Oh, Summer, How I Missed You!

Dear Summer,

I’m sorry that we had a temporary break in our relationship last year and we didn’t spend any good time together. You see, I’m no good at family event planning. That was Stephanie’s department, and I feel most women/mothers are much better than me at that.

Frankly, I didn’t have the strength in me last year to make our time together worthwhile. I was too busy being a widower with two kids. I didn’t hear your knocking at the door above the absence in my heart. I was too wrapped up in the old memories: walks in the park, ice cream Sundays, everyday pool days, and hours in the yard.

I hope this year will be different. Just like my random bike ride recently after years of not touching my bike, I plan to make this just like riding again. My ride last week sparked all of this, in fact. I was able to just get on my bike and ride until I was afraid I’d be too tired to make it back the same distance. (It reminded me of pre-license days when we would ride our bikes what felt like miles to buy trading cards.)

This year, I’m not a widower with two kids. Instead, we… are a family. And we’re going to make new memories as well as reinvent the old. We’ll splash in the pool. We’ll walk to get ice cream. We’ll enjoy the park and have picnics there. We’ll play on the swingset or go to the playground. We’ll go boating. And we’ll find new things to do. Maybe we’ll try camping or a random vacation just the three of us.

We’re going to make it happen, and I am so thankful that you are back, summer, because I missed you. I didn’t even realize how I missed you, because I was too wrapped up in missing someone far more important than you. (No offense, and I wouldn’t change that if I could go back.) I’m glad you came back to me even though I left you in the lurch. And I’m so excited to be ready to enjoy you this time around.

Thanks for being perennially committed. Here’s some proof that we’re already starting.

Brady loves vehicles
Halle captures pure joy in her smile

Parent-Teacher Conference

We never really change, do we? To this day, I always get nervous when I’m about to meet with an authority figure of any sort. That happened today before meeting with Brady’s preschool teacher. It’s totally irrational and my worries were immediately dissuaded upon entering the room.

“I can’t brag about Brady enough,” she said. (Strangely enough, I feel the same way. Go figure!)

She went on to tell me all the wonderful things he has learned and how he has really grown throughout the year. I see it at home, too, of course. I knew this would be a great experience for him. Brady has always been a very attached child, sticking by adults with whom he is familiar, rather than running off to play with the other kids. But now, especially at school, he joins the other groups or calls over his friends to join him.

I remember the days of exhaustion for Stephanie as she talked about how much attention he was desiring from her. It was hard, but she loved him too much to do anything but try to meet those needs. One of her highest goals for our children was that they be secure in who they are. Meeting those types of needs was part and partial to that. I wish she could be around to enjoy the benefits of his security now and ability to be more independent.

His knowledge of numbers, letters, shapes and patterns is top-notch, and his fine and gross motor skills have improved incredibly. He loves to read to himself or to others, or to listen to others read. He loves books just like I do. (I wonder if he’ll spend summers on the porch reading like I did.)

Afterwards, I arrived at my car crying. I can only think of how proud Stephanie would be. I talk to her, telling her that she would be so proud, and hoping that God will deliver the message. She poured her entire life into her family, and the seeds she planted in Brady and Halle will never stop bearing fruit. The hopes and dreams we had for our kids are just beginning. And each time I reap the benefit, I feel the sting of death. My only response to that is just to love my kids more.

Thank you, Stephanie, for serving God, me, and our children by remaining faithful to the call God had on your life in our family.

Where do they learn it?

That boy of mine, Brady, yet again amazed me. He and Halle both love taking the cushions off of the couch to play various games. (Are they alone in that?) This is constantly happening, and I have grown tired of putting the couch back together.

So, as is becoming the usual, I asked them to put it back together before we did anything else. Brady says, “Halle, I will do it, because I took it apart.”

I stopped in my tracks. Did he really just say that?

Before taking care of the couch, though, he then disappeared into one of the bedrooms. He emerged a bit later, calling me into Halle’s room in order to show me how everything has been picked up by him. Stunned, I looked towards his room, only to be told “Don’t look in there. I haven’t cleaned that yet.”

Moments later, he led me by the hand (with my eyes closed, of course) to a grand reveal of his room and how wonderfully it had been picked up.

No sooner did I overcome my disbelief that I found that he had somehow managed to put the couch back together, too.

So, I will no longer hesitate to ask him to clean up. Nor did I hesitate to give him a treat tonight for doing so much without being asked.

