Spring is in the air. I’m a bit sleepy from losing an hour of sleep with the time change last night, but excited about the prospect of more daylight in my day. I spent yesterday working in my front yard, doing more manual labor than I have in months. After the ice and snow storms we all suffered a few weeks ago (especially here in Oklahoma, and also with my children in Texas), we’re all happy to get outdoors.
My husband, Hank, and our six-year-old daughter, Jaycie, planted beautiful tulips a few years ago around two of the trees that Hank had planted. Hank did a nice job with the rounded paver stones to encircle both of the apple trees — which produce enough apples to share every year. Here’s a photo of the tulips from recent years. We can’t wait to see them again this year!
Today, March 14, 2021, is my first blog to write since December 2019. If you’re a regular reader, you probably know why. If not, hang on. These last fourteen months have been surreal, and anything but normal. While 2020 was unusual for most of us (with a worldwide pandemic), my family’s year was accentuated by deep grief and shock, but also great joy and miracles.
Wednesday, January 8th, 2020, my husband had a treadmill test at St. Francis Hospital in Muskogee, OK. When the tests indicated a blockage and previously undetected heart attack, the doctor ordered a heart catheterization for the following week. Hank and I drove to Muskogee together on January 15th, since he’d be sedated, and I’d be driving us home. We planned to eat at IHOP, grab some groceries at Aldi, then be home by 2:00, in plenty of time before our 13-year-old daughter got home from school.
Dr. Lucenta came in the recovery room to tell us news we didn’t like. The heart cath revealed a 100% blockage in one artery, and 75-80% in at least two of the remaining three. They ordered an ambulance to transport my husband to St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa for open heart surgery. We weren’t going home, after all.
“Can’t I take him to Tulsa? We need to go home first to pack clothes, medicines, and arrange for our children,” I pleaded.
“We can’t allow that. Your husband could have a heart attack on the way to Tulsa.”
I insisted that they at least give my husband something to eat while he waited for the ambulance, since he’d had nothing since the night before. Hank assured me he’d be fine, so I drove home to gather items to stay at the hospital with him for a few days, and make arrangements for our children and pets. We were grateful to have family and church friends to help with child care and meals during this whirlwind of unexpected events.
Bored to death and feeling fine, Hank (and I) had to wait four days to actually have the heart surgery. They were watching his kidney function and blood sugar, to make sure it was “safe” to proceed. Hank’s mother and sister from Texas, his brother and wife, our oldest daughter from Texas, and our daughter-in-law all came to visit while we awaited surgery. Thank the LORD, this was right before Covid-19 brought all hospital visits to a screeching halt!
Finally, on Saturday January 18th, the open heart surgery was performed. Doctor said it went well, and Hank’s repaired “ticker” was “ticking strongly”. Praise God!
Our youngest four children, along with my parents, came to visit on Sunday after church, 24 hours after surgery. It was upsetting to see their dad in an oxygen mask, but at least he could talk to them through it. Hank told 13-year-old Jaycie, “You’ll have to give the kitties extra attention and love until I get home. They don’t understand why I’m gone.” Hank, who once claimed he “didn’t like cats”, was completely smitten by the kitten, with all three cats at our house.
I will skip over the harrowing nightmare that unfolded over the next ten days, as I felt my husband being taken away from me, from this world, from our children and grandchildren. My pain was not only for myself, of course, but for them.
I’ll never forget the heart-wrenching words of our youngest granddaughter, Maliya, who was in the waiting room, hoping to visit her grandfather: “When is Papa Hank going to wake up?”
Hank’s last night on this earth (although I believe his spirit was already in Heaven) was a surreal and paradoxial, holy moment in time. His body was on life support, but only for about six hours. I leaned over him, weeping and crying out to God for a miraculous healing. There were probably twenty people in or standing at the door of the CICU room — which was a miracle in itself, since they only allowed two people in the room with him.
I began singing very softly, with my eyes closed, so swollen from crying.
“Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him; how I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er…”
Slowly, I heard the voices of others in the room joining in with me.
“Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus; oh, for grace to trust Him more.”
It was our prayer for the Lord’s help. It was our declaration of faith, though sung with broken hearts and faltering voices.
Around eight o’clock that evening of January 28th, my oldest son, Scott arrived, and everyone else left. Hank had been Scott’s stepfather since he was seven years old. Though there were turbulent times during Scott’s teenage years, they’d grown much closer since Scott had married and become a father himself — to three little girls.
I have said many times, that “humanly speaking”, Scott was my rock that night. He held me as we sobbed together, and shielded me from what I didn’t want to see at times. He took a moment to stand by Hank’s bed and tearfully say his good-byes, as we faced the inevitable — that God was calling Hank to his Heavenly home. Our hearts were crushed. We felt torn into pieces… ripped into emotional shreds. We were in shock.
Scott drove me home around 2:00 a.m. that excruciating night/ morning. How could I be leaving without Hank? I kept repeating to my son, “He was supposed to come HOME!”
