The sun was shining. As I sat in the VW campervan my soon-to-be husband had chosen as our wedding transport, I felt the emotion come in waves. I felt blessed, overwhelmingly so.
That day, as I travelled towards the church where I’d become his Mrs Davies, I couldn’t contain the joy and excitement of beginning married life together. The tears welled up in my eyes. I knew what it was to love and be loved. What had I done to deserve this beauty?
As we stood at the front of the church, my emotions overflowed and I was not alone. In front of me stood the man I loved, the quantity of excitement and joy in him mirroring mine, though with less accompanying water in his eyes. This was the next step in the adventure – Mr and Mrs! There was no going back and neither of us wanted to.
Life was good, so very good. For every taste of perfection and unity that we’d known before we got married, we knew it a million times over as man and wife. Life together surpassed all expectations and we knew intimacy whether cuddled up together or doing DIY in our project of a house.
Blissful days together turned into meaningful weeks which in turn became purposeful months, but there weren’t to be enough of them. An accident. Just five months and three days after uttering “till death do us part”, death did just that, it parted us. Without warning, widowed at 27.
Having spent months preparing to become Ems’ wife, I’d become his widow in a tragic second. There was no time or preparation adequate for this journey. All the dreams we’d shared, shattered. Suddenly I was living my worst nightmare.
“Had you talked about what he’d like for his funeral?” asked the undertaker – my life was to become a minefield of ridiculous, unanswerable questions. Of course we hadn’t. He was 25, we were just starting out – widowhood was for people in their seventies and eighties, wasn’t it?
Life was upside down, inside out. All the things that used to make sense didn’t anymore. I had no taste for food or even life, simple things like getting dressed in the morning became huge challenges. I just wanted to be in heaven – to see Ems again yes, but also to escape the horrendous pain that each new day brought.
In the months that followed I would have to learn how to walk again, how to cope with day-to-day life while carrying around a gaping hole and the ridiculously heavy weight of a broken heart.
Never had my faith brought up so many questions, yet at the same time become all I had.
Learning to walk again seemed an impossible task. What do you do when the bottom falls out of your life? When you’re left alone and your heart has been smashed to pieces? “Guard your heart” we’re warned for good reason – when your heart is in complete brokenness, life is beyond difficult. But this wasn’t anything I could have guarded against.
My husband, my best friend, gone. Everything changed for the worse. I wanted to run away but I had nowhere to run to where my grief would not follow.
I didn’t believe I could ever feel any better. I knew hope that I would one day be in heaven, but had little hope of any day until then being any easier than the complete desperation I knew.
God’s promise to be “close to the broken-hearted’ got me through the day, but His promise to “heal the broken-hearted” was something I’d have to wait for heaven for – wasn’t it?
Every morning I’d wake again to the reality that he wasn’t there. It wasn’t just a bad dream.
“God, you’re going to have to help me through today,” I’d whisper through the tears. Every night when I fell into bed at a ridiculous hour, I would soak my pillow with more tears. The day may have been agony, but God had been there.
“You don’t deserve this,” said a friend. The words hit me. Just as I hadn’t done anything to deserve the beauty of my relationship with Ems, neither was this about what I did or didn’t deserve.
From the start I knew that, horrendous as it was, this must be about something much bigger than us. Asking “why?” was a futile waste of energy but knowing that there was an answer, even if I didn’t know it, gave me peace and purpose.
The strength that would be mine as time went on wasn’t through any training of my own but through the tear-stained surrender each morning. Living one day at a time, I would slowly see glimmers of purpose as God allowed my brokenness to reach out to others. Though a world away from life before, once that purpose became more important than my comfort, I would learn to live again.
Not even the grave could conquer my experience of knowing what it is to love and be loved. And now I know that, like in the back of that campervan on that beautiful day, my eyes can again well up with the anticipation of a brighter day and the adventure ahead.