It’s been six years since Tony died, and I thought I’d be somewhere else by now.  

Nine years ago, right before my husband was diagnosed with End-Stage Renal Failure, we had plans. We had just gone on our first cruise earlier that same year and we had so much fun and loved it so much that we were already talking about taking another. He was working steadily and the boys were old enough that I felt comfortable enough to go back to school and study nursing. Nursing and medicine have always been a passion of mine and he had always encouraged me to go back to school since I supported him through graduate school.  We were looking at finally buying a home. Tony and I began saving for the boys to go to college. We talked about how our retirement would look - beachside of course. 

Like most young to middle-aged couples, we never considered that we wouldn’t accomplish everything we planned. 

But then, the hammer dropped on us. Hard.

Our life plans came to a screeching halt at that moment.  However, to us, his illness was just going to delay things until he was healthy again.  Our plans changed a bit. Get him healthy, then back to the life plan. I had no worries that we would beat this. We had been through tough times before and had to change things up because of that, but we always got where we needed to go.

So we figured out what we needed to do get back on to the master plan: get his condition under control, get him on the transplant, have the transplant, get him healthy, and so on. 

THEN...a bigger hammer dropped on us, and he was suddenly in far worse shape than we ever bargained for.  

Inside my head, I thought, alright, time to adjust, again.  We need to add a couple of more goals to our plan...determine what caused the new issue, fix it, get him walking again, and so on. We could do this. After all, tough times and all that.

My life became about caring for him and our boys while working and researching his health issues.  I began making even more plans...get into nursing school so I could learn even better how to take care of him while making money for us to survive on.

Did I mention we were barely surviving at this point? No matter, I thought to myself.  Everything was going to work out. I had faith it would.

He however wasn’t getting much better and I refused to see it. I had plans, you see.  The more ideas I came up with, the more certain I was that everything would be fine. Because I planned and I thought God and everyone was behind my plans.

Apparently not, though.  He died anyway.

This was NOT part of my plans at all.  Neither was the pain, heartbreak, and guilt I felt at his death. My plans did not work. Is that why he died.

I not only mourned the loss of my beautiful, magnificent husband and our life together, but I also mourned the loss of all of our plans. Just like dust in the wind, our plans completely evaporated.

And I was hurt. Angry. I felt betrayed. Bitter. Why, when everything had worked out for us before, did nothing work out for us now? It wasn’t fair.

For the first time in my life, I was at a loss to figure out what was next.  This was not me at all. 

So what did I do? Grieve, and sulk.  

When your plans fall apart, you have no idea what to do except that. At least that’s how it was for me.  But when one year of sulking turned into two, enough was enough. Time to pull up my big girl panties and DO SOMETHING!! I plunged into finishing a degree at the local community college, thinking that was what I needed. Getting a degree was a part of the plan for years, after all. I got my associate’s degree and was so pleased with myself, I made plans to attend the local university to ultimately get my master’s degree.

But was that what I wanted? To get a degree in something I didn’t really know much about. Did I still really want to be a nurse? I didn't know so I stopped in my tracks to ponder my life.

Again, I was at a loss. I was afraid that my planning skills had steered me wrong. Again. Losing my husband and our life plans had really done a number on me.  I lost my confidence in knowing what I wanted to do with my life. What goals did I have now? Going back to school was a knee jerk reaction to my feelings of anger and depression at losing the plans we had made.

This saying comes to mind  a lot: "Man Plans, God Laughs.”

I’ll be honest. I thought God was having the biggest laugh He’s ever had and it was at my expense!  I was not laughing, however. I was pissed off.

Next, I tried to improve my financial situation. I got a better job and slowly moved up in the ranks, being promoted three times in four years.  A better salary was in my sights, then Covid-19 invaded our lives. I couldn’t move to a better place. I couldn’t fix up my car. I was still broke.  Yeah, very funny, God. 

I finally took a long, hard look at myself and what I was doing. I was still trying to make the old plans work in a new life.  Anyone with an ounce of sense would understand that and adapt accordingly. My grief and my secret desire to keep my life almost the same were getting in my way. I was getting in my own way.  

It’s different now.  Everything is, and I didn’t want to admit that to myself. Instead, I spent time being salty about it...sabotaging my own self.  Once I finally understood that, ideas for a new life plan started coming to me. 

Things have not completely come together, I will admit. I am still somewhat adrift. I’m weighing many options. But I see the shore much better than I had before and I am so happy about it. 

The future holds something special in store for me… I know it does!  I can’t wait to see what they are!

By Cheryl Barnes

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