Following the death of his 41-year-old wife, widower reflects on spiritual lessons learned from grief

Courtesy of Kevin Rolfe

On the day of Kevin and Lindsey Rolfe’s sealing, due to the ovarian cancer Lindsey was battling, she was very nauseous and very fatigued until she was wheeled into the sealing room.

“It was like nothing I’ve ever seen,” Kevin recalls. “We went into that sealing room. She was coughing a lot. She stopped coughing. Color came back into her face. She looked amazing. …The way it felt in that room is like nothing I’ve ever felt and don’t expect to ever feel again.”

11 days later, at the age of 41, she passed away from ovarian cancer. On this week’s All In podcast, Kevin discusses the lessons he learned from Lindsey as he watched her gracefully slip from this life to the next, as well as the lessons he has learned since her passing.

Listen to the interview with Kevin Rolfe in the player below or by clicking here. You can also read a full transcript here.

The following excerpt has been edited for clarity.

Morgan Jones Pearson: Following Lindsey′s passing you posted several posts, Kevin, that have really touched me and I want to kind of highlight a couple of those. Before we wrap up, you posted a picture of the Salt Lake Temple as it is at the present. And most of us have seen it with the scaffolding all over it. And you said that a thought came to you saying “That′s you.” You wrote, “The more I looked at the picture, the more it made sense to me. 2021 has all but broken me. I′m sure the cracks are showing. Losing Lindsey left me in a state of questionable structural stability, in need of my own renovation, reconstruction and structural reinforcement to mitigate the impact of future seismic activity. It was you: my family, my friends, our Savior, and even some thoughtful strangers that scaffolded up around me and prevented me from becoming complete rubble and ruin. You have held me up, reinforced me, and kept me from spiraling to the depths that grief can so easily take a person.” How did others provide the scaffolding for you in the wake of Lindsey′s passing? And what did that look like in practice?

Kevin Rolfe: That′s a really good question and a really interesting experience for me, because I just remember feeling that as I looked at that temple, because I was just looking at it in the state of repair and then, like it says in my posts that I just felt this, “That′s you right now,” basically, and I don′t know what that means. And then it hit me.

I mean I was just floored by Lindsey′s passing, we saw it coming, we knew it was gonna happen. And I can attest that you′re still just not going to be prepared. And that′s the hard part is you just want to be in know, you′re losing this important person to you and so I was pretty wrecked, but literally from minute one, people were stepping up for me and holding me up. Namely my big sister Denise showed up within an hour of Lindsey′s passing, stayed with me that night so I didn′t have to stay home alone, a few nights actually till I finally was like, “You have to go back to your family, like they need you.” But I mean, she woke up the next morning and that′s the thing that′s crazy about this stuff, too, is you just lost this person. You don′t want to do anything but then all of a sudden there′s all these plans. You have to plan this major event in the funeral, and in some ways, it′s good because you have something to do and in other ways, like for me, my mind was mush, I had major fog. And I was like, I don′t know where, or what and this is the one area we hadn′t talked about it. But Lindsey, from the time she started hospice to the time she passed away was seven days and the next thing on our agenda was to talk about headstones and burial location and funeral plans. And fortunately, we got a ton of the funeral plans done, but then I didn′t know where to bury her, I didn′t know a lot of things in that regard. And my sister was just incredible. She was never like, “Well, let′s do this, let′s do this,” she would always give kind of options, or “What do you think about this?” Or "I booked like a couple or a few cemeteries, we can goes walk through" and just very patient with me, very thoughtful and kind and she had a style very similar, or has a style very similar to Lindsey′s. And so she was able to say, “I think she would like this, or maybe this or maybe these things,” and it just eased me, calmed me and let me just kind of go through that process of planning all of that.

And then within that time of planning her funeral, again, her family was amazing. My family was great. And just friends, I mean I have friends who had flown up for the sealing, and then were back from out of state and then were back here for the funeral, which is just not easy to do, but it just showed their friendship and meant so much to me. I had people call and obviously people just do so much in those moments and it was really holding me up, because I just felt like I just didn′t want to get out of bed. Sometimes, I′m still waiting for the History Channel to call me and set up that documentary about that monumental day that Kevin got out of bed. You know, it′s this historic event, because it was just so hard sometimes. Sometimes I′d get up and I′m like, I can′t believe I′m functioning today. And sometimes you′re on autopilot, sometimes not. But in any of those moments, I never got too far without a call, or a visit, or a “Hey, let′s go do this.” I was just being held up until I felt reinforced to continue my life. And like I mentioned, even [my stepson], this young boy who just lost his mom, was like a comfort to me and one of those scaffolding that was just holding me up so I didn′t crumble into nothing.

Morgan Jones Pearson: In April 2022, you wrote this, “As a way of strengthening my faith, I like to put myself in the story or that place in history. Last night I was in bed and I thought about those who were there and loved Jesus and followed him to the bitter end of His mortal life. What were they thinking the night Jesus died or the Saturday night before he rose from the dead? Were they anxiously awaiting the next day to see Him again? Did Mary Magdalene cry herself to sleep wondering if she could have done more to save His life? Did Peter doubt or question his faith and what he had been taught in person by the Savior Himself? I have the benefit of 2000 years of the resurrection being taught. This was happening in real time for them. The night Lindsey died I remember lying in bed asking myself all of these questions. I did cry myself to sleep but I woke up at 4am with a deeply peaceful feeling, more peace than I think I′ve ever felt. The feeling was one of love, reconfirming to me, what I have believed to be true—an afterlife and a reunion with God and loved ones. Was it Lindsey touching my heart letting me know that she was good? Was it the Spirit of God bringing a promised comfort during a dark and sad time? Was it my mind recalling all the things I′ve learned and been taught throughout my own life bringing me that peace? I think the answer is yes.” I wondered for you, Kevin, how has the hope of the resurrection brought you peace and comfort and hope through this period of time?

Kevin Rolfe: That was an incredible night for me in mourning, to say the least. I think when you lose somebody and watch them go through this, like I don′t know that I ever questioned my faith, I didn′t have a crisis of faith by any means. But I think there is a thing in there where it′s like not even being tested, but just there it is, like if you believe this, this is the time to believe it. And I just remember thinking, I guess about those people back then and it′s so easy to believe history, I think. But in real time I′ll always wonder until maybe one day I′ll get to interview them or something and just say, what was that like? We have a recounting of things and such, but just a personal one on one account would be pretty awesome, I think. But I was thinking that because I think I was in the situation where this person had passed. And my belief and what I′ve been taught is that they will, like the Savior, live again and be resurrected. And so I think it just brought me back to the time Jesus was on the earth. The amazing part about that is there are other people who had that same encounter at that same time, which was just a very special experience. But the resurrection has brought me hope, because I do want to see Lindsey again.

I think part of marrying somebody with cancer, I think part of doing that was because I have a strong faith and belief that no matter if she was to live 20 years or two, that it wouldn′t be the end for us. And that′s brought me a lot of peace and comfort. I still struggle and grieve. But that feeling I had at 4 am, I can recall on that. And my testimony is we′re in the place where I just believe that it will happen and having that belief has brought a calm to my life. As much as I miss her, I do believe I′ll see her again and that sounds amazing.

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