“I was in Port Angeles, Washington, playing softball at Peninsula College while my unknown future husband, Chris, was in the same town on a church mission. We eventually met at church and on occasion, helped the missionaries out by giving rides to some of their investigators. I moved home to Idaho when school was over in the spring and Chris and I communicated through letters until he moved home to Utah in the fall. I traveled to Utah a couple of times to visit, about a 3-hour drive, and we had so much fun together. It gradually got more and more serious. The more I watched how he interacted with his eight nephews, the more I fell in love with him. He had the gift of being able to connect with people and loved everyone he met, no matter who they were or what kind of life they lived. He always saw the good in them. Growing up on a farm, I always wanted to marry a small-town farm boy. I couldn’t help but fall in love with this city boy.
After 2 years of dating, we got married. The first couple of years were tough at times, but we truly enjoyed being together. We loved going to the movies, eating out, and shopping together. Then we decided to move to Texas with the plans of Chris pursuing medical school, a plan that would eventually change. I found a job as a Dental Hygienist and we quickly fell in love with Texas: the food, the people, and the opportunity to buy our first home.
Chris was always known for the prediction he made after his first nephew was born. He told his mom on the way to the hospital he would be her first child to have a baby girl. On November 4, 2014, it was no surprise we had the first baby girl after eight nephews. Chris was blessed with a higher level of spirituality than the average person. He was also known for half-jokingly saying he would die young. I would get so upset with him when he’d say it, but I could tell he truly believed he would pass before me.
It was November 16, I was 8 months pregnant, huge and uncomfortable, and working as a dental hygienist. Between patients, I went to the break room to check my phone. I had a message from a Frisco, Texas police officer, who said to call him back when I could. I quickly returned his call and was informed my husband had passed out while performing his final physical test for the police academy and the doctors were trying to figure out the cause of it. I quickly grabbed my purse, informed the front desk of what had happened, and went to my car as quickly as an 8-month pregnant woman could move.
I drove to Denton Regional Medical Center with my gas light on, a very full pregnancy bladder, and nearly standstill traffic near the hospital, due to construction. In my head, I imagined Chris sitting up in the hospital bed waiting to hear the results of why he passed out. Once I finally arrived, I walked through the hospital doors to find multiple officers there to greet me. I was told my husband had finished his rigorous physical test for the police academy and then immediately passed out. The ER doctor then spoke with me and told me Chris was in kidney failure and they did not know why. The doctors drilled me with questions trying to figure out why Chris was in the condition he was in. Nothing about Chris had seemed different in the days prior, so none of my responses seemed helpful. Before seeing Chris, the doctor made sure to tell me Chris would be asleep because he was sedated and the medicine caused him to be that way.
As they rolled his bed out of the ER to move him to the ICU, I saw him for the first time. I thought I was going to be strong, but the image of him lying helpless and asleep in the hospital bed shook me hard. Tears rolled down my face as I followed his bed up to the ICU. His heart stopped three times that morning and each time, had to be shocked back into rhythm.
The ICU would become our home for the next two weeks while family took care of our 2-year-old daughter. We found out Chris had the sickle cell trait, which is most common in African Americans or Mediterraneans. Chris’s father was adopted, so we were unaware of the details of his health history. Because of the strenuous exercises he was doing, it resulted in a sickle cell crash, and that was the cause of the kidney failure and eventually multi-organ failure. Chris was hooked up to so many meds keeping him alive. The doctors decided to take him off sedation meds to see if he could wake up. We sat by his bedside every day waiting for a sign he was there, but that day never came. I will never forget the moment the doctor came in and gave us the results of his brain scan. He told me it did not look good and it appeared his brain went too long without oxygen. After those words were said, I felt this strong sense of comfort come over my entire body. I knew without a doubt, I’d be okay. As I type this, the tears never cease. I’m so grateful for that moment where I knew a higher power was aware of me. I knew this was part of Chris’s plan. It was his time to go.
On December 1, 2016, we took Chris off life support. I stood by his bedside, along with other close family members, holding his hand and watching his heart rate on the monitor slowly fade. That day, I became an 8-month pregnant widow with a 2-year-old daddy’s girl.
My daughter, Lorelei, knew her daddy was sick in the hospital and she prayed for him every night to get better and wake up. The moment I picked her up from the babysitter after her dad had been taken off life support will forever haunt me. I felt like such a horrible parent having taken her to a babysitter so I could go to the hospital to watch her dad die. I looked at her, all happy and excited to see me. Little did she know, I had just watched her daddy passed on. I knew she was too young to understand, but I still feel guilty she wasn’t able to say goodbye to him. Soon after, I told her that daddy was in heaven now and looking over us, and she accepted it. She now has a deeper understanding of death than most children her age.
