In this episode, I am joined by my good friend Lisa Staples. We talk about the death of my husband Mark and the organic details of the day he passed away on March 11, 2017. Together, we delve into the beauty of a broken friendship being restored. Listen on as Lisa shares insights on how she felt being able to share and the healing she received from being a part of this inspiring discussion.
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Moving Forward After The Death Of My Husband With Lisa Staples
Friends Who Were There
We are about to jump into a conversation with my friend, Lisa Staples. She was there the night my husband passed. She recants my emotional state where I was in things over the years. I hope this encourages you. I hope this lets you know that you are not alone and this transparency brings you hope.
In this episode, part of my hood is my girlfriend, Lisa Staples. I am excited because this girl is busy. She is a whole professional. She has given us her Saturday to be here to have this conversation. We are here with our tea. We are all snuggled up in our sweaters and sweatshirts because we are home. She knows how important it is to have this conversation and to be able to share.
I want to say I am sorry for your loss. I am sorry for the person that you love that is no longer here, that has driven you to be part of this conversation. I want you to know you are not alone. There are other people here that you are now part of my hood and part of this conversation. Welcome. We have been talking to Jackson, but I have not seen you. Lisa, share a little bit about who Lisa is in your life.
I’m West Indies born. I was born in Jamaica. I came to the US when I was sixteen years old. I have been here a little bit. I got married young and have two children. I have a son, who is Sean, and Chantel, my daughter, and her husband. They had their second baby. I’m a grandmother of two. I pride myself on the family. Near and dear to my heart is my mother.
I married, and it is my second marriage to the love of my life, Erin Staple. People describe me as someone who is a friend, a sister, to the core of my heart, being a mom, and a wife. I pride myself on being me, being at the wedding, and you were there, Tina. Thank you for being a bridesmaid. Maya Angelou said it best. She said, “People forget what you said. People will forget what you have done, but they will never forget how you make them feel.”
I always have that in the back of my mind, “How do people feel when they meet me?” I try to be a real authentic person with no pretense. I try not to pretend, even when it is to my detriment. That is why a lot of people, even in my professional space, are drawn to me because I will tell them the truth and keep it as real as possible. That is me.
My girl had makeup for us. She had her hair fixed for us. I was like, “Is it her wedding?” After the wedding was done, which was fabulous. We had these high heels, and you guys walked in your comfortable shoes. You are all looking at us women like, “Why did you pick to wear that? We got to bring all our cute.”
We walked into the wedding reception, and there was an announcement made that there were slippers. I’m like, “Did you say slippers? I don’t have to take off my high heel shoes and hold them in my head and act like I don’t see everybody with their gorgeous dress while barefooted.” It’s not just slippers. She had some good slippers. She had different sizes. The little bitty feet people didn’t have to be in the big people with the slipping up. I was like, “They cared.” They had shuttle bus service back and forth because you got a little party on at the wedding and trying to have no accidents.
Did I say she got married in a castle? When I got the invitation, I was showing it to people. I was like, “This is my friend Lisa’s wedding. I thought music was going to come out on that thing.” I am glad to celebrate with you. Let me ask you something. How do we meet, and how do we become friends? What does that journey look like to you?
We met at church. It is interesting because I remember when we walked in, we were new. We walked in for the first time. You are in leadership. You were sitting at the front of the church. We came in the normal, “Are you here for the first time?” We stood up. You came to us and said, “I’m Tina.” It was authentic and welcoming. The journey began there. We hit it off.
I always saw you at first as being attributed that for you being in the service, but nonsense. What you see with you is what you get. I can appreciate that. As our relationship evolved throughout the years, I can say that is what I love the most. One of the things I love the most about you is what you see with you is what you get. You are genuinely authentic. If we were to look it up in the dictionary, your face would be like, “Hi, girl.” You were genuine from beginning to end. We are being real here. We had a hiccup in our relationship at one point. We were talking due to some transmission.Be authentic. What you see is what you get. Click To Tweet
Let me clarify that. We fell out. I don’t remember what the hiccup was. I remember, at that time, we had a business venture together. That was the catalyst for some of that. I don’t remember all the details of it. It wasn’t like some cussing, screaming, and throwing down. It was like, “Don’t call me, and I won’t be calling you.”
