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Saturday, January 9, 2010

My Struggles and My Joys

  Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
In my last blog I said I was going to write about my next anniversary...the day Ginger and I met.  I had intended to write this blog during the Christmas break when "I had a lot of free time."  Well it is Jan 9th and I finally sitting down to write, I guess I did not have as much free time as I thought. So I sit down at 6am on Saturday morning and begin a blog I have wanted to write but struggled with for a while.

I think there is a reason it has taken me this long to write this blog.  I have always written with honesty because this blog is as much a record for me to read as it is for others.  It is difficult to lose a spouse, but for me it was not so much the obvious pains you think about it has been difficult in other ways that I did not anticipate.  Maybe it was the 4+year struggle with death that made the moment of losing Andrea less traumatic. It has taken me this long to write this blog in part because it has taken me this long to understand my feelings.  Maybe if I gad gone to counseling I would have understood this sooner, but that is water under the bridge.  Maybe this blog is my counseling?

I'm sure if you have read this blog very long you have noticed my blogs reflect backwards on my life with Andrea.  I have felt a sense of loyalty to Andrea and in some way to write about Ginger is to cheat on Andrea.  I understand the word “cheat” may seem out of place here but I can’t think of another word to describe my feelings.  Andrea was my first girlfriend, my first love, and I thought she would be my last.  Never did I think my life would exist without her.  Yet it does.  And that has been my struggle.  How do I live happy again without the guilt, as if I have benefited by losing Andrea. That somehow I could be so happy at the cost of Andrea and the life I had with her.  For certain there is a struggle to ever feel happier then I did before.  That seems totally wrong.  How could I ever compare my life with Andrea to life with Ginger?  I think it is in part is what makes it difficult for me to write a blog about my life with Ginger.  This has been one of my greatest struggles after losing Andrea, the one that has taken me the longest to work through.  This blog is the beginning of that process for me because I want you to know how blessed I am to have Ginger in my life. My love for Andrea was unique and one I thought I would never have again.  Not because it was impossible but because I did not think God would bless me so abundantly again.  There are so many examples of marriages that struggle so much divorce how could I be blessed with a marriage like I had with Andrea twice.  It just seemed as if I was asking too much from God.  I should be happy to have loved once in a lifetime and accept a “normal” existence.  To expect a marriage like I had with Andrea just seemed greedy.   Yet the love I feel from Ginger, and the love I feel for her has the same depth as I had with Andrea.  Of course we are still getting to know each other, and truthfully that leads to disagreements and laughter as we both learn that we are not as normal as we thought.  It is the natural process of becoming one, the same process I went though with Andrea early in our marriage.  And I think that is key.  I have to remember that I cannot compare my 20 months of marriage with Ginger to my 24+years of marriage to Andrea. 

Another reason I think struggle is because of the time I met Ginger.  I’ll be the first to admit it; I looked as though I had lost my mind when I decided to marry Ginger.  I know it was very fast and I know it hurt people; sadly it hurt my boys the most.  And truthfully theirs are the only feelings I care about.  I would have never planned to meet Ginger so soon, but I did.  Maybe I would not have this conflict in my life if there were 1-2 years between losing Andrea and meeting Ginger.  Maybe, but at what cost?  God’s direction in our life does not always fit our acceptable timelines.  Maybe if I suffered longer, maybe if I had paid a bigger price I would feel I earned the right to love again.  But you can ask Ginger what it is like to suffer alone.  I think she would tell you if she could have ended her loneliness sooner she would have.  If she could have put her life back together sooner she would have.  So what is the right answer, I would tell you there is no right answer. There is no “right” way to loose a spouse and no “right” way to remarry afterwards.  Just as there is no right way to meet your first spouse.  I’m sure many of you reading this blog had parents or friends who thought you were making a mistake when you decided to get married.  I know my family did when I met Andrea.  I never intended to fall in love that quick, nor did I meet Ginger with the intent of starting a romantic relationship.  I met her because we shared a common pain.  When you loose a spouse you are suddenly thrown into a new social group, Widows and Widowers.   You share a common experience that others cannot relate to.  I’m not saying this to be mean or exclusive but if you have not lost your spouse you just can’t fully understand.  It is the reason I apologized to Ginger in my first email after Andrea died, because in that moment I realized how little I understood about her loss. I had been trying to offer her comfort when I really did not comprehend what she was going through.  Even though Andrea and I were facing death everyday I was not qualified to offer advice because I did so out of ignorance.  Don’t get me wrong I was giving Ginger my best advice and I thought I was relating to her just has many people did for me and that advice and help is very needed, it is just that once you go thru that loss you realize how different it is and how you can never fully grasp the pain, the suffering and the feelings unless you have walked that path.  Once I lost Andrea I needed to meet Ginger because I knew she understood what I was feeling. I knew that because I had read her emails over the past year. I now understood the pain she expressed in her words.  I understood it because I was now a member of the same fraternity.  It was out of that shared experience that our relationship grew, and it did not begin on Dec 25th 2007 that was just the day we laid eyes on each other, it actually began the day Ginger emailed Andrea and me.  We shared conversations that were far deeper then most email acquaintances would ever share.  Ginger shared her deepest and most personal fears with us and we tried, best we could, to offer our words of encouragement and the faith God was growing in Andrea and me.  So yes our relationship moved far faster then “normal” but it started from a shared experience of pain and suffering.  It was founded upon our faith, a faith we had shared with each other over 11 months.  I knew the most important thing about Ginger and that was she was a believer and I knew everything else would fall into place if we had that at the core of our relationship. 

