Sunday, October 9, 2016

18 days ago

Fire Engineer Ryan Osler (photo: Jennifer Osler)

18 days ago my world stopped.

I always knew that each time my husband left our home there was a possibility that he may not return.  Somewhere in my mind I tucked away the knowledge that he would willingly risk his life for someone else.  "It's the job," I'd tell myself.  I prided myself on being a fire-wife, able to hold down the fort while my husband was away from home serving the community.  

I prayed for his safety, we talked about the dangers of his job with our kids, but we never imagined this would actually hit our family.

But then, it did.

The call I prayed I would never receive suddenly landed on the phone in my lap.  I was almost to work, and thank God, I was the passenger in the car as my mom drove us to the office.  

It was the Chief of the department.  "There was an accident..."

For the next torturous hour on the ride home, I felt as though the seatbelt was keeping me from breathing.  I was a mixture of screams and tears.  

"This isn't real.  He's coming home.  He has to come home..."

My mother felt helpless in the driver's seat, trying to get to my house as fast as possible.  I'm not sure how she was able to drive; being a mother, I can only imagine how she must've felt having to witness the shattering of her daughter's heart.

Standing in the driveway of my home was the chaplain of the department. I couldn't move as I felt my arms drop to my sides while my body folded in half.  Someone was trying to get me out of the car, a mixture of kisses and tears were flooding my was my dad.  Somehow I gained composure, looked the Chaplain in the eyes and before he said a word, I asked him if my mother-in-law heard about her son.

Less than an hour later, I was face to face with Chiefs and Captains of the department.  Each of them hugging me and offering condolences.  The Chief apologized for telling me over the phone, but he feared I would hear talk about the death of a firefighter through the media grapevine.  He had every reason to be fearful because it wasn't long after that that I was reading a news article about the sudden and tragic death of a local firefighter.  

And there it was:  his name.  

Before I could take another step, I was advised to go to the schools of my children so I could tell them about their father before they heard it from someone else.  With my best friend, my husband's best friend, the chaplain, and a Chief, we headed to each of the kids' schools.

I walked into each school office with a group of solemn faces behind me.  I requested to have each of my kids summoned from their class.  The Chief and the Chaplain hid themselves from sight, speaking with school officials to let them know why we were there.  

Two different schools.  Two different children.  Both with the same question as soon as they saw me..."Mommy, what's wrong?"  I wrapped them each in my arms before pulling away, grabbing their precious faces and looking into their eyes as I had to tell them about their Daddy.

The rest of the day is a blur.  People were coming and going; news vans were driving up my street; my phone was constantly ringing; I was standing still in a world of chaos.

But my world stopped.

It's been 18 days since my husband died.  20 days since I last saw him.  21 days since our last date.
21 years since he asked me to be his girlfriend.  16 years since I became his bride.

My heart is experiencing an ache that is impossible to describe.  I've been trying.  I've been searching for words to explain the depth of the ache in my soul.

For a few days after the news of my husband's passing, I couldn't even go to God.  What was there to say to Him?  He could see my shattered heart, He could hear my tears, and He could read my thoughts.  

On the 5th day, I finally went to Him.  I sat in the prayer space of my closet that my husband created for me, I opened up my journal and I prayed:

"It's been 5 days since my world stopped.  ... This morning, God, I feel at peace.  I know it's the thousands of prayers that have been said on our behalf and I pray that those prayers don't stop.

God, I'm begging for your strength and your wisdom.  As peaceful as I feel right now in these moments, I know there will be times when I lose sight.  I pray that you will protect me, guard my heart, and keep the enemy's lies from me.  I know the enemy wants me to blame you and hate you, I pray that I continue to hear those whispers as lies.  Please continue to show yourself to me in ways I can clearly see you.

God, I pray that you stay especially close to my children.  ... God, my children are about to begin a journey that is going to be filled with emptiness at times.  I pray that you fill their hearts with your love and they feel their hearts lighten.

God, I know you are a God of love and I know you would never want to hurt me.  I know you are hurting with me, but I also know you see a bigger picture than what I see in front of me.

God, I pray that your peace stays with me today.  ... Father, I know and trust that you have something incredible planned. ... God, I am so thankful for your church; I am so thankful for the way you orchestrated my life so that I could be here.  The love and the warmth from them is the evidence of your love for me, and I am grateful.

Please stay close to me and the kids.  Please keep showing yourself to me in ways that I can see/feel you.  I love you.  I need you.  I trust you."

Each morning since then, I have made sure to spend time with God.  Each day I pour out my heart which is filled with questions and uncertainties, but also faith and gratitude.

I have been truly, truly overwhelmed with the outpouring of love from all areas of the country.  The generosity of strangers for a hero they never met has left me speechless.  I have received hundreds of emails, text messages, and private social media messages, from friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers.  With every word that has been typed, written, and spoken to me, I truly believe each is a love note from God.

I trust God wholeheartedly.  I would love to fast forward and get to the part when it all makes sense, but in the meantime, I will lean against His strength, His love, and His comfort.  As broken as I feel, God is desperately wanting to piece me back together.  

And He will.
And I will be stronger.
I will be faithful.
I will be whole.
Because I am His.


My children and I heading into my husband's funeral. (Photo credit: Adam VanGerpen)
Our last hug, captured by our daughter, on the night he left.