Diane came to our group in her early days of loss. With two preschoolers, life required her to move forward as a parent alone, even though she was feeling consumed and overwhelmed with grief. She shared her story. Yes, we wept with her, hugged, and prayed.
She and her husband, Jerry, had just experienced the miracle of the birth of their second child just months before Jerry was killed in a tragic biking accident. One day she was delighting in their growing family with her athletic healthy husband. In one evening, everything changed. Diane was suddenly left not only as the sole caregiver of a four year old and a newborn, but without the love of her life.
It was hard enough for her to get out of bed at all after suffering such a devastating loss, let alone waking up for 3am feedings. She experienced many emotions. Shock, denial, and grief were intense and rocked her world. Left completely alone and extremely overwhelmed, Dianne relied heavily on the help of family and friends.
LIFE AFTER LOSS:
Joyce Rosensteel entered her life, became a wonderful friend and mentor, and introduced her to the widows’ group at her church. Besides coming to the group, they took long walks together, shared family events, and met for coffee or icecream. While Diane would say that Joyce has brought her strength and friendship, Joyce declares that Diane is a huge blessing in her life. Comforting each other has strengthened them both. Yes, Diane considers it a huge blessing to be part of a group of women who provide her comfort and reassurance. We see her already reaching out to the young widows who come with understanding and great wisdom.
Milestones in Diane’s life include vacationing in Disney World as a family of three. She intentionally honors Jerry by talking about him with her children and telling them about the person and Dad that he was.
As we got acquainted, I wanted to make sure I pronounced her last name right. She gave me a precious key to pronunciation and insight into her love for her children. She simply stated that her children are her ‘two rubies.’ Indeed they are!
As she taxis to soccer games, parents, and grows in her faith and strength, one recognizes that God is investing in this precious family.
Diane’s words today, “When I began this journey I was feeling all of this, consumed and overwhelmed, but my faith in the Lord guided me through with his strength and this verse is one I really cherish and realize how true it has been through my grief journey.
You will pass through deep waters. But I will be with you.
You will pass through the rivers. But their waters will not sweep over you.
You will walk through fire. But you will not be burned. The flames will not harm you.
Immediately following the accident, her church community and friends and family pulled together to support her and the children by providing meals and household services. Through this experience, she developed some deep new friendships, but also experienced some old friends pull away. A significant moment for Shannon came the first Thanksgiving after the birth of her third child. Traveling to be with family, while rewarding, was exhausting. That night after tucking in her three little ones, she came to this recognition: “I’ll get through this, I’ll be O.K.
LIFE AFTER LOSS:
Three years after Jay’s death, Shannon prayed that she would someday remarry. Not long after, a friend from church introduced Shannon to her brother, Greg, and after dating five weeks, he proposed. They were married within a few months and were blessed with another child who completed their family. They both know without a doubt that this was all God’s plan for them.
“God blessed me with an incredible life, with an incredible man before, but it doesn’t end there with these life changes; tragedy and sadness...He brings you again to a spot that you think you’ll never get to”
~ Shannon Broling
I met Shannon when her household was brimming with their four children, three in their teens, and a very active young foster child as well. She exudes that calm spirit of a woman who knows all will be well. God’s plan is not always easy, but its good. Shannon’s journey is proof.
Her favorite verses today are James 1:2-4
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
I have not met Cheryl personally, however, I think her life and continuing walk of faith is an example to us all. I’d encourage you to read her book “Beauty Beyond the Ashes.” Howard Publishing Co. 2004. This is taken and used with permission from From Stories of Faith and Courage from the Home Front by Karen Whiting and Jocelyn Green. Copyright © 2012, God & Country Press, an imprint of AMG Publishers. All rights reserved.
Forgiveness at the Foot of the Cross
Cheryl McGuinness’s husband, Tom, had been a copilot on American Airlines Flight 11 when it was hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City. At that moment, Tom was ushered into heaven, which gave Cheryl and her two teenagers great comfort—but the loss was still piercing.
