Grieving with the Wife of a Hero: 'She Talked About Dancing on the Beach'
They loved each other like a husband and wife were meant to love.
The woman that sat in front of me was an amazing person. I wish that I could describe to you the amount of courage this person has. She has been able to move forward, sometimes just inches at a time, during a period of trial most will never know. And she does so with integrity and a brutal honesty that can make you uncomfortable if you’re not ready for it. So if you ask her “How are you?”, just be ready for a real answer.
Several weeks ago I wrote a post entitled “The World Lost a Hero Today”. And by the fact that my good friend Wil was such an amazing person it was the second most read post for November and one of my most read posts ever. He was a great husband, father, son, brother, mentor and friend. And after the celebration and burial, life as it so cruelly can do, went marching on. Day slowly crept into another day and another and eventually turned into weeks. People got back to their daily routines and life went on. Not to say there hasn’t been plenty of mourning for those left behind, because there has. But life has a way of ushering you along whether you’re ready for it or not.
But one woman struggles along in a different place than the rest of us; Wil’s wife. In the days since his death we have talked about many things and the one thing she mentions over and over is the love they shared. Sure she has her up and down days and she’ll continue to have them. She will struggle with questions of the five children that she cares for (along with the help of family) as a single mom. But she’ll struggle differently than most. Not because she’s superwoman or because she knows some secret that the rest of us aren’t privy to. It’s because of the love she shared with her husband.
I met with her this past week and I walked away asking myself if I left this place suddenly would my absence be felt like that? What I mean is that he lived his life so intentionally when it came to his wife and kids that they feel it being gone. Do I love my wife so intentionally that my kids notice it now? Would they feel the absence of my love for their mother were I gone?
We sat in a coffee shop on a cold day and sipped on our drinks. She had a tea and I my coffee. It was cold enough outside that I kept my coat on throughout the conversation; you know those kinds of days. We shared the regular pleasantries and then I asked “How are you doing?” She looked at me for a second and said “I don’t know how to answer that question anymore”. And with that answer we began a 2 hour dive into their lives together. Oh we took a detour or two about something happening now but for the most part our talk centered on the two of them.
I loved being the audience for the retelling of a terrific love story. I am a sucker for a well told story and they had one. They met each other after some chaotic times in their lives. They came together during the lull after the storm. Both of them were looking for more than just a casual dating relationship and she wasn’t really looking at all. But something about the two of them…call it fate or God but whatever it was drew them to one another. It was the proverbial moth to the flame. The early momentum propelled them into a life together. It wasn’t a charmed fairytale like life. They had their battles like any real life couple but they had each other. They held on to each other like the life raft they were, she was his and he was hers. Just the two of them in this vast ocean called life.
What soon followed were children, one and then another and another and another and then finally another. Whether planned or a surprise each little baby bringing their unique personality to a home filled with love, a love that started with Wil and Tonya.
She talked to be about loving and being loved deeply, of how they loved each other more today than when they first married. We all say that, but the reality is that’s hard to accomplish. She talked about getting to a place of contentment with Wil, of how she loved being his wife and how he loved being her husband.
They recently had taken a trip to California, just the two of them. He was presiding over a wedding there and they got to take some much needed time off—together. She talked about dancing on the beach with him, the smell of the ocean breeze, the music playing for them and them alone and how in that moment she realized just how truly happy they were together. God had brought them together and blessed the life they lived in Him.
She looked at me and with a smile said that they loved each other deep and they loved each other good. She said they loved each other like a husband and wife were meant to love.
The love they shared in their marriage created a happy home. I’ve heard the old quote that said, “The best thing a father can do for his children is love their mother”. And if that is true then Wil did what he was called to do as a husband and father.
As the time came for us to leave I looked at my watch and was amazed at how quickly the time had flown. I loved hearing her talk about him and how they fell in love. I loved seeing her face light up each time his name escape her lips. I loved noticing the slight change in her demeanor when those old memories came flooding to the surface. We said our goodbyes and made tentative plans to get our families together.
I walked away thinking about my wife. I thought about all the days that have gone by and how we usually take them for granted.
Think about it.
When was the last time you stopped and looked at your spouse or significant other? Just really looked at them and marveled that you met someone that loves you like they do? Or perhaps you are a single parent. When was the last time you looked at your child and wondered how you got so lucky as to have him, or her, for your child?
As I drove back to work all kinds of thoughts bounced around in my head. Did I love my wife that intentionally? Did my kids see me love her like that? Am I being a good enough husband to teach my daughter about the kind of man she needs in her life and to teach my son what kind of man he needs to be?
I hate that it was the death of my very good friend that made me ask these questions but I am here none the less. And I am striving to be that kind of husband for my wife and for my children’s sake.
If it is indeed true that the BEST thing I can do for my kids is to love my wife like that then I better get to it.
I’m not promised tomorrow.