This is part two of Ashby’s story. Read Part 1 here!
Shortly after Spencer’s death, I drove out to Immokalee to the place where we used to live. Standing on the grassy bank of Lake Trafford where our Airstream once gleamed in the sunlight, I stared at the water with my hands on my swollen, pregnant belly genuinely not knowing what to do next. This empty space made my loss even more real. Every fiber of my being ached to go back and climb into our cozy home with my husband again, but this empty space was a very visual reminder that he was no longer here and there was not a home to come back to.
In the Heartbreak and Confusion, What’s Next?
I had never in my life felt a longing so intense for something that I could not have and it felt as though there were a vice grip on my heart. As the reality of my situation washed over me once again, I knew I could not go back no matter how much I wished it—yet I did not know how to go forward either. Feelings of hopelessness and a sadness so deep threatened to drown me, making my body feel heavy as I climbed into my car for the long drive back.
Before I met Spencer, I was a very independent person. My love of travel led me to study in France for six months and I backpacked through Europe while I was there. Mission trips had taken me to Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Africa with people I barely knew. I worked three jobs to put myself through college. But when we got married, Spen took care of me in a way that really allowed me to lean into him and depend on him. He was such a warm and safe place for me and letting go and letting him take the lead was one of the most surprising delights of my life. He loved to cook (and I was terrible), he loved going to the grocery store for us, he always made sure there was gas in the car, he opened every door for me and was very protective. His absence felt like a bucket of ice cold water was thrown on me as I was now faced with the responsibility of not only caring for myself but for our baby.
…it felt as though there were a vice grip on my heart.
The moment my son was born I felt completely conflicted. It was as though I were straddling the line between heaven and earth. My thoughts of wishing I could die and be with my husband in heaven were in direct opposition to the new will I had to live to protect and provide for the helpless little life in my arms. My true grief began that day because I could no longer wish and hope for death which seemed to me the only possible solution to the excruciating ache of his absence. I now knew that I had to live.
How Do I Find Myself Again?
But I didn’t want to just exist and be a shell of myself. My son deserved more. He had already lost one parent and didn’t need to lose another to self-pity or depression. Driving home from the hospital with this new baby in the backseat, my white knuckles gripped the steering wheel and I wrestled with feelings of being utterly terrified and utterly determined at the same time. Someone had told me that in Psalm 68:5 the Lord promised to be a husband to the widow and a father to the fatherless. This should have brought me comfort but I wanted Spencer to be my husband and Trooper’s father. I felt alone but thought that if I had been so independent once before then I could be that “strong” girl again. She was in there somewhere, right?
Wrong. My first trip to the pediatrician undid all of the resolve I had mustered up. The callous old man that was rough handling my newborn and speaking condescendingly to me resulted in me driving home in tears and telling Jesus how much I needed Him. I told Him that I wanted Him to be my husband and Trooper’s father because I couldn’t do this alone and I needed His help. And could He start by finding me a new doctor for Trooper?
The Comfort of God’s Presence
In His great mercy and grace, He reminded me that I was not alone. The very next morning I had a voicemail from a woman I had never met. When I returned her call, she told me she had heard of my story and wondered if I had a pediatrician for Trooper. When I told her of my experience, she said not to worry because she used the best pediatrician in town and that she and her husband felt led by the Lord to pay the annual fees he required. He was nationally recognized for his expertise as a concierge physician and would be on call 24/7 should I need medical help or have questions about Trooper. “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). I was not alone.
My first trip to the pediatrician undid all of the resolve I had mustered up.
In the months that followed, the Lord provided for me in a way I had never experienced before in my life. It almost felt as though I were in a protective bubble. He made it very clear where we were supposed to live and when.
He provided financially for us in the most creative ways and through some of the most generous people I have ever met. He provided support for me in the form of a widow who quite literally understood everything I was going through as she had lost her young husband 6 months prior to me losing mine. Did I mention I found out she lived only a half mile away from where our new home was? The details and intimacies of His provision never ceased to amaze me and I genuinely felt taken care of in ways I never even thought to ask for.
Looking back, I realize my road to dependence didn’t begin with Spencer, it began with Christ. Jesus was inviting me to lean into Him just like I learned to lean into Spencer. Knowing I’m a visual learner, in His lavish love and grace He gave me a husband as a tangible example of His love and protection. Spencer’s death did not mean that love and protection went away. It was there all along. Spencer’s life was a blessing I never deserved and our marriage was the way Jesus used to teach me what dependence and unconditional love looked like. I didn’t want to need anyone or anything, which I now realize was a defense mechanism. I thought dependence meant weakness, but if it’s on the right Person it means the opposite.
Dependence on Christ means Strength.
His strength given to you and through you. Every single one of us needs Jesus every single minute of every single day, but there are certain times in our lives that highlight our need more than others. And when you are presented with one of those times, if you learn to lean in, you will learn more about how dependable and worthy of our trust this amazing Savior is.
For more Ashby, check out:
For encouragement through hard times, start here:
When Life Gives You a New Normal
Battered Faith: Holding on to Hope Even When You Struggle
The Seesaw Aftermath of Losing My Husband to Suicide
Losing My Hair Made Me Beautiful
True Beauty is Found in a Woman’s Strength
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