In July 2002, Cheryl left her Portsmouth, New Hampshire, home and went to New York City for the first time since the terrorist attacks. Reluctantly, she made her way to Ground Zero and scanned the gray pit of devastation splayed out in front of her. Her gaze fixed upon the only steel structure left standing. It was in the shape of a cross.
How can you forgive what man has done? she silently cried out to God. How can you forgive this evil devastation and destruction?
At that moment, she felt as though she were kneeling at the foot of the cross on Calvary instead of standing at the edge of Ground Zero. The weight of her own sin against God and others pressed down on her, until she felt God speaking to her: “I forgive you, Cheryl.” Suddenly, she thought, God knows the full extent of the evil committed on 9/11,because that evil was done to him as well. . . . The rebellion of man put him on the cross. Not only the men involved in the hijackings but all of us. I put him there.
The Day Life Changed Forever
Ten years ago this very day I woke up thinking it'd be like any other day, but I was a widow by suppertime. It's hard to believe it's been ten years. On one hand it seems like only yesterday, on the other it's like a lifetime.
I was in the kitchen making a salad for supper.
"When's dinner?" Bruce asked.
I was floored. I arrived home before the segment ended and I just sat in the driveway to make sure I heard the entire story. Work consists of serving in the United States Marine Corps. I am the father of two (a teen and a preteen), one of whom is adopted. Since June of this year I've been the primary Caregiver for my elderly parents who are showing signs of dementia and for the past 8 months I've been a widower. Even as a male I identified with much of what Mrs Neff had to say. I notice that many of the people that I tell my story too just clam up and disappear. It's as if the details are too overwhelming. One person was honest enough to admit that he both didn't know what to say to me and didn't know how to face my circumstances so he didn't talk to me anymore. I appreciated his honesty at least. It has been an incredible journey which I find myself on now. One of the comforts I have is that my wife knew the Lord Jesus as her savior and I was able to tell my children that as much as she loved them even if she could come back, having experienced heaven and God's presence, Mommy wouldn't want to. Heaven is that good. Thank you for a great and timely program and I look forward to hearing more from Prime Time America and seeing more from Mrs. Neff. I'll be logging on to her site with great interest. There are many of us widowers with needs as well. Some match what she described, but others I think are subtly different.
Signed- Jo Rozier Isaiah 40:11 -Moody diploma class of '84 My wife was Deltha Rozier (Jefferson) -Moody degree class of '89
And so I connected with Jo Rozier. He passed along the emails he sent his friends on the journey through his wife's illness and departure to heaven and a few months afterward. How I could relate! Those special days, the first Christmas, first Father's Day, or Mother's Day for widowers, each is hard. While obviously I write from a widow's perspective, you can see we're not exclusive here. Thank you, Jo, for writing to me, for being transparent. I know that many will relate to your heart. While I have condensed his story you can not miss that this career Marine is a tenderhearted man of God.
Jo Rozier’s Story HERE
Reading Judy Stremler’s story, you see a faith filled woman beginning her life as a widow and mom to five children. In 2005, Darrell Stremler entered heaven.
In 2008, Bob Venhousen’s wife, Sherri entered heaven leaving him to parent their four children.
On January 2, 2010, I delighted to attend the wedding of Judy Stremler and Bob Venhousen. Their picture tells the story: nine children and now a new daughter-in-law ages twenty five to nine, a blended, blessing filled dozen!
Their new shared life verse says it all.
Psalm 115: 1 “Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.”
Read Judy's story HERE
I first met Christy in Colorado Springs, Summer 2012. She had just moved into her new home with sons Landon, Caleb, and Joel, ages 12 to 3. She hosted a group of military widows. I had the humbling honor of listening to their stories, and their unique needs. Yes, we laughed, cried, and found we had some things in common, though the military experience is truly unique. At her lower level, these young widow’s children romped and played. The city was under pre-evacuation warnings due to wild fires, but we took little notice. We were connecting, I was learning, and they were eager to share so others could gain comfort from their journeys. Here’s a bit of Christy’s story.
