Six years ago. May 14, 2005.

What do I even say here? Five and a half years is such a short, short time, especially when we both dreamed of celebrating 50 or more. And yet, there was an entire lifetime wrapped up in those years, almost as if it had been 50. I can only imagine how 45 more years would have felt.

What do you do for an anniversary that isn’t actually happening anymore? My heart breaks for so many people that deal with this, possibly on an even more difficult level, because of divorce. And I weep. I don’t know how they do it. I do know how I plan to do it, though. I plan to celebrate.

God gave us 5 1/2 years of a beautiful marriage, and I feel blessed beyond belief for what He gave us. Last year, for our five year anniversary, we went to Chicago. It was our first time leaving the kids for more than one night. And it came at a perfect time in our marriage. It was such a wonderful weekend, we planned to go back often, even as early again as Stephanie’s birthday in October. That didn’t happen, but going back this year was a definite in our minds. We wanted to be regulars at the hotel. We enjoyed being “loyalistas” (a made up word, I realize) like that.

Well, you know the story, and here I am today. I don’t remember when I first thought I would go back to Chicago in spite of everything, but it was likely way back in October. I couldn’t think of a better thing to do for God, for myself, and for Stephanie. As I’ve done all along, I won’t avoid the memories or any pain they might cause. I’m not going to hide from life as I knew it or know it now. And I’m going full in and full on.

I’m excited. I’m going to have a full weekend to spend contemplating (there’s that word again), praying, reading and introspecting. I plan to celebrate the marriage I had, praise God for it and accept in every way possible that it’s over — though I’ve tried to do that all along. Maybe even more importantly, I’m going to talk to God a lot about my future.

I appreciate how many of you have expressed that you believe a new marriage is in my future. I agree. One thing I haven’t broadcast is my conviction that I’m “ready” for that, even now. To be honest, I’ve felt ready since February, and those closest in my life have seen that. I talked with my counselor about it a lot, and he said the same. I only didn’t broadcast it because I wasn’t sure if others were ready for me to be ready.

I loved Stephanie dearly, of course, and I feel that I’m honoring her to move on. She and I talked long before the seizures started about remarriage if the worst were to happen. We were both very happy for the other to find someone else if it came to that. That’s yet another way God has shown me that He has a plan — that we even talked about such things. I know in my heart that I have no greater cheerleader regarding this than Stephanie. I can just picture her nudging God that He should bring someone into my life. I know she would never want me to be alone, and I know she wants a mother for her children.

My passion, dream and goal for my life has always been Ephesians 5:21-33, that I would have a wife and be able to sacrifice myself for her. (More on that in a later post.) I’m excited for this weekend, and for the chance to really talk to God about that and even pray that I don’t have to wait long to have that again.

Aside from October, this is the last big date that I expect might be hard. This weekend is an opportunity for me to place a pile of stones (Joshua 4) as a remembrance of God’s faithfulness and goodness and what He has brought me through.

An Odd Longing

It’s actually an odd thing to want. For some reason, I find myself longing to be back in the hospital more often than any other point in my marriage. I can only guess that I’m too much of a realist to imagine earlier times. My time in the hospital isn’t all that different of a reality than now.

But I think back to that time every few days. I remember how comfortable I got there, as if it were a 10-day sleepover. I can’t imagine what it must be like for others who endure much longer battles. I spent every night either on a couch in the waiting room or in a chair next to Stephanie’s bed.

I began to know the nurses, and I’m sad that I don’t get to see them any more. They were so wonderful, taking care not only of Stephanie, but of me and my entire family. How many times have they done the same for others? I wish I could have thanked them more while I was there.

I learned how to read all the monitors. I was so proud of her for breathing “above the machine” – she took more breaths than the machine made sure she took. And then she stopped doing that at the same time God stopped telling me to “just wait” and I knew she was gone, even if her death certificate says it was two days later. I could read the EKG and knew when she was having seizures. I remember sliding up next to her during those times, holding her hand and touching her face, trying to calm her down. I can still hear myself saying, “Oh, honey. You gotta stop.”

How many nights did I beg her to fight? How many times did I remind her that she refused God to take her once before and needed to do it again? How many hours did I spend holding her hand and stroking her hair?

I know it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense because she wasn’t talking to me at all, but I miss my time with her in the hospital. What part of that longing is because of the hope I still had that she might be okay? I miss spending every moment with her, even if she wasn’t exactly “with” me during those moments.


It has been nearly five years that I’ve had to hear about it. Every now and then it would come up and it gave her so much of a thrill to tease me. I’m pretty sure it was less than a week after my 25th birthday that she brought it up for the first time. I’m talking about the birthday party she was planning to throw for me when I turned 30.

January 12. This Wednesday. Sucks again that she’s gone.

