Sherri Marie (Evans) Berg: Beloved Wife, Mother & Friend.
Four years ago on June 5th, 2015, I unexpectedly lost the love of my life for the past 36 years.
Fortunately, I’ve done a lot of grief work and read 16 books on grief. I’m now a co-leader of a local griefshare group in Eugene, helping others move through their loss. For anyone who has lost someone, it’s well worth attending to give you the support and tools you need to heal.
This was written in late June, 2015:
I've been reluctant for a variety of reasons to post anything until now, but thought I'd share what happened since so many have asked.
My wife and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary on May 10th 2015 and she had me help her post some of our wedding photos on her phone.
Taken at Island Park (above). Wearing my great grandfathers beaver top hat.
Sherri ran the race well and finished her job as a great mom.
She had been dealing with pain for the past 17 years of her life after she slipped and fell on wet stairs going to work out at a gym. Unbeknownst to any of us at the time, that fall broke her inner ear drum and triggered arthritis that she got when she had a bad car wreck at age 18.
When that happened, not long after this picture was taken (see above), our daughter Sophia was almost a year old and from that time forward, Sherri could no longer pick her up.
Prior to this, Sherri had gotten her dance degree from the U of O and then became a successful business owner (Cafe 131 in Springfield that she owned from 1989-1994). Very fit, we would go backpacking for a week at a time. She got much of her identity for what she Could Do.
Dancing at her Niece’'s wedding in LA, 2005 with Harrison.
But, she learned over time when she couldn't DO much, that she had to get her identity from WHO SHE IS.
As the years went on, Sherri also got vertigo, Sleep Apnea, a pelvis/S.I. joint malfunction, PTSD and couldn't bend, reach, twist, garden, run, swim, walk on unstable ground nor lift more than 3 pounds. She tried to fight it the best she could. No one could figure out what was going on and believe me, dozens and dozens of the very best tried.
She was able to walk and except for weight gain, looked normal to everyone.
As time passed and she got worse, she never complained about her state. Never "Why me God??" (I would've been moaning and bitching at least twice a week). Sure, she complained about the pain, but personally, just to me. She was human and could be critical as she had faults as we all do, but I was amazed by her fortitude.
For the past several years, I've pretty much have done all the cooking and cleaning and tried to love her the best I could. But it was hard and there were many times I resented her body and the situation we were in, but those were the cards we were dealt, and rather than fight, I generally accepted our state.
But Sherri never gave up. She held out hope. On our fridge was this quote (from Winston Churchill) she put up: "Never, Never, Never Give Up." She didn't.
In late April, the pain was severely magnified where just walking up the stairs or even a 1/2 block it rose to 10 on a scale of 1-10. She got on Xanex because it was so bad.
She saw her 2 female doctors (one was a back specialist) and they all thought initially it was related to her spine or joints. The pain was so incredible-Sherri would wake me at 1 or 2 or 3 in the morning to have me put Lidocaine patches on her chest and her scapula (back) and even her lower back. She would sit there crying and calling out to God: "Help me. Help me. Help me." over and over. We felt helpless. While I was in Ohio for two nights speaking to a professional photography group and our son Harrison had to help during those early morning crisis's. Sherri keep going online to try to find out what was going on with her body. She thought it was Costochondritis
Because the pain was burning, not pressure nor going to her arm (typical heart problem issues) it masked the real problem. Checking into ER in late May showed no heart issues either. But a stress test was ordered because of her family history. Sherri even wondered if she should bother because she was sure it was her back (she was a former nurse and did extensive study of her symptoms to try to figure out what is going on). Her counselor and I both told her to go forward so she could cross it off her list.
On June 4th, the stress test showed problems, and they suggested she check into ER that day to get an angiogram done the following morning. That night, her best friends, our kids and I (and the video that I made of our daughter speaking at her Baccalaureate ceremony that very night was shown to her) were all present in her hospital room. We didn't think it was goodbye though. She did mention to my sister-in-law that night while I was gone, "if God wants to take me, I'm ready" but it was in passing and no one thought much about it until later.
Fortunately, I stayed with her overnight in the hospital. I almost didn't because I was so tired.
The next day, her renowned heart specialist, Dr. Gory, said that one of 1500 people have problems with stints and the rest, they get the stints put in and they go home the next day. It's not even called an operation anymore, just a procedure. Her oldest brother had the procedure done twice and her other brother, once. So we saw it as no big deal. We were one of the 1499, not 1500 in our minds. Sherri wanted to be kept awake during the angiogram and the stint procedure (ahhh, that nurse in her) and the doctor said that was fine. I prayed with her before I left.
After I had to leave, I asked God to help the doctors find and fix the problem and I while I was going to pray for her healing, I felt moved instead to ask the Lord to do what His will was regarding Sherri.