When Christy Goetz’s pastor husband, Dale, first mentioned the idea of becoming a military chaplain, she said no: “I love you! I don’t want you going over there and getting killed.” But when Dale broached the subject again six months later, she responded, “Honey, if this is what you want to do, who am I to stand in God’s way?” He signed up in 2004.
On Wednesday, August 4, 2010, Chaplain Capt. Dale Goetz sent the following e-mail to Christy in Colorado Springs:
I’m now in Mosel, Iraq and don’t have the same communication flexibility I had a few days ago.
Christ is the focus. I was able to lead another soldier to Jesus last night. It was cool. I am all pumped up. God is answering prayer in awesome ways. The man had attended a parochial school and church, and I explained to him the substitution of Christ for our sins, and it clicked for him. Only 299 soldiers to go! I’m asking big and will let God decide how many he’s going to save. I aim to be faithful in sharing Jesus. I’ve got a song in my heart through the day and night. God has given me boldness unlike ever before. I’m pumped just typing about it.
I will try to send an e-mail every few days while I’m here, but I’ll be moving forward to another place in a couple days or weeks. God knows when that will happen.
People think I’m crazy or stupid for praying for a six-month deployment, and I keep reminding them never to doubt God.
This was Dale’s second deployment to Afghanistan and one that he had volunteered for. His enthusiasm to share God’s Word with the troops, as evident in this e-mail, had been what compelled this former pastor to become a chaplain in 2004. Though military life wasn’t easy, both Dale and Christy were convinced this was exactly where God wanted them to be.
Prayer: Lord, help me keep my focus on You, and to trust in Your plan for my life.
“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord is the Rock eternal.” ~Isaiah 26:3-4
The Best Place to Be
“I’ll be moving forward to another place in a couple of days or weeks,” Dale had e-mailed Christy. “God knows when that will happen.”
On August 30, 2010, Chaplain Dale Goetz did move forward—to heaven. He was killed by a roadside bomb, making him the first chaplain to be killed in the line of duty since the Vietnam War.
When the news met Christy at her home, she opened the door to find a chaplain in blue and a soldier in green. Her knees barely held her up.
“Mrs. Goetz?” one began.
“May we come in?”
A moment passed while Christy grappled with what was happening. “Can I touch you?” She touched them to make sure they were really there. “Is he gone?”
“The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away,” she said. “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Inside the house, they told her what happened. Her mind reeled, trying to imagine how she could possibly break the news to her two sons who would be arriving home from school shortly. (Her thirteen-month-old son was taking a nap.)
Ten-year-old Landon came in first with a cheerful “Hi, Mom!” Then, seeing the soldiers, he said, “Was Daddy killed?”
Moments later, eight-year-old Caleb came running in, stopped, and asked, “Daddy was killed?”
“Boys, I need to talk to you,” Christy said, pulling them close. “Where’s the best place to be?”
“Heaven,” they answered.
“That’s where Daddy is.”
Today Christy and her sons miss Dale intensely, but she still trusts in God’s plan. Before Dale deployed as they sat at the kitchen table, he had told her, “When it’s our time, it’s our time. And we need to live to the glory of God.”
And though she hated the idea of losing him, she agreed. “That is why we live,” she later said in a Focus on the Family radio broadcast. “To glorify God and enjoy him. And with all of the disappointments and losses that I have gone through, I can still say my God reigns, He lives, and He will see me through.”
Prayer: Lord, You reign. Help me trust You to provide in all circumstances.
“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.” ~Revelation 19:6
Message of Peace
After Dale’s death, a fellow military wife shared with Christy a comforting e-mail her husband had sent to her just after Dale was killed. He wrote, in part:
I talked with Dale yesterday . . . Something was different in him. I could feel something in the air when he was around. At first when he said hi, his eyes looked a little dark and down. Then we started talking about God’s Word and the goals that he had set for God’s glory. Three hundred soldiers to come to know him, ten to start to work for God in a six-month deployment. He began to glow with a huge smile on his face. When he was telling me, I felt like he was asking for help with this mission, as if he was not going to be able to finish it.
