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Sarah Torbeck peels back the layers of one paradox as she learns to make peace with the death of her husband.

My Stephen died on a Monday morning in the middle of winter. The ghost-like mists that had enshrouded our town the day before, finally released a torrent of ice upon the landscape. Shards of frozen crystal created a perfect, frozen veil—transmitting tiny bursts of faceted fire, as they clung to tree branches, chimney tops and fence posts.

I stared out the window on my first day as a widow—arrested by the startling beauty that lay before me; such cataclysmic beauty in the face of soul-numbing agony. The hubris of beauty on a day such as this seemed incongruous. Beauty had no right to assert itself into my stark, new reality.

The contradictory nature of the moment was not lost on me, and I found myself reflecting on the paradoxical journey of the human soul: beauty and pain; joy and loss; life and death.

My mind continued to stretch into the expansive chasm that had opened before me, and I felt myself mentally staring into a blackness that could not be contained. So this is profound grief, I thought, as the frenetic rhythm of my heart reached into the ether for the person who had always been just a heartbeat away … until now.




A new wave of grief washed over me, and I fell away from the window. My personal apocalypse had arrived.

That was almost two years ago, and I have lived a lifetime since then. My brave, new world looks nothing like the life I left behind. There is only one small strand that remains constant, and that is the peculiar little current that arcs between my heart and Steve’s. Even though he has moved into the next life, the connection is still there. I still love him, and he still loves me.

Of course, that feeling of love has remained constant throughout my life, but it has continued to expand as well. Just because my husband has died doesn’t mean that love slowly fades away. In fact, I discovered rather quickly that my love for Steve seemed to grow exponentially—into a sort of glorious torment.

Another paradox.

How did I get here? I wondered. How had my seemingly inconsequential life transformed itself into an extreme? So much love! So much agony! So much … grace. Yes: grace. If I have learned anything at all, it is this: that when suffering overwhelms … grace flourishes.




If I have learned anything at all, it is this: that when suffering overwhelms … grace flourishes. #catholicmom


In the economy of God’s Divine Plan, grace is the supernatural life-blood that flows directly from the Creator into His children. Steve and I experienced that grace every single moment of our life together—through the Sacrament of Marriage. It was our union in Christ that nourished us throughout the phases of our journey. And it was that same sacramental grace that would allow me to nurture my husband through his last days … and ultimately prepare him for death.

I am here to witness to this truth. There is nothing more harrowing, and nothing more transformative than preparing your husband for his final accounting: death … and then life.

There’s that paradox again.

As my second year of widowhood draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on the enormous blessings I have received. I was loved by a man, and I returned that love. I was allowed to witness his passage into the arms of his Savior; and I have been allowed to draw additional strength from our marriage sacrament—even now—as I continue to care and pray for the soul of my husband … the other half of myself.

I am deeply grateful for the benevolence and wisdom of the Church. It is through her that I am able to participate in Steve’s new life—through the prayers and devotions especially designed for souls that have departed this world. These practices have provided me with a solace—intertwined with a continual awareness—that Steve and I are still connected. I am here on earth praying for him; he is with our God, praying for me and our children.

The paradox of our life together no longer exists. The mystery has been revealed … to Steve at least. My time will come soon enough; but for now, I am content with the blessings of our life—as I wait in joyful hope.

Postscript: The month of November is designated by the church, as a time to pray for our departed loved ones. I will consider it an honor to remember all of your loved ones in my prayers … and of course, I would humbly request that you remember my Stephen as well.

I am—if nothing else—his relentless intercessor.

Author’s note: Interested in joining with me as I pray for the dead? CatholicismRocks.com provides a full description of the devotions, prayers and indulgences that are recommended for souls that have passed into the next life—especially during the month of November. 



Copyright 2022 Sarah Torbeck
Images: (top) Canva; all others copyright 2022 Sarah Torbeck, all rights reserved.