It was strange. We were friends, doing business, and silence. We always look at things as if God has a purpose and a plan, no matter what. There is a saying, “Man makes plans, and God orders your footsteps.” Even in that silence, there was some maturity. For me, I need to grow up. There are things that are happening in my personal life and things that are happening across the church and all of that, where we needed that time to separate. How did we get back together as friends? I don’t remember.
I want to scoot back a little bit if you are comfortable with this. When we say we were close, there was a point in time Lisa was dealing with some sickness. I was sleeping on her bedroom floor to be there in case something happened. I remember being in bed. Marco was like, “Who is that?” I said, “That is Lisa. I got to go.” He said, “Go then.” I used to keep a bag in the car if I had to go over there. I was there helping her do the functions of life and doing that.
What is interesting about that is when you think you are doing something in a relationship, we don’t control the head chatter. We don’t control the different things that happen. Even though we were separated as far as our friendship, the strength and root of that relationship was, even though there was silence, it wasn’t dissipated. Sometimes it is like, “Put a flame on it. Don’t call me no more.” If we didn’t stop, it would have got to be a hot mess. We both said, “I’m going to say nothing I’m going to have to regret later.” We parted ways amicably. This is dating ourselves. This was before Facebook was popular when that happened.
Facebook came out. I was posting something about Garrett’s Popcorn. I posted something about popcorn, and we became friends on Facebook. We were lightly engaging each other, but that doesn’t go too far. You were like, “I like some popcorn.” I was like, “I will meet you again.” We met at Taco Bell because that was from where you lived and where I lived. I come with the popcorn. I’m like, “Is she going to hurt me?” I’m like, “I’m going to get this popcorn going and try to talk to her.” We are going to start this, and food will get you.
You were talking about the time when you were there, and you brought me to tears. I remember you showing me the bag in your card that says, “If anything goes down, I got a backpack. I’m there.” I go back to the circumstances that will pull you together and make you much better, which it certainly has because, since that moment, we have been inseparable.
That separation made us value the relationship we have even more. Life is full of disagreements. When that next disagreement takes place because it is inevitable, as far as being people, it is an unrealistic expectation of you being in a relationship, and disagreements won’t come. We will be fast to go, “This is how it made me feel.”
We know that we are coming from a place of love. We didn’t know that as much then, but now, if I fall off the tray, I know at the root of this relationship, Tina loves me. I need to perceive what she did from a place of love. That changed the picture as far as what I would do because the expectation came. That is how I would see it. How has your faith impacted the way you see life after this death?
It is believing in the word and believing in what I have learned growing up, having my own experience with someone I love passing, and understanding that God is in control. As much as we like to say, “Why did this happen? I don’t understand.” the bottom line is my belief is God knows best. His timing is this timing. It is for me to try to always stay in faith no matter what comes. Stand knowing and having that conviction that God is in control, and as hard as it is, time passes, and healing comes. What that healing looks like may be different for everyone.
It’s that understanding and that foundation of my faith, knowing God got me no matter what. God has you, no matter what. Even with my grandmother passing in July 2022, not even a month after my wedding, that shock of, “She is not here anymore. How do I manage? Who do I call on Sundays to say, ‘Mama, guess what happened?’” I learned that she is not here, but her memory and legacy are still here through me, my kids, and my grandchildren living in that home. I will see her again. That is where faith comes in for me.
How do you manage that with someone that has no faith in God? How do you be in their space with that?
There is someone I’m close to that has no faith and does not believe in God. He has experienced being a Muslim. He has been in the Catholic space. He has tried everything. He has read the Bible back and front. He has read the Quran. He does not believe it. He thinks it is all logical.
Everyone has their own particular belief. I respect that. He is trying different things.
Even in our conversation, it is not. He knows I’m a Christian. He does not debate with me, and I don’t debate with him. What we do is talk about situations that happen. I give him my perspective, and he gives me his. He lost his mother and grandmother. His belief is, “If God is loving and kind, why would he take my mother? Why would he take my grandmother?”
