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My late husband‘s brother mentioned to me the other day that this weekend would be difficult for him. You see, my late husband and his brother were twins. Their birthday is this coming Sunday. If my husband had lived he would have been celebrating his 44th birthday. His birthday coming up, has allowed me to remember… I have a picture of him from his 26th birthday. It was him eating a piece of hot fudge cake at Darryl‘s restaurant in Knoxville, Tennessee. We were newlyweds (2 1/2 months) at the time. Goofy and laughing–with no idea what was ahead for us. I guess it was better that way. The not knowing…
Time went on… and I also remember his last birthday. Kennis and I and our children along with his parents, had gone to a seafood restaurant in Dandridge, Tennessee. We had a good time that night. He was celebrating being 34, in the midst of a chronic illness and an incurable heart disease. I remember us all riding in the car back home. We had a nice evening together. Little did any of us know how soon life as we knew it, would change. I’m glad we didn’t know what was ahead of us. I guess it was better that way. The not knowing…
Three weeks later Kennis died. Just 3 weeks into his 34th year….and life changed for all of us that knew and loved him.
Beginnings are scary. Endings are usually sad, but it’s what’s in the middle that counts. So, when you find yourself at the beginning, just give hope a chance to float up. And it will.
I wrote this blog two years ago as a memorial to Kennis. It was a hard blog entry to write. The memories were very vivid. I still remember them as if they just happened yesterday. It does not seem possible that nearly a decade has gone by.
For those of you that are new readers to my blog, I warn you this blog will be difficult to read…..but, it is me, being real.
In Memory of Kennis—
DISCLAIMER: Be aware that this blog entry will have some things in it that might be difficult or painful to read.
Back in August I did a blog about the memory of my husband’s late wife, Nancy. Now, it is my turn to do a blog entry about my late husband, Kennis. This Tuesday will not just be election day, but also the day that marks the eighth anniversary of my first husband’s death. Honestly, I can hardly believe eight years have gone by. It seems like a lifetime ago.
In late October of 2000 I was vacuuming in our living room. Vacuuming like a mad woman. My life was out of control. My husband was chronically ill. He was dying. We had a lot of medical bills. My life revolved around taking care of him….. I was vacuuming and keeping things in order because it was something I had control over…when everything else was so out of control. On this particular evening my husband said to me in a premonition of what was to come, “Dawn come here and sit with me. The vacuuming can wait. Sit here with me because you know I won’t be here forever. I’m dying.” I in an angry voice replied, ” No, you won’t! I don’t want to hear you talk like that.” ” Yes. Come and sit over here with me.” Little did I know how quickly his words would become my reality……..November 4, 2000 was a Saturday. Kennis was brought to the hospital by me, the afternoon before with extreme pain. (He had a chronic heart condition that he had been diagnosed with the year before at the ripe old age of 32 years and 8 months) He was okay that morning and we talked and laughed. Some of his family visited and we watched the University of Tenn. play against the University of SC. After the game everyone left and it was just the two of us. Things seemed okay… Kennis called me over to his hospital bed, reached his arms up and pulled me close. “You know I love you, right?”, he said in his deep mellow voice. ” Of course”, I replied as I gazed up at him. Moments later my husband yanked his IV’s out. I didn’t understand. I remember being confused as I stared at the crimson stains on the white hospital sheets….his voice echoing in my head….” I have to get up. I have to get up NOW! I need to exercise. I can’t just lay here. I have to run in the hallway!” I grabbed the nurses button and started screaming, ” Help me! Someone help me, PLEASE! Dear God, HELP ME!” Nurses came running in to Kennis’ room asking him questions like, ” What is your name? Who is the president? What day is it?” Sometimes he answered correctly, sometimes not. I said, “What is the matter with him?” ( I later found out lack of oxygen made him talk out of his mind.) They just shook their heads….and got some new sheets. Kennis laid back down….but not for long. He got back up. He was screaming at me. I KNEW something was terribly, terribly wrong. I screamed again as this time, my husband slumped over in the chair next to his bed. His eyes rolled back. All I could see was the white of his eyes. At that moment I knew my husband was gone. I stood like a statue staring at him, my feet felt like I had concrete in them. I couldn’t move…even as the nurses and doctors crowded into the room yelling, “He’s coding!” I vaguely remember a nurse leading me to another room on the same floor to wait. As I waited, Kennis’ mother and father arrived. They had no idea what was going on and were escorted to the room I was in.