The death of my husband left me feeling torn in half. God said that when a man and woman marry, “The two shall become one flesh”. Over our almost twenty-seven years of marriage, we truly had become one flesh. Hank was my strongest supporter, best friend, and biggest fan. He was the father of our many children, and Papa or Granddaddy to our seven grandchildren. His passing left a hole that cannot be filled — until Jesus returns and heals our hearts for good.
As I was on my knees doing some gardening a few days ago, I wept again over the absence of my precious husband. I was working in the tulip bed that Hank and our youngest daughter, Jaycie, had planted many years ago. There had always been one area that was empty, since some of the bulbs never came up. Those around it were quite thick, so I carefully dug up a few of them, to separate them and fill in the gap in the garden.
I had to gently pry apart the roots to separate the bulbs from one another, then I re-planted the bulbs in the barren area. I watered them, and prayed that they would grow strong and bloom soon.
The next morning (and every day since, now five days later), the transplanted, separated tulips are laying flat on the ground. I got down on my knees, and spoke softly to the sad-looking flowers.
With tears in my eyes, I told the flattened tulips, “I know it hurts to be cut off from the ones you love. You didn’t want to be separated, and you must feel lost. But, you will bloom again, I promise!”
I prayed for that to be so, as I felt the stinging pain in my own heart again. I prayed with hope, with faith, and with empathy for the tulips — the ones my sweet husband had planted.
The scripture passage in 2nd Corinthians 4:7-9 gives me great comfort. With honest and vulnerable truth, the Apostle Paul (who’d suffered greatly in his life), penned these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God:
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2nd Corinthians 4:7-9 NIV
Our lives were in limbo while Hank was hospitalized, and in the days following. My son Josh and wife Samantha, and our youngest granddaughter, Maliya, came from Texas, hoping to visit “Papa Hank” in the hospital. Maliya has stayed with us in Oklahoma several times, and adored her Papa, as all of our grandchildren did.
We had all been praying for a baby brother or sister for Maliya for many years, and her parents had gone through several measures of fertility treatments, hoping to conceive – and complete- a successful pregnancy. There were many letdowns and heartaches along this path, but we continued to pray for a miracle!
One week after we buried my husband, Josh and Samantha and Maliya, along with Scott’s wife, Kate and the three girls, surprised me with another visit. (Josh and Samantha live five hours from me, and they’d already missed a week of work, and Maliya a week of school.) Maliya was wearing a shirt that said “Big Sister”, and Josh and Samantha had shirts that indicated we were getting the miracle we’d prayed for — another BABY!
My face still swollen from two weeks of crying, I began weeping again. But this time, they were happy tears! Indeed, God was painting a silver lining behind the dark cloud that still lingered– for me, and for all of our family.
Little Amilya Dawn was named after her Papa Hank, Henry Don Wright. She came in with a blaze of glory in October 2020 — born on the side of a Texas highway!! Her incredible birth story made the DFW news, and a featured story on the Facebook page of the midwifery association Samantha worked with!
The timing of Amilya’s conception (the very last week of Hank’s earthly life) reminded me of the arrival of our very first granddaughter, Allison Elizabeth, in October of 2004.
Baby Alli, who’s birth was also an answer to years of prayer, was our comfort, joy and hope during that season of grief. My younger sister, Elizabeth, had just drowned in June, while saving her son from drowning. She left behind five very young children — and a devastated extended family.
God blessing us all with our first grandchild at that time was His reminder that there is always hope, there is always a future, despite our times of grief.
All through 2020, even in the days immediately following Hank’s passing, the Lord continued to do good things, even amid our grief. These were merciful reminders of not only His constant presence with us, but His continued purpose in the life of my family. Around the world, the mission work that Hank and I were committed to continued, and is going stronger than ever.
Since 2017, Hank and I, through my ministry headquarters, Artists in Christian Testimony, International, a non-profit 501(c)(3), have sponsored a school /orphanage in Chagallu, Andhra Pradesh, India. These precious people have become like family over the years! Hank and I had begun tentative plans for a mission trip to India for January 2021…. but Covid-19 — and Hank’s passing — put that on hold. Now, I am hoping, praying and planning to finally go to India -if God allows- in January of 2022.
The school educates 212 students at present, 38 of whom are orphaned, and live there full-time, under the care of Pastor Timothy and his wife, Jhansi, and their own three children. Currently, they are in dire need of purchasing a small plot of land next door to the school, for a playground for the students.
The government there is requiring them to provide an outdoor playground for the children, or be shut down.
The densely populated region is very short on available land for sale, and this small plot is right next door to their school. The sale price is just over $34,000 in USD (US dollars). We’ve all been praying for God to provide the land and playground they’re required to provide, since they were notified over a year ago, and we believe this is it.
Every spring, Hank’s tulips bloom. The work he did years ago is still blessing us years later! Hank understood – and lived by the truth – that we reap what we sow.