Jesus in the Bible

Every night before bedtime, we pull out a toddler Bible to read. For as much as I want to instill good habits in Brady and Halle, I often get concerned about things just becoming routine and meaningless.

Last night, Brady proved my fears to be unwarranted. As I’m grabbing the Bible, he chimed in excitedly.

“I love the Bible!”

I applauded him, letting him know how wonderful that is, and that I love the Bible, too.

“And I love Jesus in the Bible.”

Sweet! On top of him loving Jesus, it sounds like there might be more than one Jesus that he feels the need to clarify the biblical Jesus. Of course, I don’t expect he knows that other Jesus’s today are usually called “hay-zeus” and not “gee-zuss”.

“And I love everyone in the Bible.”

Well, now that’s painting a broad stroke. Perhaps we’ll wait a little while before we start talking about Pharaoh and Herod and Judas. But, God certainly loves those people, and I wouldn’t put it past Brady to really mean everyone, including the bad guys.

As always, it’s hard not to wonder what’s really going on in a child’s mind, but I can only pray and strive to have his same enthusiasm for God’s Word.


Six years ago. May 14, 2005.

What do I even say here? Five and a half years is such a short, short time, especially when we both dreamed of celebrating 50 or more. And yet, there was an entire lifetime wrapped up in those years, almost as if it had been 50. I can only imagine how 45 more years would have felt.

What do you do for an anniversary that isn’t actually happening anymore? My heart breaks for so many people that deal with this, possibly on an even more difficult level, because of divorce. And I weep. I don’t know how they do it. I do know how I plan to do it, though. I plan to celebrate.

God gave us 5 1/2 years of a beautiful marriage, and I feel blessed beyond belief for what He gave us. Last year, for our five year anniversary, we went to Chicago. It was our first time leaving the kids for more than one night. And it came at a perfect time in our marriage. It was such a wonderful weekend, we planned to go back often, even as early again as Stephanie’s birthday in October. That didn’t happen, but going back this year was a definite in our minds. We wanted to be regulars at the hotel. We enjoyed being “loyalistas” (a made up word, I realize) like that.

Well, you know the story, and here I am today. I don’t remember when I first thought I would go back to Chicago in spite of everything, but it was likely way back in October. I couldn’t think of a better thing to do for God, for myself, and for Stephanie. As I’ve done all along, I won’t avoid the memories or any pain they might cause. I’m not going to hide from life as I knew it or know it now. And I’m going full in and full on.

I’m excited. I’m going to have a full weekend to spend contemplating (there’s that word again), praying, reading and introspecting. I plan to celebrate the marriage I had, praise God for it and accept in every way possible that it’s over — though I’ve tried to do that all along. Maybe even more importantly, I’m going to talk to God a lot about my future.

I appreciate how many of you have expressed that you believe a new marriage is in my future. I agree. One thing I haven’t broadcast is my conviction that I’m “ready” for that, even now. To be honest, I’ve felt ready since February, and those closest in my life have seen that. I talked with my counselor about it a lot, and he said the same. I only didn’t broadcast it because I wasn’t sure if others were ready for me to be ready.

I loved Stephanie dearly, of course, and I feel that I’m honoring her to move on. She and I talked long before the seizures started about remarriage if the worst were to happen. We were both very happy for the other to find someone else if it came to that. That’s yet another way God has shown me that He has a plan — that we even talked about such things. I know in my heart that I have no greater cheerleader regarding this than Stephanie. I can just picture her nudging God that He should bring someone into my life. I know she would never want me to be alone, and I know she wants a mother for her children.

My passion, dream and goal for my life has always been Ephesians 5:21-33, that I would have a wife and be able to sacrifice myself for her. (More on that in a later post.) I’m excited for this weekend, and for the chance to really talk to God about that and even pray that I don’t have to wait long to have that again.

Aside from October, this is the last big date that I expect might be hard. This weekend is an opportunity for me to place a pile of stones (Joshua 4) as a remembrance of God’s faithfulness and goodness and what He has brought me through.


I expected this past weekend to be incredibly difficult. I’m sure I’ve said it a hundred times, but I ache so much more for my children not having their mother than I do for me not having my wife. I fully expected the celebration of mothers yesterday to be a practice in misery for me. Many prayers must have gone up to God for me, as that was not the case at all.

I often find myself trying to imagine what my kids feel or think regarding all of this. That’s no easy task, as I have not lost my mother, nor am I a toddler. But, I want to be able to sustain them in whatever way possible, so I try. What usually ends up happening is that I assume all of these emotions that my kids simply don’t end up having and my worry is all for naught. Yesterday was such an instance.

