1) THE UNEXPECTED
The beginning of widowhood...
Day 1 – December 6th, 2016
It is with a very sad, yet thankful heart that I must share the most devastating news of my life..... Michael Vanderburg and our children were in a horrific vehicle crash this evening and Mike's life was taken from us. I am so thankful that our children were spared. So many of you have reached out to me and my family already and the coming days, weeks and months will be the most difficult of my life, but God...... I don't know how people face life without a Savior. He is a comfort in the darkest of nights. I've always told our congregation to not be shy about letting Mike and myself know of their needs, because if we know them, we can meet them. Right now, I have a need. I would like for you to pray over me, my children, mine and Mike's parents, our brothers and sisters, extended family and our congregation. And if the Lord lays a particular scripture on your heart for me, please share it as it helps aid my broken heart. Our whole lives were changed in an instant tonight. I'm thankful that Mike and I lived our lives without regret. He knows how much I love him and I know just how much he loved me... and our miracles. He's gone on to meet the Savior he has preached about and led others to for the past 20 plus years. I covet your prayers and I will let you know when arrangements have been made. Thank you.
Day 2 – December 7th at 12:49pm
Dear friends and family, We will be having the receiving of friends for Michael Vanderburg on Friday night beginning at 5:30 until.... the outpouring of support has been such a comfort to me. His celebration of life service will be on Saturday at 10am. Both of these will take place at our church. I've read every single message and comment and text you have sent. I haven't been able to personally thank you but know that you are all a comfort to me. With much love, Ashley
Never underestimate the power of your presence and your words when tragedy strikes. I've read Every. Single. Word. Every text, every post, every comment. They bring me great comfort. A friend shared with me tonight that we aren't promised tomorrow, but we are promised an eternity. I'm so thankful to know where Mike is, but goodness gracious I sure miss him so bad.
Day 3 - December 8th at 12:32am
As I lay my head down tonight and attempt to find sleep, I find comfort in the snoring of Annabelle and my mom who are both sharing a bed with me. I hear the giggles from the living room as Abi and Eli are stretched out with my brother, sister in love and niece on reclining sofas and a fold out bed from my sister's college days. My sister, brother in law, niece and nephew have all found a snug place in Abi's room to sleep and the Lord only knows where everyone else will end up. But we are family..... doing what families do.... camping out to show just how much they love us.
Day 4- December 9th at 2:01AM
I was talking with Mom today and I became concerned that because Annabelle is only 7, there might be things she forgets about her daddy. I don't want that to happen. I won't let that happen. Mom said she would make the kids a memory book so I need your help. Will you please share a comment below with a story that we can place in his book? Mom can print out your comments and place them inside so we can read them over and over again. Thank you for making me smile with your stories.....
Day 5 - December 10th at 12:53am I'm in utter shock as I think back on the events of this evening... over 1000 people came through the receiving line and people waited for 4+ hours to pay their respects to our family. Mike would have been so humbled by the outpouring of support. I love you all and I thank you for loving us!
It's 7am on the morning we will lay my husband to rest. Grief is ugly. My sadness feels like a knife to my chest. I feel hungry one minute and throw up the next. People told me last night that I was strong when really I feel so weak. I would never wish this type of pain on anyone. I think I dread Monday the most.... people's lives go back to normal, well, everyone except me and my family. We will struggle to find the "new normal" when all I want is the "old normal." The mornings are most difficult for me for some reason. I wake up and lie in bed trying to make sense of such a senseless thing..... Mike is gone. I've never experienced anything like this. I'm a roller coaster of emotions. One minute I find comfort in the fact that we had 15 wonderful years together and the next minute I'm mad that we only had 15 years. Sometimes I want to fast forward to a year down the road and then that makes me sad too because I don't want myself or people to forget about him and how much he meant to us. There is no easy way to get through this. I don't think you ever get over it, just through it. People have been so kind with monetary donations for me and although I am grateful, I never want Mike to feel that all the money in the world was worth losing him.... because it's not. My body is sore this morning from hugging the thousand plus people who came to see my family last night. So what will we do today? We will put clothes on that we will likely never wear again because we will always know this is what we wore to Mike's funeral. We will arrive at a packed church and listen to 3 ministers try to summarize his life in an hour message. We will drive to a school/church where I spent 10 years of my life and place my husband in the ground. We will eat, or try to, I should say, and then we will figure out what to do next. Will I go to church tomorrow? Will I go to work next week? Will I go to the court appearance of the man who took Mike from us because he couldn't wait to get home and drink? This journey is like none other.... don't think I'm strong and forget to pray for me. Your prayers are why I feel strong. Mike and I met a lady a few weeks ago who lost her husband. She is 83 years old and she was a pastor's wife. She didn't realize that day that she would give me the words that would carry me through today. She told me that when her husband died she told herself she would do this with dignity, and that's what I want to do. I choose dignity when I want to scream and dignity when I want to run away and never come back. I chose dignity for Mike in what he wore and my decision to leave his casket closed. I will take the manna that God has given me for today and I will trust Him to see us all through. Thank you for your prayers.....
