At 25, I joined a club I never wanted to be part of: the young widows' club. After nine short, perfect months of being married to the man of my dreams, he passed away in a tragic accident on our farm. It's been more than a year now and I'm still struggling, but I'm very thankful for our love story. If I can help even one person by sharing it — and remind them that they will smile again one day—talking about this is worth it.
I met Ethan while attending Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky, just a few months before graduating with a degree in Animal Health Technology. We became friends on Facebook and I started seeing his name pop up daily. Every time I saw his picture, I wanted to get to know him more. One night, a few months after I'd graduated and moved to Nashville to work at an emergency veterinary hospital, he liked something new I posted. I thought, How do I know this guy? He's so cute. I messaged him, and he eventually asked me on a date to ride horses on his farm about an hour away in Cadiz, Kentucky. I love animals, so of course I agreed!
Our first date was in September of 2014. When I pulled up to the farm that day, it was the prettiest place I'd ever seen. Ethan was a welder, and he and his family lived in what is referred to as a holler. You drive up and his parents' house is on the left. You drive a little further, and Ethan's house, which he'd built himself, is up on this hill. Then you go a little further and his grandparent's house is right down the road. It's called a holler because you can yell back and forth across the farm and talk to each other from your separate houses. Anyway, Ethan's whole family showed up that day to meet me and he was so embarrassed. I mean, it was not a normal first date, but I loved it. His dad had saddled the horses for us, and his mom just scooped me under her wing and took me to see her chickens.
That was a really special day. We rode horses and talked for hours. And when it was over, he asked me if I wanted to come back and do it again. I felt overwhelmed at first because I had never been pursued the way he was pursuing me, but in retrospect I think I was afraid because I knew I was going to marry him. When I talked to people about him, everybody who knew him told me, "If you get a chance with Ethan Taylor, you better take it." That he was the best person they had ever met.
The rest of our courtship happened really fast. We fell in love within two weeks of our first date and became an official couple on September 28, 2014. We got engaged the following June and were married on October 3, 2015. I think everything happened the way it did—that we got married as quickly as we did—because God knew we wouldn't have but nine months together as husband and wife.
On our wedding day, we came together before the ceremony to pray. We stood back-to-back so as to not see each other before I walked down the aisle. Ethan was supposed to say the prayer, but I heard nothing.
"Well, babe, are you going to pray?...Ethan?" I asked. Finally, he said something.
"Babe, I'm choked up." He was bawling. In that moment, he said he felt God with us and knew how lucky we were to be together. He proceeded to pray over our marriage and we put it completely in God's hands.
Married life was the most fun thing ever. Every day before I left work, I'd be bouncing up and down just so excited that I was about to go home and see him. And every evening when I arrived home, I would find him on the farm and we would run to one another and I would jump in his arms. We wanted to spend every second together. We talked constantly. Even when we'd argue, it didn't last long because we loved one another too much to fight. After making up, we would pray together and thank God for our marriage. Life was just more colorful when I was with him. It was only nine months, but I feel like we had enough love for 100 years.
Despite my overwhelming happiness, I got this strange feeling shortly after we got married. I started worrying about him all the time, because he was always working by himself on the farm when I was gone. I don't know how to explain it, but every day when he came through the front door after work, I was so thankful that he was safe. He always promised me that he was careful, but it got to the point where any time I left the house for any reason and we weren't jumping-up-and-down happy, I would cry the whole time until I got home. It sounds weird, but I just had this feeling that there was no time to waste. And, if something did happen, it was important to me that we be on good terms.
The night before he passed away, I dreamt about him. I don't remember what it was about, I just remember his face. I woke up early before my alarm went off, which never happens because I am not a morning person. I remember looking over at him sleeping and thinking, I am so lucky to be this man's wife. I woke him up and we loved on each other all morning. As I was leaving for work, I realized I was running late because of all the time we spent together. Ethan was in the bathroom shaving, and he told me he loved me and he'd see me when we got home. We had the most perfect last morning together, I'm forever thankful for that.
That afternoon, I was filling out some paperwork when my office manager came over and said that our neighbor was there to take me home because there had been an accident. I asked with who, and she said with Ethan.
"Why are we not going to the hospital?" I asked. My office manager's first husband had passed away, but she talked about him with me all the time. She sat down and said, "They told me not to tell you, but I feel like I should be the one to tell you because you are going to be okay." I felt a rush come over my body. I can't explain it, but I heard God tell me, "Lynley, I prepared you for this." My coworkers gathered around me and prayed over me. Then I got in the car with my neighbor and I remember feeling like, This isn't happening. I kept saying, "I knew this was going to happen, I told him to be careful," and was repeating that over and over.
