Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Love. Life. Happiness.... and Sorrow.

We all want it. We all strive to find it. And if we're lucky enough, God gives us that soulmate.

However this week, I've cried with such a heavy heart for someone I love.

Eight years ago, I stood beside one of my best friends and roommates in college, Rachel King, along with many other true friends as she married the man of her dreams, Stewart Bieber, on April 20, 2002. I was also with her on their 8th anniversary in Birmingham, AL this past Tuesday. But rather than celebrating their marriage and love, I wept alongside her as she poured out in tears and words the emptiness that her heart now feels. On Saturday, April 17th, her husband, Stewart, was tragically killed in a water skiing accident.

Rachel and Stewart were on a professional ski team. It was something they both loved and enjoyed doing together, and the people who were on their team were really like an extended family to them.

I'm full of the deepest sorrow I've ever felt for someone I love. Her weeping reminded me of what Mary, the mother of Jesus, must have sounded like as she watched her Son die on the cross. It was empty, lonely, deep, and painful all at the same time. Sadly, I know that pain all too well (in a different manner, of course) when my car accident occurred.

I was there when she went on her first "date" with him in the fall of 1999 - though it wasn't a date. Rachel wanted to take flying lessons, and Stewart was her assigned pilot. I vividly remember her coming home from her lesson with a smile I've never seen before as she exclaimed with joy that she met the man she was going to marry. Little did she know, he was thinking the same thing that day. However, they remained "good buddy's" for two years until finally, they said "I do."

(L-R: Anna Crow Padgett, Julie Buckley Tiemann, Janna Scott Montgomery, and me next to Stewart with other bridesmaids on their wedding day.)

Their relationship was like none I've ever known. It's one I was envious of and yearned for when it was my time to get married. Literally every day was like the first day they got married. Rachel is full of life, spontaneity, passion, and love for adventure. Stewart expressed his love for her every single day of their life, and always made a point to love on other people, too... showing them the love of Christ. They both lived life to the fullest, and I can honestly say (which I don't use lightly) that they were soulmates. He was made for her, and she was made for him. They were best friends, and it pains me to see her without him now.

I got the news of Stewart's death from Julie, one my other college friends who was also in their wedding and who I was with in Yosemite 1999. In fact, that's how all of us "Yosemite Girls" met and have remained next to each other through many events in each others' lives. However, ever since that phone call from Julie, I cannot stop crying. I hurt so much for my dear, sweet friend as she had to witness his tragic death.

It's not fair. It shouldn't have happened to her. It was the wrong time and too early for him to go.

But as I said, I know the pain, sorrow, and emptiness of "loss" all too well. So the reason I cry so much for my dear friend, Rachel, is because I know what she's up against. I know how the devil is and how he'll try to tear her down. I know the depression that will come, the sleepless nights of pure tears, and the oddest times that trigger a memory of the past. I hurt for her because I know what this next year will be like for her. Even though she's a very strong Christian, she is still.... human. Rachel was there for me in my darkest hours to encourage and build me up, yet also let me cry, too. So when she asked me to be there with her in Birmingham while I happened to be in Atlanta last week, there wasn't even a question of whether or not I'd drive to be with her this week during her time of need.

When I got hurt in my car accident, I naturally asked "Why? Why me? Why now?" Rachel is asking the same questions, and I don't have the answers for her. However, after about 5 years post injury, I started to see why God allowed this paralysis to happen. In fact, it's not just one reason. I've found that there are many reasons. And after spending time with Rachel on Tuesday, I know that God used my tragedy ten years ago to help her now in her time of sorrow. I also know that the Lord will show Rachel when it's time the answer to her "Why" questions.

Please pray for my sweet and dear friend, Rachel, as her name comes to your mind as she mourns the loss of her husband, Stewart. Please also pray for the driver of the boat (who was a friend of theirs) as he deals with guilt and pain, and finally, pray for both extended families - the loss of a son, brother, husband, and friend. The memorial service will be on Friday, April 23, 2010.

The Lord WILL restore the years that the locusts have taken away (
Joel 2:25-26) Rachel, your dreams are not broken, and you will get through this through the strength of the Lord. You WILL have peace soon, and I pray that through this tragedy that many people would know the love of the Lord and choose to walk with Him on a daily basis... following in Stewart's example.

My heart is heavy and my eyes are swollen with tears the past few days, but I am confident with faith that Stewart is in Heaven with Jesus right now. Rachel, I love you with all my heart and am so, so sorry. But as I said to you on Tuesday, eventually, all doves go back to their Master. Yours left too soon, but know that Stewart is with Jesus now - the best place ever!

"For we will surely die and become like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. Yet God does not take away a life; but He devises means, so that His banished ones are not expelled from Him." 2 Samuel 14:14

To read more about Rachel and Stewart, please click here to read Julie Tiemann's beautiful tribute to them. Also, you can click here to read Rachel and Stewart's blog about how they've been building their dream house - a log cabin in the woods.