I’m almost at the one-year anniversary of Beth’s death. June 1, 2016 would have been our 29th wedding anniversary, and June 5 is the first anniversary of the day she died.
I know that I promised to write more about her here, with the intention of eventually publishing a book about her life. I may not do that right now. I have to preface this by saying that, in order to write about this sort of thing, whether I’m recounting good memories or bad ones, I have to open myself up to all of the feelings of grief again. I’ve reached a point at which those moments of grief are fewer and farther between, but it is still possible for me to feel the raw nerves just as acutely as if it had just happened yesterday.
A second factor, though, is that, I got to a point at which I’d have to write about some things that she herself found very bitter and unflattering. I’m not sure that I want to (or have the strength to) get into those kinds of things. Yes, I spent a great deal of time researching them. I had some basic outlines, which she told me early on. Now, having access to her letters and other papers gave me the ability to follow up and fill in some gaps. There are reasons why they were always “gaps” in her story. The information that I found about her teenage years and early 20’s was both highly unpleasant and highly unflattering.
With that said, a year’s worth of grief is a fair amount of time with which to come to grips with this kind of loss. If you’re reading this, it’s likely you know me, and you know that I believe fervently that God is sovereign, and that he is in control of all the events of our lives. That our lives are a part of a much larger tapestry, designed to reflect His glory in the world. And that a key component of that tapestry is that the dark fabrics provide the contrast that makes the Glory shine all the more brightly.
Those “dark years”, when she was a runaway (for her, ages 14-26) – she was a pretty little teenage girl who had been sexually abused – those years featured many of the elements you might expect in a bad story line – drugs, prostitution, multiple “boyfriends”, some of whom were abusive; a child out of wedlock, for whom she was ruled in a court to be an unfit mother; she was always able to make friends, and she made some very good friends, but she also encountered a line-up of individuals ready and willing to take advantage of her. Apart from the abuse, she was a kind-hearted individual, and there were many who took advantage of her, in many ways.
But she was also moody and angry – was that an inherited trait, as her father had intimated to me? Or was it a defense mechanism she acquired? I don’t know, but in either case, she failed to be able to deal with her anger and rage, and it was a hurtful force in our family.
She came to see marriage both as an ideal and as a way out of the mess she was in. And I was the nice guy that God put into her path. Early on in our life together, I came to see my role as picking up the pieces for her. There were many consequences from her “dark years” that I encountered, both early on and throughout life.
My pastor noticed, at a particularly troubling time, when he was in our home, that I had a photograph of Beth, as a child, as the “desktop” image on my computer (it’s the photograph that’s here at the top of this article). I told him it was the only way that I could make sense of those “dark years” – that I saw my role, as one in which I was called to “do right” by that little girl. To help provide salve, while God enabled His own kind of healing to occur.
In some cases, it never happened. Almost till the day she died, she was exhibiting the same kind of childish and irrational anger that drove her on as a runaway.
But my pastor got to know Beth very closely, from many, many trips to the hospital, many episodes of tears and prayers. It was he (among others) who shared the Gospel with her and who shared her joy when she came to understand the freedom and the joy of the Gospel. Beth died knowing that Christ died for her: that he had forgiven her sins, and had provided her with His own righteousness. When she left me, here, on the bathroom floor where she died, the next thing she saw was the Glory of the Lord – “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” – it was the end of the bewilderment for her, and the beginning of an eternity where everything is right.
And at the funeral, at the conclusion of his eulogy message, my pastor comforted me with the thought that I had been a part of that – “I’m here to tell you today, that you did right by that little girl”.