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Strength in Encouragement

A husbands’ support remains even after he’s gone.

Joseph Miller February 9, 2023

Dusk settled over Williamstown, New Jersey, as Darlene Hammel unlocked her door and turned on the lights. Coming home to an empty house still felt unnatural. She walked to the kitchen to make her evening cup of tea, and there, retaped to the cabinet door, was a sticky note that read, “Don’t forget.” She thought, Fred, I never will.

Photograph by Ben Rollins

These were the kinds of messages her husband had left around the house throughout their marriage. Sometimes they accompanied a bouquet of flowers or a handwritten note in Fred’s distinct scrawl. But in the three years since Fred’s death from Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia, Hammel has learned that sticky note glue dries, petals wither and fall, and cards fade in the sunlight.

Hammel had thrived on Fred’s encouragement. Now, as before, she wrestles with the challenges of being a licensed pediatric oncology social worker. Many of the children she serves face a high rate of mortality. And the toll extends to parents and siblings, all of whom Hammel strives to help. Despite the pain of her own loss, Hammel knows the Lord is using her to bless families in need. Working for a nonprofit, she connects her clients with items like food and toys as well as rental assistance and counseling services. She’s a welcome presence in the most stressful season of their lives.

Hammel thinks back to long commutes when Fred would call and read to her from this devotional, reminding her of God’s promises. Though she looks forward to being reunited with him one day, she realizes the Lord isn’t done with her here. That’s obvious if you see her work—His love flows through her to every child she meets.

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