Post Author: Name Withheld
Editor’s Note: This essay is the second in a two-part series. The first installment was published in the March edition of “The Ones We Love.”
My son and I have a new weekly ritual. After a short car ride, we wait in line with a roomful of strangers to register for a turn to video chat with my husband. We can only come twice a week and we can only talk for 20 minutes at a time, but we never miss our chance to see him, to ‘Skype’ with daddy. Soon we will lose this opportunity as my husband is at the mercy of unseen hands that move him at a moments notice. Soon we will only be able to see him once a month, our chances to speak limited by distance and senseless rules. But for now, we see him twice a week, our family time defined by grainy video quality and hard, plastic benches. Twice a week, we visit my husband in jail.
After months of waiting, months of anticipation, months of dread, my husband went on trial. Family flocked in from all over the state, and carefully prepared church members sat in the courtroom in support of him. I paced outside the courtroom for hours, kept from the proceedings by manipulations of law. For a week, I could barely eat, think or sleep, frantic with fear.
His trial was smeared all over the news, a nightly recounting of our shame. Cameras hovered outside the courtroom doors and perfectly coiffed reporters sat in on the proceedings taking notes, taking bets on our future. Every night I would clutch him while we slept, exhausted with despair, wild hope and disbelief that our future was in the hands of 12 strangers. And when the verdict was finally read, our world caught fire and all that was left was the ashes of what our life could have been: guilty. All charges.
I slept alone that night, and so did he – I in the bed we purchased before we got married, and he in the prison across the street from the courthouse. My last fragile hope was that we could avoid jail time – that we could beg for probation and negotiate the treacherous and painful world of being a registered sex offender. But that hope died the next day as he was sentenced to a unthinkable 9 decades of jail time. And the final nail in the coffin of my heart? When he admitted that all of the charges were true, that he really had had a sexual relationship with a teenager when I had been pregnant with our son.
Since those terrible days, I have been surrounded by family and a caring church. My regional minister and I have already been in conversation about the effect this will have on my future ministry, and that has been a deeply disappointing revelation as well; she isn’t sure that I will ever be able to find a church that would call me to be their pastor. And why?
Because I’m choosing to remain married. Because I’m choosing to remain committed to our vows, even though he broke them himself. Because I’m choosing to live in our covenant, no matter the cost.
This pain is still very new and every day I am confronted with another suddenly realized grief: that I will never have any other children; that I may never get to live out the call that has defined me for more than half of my life; that I am a single mother; that I will need to move soon because our house payment is a financial burden I cannot shoulder alone; that I may never get to have sex again; that our son will never know his father like I knew him; that the man I love (and am so, so angry with) is alone, afraid and condemned to grow old and die in prison.
This is my life now. Married and yet widowed, called by God and hemmed in by humankind, alone and yet blessed by a wonderful little boy. I don’t know what I will do tomorrow, let alone a year from now. I don’t know how I will be able to care for my son and I don’t know how I will be able to serve my God. I don’t know how I will maintain my relationship with my husband despite all of the obstacles that the department of criminal justice throws in our path and I don’t know how I will answer the question, ‘where is your husband’?
I know very little these days. But what I do know is this: that God loves me and still intends to use me; that my family and my church will not let me walk alone; that I still stand by those words I said only five years ago…
For better or worse, till death do us part.
Everything else? Well, we’ll see tomorrow.
Photo Credit: Michael Coughlan. Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons License.