This is the second year I’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving without you. After you died, there was a shadow that hung over every memory of you because of the gravity of your absence. Holidays, special days, and milestones have been some of my hardest times because they amplify the memories we made and the unfulfilled futures we had planned. In the lowest places, authentic happiness seemed impossible, and each step into the future without you felt unbearable. Yet, grief has been one of the greatest classrooms into which I never wanted to enter. God has been teaching me a lot about who He is, who I am, and what it means to be strengthened by Him. Slowly, I have started to be able to enjoy things again. The boys and I are doing well, and I think you would be proud of us. We have been creating new family traditions for special days and the times in between. They ask about you often, and I am delighted to tell them stories about who you were and what you liked. We smile and laugh in remembrance of you.
This particular holiday is all about thankfulness, and it’s those cheek-to-cheek grins I’m thanking God for today. The time we had together was a treasure from Him, and I’m grateful to you for the ways that you honored that gift, lived life to the fullest, and loved us so well.
Thank you for keeping your vows. You had me and you held me, when I was lovely but also when my inside ugliness came out at you. In good times and hard times, in laughter and tears, through prayer and with honesty you stayed by me. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we were rich in love. Even though you won’t be here all of my days, I’m grateful that I got to stand beside you until the end of yours. Thank you for your enduring faithfulness.
Thank you for leaving me or letting me go alone sometimes. There were several times throughout our short marriage when I had to learn how to do all the things without you. Sometimes you were gone on an overnight work shift or a youth trip, other times you encouraged me to spend a week at my parents’ home or have a girls weekend. When we were absent from each other, I learned how to kill the bugs, what to do when the car broke down and where to find the key to our safe. Those times prepared me more than almost anything to be a single parent.
Thank you for making me feel beautiful. I have aways struggled with my body image, but when you held me in your arms and looked at me the way that you did, I felt that I could be the most gorgeous person on the planet. I miss that.
Thank you for making mistakes. We fought a lot. We hurt each other other a lot. You were not a perfect husband, a dad devoid of anger or a friend without flaws… so you made a way for grace; you lead the way to apologizing and accepting forgiveness. I have many faults. I was not always a good wife, I’m sometimes an awful mom, and I didn’t always take time to listen. But your example of asking forgiveness for every single failure deeply impacted me. You lead me to the cross, and to accepting the truth that Jesus has already taken my punishment and erased the laundry list of our sins.
Thank you for maintaining healthy relationships with your parents. When I entered your family even before you and I were married, I treasured time with them because you held it dear. As I witnessed the way that you loved and respected each other I learned how to also have a healthy, loving relationship with them. I could not have asked for better in-laws. They took me into their hearts as their own daughter, and I still call them Mom and Dad.
Thank you for dragging me to church. I’ll be honest here, you knew it and I knew it, but there were many mornings that I just wanted to sleep in. Especially as a newlywed, the last thing I wanted to do was leap up and out into the cold to see people I didn’t yet know. But you kept insisting, and I kept going. Because of our continued involvement in church — as attendees, volunteers and eventually the youth pastor’s family, we made friendships that may last a lifetime. When you died, the Church came alongside me and our families to uplift and support us. People from churches across the midwest, and even some from other parts of the globe, reached out to me with letters, food, financial support, and practical help. It has been nearly two years and help is still coming. Thank you for insisting that I continue being part of the Church family.
Thank you for encouraging my friendships. One of my friends said at your memorial that she appreciated your generosity with my time… and I do too. I will never forget that the reason I met the person who is now my best friend is that you insisted on it. When you were lying in a bed from which you would never get up, and all I wanted in the world was to talk with you, I had friends who let me fall on their shoulders.
Thank you for doing the dishes… and most of the other housework, when I was pregnant. Through your words and actions, you showed me time after time that my needs (and wants) were more important to you than your own.
Thank you for playing with our children. On a walk the other day I pushed a double stroller as our boys talked with each other. Plenty of cars passed loudly, and drowned out the sound of their conversation, but through a pause in traffic I heard Bingham say to his little brother, “Daddy loved us, did you know that? He used to tickle us. We loved that…” Now, when I tickle my boys or wrestle with them, they smile more brightly than at any other time. I think it is because their Daddy taught them that sometimes the best way to relate is to play on the ground together and laugh.
Thank you for leaving your handwritten words. You were never fond of your penmanship, but I am so grateful that you engaged with me in my love language in this way that I can keep forever. This note hangs out in a box on my desk at work, and I pull it out whenever I need encouragement.
Thank you for insisting on discussing “just in case.” I didn’t want to have those conversations about what we would do if one of us died before the other, especially not before gray hair. But you told me your thoughts anyway. In the days and weeks after you died, your instructions provided a practical map for my next steps.
I have learned a lot in your absence. I’m thankful for the way you prepared me when you were here.
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. – Philippians 1:3-5