Story by: Bonnie Culp King / Photo by: Staci Coston Photography
January 5th marks the 5th anniversary of my husband’s death. When Peekaboo Magazine first published our story, I was in a place of uncertainty, but feeling optimistic about the future.
–June 2009 —
Christmas break 2008 was such a special one. Being a teacher meant that my husband Thomas had two weeks off and that he and I would get to spend every day of the break together. A couple of weeks before Christmas, I found out I was pregnant. Our family would be going from three to four! I wrapped up a picture of the positive pregnancy test and let our daughter Caroline give it to Thomas before we left to be with his family for Christmas. During the last few days of our break, we took Caroline to Baby Bookworms at the Fayetteville Public Library. We also took her to her first Ladyback basketball game and attended a birthday party for a friend’s baby who had just turned one. All were things that we enjoyed, but in the moment might have been taken for granted.
The evening before he returned to teach, we played with Caroline, ate ice cream and watched Planet Earth. Alone, the events were not necessarily “special,” but it was a beautiful evening that I will always cherish. Thomas and I never took each other for granted, and that night I felt a strong pulling of my heart to write him a note telling him how thankful I was that he worked so hard so that I could stay home with Caroline. I told him that I loved him. I left the note for Thomas next to his car keys for him to find on his way to work.
On the morning of January 5, 2009, my husband, Thomas, kissed me good-bye. Two hours later he stood at the gates of Heaven. We had watched the weather the night before Thomas was to return to work. There was no call for concern, yet a patch of ice on a bridge near our home turned my life upside down. How could a single patch of ice be so lethal?
Soon after I received the news that broke my heart, the story began to fill the news channels. Since we had an early miscarriage last fall, we had planned to not tell anyone we were pregnant until my 12-week mark. Unfortunately, all of our family and friends found out I was pregnant when the television news channels announced it the day of the accident.
I had been so sure that Thomas and I would grow old together… That he would be by my side when we delivered our second baby. That he would walk our sweet Caroline down the aisle on her wedding day. Instead, I was now planning his funeral. I wondered about the note I had written the night before the horrible accident. What if he didn’t see it? I mentioned it to some friends and they said they remembered seeing it in Thomas’ car when they went to clean it out for me. They went back to the car and rescued it for me. The accident happened so close to our house that I know without a doubt the love I have for him was on his mind when he went to Heaven. I take so much solace in that.
— Update —
osing my husband in that awful accident left us to deal with a gigantic hole in our hearts, as well as adjusting to a new “normal” life we needed to establish. I had no idea what God had in store for our family of three, but He was constantly providing support for us, both physically and emotionally. The Har-ber High School community, our church and countless family and friends surrounded us with love and prayers. I went through a support group called *GriefShare” twice, knowing I wanted to be as mentally healthy as possible for my two young children. God slowly woke me from my grief so that I could function again.
Then, in the spring of 2010, I felt God restore joy in my life. I definitely tried hard to appreciate baby Thomas growing out of babyhood, but the joy had to be returned by God. He gave me a lighter heart so that the burden of grief was not all consuming. To this day, grief still plays in the background of my life, but it stopped being the filter through which I saw the world. I started truly laughing again and enjoying my children as they grew without constantly crying about the fact that Thomas wasn’t here physically to share it all with me. I knew he was rejoicing in heaven. I let God have control of my grief, recovery, and my precious husband with the promise I would see him again, and I threw myself into what our new life would need to be without him.
I remember people asking if I would ever date again. I would laugh it off. I had no desire to be married again and raising two kids on my own kept me ridiculously busy. I already had had my time being married and I felt this must be the story God has for me. Jesus and I were going to raise these kiddos! Well, I was wrong. My story wasn’t ending, it was unfolding in ways I never dared dream for myself.
I tried to sell my son’s baby items and my maternity clothes, but for some reason my sister kept getting mad about it. She kept pulling things out of my garage sale and telling me she would keep them. I thought she meant for herself. But, just a few months later I started to play an innocent phone game called “Words with Friends” with a guy who was friends with many of my own friends and who went to our church. We both attended the same campus ministry in college, but we never crossed paths at the time. Then, instead of playing the game we would start sending messages to each other. It was not long after that when I felt God pressing on me to open my heart again to the idea of dating. I resisted, but God is pretty persistent when He knows the plans to prosper us!
As I started thinking this might turn into something more, I knew I needed the blessing of my family. I decided to drop the bomb on my precious sister while we were driving (so I wouldn’t have to look her in the eye when she told me I was crazy for considering it!) When I told her “Would you think I’m awful if I told you I have feelings for Tyler?” She was quiet for a moment, so I was ready for her to tell me how it is too soon, too complicated, but instead she started crying! The next words out of her mouth still shock me to this day, “God told me you would be with Tyler… a year ago.” I really thought she was kidding, but she had even told our mom about it at the time. She felt God tell her within her spirit that she didn’t need to worry for me and my future and that He would have Tyler in my life. Wow.
God knew I would need that kind of direct message to move ahead in my continuing story He had for me. She also knew better than to tell me about God’s plan or I would have ran the other way fast! It had to be God’s timing. So, with this green light from God, Tyler and I began dating and knew right away that God had placed us together. He wanted a wife and children, and God sure provided it all at once for him! Our campus minister we both had from college performed the ceremony on August 5, 2011 as we were surrounded by our barefooted friends and family on a beach in Florida. This must be my story now, I thought to myself, the four of us as a family.
Tyler and his family have been such a blessing to us. He and the kids bonded so quickly and they love him with their whole hearts. This past year we decided to build a new house together. It was hard on Caroline and I to leave what was our dream home with her daddy in heaven, but we have also learned that new dreams are a reality, not just a possibility. We moved into our new dream home and a few months later started praying about whether or not to expand our family again. I kept having fears creep in to my mind as to whether or not I could go through a pregnancy again, if we could even get pregnant, whether the children would bond, and, most importantly: would I pull my hair out with three kiddos? Finally, I calmed myself down enough to listen to God instead of my anxiety. He reminded me through many sources that we are not to make decisions based on fear. When we think about the future we do not picture Him there with us, and that is definitely a scary feeling. He tells us to trust, obey and we will be provided with what we need to get through whatever the future holds. I thought I had already learned that lesson, but here it came again. So, we obeyed and released our fears.
We learned we were pregnant in June. Holy cow, here we go! We are thrilled and a little nervous. Over the months we have relied on God’s strength to give us peace about how our lives are about to change… again. Now we are turning the page to the next chapter in our story. We find joy in the day to day coming and going of our lives with two precious children, and we will soon be joined by a baby boy in early March. We know the blessings of our life have been a result of fervent prayers for our family over the last five years. There are not enough words to thank everyone for what that means to us.
We have learned that everyone’s story is continually unfolding until that sweet day Jesus calls us home. At times it feels whatever circumstances surrounding us might be our “story.” It is my desire to always remember today is just a page in our book of life. If you do not like where your story is now, I promise it will not stay the same if you follow God’s calling on your life. And if you do like where your story is now, enjoy it to the maximum. It’s a gift from God. We all are on a path where the only constant is change. I have learned to not take one single thing for granted. I laugh loudly, cry with friends, and set my eyes above this Earth. This is not our final destination, thank goodness, but we have been provided amazing resources in our friends and family to hold our hands as we experience the highs and lows of the road. I have been brought joy from my mourning and I cannot wait to hold this new life in my arms. He will learn of how he has come to be through a story I would never had imagined for myself. I will teach him to carry on his story to comfort and encourage others as I have been.
For more information on GriefShare visit