Health insurance

I recently received a letter:

“This letter is a reminder that you have elected coverage for your dependent(s) in a Healthcare plan… you are required to furnish proof of dependent eligibility. If you do not furnish acceptable proof…within 30 days, your dependents will be removed from coverage.”

Dependent in question: Stephanie

It’s almost as if even the companies who have her name find it hard to believe she’s dead, too. I would love to respond as sarcastically as possible: send in a picture of the grave stone and just write on it, “Please don’t revoke Stephanie’s health coverage. She really needs it!” or “How’s this for proof of dependency?”

But seriously, I’m so thankful for how God has brought me through it all. If I were in a worse place, this would have been an incredible slap in the face and I’d probably be miserable for days. But, by God’s grace, I can just look at this situation and laugh (almost). At the very least, I can handle it like a sane, respectable adult, boring as that may be.


It happens so randomly. Out of nowhere. And it always catches me off-guard.

It’s the memory of that night. That last night. Even nearly two years later, it still jumps on my back and knocks me down. I can’t say I’m surprised. I’m sure I’ll be saying the same thing 30 years from now.

That doesn’t mean I’ll ever grow accustomed to it. It’s a hateful, hateful thing.

And I quickly scramble to try to forget it as soon as it invades my thoughts. It’s not really worth my time anymore.

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.

The Story of Stephanie’s Feelings for Brad

In celebration of my anniversary on May 14, an email sent to me from Stephanie dated March 1, 2004 – the day after we started dating.


You wrote in one (of the many) of your emails about how I’ve been thinking about this (that would be: us) for a year or possibly more. I wanted to just come out with it and let you know how everything happened. This is more or less a synopsis, because it would be way too long for all of the details.

Hopefully you don’t think I’m a loser, but I wrote the entire thing down as a third-person story. It just made me happy to write it that way.

Enjoy the educational reading,
S. :)

Once upon a time, in a land not too far away, there lived a young lady named Stephanie. Stephanie was your average girl-next-door, who was content to work at her church and spend time with her friends. Among those friends there existed a college student named, Brad. Stephanie didn’t know Brad all that well, but every once and a while their social circles would cross and she would have an opportunity to spend time with him. She looked forward to those encounters because she always found herself in good conversation with Brad.

Years passed. The college student graduated. Stephanie was now going to a different church – one where many people her age surrounded her. That church was not so far from where Brad lived and he also started attending. Their social circles crossed more frequently. Stephanie was able to talk with Brad at a local restaurant after church, and she always looked for him there. She knew there would be quality conversation, lots of laughs and many good times when he was present.

Then God gave Brad the opportunity of a lifetime at a place called FFI. That was a land, which was far, far away and Brad left for several months. Stephanie missed her friend very much, but wasn’t quite sure why she was feeling so sad. She knew he would be returning home eventually, but she missed looking for him at church. She was disappointed with her time at the local restaurant. There were many conversations, some laughs and okay times, but it wasn’t the same.

…But then Brad began sending out messages to his friends and family, telling about all God was teaching him at FFI. Stephanie also received those letters and read them over and over again. Some letters made her smile, some made her laugh, and some made her cry because she was rejoicing in what Brad was learning. Each letter was like a glimpse into his life, his heart, and his mind. Stephanie came to better know and appreciate the person that Brad was. She began to realize that he was a quality individual, unlike any she currently knew. Stephanie found herself thinking of Brad and apparently she spoke of him often – too often, because her roommate, Rebecca, was tired of listening about him (Stephanie knows this because Rebecca later told her).

Time continued to pass and letters continued to come. It was late in October when one letter in particular came and impacted Stephanie so greatly, that she could not even speak after reading it. That is when she realized that something had changed. It scared her. She wasn’t ready to go down that road again. She wasn’t sure what she was feeling, but she knew that her heart had changed for Brad. She began thinking about all the things he had written and what an impact they had made. She started thinking back to things that happened over the summer. Then she went further back and remembered things that had happened while he was in college. Then she sat down in shock and amazement, because she realized that all along it had been him.

Not knowing what to do with this new revelation, she began to pray. She knew that if left to her own control, she would just make a mess out of things. She also knew that God had a plan for her life and that because He is sovereign, He would not make a mess. She began seeking God to know what to do. She didn’t tell anyone at first, because she wasn’t sure where her feelings were going. She knew that Brad’s time at FFI had been the turning point in her awareness of how she felt about him. Still, she wasn’t sure of how to proceed. This lasted until Brad (finally) returned home.

Stephanie was now nervous and awkward around Brad. She didn’t know how to act. Stephanie knows that she wears her emotions on her sleeve and that she can’t hide how she’s feeling. She didn’t want him to know yet. She needed time to sort things out. She didn’t know what God wanted her to do.

Stephanie invited Brad to a party she was having at her house. She was overjoyed at his attendance there and she once again had an evening of quality conversation, lots of laughs and many good times. It was after this party that Stephanie went public about her feelings for Brad. She told only her closest friends so they might be praying for her. Christmas turned to New Year’s and Stephanie was then invited to Brad’s party. She was so nervous that she could barely speak to anyone in attendance (plus she didn’t know anyone there besides Brad). She left the party early, but not before she made a new friend named, Tim. She liked Tim from the moment she met him and within fifteen minutes thought, “This is a quality guy.”