He was also very excited about the service he had held that Sunday morning. He had preached the gospel without holding back. He talked about what a real Christian is and how to really follow Jesus. Then he changed the subject and said that when we were in the States, it was easy to love and pray for our enemies. But being here, it’s not easy. How are we supposed to pray for the person who wants to kill you? The person who’s setting the bombs on the road for us to die? It’s hard. We need to pray for them to see Jesus. They are lost, and do not know what they are doing . . .
[Dale’s assistant] told me that Dale knew that he was not going to be home again. . . . In the morning before they got on the road, Dale told him that he felt at peace, and he knew everything would be okay. Hearing those words helped me a lot. I know that Dale is now in heaven and his family will be okay.
There is praise and worship for God in heaven, and now Dale is there enjoying every second. Today is a day of joy.
Prayer: Lord, remind me how full of joy my loved ones are who have passed into eternity in Your presence.
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.” ~Revelation 19:7
(From Stories of Faith and Courage from the Home Front by Karen Whiting and Jocelyn Green. Copyright © 2012, God & Country Press, an imprint of AMG Publishers. All rights reserved.) Reprinted with permission
Hatie’s story is a departure from those you see here. She entered heaven decades ago. Grandma Hatie was an intriguing lady. She and Grandpa lived with us during his illness, and she lived with us much of her widowed life, which was probably 30 years. During the years I knew her, I listened to stories about her life in rural Kentucky, her thoughts on the Hatfields, her suiters, as she called them, and how she taught herself Algebra and Geometry. We never really talked of her widowhood. I was a young mother when she died, and probably consumed with parenting my little brood rather than considering how her life changed when she lost Grandpa.
Her greatest gift for me (and the rest of us) was not discovered until after her death at age 97. She left a sturdy suitcase packed with a few cotton dresses and talcum powder. These words were crowded efficiently onto three small sheets of paper.
The Abundant Life of Hatie McCoy
Some things I have done and helped to do
All kinds of farm work, including plowing, hoeing, ditching, grubbing, mowing, binding, and cutting grain by hand; stacking wheat, oats, and hay; threshing by hand with a flail made of hickory bushes, breaking and training young horses and mules, feeding and taking care of farm animals, blacksmithing and shoeing horses and mules’ clearing new ground and burning off same, sawing down trees and helping split them into rails, posts, boards, and shingles, making spokes and ax handles, hauling rails and building miles of rail, and other kinds of fences including stone fence; digging post holes, making gates, bars, doors, swing, splitting, and hauling wood; making barrels, wagons and wagon beds; building dry kilns of stone, and drying pears, apples, and peaches on same; laying foundations, erecting and moving buildings; painting, digging cellars, carpentering, making maple sugar and syrup, also sorghum, stripping, cutting, and hauling the cane to the mill. Taking wool to the carder and spinning the rolls into yarn, weaving, filling quills and shuttles, winding and reeling the yarn into hanks and skeins; cutting carpet rags and helping to warp and put the carpet chain through the sleys’ braiding and knitting rugs, stockings, socks, and mittens; crocheting, embroidering, tailoring, knitting lace, and doing all kinds of sewing including millinery; mending shoes. Taking wheat and corn to mill on horseback, making soap and lye hominy, butchering, rendering lard, curing and canning meat and making sausage, smoking the mat after curing, with hickory chips and corncobs, Grafting and setting out trees, general orchard work, making cider and vinegar, apple and peach butter, jams, preserves canning, making jellies, all kinds of pickles, relishes, sauces;gathered wild fruits, berries, ginseng, wintergreen, yellow root, and herbs. Raising poultry;beekeeping, assistant P.M. clerk in a department store, housework, nursing the sick and washing and dressing the dead. Hunted and trapped wild animals and game birds. Gathered nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, butternuts, chestnuts, chinquapins, hickory nuts, and beechnuts. Market gardened and taken many ribbons and prizes at “fairs” and “farmer’s institutes’ on fresh and canned fruits and vegetables, pickles, jams, butters, and relishes. Made comforts, pieced and quilted quilts, picked ducks and geese and made a featherbed and eight pillows. I have cooked with hot coals on the hearthstone with skillet and lid, on woodstove, coals stove, gas and electricity. Made and studied by the light of tallow candles, oil lamps, and electric lights. Rode on horses, mules, and steers;in sleds, wagons, buggies, carts, sleights, carriages, buses, street cars, trackless trolleys, autos, areo trolley cars and railroad trains (locals, freights, and passenger) drawn by coal, oil, and diesel engines; in rowboats, a ship on Lake Michigan and an ocean liner on the Atlantic.