It is always a difficult discussion because my response is, “I can’t answer why God would take your mother and grandmother. What I can say is I do believe that we all have a time here on earth and a purpose. I believe your mother lived her purpose, and so did your grandmother. They deposited things in you that you wouldn’t have been able to get from somebody else. God shows them for you for such a time. They moved on. My belief is they are resting. They are with our King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We are here now, and we are left to carry that legacy forward.” He respects my perspective. He shares his, but there is never, “You are wrong. I’m right.” We don’t ascribe to that at all.
Can I talk about who I know you to be? People that are strong in their face sometimes become weaponized toward other people. The basis of that is unconditional love. How can I treat you that way if love is the basis for my behavior? It doesn’t reconcile at all.
We work together. He is a colleague. I believe that Jesus doesn’t want us to go telling people, “You better believe in Jesus.” I don’t ascribe to that. I don’t get that in my spirit. That is not my purpose. My purpose is to live the life. When we go and are having lunch, I put up my finger, bow my head and pray to the point. I will be honest. There are days when we are rushing. I’m like, “The next meeting is coming. I’m about to chug my meal.” He will say, “You are about to pray.” I’m like, “Oh my God.”
You tend to think people aren’t watching. I had a difficult time at work with a colleague. He said, “I know you go through this because you have strong faith.” What my point is, although they don’t believe, some may not believe, or people have different beliefs, and to your point, respect. Respect them where they are. They will respect you where you are, and God will do the rest.
It’s that part where you said you are living your faith. I know that is important for the dynamic of this conversation. This regards for you. I’m going to jump into this situation. How did you find out what was going on with Mark?
I remember getting a call from you. I was thinking about this show. I’m like, “Took me back.” I was in Connecticut when you called me, or I was in East Stroudsburg. I’m torn between where I was living, but I know I had been divorced at the time. I was on my own. I received a call from you. You babbled something about Mark. You told me the story, but it was through tears. All I remember was I said, “Where are you?” You told me where you were, you sent me the information, and I got in my car and drove to you. It was in Delaware. I remember coming to the place, and I couldn’t find where you were. I got some directions. I remember walking into the room and seeing you in the corner.
Were we in the hotel room or at the hospital?
You were in the hotel room. I remember walking into the room, and you were balled up in the corner. Think about this. All the time I have known you, you have been a strong person to the point where sometimes I’m like, “I better get it together because Tina was strong. Man up, girl. Stop crying.” I walked into the room. You had some friends there. Jerry and some other folks were there. I look over. You are in the corner, balled up, bawling. I started to shake. I shook all the way to where you were. At that point, I saw you in a state that shook me to my core.
Everybody is talking, “What happened?” You were sitting there going, “He is gone. I can’t believe he is gone.” You are Tina. You are transparent. You are like, “This is the man that I love. This is the man that we made love with. He is gone.” I remember you telling us what had transpired. You were saying it over and over again. You are like, “I wanted to be with him. It is our weekend. We took the time to come together. I met him halfway. He was going to Virginia. I’m in PA.” You were going through it as if it was on record and repeat.
I could not stop that loop because the more I was saying it, the more I tried to make it a reality. I remember a conversation with my sister, Denise, where I said, “I love him.” In my mind, “How could he be dead if I love him the way I do? How are those two taking place in the spectrum of life?”
You kept saying you didn’t understand. You were in shock. You have an out body experience, yet you were experiencing it. It was that dual presence for me that shook me to the core. No one knew what to say.
You didn’t run away. You got in your car. If you were in Connecticut to Delaware, that wasn’t a light drive to where I was in Pennsylvania.
I kept remembering that I was paying a toll. I drove down in a fog. I had been at the church not long before because you were being sent off. I was there. I sat in the church with you. To me, he was great. He was happy. You guys were talking. We went to your house after. It was surreal
I am glad that we told the church we were leaving. I feel like that was God giving Mark his living funeral because of the production and the singing. Everybody was singing a song. That is why you don’t sneak out of the church. They will do something for you if they know you are leaving. We told them because Mark had already taken a job in Virginia.
Catherine and Alex were both going into the military. They had a whole thing. When he passed, I was like, “Oftentimes, you don’t get to hear how much people care and what they do.” Hearing that and seeing that did my heart good in a way to say, “God, you prepared him to leave this world.” I found comfort in bringing that up. You are there. Catherine is probably there at this point.
