Wife Of Maryville Pastor Killed At Church Tells Story Of Loss
MARYVILLE, IL (KTVI)– Four years to the day after her husband, a minister, was gunned down during his sermon, Cindy Winters has a message for those dealing with loss. There is hope.
It was March 8, 2009 when Winters was on her way to her husband Fred’s church, First Baptist in Maryville, Illinois. She’ll always remember the traffic.
“I assumed maybe there had been a car accident at the entrance to the church.”
The flood of emergency vehicles blocked the parking lot, and cars parked on the side of the road housed familiar faces that cold morning. They were faces of fellow church members. One of them, on the side of Highway 162, would break the news, that her husband had been shot.
“I don’t think I have ever been so afraid and so sad at the same time,” she said.
Inside, Fred Winters had been preaching when Terry Sedlacek, 27, of Troy came walking down the center aisle. He said something to Winters, then opened fire. Pastor Fred, as he was known, died at the hospital down the street later that morning.
Just like that, Cindy Winters became a single mother of two girls, and the process of trying to raise them, and recover, began. It was not easy to control her anger, even for a minister’s wife.
“I was very angry many times about a lot of different things,” she said. “Not only the why did it happen, but when your life is nothing like you want it to be and you work so hard to get it to a certain point and all of a sudden its gone in just a second. Yeah, there’s a lot of anger associated with that.”
Early on she discovered how difficult it is for people to talk to someone who has endured tragedy. They often say nothing rather than risk saying the wrong thing.
“I would just find that people would pretend like it didn’t happen so to speak, and they would just kind of leave me alone. It was very difficult.
“I would just feel really overwhelmed with what I was experiencing and I didn’t really have a vehicle to express my emotions. So what I would do is sit down with paper and a pen.”
Her vignettes and devotionals became a blog, and have now been put in the form of a book, called “Reflections from the Pit.” In it, she shares her journey of recovery. She talks about things like the triggers that take her back to that horrible day in 2009.
“If I see a newscast about a shooting, I won’t sleep for the next week because of all the memories that come up and I know what those people are feeling and I’m immediately overcome with grief for them and for what I know that they’re going through.”
She knows something else. The old saying, “time heals all wounds,” according to this wounded woman, is a lie.
“It is a myth. It’s very much a myth. I don’t believe that time heals all wounds. I think Jesus can heal all wounds. I do. But I don’t think time can heal all wounds. I think many times time just gives us the opportunity to bury things that shouldn’t be buried.”
She comes with good news, though. She wants people suffering from loss to know that there is hope.
“I don’t think victimization and tragedy has to be the final word on our lives. I think that no matter what kind of pit we’ve been thrown into, I think God has a plan and a way to get us out of that pit.”
There will be an open house to launch “Reflections from the Pit” Sunday from 1-4 at the Wildey Theater in Edwardsville. The book will be available on Amazon.com and in select stores.