Temperatures have reached the upper 80s here in New England, and we’re enjoying lazy summer evenings now that school has ended. Because of ongoing COVID limitations, we have nowhere we need to go, nothing we need to do. So after the evening meal is finished and dishes are cleared, the five of us sit around and play cards and talk.
One night this week, the kids and I sat after dinner, eating salt water taffy. Casual conversation eased into talking about how Rob’s death has changed us, about how we’re feeling as we approach the mind-boggling one year mark next month. We don’t reflect as a whole family like this as much as we did in the early months; that’s just not the season we are in right now. So when conversation turned, I settled in and listened closely.
As the kids shared, I was humbled by their depth of insight, honored by their willingness to be honest, and amazed at their innate wiring toward resilience. I looked around the table at the four of them and thought, “They’re doing this so well.” For the first time since Rob died, I felt I could tell myself confidently, “They’re going to be okay.” Each one is working out his or her grief in age appropriate ways. They are integrating their loss into their emerging selves. I know that grief will take a different shape in their lives as they grow and change, that it will always travel with them. But I also know they can do this brave thing and walk this hard road. They have what it takes. All four have done hard work this year, and I am so proud of them.
“Grief is different for kids than it is for adults,” one of them said that night, and I heartily agreed. As an adult, a wife and a mother, I don’t grieve like they do. Furthermore, they each grieve differently from each other, according to their ages, their personalities, their deep inner wirings. These last eleven months, I have tried always to remember that this is a collective and a solitary journey for each of us. Honestly, holding that posture has made it difficult to parent and lead many times. It’s like cooking a different dinner for every person at the table. At every meal. Every day. Lots of customized, single-serving work. Very little overlap.
It’s like cooking a different dinner for every person at the table. At every meal. Every day. Lots of customized, single-serving work. Very little overlap.
But as I listened to the voices around the table, I knew for sure that all that work has been worth it. To see my children ready to stretch their wings, to see them willing to take risks and try new things — what a joy to see that our year of grief has not killed their young spirits! Instead, their post-loss growth makes me believe even more fervently the truth I’ve always told them: each of them is and will be such a gift to the world. My vision for them has always been one of resilience. Of allowing the pain of loss to mark them but not break them. Of carrying love and sorrow in the same hand, engaging the world with kingdom longing and resurrection hope.
Lots of times I talk about the investment of parenting Rob and I did together for all those years. I am firmly convinced that foundation has been critical for my children’s survival this last year. I say that I couldn’t have done it without him. And yet, now that is exactly what I have been called to do. In the successes and failures of this last year of solo parenting, I hope I have also created a solid foundation for them on my own. It’s an accomplishment I’m still unsure about acknowledging. But the reality is: I’ve worked my tail off for them in many ways they’ll never notice.
After one of our children narrated a story from history or explained a math concept to Rob, he would always say, “You have a good teacher.” The kids would laugh and respond, “But Mommy is my teacher!” As I reflect on how far we’ve come in these last eleven months, I feel Rob’s words again over me as a blessing. If he could see how we’ve navigated this last year, how the kids have grown in the midst of loss, I believe he’d tell them the same: “You have a good teacher.” I always told Rob I would give our children the very best I had as I guided their education. Now that I parent and lead alone, I have to trust that my very best has been enough.
When we hiked as a family, one of Rob’s favorite parts of the hike was looking back at the way we’d come. I remember standing atop a huge red cliff in Zion National Park. The kids wandered around looking for lizards, and Rob and I traced our path back as far as our eyes could see. Eventually, the trail wound around a bend and disappeared beyond our view.
As I stand at this eleven month mark and look back, I am amazed we have survived so strenuous a path. Little legs unprepared for such a walk of grief. Tender hearts unready for the perils of navigating a life of loss. The five of us have brought a lot of grit and family love to the task. But as my eyes trace the trail we’ve taken since the day Rob died, I know we own no credit for where we stand today. Instead, we owe all praise to the One who knew we’d walk this path — yea, who in mysterious love ordained it — before we ever knew it ourselves.
I am sure without a doubt that the Lord Jesus met Rob as he fell that day, eleven months ago today. That even as Rob’s eyes closed to this life, the Lord Jesus opened his eyes to life everlasting. I believe with full assurance that this man I love was carried gently in the strong arms of the Shepherd who loved him before the foundation of the world. That though Rob’s earthly days were numbered, they were also wisely, graciously ordered.
Even as our path continues without him, I believe these things are true for us too. We too are beloved. We too are carried. Our steps also are ordered. Now, on the cusp of a year without my precious husband, I choose to trust God’s path for us even as it wends on beyond what I can see. Eleven months down, a lifetime to go. Now and always, I trust that His glory will guide us in perfect peace.
All praise to the Rock Eternal.
All glory to Him who was and who is and who is to come.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus.