Almost Ending

I have never played football, but if I was to guess, I held the position of a tackling linebacker as I ran shoulder first from one end of our hallway into the spare bedroom door. The impact was enough to bust the door out of the frame and let me into the room. I’d tried for several minutes, which felt like hours, asking Chris to open the door prior to pulling a Liam Neeson. Chris had locked me out. He was disturbed and not responding to me.  When I broke down the door, I found my strong husband sitting on the floor contemplating his life.

Just a week prior, I had witnessed a very willing-and-abled Chris collapse like a Jenga tower. We were on our way to visit a survivor when Chris started to experience visceral sensations of panic: sweaty palms, shortness of breath, and a queasy stomach. He began to tell me he did not feel up to the visit, and within several minutes, he had a severe panic attack. My heart shutters as I remember the expression of utter chaos and fear on his face. Words are slim as I recount driving him home, calming him down, and putting him to bed where he slept for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

While he was asleep, I kept watch, opening the door slightly to make sure he was still breathing. Not knowing what else to do, I made chocolate chip cookies and waited out the storm. Our dogs knew something was wrong because they didn’t leave my side, following me around the house. This was how we spent our Valentine’s Day: Chris hanging on while I was holding it together.

I went to bed that night, lying beside him and wondering if the light of dawn would singe the darkness that had fallen over us. Unfortunately, my wish was far from true. Chris’s battle was far from over, and I was to anchor us down as this storm raged, tearing through his heart and seeking to destroy him.

Chris had reached his breaking point. As the days passed, it was clear that the explosion of panic was just the tip of the iceberg, beginning to expose the condition of his heart. He’d been struggling in silence for some time, and I’d overlooked the signs of depression. Yet they had piled up like bags of trash waiting to be taken off to the landfill. Unsure of the upturn, he bravely waited for weeks as help became available.

Within the mercy of a prayer, God answered with an opportunity for Chris to attend a two-week counseling intensive at Restoring the Soul in Colorado. God was fighting for Chris’s life and well-being, carving a path of healing. I believed God would meet him, and I prayed He’d keep him safe until we made it there. In the midst of what could have been an utter disaster, God was faithful and saw Chris to be well again.

A year has passed since this scene of events. Yet, as I recount the season where we barely held on, I feel the closeness of death. I re-experience the wondering of my heart as we passed through the steps to get help, and I recall my fear of becoming a young widow. I remember looking into Chris’s eyes and letting him know I’m here and I won’t let go. It’s taken a year to finally be able to talk about what our family went through and to acknowledge we are in a different season now. It’s a season where life is blossoming with the upcoming arrival of our daughter, but we will never forget how we almost reached our end too early.

A new fight arose in me as a result of that season—an ultimatum of how I would choose to live with a clearer understanding of the measures one will take to save the people she loves.

I learned that no matter what battle your spouse is facing, you choose to fight like hell on his behalf, and you do not give up until there is resolve.

There is no in-between: you choose all in or all out. The rawness of the situation brought me to compare childhood experiences with my family. This reflection brought a clarity to Chris’s and my definition of family and aligned priorities for us. We learned life is too short to live in compromise, silence, and complacency. Facing the edge taught us how to begin again and challenged us to live out of the heart. We pray that we never again will pass through the closeness of death, and while we would have never chosen the path, we are grateful for how we are changed people.

Anna SmithAnna is passionate, a lover of God and sunrises. She is a wanna be poet and pour over coffee connoisseur. And in her garden she grows Drift Roses (of all things). She is a Master Level Social Worker and a 200 Registered Yoga Teacher. In 2012, along with her husband Chris, she co-founded Restore One, an anti-trafficking ministry that serves men and boys. Journeying through her own recovery process, she understands that healing is a painful yet beautiful path we must take to receive freedom. Anna believes healing is possible for everyone. Anna enjoys throwing pottery, writing and teaching yoga and spending time with Chris.