Not the Life I Signed Up For

Learning to accept the unthinkable

"This is not the life I signed up for!"

I screamed those words through tears more than once after my husband's death. "O Wife of My Youth" was Jon's term of endearment for me. Suddenly it was stripped away, and I was slapped with new, unthinkable labels: widow and single parent.

It all started nearly two years earlier, the day Jon received a devastating diagnosis: acute lymphocytic leukemia. Jon was just 40 years old! When we pressed the oncologist for a life-expectancy projection, he would say only, "It's not good." He wanted to hospitalize Jon immediately, but we negotiated for a few days to return home and regroup.

Driving home, we struggled with the harsh reality that we might not be afforded the luxury of growing old together. I don't recall many tears in our four-hour journey that day—mercifully, we were numb with shock—but I do remember Jon declaring, "I'm not afraid to die. I know it means I'll be face-to-face with the Lord." Then his voice crumbled as he said, "My biggest concern is for you and the girls. I feel cheated to think I might not get to see Aimee and Molly grow up." Our children were just 9 and 11 years old. We decided that we shouldn't focus too much on the future—it would only paralyze us with fear. Our goal that day was simple: Get home, break the news to our daughters, and prepare for Jon's first hospitalization.

Trusting God's Plan

Nineteen years earlier, we'd promised before God to love each other "in sickness and in health." But during the 21 months between Jon's diagnosis and his death, at times we both said, in effect, "This is not the life we signed up for." There were many moments of anger, fear, sadness, and tears. Yet I can honestly say that somehow, through it all, there was always an underlying sense of peace because God was in control. Trusting God's sovereignty and goodness helped us accept that this was all part of his plan for us.

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Cancer; Difficulties; Grief; Illness; Loss; Single Parenting
Today's Christian Woman, May/June , 2013
Posted May 15, 2013

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