I know most of you probably missed many of the parties she threw, but let me tell you how Stephanie puts together a party. Every party has a theme, and that theme envelopes every last detail. For instance, my 25th was a theme of miniatures. (I have an unhealthy obsession with anything that’s miniature.) The cake was tiered simply to accommodate cupcakes. Each cupcake had a circular tag stuck in it depicting something about my life. There were cocktail hot dogs and mini burgers and mini grilled cheese sandwiches and chicken nuggets.

I’ve always loved my birthday and Stephanie has always felt strongly about how special a person feels for his or her birthday (and the entire week). I’ll be excited for my birthday no matter how old I get – age doesn’t bother me. And Stephanie went to every length to make me feel so special. She’s literally had an idea for my 30th birthday since the week following my 25th birthday, and she has casually teased me with that fact over the years. I’m pretty sure the theme has changed a few times, but only because she thought of something better. She would taunt me, “I came up with an even better idea for your 30th birthday. It’s going to be incredible.” Oh, I couldn’t wait! (If only I knew what else 30 years would bring.)

I’ve been anticipating this 1 month for nearly 60 months and yet 3 months shy of it, my wife passed away. I have no problem sharing with you that I yelled at God about that. A lot. It ran through my mind a number of times while I was in the hospital. I’m not going to get to have my birthday party. Obviously, it wasn’t the worst pain of them all, but it certainly didn’t help the situation.

In line with my aversion to change, I’m trying to keep things as close as possible to what they were supposed to be this year. It’s why Thanksgiving was still at my parents’ house as usual. It’s why I had a Christmas tree and other decorations up based on the way Stephanie decorated. And it’s why I asked my mom about still having my party. Thankfully, Stephanie had shared most of her plans with my mom. (For the record, my mom can throw a quite a mean party, as well.) With the help of some friends – one of whom seems to throw similar parties as Stephanie always did – the party will be happening on January 15 with a rather large guest list.

Nonetheless, I expect this week to be possibly the hardest week of my life besides that time in the hospital. I think it goes without saying that I’m not looking forward to it.

I think of Stephanie’s 30th birthday three years ago and how joyous it was. I made sure her brother was in town for it and surprised her with two La-Z-Boys. (She was always manic about rocking in a chair constantly.) We had just had Brady 9 months prior, which was fantastic considering how desperate she was to have kids before she turned 30. It was such a fabulous celebration of her life thus far.

And now it’s my turn to hit 30. I hate to be melodramatic, but who gets stuck celebrating 30 years as a widow? I know I’m not the first and won’t be the last. But I’m one of them. What kind of birthday am I celebrating this year? Right now, I’m hoping that I can just stay 29 forever until my Stephanie is returned to me. I don’t want to turn 30 without her! It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.


As of yesterday, I’m able to talk about the last time I spoke with Stephanie in terms of “months.” I went to a GriefShare group a couple days ago, and we all said who we lost and when they passed. For some people, it has been a year or more. It really got me thinking about which date is more significant to me: the day she had her cardiac arrest and I last talked to her, or the day she officially died. I guess I especially wonder since the date on her death certificate is not the date I think she actually passed, so it seems like it has less meaning to me. And, it’s her I really miss, so even though I had hope while we were in the hospital, it has still been two months since I got to really be with her. I’m sure I’ll probably just recognize both dates, but these are the things I think about.

As for how I’m doing, it’s hard to really describe. Getting along each day is overall okay. I have a bad moment at least once on most days. I stop what I’m doing and will either take a short walk (if I’m at work) or just take some time to cry as long as I need. I put in a full week of work this week. Again, it went okay, but I also didn’t have any big accomplishments expected of me, so there was little stress related with that. I’m making it even though there’s not a moment that goes by that doesn’t suck. I’m always keenly aware of how miserable I am, although there are times when I would say I’m doing good.

The other night I pulled out a picture of Stephanie and just stared at it for a while. It’s just so hard to believe she’s gone. I’ve never known disbelief like this before and I don’t know how to even express it. But I look at her picture, and she’s real. She’s alive in the picture and she’s as beautiful as ever, and even seemingly more beautiful than ever. And my brain can’t even process that a picture is the only way I can see her now.

She feels so tangible, I can almost reach out and touch her. And yet, I haven’t been able to hold her or touch her face or feel her lips on mine in so long. I’m not going to lie – it sucks so bad. She absolutely was my best friend and we did everything together. And, this last year when she couldn’t drive because of having seizures, we especially did everything together because she didn’t have a choice. So many things happen throughout the day where I want to call her up and tell her about it. And talking to her by just talking to myself is only helpful in certain situations, and paltry at best.

Another month gone by and before I know it, I’ll be saying “year” and then “years.” I’m just stunned – still.


