The year is 2008. I am in my late 40's with three children. The oldest is a recent college graduate and employed, the youngest is in high school; and the middle child, who I’ll call Jan, who had suffered a disease in infancy that caused severe brain damage, at home with me. My husband and I have recently completed the construction of our home in the mountains of Central Mexico, in the spot he, starry-eyed, had promised to build me a house one day while we were dating. People are always pointing out how my husband of 27 years looks at me, and how much he loves his family.
One more child to get through college then the "relax, pay-off years". We talk about a motorcycle with a specially-made side car we'd have built, so that the two of us could travel with Jan. It would always be us three. We'd invest in that little home on the beach and retire someday. Things were going to get easier soon, and we'd finally be able to get some help with Jan and enjoy our time together. That trip to Europe, maybe, for our 30th anniversary? I feel immensely blessed and so grateful to God!
One morning, we've had our coffee (always clink the cups together before drinking it) and are joking around and getting ready to go for our daily walk. We hear a crash and run upstairs, to find our poor angel, Jan, face down in a pool of blood, having suffered a Grand Mal seizure. We rush her to a private hospital.
Fast-forward roughly two months. In our kitchen, my husband and I cling to each other in tears. I remember exactly where we stood; his shirt, his cologne. We have a large hospital bill to pay, and no one will insure our daughter now due to her condition. My husband suggests it's time to return to the U.S. where Jan can again get the insurance and benefits that are non-existent in Mexico. I would come back first while he works on selling our home, and when it has sold, he will join us. My heart aches. I don't want to leave him or my home, and pray that the house will sell quickly.
Once back in the States with my daughter and son, I begin the arduous task of getting reestablished. I miss my husband terribly and adjusting to life back home after 15 years abroad is more difficult than I ever could have imagined. Knowing that, soon, he would be with us, and we'd have a new home and a fresh beginning together, helps to keep me moving forward.
The house is taking a while to sell. He informs me he is going to open a small business just to " keep busy and out of trouble" while it is on the market. Months go by. I say I want to come home, that somehow we'll find help with Jan and I can go back to teaching English there. Things would be hard financially with our son in college in the States, but with God's help, it would work out somehow. There were always loans, if need be.
He always has a reason why we have to "be strong and wait a little while longer."
Then, on a warm and rainy Wednesday night, as our children sleep, I get an email. He wants out.
How to describe the feeling of it? It is a sudden rush of acid searing through the tender, innermost being; piercing, barbed tentacles that anchor around the heart. Oppressive, terrible fear and disbelief. The future becomes a priceless, hopelessly smashed vase on the floor; and the past is questioned, all in an instant.
Months follow with little food or sleep. It gets to the point that I can feel my body consuming itself, but cannot swallow food. Constantly dizzy, it is difficult to breathe. My whole body shakes constantly. In my work as a school teacher, there are times when I cannot control the sudden tears; so make up an excuse about a cold or allergies. In the grocery store, lost (we had always shopped together), the tears would come. Suddenly, out of nowhere, at any time and place, the brokenness grips my heart and escapes in liquid form.
How can this be my life?
Fast forward to the nightmarish, blurred day in a room full of strangers, standing before a judge. A lawyer I barely know says, "My client asks your Honor to grant her a divorce as her husband is living with his girlfriend in Mexico. That is correct, is it not?" I cling white-knuckled to the counter between me and the woman who, with a word, has the legal power to sever the sacred covenant into which I entered years before and to which I’d given my all for nearly three decades. The room spinning, I can only muster a barely audible, "Yes". The shame and loss I feel are indescribable.
Rebuilding. Having no desire to rebuild. Depleted of strength; in a fog. A strange home with strange sounds in a strange town. Trying to look "okay" and not worry others. My empty ring finger is deeply indented, a reminder of The Promise Broken, and it is somehow embarrassing to me. I wake up alone; prepare only one cup of coffee. Many people either turn away (not knowing what to say? Simply busy with their owns lives?); or they say things they think could be helpful, but sadly that’s not the case. While I’m sorry for her loss, I find no comfort, no camaraderie, hearing the details of your hairdresser's horrible divorce. I can only focus on surviving right now. Breathe in, breathe out. Get through the next day. The next minute. Life’s problems roll in and there is no back-up, no "emergency contact". In the physical, there is only me. Sickness, injuries, home repairs, blizzards, storms, a constant vigil on our...or, now, apparently, my daughter. Just me. Jan searches the house for daddy and dissolves in a puddle, over and over. He is not here. I bathe her and put her to bed every night, and the house is silent. I do not know how to be this person. I don't want to be her.
The crushed hearts of our children! One evening I find my son, in college now, in our dark living room, his face shiny with incredulous, angry tears. His words: "I always thought I was one of the really lucky ones." There are Jan's outbursts after chasing men in public places, thinking she has seen her father, only to be disappointed repeatedly. Our eldest daughter, living in the same city as a man whose body looks just like the one her dad had inhabited; helplessly watches him openly flaunt his new life, new business, new money. Her voice on the phone saying, "He is a completely different person, mom. You had no choice but to do what you did...". She sounds broken; as if her world has stopped turning. My helpless mother's heart aches indescribably for them.
No wonder God's word warns so direly of infidelity! He who created us knows too well it will harm not only the person who enters into it, but will also mercilessly crush the innocent who happen to stand nearby.
Many things have happened on this journey. I want to share a few, in the hopes of inspiring others that God will help you get through very difficult times. First, I have spent a lot of time in prayer and sensed God's presence repeatedly. A wise man told me to ask Him for signs that He is near. I have, and He does. Once, I came home to a strong scent of cinnamon, which holds healing properties. No one had been here, and there was no source to explain the presence of that fragrance. Another: I have two sets of pictures. In one, a bright light from Heaven appears where a shot taken seconds before shows only the grey, winter evening on a dark country road. In another, in a secluded area with no wind, a strong whirlwind of snow is seen. I saw neither of these events in the natural. Some have to do with numbers that repeatedly show up and looking up Bible verses with those numbers, to find that there are those that directly apply to my situation. There are many more examples I could list. Ask God to give you your signs that He is near!
A few years have passed since the world my children and I lived in shattered. Slowly, our hearts have healed. To this day, there are sights, sounds, and places that stir memories that sting. However, the waves of grief over the erosion of what could have been no longer surface as before. The pain and anger have lost their grip. God has put us in a place where peace is possible. He has cared for us, provided for us, kept vigil over us. He’s brought great people into our lives. I no longer wonder if we’ll ever be “okay” again, because we are! My hope and faith are in our loyal God, in His Son, our Savior, Jesus; and in our Comforter and constant companion, the Sweet Holy Spirit.
Ours is a God who bestows crowns of beauty and not ashes, restores the years the locusts have eaten, brings peace in the midst of the storm and strength to the weary. These are His promises. They are to be read, written down, learned and taken to heart. Also, the Internet is full of positive, affirming messages that uplift and bring hope.
I know now that I have been shielded, in many ways, from further hurt. God's will is not for any of His daughters to live life being dishonored by a man who made a sacred promise to love, honor and cherish her; and refuses to do so. I can now see clearly that God was in the future and prepared a safe place for me and my grown children.
"...Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." (Ps. 30:5)
I trust this. I trust HIM.