My family quickly helped me move to Idaho so I could be closer to family before I had the baby. We had Chris’s funeral on a very cold, blizzardy, winter day, surrounded by many local police officers, family, and friends while an oversized American flag hung by the ladder of a fire engine.
On December 30, my son was born with my mom, sister, and sister-in-law in the delivery room with me. Physically I was so ready to get that little boy out of me, but emotionally, I was dreading the day of delivering our baby boy without his daddy there. I wanted him there to distract me with entertaining stories during each painful contraction just as he did when my daughter was born. I wanted to see his proud and loving face as he held his new child, just as he did when my daughter was born. I wanted to see him use his magical touch to comfort and put the baby to sleep, just as he often did with our daughter. Although there was sadness that day because of Chris’s physical absence, there was such a comfort and calmness felt in the delivery room because I knew Chris was there. Maybe not physically, but he was there. It was such a special delivery I struggle to find words to describe it. I was handed the tool to cut my son’s umbilical cord and at that moment, as I did the job Chris would have done, it felt as though I was given the strength to be a single mom and raise our two babies on my own.
I lived with my amazing parents for the first year after Chris’s passing. I will be forever grateful for their helping hands that were constantly there for me. Then one day, I found a house for sale I loved, bought it, remodeled the inside, and moved in just in time for Christmas of 2017. I always felt as though Chris was with us in that house, helping us figure out how to do life on our own. After a few months of living on our own, I started to feel an urge to date. I got online to see what my options were and quickly discovered I hated online dating.
Fast forward to June 1, 2018, I was at Bear World, due to my sister-in-law’s persistence, meeting Nathan Brown for the first time. We chatted about our similar journeys of becoming widowed while watching the kids pet animals in the petting zoo and ride carnival rides. I learned Nate lost his wife at age 33 to a sudden brain aneurysm. We connected through our similar trials and definitely felt an attraction. There was a moment where Lorelei started to slip in a mud puddle in the petting zoo, and instantly Nate ran to her and helped her. Right then, I knew he was a great man. He wasn’t trying to impress me. He just couldn’t help but jump in and help her, even though he didn’t really know us yet.
Then a week later, he texted me to see if he could bring us ice cream. I didn’t text back for a few hours because I couldn’t decide if I was ready for this whole relationship thing. I ended up telling him to come over, but I was still hesitant. I barely got myself ready and thought, ‘If he’s going to like me, he might as well see the real me.’ After some ice cream and chatting, he asked me if I’d be interested in going to a baseball game with him. I said of course, and the next week, he was at my door picking me up for our first date. The date was so fun and we definitely hit it off. As he dropped me off at my door, I asked him if he wanted to come in and watch a movie with me. That was the night we held hands and kissed for the first time. After that, we were together every day we possibly could. I knew he was the one after 3 weeks. I felt as though Chris helped me find the country boy I now needed. Less than 4 months later, we were married and now had six children together.
Blending families is hard, though the kids have done amazing! I had two kids, ages 3 and 1, and he had four children, ages 15, 12, 10, 5. It was so sweet to see how quickly they accepted each other as siblings. Now the marriage part has been more challenging. I anticipated it to be easier because we have both done it before. We both had good marriages previously so I assumed it would all just carry over. I think we both have been on autopilot from our previous marriages. We have both been a spouse who was shaped for our previous partner. I finally realized this marriage might be more difficult because we have to learn to understand a new spouse again and break and form new habits that work for our relationship and make US happy, not continue to do what made the previous spouse happy. We are working hard to make this marriage what we want, and we will continue to work for it.
We are 2 years in and have been through a lot already, and I’m sure there’s a lot more learning ahead. I’m so crazy in love with Nate. I know without a doubt, Chris helped me find him because he’s perfect for what my kiddos and I need. I’m so full of love for these two men in my life and am beyond grateful to have had two ‘happily ever afters.’
Until now, I have kept a lot of the details of my story to myself. I haven’t felt ready to share all the details outside my little bubble. But recently, I have felt an urge to share my story in a unique way. Chris and I loved going to Disneyland together. Now when I visit the happiest place on earth, which is often, I feel he is there to see our daughter light up with excitement when she sees Jack Skellington or to see our son cry because he is sad the Winnie the Pooh ride is over. Our trips feel so special, knowing he is close by. I recently started an Instagram account sharing all of our Disney moments mingled with words of memories and emotional truths I am feeling. I’m not sure if our Instagram account is meant to go somewhere or if it’s part of a healing process I need right now, but I’m excited to continue posting and to see where it takes me.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Hailey Brown of Idaho. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her blog. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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