Days ago, Araebia Barnhardt kissed her new husband goodbye as he headed off to work. Now, she’s preparing for his funeral.
Monday morning, Stephen Barnhardt, 29, was driving on Branchview Drive in Concord when police say an SUV crossed the center line, hitting his convertible head on.
The driver of the SUV, Catherine Ivey, was pronounced dead at the scene. But Barnhardt was rushed to the hospital.
“I got the call and I just immediately knew,” Araebia Barnhardt told WBTV, the Observer’s media partner. “... And I said, ‘Where’s my husband? What happened to him?’”
When Araebia got to the hospital, she said she looked down at her husband, who was just a shadow of himself.
“It just wasn’t my husband. The swelling and everything. I was like, God, don’t do this, please. I just got him,” Araebia Barnhardt said.
The couple’s romance was a whirlwind, lasting less than two months before Stephen and Araebia married this past June.
“God was like, that’s your husband. And I was like, no it’s not,” Araebia Barnhardt said.
She says the couple just knew they were meant to be together. “There’s a song, ‘I never knew love like this before,’’’ she said. “I’ve never known love like Stephen.”
That deep love and an even deeper faith are what Araebia Barnhardt clung to in Stephen’s hospital room, hoping her desperate prayers would be answered.
“I didn’t think it would end the way it did. I thought he would come back,” she said. “But I think inside my heart I knew he was no longer there.”
Stephen died on Tuesday.
“When they say tomorrow’s not promised, you just sometimes don’t think it’s you. Tomorrow is not promised. And when Stephen left and I said, ‘Baby I love you so much,’ I didn’t know that was the last time I was going to say that,” she said.
Traveling life’s road without Stephen is not what Araebia wanted nor expected. But the new bride and even newer widow refuses to question the one she believes drew the map.
“God still did his job, because he took his son to be with him. And sometimes we think that’s not the job, because we want them with us, but he did his job,” Araebia said.
Araebia is now a single mother to six children, whom she says Stephen loved like his own.
A fund has been set up to help the family with funeral expenses. You can donate here.
A celebration of Stephen’s life will be held Friday at Fire Church in Concord.
WBTV is a media partner of The Charlotte Observer.