The stint procedure was a success. They moved her onto the gurney to watch her for an hour in recovery before they were to bring her back to her hospital room, but her body flipped. She went unconscious, and her heart stopped. Dr. Gory said in the 35,000 procedures he's done, he's never seen someone's clotting mechanism go so haywire. "It was as if God wanted to take her."
I think God did.
Sherri died at peace, without pain...thinking she was going home. And she did go home-to her eternal home.
I realize that really God was so kind to her, as she died the best way possible: No worry, no pain, thinking all is OK and that she is going home.
Sherbe (my nickname for her) was a gem. She was kind, insightful, artistic, funny, curious, honest, beautiful, intelligent, bold, and full of integrity. Of course she had her problems. She was stubborn for one thing-which can be good and bad. Her ability to design and "see" was incredible and find poems that seemed to fit situations to encourage others. She especially liked the poet, John Donnne.
This is one of the songs we had song on our wedding (by Dan Fogelberg)
Longer than there've been fishes in the ocean Higher than any bird ever flew, Longer than there've been stars up in the heavens I've been in love with you
Stronger than any mountain cathedral Truer than any tree ever grew Deeper than any forest primeval am in love with you
I'll bring fire in the winters'You'll send showers in the springs We'll fly through the falls and summers with love on our wings
Through the years as the fire starts to mellow Burning lines in the book of our lives Though the binding cracks And the pages start to yellow I'll be in love with you
This was taken the night before of Sophia, after the Baccalaureate.
She raised our children to be people of character. Our youngest graduated from High School, the night after Sherri went to be with God.
Whether it be it paint colors, food on the table or our landscaping, she just had an innate and great sense of style.
"The Love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies" Gertrude Jekyll
I was so lucky that I married her and had 35 years with her. She is sorely missed.
We've had a lot of great support from friends. People have been so kind, I've been amazed at how sweet others have been towards us.
Losing Sherri-especially so abruptly is horrible for us, but it was good for Sherri because of all the pain and trials she's had to deal with.
I really avoid talking "religion", and after this, will continue to do so, as I wish to respect the views of ALL of my clients. However I do want to say that Sherri and I have both been born-again Christians since we were in our twenties and KNOW that Jesus has a place in His kingdom for those who choose to follow Him.
That gives me, my son and daughter great comfort-not because it's some sort of made up "pie in the sky"-but real truth that we wholeheartedly believe in. Since then, I continue to grieve, try to move forward, not have self-pity, and be present for my kids and for my clients. But my brain isn't functioning normally. Yet, I know that God IS good and He KNOWS what He is doing and in that, I can rest.
People ask me usually two things.
1. How can I help? (I refer them to my brother's wife, Julie: 541-915-0089 who can give practical options) and
2. How are you doing? For that one, I really don't know. I think as good as I can be. I've cried every day and probably laughed every day. Since the service, it feels more final that she is really gone. As the days turn into weeks, my heart is slowly accepting the fact that she's not coming back home. Which of course, causes me to feel sad.
There is a huge hole in my heart and soul and I don't see it getting filled, but I do see it getting smaller. But it will take time. Weeks. Months. Years. Work DOES help-it gets my mind on others and on art. (And if you need photography, I would appreciate your business-as my ability to market has gone by the wayside.)
The crux of my life as a Christian is to serve God and I primarily have done that by serving my family-most particularly Sherri (especially now that our kids are 22 and 18). Now that purpose is gone and its just plain weird. There really is no other word to describe it. Its surreal. But I think that despite the sadness and the loss, I believe the kids, our dog, Ricci, and I will be OK over time.
In retrospect, there are some things I'd like to share with you.
1. Get Life Insurance on ALL the adults-not just the breadwinner (I was fortunate that I had gotten a small one on her when we first had kids and kept it renewed).
2. Have a Will. I have heard so many sad stories lately of people thinking they will have a warning before they die. Get a will and insurance NOW-please please please don't put it off.
3. Realize that heart disease is the second leading cause of death of all women in this country. It's symptoms are often unique for females.
4. Reach out to those who've lost someone....its OK if you don't know what to say. They often don't know either. Just telling them you care, or making them a meal goes a long way.
5. Not to get preachy, but spend time thinking about what life REALLY is about. Let's face it, our life here IS short. So, what DO you do with the Bible, the God of the Universe and IS Jesus really is who he said he was? Just because one wants to go to heaven, doesn't mean that will necessarily be the case.
6. Pursue truth. At all costs. Sherri did and I know its worth the journey.
I hope those tips help...I certainly appreciate your understanding and your prayers.
May the King of Kings bless and enrich you.....
Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Please enjoy this video that I made in honor of her. It was shown at the start of the memorial service (followed by a bagpiper playing Amazing Grace-her request made to me several times over the past decade).
Beloved wife, mother, sister & friend.