In this blog post we’ll talk to Brenda Weaver, one of our speakers for Refresh 2019!
Seven years ago, Brenda Weaver said goodbye to her husband John, her companion and lover for 29 years. She now supports herself by working as a Pediatric Home Care nurse. Words are her friend! She’s written an inspirational book for women, Daughters of Eve, Daughters of God and The Manners are Homemade Series for young children.
Joanne Hershberger: Hi Brenda, welcome to the Refresh blog.
Brenda Weaver: Hello!
JH: In your bio you mentioned that one of your childhood dreams was to experience a whole family. What was life like for you as a little girl? What experiences profoundly impacted who you are today?
BW:My desire for a whole or “normal” family was related to my father leaving home when I was five. My parents had an unequally yoked marriage, and it presented many confusing times for me as I grew up. Mom and Daddy were reunited when I was twenty and in nurses training, and years later my dad surrendered his heart to the Lord before he died. Amazingly, the “loss” of my earthly father transformed into a deep longing to know my heavenly father. Also I developed a compassion for others. I see God as a redeeming God. He used my pain and loss for His glory and my good.
JH: You also mentioned your love for words. What initially motivated you to write?
BW: spent a fair amount of time alone while growing up, as my mother had to work, and my only sibling (a sister ten years older) married when I was eleven. It was during my adolescence that I found comfort, joy, and fulfillment in journaling. Even today gathering words and setting them in meaningful order helps me understand life, and my responses to it. Sort of like having a cup of tea and conversing with a close friend.
JH: When did you pursue nursing? What prompted that pursuit?
BW: I’ve already mentioned how God developed a compassion for others in me. From the time I was a very young girl, I wanted to be a nurse. Maybe it seemed like a way for me to help “fix” broken people. I entered a three-year RN program right after high school.
JH: How did you and John meet?
BW: Oh! How do you expect me to answer these questions with a few words?! John and I both signed up for a week of VS (voluntary service) at a Lancaster Conference VS Unit in Hallowell, Maine, along with several other young people. I watched his blue eyes in the rear view mirror for ten hours on our trip to Maine. He teased me quite a bit that week. (Later as his wife, I learned that teasing was one of his not-by-the-books love languages.) We were young then, but we became friends. We started dating some time later and, amazingly, he dated me for the three years it took to complete my nurses training. On June 19,1982 my best friend became my husband, and he was a rock of a man for me. How I needed a rock! I like to say John was my “piece of The Rock.”
JH: You’re a mother. Tell us about your mothering journey.
BW: Mothering was a delight to me! (Remember I’d had a lonely childhood.) But mothering was punctuated with some frustration and feelings of inadequacy. I gave birth to four children. In the middle of four birth children we labored together to adopt a son we’d grown to love in our years of doing respite foster care. I should note that John was a wonderful dad to our five! His fathering skills helped me much in mothering.
JH: You lost your lover, your companion for 29 years to cancer. How did you cope during the time of John’s illness? How did you prepare for the realities that he wouldn’t be with you much longer?
BW: I prayed. I listened to and sang hymns. I wrote. Actually I still write about it. I learned to cling to God in ways I never had before. I learned to feel the embrace of God as He became my husband. When John was slipping downhill seven Septembers ago, he started watching for adds for nurses, and encouraged me to get a job again. He died knowing I was going to be hired. Thankfully the great company I work for allowed me to wait to complete the hiring process while I cared for him until he died. Then they graciously allowed me a few months to grieve. I began working as a nurse again on my birthday, four months after John’s death.
JH: When John slipped away, into eternity to be with Jesus what brought you the deepest comfort? What got your through those first incredibly hard, painful days?
BW: His was the most personally difficult—yet most beautiful—death I have ever witnessed. His eyes, which were half-closed and blistered for over twenty-four hours, burst open and his pupils dilated and sparkled as he gazed upward on scenes of glory. This lasted long enough for all of our children to gather around his bed and witness his beautiful homegoing. The children were saying sweet things to him, like “Tell Jesus I said ‘hi!’” and “Dad I’ll meet you over there!” and “I love you, Dad.” And with a triumphant thrill at being able to help him home, I said in his ear: “John, you are ALMOST HOME!” Scripture came to me and I quoted: “You have fought a good fight, you have finished the course, you have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for you a crown of righteousness…” I tear up now, as I think or write about that event. But his death—his seeing Jesus and heaven—was a gift that carried me through many painful days of adjustment.
JH: What are the realities and challenges that you currently face as a widow?
BW: The weight of making a living AND doing everything else—keeping house, visiting or helping our grown children, ministering to others, and supporting the church. Things like learning some plumbing, and more about car maintenance and repair. Things like digging ditches to divert rushing rain water away from your house. There is always the soul-aching challenge of feeling like half of you is missing.
JH: What are things you love about your job?
BW: As you have done it unto one of the least of these”… Providing nursing care, and showing the love of Jesus to handicapped little ones. Plus I still enjoy learning, and growing in experience. Nursing is a wonderful way to provide nurturant care to those who are in need. Very fulfilling, though not without frustration and hardship.
JH: How many grandchildren do you have? What kinds of activities to you enjoy doing with them?
BW: Ten grandchildren bless my world. (Two wee ones went to be with John in heaven.) I very much enjoy reading children’s books aloud. The young ones like to play in the little playhouse at my house. They make me many pretend ice cream cones or pizza meals there. I have played paper dolls or construction on a long trip home to Alberta with two of my grandchildren. I love to drop by for family devotions with my near grandchildren, and it is fun to sing with them. I enjoy learning with them!
JH: Your haven, your place to retreat to is a hammock in your backyard. You love the quiet of the night, the moonlight. How does the Father, your Maker, your Husband care for you in this place?
BW: Ahhh, it is holy. Again, sing a song: “I come to the garden alone…and He walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own…and the joy we share…”
JH: We look forward to having you come to Refresh. How can we pray for you as you prepare to share?
BW: And I look forward to being there! Pray for steadfastness, wisdom, and faithfulness. The enemy always seems to attack me when I accept a speaking engagement. (My compassion goes out to ministers and evangelists if this happens to them.) This time I feel like the attack has already begun. I have struggled against feeling discouraged or defeated. BUT “Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” God is a redeeming God. He uses the same trials to build us up in Christ, as the devil uses to tear us down.