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Wife talks grief, love and life after losing Gainesville firefighter husband in boating accident

Chandler Patterson died in a boating accident last year. His widow, Alyssa, has since written a book about her grief, and started a foundation for firefighters.

RABUN COUNTY, Ga. — Alyssa Patterson grew up buried in books. Reading was one of her first loves. It wasn't until 2022 that she would come to write her very own novel, about her latest love: Chandler Patterson. It's a true story about the love she had with him, and the love they lost in a short time span.

For years, 25-year-old Alyssa read A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis. Little did she know, Lewis' novel and her writing, would help her push forward. Alyssa's story is one of love, followed by grief. One where she pushes through, thanks to faith, family, and friends.

"I hoped by this time I would be pregnant and we’d be having a family," Patterson said. "We both really wanted that. Instead of having a baby, I birthed a book. Different kind of labor of love."

Her book, titled 'Until Heaven Parts Us,' is about the unpredictable story of marrying Chandler last year, and losing him just three weeks later.

“I definitely miss his company. When you get married, that’s what you’re supposed to have: that person no matter what life throws your way you have that partner. I went through the hardest thing without him," she said.

Chandler, who was then a 27-year-old firefighter for the Gainesville Fire Department, died in a boating accident in Rabun County while spending time off with family and friends.

He had been married to Alyssa - the love of his life - for just three weeks.

Credit: Provided.

“I think what I would like people to take away is to really evaluate how they’re spending their days until we’re parted by heaven," she said. "Eternity is the ultimate gift. There's also joy and purpose in this side of heaven and abundant life in this side of life. It’s hard to do and it’s a heavy burden to carry but you can hold joy and sorrow and pain and happiness at the same time.”

RELATED: A little over three weeks ago she was finalizing her wedding vows. Now she's having to eulogize her husband.

Chandler's legacy is kept alive in 'Until Heaven Parts Us,' which climbed to Amazon's best seller list right after publication. As of Thursday night, the book is the #1 best seller in the Christian Ministry to Sick & Bereaved category on the website.

"It's my birthday and celebrations are hard but I woke up feeling energized," she said. "The Lord has been really kind to me and my family this year. There's still so much good. This is one of the good things."

She started writing it in January 2022. The first draft was finished in just one month, on what would've been Chandler's birthday: Feb. 17. She said one of the most challenging parts to write, including her wedding day.

"It was our happiest days and it's still unbelievable that it was three weeks later that he passed away," she said. "I knew Chandler for less than two years so our love story was very 0 to 100. We just fell in love really fast and knew we wanted to get married. Then, the opposite of that, losing him and the downhill spiral from there was just a lot to process."

RELATED: Celebration of life held for Gainesville firefighter who died in boating accident

The two were each other's first dates through a dating app. They spoke for hours before meeting in person at Provino's Italian Restaurant in Buford. All it took was one look, for each one to know they were meant to be.

"I turned around and I literally mouthed, 'Oh my gosh', because he was really good-looking," she recalled, with a smile on her face. "I was like, I cannot believe I'm on a date with this man! That night he told me he was going to marry me... on our [first] date. There are beautiful stories like that for people who are patient and faithful. I’m so grateful that I got to be his wife."

Credit: Marissa Ann Moore Photography
Chandler and Alyssa's engagement photo

Chandler was a fireman for about four years and had dreams of becoming a fire marshal. He was getting ready to take all the courses.

That's just one reason why Alyssa, her family, and Chandler's family started a foundation called Dude 21. The foundation will help support firefighters who want to further their careers with continuing education as well as serve the parents, widows, and children of fallen first responders.

"Loss can never be completely fixed but through writing the story and sharing the story, I've seen it bless other people and that's blessed me so much," she said. 

On Oct. 18, they plan on hosting a golf tournament in Rabun County to raise money for the foundation.

To donate, click here. To buy Alyssa's book, click here.

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