On November 28, 2011, we received a phone call that forever changed our lives. My husband, Paul, was told the horrific news that he had stomach cancer. I will never forget that moment of sheer terror and disbelief. Within two weeks of receiving that phone call, Paul had numerous scans, met with doctors, and had surgery to completely remove his stomach. The surgery was only the beginning of our 14-month battle.
In addition to all the physical things my husband had to endure, we had to endure all those horrific emotions. It was horrible to watch him suffer and feel so helpless. I was so afraid. I didn’t want to lose my best friend. I didn’t want my children to be fatherless, but…I didn’t want him to suffer. There were constant conflicting emotions. It was brutal, at best!I will never forget the day we were told the fight was over; it was time for hospice. I didn’t want to stop fighting. I didn’t know how to stop fighting.
I will never forget the day we were told the fight was over; it was time for hospice. I didn’t want to stop fighting. I didn’t know how to stop fighting. It was all so surreal to hear that we were done…to hear them say my husband had about a week to live. My sweet husband fought long and hard. He passed away in February 2013.
After Paul died, there was such emptiness in my heart. There are no words to adequately describe the pain I felt. The emotional pain became so intense that I also felt physical pain. Not only was I grieving, but I had grieving young children as well. I wasn’t sure if this could be done. You aren’t supposed to lose your spouse when you are young…you are supposed to grow old together. How do I raise two young children by myself? How do I go on?
When you lose someone you love, you have two choices.
Either you let it consume you and overtake your life,
or you fight with all you have and you keep going.
I chose to fight! I chose to be strong! I chose to thrive not just survive!
In my fight to survive, I have discovered that Serving and Gratitude are helping me to win the daily battle! Immediately after my husband died, I was asked to serve as president over a group of women in my church. Most people thought this was a crazy thing to ask of someone who had just become a widow, but for me it became my salvation. I quickly discovered that through serving them, I was forgetting my own troubles and was actually being blessed in my own life.Part of my new responsibilities included making sure the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of the women were being met. I quickly discovered that through serving them, in addition to my children, I was forgetting my own troubles and was actually being blessed in my own life.
After Paul died I had wondered if I would ever feel happiness again. I felt as if my “happily ever after” was more of a “happily never after”. Dieter F. Uctdorf reminds us, “Enduring adversity is not the only thing you must do to experience a happy life…How you react to adversity and temptation is a critical factor in whether or not you arrive at your own “happily ever after.”- Your Happily Ever After, Ensign, April 2010.
Dieter Uchtdorf also said, “Everyone’s situation is different, and the details of each life are unique. Nevertheless, I have learned that there is something that would take away the bitterness that may come into our lives. There is one thing we can do to make life sweeter, more joyful, even glorious. We can be grateful!”-Grateful in Any Circumstances, Ensign, April 2014.
I testify that we can and should handle adversity with as much gratitude as possible. Even though it may be difficult, and sometimes feel downright impossible, it is possible to find things to be grateful for in any circumstance. I would like to share with you a few things I have learned to be grateful for during my adversity.
I am grateful for cancer. I am not going to lie…cancer stinks! It turns your life completely upside down. The terror you feel when you hear that your loved one has cancer is something I never dreamed I would experience. It is so very hard to watch the one you love so much, suffer so much…but…
Cancer can also be a blessing. Cancer is a teacher. It teaches you patience, love, compassion, humility, charity, gratitude, and many other things. One of the most important things that cancer taught us is to rely on our Heavenly Father.
I am grateful Paul was healed from his cancer. I know that sounds like a strange thing to be grateful for, since he no longer possesses his mortal body. But, was he not healed from his cancer? He is still alive and well…only in spirit form. He is no longer suffering.
I cannot say I am grateful for Paul dying, but I can say I am grateful for all the things I have learned because of his death. When you go through a trial of this magnitude, you are driven to your knees. You rely completely on a loving Heavenly Father. You learn to have greater faith, greater spiritual knowledge…a greater understanding of life. I wish I could be who I am now, but still have him here with me. However, I know that would not be the case, it is because of his death that I am a stronger, better person. It is those excruciatingly painful trials that we grow from the most!
Being grateful does not and cannot eliminate all pain and suffering, but it enables you to find some joy in life in spite of the trials. I believe where the most growth and strength of character can be developed is by finding gratitude in the sweetness that can come because of the bitter.
Each day my children and I discuss at least one thing we are grateful for. Some days it is as simple as toilet paper. But as we talk about the things we are grateful for, we feel our moods change and we become happier.
Yes, I had and still have my moments. The beginning of the grieving process is so brutally painful. You don’t know how you are going to make it. This process is a day by day thing…sometimes minute by minute…sometimes second by second.
Trust others who have walked this path before you.
You will make it! Don’t give up! You can do this! You will feel joy again!