The Day Life Changed

John had disappeared. For several hours we had been trying to retrace his steps. I knew something was very wrong because he left his downtown office late in the afternoon but never came home for dinner. It had been one of those teamwork nights for us: me at a meeting, him planning to come home from work to have dinner with the kids.

But, when I got back home from my meeting around 8:30, he wasn’t there and the kids said they had never heard from him. That wasn’t like John. Now it was close to 10:00, and every call to him had been unanswered.

Desperately, we were searching the city.

As I reached out to receive the phone from John’s mom, I couldn’t see her face to prepare myself for what I was about to hear. I was desperate to know but afraid to know. Sometimes knowing is the last thing you really want. Not knowing means you are still sheltered by hope. And hope still burned in my heart.

After all, maybe there was a reasonable explanation and my fears were unfounded. Maybe a work issue got complicated, and he was in a late meeting. Maybe there was a classic John story of helping someone fix their flat tire. Maybe he was in the hospital, and we just hadn’t been told.  Maybe I’d be wrapped up soon in his arms laughing and crying with relief and enjoying salty kisses and feeling silly for calling the police and assuming the worst.

Those were my last few seconds of life as I knew it.

I took the phone and heard the words I dreaded. My father-in-law told me John had collapsed and died late in the afternoon on a jogging path at the university where he taught. When he was found they tried repeatedly to resuscitate him but couldn’t. He was gone. Gone from this life. Gone from my life. Gone from our kids’ lives. And gone from everyone else’s life as well.

Impossible. Incomprehensible shock and sorrow slammed me like a giant wave, catapulting me head over heels in one stunning violent motion. Our life leveled.

Within moments of the initial wave of grief, I realized I had to tell our kids. “How am I supposed to do this?  How can I tell them their dad is gone? This can’t be happening. They are too young for this. I have four kids and only two arms.  I can’t gather them all up. I can’t even hold them all at once. God, please help us.”

I stood up, numb with shock, and turned to walk into the house.
The home where John and I had lived and laughed and loved,
where our four children were waiting,
and as I reached for the door, that is when I was aware of Him.

The Lord quietly, gently spoke to my heart, “There are enough arms here. I provided people to be here with you tonight.” He was right. Some of our closest family and friends had gathered to wait with us. People my children loved and trusted. We weren’t alone.

In the days to come I marveled at how He had made sure we were together and surrounded by friends and family when we found out.

I knew He was present in our pain. He had caught us in His arms. John’s death wasn’t a surprise to Him. The Lord was with us. And, I was also confident that John was safe. The Lord had caught him in His arms too.

 Because on that night, His cross broke our fall.

 Without the hope we have in Jesus Christ, John’s death would have utterly devastated me. Instead, the free-fall of despair was stopped by knowing that we weren’t meeting death alone and powerless. Jesus had been there first. He willingly died for us so that death would be replaced with eternal life. He knew a day like this would come and we would need Him.

The whole world needs Him because everyone faces death.

In the midst of the pain of that night, there was undeniable comfort and hope as death and faith met face-to-face. Somehow, even now, the best word to describe it is holy. The Lord provided Jesus Christ to take on death so we didn’t have to face it alone on March 8, 2012.

You will have to face death, but you don’t have to face it alone.

14 thoughts on “The Day Life Changed

  1. Maria, dear friend, I read today’s blog several times! You are brave and gracious to share that dreadful day and moment with us. I caught myself gasping for air as I read the blog again and again. Yet, I find comfort in the end because Jesus lives and his path for all our lives will hopefully bring glory to himself!


    • Thank you friend for reading even though it brought reminders of a very painful day. Your family’s love is a precious gift to us, and we treasure the times we’ve been together before and after March 8. So glad that the Lord has written a bigger, greater story with the the ultimate happiest neverending. there is much rejoicing ahead- Maria


  2. Sweet sister…Though many lives hit an abrupt pause that night…oh how I remember that night, life stood still…breathless in fact. You are proving that in fact it is just a pause and life did not end for you and your sweet family. True life began for one and a very unexpected “new” life began for those left behind. I am so proud of you and your remarkable courage to share this tragically beautiful story that God is writing in your lives. With much love and support…


    • M- Yes, another friend also gently reminded me that life didn’t end for us: “your beautiful story is still being written (literally) and it had/has an abrupt middle.” I am glad to be living the “middle” with you and all of our family. May the beauty grow! love always- M


  3. Thank you for sharing. I remember feeling this way when the Dr. told me my mom, mentor and best friend had weeks to live. I found that “underneath are the everlasting arms”. He is Faithful.


  4. Maria, I have prayed for you and your family often, as God brings you to my mind very often. I so appreciate you sharing your heart and your discovery that God is there to meet you in despair. He has such a deep, eternal desire to love us. May you sense that as you move through your days and make decisions for your children. What a sweet reunion we can anticipate one day!


    • Laura- thank you so much for praying for us. The prayers of so many are evident in our lives, and it is humbling. Looking forward- Maria


  5. Maria,
    Thank you for sharing your story here. God is continuing to reveal Himself to all of us through John’s death as you share the experience here. It is so encouraging and uplifting to hear you testify of the Lord’s faithfulness even in your darkest hour of grief. Much love to you, friend!


    • Jeannie- Thank you for your encouragement! The Lord has been so beautifully faithful every step of this journey. Even in the hardest places, there has always been grace given. May our story encourage others to trust that they will see His goodness & be held by His love no matter what life brings. Much love back to you! Maria


  6. Maria
    Thank you for the heartfelt message. You are brave, strong and courageous, sharing your story. You and John were the last friends we saw in Richmond before we moved the next day in July 2011. Alice and I miss you all and the Sunday School class you and John led at Swift Creek Baptist Church. You are in our prayers continuously. God bless you all with much love.
    In His grace,


    • Mike- Thank you for reading our story. I remember that moving day for you all. The Lord has helped you all bloom where you’ve been planted (despite the cold harsh weather!). May the Lord keep you all warmed by His love- Maria


  7. Dear Maria,
    This is an inspired beautiful piece of writing. Truly words from the heart; full of God’s love and the pain of loss. I feel blessed to have met you and your wonderful husband who took the time to pray for me in my time of need.


    • Nita- I remember our time with you in Bar Harbor, especially the prayer time. You, dear lady, have quite a story of your own! May the Lord continue to give you grace for each day and awareness of His steadfast love- Maria


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