Tammy Trent: Light in my Darkness

Tammy Trent: Light in my Darkness
Recording artist, author and speaker Tammy Trent, lost her husband eight years ago in a tragic accident. But the power of praise pulled her out of despair.
“…He smiled and waved, sank beneath the surface and was gone….” Tammy will forever remember the last moment she saw her husband alive. Young, athletic and strikingly handsome, Trent Lenderink loved water sports and was making a routine free dive – a short dive without an oxygen tank – in the crystal blue waters of a lagoon on Jamaica’s sparkling coastline.

After just celebrating their 11th wedding anniversary, the couple was on a much-needed getaway. Part vacation and part mission trip, just asking God, “What is your desire for our lives right now?  Where do we go from here?”
When Trent didn’t return to the surface after almost 15 minutes, Tammy frantically began to look for him. As more minutes ticked by, she became increasingly panicked, fearing that something was very wrong.

At nightfall, after three hours of unsuccessful searching, Tammy made tearful calls to the couple’s family back in the United States to ask them to pray and to beg them to be with her if her worst fears were confirmed.
Shortly after the search resumed the next morning, divers found Trent’s lifeless body, and Tammy suddenly found herself alone, facing an immeasurable loss.

In tragic irony – all of her family members received the news of Trent’s death on their cell phones while they sat in jetliners grounded in Chicago, St. Louis and Los Angeles. They all also learned, almost simultaneously, that the entire country had just experienced a terrifying tragedy. It was the morning of September 11, 2001.

Taking her stage name from Trent’s first name, Tammy Trent had led a successful career in Christian music since 1995. Ever upbeat, she delivered joyful pop-styled songs to which she often danced on stage, with Trent always watching as her manager and sound technician.

In the summer of 2001, the Lenderinks were prayerfully seeking where God would lead them next. The thought of having to make that decision on her own never crossed Tammy’s mind. “My plan changed in a moment’s time and I never saw it coming,” she admits. “But as hard as it is to say some days, I know God’s plan has never changed for my life.”

Though the pain of losing her husband may take a lifetime to heal, Tammy has not let the tragedy destroy her.
Instead, she has chosen to embrace the difficult path God has set before her, believing He is beside her every step of the way, teaching her of His love for her and being her strength when Tammy’s own strength fails.

At times God has wrapped His arms around her, she says, through the hug of a kind stranger, or He has spoken hope to her broken heart through the words of family and friends.

Today, Tammy’s miraculous story inspires thousands of women. She travels with Women of Faith ministries, speaking and singing at churches and conferences around the world. By sharing about her experience and God’s love through her ordeal, she has brought hope to untold numbers of people who face loss and devastation in their own lives.

Reaching a point at which she could breathe deeply of life once again took time, however. In the dark days, weeks and months after Trent’s death, Tammy realised she needed to focus on allowing God to rebuild her shattered heart.

“I knew I needed a year away from everything. I asked God for that,” she says. “I felt strongly about the fact that we, Jesus and I, needed a year together – no music, no speaking, no platforms – just to put my life back together again.”

Tammy had to make a determined effort to take the year off. Offers for album contracts, speaking engagements and interview appearances were flooding in. Apart from one emotional TV interview in 2002, Tammy waited before stepping forward to tell her story. During that period, she says, God taught her that He would never leave her or forsake her, that she could always rely on Him for every need. 

“Being raised in a Christian home my whole life… I took so much for granted,” Tammy says. “I never really had a desperate moment where I had to absolutely depend on God. I was the kind of person that depended on other people more – and Trent was one of those people. I depended on him so much. He was my comforter; he was my rescuer. He’d save me.”

Today she no longer wears her wedding ring, but rather a beautiful eternity ring as a source of  protection, as a ‘spiritual covering’, Tammy says it’s important for people to see that God, not a man, has rescued her. “God continues to heal and provide for my life” she says, “and it’s important for me to look in the mirror and say, ‘Tammy, you are strong.  You are brave.  You are courageous because of what the Lord continues to do in your life.’ You cannot live without Jesus.  Continue to rely on Him alone!”

Tammy first experienced God’s provision in the hours just after she lost Trent. Because of the flight lockdown in the wake of the September 11 attacks, none of her family had been able to reach her in Jamaica, except her father-in-law, who remained stranded with her on the island. Though he graciously handled all of the difficult legal arrangements that accompany a death and was a shoulder to cry on, Tammy still longed for her mother, sister or best friend to hold her close.  Mostly, the touch of her mom.