One thing I was sure to do yesterday was to buy flowers to place at the grave. It only made sense to have the kids with me for Mother’s Day. This was their first time going to the cemetery, and I just wasn’t sure how it would go. I explained it to Brady a few times and he seemed to understand — God has definitely blessed he and I with his ability to comprehend so much of this. He asked to carry the flowers and to put them down.

I asked Brady what his favorite memory of Mommy is, and you can never be sure what type of answer you’ll get from a four-year-old with that question. Brady always has a different answer to it. His was perfect in light of my upcoming anniversary on May 14.

“I just love her so much because I love you so much because I love you and Mommy getting married before.”

Even at four years of age, Brady appreciates what it is for his parents to have been together. He always amazes me. I just told him that I loved that about us, too. Halle chimed in to say “Mommy come back,” as if she was requesting that she come home with us. I wish I could know what was going on in her little mind, to know what she thinks of this. I can tell that she misses Stephanie, especially at times, but she’s a very happy child and is doing perfectly fine.

I would be remiss not to mention my own mother here. It’s hard to express in words the appreciation I have for her. I know, because Stephanie was very similar, what it means to her to be a mother when that was her lifelong dream. And I know what a sacrifice it is. And now, even after all the years she put into my own life, she’s putting all the more into my children’s lives as she takes care of them nearly every day. There is no end to her grace to me and my kids. She somehow finds a way to balance being my mother — as a friend and supporting me through all this — and basically being my children’s mother — taking care of them so much — and all the while still being a grandmother to them and her other grandchildren. I can’t spend enough time expressing thanks for all she has done and does.

I want to thank my mother-in-law, who has also taken good care of me and the kids through all of this. She has been able to watch the kids as I do some of the things I really love, like playing handbells, etc. I never worried that she only loved me because of Stephanie, and now there is proof that I was right not to worry. I know other widows have experienced friends and family avoiding them because of the reminder they are of the person who is gone. I’m thrilled to say that no one in Stephanie’s family has ever done that to me — least of all Stephanie’s mom.

As a special thanks, there is a long list of other women in my life who have really been there for me and for my kids. Since my kids can’t have their own mother, they need other women who love them and guide them, and I am so thankful to all of you who have been “mothers” to my kids. I pray that you all know who you are, as I don’t want to risk leaving anyone out by trying to list you all. If you’ve spent time with my kids, please know that you’ve been a blessing to me and to them.


My sweet, spunky, fireball of a little girl turns two years old today. Happy birthday, Halle Charis.

You are so much like your mommy, and it’s so wonderful to see your personality coming out more with each day. I’m so thankful to God that I got to have a daughter after having a son, and I’m even more glad that Mommy got that, too. She was so hopeful that you would be a girl; and you are all girl just like Mommy. You already love shoes and clothes, and Brady assures me that your favorite color is pink because “you a gerl, Ha-yee.”

Just like Mommy, you’re able to light up a room with your smile and personality and make people happy just because you’re around. You are so good at making people laugh in the most unexpected ways. And you always have your little projects, and do not like people to get in your way of finishing those projects. I have no doubt you’re going to use that about yourself just like Mommy did.

I love the way you know just what you want, even if it does result in you yelling at me when I don’t get it for you. You just want things to be efficient and you always know a better way for things to get done.

You’re adorable and such a joy in everyone’s lives, and Mommy would be so happy for all the ways you’re so like her. As much as I wish she had more time with you, I’m so thankful for the 18 months of your life that she did get to spend with you. Your middle name means “grace” and it was Mommy’s favorite thing about God. It was His grace that gave you to Mommy. After three miscarriages, we weren’t sure we’d ever get to have another baby, and it’s clear that you are the exact child God wanted us to have.

We love you so much, and I can’t wait to continue watching you grow (as a person, at least, since you don’t exactly grow too much physically, my little peanut). I know you’ll make me and Mommy so proud.

I love you, Sugar.


Happy 4th Birthday, Brady Chase!

You are such an amazing little boy, Sweetheart, and this day is always a special day to your mommy and I. Ever since Mommy was a little girl, all she wanted was to be a wife and a mommy. And ever since I was a little boy, I only wanted to be a husband and a daddy. We anxiously awaited your arrival all our lives. When you came, you brought those dreams into our lives, and you didn’t come a minute too soon.

