Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Vickey Boozman describes her feelings after the death of her husband.

Vickey Boozman: I experienced losing my own identity. I thought, “Who am I?” It’s just like three-fourths of me disappeared; it was gone. Even in that you realize God still is ultimately in control.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, July 24.

Yesterday we began hearing a conversation Nancy recorded in 2006. She talked with Vickey Boozman and Kathy Ferguson who both know the surprise and pain of losing their husbands in a moment.

They’ve talked honestly about the struggles and the grace that comes when life is suddenly changed. Nancy’s going to pick up that conversation addressing her first question to Kathy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Is it hard for a lot of Christians to even talk about or deal with this whole concept of disappointment, the unexpected? Are we maybe in too much of a hurry to get people through that process?

Kathy Ferguson: I think a difficult subject for us to talk about sometimes in the believing community is when God has given us something that we have not wanted. We find it hard to hang the right words on that because we’re uncomfortable with anyone saying . . . we’re very sensitive if someone might say, "They’re angry with God."

But I did find in my spirit that I was disappointed with this turn in my life. And like Vickey, we were in visible situations so there were a lot of people watching my journey. In my heart I wanted to honor God and I wanted to honor my husband’s great faith and strength and our city and our community.

But I also knew that it wouldn’t dishonor God if I said, “I’m struggling, but He’s still with me.” I didn’t want to communicate at any point that God would only be there when the victory came of my emotions. God was with me in that valley of death. He was walking along.

He knew my tears. He knew my sadness. He understood my questions. So the disappointment was something that God journeyed with me and navigated me through that.

Nancy: I think sometimes with our emphasis on testimony and faith, maybe unintentionally we create a picture that, “Okay, you’ve been through this, but you need to be having victory. And why aren’t you?”

Kathy: Well, I was having victory if I could just get out of bed every morning at that stage.

Nancy: That was victory.

Vickey Boozman: There are different stages of victory and different levels of victory.

Kathy: I want to say something. You asked about the grief thing. It’s been a very difficult personal struggle for me because I was a pastor’s wife for 26 years. To look back on how I viewed other people’s grief and to look back on their processes, my husband used to say, “You can’t know what you don’t know.” And I didn’t know.

But I’m very grieved that even someone that heavily participated in the life of the church that I wasn’t more sensitive. I didn’t honor people’s pain like I now understand that I needed.

Even though people couldn’t feel what I felt, I noticed people that had the great gift of mercy. It just came out of them. They couldn’t stop if they wanted to.

They tended to be the people that I had not noticed before. They came along and they somehow seemed to know what I needed, which was really frankly more just companionship and listening and not trying to offer to me explanations. They gave me hope and pointed me to Christ in such a way that I had not been able to do previously as I walked alongside my husband as a pastor’s wife.

Nancy: Can you think of someone who comes to mind who was an instrument of God’s mercy during that season or has been in these last four years?

Kathy: I have a precious support system, and you know some of my friends. I have an absolute best friend. Her name is Debbie Swanson, and she has known and understood some disappointments in her life. I think her faith was tremendous. Her commitment to me as a friend . . .

Nancy: How did she express that in ways that were meaningful to you?

Kathy: She did a lot of things. She just came into my home and served. And in the early days when just functioning is difficult, taking care of those matters.

Nancy: Practical matters.

Kathy: But I want to say there were people that came into my life that had experienced death that I never knew before, and we began to connect at a new level. I would definitely say people that needed that comfort in their life, they just rose to the top.

Nancy: People who had been there.

Kathy: People who had been there. They didn’t have to be widows that had lost their mates necessarily, but people that knew grief and loss, their understanding. The Bible talks about comfort one another with the comfort you’ve received. And it goes on to say, Paul says, “It was for your sake that I was afflicted” (see 2 Corinthians 1:3-11). 

When I begin to think of the people that touched me the most, they used their own past comfort for my sake. And I want to do that now, and I can do that now in a way that I never could before.

Vickey: I was just thinking of the way that people came into my home, close friends, and just took over for me. It was spring break and so there were a lot of people gone but yet there were a lot of people around. There were even people that were on the road and heard about this and turned around and came back. They had a week’s vacation, and they kind of spent their week at our house.

Friends just moved in and took over. I mean they were taking care of the meals. They were answering the telephone calls. They were running errands. They were cleaning my house—I mean vacuuming and dusting my house and cleaning the bathrooms because I had so many people in and out.

What I experienced early on was the love of people where before I’d always been on the giving end. I’d never been on that receiving end. You could just see on the countenances the shared grief of those who really knew you.

It’s been a year now, and I still if I get out of my main area of where I live and go to the grocery store and everything, I still run into people who are still touched by that.

That’s been a revelation to me, because it’s sad to say, my heart has been very hard in this area. I’ve known of people who have lost someone and a year has come and gone and I’ve just kind of thought, “They need to really start making an effort to get on with life.”

I found out you’re trying. I mean I’m trying. I’m really trying to get on with my life, but I’m looking for what life is now. It’s a whole new walk, and it’s a whole new journey.