Much later the emergency room doctor and Kennis’ cardiologist walked in. The emergency room doctor looked directly at me….and I know how hard it must have been for him….”Mrs. Satterfield we lost your husband. I’m so sorry. I worked on him for 45 minutes straight. I couldn’t bring myself to stop even though we could never get a solid heartbeat. I didn’t want to give up because he was so young with a young family. I’m so very sorry.” At first I was confused…you lost him? Where is he at? Then I said, ” you mean he is dead.” I didn’t cry. I actually thanked him for his effort. It was all very strange, that I felt I should be polite. I guess that is the body’s way of coping with extremely painful news. Don’t think. Just do. Though I was quiet, Kennis’ mom let out the most mournful scream I’ve ever heard. It made the hairs on my arms stand up, like with goosebumps. She slumped on her husband saying, “not my baby boy. not my baby boy. Dear Jesus, why my baby boy?” I remember at that very moment I felt worse for her then I did for myself…I lost my spouse, but she had lost her son. Thinking about our own 5 year old son who at the time was with my mother, I couldn’t begin to imagine the pain of losing a child.
Over the days that followed my family and friends were there to support me. They helped me every step of the way. They helped my son, and me to not feel alone. Life started to be a new kind of normal for us. It wasn’t the same mind you…it never would be the same, but life could be good again. Indeed, it has been good. God, in scripture, told me that He is a defender of widows and a father to the fatherless. He would never leave me. I cannot imagine what my life would have been like if I didn’t know the Lord. My hopelessness was replaced with hope. My grief was replaced with peace. It didn’t happen immediately, and there were days that were difficult…but God carried me through the most difficult times and brought me out on the other side. Scripture also tells me, and I believe that God allows us to go through certain trials so that we can help others when they are in similar trials. I understand things now that it would have been impossible for me to understand had I not had to walk through the valley.
Shortly after my husband’s funeral I was cleaning in our bedroom. Trying to straighten things up…it was something to do, you know what I mean. I was trying to stay busy. I looked over at our dresser and noticed a piece of paper that I hadn’t seen there before. It was a scripture verse that had been written out in my husband’s own handwriting. I gently picked it up and read the familiar scrawl. This scripture was a message to me. A message from a wonderful and loving God. He gave me this message to read. A message that He had also given Kennis. “However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (I Corinthians 2:9) What peace I had after reading that. Thank you Lord.
When I think of my late husband I think of truck driving, and NASCAR, Earnhardt, and baseball caps. Woodworking and cooking. Grill master, canning and apple pies. He loved the University of Tennessee football, and his white pick up truck. He loved his daughters and son. He’d try to fix anything and if he couldn’t then he’d fake it:) I remember trips to the Bahamas, Florida and St. Louis. I remember the week I spent with him in the big rig. (and realized I could never do that! haha.) Memories tucked away in my mind…
My life has changed much since this day…I have gone on living. I am now able to think about Kennis and celebrate his life and all that he was, instead of staying in mourning. God has indeed blessed me and I appreciate each day now, much more than I ever did.
My late husband was very much like the prodigal son of the Bible. When he found out he was going to die, I believe he began to understand God much more. His relationship with Christ changed, as they walked together through the valley of the shadow of death. Changed in a way that I honestly cannot really understand because I’ve not been there. Because my husband knew the Lord personally, I have no doubt that he is with Him in heaven. More alive today than he ever was here on earth. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.