I’ve told my story many times, and the truth I always come back to is that this is God’s story of faithfulness to me. I could start off with my background, but instead let me start with a turning point in 2005. On August 1st of that year, I came home from a weekend camping trip to find my husband missing, and a note that said, “I’m so sorry for what I’ve done. I love you.” My husband, who sucked the marrow out of life and was so tender-hearted, lived in constant back pain and had become addicted to prescription painkillers. The note in my hands was the culmination of a dark and shame-filled time for him. After a week of searching for him, I received a call from the sheriff saying my husband had taken his own life in a hotel room of a tiny Montana town. Consumed with guilt over his addiction and things it had led him to do, he really believed I would be better off without him. Please don’t think poorly of my sweet husband. Suicide is about desperation, not selfishness, and he was desperate. He is now in the very presence of the grace he couldn’t accept here on earth! But still, I was left to pick up the pieces. I don’t think a person truly knows how they are going to react to news like that until it actually happens. What I can say with absolute certainty is that this did not take God by surprise—He was fully prepared to show me His power in the aftermath.
I truly believe the Lord prepared me my whole life for this tragedy. I grew up in a Christian home and never really doubted the truth of God. Certainly I struggled with sin and carried around my “bag of righteousness” (ask Brian if you don’t know what that means), but I knew I couldn’t do life without God, so I pursued Him. After Chad’s death, I started to see all the years of quiet times and study as God’s way of making sure I had a strong foundation to fall back on. My world was rocked, but I could depend on the rock to steady me.
The most obvious example of God’s preparation though came from the radio and my journal. In the weeks before Chad’s death, I heard one song over and over on K-Love. Every time I heard it, I would cry, and I was not a crier. The song was “Held” by Natalie Grant, and the lines that hit me said,
“This is what it means to be held
When the sacred is torn from your life and you survive.
This is what it is to be loved
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell, we’d be held.
Reflecting on that song in my journal, I wrote,
“Thank you Lord for promising to carry us when things get rough. I haven’t had the sacred torn from my life, but what a promise—when I fall, you will hold me close.”
Chad died 18 days after I wrote those words. The sacred had been torn from my life—would God keep his promise?
Aching sorrow—that was my pain. I simply had a sense of overwhelming sadness that cut me deep. I missed Chad’s love the most—he loved me with abandon even in the midst of marital discord. I felt homesick without him though I went back home to live with my parents. I missed his laughter, his passion for life and his quirks. I ached with the knowledge that he had felt so hopeless and so utterly alone that last week of his life. There were days I couldn’t face work and had to go back home in tears. But in the midst of all that, God was whispering truth into my life. Right away in my mourning I knew I had two choices. I had been reading in Deuteronomy 30 where God said to the Israelites, “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. NOW CHOOSE LIFE, so that you and your children may live.” I had the same choice. I could choose depression, darkness, bitterness, anger towards God and Chad, but that road would lead to my destruction. Instead, I chose LIFE. I chose to believe the promises of a God who says, ‘Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. Blessed are all who wait for him. O Kim, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you.” Once I chose that path, God stepped in with healing, mercy and kindness. He protected me from the guilt and bitterness that plague so many survivors of suicide. And I enjoyed not only his protection but also his abundance. The Scriptures became a lifeline for me—I wish I would recount here all the verses the Lord gave me to strengthen me. He set me down firmly in a family who loved me, a life group who became family, a dear friend who opened her home to me, and Chad’s parents with whom I could so closely mourn. He took care of me financially and gave me the strength to endure a job for which I did not have the energy. He gave me peace. He gave me HOPE! “. . . we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, HOPE. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who he has given us.” The last time I spoke with Chad—a few hours before he took his life, I read Psalm 130 to him. “for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.” I don’t have to rejoice that my husband is gone, but I can rejoice because the Lord can bring any tragedy to full redemption. He can bring beauty from ashes.
About 6 months after Chad died, God opened my eyes to Psalm 27:13-14. It was as if He was saying to me, “Kim, I wrote this verse thousands of years ago, so you could read it. Hold on to it tight.”
For I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord
Be strong and take heart
And wait for the Lord.
And so I waited . . .
He didn’t make me wait long.
Less than a year later, a man on the other side of the country would face his own similar tragedy. On the weekend of July 17, Adam kissed his wife good-bye and went to the Loudon race. By the time he got off the plane later that night, he could sense something wasn’t right. He raced home and found that his wife had killer herself. She had struggled with depression most of her adult life, and Adam had had some premonitions in the months leading to her suicide that she would do something drastic. Still, the shock of seeing your wife like that weighed him down. While I struggled with sorrow in the aftermath, Adam struggled with unhealthy ways of assuaging his grief. The empty house he went to every night offered no comfort, so he fortified himself with wine. Getting into bed without her was hard, so he avoided it by staying up into the early hours of the morning. Even still, he stubbornly clung to God until the Lord decided to give him some relief and a taste of hope. Don Meredith and his family, whom Adam had known for almost 10 years through work, came alongside him. Don had become one of Brian Goins’ mentors, so when he heard that Brian’s sister-in-law (me) was dealing with suicide it was he who suggested to Adam that we meet and talk about the grieving process. Almost the next day, Adam called me. From that point, it didn’t take long to realize we wanted to share our lives together. We were stunned by God’s provision when we didn’t even know we needed each other!
Adam is the goodness God promised for me in Psalms. God has faithfully done a new thing in our lives—something that points to Him. And out of the ashes of our former relationships, we were given the opportunity to create something new—two sweet little lives named Gunnar and Gracyn.
Church, we serve a God who wants to lead us out of darkness into LIFE.
He has sent me. . .to comfort all who mourn,
And provide for those who grieve—
To bestow on them a crown of beauty
Instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness
Instead of mourning,
And a garment of praise
Instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
A planting of the Lord
For the display of His splendor.
Isaiah 61:1, 2-3