Letter To OSU- A Quick Glimpse Into Layne’s & My Life Together

*This is the letter I wrote to OSU for my request for catastrophic withdrawal.  Please take time to read.  It gives a glimpse into how much Layne meant to me and explains my decision to take the semester off.*

To Whom It May Concern,

            I am Hannah Darr, an agricultural communications senior.  I am writing this letter in regards to being granted a catastrophic withdrawal.  My fiancé and OSU student, Layne Meriwether passed away on February 5.  This is our story:

            Layne and I’s lives were intertwined at an early age. I moved to Waynoka, Oklahoma in 1st grade.  We attended school field trips together, were in 4-H together, and later FFA.  When I was a freshman in high school (2010), Layne asked me to go on a date with him to “fifth quarter” after the football game.  I was so nervous that the cute, junior running back was asking me on a date! At first I said no, but I gave in and we were inseparable ever since.  We loved doing everything together.  We ran track together, gave speeches together, showed animals together and more.  Layne even worked for my parents.  We loved traveling, fishing, shooting guns, working cattle, cooking and spending time with our brothers.  Wherever one of us was, you were sure to find the other. 

            Fast forward 6 years to April 15, 2016.  That is when Layne took me to our favorite fishing spot on my family’s land and asked me to spend forever with him.  I thought I was the luckiest girl in the world, but if you looked at his huge smile and bright, shining eyes locked on me, you could see that he thought he was the luckiest guy in the whole world.  This past year has been full of wedding and life planning.  My house is full of all my wedding decorations just waiting for my wedding day that will never come.  Layne and I had planned our lives out and even bought cattle together.  We said it is pretty serious when you buy cattle together.  We knew what land we would eventually build our house on and even our future children’s names.  Big plans and big dreams that we will never get to carry out together. 

            Many would say Layne and I had a fairytale kind of love.  We had a love that many spend their whole life trying to find.  It was patient, kind, and unconditional.  I will forever miss how Layne always looked at me with such love and adoration.  We understood each other in a way that no one else could.  We both loved reading, learning, traveling and agriculture.  We pushed and motivated each other to be the best we could be.  Most importantly, we love and accepted each other for who we were. Layne was a man of God, uplifting, intelligent, driven, compassionate and strong.  Luckily, we knew how much we meant to one another because we told each other every day.  He made me feel loved, wanted, secure and confident.  There will never be anyone else like my dear Layne. 

            Layne and I both attended OSU, and while we didn’t live together, we spent every day together.  We worked out together, made lunch and dinner together, did homework together, and just spent time together hanging out, watching TV, and so much more.  This semester we even had a class together.  It was every Monday and Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to 9:20 a.m. and also a lab on Monday.  Our other classes got out at the same time on Tuesday and Thursday, so this semester it seemed like we were together all the time.  I can’t bear the thought of walking to my 8:30 without my best friend by my side and then sitting in the 4th row by myself with an empty seat to my left where he would normally be.  It pains me to think of getting out of my class on Tuesday and Thursday at 4:45 p.m. and have to walk alone without Layne to greet me with his loving smile and strong hug after a long, hard day. 

            After Layne’s passing, I have been trying to find my new purpose and my “new normal.”  I have been trying to find how God wants to use this to influence and help others.  I’ve also really depended on the love and support of my friends and family. I lost my best friend, my rock and my soul mate. I didn’t just lose my soul mate, but my brother lost his best friend, roommate and brother.  My mom lost a friend, history buddy and son.  My dad lost his best companion, right-hand man, cattle consultant and a son.  I along with my family are not sure how to go on without him, but we are learning how. My family needs me right now, and I need them even more.  I attend church every Sunday with my family.  Also, I attend Grief Share at my church on Thursdays, and it has helped me tremendously.  I need to be home to stay involved in my church which has played a huge role in my steps towards healing and my “new normal.”  I know after time spent with family, studying the word of God, traveling, and being home helping on the farm, I will come back in the fall stronger than ever.  I am determined to finish strong, but right now I just don’t have what it takes to do that.  I need time for healing.  I need time to figure out who this new me is without the person I have loved and depended on for 7 years.  I have been a 4.0, involved student, and I plan to continue to be that student if allowed the time needed to heal and recover. It is with sorrowful tears that I finish this letter.  This was extremely painful and hard to write, but I hope it give you a small glimpse into how much Layne meant to me. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Hannah Darr

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Grind & Grape… & Grief

A lot that I share is my triumphs in my grief journey, but I think it is important to share the struggles and the hard times too:
This morning I was driving and found the cutest coffee and wine bar- Grind & Grape. 

