Saying Goodbye To Her Husband
Tammy Trent looks back at losing the love of her life and finding the strength to keep going.
by Christa Farris
"There have been times I've felt so afraid. Times when I've come into this house and fallen apart and just said, 'God, why? I can't breathe today."
Unlike most married Tammy Trent and her husband, whose first name, Trent completes her stage moniker, spent most of their time away from home. With her busy schedule of singing in churches and recording albums and Trent serving as her manager a luxury like raking a vacation together didn't happen often. So when an opportunity came in September 2001 for the couple to check out some mission work in Jamaica. Tammy and Trent decided to extend their stay and enjoy a touch-needed break.
Although they found rest in the tropics, the athletically inclined couple also enjoyed rock climbing, basketball and volleyball. For Tammy and Trent, this vacation was a perfect getaway to re-energize them for their busy days ahead.
But before their suitcases were packed for the return to their Tennessee home, life took a tragic turn.
For what the couple thought would be an exciting cap to their vacation. Trent, an expert diver, decided to venture underwater to explore the Blue Lagoon. Like many times before, he used a free diving technique where a diver is submerged underwater without an oxygen tank or snorkel for assistance.
Before leaving to explore, Trent excitedly asked Tammy to take her picture. Happily obliging, she stayed by the dock and watched her husband swim away. Like all his dives before, she remembered watching him occasionally bobbing up for air. But when, after 30-40 minutes she hadn't recalled seeing him, she consciously began looking for Trent. Knowing he'd eventually have to return for air, she began to feel uneasy.
"I knew he would never do anything to scare me," Tammy recalls. "As I stared at the spot [in the water where he'd last surfaced], I had to fight fear. I started to get worried, and all I could say was 'Jesus, Jesus." As more time passed and her fear increased, a dive team was called to the scene to search for Trent. "[With] each minute that passed, I knew what happened," Tammy says. "So I lifted my hands and began singing any praise song I could think of."
Later it became too dark for the divers to see anything more on Sept. 10, and the search resumed the next morning. After three hours of looking beneath the surface, the body of Tammy's husband recovered on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 - the same day another earth-shattering event would turn more loving wives into widows.
Unaware of what was happening hundred of miles from Jamaica, Tammy first heard the news about the World Trade Center tragedy when she returned to her hotel room. With the reality of her own tragedy setting in and now the horrific aftermath of the terrorists attacks weighing heavily on her mind, she began to grieve for both the victims and the love of her life.
Although she felt stranded and alone, with flights grounded and no word yet of when her family could join her, help was already on its way. Tammy's father-in-law had taken a flight out of Los Angeles the previous night for a business trip but immediately made his way to Jamaica for the hard task of helping his son's wife face the emotionally draining days ahead.
Faced with the overwhelming reality of her loss, Tammy turned to God's Word. She searched the Scriptures specifically for encouragement and quickly realized she couldn't handle her present circumstances without spiritual intervention.
Getting up, Tammy stumbled to the bathroom and recalled being so weak that she felt unable to walk or see. Paralyzed by her circumstance, Tammy cried out to the Lord in prayer, asking for just one angel to love and hold her in her time of need. Moments later, Tammy says, her prayer was when her "angel" appeared in a Hilton Hotel uniform.
When the maid arrived, she told Tammy she had been seen trying to get into the room because she heard her crying. Instantly sensing her grief, the housekeeper asked if she had lost someone else love. Crying, yet feeling blessed that God answered her prayer, Tammy proceeded to tell her about the loss of her husband, and the maid held her as the two strangers prayed together.
Even though Tammy rests assured that she'll be reunited with Trent in heaven, she confesses that saying goodbye to the man who completed her life has been the hardest challenge she's ever endured. "There have been times I've felt so afraid, times when I've come into this house and fallen apart and just said, 'God, why? I can't breathe today. I don't know what I'm supposed to do with life, and I hate what's happened."
With a romance that began at the age of 15, it's not hard to understand her sense of loss.
Like the plot of the sweetest romantic novel an author could conjure up, Tammy met her tall, handsome, blue-eyed Prince Charming. Trent Lenderink, at her youth group in her hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
"I thought he was so yummy; he was soooo cute," Tammy gushes. "He was so attractive to me. He was a 15-year-old guy who just really loved Jesus."
While the two weren't allowed to officially date until they were 16 they lived on the same side of town and were basically inseparable. "We just hit it off, and it's so funny to me because I was such a tomboy," Tammy says with a hearty laugh. "I was this total jock who played every sport, hardly wore any makeup or messed with my hair. And here was this gorgeous guy - every girl in our church was after him - and for some reason he was interested in me."
After turning 16 and beginning to date the guy who "made her feel like a princess," the couple faced the typical physical struggles as they grew closer. And Tammy readily admits it was Trent who was the stronger of the two. "He was always strong. Every single time I was weak, he would just tell me 'I adore you. I love you, and I just want God's best for us. I know we're going to be together; I know that He's got a plan for us, and I know part of that is just waiting."
So with that commitment to God and each other, the couple dated six more years before walking down the aisle on Aug. 18, 1990. But after all the wedding cake was eaten and the honeymoon gave way to the trials of everyday life, Tammy says her marriage was also nothing short of magical.
When it comes to accepting life without Trent, Tammy doesn't sugarcoat the hurt, anger and confusion she constantly experiences and is careful to make sure she hears God's voice when considering the next phase of her life. "I asked [God] for a year away from everything just so I could put my life back together again and hear His voice - the first voice - because I've certainly heard many.
"Everybody's got an opinion about my life right now, and sometimes that's frustrating because [I wonder], 'Did God not have a plan before? And didn't Trent fit into that plan? And now why is the plan changed? I was quite happy with the other one.'"
But rather than simply resigning herself to a life defined by sorrow, Tammy has been using songwriting as an outlet and is beginning to write for a new project. "It's taken a while to jump into it, but now the songs are pouring out of me," Tammy comments. "This is the first record where I will have written on every song."
And while she doesn't know what her ministry will look like in the future, Tammy is carefully considering her options, knowing that her journey toward ministering again will be far from easy. But despite this, "Trent's girl," as her husband always caller her, is beginning to forge ahead to share the latest chapter of her life story and the hope she continues to find in Christ. It's her desire to help others who are hurting - just like she is.
"Originally published in the February 2003 issue of CCM Magazine, copyright 2003, Salem Publishing. Reprinted with permission. For CCM Magazine subscription information, please call: (800)333-9643."