Happy Anniversary

Dear Mike,

We have gone through some difficult things… some Very difficult things in our lifetime. Our 34th year won the prize. The death of our Katelyn has been the most painful experience of our lives . Grief offers no mercies but is quick to generously magnify poor habits and shout loudly of our weaknesses. Hardship tends to highlight our greatest foes. If feels as though our one flesh has been taken out to the back alley and beaten. Being true to ourselves and grieving as differently as night and day felt like a dividing wall between us. Oh, the things you don’t think about prior to actually experiencing it but, honestly, who prepares for the death of a child? A person cannot prepare for something that they have never tasted. What a year!
There have been days when we had to remind each other to simply breath and days that we didn’t want to. One can’t prepare for the mixture of true joy because we know Katelyn is in the presence of the One we love so dearly and the anguish because she is not with us.
Four years ago today, after a whirlwind week of passing each other as we were rushing Katelyn from one appointment to another, a major surgery on the 9th, my birthday, we finally stole a moment and went to the waiting room. It was the first we had even tried to talk about what was happening. I remember the words like they were just spoken. We sat across a small table from each other and grabbed each other’s hands and this is what we spoke.
Me: Hi
You: Happy Anniversary
Me: Happy Anniversary to you too. (We smiled) It’s really good to look at your face.
Me: Our daughter has cancer.
You: Yes, she does.
Me: She could die from cancer.
You: Yes, she could.
Me: Will we trust God either way?
You: Absolutely!
This is the only serious conversation we ever had and it was sufficient. When we attempted to have another conversation we always returned this one. I thank you for the simplicity of the faith we share. It truly is a great gift to me.
Today I celebrate you and thank you for who you are. Your tenderness, humility and vulnerability have branded you “Hero” in my world. Statements such as “I am not afraid of tears, yours or mine.”, “My heart is broken” and “I miss my girl” deem you the most macho man I have ever known. You don’t walk around pain to avoid it. You take the shortest route. Sometimes straight up over the jagged mountain range to get to the top and have the greatest view. These are the practices of a mighty man that is willing to take the high road and trust God to guide him through the paths that appear impossible, all the while knowing where your strength comes from. What an example you are to me and those around you. I love you so much.
The last few years have been difficult in many ways, losing our main home, moving six times, Katelyn being diagnosed with cancer and getting married 3 weeks later, going through many treatments then passing away. Grief is difficult enough but to watch our other children and grand children grieve so deeply multiplies a broken heart. I have never experienced such pain. We became empty nesters, endured a 3 year grueling IRS audit that paralleled Katelyn’s diagnosis, treatment and death. We slogged through what felt like the betrayal of a dear friend then restoration. We must laugh that experiencing the beginning stages of menopause was the cherry on top of this Sundae!
It’s easy to list hardship. I didn’t even mention all of the big things but I only list them as a reminder of where we stand today and what it took to stand here. We have made declarations in faith and been faithful to them for the most part and fell short at times. Distinguishing the fine line between grief and self-pity is another piece to this puzzle. These are real questions, real moments and hours of our days. I often think back on the day after Katelyn died, when we were at the zoo with the whole family. You asked me how I was holding it together. We revisit that moment on a regular basis because my answer was filled with prophetic hope. I said, “Today is no different than any other day that we walk with the Lord. We will not walk in shame, fear or regret. Regret is a counterfeit that the world would include in the process of grief. We have lived our lives with a focus on doing ‘today’ well so we don’t have to experience the regrets of yesterday. We will not walk in fear! The world encourages looking at the mistakes and regrets of yesterday instead of the hope of tomorrow. We will keep our eyes focused on the hope offered to us.”
This prologue is to be framed with the truth of today and the gratitude that fills me. Thank you for standing with me as we have pointed our feet in the same direction, gripped hands when we really didn’t feel like it and didn’t allow the dividing wall of grief to separate us or poor habits and inflamed weaknesses to pull us apart. I have truly experienced your strength this year and appreciate your “Lion” heart. I thank you for loving so deeply, for your example of commitment and your complete devotion to your family. I look forward to taking the victories of this year into our 35th year, the Silver year. Silver is a symbol of redemption, the price of a soul. Though we can’t see it now because it is still too close to us, still too fresh, I believe that our 34th year was a polishing for the treasured years to come. I am grateful for your steadfast heart. I am grateful for your unfailing commitment. I am grateful for you!
I love you sweet man. Happy 34th Anniversary!