Giving a good gift

As Mother’s Day approached, it was obvious it was on the minds of my kids. There’s no doubt it was a frequent topic of conversation in their classrooms; as well it should be. But there’s no avoiding the very real wounds left by the loss of a parent.

We concluded one of our evenings this week in the usual way by reading the Bible. This time, it was about heaven, giving expression to John’s vision as described in Revelation. And Brady, my always sweet boy, began crying. “As soon as I get to heaven, I’m going to cry to see Mommy.” He is so keen to his own feelings. “Every one has a mommy, pretty much, except for me!”

Halle chimed in. “Everyone in my class has a mommy, too, except for me. Now Brady is making me sad.” She wasn’t blaming him, so much as just recognizing her own sadness. She’s sad that she doesn’t really remember Mommy. She wishes she knew her better, but is glad “Mommy looked like me.”

They both are so hopeful for me to find a new mommy. And that’s where it gets tough for me.

When it comes to parenting, one of my go-to verses is in Matthew 7:11, where Jesus is talking about prayer: “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” As I read this, I hear it as a call for me to do like God and give good gifts to my children, especially when they ask. (Emphasis on “good” there, because I won’t just give them anything they ask for. In the same way, God knows more than us, so won’t give us everything we ask for.)

So, when the thing my children are most asking for is a new mommy, and it’s the very thing I want to give them, and it’s a good thing that I can find no “bad” in, it breaks my heart tremendously that it’s the only thing I can’t give them. I have tried my best for nearly 4 years now to give them just that.

So, I’ve decided that we’re going to spend the next 100 days in consistent prayer for a new mommy. And we’re going to wait and see what God decides to do. I’m circling August 17 on my calendar.

And the thing of it is this: there’s more that I’m just beginning to learn now. From long ago — even before Stephanie was officially pronounced dead — I have been giving up my pain to God over losing her. I would say I gave up most of that pain 4 years ago and have given up more as time has ticked on. But now, I’m truly starting to learn the pain of my children’s loss. And so, I am starting to learn how to give that up to God. It’s critical that I don’t drive my kids to find their hope in getting a new mommy, but that they rather find all their hope in God. And may I do the same.

Best and Worst

“What was the best and worst thing about your day?”

I’ve asked my kids this for quite some time every night when they go to bed. I’m hoping as the years go on that it will be a good starting point for conversations about what they have to be thankful for and also what they’re struggling with. It will give me material for my prayers for them. For now, they are pretty consistent in their responses.

Brady’s best thing is all the loved ones he got to see in his day. His worst thing, half the time, is not seeing mommy. (Other times, it may include not getting to play with a toy. Go figure.)

Halle’s best thing is pretty reliably “Seein’ Nana!” and “Seein’ you!” (By which, she means me, of course.) She doesn’t usually answer the “worst thing” part.

I love nights like tonight, though, when Brady and I delve into a deeper conversation. He expounded on not getting to see Mommy. And as we talked, he buried his head and confessed to nearly crying that Mommy is gone. So we talked about how it’s okay to miss her and be sad. We might always be sad she’s gone. But we also talked about getting a new mommy and how she will love him and Halle so well and will be special, just like “Mommy Stephanie” was special. They’re each special in their own ways, and we can love them both.

He’s sad to not have a new mommy yet, and so looking forward to it. Speaking for Halle, he said, “We will always love our first mommy. Mommy’s right in my mind and in my heart.” I love speaking words to him of remembering the past and how thankful we can be to God for who his mommy was, but also having hope for the future in looking forward to having a new mommy.

He asked me to cuddle him, and as I did: “You’re the best daddy I ever had.”

Those were words I needed to hear tonight. Thank you, Brady. And thank you, God.

Sweet Brady

I don’t know what it is, but every few months, Brady starts expressing more frequently how he wants a new mommy. His thoughts often also turn to how he misses Stephanie, and we spend quite a bit of time talking about the how’s and what’s and why’s. It is such a joy to know that he understands and remembers so much of what we talk about. Yesterday, amidst one of these conversations, I captured these nuggets of his mind:

“I like you and Nana the most, but I like God even more. He’s our daddy like you’re our daddy. And even if mommy died, God is still our daddy.” I’m so thankful that his love for God is not conditional!

“And when do you think we might get a new mommy? Because I want to show her all my LEGOs.” This is a big deal because that is what he is most excited about and proud of, so it’s definitely an expression of his love.

“I really like that you stayed alive.” I told him that I’m pretty glad of that, myself.

“Do you think Mommy knows what I’m doing?” I let him know that I think she does.

Tonight, he again discussed how he loves me so much, but that he loves God even more. And while we were praying, he asked, “Please tell all the kids who I do not know in all the world that they should love You more than their parents.” This was something new for me to hear him pray something completely on his own and to bring up children around the world that he doesn’t know.

And after I prayed that we find a new mommy, he asked that I would meet her soon so that he can show her the LEGO games and his LEGO castle that he’s planning to build. I told you. He loves those LEGOs! (But he loves me the most. And God more than that.)


“Daddy, do you miss having Mommy?”

“Yes, Brady, I do.”

“Me, too.”

And then the conversation becomes about finding a new mommy. I’m reading a book about dating as a single parent, so I want to put some of that into practice — notably, to make sure they are “okay” with me dating. For that to happen, I need to make sure they understand dating as best as possible.

“In order to find a new mommy, I’ll need to get to know her and become best friends with her. That might mean I’m not with you all the time like I am now, but I promise to do my best to spend as much time with you and still get to know her.

