July is a difficult time for our family. At times, the stinging twinge of grief hits us again out of nowhere.
It takes us back to that phone call in 2014 that caused me to fall to the floor, wailing in tears. Our oldest son was dead — and by his own doing. The grief and shock of an early death are overwhelming enough, but suicide compounds the anger, unanswered questions, resentment, regret, shame, and so much more.
Apparently our son was battling clinical depression (unmedicated and untreated), but no one was close enough to see it. He lived six hours from us, and his recent visits were brief and filled with happy moments, like his little brother’s graduation and his baby sister’s birthday party.
One month after burying our son, my husband Hank called me, in tears. I was tuning our church’s piano, and finished the job in my own tears, praying fervently. Still grieving and reeling from the shock of our son’s death, the reality of this day’s events hit like a tidal wave. It threatened to drown us, just as we were trying to catch our breath from events.
“Two men from the state office just came to my office to inform me that I am being fired, because of that woman who killed her foster child. They took my cell phone [which he’d had for 15 years], my keys, my laptop, and escorted me from the building like a criminal.”
A kinship foster mom (who was hand-picked by the biological mom to care for her child) had beaten her cousin’s toddler to death. My husband had never met the woman, nor the child. (The social worker whom he supervised also was forced to resign, along with Hank.)
The murderer went to prison, but many innocent people were hurt in the process.
It is quite rare for my husband to cry, and I’d only seen it a few times. The first was in 1995 when his three children (my step-children) left us to go live with their mother. She’d left Hank and the children in 1989, and he’d raised them by himself since then, and with my help since we married two years earlier, in 1993. It was the first big “heartbreak” we’d faced as a married couple, and it crushed my husband. Not just tears…. it brought sobs — for many months.
The second time I saw Hank cry was when my own sister drowned in 2004, leaving behind her five young children. Since she lived ten minutes from us, we were all very close. We grieved for her children, for my mother, and for ourselves.
The third time was when our dads died (mine in 2009, his in 2010), and most recently, when our son died, only six weeks before the day of this fateful phone call I’d just received.
I rushed home as quickly as I could after finishing the piano tuning. I found Hank making calls from our home phone to a couple of coworkers, to let them know he could not be reached using the number he’d had for fifteen years, but to use our home number, and his home email address from now on.
Everyone at his office was outraged by this injustice, many in tears over Hank leaving.
According to protocol, they immediately changed the lock codes, even though they knew Hank would never come back uninvited. A former employee had come back with a gun after his firing, though, so they couldn’t take any chances.
This was my husband’s career for nineteen years, protecting and advocating for abused and neglected children, and disabled and elderly clients. This followed twelve years as a Navy Chaplain, and for many years, a bi-vocational pastor. I agree with what his fellow employees have said about him: Hank Wright was and is one of the best OKDHS employees who has ever worked in our county, full of integrity and 100% trustworthy.
But now, his career was over, and we were devastated, and at a loss of what to do. That evening and the days to come were filled with phone calls, updating and sending our resumes, and job hunting — not what we planned to be doing at this stage in life.
We immediately began to tighten our financial belt as much as possible, even canceling his subscription to the newspaper. It would only save $20 off our monthly budget, but we were anticipating a complete loss of Hank’s income within two months.
It was a battle of fear versus faith as we treaded new and dark, uncertain waters.
However, our loving and merciful Heavenly Father was watching, and in control, at all times. He was already at work on our behalf, to not only provide for our needs during this time, but to bless us immeasurably through it all! (See Romans 8:28)
Since Hank had just turned 62, we learned that he was eligible to begin receiving Social Security. Also, (and this was a HUGE answer to prayer), he was able to “retire” (as opposed to “resigning”) from DHS, so we now can draw his retirement income. After it was all said and done, we actually have a bit more money now than before he lost his job! ONLY GOD!!!!!
Two weeks after Hank lost his job, he ran into a colleague at an associational church meeting. She asked if Hank would possibly be interested in an adjunct faculty teaching position at our local university. This lady did not know that Hank had lost his job!
Hank now loves his new part-time teaching position, and has a wealth of knowledge and experience to pass on to these future social workers. God couldn’t have designed any better new assignment for Hank than this!
God is a Master at taking situations designed to destroy us & turning them around to BLESS us!… Click To Tweet
We are immensely enjoying our new-found freedom (time-wise), and are SO grateful to say farewell to the extreme stress of his previous career. God called Hank there for many years, and he was faithful. He’s so diligent and committed, though, that he likely would not have retired for many more years. But God set him free (even though it hurt and was very frightening and humiliating) as He worked through an unjust situation.
A few months later, I was compelled to join a mission team to Africa for three weeks. There is no way I could have participated if my husband weren’t home and available to care for our children while I was away. His retirement made that possible! We even won a free cruise– our first ever– and embarked on that in April of 2015! Impossible before… now available to us.
So many times, Hank and I were reminded of the account of Joseph in the Bible. He was beaten and left for dead by his ten jealous brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused and imprisoned, then finally set free and exalted to rule the region where he lived in Egypt. Then, God used Joseph to literally save the whole nation and even his own family — including the cold-hearted brothers– from starvation. (See the account in Genesis Chapters 37, 39- 50)
We witnessed how God literally “commanded a blessing” upon us… not one we asked for, not one we expected… but certainly an act of His love and mercy toward us!
Many of you have been through things like this. My prayer is that you will experience the mercy and faithfulness of Jesus through it all. He is our rock and our only certain hope through trials and heartache.
Psalm 34:17-19 (NIV)
17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. 19 The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all;
QUESTION: What trial has God brought you through recently? How did you experience His hand of mercy through it all? PLEASE SHARE in the COMMENT SECTION below, and help encourage others. I read and reply to EVERY comment!