God began preparing me for my widow journey before my husband’s death. August 23, 2019 was a significant day in the history of that preparation.
As I share this most sacred story of the events of that day and the subsequent weeks, I can understand that it may bring mixed feelings for some readers. I know some of you were not as fortunate in the process. Please read it knowing my intent is to glorify God, honor my husband, encourage my readers, and share insight into my heart.
With that said, thank you for indulging me as I share this story in honor of my sweet husband, Julian Arce - the love of my life.
August 23, 2019, is a day of bittersweet memories. My precious husband and I embarked on our final journey together... his journey home to Heaven.
That morning, Julian began coughing up blood. His bone marrow cancer meant he didn’t have enough platelets to clot any bleeding. By the time we arrived at the hospital he had two 16-ounce Solo cups full of blood. Chaos ensued.... doctors and nurses filled the room and he was rushed to the ICU. He was conscious and consented to a ventilator to protect his airway while doctors determined the cause of the bleeding.
In the midst of the chaos, I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye or remind him how very much I loved him.
He was aspirated and unconscious and doctors determined both lungs were bleeding... after several hours they were able to stop the bleeding in one lung but not both. They blocked off the lung that was still bleeding and medically induced paralysis and a coma.
The doctors fully expected he would not survive the night. In fact, they would later tell me that ‘he was in the process of dying’ that night.
The family gathered to say their goodbyes.
I cried out to God!
I asked for more time... time to tell my sweet man all the things I felt I still needed to say.
To the surprise of the medical staff, Julian did make it through the night. The rest of the week was a roller coaster. We saw God move right before our eyes as Julian was close to death several times that week. Many times the doctors told me they had no explanation for how he was ‘pulling through’ so many ‘very close calls.’ I told them I did!
One day when he was undergoing a procedure; his blood pressure fell so far and so fast that the nurse literally ran down the hall to get me as they thought he was dying. I prayed over him and sent a quick text asking for immediate prayer... "no time for explanation, just pray, pray, pray." It was absolutely phenomenal what happened next. As I stood over him praying, responses to my text started coming in. When the first person responded with, “I’m praying,” I watched the blood pressure monitor start to climb with no medical explanation. Then the next “I’m praying” response came. Again, the blood pressure monitor climbed. I literally watched as God responded to each prayer. I just cried out, “yes, keep praying, keep praying.” It was nothing short of a miracle happening right in front of me.
Another such instance: Julian was going into a procedure to stop another bleed... the doctors would need to cauterize some blood vessels. They told us there was a 50-50 chance that he would survive. You can believe I was on my knees in prayer and had the prayer teams on it. When the doctors came back, they told me they didn’t have to do the procedure because the bleeding had stopped on its own. Given Julian's medical condition; again, there was no medical explanation.
I praise the Lord for His intervention and how he answered our prayers again and again.
When Julian first regained consciousness, he was still on the ventilator and couldn’t speak. As I told him what had happened and how God had intervened so many times, he raised his hands toward Heaven praising Jesus as tears filled his eyes. [I have a cherished photo of this moment... he was attached to so many machines and hadn’t used his muscles in a week, but he was raising his hands to Heaven praising his Lord... it was beautiful!]
Although we celebrated, we were faced with the reality that there was nothing more modern medicine could do. Of course we prayed! We prayed for a miracle and we KNEW he would be healed. His healing would come either via a physical miracle in his earthly body or complete healing by going home to Heaven. He was absolutely content knowing that either would be an answer to our prayers.
We spent most of the next seven weeks in the hospital except for one short period where he was home for a few days. That weekend he enjoyed his granddaughter’s second birthday party and we had an early Thanksgiving celebration surrounded by family. He was so very grateful!
Eventually, Julian was tired of the fight and we went on hospice. Two days later, October 19, 2019, Jesus carried him home.
We were so incredibly grateful for those ‘Seven Bonus Weeks’... they were an answer to our prayers. Nothing was left unsaid between us. Our time together was sacred!
We spent a day planning his memorial service together. He wanted it to be a CELEBRATION of his life and the people he loved. Of course, he wanted to include the gospel message and an invitation. It was quite an emotional day of planning with Julian, his brother, and me. We laughed, we cried, we praised the Lord, and we just loved each other. That evening I sent this text message to my prayer group:
“I sat in a hospital room today with the man I love planning his memorial service. God's grace and perfect peace were abundant. The peace I see in Julian is amazing. The peace of God which transcends all understanding. Philippians 4:4-7: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
During those bonus weeks, he saw family and friends... and he made sure they all knew how much he loved them and how very important they were to him.
He was not anxious, worried, or scared; he was strong and confident... and he was looking forward to going home to Heaven. His eyes would fill with joyous tears as he imagined running into the arms of Jesus.
He absolutely radiated peace... the ‘peace that passes understanding’ that only comes from Jesus. Everyone that came in contact with him experienced his peace and saw the love of Jesus.