That day was supposed to be a normal day on the farm. Ethan was on summer vacation from teaching, so he was working on all kinds of little projects around our place, cutting down trees and hauling lumber. To this day, we don't know how it happened. There was an accident with his ATV and we were told he passed away instantly.
When I pulled up at the farm, it was about 30 minutes to an hour later and there were already 50 people there: neighbors, people from church, EMTs. It was like everybody knew before me.
I called my parents next. I didn't tell them what happened; I just said they needed to come to my house as soon as possible. There were all these kids there from the church where Ethan and I were youth leaders, and I remember wanting to comfort them. At one point I walked toward the horse pasture and over to this creek. All our horses came up around me and I prayed. I remember looking at the water and thinking it was so beautiful and feeling peace that Ethan was with Jesus.
My dad came down there to check on me probably 20 minutes later and I looked at him and asked, "Now what am I supposed to do?" and he just held me. When Ethan and I got married, my dad gave my hand to Ethan. And in that moment, it was like my dad took my hand back.
That night it was storming. My best friend stayed with me and was sleeping in mine and Ethan's bed with me. Ethan always slept with his shirt off and at one point I reached my hand out and felt her T-shirt. That's when I completely lost it and realized that he was really gone.
The day of Ethan's visitation, his dad, my father-in-law, passed away in his sleep. They had a joint funeral together the following day. Ethan always had his hair fixed, so I had his barber come and do his hair, and I picked out his favorite T-shirt and a button-down for him to wear. He looked so handsome. I didn't remember this until later, but I asked my parents if I could stay at the funeral home because I wanted to have one more night with him. They had to make me leave.
I don't want to paint this picture like, "Oh he's gone, but you move on and have a happy life." No. It's hard and it sucks and I'm seriously struggling. But I just keep pushing forward to that next breath. At one point, I asked my mom if I could die because my heart hurt so bad. People say all the time, "You're so young, you're going to find somebody else." It's almost like a slap in the face because yeah, I am young. And the rest of my life I get to wake up and hurt.
The thing I would tell anyone who's dealing with someone who's grieving is not to judge them for the ways in which they cope with their loss. And I would tell anyone who is grieving to be prepared, because people will judge what they can't understand. When you're grieving, everyone is watching to see what you'll do, and they'll try and tell you what they think is best. That is not helpful. Some people talk to a counselor, and that's awesome. Some don't, and that's great. Some people struggle with depression, PTSD and anxiety after a traumatic loss. I've had severe anxiety and depression since Ethan's death, and nothing can prepare you for those emotions. Whatever is keeping a grieving person breathing and moving to the next day, you should never judge them.
Instead, make it a point to check on them. After the funeral is over and everyone has returned to their normal lives, that's when that person needs you the most. Even sending a simple text to let them know that you are thinking of them helps. Or better yet, find a need that they have and fulfill it. Don't ask what you can do. Think of something that their loved one used to take care of, that is now their responsibility, and do it for them. One of Ethan's best friends still shows up and mows my grass every few weeks. Another couple went above and beyond to help me when I decided to move away from mine and Ethan's farm. I couldn't imagine being there every day and him not coming home, so I made the hardest decision of my life to relocate Hidden Hollow Farms. When I texted asking the husband, who is a carpenter, whether he could give me an estimate for some work that needed to be done, he showed up with a whole crew of people and they power washed the entire house, mowed and weeded the yard, and cleaned out the barn. Who even thinks to do that? These acts of kindness mean more to me than I can explain.
Weirdly, the week before Ethan died, I asked him what he would want me to do if something ever happened to him. (I don't know. The only thing I can say again is God.) He looked at me all strange and then he said that he'd want me to find a wonderful man and to be happy. That was the last response I expected to hear, and I told him if something happened to me that I would haunt whoever came into his life and that he was mine! But that's what I'm trying to do: be happy. I also know that before I can make anyone else happy, I have to be happy in my own skin. Part of me died that day with Ethan and is buried with him. I'm a different person than I was before. I miss the old Lynley, but I have to remain confident in Jesus that he's going to get me through this. And that the person I'm becoming is going to live every day to the fullest because I want to make Ethan proud of me.
July was the one-year anniversary of Ethan's death, and I've been working really hard. I ended up keeping the name Hidden Hollow Farms because my new place is a little hallow, just like mine and Ethan's was. I have six mini pigs, four horses, a miniature donkey, four goats, chickens, a couple of dogs, a couple of cats and four sheep, which was my last gift from Ethan. (Ethan didn't buy me jewelry — he bought me animals.) It's really cool to think about now because my animals have become my family and my therapy. We didn't get to have children, but he got me these precious babies who need me now. Part of grief means losing the dreams you had, but life can be beautiful post-loss. You just have to search for the glimmer of light in each day and make that your beacon of hope. That is what will get you through the future days and years to come.