Just as Kathy talked about the work that God has done in her heart, God has really softened my heart in some particular areas. I’ve become a more generous person. I have a whole lot less money than I had before, but I’m sure willing to give it a whole lot more easily. That’s just a work God did that I didn’t ask for.

I think what happened is that Fay’s gift of giving kind of got transferred to me when God took him on to heaven. My sweet husband loved people dearly and had spent years teaching me how to love people.

I was making progress, but all of a sudden I took a great big giant step. I have a much more tender heart for people in all sorts of situations than I had before.

I have to confess that I’ve had a bit of a judgmental attitude towards some people that I know who are really kind of caught up in some sins. God has so touched my heart towards them, but He has given me a new boldness to speak with them in a much more loving manner than I would have before.

So I’m able to see some good that has come from this. But I’m still struggling with what’s next.

Nancy: Kathy, again you’re a little further down the road than this, but for years both of you—Kathy you for 25 years with Rick and Vickey for 37 with Fay—had wrapped your lives around blessing and serving and loving and helping your husband. You ladies have been great models of that.

Now your husband is gone and your children are grown. So who are you? What are you? How do you work through that process of “What’s my purpose?”

Kathy: There’s definitely another thing you lose in a day like we both experienced. Direction and purpose is just gone. And for both of us—Vickey didn’t work full time; I didn’t work full time—we were totally engaged in our husband’s ministry and career. I was a pastor’s wife, so not only that but I was quickly going to . . .

Nancy: . . . lose your job.

Kathy: Lose my church family, the most loving and warm and kind church family. They would get a new pastor there and a new . . .

Nancy: . . . pastor’s wife.

Kathy: I knew that was the right thing to do but the loss of direction. And now here I am. I was 45 years old, and I’m looking at this second half of my life, this afternoon of my life. It’s not going to look like the morning of my life looked like.

Shortly after Rick’s death I was going to teach a Bible study on the Lord’s Prayer. I was driving across the city of Denver, and it was in October. And just a phrase of the Lord’s Prayer came to my mind: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). 

That truth hit me. My husband and I married very young, and he had been in the ministry since before we were married. We had sought God’s will together and prayed together. And now I’m in this new journey.

God just very tenderly said to my heart in that car driving across the city, “Rick is doing My will in heaven. You’re going to do My will on earth. And it’s not going to look like it’s been where you found God’s will together.”

But I felt that encouragement from the Lord that you do My will on earth now without Rick. I felt encouragement from my husband that he was doing God’s will in heaven, and I would continue to do that on earth.

It gave me a desire to find God's will and keep walking that pathway.  God was not done with life and certainly wanted me to continue in the same spiritual habits that we had together as a couple but now as a single woman. 

Nancy: But it was saying too that God still had purpose for your life.

Kathy: Definitely.

Nancy: That the fact that Rick was in heaven didn’t mean that God didn’t still have a will for you here on earth.

Kathy: That’s right. It’s a process to make that discovery and then let God fulfill that in your life and in that time.

Nancy: I think it’s a reminder too that for all of us—with or without a husband, with or without children, different seasons of life—that there are seasons and that joy ultimately comes through embracing. Not that there isn’t pain and process and grieving and dealing with loss.

But when it comes down to it, joy comes from receiving the season of life that God has for me now and saying, “There is purpose in this season,” whether God ever brings a mate to the single woman or takes a mate from the married woman, whether God ever gives children or takes a child and a host of other life circumstances.

You’re discovering what you already knew in your head that life doesn’t have to stop, that God’s will goes on. Your life is different but still God has purpose for it.

Kathy: I think the perspective of that Nancy, a Puritan writer made this statement when he lost his spouse. He said this, and I’ve found this to be true: “Life will be a little less sweet, but death will be a little less bitter.”

Now while that’s a very true statement, there are some people who will purpose in their heart to be bitter the rest of their life, and that’s not what that statement says. But I remember shortly after Rick’s death our youngest son (it was just a month out) was at a football game, and my son scored a touchdown. The crowd went wild, and I shed a tear. That’s one of those occasions when life was still sweet, but it would be a little less sweet.

Nancy: Because Rick wasn’t sitting there.

Kathy: That’s right. But the upside of that is that death is a lot less bitter. I have gained an appreciation for eternity. I would have thought I had a good kingdom perspective and a perspective of heaven. But it’s very different now.

I think what I’ve also discovered is that life is not all its cracked up to be. Sin and death are still here, and they will be here until Christ comes back. And that brings the hope of heaven and the hope that Christ gives us into greater proportion than ever before.

I will have a lot of joy in life, but there will be some things—when my son got married and we all went down that aisle—those things are just going to be a little less sweet than they once were. And it’s okay to say that. That doesn’t mean they’re not joyful. That doesn’t mean you can’t have great family moments.

Vickey is getting ready to have a grandchild that Fay will have never known. She can say she wishes Fay was here to take part of that. But she still will just love this grandchild. And they will build and pour into this little girl about this granddad she never had. But it’s okay to say, “I wish you had known your grandfather.”