Stephanie, Rebecca, Tim and Brad began spending a lot of time together. They went out to eat, they played games of skill, they watched movies, and became very close. Stephanie looked forward to their times together. She felt safe. She felt she could be open. She felt like she could be herself, because she didn’t fear judgment from her friends. This continued for several months and Stephanie began to thank God daily for the blessing of her friends.

Then, after the best week ever, Stephanie and Brad were finally able to talk about what was going on. This was some scary, big stuff, and they’re working through it to figure out what to do. The best part of Stephanie and Brad is that they both care more about what God wants than what they want. Because of this, they know that He is going to work all of it out, and that everything is going to be okay. They are not afraid. They are taking God at His word, and they trust and have faith in Him. It’s exciting times and it’s scary times, but they know that no matter what happens, there will always be good times.

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.

365 Years per Day

Well, here it is. Don’t act surprised to find a new post here today. I’m not. What does surprise me is my apparent lack for words now that it comes to it. I even took the day off so that I could have time alone to be with my thoughts and contemplate my emotions, attempting to put them down in 10 point font.

What I recognize most is my seeming inability to cry. Why is that? Maybe because it’s been a year. Maybe it’s because I’m only closer to God now than I was then. Maybe it has to do with all the blessings I’ve received over the past year. Maybe God won’t let me stay in that place of sorrow and loneliness and anger.

But I feel like I should still cry and should still be able to cry. In a way, crying brings Stephanie close to me. And in a way, crying brings me close to God. It’s a reminder. And, for as hard as it feels to cry, it’s even harder to be able to cry. Or so it seems. It’s when I’m not trying — and least expect it — that I read something or see something or remember something. And my eyes drain.


And I find it hard to be sad. I really try. I miss Stephanie and I miss that part of me. I keep trying to transport myself to those days back then when I felt everything so deeply and when the thoughts just dripped from my fingers onto my keyboard. But while I have some good moments of crying hard, it’s usually hard not to be okay. It’s hard to forget how gracious God has been to me throughout all of this and throughout my life.

Every day for the past year has each felt like a year in and of itself, and yet the last year is just a blur. The days blend together better than fruit in a smoothie, and yesterday becomes the day we were still together. I’ve been saying so often that I don’t think the heart knows how to believe the loss of a loved one. It holds on forever. But it can still go on. And so I do, with or without a choice. I just wish I didn’t feel so old because of this.

I don’t have a choice because of God. Despite what came a year ago, He’s given me so much grace and so many reasons to feel blessed. Even today, as I sat alone to think and read and write, the pastors of my church came across my path — and they prayed for me. And it reminds me that God understands my sense of humor. I’m a dork and love a good pun. I call moments like that “puns of life” — what some people would call coincidence is more often God doing something really cool that makes me smile. It’s so completely random, and yet is not surprising at all in the economy of God.

So where does that leave me? I try to cry, and He makes me smile. I ache to hurt, but laugh for joy. I hate the past, excited for the future. I ask God the questions, and He tests me first. Where have I come in the past year? What have I made of my time? How have I grown and learned and made use of what God has given me, both good and bad? Those are the things I can’t stop pondering.

So much for not having anything to say.

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.

And now we come to it

I feel like I’ve been waiting for this for 365 years rather than days, anticipating what it will be. The worst anniversary I could ever imagine is now upon me as October begins. 1. 3. 13. Though strangely related and all prime, what would otherwise be arbitrary numbers in any other scenario weigh infinitely heavy when they follow the seven letters representing the tenth month.

October 1, 2010 was Stephanie’s last birthday. God’s grace, once again, was in full force, as He put it in my mind to take that Friday off of work to spend the day with her – something I don’t think I did any year previously. It is a sobering thought to realize that at the time, I could never have imagined what would enter our lives just two days later.

Speaking of, that day is fast approaching when I can no longer say “a year ago, Stephanie and I…” And it will feel even sooner after that when I will be saying “two years ago” or “five years ago.” I fear the steady train into the future that will leave her standing at the station so far back on the horizon. I fear my memories will fade just as the miles fade our visibility.

On October 3, I’ll resort to thinking how that date in 2010 was the last day I was with her, talking to her. And I’m remembering that in the best way I can figure how, by having a bake sale in her honor. My coworkers especially knew Stephanie because of the treats she sent to work with me. I’m convinced she somehow found a way to bake into everything she made the pure joy she had from being in her kitchen, creating. And joy tastes absolutely wonderful! Dear friends of mine have also taken that idea and put together a cookbook of her/our favorite recipes, some created by her and others simply tweaked by her. Knowing that other people can have those recipes and continue to share some of her magic will make every morsel even sweeter.

I’ve also made the decision, once again, to experience the emotions as deeply as humanly possible. It might sound crazy to some, but it’s the only conclusion I can make. And to accomplish it, I plan to read each of my posts from a year ago as related to when those events happened. I want to remember what I was experiencing. I want to remember how God was at work. Remembering how my spirit broke is to remember how much He loves me and how deeply He sees me.

To put it concisely, I want to remember what God has done for me in 365 days.


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.