Much in her list we would simply say was grueling labor--she saw it differently.
One senses she was as fully alive on that horse carrying grain to market as on an ocean liner. And I don’t know how she managed that as she rarely had extra dollars. We saw a widow living frugally. Her perspective was full out adventure.
I sense that Grandma Hatie was much more than met the eye. And that, no doubt, sustained her through her life which was often hard, her marriage, and her years of widowhood as well.
Psalm 49 reminds us to not be overawed when folks grow rich with splendid houses, because none of us take anything with us when we die. Indeed Grandma Hatie gave us an amazing gift: an example that abundance is not in our collection of stuff, whether riches or titles. But rather in taking on the tasks of life seeing them all as worth our investment. Abundant living indeed.
I have not met Kerri personally, however, I think her story is important to us all. What a woman of courage! This is taken and used with permission from From Stories of Faith and Courage from the Home Front by Karen Whiting and Jocelyn Green. Copyright © 2012, God & Country Press, an imprint of AMG Publishers. All rights reserved.)
Kerri Hartwick, wife of Chief Warrant Officer Michael Hartwick, Iraq 2005–2006
Michael and Kerri Hartwick were high school sweethearts. They married during their senior year of college and then decided together that he would join the military.
“His dream was always to fly,” said Kerri. “He loved airplanes, anything that flew. I was supportive.”
Mike served in Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania and Iraq as an Apache helicopter pilot for the Army. In November 2005, one month before he would deploy a second time to Iraq, he arranged a “powwow” with Kerri.
“We each took a day off of work, and the kids were in school,” remembered Kerri. “He’d been deployed before and knew the risk factors. We should have done this before; maybe this was a God thing. But he made sure we sat down together and talked about everything we needed to discuss in case he would not return—from finances, to who he wanted to be pallbearers, who he wanted to speak at the funeral, and where he wanted to be buried. We talked about where the kids and I would live, his thoughts on me remarrying. We discussed everything. It was hard. He put all our finances and insurance information in a binder for me. I didn’t know then what a blessing that would turn out to be for me.”
When Mike deployed, Kerri prayed the same prayer each night: “Lord, if you bring Mike home safely I will praise you for keeping him safe. If you have other plans for him, you need to prepare my heart because I won’t be able to do it alone.”
“I didn’t have a premonition,” she said. “But God put that in my heart that I needed to pray that way.”
In speaking to their children, seven-year-old Tanner and ten-year-old Haley, Mike never promised he wouldn’t get hurt. He said he’d do his best to stay safe.
“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).
Prayer: Lord, prepare my heart for whatever you have in store for me.
April 2, 2006
Kerri Hartwick, wife of Chief Warrant Officer Michael Hartwick, Iraq 2005–2006
Sunday, April 2, 2006, dawned clear and bright in Belton, Texas. Kerri and the kids were looking forward to the battalion Easter egg hunt planned for that afternoon when the phone rang.
“Kerri, have you heard anything about an Apache helicopter crash?” It was Mike’s stepdad in Missouri.
