I no longer hate “easier”

I still have a love-hate relationship with time, such as I began to have last year. As the days have marched forward over the past year, it certainly has gotten easier. The second time I tucked the kids in on my own was certainly easier than the first time. And the third time easier than the second. And so on.

Everyone told me that it would get easier with time, and I never doubted that. But I wanted them to be wrong. I didn’t want it to get easier because I was afraid that “easier” would mean the memories were fading or my love for her was diminishing. I wanted to hold tight to all those things. And as painful as it was, I never wanted to stop crying.

But I did. And it did get easier. But “easier” hasn’t been the negative thing I envisioned. Instead, I now find more meaning in those memories. The pain and tears, while good at the time, often served to only cloud my mind regarding great truths of those moments. Now, I feel like I can really truly take hold of those memories in a way that I couldn’t before. Sometimes I still cry. Other times, I laugh. And many times, I learn.

I still constantly worry that my memories will fade. But I’ve also noticed many times when a memory that felt lost suddenly returns to me because of a comment someone makes or a random circumstance that reminds me of something she said. And it restores my hope that I might not forget everything. And “time spent” is a great friend when “time ticking” is not.


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.

An Odd Longing

It’s actually an odd thing to want. For some reason, I find myself longing to be back in the hospital more often than any other point in my marriage. I can only guess that I’m too much of a realist to imagine earlier times. My time in the hospital isn’t all that different of a reality than now.

But I think back to that time every few days. I remember how comfortable I got there, as if it were a 10-day sleepover. I can’t imagine what it must be like for others who endure much longer battles. I spent every night either on a couch in the waiting room or in a chair next to Stephanie’s bed.

I began to know the nurses, and I’m sad that I don’t get to see them any more. They were so wonderful, taking care not only of Stephanie, but of me and my entire family. How many times have they done the same for others? I wish I could have thanked them more while I was there.

I learned how to read all the monitors. I was so proud of her for breathing “above the machine” – she took more breaths than the machine made sure she took. And then she stopped doing that at the same time God stopped telling me to “just wait” and I knew she was gone, even if her death certificate says it was two days later. I could read the EKG and knew when she was having seizures. I remember sliding up next to her during those times, holding her hand and touching her face, trying to calm her down. I can still hear myself saying, “Oh, honey. You gotta stop.”

How many nights did I beg her to fight? How many times did I remind her that she refused God to take her once before and needed to do it again? How many hours did I spend holding her hand and stroking her hair?

I know it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense because she wasn’t talking to me at all, but I miss my time with her in the hospital. What part of that longing is because of the hope I still had that she might be okay? I miss spending every moment with her, even if she wasn’t exactly “with” me during those moments.

Love Day

At American Greetings where I work, Valentine’s Day is like the Super Bowl for us. It is by far our biggest holiday. However, for Stephanie and I, it wasn’t quite that. Sure, we celebrated it – gave each other cards or gifts and ate out somewhere usually — but it didn’t hold a candle to our anniversary and birthdays. At the risk of sounding incredibly cheesy, we didn’t really need a holiday to celebrate our love for each other.

I’m thankful for that this year on February 14, as I think it will soften the blow. I’m sure it will still hit me. My day will no doubt come to a crushing halt as I double over in tearful emotional turmoil. But for the most part, I think I’ll be okay.

What really surprised me was that I found myself perusing the “For Wife” cards last week. I even thought I had picked one out and was going to buy it for my bride. That is not like me at all to do something like that. But I almost did. The only reason I didn’t was because I found one card after another that seemed too perfect. I couldn’t pick just one. I loved being married, and every card reminded me of how beautiful she was and how amazing it was to be married. God sure did an incredible thing when He created marriage.

And for that, I wish God — and all of you — a Happy Valentine’s Day.