I met my first husband, James, while I was studying to become a nurse, and he was in seminary. We fell for each other instantly and got married a few years later. Several churches, many years of nursing and four children later, I was presented with a job opportunity at Heyman HospiceCare in 1992. After a lot of prayer, I felt that God called me to be a hospice nurse and that it was to be my ministry. With great compassion and devotion, I cared for many terminally ill patients and their families.
My world was turned upside down after receiving the heartbreaking news that my precious husband of 42 years had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. I believe all my years as a Heyman HospiceCare nurse prepared me to care for my husband. It was so comforting that my coworkers showed James and myself the same love and support that I had always tried to give to my patients. Hospice made our lives so much easier. The medical staff came to our home to care for James and they delivered his medicine, medical equipment, and supplies. They anticipated our every need even before we knew it was needed. My children and I were by James’ side when he passed away peacefully at home.
My longtime friend and coworker, Rebecca, suggested that I attend the Bereavement support groups that Heyman HospiceCare offers to bereaved family and friends of their patients. It was very comforting that they still provided care to me even after my husband passed away. The grief care programs are designed to normalize the grief process through education, support, and compassion. The support groups helped me cope with the pain and sadness, but also recognize the joy that the memories of James brought to me. The bereavement support groups also helped me understand that although my life had changed, it can be good again – different but good.
A few years later, after a lot of grieving and healing, I decided to come back to Heyman HospiceCare to become a volunteer. Rebecca introduced me to Steve, a fellow volunteer at a volunteer breakfast. He lost his high school sweetheart and wife of 42 years to cancer. Rebecca was the primary hospice social worker for my family and Steve’s family. She told me that I should meet him because we have a lot in common-from our strong faith, to athleticism and love of nature, as well as our love for our families.
Steve and I became fast friends and bonded over the fact that we wanted to give back and assist others. We each worked hard to make life good again, and we both wanted to work hard to make the community a better one through our volunteer efforts. We found that helping others helped heal our hearts even more. My friendship with Steve was beneficial because we offered emotional support to one another. We both had lost our longtime spouses and understood what the other was going through.
Steve and I had no intention or desire to get remarried when we first met. However, over the course of next 3 years, we could feel that our friendship was becoming something more. We loved spending time together and our families really liked each other. Steve proposed to me in the fall of 2006, and we got married in May of 2007.
Steve and I spend our days traveling, going on hikes, being with our family, working in the yard, attending church, and volunteering at Heyman HospiceCare.
I am so thankful that Heyman Hospicecare helped me realize that I could have a life again after my world fell apart. There is hope and joy just beyond the darkest clouds of sorrow and grief. My marriage to Steve has brought me so much joy. It has led to a new and full life with much love and happiness. I have a partner who loves me and shows that love every day.
-As told to Bonnie Jones
This story originally appeared in Facing Hope, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Georgia Highlands College, Georgia Northwestern Technical College, and Berry College in Rome, Georgia.