A wife is a gift from God in life, death

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In July of this year, my wife of nine years, Sarah, passed away suddenly. We have four beautiful children, and our fifth was on the way. My wife was a gift from God during our life together. This woman made me into a man that loved the Lord and would pass that love to his children. In life and in death, Sarah gave me gifts to grow as a man, husband and father.

A wife is not a right but a gift that she and God give to her husband. A relationship that is Christ-centered will bring both spouses to a more fruitful relationship with God and each other. Often during our marriage I could see how Sarah brought me closer to God. She would encourage family prayer, private prayer, daily Mass and adoration. I would come home in the morning after working a night shift and find Sarah praying the rosary in front of the cross before the kids were awake. This was the gift that Sarah gave me during her life, an example of someone who always put God before herself. It made our relationship one that was more than two people having a family together but a love that was centered around and made whole by Christ. This role changed drastically when my wife was sent to the hospital.

Sarah passed away shortly after being admitted to the hospital, but not before I was able to have a priest hear her confession, give her the Eucharist and administer last rites. I realized that I had become what a husband should be - a means for his spouse to get to heaven. This was the gift that Sarah gave me in death. She gave me an opportunity to practice my faith during the most difficult time I had ever faced. My concern was to ensure she had the most graces available when she passed away.

After the realization sank in that my wife was not coming home and I had four children to care for, Sarah continued giving gifts. I now had the role of being the family spiritual director. A daily routine was established for my children and that centered around prayer: morning offerings, nightly rosary, evening prayers, frequent confession, Mass and adoration. I was now able to show my children how much my faith meant to me by being even more present in their spiritual growth. My children could see that even without their mother, having a family centered on Christ was important. This is the gift Sarah has given me after her death, raising the spiritual bar for her husband to be a better father.

The suffering of a grieving husband was yet another gift. I could now offer up my suffering for my children and special intentions. This suffering is truly painful and present at all times but not without purpose. Knowing there is a purpose to the suffering brings me the consolation that good can come of it. I can now, in a minimal way, tie my suffering to the cross - helping me to be a better man and father. The strength I find in knowing this is a gift Sarah has given me in suffering.

In life and in death there are gifts that can be received. Knowing that Sarah's life prepared me to raise four children in the church is the best gift a spouse could ask for. Sarah's death gave me the gift to put it all into practice and allowed me to tie suffering in my life to the cross. I pray that I will meet her expectations as a father and that one day we will be united together in adoration of Our Lord in heaven.

Harkins is a father of four and parishioner of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Fredericksburg. Harkins' wife, Sarah, died after yellow jacket stings triggered a brain aneurism.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2014