness – His love – to know you are not alone.
If you do know Christ but your faith is stagnant: unmoved and unmoving… I pray you run to the cross and find the power you need to live life lit for Christ.
If you are His and you are seeking higher ground and to be like Christ… I pray you keep your eyes on the prize even as you go into the world and share a message worth living for or dying for.
Lenny’s life bears the fruit of faithfulness and I anticipate a hundredfold yield at Christ return.
What about you? What about me? The choice is ours. I am all in.
Love you, Babe. Save a place for me, say some grace for me… I’ll be there soon.
May 12, 2017 QUESTIONING WHY
Many have questions and they want to know, ‘Why? Why Lenny? Why now? Why was he kayaking? Etc.,’
I fully understand the lostness we feel when a great man of God is ripped from our lives. Tomorrow is going to be painful (and I miss my miss ya, babe) however I believe the Word which says on numerous occasions that our days are determined and our limits appointed. Therefore, I can’t hide behind the ‘why’s’ in my life. I must set my feet upon the path that leads to God’s heart and use the time that IS and that REMAINS placing my fragile heart in His hands. I must continuously surrender my rights and those sins which so easily set me back and remain mold-able…IF I would change my world and be a witness.
The question is not, Why? But why not? Why not Lenny? Why Jaxson?
Lenny often shared at funerals that even if a saint could return from heaven’s portals they would not desire to leave God’s presence, and perfect peace, to come back to a works ravaged by chaos.
So while I yearn to reach over and touch you beside me, Babe, I will focus on what I have gained through our love rather than what I will miss. I will focus on fixing those things in me that God has granted me the power to alter, rather than on what I cannot change.
Help me, Lord. Guard me. Change me.
Lenny, I love you babe.
MAY 15, 2017 MISSING BEING WITH YOU
I just need prayers so badly. At night I miss him so. When people start talking about missions, camps, vacations, empty nesters, futures… I am not a team anymore. There is no we will… Ohhh how it hurts to not be able to roll over and talk about my day or tomorrow with my soul mate.
God have mercy on me. My flesh is weak. I wanted to go first then he could carry the cross across the US and minister to homeless people and folks in recovery which he so wanted to do. But he wouldn’t do those things while I was alive and now I find I don’t have any dreams that didn’t involve him in them…. Hurting… Hurting so bad
May 18, 2017 It’s my birthday…
There is something I use to say that oftentimes was an irritant to some fellow believers (love ya’ll :o). When it snowed (I love snow!)… or when something beautiful was displayed in front of me or I got a fresh word (Sweet spot!)… or when it snowed – did I say that already? (I REALLY love snow!) I would say, ‘I’m God’s favorite!’
Now I will be quick to add God doesn’t play favorites with His kids – it’s just that He has a way of making one feel truly seen and special.
And now I am going to fluster us all by saying that even in the midst of ALL that has happened these past weeks I can still say, ‘I am God’s favorite.’
Lenny & I have spent 23 years loving and serving the Lord – sharing Jesus so that others may come to the saving knowledge of Christ and one day meet Him in the air, so why would I be angry that my best friend got an early departure for our eternal retirement plan. Isn’t that what Lenny shared and was passionate about? That none be left behind? That we do more than know OF Him -but live for Him? It was not just that people could live well on this side but that the soul could thrive while walking in this world and would live forever.
So Lenny beat me home but as surely as he is enjoying being in God’s presence I… I have felt God’s hand at my back. At my side. Before me.
I cry but that is because I miss the touch of Lenny’s hand holding mine… not because i am lonely. I weep because my ally and confidant of 33 years can’t travel this leg of the journey with me… not because my journey is over.
I wouldn’t wish him back because he has made it to our dream destination and I won’t be too far behind, at least it won’t seem like long to him.
Me? Well, it is all good because some things are worth the wait.
May 19, 2017 Sometimes you just have to cry… and that’s okay
Just in case you think I am always strong. I am crying now, filling that bottle that God has set aside to catch my tears. Miss you babe…..
May 26, 2017 I just need to talk to you
How am I doing?
Knowing the separation is temporary and God’s timing and plans are perfect I do well most of the time. I feel intentional and am seeking His will in how to fulfill my call while I’m waiting.
But some times I just want to talk with Lenny, to my soul mate and closest friend and I ache… and I shed tears.
But in those times I find my solace as I turn and talk to the One who had in His wisdom knit our souls together and I Trust.
‘God has hedged me behind and before… He has laid His hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me…’ Psalm 139:5-6a
June 2017 coming