Goodbye To You

Over the past two years, I’ve said goodbye to my late husband three different times. The first was, obviously, the day he died. I don’t even have to close my eyes to remember the scene in the hospital when he died, it is still so vivid in my memory. I sat and talked to him, making “amends” as best as I could. By this time, in the process, he could no longer speak. As I talked to him, I steadily watched his vitals drop because he was able to find the peace he needed to know in his death, we were all right. Whatever happened in our life together was now over; as best as we could be, we were good. In the days and weeks (and obviously years) to follow, it would not be that simple within me, on my own; but for that time, I said goodbye for him, as well as to him.

Immediately after he died, I saw him ascend; first over the room, as I sat there with his now empty body, and then up, to find Jesus. In those moments, I knew that he found what he’d wanted, but didn’t find while he was down here. God wanted me to know the intercession I labored in before he died was of effect. When we discovered he was going to die, I stayed up nights, I went in private places such as bathrooms during appointments, and I prayed. I interceded that he would get right with God before he died, because he wouldn’t have another shot to do it. What I saw let me know what was needed was, indeed, accomplished.

The second time I said goodbye was at his memorial. My husband, a staunch, Kentucky Apostolic, had trouble at every church he ever attended. He was one of those types that was quick to tell the leaders of every church what they were doing wrong, which tended not to go over real well. By the time he died, he hadn’t been to church in several years. It was only suitable that, as much as he let anyone, I was, of sorts, his “pastor.” I laughed as I typed that; he never followed, nor did a damn thing I told him to do. Early in our marriage he was part of a home Bible study I did, and he came with me once or twice when I preached; but beyond this, he didn’t do much else. We obviously talked about stuff over the years, especially as I changed in much of my faith, and he didn’t. The way I knew him, however, and knew his faith, and his desires, left me the only choice.

Looking back, I don’t know how I completed this “goodbye.” I was heavily contending with my late husband’s family, their incessant demands, and that I was the one who was going to have to keep telling them “NO” because my husband didn’t have it within himself to confront them before he died. I was starting to deal with a million different feelings and thoughts at the same time of our relationship. At the memorial, people told stories of my husband that I couldn’t relate to, because he presented a totally different side of himself to me. Nobody knew what I lived with in those years as his wife, or who the real person was underneath his “work persona.” To get through, I remembered stories I’d been told of old Pentecostal female preachers who did funerals and memorials for their children when they died, and I told myself if they could do that, I could do this.

And, somehow, I did it.

The third time was about seven months ago, at the end of a journaling project I did for about four months. I felt like so much of my relationship with him was unfinished. I was also confronting the idea of dating again for the first time since he’d died, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I didn’t feel like I was betraying my late husband by going out with another man, but I really didn’t know how I felt about being involved with another person. As a perfectionist, I shy away from doing things that I don’t feel I’ve done successfully in the past; and let’s just say I still struggle with the question as to just how unsuccessful I was as a wife. I thought that maybe writing out some conversations and discussions we should have had but couldn’t while he was still alive would be helpful. It was, to a certain extent, but after a few months, it felt like the project was keeping me from moving on more than helping me to do it. In my final entry, I echoed that I needed to move on, and I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing and move on to something else at the same time.

Now, on Saturday of this week, I will say goodbye for the fourth, and final time: I will scatter my husband’s ashes at Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. Later that day, I will be baptized again, for the second time in my adult life, in the same ocean where I will say goodbye to my husband for the last time.

There’s a lot of reasons why I have decided it was time to do this, as, obviously, I’ve been holding onto the ritual for awhile. Before he died, my husband was open in saying he didn’t know where he wanted his ashes to be scattered. There were only two conditions: He did not want to be scattered in Kentucky, and he wanted it to be somewhere that he felt connected to be (preferably, the Carolinas). The trip we took when we got married was to the coast in North Carolina, in which he fell in love with Wrightsville Beach. That was where we started our married life; it was a place we visited a limited handful of times thereafter; and it was the last beach he visited with his mom and daughter, about two weeks before his death. I had originally planned to take his ashes back to Wrightsville, but the trip never happened. After he died, I was so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of responsibility that came with such, having to move, and adjusting to life as a widowed woman that the trip wasn’t feasible. I tried to find locations in the Raleigh area, where we spent nine of our eleven years of married life. When that also didn’t work out, I decided it was a message that I needed to wait.

In my angst, I had a dream in which I saw my late husband. We walked and talked and I asked if it was all right if I took him home with me for awhile. He looked at me, square as day, and smiled, telling me that “there was nowhere else he would want to be.” I was fighting to uphold his wishes; his family was trying to subvert such and take part of the ashes for themselves; and I didn’t know what was the right thing to do. While I don’t believe my husband appeared in the sense that he was communicating with me, I believe God used his image in order to convey the message of what I needed to do as pertains to him. So, bring him home, I did. He came home to our apartment, and then when I moved outside of Charlotte, he came to my new home.

Now, it’s time to bring him to his place, where he can rest, until we meet again in eternity. Then I need to go down in the water and come up new, again.

To do that, as sobering as it is, I have to say goodbye, again.

I was baptized in Jesus’ Name in November 2005 – about three weeks after my husband and I met. It was the end product of a huge challenge that was first issued to me a few years earlier, by which I could get $5,000 if I could prove there was someone in the New Testament baptized according to Matthew 28:19. I was an Apostolic in everything but my baptism in water, which had been held off for a couple of reasons, one being no available font at the time. I was baptized in the bathtub in my own house, after a Saturday service. It was meaningful in kind of a backwards way, which sounds, in hindsight, an awful lot like the years that would follow for me in both life and ministry.

