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My father has always been a man of great faith in God, though it has often gone unspoken; it's just so ingrained in him, that he doesn't really see a need to talk about it.

When my mother passed away on 23 May 1998, it was, needless to say, a highly emotional time for me, and a time of testing of faith -- she was only forty-seven, and died of breast cancer. It was observing the way my father dealt with it that I was able to get through the sad days that followed.

In December of 1998, my father sent an email/letter out to several family and friends, in which he addressed how he was doing in the wake of mom's death. I was quite moved by the letter -- my father is not one who expresses emotion well or often, and for him to so eloquently write was an amazing thing.






Dear Family,

It's been seven months now since Deb's death. I know a letter like this is long overdue but it has been difficult to compose -- not because I have trouble dealing with the issues at hand but because I want to be able to convey to you my true feelings. Very rarely has there seemingly been the right opportunity for any good conversations about “things” with any of you. I suspect most of you often wonder and yet never ask. I'll admit that I get a little tired of the rhetorical questionHow are you doing?” I almost always feel obligated to say, “Okay.” I always wonder if people are asking just to be polite or if they really want to hear what's going through my head. For what it's worth, it has never bothered me to talk about any part of all of this. My main concern is that because I tend to tear up easily when I start talking about the good things, I will make those around me uncomfortable. Don't ever hesitate to ask me anything -- but be prepared.

My basic feeling is that we're doing much better than most families do. We're probably doing as good as anybody is able to do. Shawn and Jason, of course, are never around for me to get much of a feel for. Hopefully they are able to find whomever they need to talk with to work their way through things when they need it. Corey is probably “closer” to me than any of the other kids ever have been. We seem to talk about all kinds of things -- including Deb -- all of the time. I have never sensed any trouble spots. He's grown up a lot this past year -- we all have. I have relied heavily on Tina to be Megan's “special person.” Megan hears a lot of what Corey and I talk about but usually does not participate much -- but at the same time, she never runs off to her room to avoid hearing what is being said. The responses I have gotten from Tina, her teacher Mrs. Voss, and her principal Mrs. Clingman, have always been positive and never of concern.

I have started going to two different support groups --one in Washington and one in Jefferson City. Oddly enough, I am not going because I feel I am having any trouble coping with Deb's death. My motivation is principally twofold. One to meet new people and develop new friendships with people who have lost their spouse. My second reason for going is that somewhere in all of this I feel the desire to try to somehow help other people work through these times. I'm not sure yet what this feeling is all about or exactly where it will take me -- I just know that it's an itch I need to scratch. I guess a third reason for going is that it's just simply something different to do and I feel comfortable doing it. I have wondered if and asked Corey & Megan if they have ever had the desire to meet and talk with other kids that have lost one of their parents. On more than one occasion they have both indicated “no.” Because I don't see any signs of trouble, I've seen no reason to pursue it for them. I suspect that anybody pushed into going to this sort of thing will be naturally resistant to it and would not get much out of it.

From the very beginning of all of this, we had been totally open and honest with the kids about everything – both from the perspective of what was going on and what we were feeling. No person could ever hope for a better mother for their children than Deb has been to ours. I believe that our kids have heard us talk about good values in our lives and more importantly have seen us live those values. They have seen how we have worked through bad times before and I believe genuinely understand our thinking. This has been a major factor in how well they have been able to deal with her death so far.

I am convinced that God has been preparing us for Deb's death for many years. We certainly didn't know it was coming but I can find a lot of meaning in many events of the past years. I think back to the last few years before the 1993 Flood. I had gotten to the point where I just absolutely hated every aspect of being self-employed and in the TV business. I would let every little thing that went wrong get to me. I knew I was not happy and yet I didn't do anything about it. I was afraid to change and (looking back) I think I actually liked being miserable because it gave me an excuse to feel sorry for myself. When the flood hit it was God's way of “kicking me out of the nest.” I had to do something. The first order of business was the house -- getting it moved and then back into it. After all of that started to settle down it was time to get on with a career change. Sometimes I feel I could write a book about all of the episodes that were part of all of these changes. There are some very valuable lessons that have been learned.

