Sunday, October 16, 2011

Shepherd Me, O God

If you read my last post, you’ll know that I spoke at the Scripture Service the night before the funeral.  I felt the need to share my heart, my husband and the circumstances surrounding his death.
Although I’m not sure actually everything I said, I will share the notes from which I spoke:
The night before the funeral events began, I was kept awake all night by a rotten and very painful eye infection.  My eye was so irritated and light sensitive I could hardly keep them open. I looked and felt dreadful.  I finally got some medication the morning of the wake, but I still was still squinting, blinking and tearing which I’m sure made me look even more pathetic than I already was. 
I began by sharing that my close friend suggested I wear an eye patch to help get me through the day.  I couldn’t help but laugh at that thought. Ahhh…the widow with an eye patch.  Epic. I hope you thought that was funny, Iain Lewis! (I later discovered that I was wearing two different shoes that entire day. No wondered people felt so sorry for me!)
 “I am sure that as I stand before you in this packed room, I am the object of much sympathy and pity.  I must tell you, that beyond a shadow of a doubt, I am the luckiest person here right now. One, for the love and support and prayers that are being poured out on me and most importantly, because I have had the privilege of knowing and loving and being loved but this precious man whose life we celebrate.
Eight years ago today, Iain Lewis ask me to be his wife. People who have known me for a long time, know how LONG I waited to find (and be found by) my husband. I waited and waited – sometimes not so patiently – for God’s plan to unfold.  And then along came my dream come true.
Those of you who attended our wedding can witness to the love we had and the remarkable celebration we experienced that day. As I stand here today being enveloped by this powerful choir of voices echoed with equal power and prayer by the voices of the assembly, I am overwhelmed by the beauty and by the remembrance of a similar experience at our wedding.  The similarity of these two events are amazing and interestingly, they are the bookends of our marriage.

Our marriage was beyond blessed, but it was not without it’s challenges.  Some were challenges of circumstance and some were relational and internal. The most powerful, by far, was the challenge that the disease of depression brought. This was not the “I’m feeling a little down” kind of depression, but the paralyzing kind that distorts thought processes, affects physiology, and has the power to convince you that you are not worthy and life might be better without you.
With the exception of his doctor, counselor and myself, almost no one knew of this struggle. Iain was very private and very proud (to a fault – by his own admission.) Even though I struggle with the fact that I (we) did not share this with others and feel a certain amount of responsibility in light of recent events, I viewed it as a sacred trust of our marriage.  He was working his program: receiving counseling, taking medication, seeking spiritual direction, reading Scripture, and even programmed his phone to remind him to pray every hour. He even appeased me by keeping a journal and sharing it with me. The entries are beautiful, authentic, vulnerable and amazingly insightful. I feel his efforts in battling this disease were valiant. These things didn’t come naturally to him and weren’t easy for him, which made me even more proud of him. His spiritual journey was inspiring to me.

The Iain we knew and loved wouldn’t hurt a fly and would never intentionally bring pain to anyone – especially those he loved.  I don’t feel like this was something that was calculated near as much as it was a moment: a moment when the grip of depression took hold and skewed his thoughts so profoundly that this solution made sense to him. 
I know that people are concerned for me and Gianna and our future.  I assure you that we will be okay.  I haven’t lost my faith or my hope. That doesn’t mean we won’t have to walk through the fire.  We will certainly have a cross to carry, but I refuse to let depression have any more casualties in this family.
A couple of months ago, Iain shared with me that a song that was sung at Mass had since become his mantra and greatest prayer.  It was a song based on the 23rd Psalm written by Marty Haugen called, “Shepherd Me, O God”.  The refrain goes, “Shepherd Me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life.”  It reminds me of how he really tried to change the course of this disease that was obviously much bigger than even I could imagine.
Most people knew the story of how our beautiful daughter Gianna came to us. Anyone who has spent more than five minutes with her knows what a radiant beam of joy she is. And, oh – how she lit up the world of her Daddy.  The night we got “The Call” telling us that there was a baby for us was amazing.  We had been through so much already with miscarriage, failed adoptions, empty waiting, etc. it was almost hard to believe that the tide had turned. When I told Iain that they said we had a baby girl who was waiting for her parents to pick her up – we were both beside ourselves.  The adoption worker reminded us that the birthmother couldn’t sign over her rights until the baby was five days old and that she had a legal right to change her mind until then.  She offered for the baby to be placed in a temporary home until the fifth day when it would be a ‘sure thing.’  When I told that to Iain and asked what he thought we should do, his response was immediate:  “Let’s go pick up our baby girl.”  I think I fell in love with him all over again in that moment.

I never heard Iain laugh so much and so hard, until Gianna came into our lives.  Every night before we went to sleep, he’d always quote “Gianna-isms” in her voice and act out the funny things she would do.
I will miss the laughter he brought to my world. He could make me laugh so hard. I remember on a trip to Hot Springs, we convinced ourselves that it would be fun to experience the bathhouses that the quaint city it famous for. We each went in separate doors of the bathhouse for our interesting experiences which might be considered traumatizing for people who are painfully modest.  Several hours later we walked toward each other in front of the bath house with our eyes as wide as saucers. I was so horrified I couldn’t even speak.  He obviously had a similar experience to mine and managed to squeak out the words, “I’ve been violated.”  I doubled over in laughter.  I still laugh remembering that moment.

I’m going to miss his love, his adoration for me and Gianna, his desire to provide for and take care of us, his encouragement and support and counsel.  I’m going to miss praying with him and laughing with him and planning our lives together. Iain Lewis, I am proud to have had you as my husband and I am proud that Gianna that has the best Daddy on the planet.  I will love you all the days of my life – and beyond.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Shepherd Me, O God (Psalm 23)

Shepherd me, O God beyond my wants,
beyond my fears, from death into life.

God is my shepherd, so nothing shall I want,
I rest in the meadows of faithfulness and love,
I walk by the quiet waters of peace.

Gently you raise me and heal my weary soul,
You lead me by pathways of righteousness and truth,
my spirit shall sing the music of your Name.

You have set me a banquet of love
in the face of hatred,
crowning me with love beyond my pow’r to hold.

Surely your kindness and mercy follow me
all the days of my life;
I will dwell in the house of my God forevermore.


  1. Maria,
    You and Iain and Gianna have been on my heart since I received the news of his death. I never had the opportunity to meet your sweet husband. However, the same day I learned of his passing, I was going through some old papers and came across his name on a roster for the Lake Charles Chamber Leadership group that I was a member of in the 2002-2003 class. Evidently, it did not work out for Iain to join our class that year. But I thought the timing so fascinating that I would come across his name on that very day. I have taken that as a sign from God to pray for Iain's soul, and for you and Gianna. I continue those prayers to this day.

    I have always admired you, Maria, and the faith that you radiate from your eyes and from your smile. I know you will be okay, because you are a faith-filled woman of grace. Thanks be to God for that! You are truly an inspiration to me.

    Love and prayers,
    Danielle Roche' Caraway

  2. I love that you found the courage to speak and I'm sure it touched everyone who attended. I know, in grief, it is often hard for spouses to speak at funerals, but I find that the spouse is who I most want to hear from. They have the most intimate memories and heartwarming stories to share. I'm glad you were able to take that step.

    Still praying for you and Gianna. I'm so thankful that you are giving all your tears back to our Heavenly Father and are trusting him for your next steps.


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