A series of trials in the past year tested the strength and endurance of the wedding vows Shaun and Becky Barnard made to each other in December 2016. The Barnards were able to face these challenges the same way they faced previous ones: through an unrelenting love for each other.
Shaun and Becky met in 2013 as coworkers working for a home preservation company. Becky had just finished going through a divorce, and Shaun was in the process of getting one of his own. It was a hard time emotionally for both of them, and they found comfort in each other’s friendship.
“It started off as a friendship and then blossomed into more,” Becky said. “I never thought in a million years that we’d be together.”
In 2014, their friendship turned into romance. They traveled together to Atlantic City, New Jersey for an industry trade show that January. Shaun says this is when he started “pouring my charms,” walking along the beach with Becky as it was snowing. When they got back from the work trip, they went on their first official date after work one evening.
Both knew pretty quickly that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. Shaun remembers the exact moment he knew she was “the absolute one” and his “soulmate”: The year was 2015, and it was the first time Shaun was meeting Becky’s family. Her dad suggested they get on a boat and go fishing.
“So we hop in the boat and all go out fishing, and there’s Beck, cutting up some squid and baiting my hook for me … and she outfished the both of us,” Shaun says. “I was like, ‘You’re the one.’”
It wasn’t just Becky’s ability to bait a hook that reeled Shaun in. He says it was also her sense of humor and the empathy she shows toward others, and the smaller things that make her who she is.
“It’s not big things that really make up somebody,” Shaun said. “It’s the little tiny nuances, almost imperceptible things.”
For Shaun, it’s how Becky reacts when she gets startled, what she finds humorous, and how it seems like she can sometimes read his mind.
“She’ll verbalize exactly what it was that I was thinking at that time, and I’m like, ‘Whoa, how is somebody seeing the weird world the way I see it?’” Shaun said.
Becky also knew Shaun was her soulmate soon into their relationship.
“It wasn’t one particular thing,” Becky said. “It was just everything about him. We just flowed together.”
Becky says it was Shaun’s “big heart” and kindness that stood out to her, as well as their shared interests in music.
“He’s a one-in-a-million kind of guy,” Becky said. “He’s a catch, and I’m so lucky to have found him.”
In their previous marriages, Shaun and Becky went to church, but stopped going after their separate divorces. They eventually decided to start going to church again together.
“We both kind of turned our backs on God, unfortunately,” Becky said. “We decided to go back to church together, and that solidified the fact that we were supposed to be together.”
The decision to start going to church led to their getting married, after the pastor of their new church encouraged them to do so.
“We had to get married before Christmas, before our pastor went on vacation,” Becky recalled, chuckling.
Their life together has been full of both joyous moments and painful, challenging ones. They experienced the pain of a miscarriage together, and Shaun lost his job for not going to work the day Becky had to get an emergency surgery.
One year later, they were pregnant again and gave birth to their first son, Macen, now 5, and then later had another son, Micah, who is now 3. Becky recalls the births of their sons as the most joyous moments in their life together.
2020, especially, presented a series of challenges to the Barnard family. In March 2020, Shaun accepted a new job with a company that specialized in exterior cleaning services for homes. Shaun’s new trade would be window cleaning, which he learned during a week-long training in Oregon.
He got back from training the last week in March. Then, on April 1, everything for Shaun and Becky changed.
At 3 a.m., Shaun heard Becky screaming his name and found her doubled over in pain and vomiting.
“She gave me a look, and I knew immediately that I was losing her,” Shaun said.
He called 911 and the ambulance took her to the hospital. He wasn’t able to go with her due to COVID-19 restrictions. He recalls being at home with their two sons and not knowing what was happening. He eventually learned that Becky had a ruptured colon. She developed sepsis and had to undergo emergency surgery.
“The sepsis was so bad, there were abscesses on her liver and on her spleen,” Shaun said. “They had to take everything out of her gut, basically dump her out like a laundry basket and put her back together.”
Becky started having seizures, and her heart stopped twice while she was in surgery. As this was happening, Shaun remained at home with their two children, learning what was happening with Becky through sporadic phone calls with the hospital. He feared what the near future held for their family.
“I was very certain that I was going to be a single father,” Shaun said. “I was going to lose my best friend.”
But Becky survived. She says there is a few weeks’ span about which she doesn’t remember much, but she does recall being alone in the hospital at the beginning of a pandemic and the comfort hearing Shaun’s voice brought her.
“I couldn’t have anyone there,” Becky said. “The nurses had to dress up in these big, huge outfits, and for a long time, all I saw were eyes. It was traumatizing.”
Shaun called Becky every day while she was in the hospital, which she says made her “fight just a little bit harder.” Eventually, the hospital suggested home would be a safer place for her recovery as the number of COVID-19 cases rose.
For the first six weeks of her recovery, Becky was bedridden. She couldn’t walk, go to the bathroom by herself, and do the things she used to do without Shaun’s help. During her recovery, Shaun says he was “a nurse, maid, cook, psychologist, physical therapist, and head cheerleader while taking care of the boys.” Becky says that Shaun took care of her as she was recovering both physically and emotionally.
“I give him all the credit for just making me get up and get out of bed every day,” Becky said.
Around the same time Becky got home from the hospital, Shaun learned that he lost his job due to the pandemic.
“We went from a two-income family that’s barely making it to a one-income family to a no-income family in a matter of days,” Shaun said.
By June, they had to make hard decisions. Becky was still recovering, and Shaun couldn’t find work in the middle of the pandemic. They decided to start a window cleaning business to make ends meet.
In December 2020, Becky was back on her feet and underwent colostomy reversal surgery. The surgery was supposed to take four hours, but took eight after the doctors discovered severe abdominal adhesions from the sepsis.
“It looked like somebody had taken a bucket of cement and dumped it into my intestines and all my insides,” Becky said.
While recovering from this surgery, Shaun and Becky received a notice from their apartment complex company that it would not renew their lease, since they had been late paying rent for four months. The Barnards had 30 days to find a new place to live.
This series of events led them to move from Manassas to Louisa just one month ago, renting a home tucked away in the woods.
“We moved to Louisa and it has been the greatest thing that could have happened to us,” Shaun said. “Now we have a place that’s half the price, twice as big, and it’s not an apartment complex. It’s a house that’s back in the woods with nobody living over us ... and everybody’s friendly.”
Shaun and Becky are new to the community and say they are happy to be here. Moving to Louisa is helping Becky with healing.
“It’s what I’ve been waiting for,” Becky said. “We’ve only been here for a couple of weeks, but I don’t hear gunshots and ambulances every night. I think a big part of my healing and our healing together is moving here. I feel like this happened for a reason.”
They continue to reflect on the events of last year and say love helped them through, along with communication, trust and a willingness to be vulnerable with each other.
“You have to be very quick to forgive, and you have to be very quick to listen,” Shaun said. “It’s hard to do that sometimes when you’re facing things that are very difficult and things that are scary.”
The Barnards are still settling into their new life together in Louisa, decorating their new house, getting their window cleaning business off the ground, and getting acquainted with the community.
After what they’ve been through, they know that although the future is uncertain, the love they share for each other will see them through whatever challenges await.