This is part two of our interview with Sandy Wise. If you missed last week, you’ll want to go back and check that out first. Today’s topic isn’t one that most people want to talk about, but it is important. We’re picking up with Sandy’s story after Donald’s cancer treatment.
Tell us about Donald’s final week here on earth.
If you knew Donald, every other word out of his mouth was about Jesus. His last few days, he wanted to make sure our technician (and everyone else) knew about the Jesus he served his whole life. There was such a peace in the room, and at 11:20am on a Sunday Donald went to be with Jesus.
One of the best examples of how Donald and Sandy modeled marriage well was Donald’s memorial service. Tell us about that day.
All of my kids were at my house and all the girls were getting ready together. I remember us walking in and the song playing was one of Donald’s very favorite—Steven Curtis Chapman’s “No Better Place”. We called it Paw Paw’s Party with the grandkids; we just wanted to honor him because he had led us well.
How did you cope the first few months?
I will tell you, if there’s anything you can say about cancer, it does give you all this time to say all the things you want to say. We talked very openly about what it would look like on this side, and that set me up to walk those months afterwards.
I was surrounded by a lot of people, my kids made sure I wasn’t alone. My sister-in-law spent lots of time with me and she made me do ‘normal’.
How has the journey after Donald surprised you in good ways?
About a week after Donald went to Heaven, I was standing there in the bathroom and it was like I could hear him say, “Babe, you can do this.” I did some things people may think were crazy, but I got my first tattoo.
I also did things that were normal—Donald and I always went to the Braves spring training camp, so my sister-in-law and I went down and did that. I also sold our house and bought a town home.
It can be hard to know how to help people who are on a journey like this. How have people jumped in to be there for you? What advice would you give to people who want to love people after loss?
Give them the freedom to talk. There is nothing greater than for someone to tell me a Donald story. Make me do ‘normal’ things. One of the most blessed things that I’ve had is that our couple friends have invited me out for dinner still. Still invite them out.
I could think of nothing sadder than sitting and eating casseroles from a meal train by myself—take them out to eat! Before Donald passed, some folks decorated our house for Christmas and then came after and helped me take my tree down.
What are some of the things you shouldn’t say when someone is going through a loss?
People saying “Call me if you need me”. Sometimes I couldn’t even remember seeing people that day, much less calling them to ask for help. Also, books were not helpful to me. I know people meant well, but it wasn’t helpful to me. Don’t say that you know how I feel.
How has living on this side of Heaven without Donald changed and evolved over time?
The first few months I didn’t want to say ‘widow’, but now I’m embracing it as this season in my life. After Donald left this earth, God came down and filled that void. I want to finish it well.
What would you say to someone who is on a similar journey—they may have lost their spouse?
I have a friend who just lost her spouse, and she told me she finds peace in talking to me because I’ve let her talk and she doesn’t feel crazy in the things she’s thinking. God chose this journey for you, He knew before He put you together with your husband that you were going to walk it.
The reason I (Ted) wanted you that are listening to hear from Sandy is that Sandy brings the remarkable gift of perspective. Losing someone you love helps you to know really quickly what matters and what doesn’t.
I know Donald Wise would be saying about Sandy – “I am so proud of you”.
If you want to follow Sandy, you can follow her on Facebook. You can also check out the book Sandy mentions: Don’t Waste Your Cancer.
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