Written May 25, 2017 by Amy Fiedler (Wendy’s sister-in-law)
I’m writing this down as an account of how the Lord gave me peace regarding something that could have left me feeling very troubled. What follows is something I’ve already shared with Steve and he told me it’s given him peace as well. I’m now willing to share this with anyone who is interested. I do, however, want to emphasize that when we are seeking peace about something that’s troubling, that peace can only come from God. Others can help us see things from a different perspective and can even convey truth to us and help us to better understand. But in the end, any peace that we experience has to come from God. As you read and consider these words, I encourage you to ask God to give you His peace. The Bible says that He offers us a peace that goes beyond what we can even understand (Philippians 4:7). That peace is what the Lord gave to me, and this is my best attempt to share what He spoke to me.
When I woke up on the morning of May 24, I looked at my phone and saw the frozen image of the video Steve had shared with our family, a video he also embedded into Wendy’s faith story. Before I even read his message, my heart began to race. I read Steve’s message:
“I have been working on Wendy’s faith story and I found a video on her phone. It is from March 16 at 11:05pm. I don’t know what it means. I don’t know why she wouldn’t wake me up if something was wrong! Help me understand this and come to peace with it.”
I watched the video and immediately knew that I needed the Lord’s help to make sense of it. It didn’t make any sense to me. I had nothing to offer my brother, in that moment, to help him come to terms with it.
I was getting ready to sit down for my morning time of prayer and reading the Bible. I asked the Lord to speak to me through His word – a simple request. Then I sat down to read; I read Luke 24. In it, Jesus appears to His disciples shortly after He is raised from the dead and says to them, “Peace be with you.” The word “Peace” jogged my memory to another verse I remembered learning as a child from Psalms. I turned there in my Bible:
“I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
After I read this verse, it was like the Lord just started to speak to me in a rush. Not in an audible voice, but in a flood of ideas, images, and Scripture. I grabbed a blank notebook and kept it with me all morning, jotting things down as they were impressed on me. As I went about the tasks of my morning, things kept coming to me and they started fitting together.
Before I put into words what I feel the Lord spoke to me, there’s a place I need to start from. This is something Steve and I have talked about many times in relation to Wendy’s death, and also in other contexts these past weeks and months. This verse from the Bible can be difficult to grapple with when we lose someone unexpectedly and tragically. I’ll admit that. And yet, I can’t deny the truth of God’s Word. I can’t deny that He is sovereign over all things, even when I don’t understand.
The verse I’m referring to is in the book of Job. Here are a few different translations:
“A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” (NIV)
“You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer.” (NLT)
The King James Version ends the verse with the phrase “…bounds he cannot pass.”
If this verse from the Bible is true, if the very number of our days (minutes even) is determined by God, then this affects the way I begin to look at the final hours and minutes of Wendy’s life. And really, every single one of us are counting down our own days and hours and minutes. There will reach a moment, for each person on this planet, where our time in these bodies and in this life will cease. This verse says that those limits are not only determined by God, but they cannot be exceeded, they are bounds we cannot pass.
We can’t deny that Wendy recorded that video at 11:05pm… a mere 26 minutes before her heart would stop pumping. It exists, we can look at the time stamp, and we can see a fluttering pulse. The words the Lord gave to me concerning that video were that the video represents the “unknown”. Specifically, Wendy’s unknown…in that moment. Wendy wasn’t saying “goodbye”, Wendy was facing the unknown. And just like Wendy, every single one of us, when faced with an unknown, has a choice to make. We can give it to God, or we can engage with fear. I believe that Wendy, when faced with that unknown, resisted the temptation to allow fear to take over.
Now, you might be saying, even screaming…”What are you talking about??!! Clearly she should have woken Steve up, or texted one of her sisters, or done SOMETHING!! She SHOULD have been afraid!! She should have acted!!”
Now, there is absolutely no way any of us can play out every single scenario of what could have happened that night. That can be trap that is hard to get out of when we face tragedies in our lives, and we need to be careful not to go there. But as the Lord was impressing these things on me that morning, I did feel like He allowed me to play out a few specific scenarios. Again, keeping in mind that verse from Job that I mentioned above and also the timeline we know from that night. . . that at 11:31PM, Wendy’s heart stopped pumping.
