Life was ebbing away from me as I lay in the hospital bed snuggled close against my husband’s body. His erratic breathing slowly diminished and then stopped at 3:05am. His last months of battling for life ended in one last attempt to jump-start his heart. We went from Critical Care to Telemetry to his last twelve hours in Hospice. Then my beloved left me alone and went home to be with our Lord Jesus Christ.
With family and friends surrounding his bed, his home going was glorious. Loving him, saying their goodbyes, praying, singing our Lord’s praises, reading Scriptures, and remembering his life in their lives, made this a precious time. This is the church body at its finest ushering him into his eternal home. When everyone left late that night, his sweet sister, Judi, our younger daughter, Krysty, and I stayed with him until he took his last breath.
A kind and compassionate nurse had a paper for me to sign with the exact time of death and told us we could linger for a while. We talked as we packed up his belongings. The battle was over! Leaving his earthly tent here, he was finally home.
No more oxygen. No more medication. No more doctors’ appointments. No more tests. No more stressful medical decisions. No more pain. No more sorrow. Now there is total healing and peace for my beloved.
Arrangements had been made. It was time for us to leave this place and it didn’t come a second too soon. Why would we stay? My sweetheart was no longer there, only the broken body he left behind. He is in paradise.
“Go home, my exhausted daughter. Go home, my sweet sister-in-law, and sleep. Tomorrow is already here.”
I am thankful for family and friends who grocery shopped, prepared meals, made phone calls, even drove to the Water Department to pay the forgotten bill. Many unnamed tasks were done that day and in the days that followed for which I am forever grateful.
Who was this man my grieving heart misses? Who was this man who danced across my heart bringing laughter and love into my life? His was a love I had never known before. He had a passion for our Lord and he grew in his walk with Him quickly. These years we shared together were a gift from God. Traveling, photographing the beauty of God’s creation, ministering with hurting people, even his years of illness brought me joy beyond measure. For Don Tuggle helped define the woman I am today.
He was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1939. He grew up in the family restaurant business. As a baby his mother bundled him in a bus tray under the counter while she took orders. As a boy he played sports, hunted and fished. He shot trap and skeet in the Olympics in the 1960’s. After serving in the Army Reserves he followed in his father’s footsteps in the restaurant business until they sold. His passion was photography and his gift was seeing and capturing beauty through the eye of a camera. He opened a photography studio and did weddings, portraits, model composites and many other things. The most fun times were horse packing into the mountains for weeks at a time and photographing animals and scenery. Our family came into the landscape of his life when he photographed my daughter Krysty’s wedding. After we were married Don would tease and say, “Don’t use that photographer because he will marry your mother.”
For such a time as this was just the right time for both of us. He was walking through the last third of the book of his life. It was October 14, 1988, when he gave his life completely to Jesus Christ and was born again. It was that night, with tears streaming down his face, he had a transforming encounter with Christ. It was that night, he understood that he had been held captive by Satan, because our Lord revealed a root of bitterness that had held him for many years. He confessed the bitterness, released it, and turned it over to our Lord. A wonderful result came when he asked forgiveness of those he was bitter toward. Peace flooded his soul as the Prince of Peace came into his life and he became a new creation in Christ Jesus.
2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us, “Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (NIV).
This man became new with a passion for Christ and for His Word. This man who once looked for love and significance in all the wrong places now had an excitement and enthusiasm for the Word of God and delighted in the joy of discovering new things everyday and wanted to talk about them. He was a vulnerable man sharing his faults and failures and how God used these things for His glory. His conversion launched us into a “How To Manage Your Money” Bible Study by Larry Burkette, now Crown Ministries, which changed his thinking and his heart in finances from a worldly view to Biblical principles. He was moved within by the power of the Holy Spirit. He would weep in church when souls were saved. His passion in ministry was teaching God’s people to become debt free so they would be free to follow the leading of the Lord wherever that might take them. He assisted them in understanding their finances and helped them make a plan to become debt free. He personally had his affairs in order to leave us and see Jesus face to face. This process gave me security as his widow. Ministering with people is what he loved most about being an elder. His life verse was Proverbs 3:4-5, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (NIV).
Don was never hesitant or afraid to talk about his Savior. Every chance he had he shared what God had done in his life and he would tell others how blessed he was that God had given him me. Even in the midst of pain he was filled with joy. This was the amazing man God gave me to love and care for. “Grandpa loves you, boy, you know that!” This is one of our grandsons’ favorite memories along with big hugs upon their coming and going.
His gentle voice now silent. What is next? Come with me — and walk through three years of a widow’s grief, a widow’s adjustments, a widow’s life — and see.
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