Caroline Stephenson

Caroline's Story:

Four months ago my worst nightmare was realized. The worst and most horrific thing that I could ever imagine happened to me in my life, happened. My soul mate. This beautiful man's heart stopped beating and he left me here.

Shayne, my sweet, loving husband and father of our two little ladies, unexpectedly passed away. No warning. In his sleep.

After a night out with his best friend, who had flown into town to take him to a concert the next day, and one of my older brothers.

I was terrified to see him.
I was anxiety-ridden and completely spiraling, getting lost in my fear..
I wasn't sure what I was supposed to say or do or feel or if I was going to have a complete lose-it meltdown?

How would his lifeless body appear to me?

Would I be able to touch him?
Why was this happening?
Why was I thinking about how I was going to react at my husband's viewing..?!
Why was I going through this?
What has happened... WHY has this happened?
My thoughts felt maniacal.
I couldn't believe it.. I really couldn't. I still can't.
I see his resting face, his body lying so still, and it gives me the worst pang of anxiety I have ever felt.
Waves of relentless bereavement every day.
Was that real? I cant stand it.

I hate this for him.

And the truth is, digging deep..
Addiction. A family member's on-going addiction.
Not even his own, Shayne was not a user or abuser, at all, and innocently, just out having drinks, excited he had a friend flying into town.

My REAL, honest feelings?
A family member's out-of-control addiction has contributed to me living this life without my husband, and my two baby girls without their Father.

Our amazing, loyal, honest, hardworking, sweet Shayne who would never do anything to harm us, had this so out-of-character moment, and would not wake up the next day. Because he was with someone who had been abusing for years.

I don't understand why and I never will, because the only person I would believe and the person who would be able to look me in the eyes and tell me the whole truth is not here.
His voice will never be heard, his truth of that night will never be told.

But I am here.
I have been left here to raise our girls and to tell our truth. Share our story.
The real story.
The story of true, passionate love and grit and hustle and admiration and share our pursuit of happiness, my life for the past 10 years with this wonderful soul and the person who he really is. Not to dwell on the person he was that night he was accompanied by an addict, who provided him the substances that he had never taken before this night and ultimately robbed him from us.

 A combination of substances an addict would have many times and be able to wake up the next day, but for someone who does not indulge in those things at all and think it is harmless recreation, would rob them of the rest of their life. Leave their wife a widow and their children without their father.

So here I have this heavy burden.
To not only face the disgusting truth about why his heart stopped beating, but how and when and to whom do I share this information with? Its shameful. Its hurtful. It fills me with rage and frustration and confusion.

Do I carry this alone? Do I share this? Do I carry the truth around and bury it in the sand here?

And I am being pulled... by a voice that says, don't do this alone. Stay vulnerable.
We were not meant to carry these burdens alone. We were never meant to LIVE alone.
And that's not the story that needs to be highlighted.
That is not who he was and is and that is not how I am going to honor his life and legacy with his children.

But it is a very real and honest truth and heavy burden I have been shamefully carrying around in my gut and heart. It cannot be ignored.

I have not been called to this life to dwell on the senseless.
I must choose my energy and focus wisely.

I am here to say and share my sweet, nurturing, green thumb; my nature boy. Just who he is. And just how much his love changed my life. I was a baby when I met him in 2006 - I was 19 and he was 28, so cool, hilarious and just so thoughtful.

Shayne and I rocked our relationship for the next 10 years. We may have taken some tumbles in life, and we had those stressful times and rough patches, sure, but we always met back up and loved harder afterward.

We didn't just talk about making things better, we acted on it.
We sucked at stuff like finances, but we were getting better, growing together.
Everything else was always just so good. We were in love.
Our love was magic. We have been married 7 years but still dating, felt so in love and held each other so damn tight.

He protected me, he protected US, like his life depended on it.
He was and is my best friend. Very best friend. We understood every nook and cranny of each other's hearts.
We were ironclad.
Our pursuit in this life was understood --- we do this always, together. We weren't going anywhere.

