Most husbands assume that they will go first. They don't even consider the possibility of losing their beloved until they are at least in their eighties. So when Buddy and Mary (affectionately called Tootie) McElhannon learned that she had cancer, they were shocked. She was in her 50s.
Buddy kept a private journal. He thought that he might share it with their five grown children, as a testimony to their faith. It evolved into a blog as a way to keep family and close friends updated.
In Buddy's recent release, "Walking Through the Valley of Tears," he said that sharing their battle "provided a window for so many others to do more than just watch, to actually participate in a remarkable spiritual journey. Buddy writes that the updates gave him an "opportunity to sound the alarm, to marshal her prayer warriors and rally her team of supporters whenever a need arose."
Surprise followed. The McElhannons expected about 20 or 30 regular visitors to their blog. They didn't realize the impact that they had made on so many lives. Eventually, each update triggered 300 to 400 hits.
Sadly, after four months of cancer's relentless assault, Tootie passed away.
Buddy continued to write as a way to move through his grief. In "Walking Through the Valley of Tears," he chronicles his first year without Tootie. Soon after her death, Buddy discovered that it was tempting to stay in a state of despair.
"I understand why so many people want to shut themselves off," he said. "I forced myself to get up, to go for walks, to go to work."
While countless books offered advice about how to grieve, none offered the solace that Buddy sought. He started praying for the gift of gratitude. "I focused on what I had received through Tootie, rather than what I lost," McElhannon said. It was through this attitude that Buddy was able to move through his grief. "I couldn't walk through this without the Lord," said Buddy.
Buddy's book is available on Amazon.com. All proceeds will go to the Refuge Pregnancy Center in Conyers, an organization where Tootie had been the nurse manager there during her last 13 years. She was passionate about her work there.