He Says Thank You
By Pat Schwiebert, R.N.
Many years had passed since she died before her husband was ready to settle in with another wonderful woman to be his wife. The children from that first family, now adults and living on their own, have grown to love his new wife, but she’s not their mother.
He and his former wife were close. An amazing couple. Shared the same values and wanted a family. So they created a solid one. They had three children—two girls and a boy. Though college educated and having a career of her own, she chose to be a stay-at-home mom being fully active in the lives of her family and her church. Her skills at cooking and sewing were unparalleled. She was a homemaker extraordinaire. She could make decorations out of anything and didn’t mind working late into the night to finish costumes or preparations for a birthday party. There was celebration woven into everything she touched.
But she died 15 years ago leaving a big hole in the hearts and lives of her children and husband. He now became the main parent, doing much of what she had always done for their kids.
He was always a good parent, but like many fathers, was not always as present as he might have been, because he was the breadwinner of the family and away from home much of most days. So naturally, because she was at home and he was not, she was the primary parent.
When she died, the youngest was then 15. This required him to take on the position of dad, single parent, bereaved husband, homemaker and breadwinner. Through her death, and though not sure he could do and be all of this, or whether he even wanted to live without her, he became a super dad, establishing deeper connections with his kids and doing much of what she had done, finding ways to shop and take their youngest to violin lessons and be there to cook and eat dinner with her. He particularly made sure that the old family traditions were not forgotten and holiday treats continued to be made and shared. All of the children now know how to make the mints she always prepared for special occasions.
Finally, the oldest child, now 41, has found the love of her life. We were so excited for her as we shared her wedding last week. Had her mother still been alive, she no doubt would have made her daughter’s wedding gown, but a beautiful one was found to suit the day. The bride, siblings and father made decorations, folded napkins in a decorative style, created a beautiful handmade wedding program, ironed tablecloths, and gifted the wedding guests with homemade sweets, just like their mother would have done.
It was a beautiful day. One of the most joyful, lovely, fun and sacred wedding days I’ve experienced. We laughed and we cried and we remembered together. When dad gave his toast to his radiant daughter, he spoke of their deep connection, sharing both joy and sorrow through the years. He talked about the ways she was so much like her mother and so much like him.
Even though she has been dead for fifteen years, this loving father has kept their mother alive and present for his children. Yes, it felt like she was present for the wedding and in all other parts of their lives because the father made sure that she and all that she had brought to the family were kept alive.
In grief, we can make choices that can carry us forward to a new and grace filled life. This means choosing not to be trapped in the past because nothing else will be as good as it was, but being willing to live in gratitude for what we have been given. Through her death he was given the opportunity to have rich and meaningful relationships with his children. She gave him that gift. And he says thank you.