My love story with Eric has been a dance between moments of great joy and painful times of deep sorrow. I believe any love story that fights to keep its covenant requires both.
I fell in love with Eric when he was 22 years old. We both were graduate students at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He knew of me before I knew of him. He would tell people that he saw me for the first time in the school café and immediately knew that I would be his future wife. I met him shortly after in the Fall of 2009 when he ran across a campus courtyard to say hello. Eric had a unique way of connecting with people. Everywhere he went, he was the loudest in the room and his laugh would echo across hallways. His days consisted of sharing Jesus with anyone who would listen, and sometimes those who wouldn’t. When I met him, I knew that he was special.
It didn’t take long to know that I loved this man. I was drawn to his heart for the Lord, his heart to love others, and his passion to preach the Gospel. We both had big dreams to change the world together. We married in the spring of 2011 and went into full-time local church ministry. This was what both of us had dreamed of—a life of love and service to the Lord. For years we struggled to have a child, but in March of 2017, God gave us twins! They were the brightest lights in our small world. They are, and forever will be, our “abundantly more.”
On January 4th, 2019, my husband went home to be with Jesus. He was 31 years old when he took his own life. It has been over three years since his death, and these words are still difficult to write. A part of me will always wrestle to wrap my head around how someone who had so much joy, talent, and conviction could also carry so much pain. My husband battled deep depression. Depression that he constantly fought, depression that went unnoticed and ignored, depression that was shamed, and depression that ultimately took his life.
I dealt with unexplainable guilt and worry as I grieved and navigated my emotions regarding his death. Questions flooded my mind, like, “How could I not change it?” and “Why could I not help him?” As a Licensed Professional Counselor who provides comfort and guidance to people every day, why couldn’t I find an answer or provide healing to the one person I loved the most in this world? Questions continued to arise, “What if I would have called 5 minutes before?” and “What if I would have told him that morning just how much I loved and valued him?”
Grief is brutal at times. In the early months after his passing, I compared it to depression in many ways. Not only was there emotional and mental grief, but also grief that manifested itself physically. There were some days when I didn’t eat or sleep and days when I didn’t have the will to get out of bed. Our children were 18 months old when their father died. I often wonder how that layer of grief will ever be reconciled. I can only continue to trust that God redeems what He allows.
Grief became my song. When words poured out of my broken heart, I found that writing them down became a therapeutic conversation between God and me. His comfort was a balm to everything that hurt from the forever missing pieces of not having my best friend anymore. In the muddiness of the pain and heartache, one thing was clear: I trusted and knew that God was faithful. It didn’t mean our conversations were always kind or I was a compliant child in the presence of His sovereignty. It meant I knew that he journeyed with me and grieved with me through every part of it. He never left me, and I can proclaim that promise to this day.
God has provided for all of our needs since Eric’s death. Thinking back to that day, I’m still in awe of how the Lord knew my fears and heard my cries, and had already gone before me to take care of our little family of three. He provided a wonderful church community and family. Another church in town graciously fixed up and gave us a home close to my mom and dad. My parents have been one of the biggest blessings in helping me as a single mom and widow. Because of these people that surround us, I am comforted in knowing that my kids have an overabundance of love and support.
God has also used our situation to bring awareness and hope to others who are battling depression, addiction, and other mental illnesses. I now work for a faith-based organization that offers resources and counseling services to ministry families who are hurting and in need of a safe place to share and receive encouragement. I still hope and dream of many things ahead of us for our future. I pray that my kids will never feel “less than” for not having a physical father in their lives. I pray that maybe God will one day bring a good man our way. And if not, I know that God will give me the grace and strength to live a life of great joy for my kids and to give them all the love that they deserve.
Sometimes it hurts to hope, but most days I take a deep breath and trust in the One who has been faithful through it all. Is it easy? No. But has it been beautiful to see how God has been redeeming it? Absolutely.