Some people from the church were coming in at that point.
We are in Delaware, away from everybody. What does that night look like?
It was difficult to sleep because it didn’t feel real. It happened. You were playing over in my head when I got there, and the state you were in, the state of shock and complete brokenness. This is happening. It was lots of tears and disbelief. I’m calling my mom and trying to explain to her. I’m like, “I can’t believe it happened.” I’m calling my ex-husband, saying, “This is what happened,” because we were a community. Even though people were living different lives, we were still a community. Someone in our community, family, and friend moved on. I felt like it was sick when we could prepare ourselves.
That immediate loss and the grief were unbelievable. What you were going through, I could feel it. That is another thing. When I walked into the room, I could feel your pain, which was surprising. Outside of knowing how strong you are and seeing you in that state, your cry, I could feel your cry. When you spoke, I could feel it. It was a presence that I felt in the room of power to describe God dispatching angels to encamp around you. That is how it felt like. There was this presence in the room that allowed you to start that process of mourning.
Some friends came and picked me up. They take me back. We had breakfast the next day at the same place where Mark had breakfast at. There was a golf course, and they had a food restaurant there. I remember going in there, and as we were walking, I said, “This is where Mark had breakfast.” I know you all wanted to turn around to leave, but there was no place else to eat breakfast. That was the only option. Everybody needed to go back. Do you remember anything about the next day and the breakfast and what it felt like with me getting in the car with my friends and going home in that part of that?
It almost felt like I wanted to be with you every step of the way. We couldn’t be there every moment. It is almost like you had this community of friends for a long time and people you have known for most of your life with you. At one point, I felt left out. I’m like, “She is going through this, and I’m not there. I should be there. I needed to be there with her at her side.” A part of me felt like I wasn’t doing enough. I knew it was okay, but the part of me was like, “I should be there. I should be the one there at her side at the house.” I came to the house after you got back home.
There’s that part of watching me leave and like, “Who are those people taking her?”
You have known them for a long time, but I didn’t. I only saw them at the bonfires. I’m like, “Why are they with her and not me? I should be there.” I felt a little left out, but at the same time, I knew you were okay. I wanted to know every moment and what you need. It was that mix of emotions.
We get to Pennsylvania, and I remember you coming to the house several times. Your mama cooks some food from the West Indies. She made that jerk chicken and rice. Your mom made two dishes and brought them over. We had that food in the basement. It was like, “That food is for Tina.” Coming over to the house, that process of where I was did not change quickly at all.
I don’t think I’m as strong as people perceive me to be, but unfortunately, everyone that has talked has had that same conversation and has stated that. The ability to be transparent, raw, and genuine that there are no pretenses with this at all. What do you recall from coming to the house? Were you there when Catherine gave me something from Mark that day?
I don’t remember.
I don’t remember what group of friends was there. What do you recall from the visits coming to the house?
I’m not expecting Mark to walk out. It was strong for me. It was surreal that I expected him to pop out and say, “I’m kidding you all.” It was that heavy for me. At one point, you were in the room. I came over when you were in bed. You were telling me how it was weird to be in bed, and he was not beside you. It’s those moments of being around everyone. People remember him and talk about him. You would laugh at crack jokes at some point, but knowing you in your smile, you could see the pain. I could still see that, “Is this happening? Am I having everyone at the house because Mark isn’t here?” That is what I kept feeling.
I remember thinking, “This would be a lovely party for somebody, but this is not what we are planning at all.” Too often, the person that is grieving the most, people wants to distance themselves from them versus needing to lean in because it wasn’t comfortable for you to fully lean in. What kept you from not running away or saying, “I will see her at the funeral, and why would I drive in the car a gazillion hours to stay one night?” What drove you to do that?
In all honesty, it is because you would do that for me. That is the thing. I keep going back to walking in that room the day you called me, told me, and seeing Tina, who was broken. This is going to sound weird, but it is the truth. It is almost like I loved you more because I was able to see a side of you that I never saw before. It pulled me in. Not only that but in a weird way, I kept thinking, “If this were me, Tina would be here. I wouldn’t have to think about it.”
It’s that love, care, and you being yourself and me knowing is genuinely how you are feeling. I wouldn’t be anywhere else. That is why when the car drove off with other groups of friends, I was standing here going, “What about me? I want to be there for her. I love her too. I knew him too.” That was the emotional piece for me. I understood why, but it is the, “Tina would be here for me. She wouldn’t think twice. She has done that for me.” That is what caused me not to leave. Some people were like, “I’m going to let her have her space and mourn.” I wasn’t that person.
What I hear is the dynamic of the friendship gave you permission to lean in. The reason why I wanted to have this conversation with my friends is because that friend sometimes doesn’t know where they stand. I know they have other friends, but I know what our relationship is. You wiggled yourself in to be right where you needed to be because of that relationship. You didn’t say, “I’m going to step away. I’m going to let those people handle it.” The relationship you have with different people fill different roles.
For a friend that is reading this blog and thinking, “I’m going to step away and let my person deal with that,” they may need you to wiggle your way in to be there because there may be another person that is not filling the role that only you fulfill because of your unique relationship. Thank you. In March 2023, it will make six years of Mark passing. You have not run away anywhere. If anything more, you leaned in more and been there. Any recollection about the service or anything after that?
You invited me down to the cremation. It was weird to think that he was there in that space. It was for me, like, “I still can’t believe we are here because Mark is gone.” It made it real. I leaned back on the love that everybody shared about him, his life, and who he was to see you strong through it to say, “This has happened. I love my husband. He has a legacy through his children.” You are being strong for people that were broken because of it, and his family helped to give us strength. I found that even though it was certainly surreal to see the process of the cremation, it was powerful to hear the stories and the sharing of who he was.
I heard people were cremating, and this is me. I was thinking, “This is my husband.” I went on YouTube and looked up videos about the cremation process because I wanted to know everything that was going to happen to him. It was hard standing there in the cemetery and knowing he was in that box. Going in, you could start seeing the flames coming up, but honoring his desire because he wanted to be cremated. I felt grateful that I knew what he wanted. I could do that. It was hard. Being there when he passed, I was glad he was not in Virginia in that one-bedroom apartment by himself. He deserved to be in my presence.
I know everyone doesn’t have that. Sometimes it may be a phone call from a hospital. It may be a police or military officer coming to your home. Each one of us has unique situations. I took mine for what was given to me. It was hard. When his box was fully in, I couldn’t almost move to walk away. Nothing else mattered as far as what we were supposed to do.
It took a while to be not standing there frozen and trying to move on. That frozen part is what it is like when your spouse dies. You are frozen and trying to figure out how to get unstuck and how to move through this life that is remaining for you and make some sense of that. Over the years, what have you seen or recalled in this process?
Over the years, I have seen you still honor his memory. It wasn’t a time in your life, and now you have moved on, and he doesn’t exist anymore. I notice you still celebrate his birthday. You still talk about him. His legacy is important. I have seen you go from, “What does life look like without Mark in it? I have been with him for many years.” As the years go on, although you still honor his memory, you know that he is in a place of peace and you can move on. It takes time. As your friend, your language has shifted and changed, but the value of his life has not.
What I appreciate more is you can still bring up his name at any given time. It doesn’t feel as if he was in your past. He doesn’t feel like he is your past. It feels to me like he was a part of your journey and still is. You have taken the pieces of him that still helps you to live through your day with you. That is what you have done. His legacy and the love that he gave you did not change because he is not here. He still loves you because he is spirit, he loves you, and that will not die. You still honor and respect the space and time you had with him. You love and still respect him for who he is and is for you. That is what I have seen throughout the years with you.Take the pieces of a loved one who passed away that helps you to live through your day. Click To Tweet
I appreciate having friends and family. They don’t make it weird, odd, taboo, or difficult for me to mention his name. His place here in this world is no longer, but the essence of who he is and what he has contributed doesn’t go away. I cannot imagine trying to live my life in the absence of not talking about him and what that would look like. That would cause me more stress and angst than anything else than trying not to talk about him.
I was at work. They sent me to this training to learn Excel. It was a Microsoft Excel class. People were in there introducing, and they were like, “My name is such and such. I’m married and have three kids.” I’m in the back of the room full-on sweating because I’m like, “I’m not a single mom like I messed this up with different stuff like that.” There is a reason. He lived for 32 years. I was concerned about making everybody else in the class feel awkward. I was like, “They are going to get this work now.” I was like, “My name is Tina Fornwald. My husband and I have been married for several years. I’m widowed.” I was like, “Let me say it again. I have two children.”
He is part of my life. There is no way I can live and exist. I’m glad that people don’t make me try to hush that away. This is why this conversation is important for people that are joining. If that person is a widow or widower and if they give you permission to ask them, do they want to hear that person’s name? Would that make them feel better? For the widower, you don’t have to silence that person because they are no longer here to be able to have that. If I was a friend of someone whose spouse passed, what from your experience would you maybe think they could consider doing or advice to offer per se?
I would connect them with you. I can share my perspective as someone who was on the side, like a friend who was able to look at the process from my lens. To experience it, someone who, through whatever means, has lost a spouse, for me to say, “You need to do A, B, C, and D,” I would think I would be missing pertinent pointers for them.
If I had a friend who was in my position and they went through what you went through, I would tell them not to assume that their presence isn’t needed. People tend to pull away when something traumatic happens, especially males. I’m going to point that out. My husband’s friend lost his mom. He said immediately, “I need him to give him time. He found just out.” As a man, their response might be a little different because they respect that emotional space. As a woman, I think there is a difference. I’m not being a feminist here.
I have to refer back to the Bible. When there is a wedding, a baby is being born, and someone has passed, they come together as a community to embrace. We do that. We still continue to remember that. When you are going through a traumatic time, you can’t think sometimes. Things don’t come directly. You are in a loop of what is happening like you were when I first walked into the room.
Having everyone around playing different parts and roles, even if it is to stand there and be there in the room, on the phone, or send them, whatever it is, be there as much as you possibly can because sometimes we don’t even know what we need until we need it. As I was explaining earlier, where I felt like, “Where do I fit? She has some friends of many years,” don’t worry about that. Think about where you add value and be there.Keep everyone around you and let them play different roles. Sometimes, you don’t know what you need until you need it. Click To Tweet
Lisa, as we are having this conversation and looking at this, how has it impacted you? How has it all come together now?
Thank you for continuing the conversation because it is important for people to understand those who are either supporting someone who is a widow and has gone through the journey or is going through the journey and someone who has lived it. Even though it was 2017, this is therapeutic for me, even if this is honoring Mark’s memory. I know that this show is a god-inspired program. You are working and walking out God’s purpose for people that you won’t even probably meet but that you will touch. More importantly, this is a part of Mark’s legacy. He is still transforming lives. For me, it feels like healing.
This is a friend. I’m a friend who has gone through this. I’m telling you that this experience of mine is healing. It is talking and touching the part of me that mourned him. I’m a friend who knew him. I went through mourning, and this is healing for me. Thank you for being obedient to God and making room in your life for others to heal.
The word healing is part of what I feel God has called me to do. When you go through something like this, you need hope. You need to be like, “Has everybody been this broken and survived? Has anybody been through something this devastating and figured out how to think again? Where do you find encouragement? Where do you find hope? How do I get to a place of healing?”
For you to say talking about it, having a conversation has promoted healing. It leads to something as far as being therapeutic that therapy is important when going through something like this because it is a headspace we are not familiar with. Being able to have a safe space to connect with other people or communities that have experienced this was like, “This is how this can look.”
My journey may be different, but the onset of this has a lot of similarities. Thank you. That leans directly into what I feel like God has drawn me to do, to be able to connect me. I may not ever meet some of these people in person, but being able to tap into this conversation, they have now authentically become part of the hood. Thank you, Lisa, for having this conversation with me.
I love you, Tina.
I love you too.
Lisa and I finished a good discussion about several years ago when Mark passed and how that is still impacting our lives now. I want you to know you will never forget it. It seems as if some part of this will always be with you, and how you carry that will be your individual journey. Thank you for being here with us. Thank you for being part of this conversation, and thank you for being part of my hood. Talk to you soon.