Sitting in the drive-thru at the coffee shop, a guy with brown hair and a blue plaid button-up, like one of Josh's, walked behind my car into the entrance. I instinctively turned around. I couldn't help it. Josh? My mind questioned, "Was that him?" My mind knows the answer, yet I still reflexively do a double-take anyway.
I have heard about this happening, even experienced before, but this was the first time that I looked for my spouse. The moment launched me into a new angle of grief to start the day. I won't see Josh wear that shirt again or enter that coffee shop. One of my favorite memories was meeting him for coffee at this same place or swinging by to pick up a drink he had preordered for me – my very own personal drive-thru service.
When missing someone, it's a million little things that equal the big loss. It's a million little pieces that trigger the heartache. This morning's surprise had me feeling sad for few minutes but moments later, I was laughing because a song came on by an artist we had renamed "Snuffleupagus," because I never could say his name right. Josh even made me a CD several years ago and labeled it, "The Snuffleupagus CD." The memory lightened my heart as I laughed and continued on with the day.
Each day is different. Each moment or memory could easily lead to smiles, laughter or tears. It seems grief often makes me feel "crazy" with the shifting sea of thoughts and feelings. The journey triggers both good memories and sad ones. No matter how I am feeling though, there is thread of thankfulness that links these memories. I am thankful for the many moments we shared together - even if these same memories today, bring a mixed bag of emotional outcomes.
This is my worst nightmare. No wait. That already happened. This is a new problem. Integrating back into life. Realizing that our storyline, my storyline, has been altered.
Tonight, I went to a church event where some pastors introduced themselves, their families, wives, etc. They shared about the importance of small groups and the importance of the big C - Church. I agreed with what they shared completely, but couldn’t focus on it. All I could think was, “This should be Josh.” I should be the supportive wife watching it happen, smiling at seeing him in his element, meeting and greeting people, helping clean up, etc.
But that wasn’t the night's view. Instead, I was a participant with a new perspective. And I am crushed.
We were suppose to do life and ministry together for many more years.
While I held it together during the event, I cried the whole way home. Attending maybe wasn’t the best idea? It was step though. I thought I’d be okay — it was just information, right? (Fooled myself, again).
I didn’t expect that I would be so reminded of the life that isn’t reality. I don’t get to walk alongside Pastor Josh as he loves and cares for people and invites them to be part of community. I am a stranger in space. I'm in new role - which is weird.
You see, I've lived life as a ministry wife for over a decade. I've experienced the joys and heartaches of that role. And even today, I still longed for it to be part of my story. Of course, ministry still is part of my story, but it looks way different.
There much grief and emotion in walking through this realization, in recognizing the different path God now has me on. It’s another part of the layers and layers of grief work that I am continuing to do. And I don’t have answers.
I strive to cling to God’s hope for the future and know that there is more ahead; more ministry to be part of but I can’t say I am “all in.” Because I don't know what I am all in for or what is next. I am all in for trusting God as he walks with me but that's about it (which still is a lot).
All of this makes me very sad though. I’m sad because the life I imagined with Josh is different. We aren’t growing old with our friends around us and spending years in ministry as a couple. We are planning church events, messages or next steps.
Accepting the different is heavy and hard. Lord, help me.
For those of you with the opportunity to still serve in ministry - maybe even alongside your husband - Cherish it. It's a special role. It's not always easy, but it is place where you can make such a difference. Keep praying for your husband as he leads – even on the hardest days.
A few more recent ministry photos including hosting events, preaching and encouraging other young couples through counseling and marriage.
Hi! It's Jenn Brown, writing my story that is now slightly different as we enter a season of new grief. On September 30, 2019, my dear husband Josh passed away after battling brain cancer.