The day of my shipwreck?
I mean, talk about semantics. What do you consider the actual day of the shipwreck? Is it just the day that the leak started, that the ship begins to go under?
Or is it the day that the entire ship goes down? The day of complete and total submersion? The day that absolutely no piece is left afloat but the passenger upon it and a few stray planks of driftwood?
If that’s the logistics, then the answer is easy. October 12, 2020. That was the day that the last peak of the ship that was the mutual life I chose to sail with Andrew Luetkehans went under water. That was the last day of any inch of hope that maybe, just maybe, we could find a way to stay afloat.
And this seems to be the semantic, the date that the world likes to hold me to. Boat inspectors all over the world who barely know me, barely know my heart, barely know my story, like to assert the wrong decisions I made moving forward from that date. They seem to think I should have floated in the water a little longer. I think a year is about what they tell me would have been appropriate, or, ideally, for the rest of my life. That’s what good co-captains do, right? Go down with the ship.
But you see, even if you are an expert on this grief morality topic that seems to be silently known by everyone on earth who has never lost a spouse at 25, you don’t really know how much this wasn’t an option for me.
You see, I didn’t have the energy to keep floating. I was tired…so freaking tired, because no matter what semantics say, no matter what your moral calendar determined of my life, my ship began going down long before Andrew’s last breath.
My ship was sinking a little even on the day that we legally got on board. The day Andrew and I said ‘I do,’ he had a 7% chance of a 3 year-sail. The ship went down shortly after year 2.
And those years, they were hard sailing. They were waves, and they were winds, and through no fault of our own, we had a porous infrastructure. There were constant cracks and desperate repairs, and in the turbulence, we began to take on water.
And don’t get me wrong we knew that fate, and we still chose it, and given the chance, I would again.
We knew that any ship Andrew got on was likely to sink, but I loved him, love him, present tense, so I got on. I got on because when you love someone you ride the waves of their life with them, because their storms are your storms too. And I would be lying if I made it all out to be bad, if I didn’t address the good days- the days where the sun shone just enough to dry up some of the water the boat collected in the past storms. I would ride every single horrid storm a million times over just for those few good days.
And Andrew knew that. He knew all of it. And he loved me too, and he also loved our good days, and he clung to that hope, that thin thin hope that maybe, one day, our boat would find another shore, a safer shore. So, he let me get on-board. But I had to make him one promise.
I had to promise him that if that fearful fate came to fruition, I would not go down with the ship.
And maybe this seems dramatic. Maybe the captain only goes down with the ship in the movies. But Andrew knew my heart better than any other person in the world, and he did not make this request out of theatrics. He asked, because he knew in his heart that without him, I had every desire to do just that.
So that brings me back to that final day of the shipwreck. The day that followed years of paddling and pleading. Years of scooping water back into the ocean only for it to rush back in doubled the gallons. It followed hours of sleepless nights pleading to the sky to stop raining, the waves to stop crashing, the boat to just freaken float the way it was designed to, the way it seemed to do for everyone else.
And then, the ship went under. That October evening…it was gone. And suddenly, it was me alone in the middle of an ocean wanting nothing more than to follow my co-captain into the deep beyond, but remembering the promise I made the day I stepped onto the ship.
And so I floated. And I floated. And I looked for something, anything, to hold me up, to keep my body above water, because my arms and my legs, they couldn’t anymore. They paddled for years, they worked for years, they fought against the inevitable sinking of a ship for years, and they just didn’t have what it took to stay above water any longer on their own.
I knew this… but more than that, God knew this.
And then came a lifeboat.
And I want to preface that God sends lifeboats in a million shapes and forms. Some lifeboats are already attached to the ship in the form of your child, this beautiful mixture of you and him that gives you some sort of purpose. Some lifeboats come in the form of a church family. Some lifeboats come in the form of a new job. Some lifeboats come in the form of new friendships, old friendships, new babies, new opportunities.
And some lifeboats come in the form of another co-captain– a familiar face, who knows and admires your story and your last journey. It comes in the form of a person who might have even swam under your first ship at times in attempt to help you stay afloat- someone with that level of respect for you, for your co-captain, and for your first voyage. A man who wants absolutely nothing more from you than to help you rediscover security and safety. Someone who was called to lead the way for you to sail again, for you to trust again, for you to love again.
And sometimes I wonder if you all would have been as cynical if my lifeboat came in one of those other forms. Would anyone say “isn’t that too soon?” If the lifeboat I chose to get on was a new career? Would anyone expect me to wait a year if the lifeboat that was sent my way came in the form of a new small group? Would anyone question my love or longing or the magnitude of how much I missed my co-captain if my lifeboat came in the form of another opportunity that didn’t look anything like what I lost?
Because I hate to break it to you, but those lifeboats didn’t come for me in that season.
My reality? I floated, and I flirted with the idea of drowning.
My reality? I screamed into pillows, I threw objects across rooms, I laid awake and plead for the ocean to overtake me, to bring me back to the ship, to the man, to my life, even if it all now laid in shambles at the bottom of an ocean.
My reality? I read my bible every morning looking for him in the descriptions of heaven, and wondering where he was, what his healing might have looked like, what he might be seeing at that very moment, all while begging for the opportunity to see it with him.
My reality? I slapped on a smile and went through the motions to convince you all that I was doing okay. And you bought it. And eventually you stopped- I became a distant thought on your mind, the subject of last months prayers. And that’s fine. That’s life. But why did that all change, why did you all suddenly care again the minute I got on that lifeboat?
Friends, God sent one lifeboat my way, only one. I waded in the water, and I plead, and I screamed, and I begged for a reason to stay afloat, a purpose to keep my promise. And he sent ONE lifeboat in that season, only one. Not an A and a B, not choice one or two. ONE. Because, when He has a plan for you, He doesn’t send you a plethora of lifeboats to choose from. He sends you one, because THAT is the one that you are supposed to get on.
So then, I guess my question becomes… why wouldn’t I board it?
Why would I drown in an ocean when I was offered rescue?
Why would I reject an answered prayer?
Why would I wade in the water for a whole year held up only by my fatigued limbs and my unsustainable energy because some social construct told you that there is an appropriate timeline for MY grief.
Why would I reject God’s plan for my life to appease you and your worldly constructs when you have all yet to give me one sound biblical bases in it all.
I got on the lifeboat, and it was one of the absolute best decisions of my life. I got on the lifeboat because I recognized it. I know what life is like with a good co-captain, and I knew what qualities to look for, what moments of the heart confirmed the best choice. I am safe, and secure, and loved. I have everything that Andrew wanted me to have, told me to find, even when it destroyed him to imagine that maybe one day he wouldn’t be the one to could give it to me anymore.
So in this, I made another decision, and I made it with confidence. I made the decision to ride this lifeboat all the way back to a shore. And on this shore, on December 4, 2022- I plan to board another ship, and start a new journey. I am HONORED to board another ship, I am honored to be part of this new journey because if my first voyage taught me anything, it’s that with the right co-captain, the journey is worth every storm ahead.
And I know Andrew would be SO proud.
I know where my heart was in those dark early days…and more than that, God knew where my heart was in those dark early days.
And he sent me a lifeboat.
I truly only had two options.
Get on the lifeboat or go down with the ship.
I know why I got on the lifeboat when it came my way.
I guess what I don’t know is why some of you wouldn’t think that was the right choice between the two.