Suppose Wendy wakes Steve to tell him about her heart palpitations. Now suppose Steve advises Wendy to see how she feels in the morning. Wendy doesn’t make it until morning. Now Steve lives with the weight of having made that decision, and carries that for the rest of his life. Wendy could also have reached out to a close friend or one of the many nurses she knows in that moment with a simple text. Who knows who she would have reached, and what advice she would have received. There’s a good chance someone would have told her to take the holter monitor into the office the next morning to have it analyzed. Wendy didn’t make it until the morning. It’s easy to look back with 20/20 hindsight and say that we would have immediately told her to go to the ER if she reached out to us.
Okay, let’s look at that scenario.
Suppose Wendy is convinced by Steve or someone else (via text or phone call) to go to the ER. This would involve waking all the kids to take them somewhere to be cared for, or calling someone and waiting for them to arrive and stay there with the kids. Either way, it involves Steve (and possibly all four boys) being awake at 11:31PM, when Wendy’s heart stopped. You don’t have to think about that very long to realize how horrible that would have been for the kids to witness.
These are the specific scenarios I felt that the Lord allowed me to play out in my mind that morning. And in doing so, it allowed me to recognize and acknowledge God’s grace in protecting Steve and the boys…and even Wendy…from being awake at 11:31PM, when her heart stopped. There may very well be 50 other scenarios that some other person could think of…scenarios where they might feel the outcome would have been different and not ended in Wendy’s death. If that’s where you need to go, to try and make sense of this, all I can say is that you won’t find peace in alternate scenarios. My purpose here is to share with you something that I felt the Lord gave to me, and how he brought me to a place of peace.
Of course we know that Wendy did not wake Steve…she didn’t reach out through a text…or even send that video to anyone. The next image we have of Wendy, after that video, comes as an account from Steve, who came out of sleep at 11:40PM, and to quote him…
“I looked over at her, and she looked peaceful, head resting on her pillow.”
Steve heard Wendy take her last breaths, peacefully, and he and I both believe her spirit had already been lifted from her body in that moment.
When we as her family and friends look at this story, it can be easy to keep rushing ahead…on to the next time-stamped event, without pausing here . . . right here at 11:40PM. . . to consider what we might come to understand about Wendy and what transpired leading up to that final moment that she drew breath on this earth.
I believe that Wendy came to that moment…the moment where her soul left her physical body and was united with Jesus, in a new body, eyes wide open, looking at His face…in a peaceful state of sleep with complete trust in her Lord. And I believe that this happened because she chose to place her “unknown” into God’s hands. I truly believe that Wendy’s last decision on this earth was a conscious act of trust and surrender to God…
“I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
Wendy gave her life to Jesus at a very young age and she grew into a place of trust in Him throughout her life…through good times and bad times. It didn’t happen instantaneously. It took time. As someone very close to Wendy, I witnessed times where she struggled with fear…with not knowing what to do with the “unknowns” of life. But I also had the privilege of watching her grow closer and closer to Jesus, as she placed her trust in Him more and more. And I’m not talking about the kind of trust that says, “I’ll trust you, as long as everything always turns out okay.” We all know there’s no such thing as a life like that. And it isn’t a life that God ever promises us. Jesus said in John 16:33:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
No, Wendy’s trust in Jesus went more like this…
“I trust you with my life, no matter what.”
Wendy’s safety and ultimate hope did not lie in a guarantee from God that she would have health or long life or easy circumstances on this earth. None of us have that guarantee. Wendy’s true safety came from the assurance she had of eternal life with Jesus because she had accepted His free gift of salvation through His death on the cross, a death that covered all of her sins and put her into right standing with God.
I don’t understand the reason why Wendy’s days on this earth were determined to come to an end on that night. I don’t pretend to be okay with it or even to not be angry sometimes. But I do serve the same God that Wendy served and trusted. And the kind of life that Wendy lived…one that placed her ultimate hope and trust in Jesus…is one that I want to model mine after. May we all be willing to place our “unknowns” into the hands of God, knowing that He is all we need.
As I was jotting down my final thoughts on that morning, as the Lord was speaking to me and giving me peace, this song spoke to me (“No Longer Slaves” by Jonathan David & Melissa Helser) These words from the song describe how I now picture Wendy, as I believe she made that final decision to lay down in peace and go to sleep that night: