This website is dedicated in loving memory of my husband, Stacy Keith Stewart.
We were married almost six years, high school sweethearts reunited by God’s grace 31 years after we walked away from each other. He was my bus driver in 1983, his senior, my junior year. He was also my prom escort. Only back then, we were a couple of know-it-alls who thought we knew better than our parents, and so, after he graduated, we lost touch. We were too young and immature to understand then, what it meant to wait for the one God had chosen for us to be with. When my second marriage ended, due to circumstances beyond my control, and I found myself once again alone, I did a lot of walking, in the trails park, and at the park, and during this time, I began to sincerely pray for God to lead me in the right direction. I prayed for God to put me in the path of the one He wanted me to be with. I knew as I was getting older, and I had already caused my parents enough grief, I had to get it right this time. Well, He answered that prayer, and not long after that, God brought us back together and gave us another chance. We both knew instantly the moment we saw each other that we should have never walked away from each other. The prodigal son and daughter had returned home, and our Heavenly Father blessed us with a truly beautiful Smoky Mountain wedding and honeymoon that seemed to just make up for all the years we had lost.
We were married on December 23, 2014 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We walked the streets of Gatlinburg as people stopped us to take our picture, and visited the shops. Then after dinner, we drove to Cherokee, NC, where we checked into our cabin after driving around to find the dialysis clinic where he would have a dialysis treatment the next morning. This had to be set up a month in advance, and he had to be there early, around 5:30 or 6 am, so we wanted to make sure he would know exactly where to go. I still have the cute little mailbox they gave the patients as a gift. It had a bottle of salt free seasoning inside, something kind of like “Mrs. Dash” with the clinic name on it. Keith suffered from a hereditary kidney disease called glomerulonephritis, and was on the transplant list for a second kidney transplant. He had been back on dialysis for nine years after the kidney his sister gave him had failed after just short of ten years. I wasn’t a match to give him a kidney, but I would have done it if I could. As it turns out, I get kidney stones, so that would have ruled me out anyway. But God works all things in His perfect time, and six months later, a kidney became available, and he had his transplant. Although he did go through some rejection a couple of weeks later, and we were camped out at the hospital for three weeks while they got him through it, we were thankful that he didn’t have to go through dialysis anymore once it got to working better. We knew it wasn’t working as well as it could have if he hadn’t had the rejection, but I am just forever thankful for the time I had with him.
Despite his having three degrees, including one Bachelor’s, and experience in the Corrections field, his years of having to be back on the dialysis pretty much ended his career. Being on the dialysis three times a week makes it impossible to work a full time job. Even after his transplant, the years he hadn’t been able to work in the field worked against him, and no one would hire him, despite his experience. We didn’t have a lot, and it wasn’t easy, but we made it work. We found happiness in the simple things. We found things to do together that didn’t take a lot of money. We couldn’t say “I love you” enough, and we couldn’t stand to be away from each other for long. As a writer myself, I had encouraged him that if he couldn’t get a job in his field, maybe he could showcase his skills and knowledge in writing. He had actually started a book, which he never got to finish. He also wrote a short story for our 2019 Eastern North Carolina Church of God Sr. Talent Competition, which won 2nd place and was to compete in the Nationals in Gatlinburg, which, of course, had to be canceled because of the pandemic. He also co-authored our brainchild, a new book which I plan to have available soon, LOGAN Chain of Grace, about a 5-year-old boy who goes missing and sets off a chain reaction of God’s grace that will turn his whole town upside down. He contributed to the Law Enforcement aspects of the story, and much of the storyline itself was also his. One of the main concepts we hoped to bring out in the story is that no life is ever too hopeless, and no one is ever too broken for God to turn it all around. It saddens me deeply that he could not live to get to read it, but I like to think he will be smiling with our Heavenly Father, watching all the lives we felt it would touch. I’m still polishing that one up and putting on the finishing touches, so be sure to subscribe so when it comes out, you’ll be one of the first to know!
This past December 23rd would have been our 6th wedding anniversary. He had found success in working as a substitute teacher, and was all set to begin a program to gain his credentials to be a teacher when he got sick. He had also just recently completed training through our church to head up our chapter of Royal Rangers. On July 17th, 2020, we both went to the ER to be tested for Covid. I tested positive, and, as I was having chest pains, was kept overnight, but released the next day. Keith was sent home with a false negative, although it soon became obvious he was very sick. He had been placed back on the kidney transplant list, and was supposed to go to the hospital at UNC Chapel Hill, NC for bloodwork, which has to be kept current, but I knew he was in no shape to drive. So, I drove him to the hospital. I had no way to face at the time, he would not be coming home. Although there were some scary times for me, I soon recovered, though it took months and a couple of rounds of prednisone and steroid inhalers to fully recover from the breathing issues. But because of the years of his immune system being hammered by the anti-rejection meds, Keith was unable to recover from the damage the virus did to his lungs. On Saturday, August 29, 2020, after he bravely fought for his life for over a month, we stood around him, all of us with tears running down our faces, saying our good byes, singing him into Heaven, and wanting to think that somehow he could hear us. At 5:51 p.m., as I held his hand, he passed away. I felt the lifelessness the moment I knew he was gone.
It’s not been easy, trying to pick up the pieces of my broken heart and go on without him, but I know I am not alone, for our loving Heavenly Father promised that He would never leave us, nor forsake us. I’ve said that in a sense, it’s like my sweet Keith planted all of these seeds in the garden of our life together, and I am still here to water them. Indeed, in many ways, they are still blooming, in unexpected places and ways. I have met several young students who have remembered him from the schools where he had subbed for various teachers. One of them was a young lady who was the cashier who checked me out at the grocery store. Almost going into tears, she stopped to come around and give me a hug before I left.
Another way I am watering those seeds he left planted is by sharing with others in whatever way I can to perhaps bring hope and encouragement where it is needed. We were in the process of starting K&F Stewart Ministries when we got sick. That is just another way I will see to it that the legacy of our love is carried on. So, here for you now, I want to share the short story he wrote, that I mentioned above. Based on the story in the Bible in John 4, about Jesus and the woman at the well, I feel sure it will touch your heart, just as it did mine. You can click the link below to download it:
I know that I am only one out of many who have lost one or more loved ones to this terrible virus, and we can only pray and seek God as never before, that it will end soon, and in the meantime, continue to comfort each other and pray for each other. We are all in this together. This is just one of the ways I will continue to do that as I press on, watering the seeds he left planted in our “garden” of our hearts.
Perhaps another way of looking at it is in the words of a dear sister in Christ I met before leaving from my recent appointment with my endocrinologist for my thyroid condition. She said, those who have gone on, they were running in the lead, carrying that torch. When their time came to leave, they have turned around and handed that burning torch to us, those who are left behind. I also talked about this in my book, CPR for Your Faith from Beyond Death’s Door, in the chapter on “Those Who Have Gone Before us”. My dear husband has now handed that torch to me. I am still here because God still has work for me to do, lives for me to touch, and seeds of hope and encouragement to plant, and you are too. Yes, it’s hard to go on without them, and there will be days that the tears still come. But by the grace of God, we will go on, until it comes our time to hand that torch to the ones after us. Until then, I am looking forward to seeing the fruit that will be yielded from the seeds we are planting now. After all, as I also talked about in the book, there is no limit to what God can do with the broken pieces of our grief, hurts, and sorrows, if we only yield it all to Him.
God is ready to take all the tragedies and heartaches that 2020 brought us, and turn it all into the compost that will nourish the fruit trees of the fruit we will bring into the great harvest for His Kingdom in 2021 if we only surrender it all to Him. See my recent post for the Word He gave me on this! For now, I think you have a garden to tend to. I know I do. That’s what my sweet husband would have wanted me to do. I miss him, but I know I will see him again when my work here is done. Until then, I’ll be running with that burning torch he’s handed me until my time comes to turn and pass it on to the next one. So, as we used to say to each other, “Good night, sweetheart. Sweet dreams,” until I see you again. For now, our love is the eternal flame burning in my heart.
While we were in Gatlinburg for the Church of God Sr. Talent Nationals, we were blessed to meet Libbi, from the Perrys. Here she is, singing this beautiful tribute to her late husband. I thought it was beautiful. Yes, darling, I will find you again, and kiss the precious, nail scarred feet of the One Who brought us back together.
In loving memory of Stacy Keith Stewart 1964 – 2020