The Night That Took My Wife
How Grief Imprisoned Us to Grace
Article by Reid Karr
If I could have known somehow that the Lord would call my wife, Kyra, home to be with him, I would have begged him to take me instead. Our girls were only six, four, and two. What hope did I have of raising them alone? The thought was unthinkable. It simply didn’t make sense.
But, as we know all too well, the Lord’s ways are often not our ways. So, on August 14, 2015, I woke up to a new reality and a new, previously unthinkable world, one which did not include my precious wife to live and walk and parent alongside.
The Day We Lost Kyra
The day prior, Kyra and I were packing up and preparing to return to Rome, Italy, where we had been living, working, and serving the evangelical church for six years. We had been in Georgia visiting family and were excited to get back home, returning to our friends and the work the Lord had called us to.
Since it was our last evening together with family, we went out to dinner and then elsewhere for dessert. While we enjoyed each other’s company, no one could have imagined the events that were about to unfold, how that evening would conclude. No one dared to think that those would be the final words we would exchange with Kyra, at least here on this earth.
The ride home was pensive and quiet. I was driving, Kyra was in the passenger seat, and our two youngest daughters were in car seats behind us. Our oldest daughter rode home with her grandparents. Unbeknownst to us, up ahead on the road we were traveling, a truck driver was checking his cargo and preparing to depart for West Virginia.
Before leaving, he exited his truck to inspect his vehicle. In doing so, he failed to set the parking brake. Immediately the truck began to roll down the ramp that led to the highway where we were traveling.
The timing was such that the fully loaded semi entered the highway the exact moment we were passing the truck ramp and collided with our vehicle. The impact was tremendous. Our vehicle was pushed across the northbound lanes of traffic, the median, and then the southbound lanes of traffic before crashing against the guardrails on the far side of the road. Kyra took the brunt of the impact and was killed immediately.
Our Unexpected New Journey
Passing motorists stopped and helped the best they could by pulling one of our daughters from the car to safety. Her leg was broken and her head cut badly. I and our youngest daughter remained trapped for approximately two hours before rescue workers could free us from the wreckage. Miraculously, we both suffered only minor injuries. Kyra was trapped in the vehicle with us, but I was aware the Lord had taken her.
We were taken to different hospitals, and family slowly began to arrive. Our oldest daughter came to visit me where I had been taken, but was not yet aware of what had happened. I remember, like it was yesterday, having to tell her that Mommy wouldn’t be coming home. I can still see the tears she cried in sadness and confusion.
I was released that evening and traveled to the hospital where our other two daughters had been taken, and passed a long night by their sides. The next several days would be a whirlwind of emotions swept up in planning and attending a funeral and learning to face an utterly different reality. It was also the beginning of a new journey.
Extra Measures of Grace
This new journey would teach me and my family about new measures of God’s amazing grace that we had previously known nothing about.
These extra measures of grace are deeply rooted in the gospel of the Bible. This good news is that those who place their faith in Jesus Christ are forgiven their sins and receive a new life. They are no longer slaves to sin, but are now slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:18). This new life in Christ is radically different than the previous one, in which we were enslaved to fear, worry, uncertainty, and sin. Faith in Christ frees the believer and radically transforms his perspective on life. The fear, worry, and uncertainty of the old life is replaced by peace, hope, and the certainty of salvation.
By no means, however, does faith in Christ guarantee a life free of hardship and suffering. It is, in fact, the opposite. Suffering is not an exception for the believer, but the norm. The apostle Paul warns his disciple that all who desire to live a godly life in Christ will experience suffering (2 Timothy 3:12). Trials are to be expected.
The hope of the gospel, however, is that life in Christ frees us from the fear that suffering and trials produce. Whereas sin enslaves us to fear, the gospel frees us from fear and enslaves us to grace. The apostle Peter states clearly, “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).
Suffering Imprisons Us to Grace
Loss and suffering, then, imprison us to the grace of God and teach us that apart from him there is no lasting hope and peace. Grace radically transforms our perspective on facing grief and hurt, and teaches us that we can even have joy in our suffering. Through faith in Christ, we are no longer slaves to fear and hopelessness, but slaves to grace — the grace God pours out on us through his Son’s perfect obedience and sacrifice.
Thanks to the extra measures of grace he poured out on me and my family, the unthinkable task of being a single father to three little girls, while living in a foreign country, became possible. Were it not for his abundant grace, I would have remained a slave to fear and hopelessness. Instead, I am a slave to his grace, and I am slowly but continuously being restored, strengthened, and established.
In the days, months, and years since Kyra’s passing, it is God’s grace alone that has given my girls and me (and the rest of our family) the ability to endure the trials placed before us. Because of his amazing grace, we have even had great joy and peace, as the Lord has worked and continues to work through his calling Kyra to be with him.
By God’s grace alone, evidenced through the love and care of the church, the girls and I returned to our lives and ministry in Rome three months after Kyra passed, something I thought would have been impossible. By his grace, we are still here today.
Amazing Grace in Abundance
Having three young daughters to raise, and considering the realities that come along with them growing and getting older, I naturally began to wonder if the Lord would ever provide another wife and helpmate for me. My daughters wondered aloud whether they would ever have another mother in their lives.
We hoped that would be the Lord’s plan, but we knew that his grace was sufficient, and that he would continue to provide for us as he had all along. Dependent on God’s grace was where we landed, and it was (and still is) a good place to be.
Late last year, God’s grace was once again revealed in a very tangible way as the Lord brought my wife, Steppie, into our lives. Once again, we are a family of five, and almost every day someone tells me how happy the girls are since Steppie came into their lives. The difference she has made is evident to all.
With the two simple words “I do,” Steppie became a wife and the mother of three young girls. Like us, she is learning what it means to be a slave to God’s grace, while she lives a life she had never considered or imagined. Dependent on God’s grace, she too is finding great joy and pleasure in this story, despite the challenges her new reality constantly presents.
No Better Place to Be
This story could be written by any number of people who have faced similar and devastating trials. Just this week, news arrived of friends of our family who lost their second daughter in just two years to an illness. Neither of their daughters had yet reached the age of eight. What devastation and heartache!
One might wonder how it is even possible to have hope and peace amidst such brokenness. Thankfully, this family knows Christ as their Savior, and despite the inevitable hurt and pain, God’s grace will be shown to them in ways they never could have imagined.
God will bring extra measures of grace, wave upon wave, that will bring a deep and real hope and peace — hope and peace that only faith in the living Christ can provide. His grace will be sufficient, just as it has been for us. Along with this family and many others, we are slaves to God’s grace, and there is no better place to be.
Reid Karr is a church planter with the International Board in Rome, Italy, and co-pastor of the evangelical church Breccia di Roma. He is also the associate director of the Reformanda Initiativeand a PhD candidate with the Union School of Theology.