This season of life, Stephanie Broughton believes she has many reasons to be thankful.
On Sept. 7, 2019, Stephanie was on her way back from a walk on the property she and her husband, Aaron, were building a house on when she heard her father-in-law, Lyle Broughton, yelling for help. He had been working on the home with her husband when a trench collapsed on Aaron, killing him.
Moments after an EMT shared the news with Stephanie that her husband had died in the accident near Hewitt, she found herself curled up on the ground overwhelmed with fear and uncertainty. A million things ran through her head as she thought about losing her partner. She didn't know how to react until the EMT touched her on her back and shared a message from the Bible, Philippians 4:13.
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," Stephanie recalls hearing. Immediately, Stephanie began praying.
"I prayed harder than I've ever prayed before," she said. "I said, 'Lord, I don't know why he died, but I know you're going to use it for your glory.'"
That night, Stephanie took her kids, Sylvie (3) and Ladd (1), read stories to each of them with a smile on her face, and put them both to bed. She doesn't fully understand how she was able to function.
"All I can attribute that to is God," Stephanie said.
Since that moment of loss, she has gone through a transformation, understanding just how much she and so many others depended on Aaron. Despite her great loss, she said she has found more strength in God than she ever knew was possible. She says her new path in life is to share Christ will all she meets. She's doing that in person and through a blog she created (A Widow's Diary) that's helped her to release a lot of her feelings to the world around her. You can read that blog here.
The good things that have come from Aaron are still being felt. At Aaron's funeral, Stephanie gave the eulogy. Again, she couldn't fully understand why, but she was joyful.
"I knew God was going to do something," she said.
She shared a message of hope from her heart. Following this, the pastor asked if anyone would like to accept Christ after hearing about the joy Stephanie had in her loss. When Stephanie turned around to see if there were any hands raised, she was amazed to see about 100 hands reaching up.
"The entire section of his (Aaron's) coworkers raised their hands," she shared. She was overwhelmed with joy that God was doing something through this loss that maybe never would have happened otherwise. It's this loss that Stephanie said has realigned her focus in life on what's important. Certainly, her husband was important. She won't forget that. But she also sees just how much stronger she is now.
Whether by choice or with daily moments of joy, Stephanie said she is finding reasons to be thankful in her loss. Through grief counseling she said she's come to grips with the idea that the people put into our lives are only temporary. She was lucky enough to have eight years with her husband, she said.
"My husband Aaron is very precious to me, but he was on loan to me," Stephanie said. In their time together, Aaron taught her a thing or two about home construction, which has been coming in handy. On one recent visit, Stephanie helped install insulation in her future home.
Stephanie was and remains a stay-at-home mom, and now stays at the home of a friend who has offered her and her kids a place to live until she is ready to move into her new home. There was a brief moment where Stephanie thought she couldn't live at the home where her husband died. But one night when she couldn't sleep she said she heard God tell her to finish the home.
"I said, 'If you want me to (finish the house) then you've got to make it happen, cause I can't make it happen on my own," she remembers saying in a prayer.
She soon saw that there was an outpouring of people that were willing to help make it happen. She knew this was Aaron's dream and she wanted to fulfill his dream. She wanted this place to be a memorial to him.
Help has come to the rescue to get the home completed. At times as many as 40 people have shown up to work on the house. Stephanie said she visited the site two weeks ago by herself and wrote verses from the Bible on the studs of the walls. Literally writing God's word on the bones of the house.
"I felt Aaron there," she said.
The home now has drywall and Stephanie is working on getting a boiler installed so it can be heated soon and work can continue through the cold months. She then plans to move in next May. That first week of May would have been Aaron's birthday. To celebrate, Stephanie plans to plant two apple trees in an effort to start a garden in his memory. Aaron had dreams of planting an entire orchard.
Aaron liked to stay busy, and between working at his job full-time and being a husband and father of young children, he worked in any spare moment to build the family's forever home on 77 acres of land. Stephanie said his plans involved having cattle on the property, which was rather secluded. This dream was not hers at first, Stephanie admits. After spending weekends on the land though, it began to grow on her.
"I feel like this is supposed to be my home for my kids right now," Stephanie said. In time, that may change. She believes the property could one day make a peaceful retreat for those suffering from loss.
Stephanie plans to spend Thanksgiving with Aaron's family as she is very close with them. She said she's thankful for the family and friends that have drawn close to her in her time of need.
"I'm thankful most of all, for the relationship with the Lord that I have now," Stephanie said. "I know him so much more deeply now."
While work on the home continues, there remains opportunities to support the Broughton home. Find more information and how to donate to the family at their gofundme page. Donations of over $16,000 have come in, with a total goal of $20,000.