For some reason my heart was racing and I felt a little sick. Then I realized this place was so “Layne and Hannah.” I would order some girly coffee drink, Layne would get something with 3 or 4 extra shots of espresso, and as usual I would complain about how that’s going to cost me extra money! Then he would flash me his heart-melting grin, and I wouldn’t even care about those dang extra shots of espresso anymore. We would sit on the patio, sip our drinks and be in our own little world talking about anything and everything. After an hour we would realize we need to get back to my family and bring them some pastries that Layne would carefully help pick according to everyone’s favorites and preferences. Then as we were leaving, we would decide that maybe we should come back another day during happy hour or for a light lunch. 

  However today, I grabbed a latté to-go and picked out pastries for my family- alone. Over the past nearly 5 months now, the “alone” thing has become almost familiar. 

   Ever since Layne passed I’ve missed my adventure buddy. A new bakery, restaurant, coffee shop- you name it, we were excited to try it. Many called it one of our hobbies. 

    I could have easily had my mom, or Chloe or even josiah go with me, but sometimes it’s easier to do things alone. I’ve tried several new places since his passing. A new sushi place we wanted to try, stopped at a cool beef jerky shop he would’ve loved and more- but all alone. Sometimes you get consumed with that loneliness and have a lonely pity party for yourself.  

Next time you do remember this:

Here’s the thing- WE DON’T HAVE TO BE ALONE in our grief journey, in our struggles, etc. and we aren’t alone! First of all the Bible says: “God goes with you, he will never leave you nor forsake you.” God is always with us even if we feel alone. Also, I’m sure you have a friend or family member who would love to go do those things with you or just be with you. All you have to do is ask! 
So be strong and courageous because He will never leave you. He understands struggles and sorrow. He cares and loves you and wants to be your Comforter and your Prince of Peace. 

Hebrews 4:15-16   For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin. 

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. 

Sufficient Grace

This week has been very tough, but I’ve been so touched by the prayers and outpouring of love and amazed by how many people our story has reached. 
Yesterday as I was driving to camp I prayed, “God, from the beginning I said I wanted to use my pain to help others and be a light for you. My story has reached so many people, and I just want you to continue to use me in what you have planned. I want to glorify and honor you, Lord.”
  Not too long after I got the call from KFOR that they wanted to do a story. Wow! God still isn’t done using Layne and I’s story and what a beautiful tribute it was to Layne and the special, radiant, uplifting person he was❤️

Check out the video here: Despite tragic loss, fiancé’s story lives on through the magic of photos

We’ve been featured on the news, Huffington Post, Daily Mail UK, Yahoo Australia, and Good Housekeeping. I’ve received a couple hundred messages from people all over the world- Dubai, Australia, England, the Philippines, and more. If we allow are truly open to the Lord and are 100% willing for Him to use us according to His plans, it’s AMAZING what He can do!!!  

2 Corinthians 12:9 

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
*If you’ve commented or messaged me, I promise I’ll get back to you soon. I absolutely love all the messages I’ve received, so thank you❤️

Just a Dream❤️

I was wandering around in my wedding dress completely lost and helpless with tears spilling down my face, blurring my vision. My vision cleared a bit and I saw my sweet Layne walking towards me with his radiant smile. He wrapped his arms around me and said, “Baby girl, quit crying! You look beautiful. You are so strong. I know you can do this!!”    Earlier that night I had cried myself to sleep because all I wanted was a chance to marry my best friend.. and then I had that dream and it gave me such a peace. 

    When I saw this picture today, I instantly thought of that dream and tears streamed down my face. Holly didn’t know about it, but this picture reminds me so much of that wonderful dream❤️ Holly Gannett, thank you so much for being there during this hard time and capturing these memories.

More Than A 3 Day Weekend

  When the memorial video came on today at church, I hurriedly grabbed my belongings and left my pew. As tears streamed down my face and blurred my vision as I left the church, I realized Memorial Day weekend would never be the same.   It used to be a weekend to remember fallen soldiers and of family reunions, cookouts, and mini-vacations. Although it’s to remember those who died serving our country, it is now also a reminder of a special loved one gone far too soon. 

   Suddenly the colorful flowers at the cemetery have a deeper meaning. 

   Suddenly the memorial posts on Facebook really hit home. You sit and look at them for a while instead of giving the posts a quick passing glance like you did in the past. 

   Suddenly the memorial video at church isn’t just a sad tribute to those who have went on to their Heavenly Home. Instead, it rocks you to the core and is unexpectedly too much to bear because it is yet another reminder that your loved one is no longer here. 