“No, I haven’t,” Kerri told him. “If I hear anything, I’ll let you know.”
Kerri and the kids went to the egg hunt as planned, then to church before heading home. It was 5:45 p.m. when they pulled in the driveway. While Kerri and Tanner stayed outside chatting with some neighbors, Haley ran into the house.
“Mom,” she said, rushing back outside. “There’s a message on the answering machine that said, ‘Kerri I’m sorry to hear about your family. I’m on my way down.’”
Instantly, Kerri knew. Pulling her neighbor aside, she said, “Can you take the kids into your house and shut the blinds?”
“I’ll explain later. Please take the kids.”
Once Kerri’s neighbor returned from getting the children settled in the house, she inquired again about what was going on.
“Was there a car in front of my house today?” Kerri asked her.
“There was a helicopter crash and Mike has been killed.”
Five minutes later, the notification team was in Kerri’s home, confirming what she already knew: Mike had been killed in action the day before. She fell to her knees, in shock.
“One thing I had prayed was: ‘Lord, if Mike gets killed, I pray my children won’t be here when I hear it. I don’t want them to see me or to remember the men in the green suits.’ Because God answered that prayer, I was able to walk over to my friend’s house after I gained my composure and tell Haley in a loving way what happened to her dad. Then Tanner came in, Haley held him and I told him, too. Even though it was the worst day of my life, I said ‘God is so good because He answered my prayers.’”
“But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds” (Psalm 73:28).
Prayer: Lord, help me see your goodness even when my vision is clouded with pain.
Kerri Hartwick, wife of Chief Warrant Officer Michael Hartwick, Iraq 2005–2006
The next day, Kerri received a mysterious phone call from the detachment.
“Please do not watch TV or go on the Internet,” the officer told her. “We need to come out and see you.”
Kerri agreed. What could this possibly be about? She thought. I wonder if they screwed everything up and it’s not even Mike who was killed.
When the detachment came, they asked her to sit down.
“I’m sorry to tell you that there’s a terrorist-created video of them pulling someone from a helicopter,” they said. “It’s all over the Internet and television.” The footage was so unclear that viewers could not identify the face or even if the man was wearing an American uniform. Still, there was a chance it could have been Mike.
They searched her face, bracing themselves for any number of emotional reaction, but they weren’t expecting Kerri’s response.
She laughed. “Is that it?” she asked.
“Yes maam, it is.”
“Mike’s soul has already gone to heaven,” said Kerri. “I don’t agree with what they’re doing, but if that was Mike, it was just his body. They’re not bothering him any little bit.”
When they were gone, Kerri mused, Funny—I was up all night searching the Internet and never saw that video. Still, she banned her kids from the TV and Internet for two weeks to make sure they wouldn’t see it either.
Kerri and the wife of the other co-pilot who had been killed agreed that they would not say anything about it, not acknowledge it on TV during any interviews. “If you respond to that video, you would give glory to what is evil,” explained Kerri. “Glory is to go to God.” The two wives asked TV stations to pull the footage from their programs, and they agreed.
To this day, Kerri has not seen the video and the kids are not aware of it, either. “God protected me from seeing those images, and I’m not going to go looking for them,” she said.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
Prayer: Lord, help me dwell on your goodness rather than the world’s evil.
Kerri Hartwick, wife of Chief Warrant Officer Michael Hartwick, Iraq 2005–2006
As Mike’s funeral date approached, Kerri had more on her mind than just honoring her husband’s life. She had three specific prayer requests on her heart, which she shared via a mass email: 1) safety for the hundreds of people traveling, some from around the globe; 2) good weather to allow for the Apache helicopter flyover as planned; and 3) that if a group of war-protestors crashed the funeral as they had planned, that they would either go home quietly or that Haley and Tanner would feel more support from the attendees than anti-war sentiment from the protestors.