We planted several vegetable gardens every year, apple trees — and tulips. We also planted our prayers, our efforts, and our money into worthy things and causes. We invested (and I continue to do so) into missions and endeavors that will impact people’s lives for eternity. God has truly blessed us in our commitment to His purposes.
Even now, Hank’s photo hangs in the classroom of the school in India.
People on the other side of the planet are praying for us even while we sleep. That’s incredible to imagine! And, I have personally witnessed specific answers to their prayers – and mine – over the years since we committed to care — and to help these suffering saints and innocent orphans.
January 2020 was a nightmare for me and my family. All year, as the surrealism was extended through a worldwide pandemic, I dreaded facing January 2021, and the anniversary of the most difficult time in my life. January 28th, when Hank was put on life support, and the 29th (they pronounced him dead at eight minutes after midnight) were the most dreaded.
God knew my anxiety over these dates. He knew had badly they were going to hurt. My children were feeling it, too…
“When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your comfort delights my soul.” Psalm 94:19 NASB
I had been trying to sell a rental property we owned, since September of 2020. On January 26th, I received the disheartening news that the family who’d been trying to buy it had backed out. Every effort to get financing had failed, they said, and they “just feel that God doesn’t want us to buy it now”. My heart sank, as I was counting on that money to pay off another debt.
I prayed, asking God what to do. The next day, I texted my realtor (who is also a dear friend and prayer warrior!), asking her to list the property for sale. Especially this difficult week, I did not have the emotional strength to try to find another buyer and go through all that myself — again.
Within three minutes, Patti texted me — then called me — saying she likely already had a buyer! She showed the house that evening, and called me back the next day — January 28th — to tell me it was SOLD!
I wept with a myriad of emotions — thankfulness for God’s faithfulness and perfect timing. I cried tears of relief, for God’s mercy and tenderhearted ways to meet such a great need — on such a specific, difficult day as January 28th. My Heavenly Father is so good!!!
“When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your comfort delights my soul.” Psalm 94:19 NASBTweet
On January 29th, 2021, the Lord did another amazing, timely, specific thing (that had been a matter of prayer for four months!). I’ll spare you the details, but just tell you that I was paid an unexpected $3,000 for a plot of land that I’d been trying to sell — and they paid me CASH. I wept with joy and humble gratitude to our Great and Mighty God! He promised He would be our ever-present help in times of trouble, and that He is very close to the brokenhearted. Well, that’s me — and He IS. He keeps His Word!
One last note: As I drove to the bank on January 29th to deposit the unexpected $3,000, I had a thought. It was: “I’ll bet God is going to do something special to comfort me on March 6th (mine & Hank’s wedding anniversary).” It was the next “hurdle” I saw coming, that might be difficult.
When I got home that same evening, I received a message online from an old friend, Holly. She and her husband had been in mine and Hank’s Sunday School Bible study class (the Blended Families Class) for years, before they moved away. She also sent the message to two other ladies – Tammie and Kimberly – both of whom, with their spouses, had also been in our Blended Families class.
The class immediately disbanded when Hank died. But each of these three women, by their own testimonies, had been positively impacted and mentored by Hank and me, through some very difficult times in their marriages in the past. The last time I’d seen these three women was January 2020, when they came to visit Hank and me in the hospital.
Holly was inviting us to attend a painting class with her — on March 6th. She had no idea that it was our anniversary. Of all the paintings we could choose to paint, the favorite pattern we liked just happened to only be offered on March 6th. Wow!
So, I will keep planting … tulips, vegetables, time, talent, and treasure. I will bloom again. Even through occasional tears, there will be blossoms of God’s faithfulness that continue to unfold, as I trust and obey Him. That is God’s promise to each of His children. What a privilege to be called a child of God!
My Daddy loves me perfectly! He cares about every detail of my life (like we do our own children). I see the evidence of His love and power all around me, in every circumstance. Through every tear, the Holy Spirit is with me, around me, in me, carrying me.
I was knocked down flat when I became a widow. Even the sound of that word brings pain. However, just one of the many ways God comforts me is reminding me that I’m not the only one. There are countless millions of widows and widowers around the world, past and present. The most painful, hopeless situation would be for those who don’t have a relationship with God, to know that their spouse is safe with Jesus, and that we’ll see them again. I know that I will see my beloved again. The flowers are always blooming in Heaven…. and I’ll bet Hank planted more tulips.
Is your heart broken right now? Do you need prayer? Feel free to leave a comment below — I read EVERY one! If you’d like to send a confidential prayer request, you may contact me through my main website HERE. http://www.beckywrightsongs.com
Becky Wright is a Staff Missionary of Artists in Christian Testimony, International, a Non-profit 501(c )(3) ministry. Your donations are tax-deductible and much needed to continue her mission work in Oklahoma, the USA, India, and worldwide on the web and radio. Thank you for your partnership! Enjoy this blog? Please SHARE with others! SUBSCRIBE HERE.