   Suddenly the memorial stories on the radio are all too relatable. Used to, you would’ve tuned it out until the next song came on, but now you listen intently. Their pain and sadness is very familiar. 

   This weekend is about remembering, but for some reason it seems to be a constant reminder of our loss. I pray with God’s strength I can remember the love, our favorite memories together, his smile, etc. and not be so focused on the loss. 

  Your friends may be at the lake, or family reunions, or hosting cookouts, and you’re just trying to make it through this long, 3-day weekend. And that’s okay!! You’re not alone! 

   Take time to remember your loved one. Go to your favorite place together. Listen to their favorite song. Meet with friends and tell your favorite memories. It may be hard, but you’ll be glad you did. 

   Most importantly, know that you don’t have to go through this hard weekend alone. God is there every step of the way giving you the strength and courage to make it through! 

   31 “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

Heavenly Father, thank You for strength, peace, and courage that only YOU can give us. We pray for that strength as we take on this weekend of constant reminders of our lost loved ones. Help us to remember the love and the memories and not the loss. Give us peace and hope in the fact that our loved ones are with You in heaven, and we will see them again one day. Amen. 

Through the Storm 

As I was driving through a terrible storm the other day, I couldn’t help but think how our grief or struggles are much like an awful storm. 
At first it hits you so hard. You can’t see and you’re just white-knuckled hanging on. You’re so scared you have to remind yourself to breathe. You’re not even sure if you’re gonna make it, but keep praying that you’re going to be okay. You can’t see. You don’t know where you’re going. Kind of like in Grief. You’re blinded by it and it’s all-consuming. Just like in the storm, you just hang on and pray that you make it. 
Also, like in the storm, it’s not safe to stop. My Grandpa always told us not to pull over in the storm, but to keep going. In your grief or struggles, you have to keep going!! You don’t want to get stuck here. There’s better days ahead if you’ll just push forward. You can’t see what’s ahead and it’s scary, but you can do it!! 

The storm starts to let up and there’s finally enough light to see again, to help give us hope and guide us out of this storm. To me, this is like Christ. He is our light and hope in our storm.     12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 

Finally the sun is shining, but for some reason it’s still raining. Your grip loosens, you can breathe again, and you are amazed how you made it out of that awfulness. Just the day before someone asked me what my grief looked like, and I said it’s like rain and sunshine at the same time. You have God’s light- his peace, hope and grace, but your pain and sadness is still a part of you. 

Eventually I drove and made it to warm sunshine and beautiful white billowy clouds. I think some day we will make it to that. The grief will always be there, but not so strong. Eventually we will have joy again. We will think about memories of our loved ones and smile more often instead of crying. 

No matter where you’re at in your own personal storm, keep pushing through because your sunshine is coming. You just gotta hang on and make it💙

Always remember God is always with you helping you make it through the storm: 

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 

Love Is

Love is… love is more than just a feeling. It’s also an action- how you treat one another and care for one another. It’s a million little things. Love is a choice, and I’m so glad Layne chose me. I can’t thank Layne enough for showing me what true love is❤

Love is surprising me at 2a.m. to go get my fave- McDonald’s DP and fries- so I’ll take a study break. 

Love is reaching over to hold my hand when we would pray. 

Love is telling me I’m beautiful when my hair is a mess and I have on no makeup and truly meaning it. 

Love is building me up and believing in me even when I found it hard to believe in myself. 

Love is you reminding me that life is too short and not to take myself so seriously. Skip the class, go out with my friends, go on the trip, Have Fun!! 

Love is taking me to the doctor when I’m sick and buying me Starbucks. 
Love is holding me when I would cry and reminding me that I can “adult.” 

Love is dressing up to go to all my themed date parties and not even complaining. 
Love is accepting and loving my crazy family just like your own. 
Love is making it a priority to go to church together and do our devotions together. 

Love is planning surprise dates. 

Love is spending a day doing the things we enjoy together- going out to eat, checking cattle, shooting guns, fishing, etc. 

Love is supporting, encouraging, and being there for me through it all- the good and the bad. 

I could go on and on and on, but most importantly love is…

4 patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.8 Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

When God Shatters Your Dreams…

April 15, 2016. 1 year tomorrow. The day Layne asked me to spend forever with him. One of the happiest days of my life, but now I dread. All week I’ve been sick anticipating this day. 
You see when Layne died, I didn’t just lose him, but it seems like all my plans, hopes and dreams died along with him. I had a godly, loving fiancé who was the perfect match for me, and we had our dream wedding planned to a T. We were finally figuring everything out and knew where we wanted to live and where we would build our dream house. We had our cattle operation planned. We knew our future children’s names. We even had future family vacations planned! Now, I’ll never marry Layne or pick out the best calves with him or raise a family with him. Some of these dreams I may never get to live out, or maybe I will, but it won’t be with Layne. 