The day of the funeral, April 14, was a beautiful day, and everyone arrived safely, including family, friends, 198 patriot guards, and emergency vehicles from five counties who participated to pay tribute to Mike’s service. The protesters came, saw how many supporters there were, and decided to go home.
“God tested my faith with the threat of the protestors, but ended up providing,” Kerri said. “I could have gotten ugly and argued about it on the Internet, but God took care of it in his own way.”
When Kerri, Tanner, and Haley arrived back home in Texas after the funeral, another blessing was waiting for them. As Kerri pulled the mail from the mailbox, a glimpse of familiar handwriting made her heart stop and the tears begin to fall. Stuck between bills and catalogs were two postcards addressed to Tanner and Haley, written by their dad on April 1, 2006—the day he was killed.
“On Saturday, April 1, we had been hoping for a call from Mike but didn’t get one,” said Kerri. “The kids wondered why he didn’t call. With these postcards I can show them that their Dad was thinking about them the day he died. God is so good. I just bawled when I pulled these postcards from the mail. How could someone question whether God was present?”
“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you, he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (Isaiah 30:18)
Prayer: Lord, thank you for showering us with blessings that demonstrate your compassion for us.
Reaching Out Kerri Hartwick, wife of Chief Warrant Officer Michael Hartwick, Iraq 2005–2006
Five months later, Mike’s good friend prepared to deploy. Kerri promised to take care of his wife if anything happened to him.
On Feb. 2, 2007, he made the ultimate sacrifice with his life while serving in Iraq. Now it was Kerri’s turn to reach out and provide the support that she once needed; she spent two weeks with the new widow.
“I had to watch her struggle with who should be pallbearers, where she should bury him, whether she should have the funeral on post or in a church,” said Kerri. “God showed me how blessed I was to be able to know I honored Mike in the way he wanted me to.”
During the first year after Mike’s death, Kerri spoke on a monthly basis to casualty assistance officers, sharing her story of how her first casualty assistance officer mishandled her case, but her second casualty officer went above and beyond to help her. In the local community, she helps civilians learn how to help military families now that parents were being deployed every other year.
Currently, Kerri volunteers and speaks to soldiers about how to prepare families in the face of tragedy. She is also the military ministry chairperson for her church, First Baptist in Belton, Texas. She keeps track of all military families in church and checks on them to see how they’re doing and where they are in the deployment cycle. She’s coordinates Military Family Nights Out, during which the church provides dinner and child care for children so the parents can get out. She also works with Veterans Fellowships, where soldiers and veterans of all ages get together. Both ministries are open to any active duty families in the community.
“People ask me how I can still be in the military community, serving them,” says Kerri. “After fourteen years in, you can’t just leave. This is my family.”
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3–4).
Prayer: Lord, show me where you want me to minister using the experiences and insights you’ve given me.
1. Please do stay connected. There is already a huge hole in our universe. Do not assume we need ‘space’ to grieve.
2. Please do say you are sorry for our loss. We would rather you tell us you do not know what to say than tell us your story of loosing your friend or even close relative We may be able to listen to your story later, but not now. Do not tell us you understand.
3. Do call and ask specifically, “Can we go for a walk together? May I run errands for you? Meet you for coffee? Do not say, “Call me if you need anything.”
4. Do refer to our husband’s acts or words—serious or humorous. We are so comforted by knowing our husband has not been forgotten. Do not leave our husbands out of the conversation.
5. Invite us to anything. We may decline but will appreciate being asked. Do not assume we no longer want to participate in couples events.
6. Do accept that we are where we are. Marriages are brief, long, healthy, dysfunctional, intense, remote. Death comes suddenly or in tiny increments over years. Again our experiences are so different, as are we. So is our journey through grief. Do not assume we go through the outlined grief process ‘by the book.’
7. Walk the talk. Do not make ‘conversation only’ offers. “We’ll call you and we’ll go out to dinner.”—and then not follow up. Yes, we are sensitive in our grieving, but we’d rather hear you say, “I’ve been thinking of you.” than make a ‘conversation only’ offer.