Photographs were a big deal to Stephanie. They were so important, in fact, that her “push present” for having Halle was family pictures, and that was all she wanted. Thanks to a friend of ours, we have some beautiful pictures from that time. I’m so glad for her always working for us to take and have lots of pictures because now I have so many memories to look back on during our life together.

I keep finding reason to revisit our collection of pictures. Usually, it’s to remember how Stephanie put the house together for things such as Christmas. Unfortunately, I find it absolutely gut-wrenching as I scan through the images of her. I always think that this will be the time that it won’t crush me, but I’m always wrong. I often end up finding something that I didn’t even remember. For instance, last night I found some images that she used for birthday/Christmas gift projects she made for me. It was great to see those things again and remember, but it also ripped out my heart as it always does, to be reminded that it’s all over.

But pictures were always important to her. When everything first happened, I had no intention of sending out Christmas cards this year because I couldn’t bear the thought of seeing just three of us in the picture. But, soon after, I realized how much I wanted to do those things we’ve always done even as painful as it would be. And, I don’t want to lack pictures from this year because of my grief; that would just cause me more grief years down the road. So, today I had that same friend I mentioned earlier come over to take pictures of me and the kids. Some of the pictures even included a framed photograph of Stephanie. Sending out Christmas cards this year is also kind of my way to praise God for His faithfulness through all of this. I would be giving in to defeat – even if in some small way – to not do something we’ve always done and something in which Stephanie always took great joy. And she always took great joy in our family and sending out that picture to show how good God has been to us. I don’t want this year to be any different.


I have visited a grief support organization near me a few times now. It’s called Cornerstone of Hope, and was started by a family who lost their 3-year-old son. It is a fabulous place, and I so appreciate the Christian basis they have for everything. Not only that, but they are experts and have all studied grief from the knowledge we have here on earth. When I first visited, they shared with me what grief is and it has made a lot of sense to me as I’ve thought about it. Grief is when our heart doesn’t yet accept the real loss our mind knows.

Since being told this, I have noticed that every time I’m struggling about things, almost immediately I am overwhelmed with the feeling of not believing that this really happened. I just can’t accept it. Obviously, my mind knows the facts. But, there’s still this feeling in my gut that “maybe they were wrong” and that she’s going to walk through the door at any moment, or that my phone will ring and it will be her on the other end. I’ve had dreams where she never died or she comes back to life. In one such dream, she actually sat up in the casket during the wake. (Those dreams don’t necessarily help me, which is not cool, but at least it lets me feel like she’s still with me, at least until I wake up.)

As much as I don’t want to stop believing that she might still be alive, I know that accepting it will play a huge part in healing me from the pain. Accepting it will mean that I have moved through my grief, which is something I desire to do. That’s why I’m going to counseling. I know it would be easy for me to avoid certain thoughts and/or emotions that might hinder me, either preventing me from being emotionally healthy or from being able to serve God fully. That is certainly not what I want. And, with the counselor, I know I will be sure to enter into all those emotions and thoughts so that I deal with them and experience my pain to the fullest.

I’m so glad for the wide range of help and support I’m getting. I have family nearby to help in more ways than imaginable. I have gobs of friends, both offline and online that are praying for me and listening to me and encouraging me. I have more than one church family helping out however they can. I have Cornerstone of Hope providing professional help. And, of course, I have God bringing me through it all, and having a plan for my life. And He’s still using me in ways I don’t often understand, but am very thankful for.

The Worst Things

I’m finding that almost everything I know to do with my kids is because of what their mother knew about them and did with them. I know how much my kids loved those things and don’t want them to stop by any means.

One thing we would do after Halle went to bed was to pop some popcorn and put on a movie that Brady could watch and the three of us would cuddle on the couch and watch. One night last week, I told Brady during their bath that we could do that if he wanted. He was very excited and couldn’t wait. As soon as I mentioned the idea, though, I started crying quite a bit. It ached to think of the times we all did that together and how we can’t have that again.

Something else the kids love and I was sure to do last week because of good weather was to go to the zoo. Stephanie loves animals, and was so glad to get a zoo pass last Christmas for this year. (Sadly, due to the seizures, she was never allowed to drive and couldn’t go nearly as many times as she wanted.) Again, I knew the kids would love to go and thought it would be good for all of us to get out. I guess it’s good that I didn’t realize beforehand just how painful it would be to be there. Otherwise, I might have been tempted not to go at all. I almost kept expecting to see her walking next to me every time I looked over.

I’m sure these moments will continue. Stephanie always would do those things that the kids loved, even if she wasn’t up to it. It’s easy to remember what the kids enjoy. It’s not until after I start those activities that I realize how painful it is for me. What makes them “the worst things” is because I’m not going to stop just because it’s hard for me, and it’s a mixture of enjoyment I get for my kids along with the pain it is for me.