Collapsed and alone in the bathroom of her hotel room, exhausted from weeping, Tammy cried out to God for someone simply to hold her.  “God, do you see this girl?  Is Heaven real?  Is this real? I know all the right answers. I’ve been telling people my whole life to trust God when nothing makes sense, but here I am all alone and I feel hopeless. God, can you just send someone to hold me. I miss my mom.  Could you just send me an angel that would hold me. I’m not asking for hundreds, but just one angel that would hold me.”

At that moment, she heard a voice in her heart say, “Get up and move.” Forcing herself to her feet and clinging to the wall for support, she stumbled into the next room. A Jamaican hotel maid was standing there. Seeing Tammy, she exclaimed: “I’ve been trying to get to you! I could hear you crying and I’ve been trying to get to you.  Could I just come in and hold you?”

The two women wept in each other’s arms.  The ‘angel’, neatly dressed in a Hilton housekeeping outfit, prayed passionately over her.  “I knew at that moment that it was the Holy Spirit and He was taking care of me,” Tammy says. “That ‘angel’ was sent to me as a gift from God in that moment, just to remind me that I wasn’t alone, that God was very real. He did see ‘this’ girl.  I believe that is the moment my healing began.”

God continued to send people into Tammy’s life who brought comfort, strength and compassion. She returned home, and her mother and sister stayed with her almost constantly.

Others, including former acquaintances and caring strangers, reached out to her with encouragement and hope. Most important to Tammy was the sense of God’s peace that pervaded her house. She felt it even in the absence of her husband’s love and laughter.

“I can remember walking into this home the first time we were handed the keys, Trent and I, and we prayed that people would feel the love and peace of God,” she recalls from her living room. Today the room looks different than it did eight years ago. But there are still a few pictures from the couple’s wedding and vacation photos – even the last shot Tammy snapped of Trent, moments before he entered the water for his final dive – adorn the walls.

Tammy has found much joy and healing in the friendships she has built with other women, many from her ministry work. These relationships also are an answer to Trent’s own prayer for his wife before he died – that she be surrounded with women who could help her grow in faith.

Tammy confesses she would trade everything to have Trent back, but she has given herself permission to live again. She doesn’t try to explain why the tragedy happened.  Instead she has decided to honour the life she and Trent shared, and to honour  God who is putting her life back together again. That decision is a vital part of what she shares from the stage.  “It’s still hard to call myself a widow,” Tammy admits. “I’ve accepted it, I’m not in denial, but some of those words are tough for me.”

She is able to show people there is joy on the other side of tragedy, that despite her loss she is still on the journey of life. She often tells people: “I’ve been where you’re at… I understand…but we have to keep showing up.  We have to get up every day and choose life, hope and peace. The choices we make with our lives today will affect everything. It’s not easy, I know, but we have to keep trusting.”

Tammy is careful to add that choosing to embrace life again after losing a loved one is not the same as a decision to forget that person. She loves talking about Trent at conferences or with friends and family every chance she has. She’s also written a few of books. A devotional titled ‘Beyond the Sorrow’ and a book about her story titled ‘Learning to Breathe Again’. It traces their romance and marriage, the black days after Trent’s death and her new journey.

“Life and death are going to happen,” she says. “It’s all temporary, and we are just passing through. What really matters at the end of the day is how our life’s example is played out this side of Heaven. That’s why it’s so critical that we realise how fragile life is, and we are reminded to speak life into those we love. Trent spoke life into my spirit every day.  He loved well.” Tammy often receives e-mails from people whom her story has touched. Despite the volume, she responds to every one.

“I read those e-mails and I just weep because I know what they’re going  through,” she admits. “The one gift I can offer them is the hope that I have truly found in Christ on my own journey. Prayer is a powerful thing, so in those moments I find myself standing in the gap for them in prayer, when they feel so hopeless.”   

Today Tammy’s message remains clear.  “Whatever your challenge, you will get through it. Triumphantly. There are rainy days, but there also are sunny ones. Both have their own distinct purposes. You and I may have walked through crushing circumstances, but God’s plans for us are good.” 

“Even though I’ve known great depths of heartache, I’ve known even greater depths of God’s love and sustaining power. I do miss the life I once knew, the chapters that are forever closed.  But as I turn the pages of my new life, I see God continuing to write a beautiful love story. And I don’t want to miss a thing!”.