You make me so proud every day. You are considerate and always saying “please” and “thank you” and you love people so much. Any time someone is sad, you are the first one there to give sweet cuddles and tell them it will be okay. You don’t know it now, but you have strength and wisdom well beyond your four years.

I love the way you care about Halle and are so often trying to help her or help out with her. You’re an incredible big brother to her. It’s no wonder why she loves you so much and looks up to you and imitates you. I know the two of you will have such a strong relationship throughout your entire lives.

You are not only tender, but also strong, and I pray that you never lose that about yourself. I am so proud that you carry my name (plus a “y”), and I hope that you will always chase after God all of your life.

Mommy and I love you so very much. I can’t wait to see how you grow each and every year. Happy Birthday, Bean!

Another day

For my birthday on Wednesday morning, I woke up and cried for a bit. It was one of those “good” cries, where I really got myself into the moment and the memories and the sadness. I had the day off from work. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out to be much more than just another day off.

Stephanie wasn’t there to wake me up with breakfast and a candle in my breakfast, and a present that she had specifically picked for me to open in the morning. She didn’t excitedly wish me a happy birthday when I woke (or the night prior when it hit midnight). There was no homemade card from her detailing just how much she celebrates me and loves me. She always made it so apparent how thankful she was that I was born on that day X number of years before. There was no “birthday week” celebration for the whole week. There wasn’t a surprise lunch to bring to work with a sweet note and small present in it. And dinner wasn’t my favorite dish lovingly made.

So, it was just a day off. It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t feel like my birthday. I had someone say to me that birthdays do feel more and more like just another day the older you get. I’m sure that’s true for some people, but not for me and not for us. And we made sure of that for each other. Birthdays were often better than previous years.

So that’s how my day went. Not bad, but not special. I went to see Tron: Legacy in 3D by myself. It was a great movie and fun to see it and I quite enjoyed it, so that was good.

I will say that I do feel very loved, and I’m so thankful for that. I had about 154 birthday wishes on my Facebook wall. I’m pretty sure that’s a record for me. Thank you all for that. And I’m told by my mom how loved I am based on all the help/support/money that people are putting into my birthday party. I can’t wait for it.

I really just pray that I can get into it. As I’ve been doing, to fully embrace whatever emotions I have, but that I could really just allow it to be a strong memory (whether good or bad for how I’m feeling – that it’s at least strong because it meant something). God wants me to prosper and I’m fully aware of that. I can’t prosper if I pretend my emotions aren’t there, and I can’t prosper if I don’t fully embrace every moment.


Christmas, as well as the rest of the holidays ended up less difficult than I expected. But, in retrospect, I’m not surprised. When it comes to the grief, it’s more about the loss in my normal daily routine, and less about a day or two out of the year that was out of the ordinary. Granted, it’s still not easy, and there are a lot of special memories tied to Christmas due to the specialty of those days, but I think I probably already dealt with a lot of those feelings before the day came.

However, I am less than satisfied with the amount of preparing I feel like I did. I’ve had a lot of people asking me if we started any new traditions or things like that. I’m sad to say that we didn’t start anything that I think will particularly “stick” in future years. I feel like I didn’t give it enough thought and in some ways want a do-over.

What we did do was to attempt to read the Christmas story out of the kids’ Bible and then talk a little bit about Mommy. The kids were so distracted, though, it was more a practice in patience for me as I talked about Mommy through misty eyes. I then lit a candle to represent Mommy’s presence as we opened presents. Thanks to a suggestion from someone, I was able to designate a couple gifts as coming from Mommy, which I think is a fabulous idea that I plan to use in the future. The “Mommy” gifts this year weren’t purchased with that in mind, unfortunately, so I think that lessened the meaning it had for me; and the kids didn’t really connect with the sentiment, which doesn’t come as a surprise to me.

I guess to think about it now, I realize how disappointed I am in myself and how much I don’t stack up to Stephanie. She was always the one to plan all the gifts and she planned things out so wonderfully. She had a great gift idea for nearly everyone on our list and she would wrap each one with such care and beauty and personalize it in some way. I know there’s no way I can match what she did, but I really feel like I dropped the ball on Christmas.

I know I might be expecting a lot from myself less than 2 1/2 months after my wife died, but I know myself and can’t help but fear that I won’t give it my best if I don’t expect a lot from myself. I don’t want to take the chance of getting into a habit of doing the bare minimum. And I want to honor Stephanie and try to carry on her legacy. I don’t feel like I did that this Christmas, that’s for sure.