A key lesson is that changes, major changes in one's life really aren't necessarily as scary as most of us would like to think they are -- especially when we are able to look back on them. There are two adages that I think are particularly appropriate here. One is that “anything really worth having in this life has to be worked for” or “nothing worth having is free.” (You get the general drift.) Another adage is something to the effect that “facing the biggest challenges in our lives often produces the most satisfying rewards.” The way the house has turned out (so far) and the way my career change has turned out are both prime examples that these adages are true. I have seen time after time how bad things evolve into good and how good times come after the bad. The lessons learned over the years of these events have been a major factor in preparing me for what I am now dealing with. To describe Deb's death as being a “bad thing” is obviously a gross understatement. Yes, these times are tough but I have absolute faith that good times are ahead again. I have no idea with whom or in what time frame -- but good times are ahead. That unshakable faith is the key thing that keeps me going a lot of the time. I know that things will never be the same as they were. Some things are gone forever but new, different, better things are on the horizon. Experiencing the death of your spouse reorients one's thinking about a lot of things.

I am constantly searching for ways to explain to others how I feel about a lot of things. The best example to use that I have come up with is Highway 19. Almost all of you know where the big hole is where the road washed out in the 1993 Flood. That huge hole represents the emptiness I feel with the loss of Deb. In time -- who knows how much? -- I will be able to fill enough of the hole to cross it again and eventually will have a good, strong road in place. Today, as you drive across the highway, you can look down on both sides of the road and see that a fair amount of the hole remains –- filled with water. These areas represent the aspects of my life that are gone and will never be back. If you will think back to how the highway was before the washout, you will remember that there was no hole, but that the old road was much lower, much narrower, and with no shoulders to speak of. We all took it for granted -- we “didn't know any better” -- we didn't really ever think about how much better that road could be. We just drove across it all of the time without thinking. That represents how I felt (and an awfully lot of other people feel) about marriage relationships and relationships with people in general. If you look at the road as it is today, you see it much higher, much wider, much stronger, but the holes along side it are still there. You can now look back and realize just how lacking the old road was. The new road represents where I am headed. There are aspects of companionship and relationships in general that I see quite differently now. I will never take this new road for granted like I did the old one because I think about that old road every time I drive across the new one. As I drive across, I also look down into the holes that remain and think about what has been lost forever. Those of you that were around will remember the thousands of loads of dirt (and millions of dollars) it took to rebuild that road. Right now, I think of myself as starting to haul dirt. I'm not sure how many other people are helping me haul and I have no idea who is hauling from the other side or how many delays we will have -- but the work has begun. I know there's no future in driving around the hole for the rest of my life and I'm tired of standing on the edge of the hole and just looking down into it and trying to figure out just how deep it is or how far across it is or how many loads of dirt it's going to take to bridge it. Only God knows those answers. I just know that if I don't start hauling, it will never get done and life is too short to not get started.

God has a plan for all of us. One of the biggest challenges we face in our lives is to recognize where we fit into His plan: Where should we be? What should we be doing? I believe that those of us that can recognize our part in His plan and then accept it by doing what He wants us to do (“doing our part”) are the happiest in this lifetime. We simply aren't fighting everybody about everything all of the time. I see all that has taken place with the house and my job as being testament to this. I could not be happier with either of them.

The tough part of believing in God's plan for us is to accept it when the bad things happen -- like Deb's death. There are so many questions that come up that we will simply never find an answer to in this lifetime. Trying to find these answers will just drive us insane -- there's no point in even trying. I have seen so much good come out of and after bad that I have absolute faith in His plan for us and when it comes to searching for the tough answers, I really don't try. I figure it's OK to wonder about God's plan for us once in a while just as long as we don't question it.

We can all find as much good or as much bad about things in life as we want to. Dwelling on the bad just makes us miserable and makes us miserable people to be around. Life is just too short for that. I constantly think about the good things about Deb: her life, our life together. Except for the (obvious) fact that God called her home from us, I find it really hard to find anything bad enough about it to mention. I sincerely hope that all of you can find comfort in all of the good things and accept the bad, your bad as just being part of God's plan for us. He does know what's best for all of us.

Deb was a remarkable human being. I have often felt that a good epitaph for her is three simple words -- “Teacher and Friend.” She was a friend to everyone she ever met and I think she taught something to all who ever knew her. We should all be thankful for the years that God graced our lives with her presence. As we all move forward through this holiday season, into the new year, and on through the rest of our lives let's try to dwell on the good things in our lives and be more appreciative of them. Lets not try to understand the bad -- there's just no future in it.

Best Wishes,
Dave

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