Michael’s Refuge is inspired by the legacy of my husband, Michael James Knapp.
Four years can literally fly by. It feels as if a lifetime was captured in the precious memories we shared. Just over 4 years ago, Michael dropped me off after an eventful day spent connecting as friends. I remember him telling me with a smile that when life throws you a curve ball, it’s just an opportunity to hit it out of the park.
After ten months of almost every imaginable undertaking with a best friend – from deep conversations & connecting with loved ones to Chicago sports & fun outings to staying in & sharing home cooked meals, we got engaged. Another ten months- full of adventures, and we were married. It felt like we could take on the world together. We traveled often, laughed daily, spent much time with family & friends, even painted, wrote, sang, & prayed together. We dreamed wholeheartedly without realizing how much of a battle life was about to become.
It was about nine months into our marriage that addiction reared its ugly head. Michael suddenly started acting strange. His reasoning was off, he was more impulsive, and we starting arguing a lot. He had slipped into old steroid use. Insecurity and trauma in his past rushed back to the surface. Very quickly the drug use got much worse. My world spun out of control from his path of bad decisions. It tore our connection apart and broke us both. I tried to make sense of how this could happen. Michael loved the Lord, he loved me, his family, friends, & co-workers. He had even been writing a book and wanted to share his story and to reach youth together one day who were hurting. He was excited for us to have children together soon.
Michael didn’t just light up a room with his personality and smile, he lit up people’s hearts with his generous and loving spirit. He was hardworking, thoughtful, witty, and intelligent. He just got his MBA and had worked for UPS for over 12 years. He had been open and honest with me about his past. By 15 years of age, he had faced multiple traumas and struggled to manage the pain of his emotions. He made a lot of mistakes due to drugs and never wanted to fall back.
That year, there was more hurt, hospital and doctors’ visits, and bills then I could manage. I did the only thing I could in my brokenness and grief. I cried out to God to save Michael and to restore our marriage. I found strength and hope on the darkest nights. I found grace to pray relentlessly for love and wisdom to fight the addiction. I was able to get us counseling, to find support in loved ones, to encourage him daily the best I could. We continued to have fun with family & friends and to travel together. Somehow we held onto faith, to hope, and to each other.
Michael received intensive treatment for 4 months down in Florida. I missed him like crazy but I started to see the real him rise up. Whenever I began to despair, Jesus would show me how he was answering my prayers through signs of freedom and breakthrough. When Michael came home from treatment, it was like I had the real him back. He talked about how he wanted us to share our story to help others. We hoped to buy a home later that year, to start having kids, and to go on missions together.
Then suddenly and unexpectedly, things took a turn. Addiction was like a cancer without a cure for him. Michael ended up in the hospital again. I slept by his side. He got out after a battle, only to end up needing to go back. He got better and out again. We were able to take an anniversary trip together for our friends’ wedding and then shared Fourth of July weekend with family. But, two days later Michael took his last breath. The pain is indescribable. We lost a husband, a son, a brother, a best friend, a teammate who brought so much joy to us all. I had always expected that we would hit it out of the park.
And we still will. Our story is one of redemption. Michael struggled with his choices in life when addiction had its grip, but he made one choice that overcame them all. He chose to give his heart to Jesus. And because of the great hope we have in Him, even this tragedy will work together for good. We battled for life together here but God gave us eternity. In grave mistakes, we found forgiveness and grace. In a place of shame, we found our identity as Children of God. In the deepest pain, we found healing. And through all we faced, in the end, we found a Love that has made us stronger and more fiercely alive.
My tears are many but we have a Refuge, One who is faithful in every season. We envisioned reaching youth in the past but now I see more. I see Michael’s Refuge. And, I see his assignments in Heaven that can’t compare to here because he is completely free, made perfect in love. One of Michael’s greatest joys now is to watch over me, his family & friends, and youth that struggle as he once did. He whispers to us, “Rise up, rise above.” The legacy we have been given is to help youth that have faced life’s painful trauma to dream and hope again.