It was a wonderful day when I married my college sweetheart. He was everything I wanted in a husband; handsome, athletic, good sense of humor, committed Christian, etc. He was a school teacher and tennis coach, who loved to make others laugh, and so people were drawn to him and his magnetic personality. We became Youth Group leaders at our local church and spent lots of time with high school students. Eventually we started a family and God blessed us with 2 little girls.
May 27, 1989, started out as any another Saturday when we awoke and had breakfast with our girls. Megan was 3 and Kristin was just 9 months old. My husband, Rick, grabbed a piece of strawberry pie before heading out the door. He and one of the students from our Youth Group were going to do some painting on the church exterior. It wasn’t long until a storm was brewing on the horizon and I knew Rick would be on his way home. Suddenly there was a knock at the door and as I opened it, I was surprised to see a police officer standing there who said he had some unfortunate news to share. He proceeded to tell me there was an accident at the church, something about aluminum ladders getting too close to power lines and that two people were electrocuted. One of the people was identified by my minister as Rick, and the other was the student from our youth group. I was in shock as I heard the news along with my two children. The funeral was held at the local church and people lined up out the door and down the street to greet our family. I know God sustained me that day as I greeted hundreds of dear friends, including my husband’s 4th grade students. My heart was broken and I wondered about the God I loved who allowed such a thing to happen. My daughters were very young, so Megan did not understand for some time that Daddy was not coming home. She would ask me every day where Daddy was and when he would be home. Although I explained that he was safely in heaven with Jesus and was not coming back, she could not comprehend it, and it broke my heart to repeat it to her every day. Her Daddy was her best friend and it was difficult to watch her grieve as she accepted the reality of her loss.
November 23, 1952 – May 27, 1989
The next year was extremely difficult, but raising two little girls gave me reason to go on with life. I enrolled Megan in pre-school so she would be distracted from her grief as she played with the other children. I started seeing a Christian Counselor who helped me sort through some of the challenges I was now facing. My family and church friends were extremely supportive and helped me through the darkest of days. Soon after the one-year anniversary of my husband’s death, I put together a scrap book of the memories I had of him for my children to keep as a remembrance. As I completed the final pages of the scrap book, it felt as though a chapter in my life was coming to an end. I distinctly remember the realization that I had a decision to make as to whether to stay in this valley of grief or begin to move forward, and live the balance of my life as the gift that it truly is. And so I asked God to help me figure out what this new life would be like, and for Him to go before me.
Several years passed and I met and dated a fine young man named Bill. He was a strong person with a soft heart, and seemed to love playing with the girls, who just adored him. We soon fell in love, got married, and Bill legally adopted the girls as his own. We soon had another daughter, Brooke, who brought much joy to our lives. She was easy-going and the older girls loved playing with her. Life was good once again.
On May 1, 2003, tragedy struck again. Bill was at a routine doctor visit when the doctor discovered a large mass in Bill’s chest and abdomen. After several tests Bill was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, stage 4B. When we heard the diagnosis I cried for 2 days. Bill was trying to be brave, but I could see the fear in his eyes of his unknown future. I struggled with my faith and asked God if I had not grieved properly the first time, that I had to possibly endure my second husband’s death? But I decided to trust Him even in this, and I felt God’s peace and comfort in unexplainable ways as we traveled on this journey. As we met with the oncologist, there seemed to be a glimmer of hope that his body would respond to chemotherapy treatments. We were filled with anticipation as the tumor started shrinking and things were starting to look hopeful. But soon the treatments stopped working and Bill became a candidate for a bone marrow transplant. His sister’s blood was a match and she generously went through the process of donating her cells for Bill. As he received them we were all excited at the possibility of her cells fighting off the dreadful disease that had been ravaging Bill’s body. But as time progressed, Bill’s body did not respond as anticipated and the doctor advised that there was no further treatment available for Bill except to continue with chemotherapy for now. Over the next year, I observed Bill valiantly fighting for his life as the cancer slowly destroyed his body. On September 19, 2005, the cancer claimed his physical body and he went to be with Jesus. Once again family and friends rallied around and offered support. God provided some special friends who ministered to me in a way that only God could provide. I knew what grief was and perhaps it made me dread it even more, as I once again experienced the ripping apart of the “two that had become one.” There was some relief in the knowledge that Bill was no longer suffering, but in the presence of his heavenly father. However, I was angry at cancer and what it had done to the sweet man who I shared my life with, and how it left my children fatherless once again in their critical years.
Billy Gene Horton
June 15, 1961 – September 19, 2005
As time passed, I felt God’s comfort in a way that the world could not comprehend. My mother passed away just one month before Bill, and then my father followed 2 years later. I was feeling alone as I watched the people I loved the most pass on. God’s care was evident in the way He took care of finances by providing sufficient life insurance to provide for the girls and me. However, as the stock market crashed in 2008 and I watched half of my finances disappear, I truly felt abandoned by any earthly stability I had ever felt. God had my full attention at this point and I cried out for His help. He heard my cry and sustained me and provided for my family in a way that only He could. He sent encouragers to help me along the way. I was involved in a ladies’ Bible Study in my neighborhood and these 10 women, who gathered together with me to study God’s Word on a weekly basis, prayed for me as I struggled with my loneliness, and became my best friends. They were truly like Jesus to me as they wrapped their arms around me and loved on me like only Jesus could do.
As I look back on these difficult times, I am ever grateful for God’s comfort, peace and eventually bringing joy back into my life. In my darkest days of loneliness, He showed Himself to me as The Great Comforter. He held me close to His heart and brought healing to mine. He showed Himself as The Great Provider in meeting all the physical needs of my family. As Job says in Job 42:5, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.” I have truly experienced God in a way that I did not know before my losses and for that I will ever be grateful.
Most recently I have the opportunity to participate in the leadership of a group at my church called GriefShare. This group is composed of people who are grieving the loss of a loved one. We meet weekly to learn about grief; what to expect and how to handle difficult circumstances relating to grief. It has been a wonderful experience for me to walk along side others in grief and encourage them on their journey.
And last, but not least, God has blessed me with another husband. We were introduced by someone who said he “felt compelled” to introduce us. I see Dave as a gift from my Heavenly Father, the One who comforts me in all my trouble. “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.” (II Corinthians 1:3, 4)
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Bill wrote this poem for the family of 1-year-old Karson who passed away on Sep 9, 2013.
by G W (Bill) Marshall
Oh,little man your stay was short
You never knew this world of distress,
But you brought loving comfort,
To where God chose to bless.
In our quiet times together alone,
I shall always cherish until that day
When death shall find me and atone,
And we both are home to stay.
I shall await and always look forward,
For looking back brings only tears
And you are now safe with the Lord,
Awaiting when I finish my years.
G W Marshall / 12 September, 2013