“I also want to make sure you know that she’s not going to be just like Mommy. She’ll look different and act different and like different things. But, she will love me and she will love both of you. And she’ll be just the right wife for me and just the right mommy for both of you. And we’ll all love her.”

Brady chimes in: “I’m bored without a mommy.” I guess we need to work a little on the meaning of “bored,” but I think I understand what he means. He’s tired of this feeling of not having a mommy around. Like me, he’s just weary of that absence in our lives. It’s getting old.

He adds, “I feel like mommy’s been gone for five years.” (It’s been a little over 2 1/2.)

And then Halle speaks up. “Well, I feel like she’s been gone for SIX years,” says my four-year old.

Good talk, kids. Good talk.

Travel by car

Halle has been commenting a lot recently on her lack of an earthly mother. Just as I have been straightforward with them, both Brady and Halle tend to be very matter-of-fact about it.

First, it was after hearing The Cat in the Hat read out loud. At the end, it asks the reader what she would do if “your mother asked you” what you did all day. Halle responded semi-indignantly, “We don’t even have a mother.” I’m constantly thankful for the resilience of children that she could make this statement without a tinge of sadness. (Of course, there’s also a part of me that is sad about her lack of sadness.)

Then, after a show talked about families being made up of a mother and father, etc., Halle again commented on her lack of mother. My mom explained that Mommy is in Heaven and how one day we will see her again if we believe in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice to cleanse our sins. Halle’s response was to ask if it would be a long time. “Yeah, it will be a long time before you go to Heaven,” my mom answered.

“Then I’m going to need to take a nap in the car.”

I know dat

While she trotted off to bed, I was admiring Halle and the lovely hair she has. “You’re so pretty, Halle.”

“I know dat!” (Of course you do.) “I need to be pretty for Mommy.”

“You’re already pretty like Mommy.”

At bedtime, I always ask the kids what the best part and worst part of their day was. Since she doesn’t fully understand the concept, I was trying to prime the pump for Halle tonight. “My favorite part of today was listening to you and Brady play and have fun together. What was your favorite part?”


(Seriously? Wow, Halle. I love your affection. Goodnight, sweet girl. Sweet dreams.)

Just a visit

“Daddy, I just want to pray for a new mommy tonight. And that I love my first mommy so much.”

“OK, Buddy.”

“And, maybe can we go to Heaven to see our first mommy?”

“I’m sorry, Brady, but we can’t go to Heaven for a long, long time.”

“But why not?”

“Because once we go to Heaven, we can’t ever come back. People only go to Heaven when they die. I really wish we could visit mommy, too, but I don’t want to leave you or Halle or Nana or Papa or anyone else. And do you remember how we get to Heaven? We have to believe that Jesus died for all the bad things we do and that only He can make us better from all those bad things. If we don’t believe that, we can’t go to Heaven. Mommy believed that and that’s how we know she’s in Heaven.”

“Oh. Well, maybe I want to wake up real early and look at pictures of mommy. All of them.”

“Okay, Sweetheart. We can do that.”

Little Friends

“What’s your name?”

The other boy at the pool doesn’t waste any time with pleasantries.

“Brady. And that’s my daddy.” (After all, why would he introduce himself without acknowledging his namesake?)

“He’s holding a baby.”

Brady is quick to defend. “No he’s not. That’s my sister, Halle.” He’s always very logical and straightforward about such things.

And then comes that ever-present fact of life for Brady.

“My mommy’s dead.” Every time he says it, it’s emotionless, like something he read in a text book. (And yet, he spares no emotion when we’re alone and talking about her.)

The other boy is a little confused. “She’s dead? ”

“Yeah. Now she’s with Jesus.”

That’s my boy! He didn’t quite get to lay out the whole plan of salvation to the other 5-year old, but I love that there’s no way for any of us to share our story without God being a critical part of it.

And I’m not surprised. I’ll always stand firm on the fact that this is not our story, but God’s. We’re just tiny bit roles. Nice job playing the part, Brady.

Location Undisclosed

While at the pool, Halle bounced happily over to me.

“Daddy, when is my mommy going to come?”

I caught my breath and stuttered a bit. I drew her close. “Honey, don’t you remember? Mommy died.”

“No, Daddy!” she said indignantly, “My other mommy.”

This made it obvious to me (and I asked in order to clarify) that she was asking about a “new” mommy. I informed her that I don’t know but that I keep hoping and praying to find her soon.

As with so many things, I have to wonder what her perception is of all of this. It’s entirely innocent. The lack of pain her own voice makes it both easier and harder to hear her ask such things.

I didn’t think to tell her at the time, but I’m so thankful to all the women in our lives who love on my kids and show them that tenderness that doesn’t come so naturally to us guys. And I know how much my kids appreciate it, too, even if they don’t have the words to express it.

Brief Conversations

I love the time I have with Halle on her change table. I think I might really miss that now that she’s on the verge of getting out of diapers. We often play and laugh as I tickle and kiss her. We also have some great, random conversations. Recently, it went like this:

Halle: “Mommy in my heart.”

Daddy: “You’re right. Mommy is in your heart.”

Halle: “Mommy not die. She not die when she in my heart. I kiss him. And I hug him in my heart.” (So, admittedly, we’re still working on personal pronouns.)

I love the simplicity of her statement, and I thank God that she feels this way. I especially worry that Halle is too young to have any memory of Stephanie, even though she is the spitting image of her mother. It makes me euphorically happy that at 3 years old, she is expressing such things.