Sometimes God shatters our dreams and changes our plans, even if you’ve prayed and really thought you were following God’s plan. 

Here’s the thing though: God has a plan and a reason for everything and His plans are far better than any of mine. 

In Job, we learn that Job lost his children, servants, livestock, and became ill. However, God provided and “gave him twice as much as he had before.” In Ruth, we learn that Ruth loses her husband, but she is obedient and faithful to her mother-in-law and God. She goes from a poor widow without children to a prosperous wife with children.  These are great examples of Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” 

Right now I’m clinging to Job 11:18- “Having hope will give courage.” I have hope for a happy and bright future provided by God, so that gives me courage to take on my grief and sadness to get there💕

He Knows Your Every Need

“…for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!” Matthew 6:8  I’m in constant awe of how God knows what we need or what we will struggle with way before we do and how He uses people to comfort you or meet that need. Here’s two examples from this weekend:

1. I was reading an article about grief and how there’s things we start to forget. I started to panic because I’m so scared of that even though it’s inevitable. I realized I can’t instantly recall exactly what his voice or laugh sounds like and tears spilled down my face because how could that memory of something so so precious already start to fade?!? Well today I got a gift that Bobby had ordered for me. It was a bear with a recording of Layne that plays when you squeeze it. (thank you Mikey for putting that recording together) When I squeeze it in a Layne-like bear hug, it plays the recording of him. It will help me always remember his hug, voice, and his love for me. I’m amazed God worked through Bobby weeks ago because He knew I’d need it in this exact moment. 

2. Today in church during one of the prayers a wave of sadness came over me because I kept thinking how I missed how Layne would reach over and hold my hand when we prayed in church. Something so simple, but it always melted my heart. Well during the last prayer of the service Katie reached over and just put her hand on my arm. It meant so much and brought so much comfort. Katie had no idea how much it would mean to me, but I truly believe God laid it on Katie’s heart to do that because I needed just a simple comforting touch. 

Thank You, God, for knowing my needs even before I do. Thank You for Your comfort and peace. And thank You for amazing friends who You work through to comfort me and be there for me❤

You never know how a gift, a hug or a text can mean so much. If you it’s on your heart to do something for someone or reach out to them, DO IT! That may be exactly what that person needed and God is using you to meet that need and comfort that person! 

Bitterness- Cancer of the Heart and Mind

One source describes bitterness as being “angry, hurt, or resentful because of one’s bad experiences.” Another defines it as, “resulting from or expressive of severe grief, anguish, or disappointment.” Maya Angelou even goes as far as comparing bitterness to cancer because it eats away at you. 

I think we all struggle with bitterness at some point in life whether we are bitter at a person or with a situation or just life in general.  Let me tell ya, this past week I was extremely bitter.  Not at God or any person, but my crappy situation!! Bitterness steals your joy, your contentment, your peace.  Finally, yesterday I was tired of it! I thought this is not who I am.  I am a joyful, positive person and I am done with this bitterness.  Layne wouldn’t want this situation to take away those important traits of who I am.  So..I wrote in my prayer journal why I am bitter. I wrote over 5 pages!! That’s a lot of bitterness, people. Then I prayed that I give all those things I am bitter about to God because that is a lot to carry on my own.  I felt so much lighter and at peace once I did that.  There’s too many to share, but here’s a few:

“I’m bitter because I had a happy future planned with Layne- our dream wedding, where we would build our house, our cattle operation, our kids’ names, taking them to church every Sunday and Wednesday, future vacations with Holly and Aaron, everything.. and now I will never get that, at least not with Layne.  I’m bitter because everyone’s lives have picked up and moved on, but I am stuck at a weird place trying to figure out how to move forward and sort through my emotions of sorrow and loneliness. I’m bitter that Layne isn’t here to comfort me and make me feel better, or to watch Netflix and get late-night snacks, or to travel or try new restaurants with me… Most of all, I’m bitter because my best friend is gone and I was promised forever with him!!”

I challenge you to think of some things you are bitter about.  What bitterness do you need to give up to God, so you can experience peace and joy?  If that is something you feel you need to do, here is the prayer I prayed: “Lord, I give up all my bitterness to you. I am DONE being bitter! I can be sad or upset, but no more bitterness.  Give me joy, peace, and contentment that only you can give! Amen.”

*I then started looking up verses about bitterness that lead me to Job.  This week I will be writing about Job, and how we can use our struggles to honor God.*

 

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