God in the Journey of Grief
February 1, 2004 - Evelyn Husband was thrown into the most painful trial of her life on Feb. 1, 2003, when the space shuttle Columbia broke apart during re-entry, killing all seven crew members, including Evelyn's husband, Commander Rick Husband. But Evelyn Husband has found God to be faithful even in this terrible trial.
by Jim Dailey
Q: A lot of emotions must have surfaced in writing "High Calling," your book about the Columbia disaster and Rick's death.
A: A lot of people have asked me if writing the book has been helpful, and the answer is "No, it was not; it was very hard." This grieving journey is the hardest thing I have ever been through in my whole life. I don't find any of it easy. I haven't found anything to be a relief except for when I am worshiping God and I am in His presence. That is the only place that it doesn't hurt. Everything else is just painful. I miss Rick so much I can hardly stand it, so just trying to remember dating and everything is very, very hard. I'm praying to God that at some point, someday, the memories will not be so painful. I can't believe it's been a year and it still hurts as much as it does. I suppose in some ways it's better now because I don't cry all the time, but I still cry quite a bit.
Q: What would you tell people about God's faithfulness in the face of great heartache?
A: I don't know how anyone else has felt going through this. I can only talk about my own experience. It seems to me that when something this horrific happens in your life, there are only two reactions—you are either going to run to God or away from Him. Because of the history that I've had with Jesus over the years, going through infertility and the marriage difficulties that Rick and I had, I knew I could trust Him. I knew that God would be faithful. I have really trusted Him through this, more than anything I have in my life. He has proven to be faithful. He does big things and little things. I make my little requests known to Him, and He comes through on every single thing. It's not like a wish list where I want this, that or the other thing. For example, a few months ago, I was in the Dallas airport. I found a magazine, and on the cover was the launch of the shuttle. There was an article about the accident investigation report. I read about half of it and couldn't read it anymore because I get so tired of thinking about it. I cried out to God, "Lord, before I get on this flight to California, I want to meet a Christian. I just want to talk to someone." I felt very alone.
I got to the gate and there was this woman in a wheelchair. We visited for quite a while. She was a widow, and when I told her that I was too, she said that I was too young to be a widow. I said, "Yes, I am, but my husband died in an accident in February." She asked what had happened, so I told her. She said that she had been praying for me every day since the accident. Her husband was a pastor for 45 years. This touched me so much. I got on that plane saying, "Lord, thank You! That is exactly what I needed!" He has done that over and over.
He has been faithful in showing me that He is being a father to the fatherless. He is being my husband. It's been amazing for me to see that He really does care about me and is very much in tune with what I need at the time.
Q: I'm sure some days are better than others. How do you handle the ebb and flow of emotions?
A: I just kind of go with it. I went to a very good Christian counselor early on, and I told him, "I want to handle this in a healthy way. I've never had to do this before, and I don't know what to expect." He told me that it is very unpredictable. A day that is going very well can be sidetracked when you hear a song and have a memory. There are so many things that can trigger memories. I was shopping, and they were playing Christmas music. I almost started crying in the store. Rick sang and had a beautiful voice, and I could hear him singing. I just have to handle each day as it comes. I'm very thankful for the times that I feel stronger.
Q: I understand you are now doing a lot of speaking with Women of Faith Conferences.
A: Yes, I did three last year, and I'll do seven this year. They are wonderful; I am so blessed. The other women that speak at the Women of Faith conferences have just enveloped me and my children, Laura and Matthew. I come home very refreshed from those weekends. They pray for us and lift us up—it is hard to explain. I feel so honored to be able to publicly talk about God. Because of what I have been through, God has opened doors where I can get right to the point of who He is and why people need to decide now to have a relationship with Jesus. I can say all those things, and people will listen to me because of what I've been through. It is a huge privilege for me.
Q: How do you connect with the hearts of other women?
A: Nobody is exempt from crisis—mine has just been very public. That's the only difference. I emphasize how important it is to have a very strong relationship with the Lord and not have it just be lip service. Then when something like this happens, you do trust the Lord. I share with these women that when they walk through a crisis, they have to know Whose arms they are falling into. I encourage them to be thankful for where they are. I've had to do that this year. I don't want to spend my whole life wanting something different. With my children, there are so many things that are such a delight that I make myself focus on those things. Matthew just learned how to ride his bicycle a couple of months ago. He's eight, and he is thrilled. It is a whole new world for him. Laura was out playing with some friends last night and kicked a football to the point that I thought, "My goodness, we have scholarship material here." We can be happy right now. I have really pursued that with them this year.
Q: Do you have opportunities to talk with the family of the crewmembers who died along with Rick?
A: Absolutely. We are together all the time. It is very helpful. We all come from very different backgrounds, so everyone is handling it differently. But Sandy Anderson (wife of Columbia astronaut Mike Anderson) and I talk on the phone several times a week. She lives just around the corner, and we pray together a lot. We'll call each other when we're down. Our children, I've noticed, have an incredible connection with each other because we've been through the same thing. Last November, they dedicated the National Space Mirror, and we all were in Florida for that together. The crew was very close, and all of us were very close to each other, so there has been lots of grieving for the other crewmembers as well.
Q: How important has the support of friends been in this past year?
A: Especially in the early months, I had friends who would wake up in the middle of the night sobbing and interceding for me. I believe with all my heart that that took some of the pain away. I don't know how God does that, but it is real. I believe that there are close friends of mine who have borne some of this grief on my behalf. I have watched them grieve almost as much as we have. They have helped me in very practical ways. They have helped with finances and with organizing the newspaper articles and mail. There have been so many people that have touched me.
Q: Many people have heard about the devotional tapes Rick recorded for your family before the Columbia launch.
A: Rick set such an example, and that's one of the things I want to uphold with Laura and Matthew. We didn't have devotions every day—he did it sporadically. No one is perfect. But making those tapes for our devotions was the work of the Holy Spirit. He felt very driven to do it, although he had never done anything like that before. He had a lot to do, and it was very hard for him to work it into his schedule in the last few days before his mission. We haven't watched them since, but I think I'll pull them out again for Laura and Matthew because they are such a connection with their dad. It was Rick talking to them on the videos about the Lord and his relationship with the Lord and him praying with them. It wasn't anything long and heavy, just about five minutes each. Rick had such a heart's desire to honor God.
Q: How have your children handled the death of their father?
A: Laura is in eighth grade, and Matthew is in second grade. They are doing all right. They both understand what has happened. More than anything, I don't want them bitter, especially toward God. Laura and I are on the same page. She's 13; she and I cry together.
Laura doesn't like to go to bed, so every night it's an ordeal to get her into bed. One night she was working on homework, and it was very, very late. I said, "Laura, get in bed. I don't care if your homework isn't done." She looked at me and said, "I miss Daddy so much!"
Matthew deals with this completely differently, mostly because he's a boy and because he's eight. He talks about his dad some. It floored me when the accident report came out last year and he heard me talking about it. He said, "Mom, so it wasn't Daddy's fault?" I had no clue that that was something that concerned him. Early on he asked what Dad did all day in heaven. They never question where Rick is or that we will see him again. We know we'll see him again; we just don't like the separation.