He had me there. So I did as he suggested and although I'm not crazy about the long drive to the desert, I always enjoyed being with my husband and I began to feel my mood lift a bit. When we finally reached Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, we didn't even have to stop at the Visitor Center to inquire where the flowers were blooming the best. We just followed the line of cars. We had to park in a quite illegal spot so I could get out to take photos, but I didn't care. I was dumb-struck. I'd lived in California since I was sixteen. I'd been to the springtime desert more than a few times. But I'd never seen it like this.
From the very beginning, Jim always had my back. When our first baby died shortly after birth, he laid his head on my hospital bed and wept to the point I wondered if he'd be able to stop. We spent a long time crying together and consoling one another, and then he picked himself up, made all the funeral arrangements, chose a lovely pink dress that had been a shower gift and delivered it to the mortuary. By himself he chose a tiny white casket and a burial spot in a beautifully kept cemetery and then made the arrangements for a family-only graveside service.
All without me. For whatever reason, the hospital refused to discharge me. Something about my being too unstable emotionally. As upset as I was with them for keeping me, they did allow Jim to come every evening and sleep in the bed next to me. It was empty, they said. But if they needed it, Jim would have to leave. He stayed with me the whole seven days, never once leaving my side except to go to work and always coming to visit during his lunch hour. As upset as I was with the hospital, I have to say that they tried to make amends. There was never any charge for Jim to stay with me and sleep in the empty bed. I have always been grateful for that.
with my son's
seems to be mis-
placed at the
|For some reason I|
never understood, our
daughter hated having
her picture taken and
fought the whole
experience. Just look at
that face and you'll know
the truth of my
I say again: He always had my back. Whether I was depressed or sick or maligned or simply angry with another person. He was always there for me. Not once that I can remember did he ever try to get me to see the other person's side. Or to tell me that I was making too much out of so little. Does that mean he was the perfect husband? I don't think there is any perfect husband. Or wife either. Yet Jim was slow to speak and seldom lost his temper. Unlike me, the chatter-box who said everything that was on my mind and lost my temper at the drop of a hat. But that's another story.
I so vividly recall the morning I was making breakfast and our son, now a tall teenager, was in the kitchen, giving me a bad time about something or another. To both of our surprise, Jim popped around the corner, grabbed our son by the back of his shirt collar, lifting him partially off the floor and said, "Who do you think you're talking to? That is your mother and I don't ever want to hear you speak to her like that again. Do you understand me? Now you apologize." I think both my son and I stood there with wide eyes. Our son because he'd been caught and me because it was so unlike Jim to lose his temper. To this day my son, now into his fifties, has never again been disrespectful toward me. I think Jim put the fear of God into him that day.
It is in remembering those stories and more that there came the day when I once again set myself in Jim's big recliner, bible on my lap, tissues at the ready, and called upon the Lord for help. Jim had always been my protector, always shielding me from everything he could. Who now would take care of me? I asked. I admitted that I had been spoiled by love and while I am a capable person who has no trouble making decisions, I had always known that Jim was behind me, that I could count on him, and now that I was bereft, what would I do? I no longer have a husband, I cried. I no longer feel the security of his physical presence.
How do I go on alone? I sobbed. My kids are grown and have their own lives. My grandkids are mostly adults, with jobs and their own futures to tend to. I don't know how to be alone, I moaned. I sat in Jim's chair for a long time, pouring my heart out to the Lord, crying, sobbing, and asking for the help I knew I needed if I were to have any sort of life from then on. I told Him I felt as though I'd been dumped into an arid desert devoid of anything beautiful, an ugly, wasteless expanse inhabited only by things that slinked or stung or crawled or bit.
I remained in that chair a long time. By then the tears were dried up and no more to cry. One thing I really did learn during this widow experience is that I really can stop crying. There are only so many tears and after a while, they cease. At least for a time. I felt drained to the marrow of my bones. It was then, when the sobbing was finished and my energy exhausted that it came into my mind to look up what God had to say about widows. I'd not done that before and had no idea what scripture said.
I learned a lot in the next few days. I've been a Christ follower for most of my adult life and have always known He was there for me. Yet I also knew that the Lord gave us people with skin on to be our helpmates, our protectors, and our cloak of covering. I'd always known that to be one of God's children was precious in His sight. Yet what I found out is that to be a widow calls forth protection from the Lord that goes over and above anything I would have expected.
I discovered 129 scriptures concerning widows. I learned the God would now act as my husband, not only caring for my needs but measuring others by how they treated me. Nearly every scripture had "widows and orphans" listed as one, and it occurred to me that those are the people whose voice is ignored, for they are mostly invisible to the world at large.
God has promised the believing widow that He will defend her in every way. Psalms 68:5 says "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation." Deuteronomy 10:18 says "He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow..." In Exodus 22:22 it says "You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If you afflict them in any way and they cry out to Me, I will surely hear their cry and my wrath will become hot..." Psalm 146:9 says "The Lord watches over the strangers. He relieves the fatherless and widow." Jeremiah 49:11 states "Leave your fatherless children. I will preserve them alive; and let your widows trust in Me."
God's instructions to the church, as well as the world we must live in are clear. Isaiah 1:17 says "Learn to do good, seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow." James 1:27 says, "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble...In 1 Timothy 5:3,5 it says, "Honor widows who are really widows...Now she who is really a widow and left alone trusts in God and continues her supplications and prayers night and day."
I have long been aware of God's listening ear, his arms of comfort, and the fact that He runs to my defense. I've witnessed those attributes throughout my walk with the Lord. What I realized now was that without a husband to protect me, care for me, and defend me against all odds, God holds me closer to His heart, taking care of those things that had so long been Jim's scriptural duty to me as his wife.
Although I felt no different after my study of widows, I told the Lord that I was willing to learn. I've trusted Him most of my adult life and could honestly say that He had never let me down. Having God act as my husband was a new thought, yet I knew He always kept His promises, for Jim and I had always found him faithful. I prayed that God would bring me out of that awful desert I felt trapped in. That I might begin to laugh again. That I might have some semblance of joy in my life.
There are two scriptures that I've long loved. Both seemed so appropriate to this time of my life that I got my bible so I could read them again. Isaiah 35:1 says "...and the desert shall rejoice and blossom like a rose. It shall bloom abundantly and rejoice; even with joy and singing." And Isaiah 43:18, my particular favorite, says "Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert."
Only God could have known that years and years later, I would need the remembrance of that day Jim and I saw the desert in full bloom. Truthfully, I'd forgotten about it until the images stored in my mind began emerging and it was then I knew for certainty that someday my life will bloom again. I will keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how long it takes, to come out of this valley of grief and into a place of indescribable beauty. Knowing Jim as I did, I am certain that is what he would want for me.