Heartbreak

How I Coped After My Husband And Father Of Our 10 Kids Died From A Cerebral Aneurysm

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woman crying in grief

I have traveled, and probably will till the end of my days, down a road rough with the debris of a broken heart. I am only two and half years down this road and it still stretches out before me like a ribbon of cracked, baked, highway through an interminable desert.

You see, I lost my beloved husband of 37 years on Thanksgiving Eve 2019.  He died in my arms of a ruptured cerebral aneurysm, so suddenly and unexpectedly on that silent snowy night on a mountain in Maine.   

I watched his dear, warm, life slowly drain from that now worthless body, and make his way to our beautiful eternal home in Heaven. 

I was not ready to let him go, though.  I screamed and screamed into that breathless night, begging him to come back, though I honestly could not have wished that for him. It was only for me; for me and the 2 littlest Gordon girls who knelt by my sides, one under each of my arms, quivering from the nightmare unfolding before us.

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I wish I did not have to say this to you, but a journey on this terrible terrain is inevitable for all of us, for we all will suffer the greatest loss of life; that of our most beloved. The loss of him tore me apart as Siamese twins separated without the essential organs of the one remaining for the other to survive.

Scott was the culmination of all I had imagined, dreamed of, and prayed for, bursting onto my reality when I was 26 years old and had begun to doubt his existence. 

He was the best, kindest, wisest, gentlest, and most loving person I have ever known and if I had room, I would add innumerable more glowing adjectives. 

I had a crush on him from the moment I lay eyes on him mowing his lawn next door to my friend Wendy's house. When our eyes met and locked in that instant, we fell in a love that lasted for 37 years.  Still, every moment, I yearn to go back and relive all those fairytale years we had together.

Perhaps you have already experienced this inarticulate, searing, pain. Perhaps you are experiencing it now. Perhaps you know you will have to face this in the future. I pray these words will become stalwart support for you and me both, as you realize that you are never alone, crazy, or hopeless. 

God is always by your side, holding you and crying with you, as well as we who travel alongside you on separate but parallel paths. You just need to reach out your empty hands and you will feel other hands touch yours with warmth and strength, in this fellowship of mutual suffering called grief.  

I never thought the unrelenting, excruciating pain would end, nor did I believe I could survive it, for the first almost 2 years.

Grief varies from person to person but I have heard it said that those who love the deepest, grieve the longest. It will never be erased from your heart, but you will find that somewhere along the journey, there will be moments of sunshine breaking through the heavy, cold, rain clouds evidenced by your ability to smile again, at some sweet memory. 

I kicked against the goad repeatedly until my stabbed and bleeding heart was forced into moving forward.  When people would say foolish and painful things like, “it’s time for you to move on”, you will want to kick them because you will never ‘move on.'

You won’t want to. But you must move forward, for time relentlessly marches on, and you will march reluctantly though most assuredly, with it.  

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Some wise people will, however, just sit quietly by your bed, or walk in silence by your side, and cry with you, through the innumerable days that stretch out before you. 

So many good, caring people will stand around you as you find yourself in the middle of a mostly frozen pond and watch it begin to fracture around you from the enormous weight. 

They try to step out onto the pond to reach you, but it only exacerbates that fracturing ice. 

The words I used to describe the first year of my terrible sojourn in the book I wrote The Missing Scott Chronicles were so raw that I could not even read it myself for a year after it was published.  It was straight from the depths of the bleak, deep, cavern of despair I lived in. The impossible struggle to live each day, and find some rest each night, was insurmountable. 

It never stopped hurting; the relentless stabbing of your heart day and night, and the subsequent deluge of tears that were my constant companions. 

How I wished someone could crawl into my being and help me carry the herculean burden of pain. As time went on, I began to realize and embrace the truth; that as in the poem, Footprints in the Sand by Margaret Fishback Powers, I had been carried the entire time.

Scott and I had adopted 10 wonderful children and our 3 youngest girls were still at home when the only good father they’d ever known died. We were older when we adopted these 3, so terribly hurt, little girls, and it seemed so unfair that they’d only had this dearly beloved, long-awaited, Daddy for 8 years.

Later I realized and shared with them that I’d been given the most wonderful man as a husband, and they’d been given the most wonderful dad; and even though time is always shorter than we want it to be, many people will never ever have the gift we’d been given in this man. 

I was not the strong surviving wife that I wished I could’ve been for them. I was a quivering mass of some jelly-like substance that found myself making them breakfast, taking them to school or activities, or reading them a bedtime story in automation that resembled living, but was actually barely existing.

You do not think you can do it; that you can take even one more step. My mind was a befuddled place of dark, swirling fog so thick that I could not work, think, reason, or speak like a ‘normal’ person would do. 

I felt like an old, abandoned, dilapidated house, and every blast of the icy wind lashed at me through the broken chinks in my walls.  

But as time begins to walk me further and further along this blindingly dark and cold road, I found that there were tiny fragments of light piercing my darkness.  At first, I was unaware that this was the light of the hope and future God had promised me, and I had vehemently doubted it. 

Slowly I became cognizant of a rare, sweet, memory of Scott causing the edges of my lips to turn upward; a direction they had not taken since he died.

I could see his handsome face with those gentle brown eyes, gazing deeply into mine so lovingly. I could ethereally touch the soft skin of his cheek, and run my fingers through the silkiness of his perfectly coiffed hair and it brought happiness and only tears of joy. 

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The companionship of grief’s pain remains with me always, but it is tempered by time and eased by the now sweetness of memories.  It has taken me almost two and half years to get this far, and I have my life yet to bear alone.

Things happened concurrently along the trail of tears I am walking, which has made it a more arduous journey than even this profound of a loss, should have. Our family fractured and the further cruel and tragic deaths of our old and beloved pets left me bereft of all my idealistic dreams and imaginings of my future. 

I am older and thus, the magnitude of these further losses is more difficult to reconfigure.  Instead of being surrounded by the loud, loving, chaotic gatherings of a huge, extending family, I find myself living quietly and alone in a pretty little apartment. 

Children come visit and I visit them, but now I am truly a retired widow on her own. 

God, however, is healing the pain and shielding me from further onslaughts, while he tends to my wounds. He is opening the door to a bright but very different future as I tentatively step, day by day, into it

It will not be the future I dreamed of. 

It will not be the future I planned. 

It will not be the future I want but it will be good and beautiful in its own way.

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As a Christian, I still yearn to serve God in this world while I remain here. I will open my broken heart to the brokenhearted and in doing so, will facilitate the healing of my own further. 

I plan to return to Jamaica, where my littlest daughters are in a wonderful school for tragically broken children, and stay to serve the lost, lonely, and poor in that phenomenally beautiful country with its dear people. Don’t stay in that dark place when your day comes. You must struggle to stay alive. 

When the despair and grief have eased just enough for you to feel that tiny shaft of the sun touches your face, get up, and start walking into the brave, new future. 

And as you begin to live again, make each moment count for eternity, and for you. 

Janie Murray Gordon is the author of The Missing Scott Chronicles.

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