Day 6 - December 11th at 9:48am
It's Sunday morning. Mike should be in his office preparing for the morning message. I should hear him praying from our bedroom. I should be doing the bulletin and picking out our Christmas music for worship today. I should be updating the overhead projectors with the announcements of bringing food to tonight's children's Christmas program. None of that is happening today. Instead, I'm laying here mustering up the courage to roll out of bed. I'm not ready to go to our church this morning... I just can't yet. I may try to go tonight because it's the children's musical and all 3 of my kids have worked hard to be ready.... I don't want it to be for nothing. Mike's funeral and burial was unreal. I usually leave funerals feeling worse, but not yesterday. I was a little overwhelmed, however, when those doors opened and I could see all eyes on me.... and my children. Anna whispered "Why are they looking at us?" I told her "They want to make sure we are ok." I couldn't help but think about the first time in my life when doors opened and all eyes were on me. And even then Mike was meeting me at the front..... it seems odd comparing the worse day of my life to the best, and yet I did. I'm glad I didn't have to carry a trash can with me down the aisle that day in case I threw up. But I am so happy about how his service turned out. We laughed and cried and shared stories. He would have been so pleased. I held it together until we made it to my home church for lunch. I made my way to the sanctuary to lay down on a pew, as I did many times in my childhood. My sadness was overwhelming. I laid there until friends came looking for me. How long does this last I wonder? People will grow tired of reading posts born from my brokenness because it will make them sad each time they read it.... I went inside Walmart yesterday for the first time to get thank you cards. I felt like each person I encountered should know automatically about Mike leaving me and they should be offering their condolences. I called the company who has our vehicle loan to ask about gap insurance and after telling the awful story of what has happened, the lady offered no words of "I am so sorry" or apology. I just wanted to tap on the phone and say, "Excuse me! Did you just hear what I said? This is where you say "I'm sorry!" My world is in pieces, Lady! The least you can do is offer sympathy!" My brother felt like it would be good for the kids to do something fun last night and I agreed. We took them bowling at pin station. We pulled into the parking lot and what was sitting on the ground? A glass bottle of gin. I've never felt such an emotion by seeing a bottle of alcohol. We walked inside and saw people sitting at tables with pitchers of beer and I just wanted to go over and say, "I buried my husband today because he was killed by a drunk driver. You aren't driving are you?" Anna was able to eat a burger.... the most I've seen her eat yet. Eli and Abi both said that they had a great time. That made me feel good. I found my "wifey" shirt in the clean clothes pile when I was changing clothes and thought, "This should say 'widow' now." I'm one of those people that God says to take care of. Me! A widow, at 37. Maybe I'll start a blog. I feel like writing my thoughts is healing for me..... someone told me it would help. So here we go. On a journey I never wanted to take. I know I have so many of you with me for this dreaded journey. I know we will make it together, one day/step/minute/bite at a time.
Day 7 - December 12th at 11:39am
Well, Monday's here. Come to find out she and her BFF "dread" don't have the hold on me that I thought they would. A friend reminded me that THE JOY OF THE LORD WOULD BE MY STRENGTH today and I have found it to be true. The Lord has gone ahead of me. I've been able to accomplish a lot already this morning. I've made contact with the Social Security office and I've spoken to the highway patrol. I've talked to the bank, the DA's office and countless friends who are helping me get through today. I have clean clothes on.... the kids are at school. It's a bright, yet cloudy day. I praise the Lord for friends who are willing to tell me what I need to do. I've never gone through death like this before so I don't know who to call and tell what, but with everyone's help, I'll figure it out. My brain feels a little fuzzy with all that I need to remember, but I can do this. Reinforcements are on the way. Much love to you all..... I can feel your prayers for me and my children. Ashley