We had a protective bubble we stayed in and wanted to remain in.. from everyone. We protected our dreams and our life.
So much so, we had already been making plans to move from our house in Houston to Florida right before this tragedy occurred.
We had gotten jobs, things were falling together.
We were just ready to leap.

The morning he did not wake up, I had planned a garage sale to get rid of everything.
We wanted out. We wanted to start living by design, not default. Wipe the messy slate clean.
And our beach, the beach we were married on in 2009, is where we wanted to be.
Struggle or not, it would be ours and we would be hand in hand walking it together.I knew what needed to happen immediately after the paramedics left him lying there and I was escorted out of the house... only to collapse on the concrete and just plead over and over why this was happening...
I was adamant, that day, even in that horrific moment.
I knew I had to take him to Nashville, back to the tree where we met while he was out walking his dog.

And to our beach, where we were married.
We had had conversations about this. We knew, if one of us passed, we knew exactly where to take our cremains.
It stilled my racing heart even in that moment to think about taking him to a safe place. Where only we knew about.
It calmed my frantic mind to plan his escape from this hell and take him to these places we discussed. Our secrets only we knew about.I sat and had to watch from my Dad's truck as the medical examiner took him away, and I can remember only one clear thought in between my body feeling lifeless and so unbearably heavy,"This is the first day of the rest of my life."

My mission was clear. On unsteady legs, I stood and had to make plans to get out of there and essentially begin the rest of my life.
Two garage sales within 3 weeks and an army of help from friends and family, our belongings were packed up into a storage unit and we took the road journey to take him to his resting places.
I had a new trail to blaze.
I was moved out of the house, our belongings were all packed up and I had a decision: move into a place near my family in Houston OR continue the laid plans to move to Florida.Well, I have chosen US.

Our plans. Our vision. Our little dream. Our life by design.
My heart always knew where we would be. I just needed my mind to catch up.
If I hesitate with a decision, I just talk to him. Out loud. Cry. Lay on the floor. Whatever it takes. And I wait for him, I wait for his voice.

There is no doubt. Shayne has been walking this with me ever since he took his last breath.
I feel him and see him in this world every day. I know he is here, he is guiding, he is lifting us up. I choose to keep choosing him. Listening to him. Letting him light the way.I do not define him by this heinous accident that leaves me still, feeling shame and guilt and anger.
I could choose to sit in those emotions, but he would not approve.

He is not this incident.
He is not this circumstance.
He is not going to be remembered or certainly not judged by that senseless moment.
But he would approve of me being honest and truthful and pouring my heart and soul into sharing my story. He knew I would do this.

He knew I would be a champion for him and us and our love story.

My process is to face this truth and pursue light and love and joy in the ugly face of it.

I am going to keep sharing his blessings to me and my life, his gifts and love and honor and loyalty to us, his family.

I am going to keep going, and pursue authenticity in my grief. Even when its unbearably ugly and people want to abandon me because of it.
I am here, still breathing and now living our life by design, achingly bittersweet as it is, without him.

Wishing so badly he was sitting next to me, holding my hand, watching all of this unfold. His little dream realized. While we rub our sandy feet together, watching waves crash, and our daughters splash in the surf.

But I have a choice, to choose life now. Be present.
Somehow try to heal in the process.
Half of my heart, soul and life is no longer here, and I somehow have to find a way back to being whole.

The truth is I am in the thick of my healing and grief. Its still very raw and ugly and unforgiving.. I am hypersensitive and emotions crash into me and come and go as they please.
The only thing I feel I can do is keep sharing him. Keep telling the world and his daughters about this beautiful person they are missing out on experiencing, but make sure he remains alive in soul and spirit.

His beautiful soul that shines, even still.

Love him most.

I am Caroline, I am a Brave Babe. I love and accept myself.


Kindra Murphy1 Comment