*Big thanks to my friend Judy Woolf, who has lived a love story in front of me and set a great example of what real love is, in good times and bad. Love you, Judy, and you too, George. Happy anniversary to one of the most amazing couples I know.*
This story of love and gratitude began 38 years ago today on Feb 14, 1975, when my sweet Valentine proposed! It actually began 4 ½ years earlier with a blind date, but that’s a story for another day. Although he was one of the kindest, gentlest, most compassionate people I have ever known, he rarely showed that through overt action. This day he came through in spades! I guess when it is most often subtle, those rare moments are all the more meaningful. His romance would sneak up on me and just overwhelm. I remember one day during our first year when he came home from work and said he had to put in days for vacation. When I looked at his dates, one week was during the time of our one-year wedding anniversary. What man would think of that? Overwhelmed! He just made me smile – a lot!
Our life together was not always easy, but always full of joy and contentment and commitment. I never questioned his love for me, and I think he felt that in return. I have often told people I was fully committed to living the rest of my life with that man! But another fateful February day changed that when on Feb 2, 2009, he slipped into eternity. February now had a whole new feel for me, full of sorrow and grief and questions and . . . I don’t even know how some of the feelings can be described. How are you supposed to go on when you had worked so hard at this “two becoming one” thing, and now you are no longer whole? Then I happened upon some writings of C.S. Lewis, “A Grief Observed”, that he had penned after the death of his wife. In it he discovers that we must be careful to separate our emotions of the loss with the memories of the person else those memories become tainted with sadness. So therefore, I choose to be grateful for the time we did have together. And now you can be grateful that I turn to the gratitude part of this.
I am so grateful for our three beautiful daughters that our union produced. Each so unique in their own ways, yet to me they each also mirror a little of their father.
Sarah has such a sweet spirit, loyal, tender-hearted; Cindy has a quiet resolve about her, competitive, steadfast, committed (but not always so quiet); and our February blessing, Amy, is her own self, has a special sense of humor, and has developed into a strong woman and just the best mother around to our next February blessing, Georgia Leigh. Two years ago, this little sweetheart came along and again changed the feel of February. We celebrate her life as his namesake and know that he would have been just the best “Grandpa George”.
I am so grateful for the time we had together, the lessons learned, the things he taught me. George was content to be at home with his girls around him. Or to be at their ballgames cheering them on and encouraging them and their teammates. I think he had an extra dose of the gift of encouragement. And time with family was important to him.
George did not finish college – I did – yet I never felt smarter than him (well, maybe in some things, but generally, no). God endowed him with a special wisdom. He became my sounding board, always had a wise word, but never too quickly. Again, his words carried weight because they did not come fast and furious.
George taught me many things, like maximize the positives, minimize the negatives. Also, the importance of reading instruction manuals, the most valuable one being that one for life, the Holy Bible. He spent time there, thus arriving at aforementioned wisdom.
No story of love and gratitude would be complete without focusing a little time on the ultimate Love, and gratefulness for the eternal Hope found in Jesus Christ.
These last four years have not been easy, but my faith has never wavered. I think maybe the Lord gave George some “Hezekiah days” (look it up). Three years before, he had a pretty serious health scare that could have resulted in death, but the Lord saw fit to leave him yet a while with us. During those years we had opportunity to grow in our faith together and spend a lot of time just the two of us together. I am so grateful now for those days; they are so special to me. Did the Lord provide that as preparation for what was too soon to come? Maybe. It is hard for me to worship now without my soul mate and with a broken heart, yet my faith remains strong. It is a puzzlement. I am still at times mad at God, question God, and cry out to God. Yet Scripture promises that His mercies are new every day and I hold to that.
There is a popular worship song that has a fitting message by which to close.
It says, “Higher than the mountains that I face, stronger than the power of the grave, constant in the trial and the change, one thing remains: His love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me. On and on and on and on it goes. It overwhelms and satisfies my soul.”
And this old hymn speaks to me about that unexplainable peace that passes understanding which only comes through faith and knowing this Great Love:
“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul.”