My first baptism was not just part of my walk with Christ that has brought me to today; it is also representative of the experience I had as a woman, as a wife, as a minister, as a deeply committed Apostolic, and as the journey that brought me to where I am, today. I started it out as a strict, judgmental, holiness bitch, and ended it as Woman of Valor. Everything in between is the filler; the water that sometimes drenched and drowned, and other times, terrified. In all things, though, it was purifying. It purged me of things I didn’t want to deal with in myself and that I didn’t want to confront. It was a period that was mixed: good experiences, bad ones, things I’d never want to relive, and yes, even parts of it that I deeply miss, now.

This confusing mix is much of what marked my marriage. Sometimes I look over those years and I don’t know how I made it through them. That mix of feelings about my late husband over the past two years can also be added to that list. Today, even these years later, some of it still feels confusing. I had no idea how jaded much of my life left me; I suppose when we go through it, and we break, and break again, we don’t realize the effects until we are in different situations that leave us realizing just where we are.

I still have days that I look at myself and I often don’t recognize myself, my thoughts, or my feelings about things. I don’t yet know exactly what I want for myself in the future. I’m cautious and hesitant about relationships. But if I ever want to figure some of this stuff out, I have to leave it behind and come up new.

My baptism doesn’t just signify my communion with Christ, much as it didn’t the first time. It also signifies embracing where Christ is taking me. Sometimes this is terrifying. I have to ask myself, do I trust Him to take care of me, and be honest about that answer. There is much of my life, of my experience, of my married situation that I have never talked about, nor revealed. There are things that I have buried because I didn’t understand, nor know, how to bring them to life again. So here, and now, I am burying my husband. I am burying who I was all those years. And now, I am coming back to life.

I am starting again.

I am dying to the years of domestic violence and abuse. I am dying to not feeling like I was ever enough. I am dying to my husband’s family that has never accepted their interpretation, and version, of events is inaccurate to the life I lived as my late husband’s wife. I am dying to the lies, the falsehoods, the isolation, and the way I lived for too many years. I am dying to the things I didn’t accept about myself. I am dying to everything that tried to take me out: the thoughts and considerations of suicide, the unsupportive church family and friends that weren’t there when I needed someone, and living and being someone I just wasn’t. I bury it in the water with my late husband, and I will rise up.

Michelle Branch’s “Goodbye to You” resonates with me deeply as I prepare for this final goodbye. It’s final not just because it is for my husband, but because I am also saying goodbye to who I was, and the life I lived. Like she says in the song, “It hurts to want everything and nothin’ at the same time.” In this interim period, that’s where I have spent a lot of time: wanting everything, and nothing. Wanting things to be different, and yet wanting them to be the way they were, all at once. And, just like she addresses in the song, the only answer is not just to say goodbye to the person, but to the entire life, resolved only in letting go.

It’s not the scattering I envisioned. It’ll be just him and me, just like it was in our life, and in his death. Maybe this time I’ll have a few people there, not in memoriam for his death, but in support of my rising. It won’t be at Wrightsville, but it’ll still be at the ocean, part of the same, big ocean he fell in love with when we first got married. Some things aren’t the way we hope them to be when we imagine how they go down, but for us to move forward, we have to do them the way they need to be.

Most recently, I saw my husband in a dream after I was contacted with threats by his brother, online. I didn’t know if I was going to have to do a huge tell-all about our married life, or what; and the idea was overwhelming to me. Not long after, I had a dream in which my late husband was walking down the Main Street in the city I was from. He put his arm around me, kissed me on the cheek, and walked with me further. I knew when I woke up this dream let me know that whatever I needed to do, no matter what it was as pertains to our situation, we were OK. It was OK. I was going to be OK; maybe one day, better than that. Even if that means leaving him, and my married life, at the beach.

This was later confirmed by a word that was given to me at Sanctuary by one of our newer members. Point blank, I needed to bury him, and what goes along with it, before getting baptized again. To be new, I have to bury what is dead.

It’s time.

So here, for the last time, I say goodbye, not just to my late husband, but to the whole life we had. Shawn, you were the one thing that I tried to hold onto, and for that reason, I have to let you go, because I have to rise again. Not just so you can rest, but so that maybe, somewhere in here, I can too. But as the song says, you’re my shooting star.

…having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through your faith in the working of God, Who raised Him from the dead. (Colossians 2:12)

(c) 2021 by Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.

Of all the things I’ve believed in
I just want to get it over with
Tears from behind my eyes, but I do not cry
Counting the days pass me by

I’ve been searchin’ deep down in my soul
Words that I’m hearin’ are starting to get old
It feels like I’m startin’ all over again
The last three years were just pretend
And I said

Goodbye to you
Goodbye to everything that I knew
You were the one I loved
The one thing that I tried to hold on to

I still get lost in your eyes
And it seems that I can’t live a day without you
Closin’ my eyes, and you chase my thoughts away
To a place where I am blinded by the light
But it’s not right

Goodbye to you
Goodbye to everything that I knew
You were the one I loved
The one thing that I tried to hold on to

And it hurts to want everything
And nothin’ at the same time
I want what’s yours, and I want what’s mine
I want you, but I’m not givin’ in this time

Goodbye to you
Goodbye to everything that I knew
You were the one I loved
The one thing that I tried to hold on to
The one thing that I tried to hold on to

Goodbye to you
Goodbye to everything I thought I knew
You were the one I loved
The one thing that I tried to hold on to

And when the stars fall, I will lie awake
You’re my shooting star

(Michelle Branch, 2001)