They were very happy in their eleventh year of marriage, her third and his third.  Alcoholism,
abuse, cheating, all this was the behavior of their former spouses, and both had just about
given up on ever finding a happy life with someone. Then their world started to shake!

First Virginia underwent an hysterectomy and bladder suspension which was very painful and
kept her off her job as Assistant to the County Attorney. But Jim was faithful and supported
her all the way. After only a few months, just when things began to settle out and she could go
back to work, she suffered a massive heart attack  which resulted in a double by-pass.

Both Jim and Virginia were devout Christians and prayed that God would intervene and help
her to heal and regain her health. She relates that she was dying in the hospital and sensed a
tremendously beautiful blue calm; which seemed to be enveloping her in a sweeter and more
comforting love than anything she had ever felt. She was awakened by Jim urging her to hold
on and to fight to live. She said that she was angry with him for taking her away from the
warmth and love she felt in the glow surrounding her.

After she was released from the hospital and came home, although not released from a
doctor's immediate care, Jim tried to persuade her to only go back to her job part-time and as
he watched over her like a mother would her only child, she became more and more
dependent on him for everything. She told me one day that she was afraid he was trying to
make an invalid of her and she abhorred that. She was forty-nine years old.

Her health was tenuous but she slowly regained strength and continued to work part time in a
job that she loved. Then her world came crashing down. Jim died suddenly at his job at a sign
manufacturing company of anaphylactic shock from acute respiratory reaction to fumes
around him. He was fifty-seven years old.

What has come about since then is nothing short of a miracle. Three months after Jim's death,
a devastated Virginia asked me if I would go with her to a grief counseling group where she
could talk and share with others who had recently become widowed and were seeking help to
understand how to survive as she was.  I agreed and HOPE (Helping Others through Prayer
and Encouragement) was begun with five core attendees. Other ladies came and went, but
we remained true to the group meeting once a week in homes at first, then in the church that
Jim and Virginia had helped to establish and build, and loved with all their hearts.

Her health remained touch and go, complicated by severe asthma and breathing difficulties
accompanied with continuing small heart attacks; her grief knew no abatement. We prayed
together, cried together and laughed together, and always studied God's Word for
encouragement and direction. We found it abundantly. Slowly Virginia's attitude improved and
she was actually smiling more than she was crying.

About six months after Jim's death, with her longing to be with him in Heaven, her doctor
wanted her to have a stress test, and since her physical ability precluded the treadmill, it was
chemically induced. She said it was worse than anything she had ever before experienced
and she feared she would die of the pain. She said that was when she determined that she
REALLY wanted to live, and even though she missed Jim with everything in her, she told him,  
"Jim, you'll just have to wait for me a little while, I want to live!"

And as Paul Harvey would say:  "Now, for the REST of the story."

Virginia made amazing steps forward in her health, worked full time, attended church every
time the doors were open, took a twelve-week Evangelism Explosion course, faithfully called
on many survivors of death in our small community, and progressed in her job. She was never
too tired or too distressed herself to listen and council on the phone to others who knew she
would help them over bad places in their own struggle with grief.

Perhaps the most amazing progress for her was selling the cabin that she and Jim had built
together in our community and relocating to town where she could be closer to her church
first, then her doctor, and just as much, her friends at work and in HOPE. She longed to have
early morning coffee or breakfast out with her friends and associates.   What a magnificent
change came about her. She bloomed in her new solitary life, received a very large raise
because of her excellent work as Assistant to the County Attorney which was a great
affirmation for her.

Once again she enjoys her hobbies of machine knitting, handgun target shooting, entertaining
her family from out of town, traveling and shopping with friends from work and HOPE, and just
being alive. Since putting HOPE in abeyance for another time, she has begun a Bible Study
group teaching others how to pray, study and worship the Lord in a concentrated,
consecrated way, and has taken another twelve-week class in Evangelism Education.

During the past year, HOPE has been put on inactive status because she and the other ladies
no longer feel the need to grieve as they did at the beginning. They all have moved past that
stage of their lives and are looking forward now, not back.

Her motto should be: If you run out of rope, just tie a knot in the end and hang on for dear
life!  She did when there seemed to be no physical, mental or spiritual possibility to do so;  
and although she continues to suffer heart problems and breathing difficulties, she has
survived while setting a blessed example for us who have lesser problems to cope with in our
own lives.
At the end of your rope?
Be a frayed knot!
© Betty Sue Eaton


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