Over two decades ago I said goodbye to my husband Gregg after his 9-month battle with cancer. He was a good man who loved Jesus and all four of his girls – me and our three daughters.
Late on a Monday evening we were watching ER – back when we watched TV in real time. Gregg was about to head out on a guys’ ski trip and being quite the competitive jock, he was stretching. I’ll never forget when he reached up under his arm and discovered a super tender area. I just found out I was pregnant a few days prior with our third daughter. Savannah was about to turn 3 years old and Madison was 10 months old.
The ski trip came and went as did multiple doctor visits before we heard the diagnosis- metastatic melanoma. The tender spot under his arm revealed several lymph nodes eaten up with cancer. As an oncology nurse, I took care of adults and children with cancer for years. Now it was time to take care of my husband.
As Emily grew in my belly, Gregg’s cancer relentlessly grew, spreading to his liver. We induced labor on one of the weeks when Gregg didn’t have a chemo treatment. He got sick that day. While I labored with a Pitocin drip, he was on the oncology floor receiving IV fluids. Emily came into the world and completed our family of 5!
A few weeks later he suffered a grand mal seizure. I called 911 and even as an RN, I could barely remember the safety precautions required. I thought he was dying right there. The ambulance rushed him to the closest ER and ran tests. I’ll never forget walking into the room as he pointed up to his forehead. Nodding his head, he told me the cancer had spread. He lived only a few more weeks.
My friends and family helped me plan a funeral while I breastfed my baby. No one could believe at 35 years old he was gone. Daddy. Husband. Friend. Coach. Son. Teacher. Youth pastor. And perpetually happy, handsome, otherwise healthy guy.
I’m no hero or super strong person. I was just a regular mama of three baby girls. 100% seen, carried, loved and cherished by my Father in heaven. He told me -not like out loud weirdo style but just in my heart- He heard every prayer those nine months. He saw every tear. He chose me to be the mama to three little girls who would lose their dad. We were in the palm of His hand…He’d never leave me. Never leave Savannah. He’d never leave Madison. And never leave Emily.
And He’s been faithful and true and good. He is worthy of our praise; and our praise is a weapon we use against an enemy who’d love nothing more than to take us out or at least leave us in bondage to fear, anger, and bitterness.
We honor Gregg’s life. We celebrate seeing him again one day. And I will always choose to be thankful for a God who is close to the broken hearted and leads those with young ones.
Three years after Gregg’s diagnosis, almost to the date, God scripted the most beautiful story, beyond anything I could have imagined. He does that. He takes our broken and holds it in his hands and creates something brand new. He’s a master storyteller and brilliant artist. Who else can take our ashes and create something brilliantly full of life? I prayed for immeasurably more for my girls but had no idea what could possibly unfold.
Three years later the girls and I walked down the aisle and married Dan. He took a knee and vowed to cherish them as his own…and love me with a radical, tender, ridiculously loyal love. Good gracious! On the back of our wedding program I shared that the same faithful Heavenly Father who was with me as a bride that beautiful spring day, was the same faithful heavenly Father who was with me as a widow on that chilly fall day. We are never alone. Never forgotten.
As a groomsman in our wedding, Dan was one of Gregg’s very best friends. Every day goes I am blown-away thankful for this man who I love with everything! We’ve seen God’s faithfulness and kindness to us in the most beautiful ways both during those days of feeling so lost and vulnerable through today.
Recent years are full of much change and more awaits us. My first born, Savannah, married her high school sweetheart. I tell everyone he really is the tangible evidence of God’s faithfulness. I’ll never forget giggling to myself, great with child, just weeks before giving birth to Savannah and praying for her future spouse. Those few years as a single mama I came to Him so many times asking for a godly man for each of my girls. Trevor is the immeasurably more this mama asked of the Lord. They came home from their honeymoon and the next day drove off in a Penske truck across the country to their new life. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss them.
My sweet Madison moved into her own beautiful apartment. She’s grown into such a lovely young woman, so kind and fiercely loyal to her family. She still has the brightest blue eyes that she had as a baby. Our Emily who was a newborn when Gregg passed looks just like the biological daddy she never knew. Following both her daddies, she will graduate from University of Georgia with a degree in early childhood education. And the beyond my imagination gift the Lord gave Dan and I was a fourth daughter two years after we married. I suffered two late first trimester miscarriages, so our little double rainbow baby is nothing but a delight. She graduates from high school and will head out on a mission-based gap year to India, Thailand and Guatemala. I’m very excited for my little blond baby but this stage is so bittersweet.
Dan was diagnosed with colon cancer and this year we celebrate four years since being cancer free. God is abundantly faithful. We’ve been broken but our hope comes from Him. He’s our refuge and ever-present help in trouble and the joy in my heart. I will always praise His name. He’s been a good, good Father!
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
Follow this link to read more stories about God’s faithfulness during loss