Nancy: Isn’t that what the Scripture tells us is the case that the whole creation groans and travails in pain? We get so attached to the perceived sweetness of this life. And then when something shakes up our world as yours have been hugely, for some it becomes devastation.

But for you women you’re seeing it from the perspective of eternity and saying, “This life is a fallen world. There is death. There is sorrow. There is pain. But maybe in some way that gives you a heightened anticipation of the real thing that we were made for which is not here and now and yet."

Vickey: Yes, absolutely. I know I’ve quipped in the past the verse that says, “Come quickly Lord Jesus.” But I could never honestly say, “I’m really ready. I could go in the snap of a finger.” But boy, I would now. Whole new perspective.

One of the things that Kathy talked to and eluded to and I think possibly she experienced this is that when you work hand in hand as a unit, as a team, as a couple, as one flesh and you lose one of those components, I experienced losing my own identity.

I thought, “Who am I?” I was my kids’ mom for many years and then I became Fay Boozman’s wife because I assisted him in these last years together in so many ways. It’s just like three-fourths of me disappeared; it was gone. Even in that you realize God still is ultimately in control.

I don’t understand ,it but I know it within my very being. That’s hard to comprehend not being able to understand but knowing. It’s not a belief. It’s an, “I know with everything within me.” And it changes how you look at life and the happenings of life and the things going on around you.

I know we had a contract on our home placed before Fay was killed. I went ahead and sold the place that our children were reared in and am in the process of building a new house. I look at friends who are in the process of building a new house, and it’s like I’m not doing the same thing. The motivation, the drive, the desire is not there. I’m doing something that needs to be done, and I’ll get it taken care of.

Nancy: But it doesn’t mean the world to you.

Vickey: No.

Nancy: Was it really, really hard to sell that place on Honeysuckle?

Vickey: In the beginning when I would drive off from there—this is after the funeral, after everybody’s gone home—and I’ve left to go to the grocery store.I come back I would set outside and I would look at that house. I would cry not because of the house but because of the memories, the things that I could visually see happening all around that house from the children growing up to the birthday parties to youth group fellowships to deacons meetings to barbecues to hayrides. I mean you name it. I can see all that.

Then the further along I got because of just some things going on with the sale, it got postponed, the actual closing of the house. I think God did that for me because it was a time of release. I began to look forward to, “I’ve got to get this place sold and move on.” And God held it up I think for me.

Because when I was supposed to have been moving out was in April, the month after he died. I could not physically nor emotionally have packed up that house at that point and moved.

God gave me five more months, and I needed those. By that time I was ready to move on.

Nancy: Kathy, what has been the lowest point emotionally for you since the time right around Rick’s death, post funeral, post getting through all that? As you look back is there a point that was just very, very low?

Kathy: There was a part of this. It was the loneliness factor that we’d had a full life, full ministry, our children. The knowing that I needed to back away from our church somewhat and let them find a new future kind of lessened it. So the new piece of loneliness in my life was always a low point.

I have been a very strong people person and built a lot of relationships. Now that became a companion that in the beginning was just bitter and dark.

I told you earlier I read Elisabeth Elliot’s book. Actually, the truth is I was at the Missionary Learning Center, that international mission board in Richmond. We were there the weekend before Rick was killed, and Rick was speaking there.

I was in the library there that they have for the missionaries at the MLC. I noticed this book of Elisabeth Elliot’s that was in the library there on Saturday night.

Nancy: The book is actually called Loneliness.

Kathy: I was standing there looking at it thinking about missionaries, about my role as a pastor’s wife. I came home, ordered that book on the Internet and then Rick was killed on Thursday. The message in that book about what can be found in loneliness was completely against my lifestyle, my personality. I began to learn so many things in that process.

And to this day I don’t like being lonely. But I see God in the midst of that. Elisabeth Elliot brought to mind in that book a verse out of the parables in Matthew that the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. And when a man finds it he hides it and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has.

She takes that principle and says there’s a treasure to be found in the field of loneliness. When you find the treasure, and that’s Christ, you will be happy in that. You will go and sell all you have to know that treasure.

And slowly, Nancy, I mean really slowly—and Vickey is not quite there yet—I’ve learned to find that treasure more and more. I haven’t found it; Christ has revealed it to me. But it’s still a very difficult thing, loneliness.

Leslie Basham: That’s Kathy Ferguson who lost her husband in a car accident. She’s been talking with Nancy Leigh DeMoss about walking through the process of grief. Nancy also talked with Vickey Boozman, whose husband died in a farm accident about a year before this interview was recorded in 2006.

These women have a lot of insight into a situation many of our listeners fear and some will face. You can learn more from their example by getting a copy of the series on CD. We’ll send it when you send a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. We’ll also include the booklet Promises to Live By.

You’ll read many Scriptures in this booklet that will give you hope for whatever dark situation you’re walking through. Make your donation at ReviveOurHearts.com or ask for Promises to Live By and the series Grace Through Loss when you call 1-800-569-5959.

When you go through a crisis your children can provide the kind of stability that you used to provide for them. Continue hearing from our guests Monday on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.