By Jim Day
Our world is changing. Covid and its variants are killing thousands. But, people are still passing from this world by other means. Covid isn’t the only killer.
Dealing with the loss of a loved one is difficult when you know Jesus. It is incredibly more difficult if you don’t. Losses like this are not something that you can get over. It leaves a hole in your life that is unique to the person that you have lost. But you can get through it. One step at a time. Even though there is great comfort in knowing that your loved one knows Jesus and is in heaven, they are no longer here and we miss them so much.
This God Dot story is about Ryan and Rhonda Snow, two people that God brought together after Rhonda lost her first husband Jim.
Jim and Rhonda had a good marriage. Both believers, they raised their sons in the church and participated in church activities. They met through Rhonda’s mutual friend from California, Tina, who was visiting her in Filer, a small Idaho community just west of Twin Falls.
Jim, Rhonda and Tina were all young people at the time, and Tina suggested that she and Rhonda go out on the town together. Rhonda’s mom was kind of old-fashioned and insisted that Rhonda be home by 10 p.m., and she also insisted that Rhonda, under no circumstances, should call boys. Boys were supposed to call the girls, she said.
Anyway, Tina and Rhonda went to an early movie and then “cruised” Blue Lakes Boulevard, the main drag in Twin Falls. During the evening, they met Jim, and Tina and Jim teased Rhonda because she had to be home by 10.
The next school day, Rhonda was telling her best friend, Jamie, about her “dreamy date.” Rhonda struggled to remember Jim’s last name; but when she did, Jamie exclaimed, “That’s my cousin!”
Rhonda and Jamie plotted and planned, and Jamie invited Jim to Rhonda’s graduation party. After the party/barbecue, Jim asked Rhonda if she’d like to go with him to Western Days, a local celebration. With her parents’ blessing, they left the party/barbecue; but because Jim didn’t like eating in front of a crowd of people, he hadn’t eaten anything at the party and was starving. So they went to McDonald’s for a Big Mac for Jim.
That is where the romance between Jim and Rhonda started. Jim even sent Rhonda peach-colored roses the next week in honor of her graduation. They dated all through the summer. Rhonda went to Boise State that fall to study to become an X-ray technician and Jim gave her a promise ring before she left.
Later, he proposed to her in her dorm room and they were married on October 29, 1988. They were happy and soon had three boys: Cody, Cole and Keaton. Jim worked at Magic Valley Paramedics and taught emergency care at the College of Southern Idaho. Life was good!
In the winter of 2010, Jim slipped on the ice and injured his hip. The next year, he got a hip replacement. Then in 2012, Rhonda’s mom passed away from cancer. Jim had to have a hip revision surgery. Rhonda looked at her life and wondered where God’s good plans were.
She got a job in the same department as Jim at CSI and when he had to take time off, she carried the full load of provider and caregiver. When Jim could finally go back to work, CSI hired him as program manager of the department, and because it was pretty much all he was able to do and CSI had an anti-nepotism clause, Rhonda was laid off.
She found several jobs, but nothing was full-time. She had gotten her nursing license and knew that God wanted her to be in an occupation that helped people, but full-time employment wasn’t available at that time.
So, she drove a school bus.
Then Jim had to have another hip revision surgery. A post-op infection required another surgery and, ultimately, he had to have his hip removed. Jim was back in the hospital for the rest of that summer, and when he was sent home, he was confined to a wheelchair and required extra care.
Rhonda was angry with God.
During this time, Rhonda was participating in a journaling devotion with other women in her church on Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
Rhonda was trying, but she couldn’t see any of the good plans that God had for her and her husband. While Jim was in the hospital, God seemed to be throwing Jeremiah 29:11 at her. Radio broadcasts, billboards, and sermons all seemed to include Jeremiah 29:11.
Then Jim got out of the hospital during the first part of August of that year. Rhonda made a conscious decision to believe that God had good plans for her and her family and that things were going to get better. Jim actually went back to work at the end of August. Things were looking up!
Then on September 12, when Rhonda got home from her bus route, Jim was still in bed. He said that his leg hurt and he wanted to call in sick. Rhonda was fixing him some breakfast and Jim was calling in sick when he went into a seizure. He was rushed to the hospital and passed away 3 days later. Rhonda was devastated and thought that she would never be able to love anyone like that, or get married again.
Soon after, she got a call from the plasma center and was offered full-time employment but had to go to Laredo, Texas for six weeks of training. All through this time period, Jeremiah 29:11 continued to appear, seemingly everywhere. So she spent all of her free time with Jesus. Praying, studying, reading.
Even though she felt like Jesus was constantly with her, she still felt alone. She had a good marriage and didn’t want to be with anyone unless it was the one that God chose for her.
Her pastor joked and said, “So this guy is supposed to just walk into church with a neon green T-shirt that has a big number 1 on it and then we’ll know that he is ‘the one.’”
Here is where the story gets really interesting …
Jim had volunteered at the church camp in the summers as the camp medic. Ryan Snow volunteered at the same church camp as a camp counselor. Ryan would also end up working at CSI. Although he wasn’t good friends with Jim and Rhonda, they knew each other and were friendly acquaintances. Their lives had been woven together for years.
Ryan had gone to Jim’s funeral but left right after because he couldn’t think of anything to say that might comfort Rhonda. About a year and a half after Jim’s funeral, Ryan saw a post from Rhonda on Facebook. Even though he hadn’t spoken to her since the funeral, he messaged her and said, “How are you doing? If you ever need anything, give me a call.” She messaged him back saying that she didn’t have his number. They started texting one another and after a couple of months of texting, Rhonda texted, “Let’s go to lunch.”
That following Sunday was Mother’s Day, so they planned their lunch for Monday. Rhonda asked Ryan what time they should meet and his response was 12:36. She asked why 12:36 and not 12:00 or 12:30? Ryan jokingly said that setting an odd time would help her remember.
Rhonda’s kids started to joke about her having a “date” so she took her 2-month-old grandson, Rory, to ‘chaperone’. Ryan and Rhonda talked for three hours and arranged their next get-together.
The following Wednesday, praise team practice was cancelled and Rhonda (who played the violin on the praise team) didn’t want to be alone. She called Ryan and asked if he had any plans. He said that he was going to cook a pizza and watch a baseball game and asked if she wanted to join him. When she showed up, he gave her a tour of his house and they kissed in every room!
The next day, he came to her house – Friday at hers and Saturday at his. That Saturday he proposed and she said yes. They were married on September 1 by the camp pastor, Rudy, in the camp chapel.
Rhonda and Ryan are incredibly happy and now Rhonda knows that Jeremiah 29:11 is for her, and Ryan. Rhonda told me that she still loves Jim and probably always will, but she loves Ryan with all her heart. Ryan said that he understands Rhonda’s love for Jim and loves her with all his heart. Now that’s a story filled with God Dots!
I can only pray that somehow this story can be an encouragement and maybe bring a little hope into the lives of those who have lost a loved one. Our God is a good God and loves us so very much. He does have good plans for us. Remember Jeremiah 29:11!
Jim Day is the pastor of Evangelical Valley Presbyterian Church (EPC) in Hazelton, Idaho. He may be reached at email@example.com.