When Stephen Wismer (‘68) and Linda Swanson (‘70) stood before the pastor on their wedding day in 1973, his final prayer ended with these words, ‘‘until one shall lay the other into the arms of God.” At 21 years old, Linda had no idea what she was committing to, nor did she imagine how soon that would happen. Seven years later, when Linda was only 29 and their two sons were four and two, Stephen was walking in downtown Minneapolis when he was struck and killed by a careening car. “Everything about my life changed in an instant, and I learned what it meant to live by faith.”
Linda remembers chapel at Minnehaha Academy as the spiritual discipline that has affected her entire life. MA students set aside time first thing in the morning--every day- focusing their hearts and minds on the Lord. Linda, alongside her peers, heard inspiring messages and teaching and was encouraged to have an attitude of worship and thankfulness. “It became a part of my heart and my life. We started every day singing, Create in me a Clean Heart, O God. I cannot hear that song to this day without weeping.”
The spiritual foundation that developed in her youth helped her to stay strong when she was weak. She needed more than her own strength to navigate life after her husband’s sudden death and while raising their two young sons. “God put people in my life to help me negotiate all the twists and turns that tragedy brought.” As she thinks back to the funeral and the subsequent years after, she is thankful for her MA friendships. When her husband died, Linda was in shock and just going through the motions. 700 people came to the funeral, including many of her classmates that she had not seen in years -- ”they came out of the woodwork!” She has stayed close friends with so many of her classmates and has renewed friendships with people from her class. In just the past week, she has spoken with seven of them, and they don’t even all live in the same state! “It’s an incredible blessing,” Wismer says.
Stephen was killed in April of 1981. In the fall of 1981 Linda was asked to speak about widowhood and expressing death to children on a two-day radio broadcast for Focus on the Family with Dr. James Dobson. Her experience propelled her to go back to school and in 1986 she began a master’s program at Liberty University in counseling and became a licensed psychologist. After living through such a difficult time, she wanted to help others who were walking through their own grief, loss, and life transitions.
Walking With Others
Following completion of her degree, Linda served as co-owner, administrative director and counselor at Pathway Psychological Services in Golden Valley, which grew to six locations. She also served on the staff of Wayzata and Crystal Evangelical Free Churches facilitating grief and loss groups, Bible studies and speaking at women’s ministries.
Linda is now retired and splits her time between Gold Canyon, AZ and Minneapolis, where she is involved in women’s Bible studies and still seeks to mentor women, connect women and assist in mental health resource development in churches and her local communities.
To The Students
When asked what advice she would share with current students, Linda said “focus on finishing strong and growing in your faith. Figure out how God wants to use you to share His great gift of salvation with others.”