We cherished every precious moment. We rarely stopped holding hands, we talked, we sat quietly, we stared into each other’s eyes, into each other’s souls, we embraced. We fell asleep holding each other. We laughed, we cried, we prayed, we read scripture, we worshipped. We experienced amazing love and indescribable joy. We experienced the very presence of God.
Exactly three weeks before he died, Julian and I renewed our marriage vows in the hospital. Although our vows were so special and important the first time we took them; when they were said in that hospital room, they were especially meaningful. It was a glorious day full of love and pure joy.
Here are some photos of the vow renewal in the hospital (September 28, 2019) and our original wedding (June 4, 2011).
Julian left this planet knowing - without any doubt - how very much I love him and will always love him; that he is the love of my life; that every mistake and hurt was forgiven; and that as hard as losing him would be, I would eventually be ok.
He left me knowing the same love. I think he was always using that great big love of his to prepare me for life without him.
He would often take my breath away expressing his love. I remember a time when I returned to his hospital room and with pure joy and outstretched arms, he said to me, “I’m so glad you’re back. I was just telling my mom and brother that you’re oxygen to me... and I needed to breathe!” Then he hugged me as if his very life depended on it! Wow - yes, he took my breath away!
Julian wrote a message to be shared at his memorial service reminding us to always live as if the end is approaching because we may not get a warning. He encouraged us to leave nothing unsaid, to stay close to the ones we love, to stop wasting time, and to forgive and put the past in the past... or we will miss the love and beauty of today.
As I look back and reflect, I am still so amazed by - and grateful for - the peace my husband had in the face of death. I do believe that his witness to the medical staff, friends, and family, was extraordinary. In fact, just days after his death, Julian's mother asked his brother to help her understand how her son could display such grace, confidence, and peace while facing his own death. Julian had witnessed to her many times in his life; including during those last seven weeks. However, his steadfast witness in the face of death showed her more than anyone could ever tell her. As Julian‘s brother explained it to her one more time, she accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior. Hallelujah! Julian had such a burden for his mother and prayed she would come to know Jesus. And because of his personal witness, his burden was lifted. He will see her again one day in Heaven. I believe - with all my heart - that if Julian thought her salvation was the only good thing that would come out of all of his trials, he would say they were all worth it. I couldn’t be more grateful for the amazing gift of our ‘bonus weeks.’ They were God’s gift — as there was absolutely no medical explanation for Julian’s survival on August 23, 2019. I will be eternally grateful for answered prayer and the Lord’s favor in those last weeks. God miraculously moved on our behalf time and again.
Our list of blessings is long and my gratefulness could never be fully expressed.
I recognize some go their entire life without knowing the love Julian and I shared… without understanding the joy and the refreshment of being completely loved. Some never feel that overwhelming love for another that breathes a little more life into them; that causes their heart to beat a little faster and even takes their breath away. A love that finds contentment and understanding… a love that refuses to give up... a love that is willing to forgive, to put the past in the past, and to simply love in the present. That is the love we shared, and for that I am eternally grateful.
I rejoice in having fulfilled my purpose as Julian’s wife. Although the road wasn’t always blissful, it was so very worth it. I’m humbled to have walked with Julian on his final earthly journey and profoundly blessed to have escorted him from this life into the arms of Jesus. I’ve come to understand there really is no greater honor.
I am forever grateful for Julian, for his faith, his love, and his life... although far, far too short, he lived it well.
Well done, my love! Thank you for the journey, my dear sweet man. I miss you every minute of every day. I still feel your love as if you were here sharing it with me. You live on in my heart, you live on in my love. I love you - always and forever!
Thank you for letting me share this special story... it is an amazing testimony to the love and grace of God. I hope it gave you insight into the Glory of God, a glimpse into the man I love, and an understanding of my heart. I know I was profoundly blessed to have experienced the love we shared. There are so many more things I'd like to share with you about my husband - who he was - what he cared about. I will definitely write more posts honoring him and his legacy.
For now, let me say, I’m so grateful that my husband is resting in the care of Jesus today... he finished his race and then he ran into the arms of Jesus, just as he imagined he would!
I pray you will live every day as if it could be your last, that you forgive and put the past in the past, and that you embrace the ones you love today and every day.
For those of you grieving your husband, I pray you will find comfort knowing he is in the arms of Jesus... enjoying the rewards of the race he ran in this life.
I pray that all of us remember to love on those who are grieving a significant loss. They need our love and support like never before.
If you don't have the security of knowing you will spend eternity with Jesus, please reach out to me. I would be overjoyed to share the good news.
Much love and many Blessings!
— Robyn Alsip Arce, © 2021
Most of my writing assumes the reader is a Believer and has a relationship with Jesus. When I refer to a widow's late husband, I am also assuming that he was a Believer and has made his journey home. If you are not assured of your standing with Jesus and that you will spend eternity in Heaven with Him, please reach out to me. I would be honored to help.