[*This was originally written soon after my wife died in 2008, but there have been several deaths lately within my church and local community, and I felt compelled to post it here as a reminder to those who have the power to make a difference… if they just step up when needed.]
I never realized the depth of love a man could reach until I loved Karen — than lost her to a cruel combination of cancer and an auto-immune disease called “Wegener’s Granulamatosis Vasculitis.”
Seventy-five percent of the blessed years Karen was in my life she was, sadly, fighting for her life. And after such a lengthy battle it might be assumed that the remaining mate would have been prepared for what the medical profession called, “the inevitable.” — Especially since I had stayed beside her through every ordeal, and eventually became her live-in caregiver for the last several months of her life.
However, no amount of preparation could have prepared me for the depths of grief that overwhelmed me at Karen’s passing. I was literally inconsolable.
Having given myself totally over to Karen, as she did with me, we had discovered why God’s word says, “they are no longer two, but one.” And when Karen went to be with the Lord, I felt that part of me had also died.
The situation compounded after Karen’s memorial service, when family, friends, and church members left me to deal with this extreme grief alone. No calls or visits for weeks on end.
I was going through the worst emotional pain of my life, and having to do it without any support.
As a partially disabled Veteran who, at one time, used to pick up dead bodies for a living, I thought I knew how to handle grief. And I had already lost friends, along with my father, whom I loved dearly. But nothing could reach me through the grief of losing Karen. It was an emotional bottomless pit, and I just kept falling.
No hands to hold, no shoulders to cry on, no ears to listen. As if family, friends, and the church body each equally adhered to society’s image of how a man should act: even under the most stressful conditions.
Perhaps it was because they knew I had grown up on the violent streets of Los Angeles, was an ex-recon scout, an ex-stuntman, and an ex-private investigator who had seen my share of stressful situations. Maybe it was because like most men in this society, when others were near me, I put on the standard mask of little emotion.
However, as soon as I returned to the home Karen and I had shared, no wall, shell, or mask could hold back the torrential rain of tears. I could not turn in any direction and escape her presence. Nor did I wish to. Every house plant she had grown, every craft she had made, and every piece of clothing she had worn invoked precious memories, which only served to remind me of my great loss.
So-called specialists in the secular arena claim men do not know how to commit to relationships. But they are wrong.
Karen and I had become one, like God intends a man and woman to be. And when that relationship was severed the only thing capable of bringing me back from the depths of despair was the only like-minded relationship available, God’s totally committed love for me.
It was still no easy task, but God was willing to love me back every slow and painful step of the way. And I’m eternally grateful.
However, let me challenge you to not leave everything to God alone. We are to be His hands as well. And it’s not easy in this society for a man in pain to reach out. So please, look beneath the masks of men (and women as well) in their time of grief and take steps to support them when you can.