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Empty Nester

by Edd Lawhon - May 28, 2020

We all know what an empty nest means. That’s when a fledgling will jump out of a nest, from where it has been protected all of its young life, and then eventually goes on to soar to great heights all on its own.

We, as parents, can relate to this when our children leave home. When they go off to school, get married, go into the military service; any one of these things can fall into the empty nest category.

However, when we get up in years and a spouse dies it is a totally different thing. While when your children leave, you expect that they will return, which they will from time to time, but when your spouse dies; it’s instantaneous. They are gone, and will not be returning in this life, although, every day you wish they would.

After many years of marriage, my wife Renie became ill with kidney and liver failure. To complicate matters, she fell and broke her hip. After the complications of surgery, the kidney & liver issues caused additional problems with her blood. It wasn’t red enough or white enough. Not enough platelets and her immune system wasn’t able to maintain her health.

During this process, we celebrated our 52nd wedding anniversary. Actually, she had her second hip surgery on that day. The first was over Valentine’s Day weekend. She said she wanted something expensive so she got the new hip (she didn’t really say that), and that’s what she got.

She never recovered from these surgeries, but during the process, we had some wonderful deep discussions about what I should do and expect after she was gone, where she was going and how I was to handle this stage of “empty nest” without her.

Because of her close relationship with her Savior, Jesus Christ, she was confident of the HOPE we have in Him. She knew she would just step away from this earthly life into eternal life in the twinkling of an eye.

During our many conversations, I told Renie that as soon as Jesus stretched out His hand, for her that she should reach out and go with Him. What a blessing that I was able to be with her when she was transitioned from my hand to His.

Phase 2

Well, that’s phase one of my being an empty nester. The second phase came as quite a shock to me. After being single again, which was more difficult than I had expected, I began calling and rekindled an old friendship with another lifelong friend; Carole Steeves. She and Renie had been each other’s best friends their entire lives and I had known them both since I was 7. We had grown up in Sunday School and church youth groups. I had married Renie, Carole’s best friend and Carole married, George, my best friend.

Carole’s marriage to George had failed after 25 years of marriage and he had passed away a few years ago.

What started out as a Sunday afternoon call, soon evolved into a daily call and after a few months, we discussed my coming for a visit. I had never been to South Carolina and thought it would be a great chance to get away. So, we planned on my coming back for a three-week visit.

Well, at the end of the third week, I left and left her with an engagement ring. Who knew???

Three months later, on July 9th, we were married in the Forestbrook Baptist Church in Myrtle Beach S.C.

We left for Camano Island to begin our Honeymoon & new life together.

Two months into our marriage, we discovered that Carole had Pancreatic Cancer. Several sessions of Chemo took place and her health continued to diminish.

Our initial plan was to spend summer & autumn on Camano Island and fall & spring in Myrtle Beach. With her health deteriorating and all of her physicians being in Washington we hadn’t made it back to Myrtle Beach.

We were about to begin another regimen of Chemo and decided that since nothing had made an improvement in her health, we’d try going to Duke University in Durham N.C.

So, we headed back to the east coast and had some testing done at Duke U. These results proved that the cancer had spread to her liver and the prognosis was not encouraging and only more chemo was prescribed. Along with that, a decision had to be made; whether we wanted quality or quantity of life.

Since her strength & health had diminished, we decided at that point, that quality of life was more beneficial. But, as it turned out, there wasn’t a lot of quality left to be enjoyed. Although she didn’t have to endure the Chemo treatments, her health continued to decline, and after about six weeks, she passed away quietly in her sleep.

Just as I had told Renie, I told Carole that when Jesus reached out His hand, that she should take it and go with Him.

It’s never easy to let go, especially when we had had only been married for sixteen months.

Grieving Alone

I am blessed to have a wonderful church family. Renie told me that I should let our church family help me with the grieving process. Neither of us realized that Carole would be helping me through the grieving process and ultimately would continue with grief upon grief with her passing as well.

Being that I have two church families, Camano & Forestbrook, they have come along side me to support me in ways I can’t explain. I am being loved with the love of God that enables us to hold tightly to one another in times of grief.

I attended a ‘Grief Share’ class, at Camano Chapel, with several others who had experienced the loss of a spouse or someone close to them.

This was very beneficial to me as each week we were able to share our grief with one another. Our leaders were exceptional with their leadership. We all grieved in our own way.

Ray Prichard, a good friend of mine gave me some great words of wisdom about death:

“Here is a parable for the Christian life. In the beginning there is light enough for each step we take. As we walk with the Lord, the light grows brighter and brighter until the light shines so brightly that we simply walk from earth to heaven. I think (though I can’t prove this) that death for the Christian is only an earthly event, that we simply pass through the portal into the light of God’s presence and we don’t even realize what happened until we are standing in the presence of the Lord.

Here is the joy and paradox of the Christian view of death: When we die, we will be more alive than we’ve ever been because we are finally and forever with the Lord.” What a simple explanation of this passage into eternity.

Bottom Line

So, what is life like after losing two wives in just two and a half years? Well, it hasn’t been an easy journey. But with the faith that God has created in me and the love that surrounds me, I’m able to cope with the loss. I have moved on and He has given me a new direction as well as new friendships, along the way, to fill the void.

Daily Prayer and bible study, helps me to stay focused for the direction God has for me. And as I walk hand in hand with Him each day, seeking His will in my life, I am strengthened by His Love.