By Danita Dalton Hiles
This first part of this story was featured in the February 2008 issue of the P31 Woman Magazine. Seven weeks after Audrey's adoption was finalized, a shocking phone call came. The Hiles family once again became a family of three.
For seven weeks, we were a family of four. The court battle was over, the paperwork was filed and our newly adopted daughter, Audrey, was officially a Hiles in name as well as in our hearts. Hurrah! It was definitely a season of rejoicing and thanksgiving.
And then the phone rang again. Isn’t it amazing how often a simple phone call and the news that it brings can change the course of our lives?
Early October 2, 2003, the shrill ringing of the phone served to change our ‘happily ever after’ into a movie of the week. My husband, Dave had collapsed at his desk on Pearl Harbor in Honolulu. And the voice on the other end of the phone was telling me that my marathon running, fun loving, all American, ‘officer and a gentlemen’ Navy husband was being rushed by ambulance to the nearest hospital. The next few minutes were a blur: frantic driving, cell phone calls to family and friends, anguished prayers with absolutely no eloquence. Simply Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! No, No, No! This can’t be happening. But it was. And at 8:30 that morning the ER doctor came out with the impossible news that my Dave was gone. Forever. They were unable to revive him following a massive heart attack at his desk.
Driving home with a dear friend, it was as if I was in a dream. Passing other cars filled with laughing, happy people going on with their lives. How can this be? Walking in the house, sunlight streaming in, it all looked so normal. But everything had changed. Telling my girls about Dave’s death is one of the hardest things I have ever done. Two –year-old Audrey was fairly oblivious, but the look of disbelief and shock in eight-year-old Kelsey’s eyes will stay with me forever.
Sometimes, as in the case of Audrey’s adoption, prayers are answered in a miraculous way and we can clearly see the hand of God at work. In other times, it seems as though the prayers were not being answered at all, but that a giant door was being slammed in our face. I have learned over the past few years that God always answers our prayers. That, as it says in the Psalms, if we have a thousand ‘why?s’ we can always count on the fact that He is loving and He is strong. And that His strength is enough to get us through anything. Sometimes, when nothing in the situation changes, when there is no miracle and the ugliness of life threatens to overwhelms us completely, we realize it ‘is what it is…..but He is who He is.
Throughout Audrey’s adoption process, I had clung to 1Timothy 1:6: ‘I know in whom I believe and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him.‘ The night of Dave’s death I begged the Lord for a verse to stand on – I knew my Bible was full of encouragement and hope but I was desperate for Him to give me a specific word. On my bedside table was a devotional book I had been reading- it was open to a devotional on Psalm 16:5-20 ‘This is my portion and my cup…the boundaries will fall for me in pleasant places…I will keep Him before me…there will be joy again in His presence.’
During the next few weeks and month these simple verses were my lifeline.
I cried out to the Lord – that is a phrase we hear a lot. When you read it in the Psalms, it is easy to romanticize the idea: telling God in poetic words how you trust Him in your situation. My reality did not feel like a romantic Psalm at all. Crying out to the Lord involved a whole lot of tears and many boxes of Kleenex. Sleepless nights. Cries of frustration, anger and abandonment. But somehow in the midst of it all I knew that He was with me. And in each day that followed there was ‘enough’ of what I needed to get through.
Four years later, those desperate feelings have eased, but some things have not changed. I am a single mother doing my best to raise my two girls to love Jesus and serve Him. I am still astounded to check the box marked ‘widow’ on my tax return, but I’m also privileged that He keeps opening doors for me to reach out to other precious sisters who have lost their husbands.
God has remained faithful to all of His promises (did I ever doubt that He would?!!) There has been joy again in His presence. I have learned to lean on Him in ways that I may never have been able to do with Dave at my side. There are still a lot of questions but ultimately His word had been true and He has been enough.