It is difficult to sum up the days following Beth’s death. Redefining our family and carrying on has not been easy. The kids are stronger than I am and have been troopers dealing with my shortcomings. Birthdays and holidays have been noticeably different. Halloween, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Brian’s birthday, and New Year’s were days to celebrate and cherish those she left behind. She always made certain that others were the center of attention on those days and she worked tirelessly to see that family came first.
January 4th, however, was about us. Our wedding day. On that day for the past 14 years, we celebrated our marriage. We did not share the attention with anyone else, because it was about us. Sounds selfish, but I prefer to call it personal.
I did not look forward to January 4, 2012.
The two days prior to our 15th wedding anniversary, I was angry. Bitter. Resentful. Everything ugly and damaging that comes with grief hit me out of nowhere. All of it was directed towards God.
How could You let her die? Three centimeters. Three centimeters of cancer took her from me and You did nothing to stop it. Healer? Great Physician? Where were You? All of this pain, all of this grief is Your fault because You didn’t stop it.
All of the blackness melted away on the morning of our special day. I felt His love and forgiveness flood my heart as I sat and cried to Him. Not tears for what I have lost, but tears for my anger. He did not want her to die. It was not His fault. Certainly, I do not understand her death, but I trust that God will bring beautiful things out of it.
I decided to spend the day celebrating her life, particularly our marriage. Weeks ago, the church staff lovingly packed her office and told me I could collect her belongings whenever I was ready. January 4th seemed like a good day.
Carrying the boxes to an isolated part of the church, it occurred to me that if someone wanted to know who Beth James really was, all they had to do was look through the boxes I was carrying. Some of the contents would need some explaining, but all of them spoke of who she was.
Over the next few months, I will be sharing who Beth was in a series of posts. All the posts will be inspired by what I unpacked on Wednesday, January 4th, 2012. I have decided to title the series: “From the Desk of Beth James.”
My journey through her pictures, notebooks, journals, drawings, and keepsakes was one I will not soon forget. The day I dreaded the most since her death became the best day of grief. I could not have asked for a better experience.
At the end of the day, I wrote the following:
God, thank you for January 4th, 2012. This was a day that I did not look forward to, but it was a day that you created, and I will be glad in it. As I looked through these boxes, I was reminded of her strength and courage. Her unyielding spirit and compassion for children will live on in these mementos, pictures, and journals. You used today to remind me of why I fell in love with her and married her fifteen years ago. Oh, how I wish I knew in those moments what I now know. Those years were precious and fleeting. Her life was much too short, but was filled with more love and devotion to You than any life that has ever been lived.
Thank you for my marriage. May she live forever in my heart because she loved You. Help me to continue loving Brian and Emily as much as she did. I want to see them the way she saw them. Let them never forget their Mamacita. One day, they will see how much You meant to her. They have already begun to follow in your footsteps. I can see in them a compassion for their friends and a desire to teach others how to make Jesus the Boss of their lives.
I will never forget that day last week. It changed me. I cannot wait to share with you what made my bride so special.