I think the final reason I struggle is because Ginger is so beautiful.  I know that may seem strange; most men would find no problem with a stunningly beautiful wife. As an older bald guy she just seemed out of my league and it seemed impossible for someone like Ginger to love me.  I felt inadequate.  I also thought people would see me as someone who married Ginger solely for her looks.  It could not be farther from the truth.  I fell in love with Ginger because she was my soul mate and I needed her.  Maybe I worry too much about what others think but I don’t want someone to look at me and think I’m just another mid life crisis with a young wife.  That cheapens the amazing thing God did in our lives.

It was all these emotions that I have struggled with that in many ways have kept me from writing this blog. That was a longer introduction then I intended to write but I think it is important to explain my thoughts. 

Dec 25th 2007, eight days after I lost Andrea, four days after her funeral, not when I expected to meet my next wife, but I did.  I had just left Wichita Falls where I was staying with Andrea’s family.  I wrote a blog the night before we met, titled “a First and a Last” posted on Dec 24th 2007.  I was leaving Dallas to go to my sisters house for a few days and Ginger was with her parents who were moving from Clovis NM to San Angelo TX and she was on her way to Dallas to see her best friend Amy. 

Actually I had first met Ginger Jan 2006 via email.  I had sent an email update on Andrea when she went into the ICU for the first time.  That email found it’s way to Ginger who was struggling with losing Troy.  She wrote Andrea and I and over the next 11 months we shared emails about once a month.  They were emails about Ginger’s struggles, her pain, grief and faith.  They were at times very difficult to read because of the depth of pain expressed in her words.   Andrea and I would pray and try to find the right words to encourage Ginger, but I will tell you it seemed impossible to find the words to tell her that “it is going to be okay” How could you say that?  She had lost her husband, and strong Christian and loving husband.  What words can you tell a mom left alone to raise five kids?  They had a marriage very similar to ours and that made it all the more difficult to offer her comfort.  I remember my first email to her after Andrea died.  Ginger had written and just told me how sorry she was.  My response was I’m sorry if I had said anything that offended her.  I thought I knew what she had been going through losing Troy but in reality I had no idea.  It was one thing to live with the threat of death and a totally different thing to face the reality of death. 

So when Ginger and I realized we would be in Dallas at the same time we decided it was time for us to meet in person for the first time.  As it turned out her best friend Amy lived about 2 miles from my sisters house.  We met in the Four Seasons parking lot.  I remember talking to Ginger as we drove to meet.  As we were talking I realized she was in the car in front of pulling into the parking lot.  We really didn’t know what each other looked like other then a few pictures I saw of Ginger online and a short video of Ginger when she spoke to the media about Troy.  I remember fallowing her car into the parking lot, her Mom’s white Toyota Four Runner.  I remember thinking I was about to met someone I felt I already knew I had just never seen her.  We ended up talking for about 20 minutes in the parking lot.  We had intended to go get something to eat until we both realized it was Christmas day and nothing was open.  You tend to forget about holidays or really you tend to block them out after you loose a spouse because holidays are just a huge reminder of your loss.  Anyway, we decided to go to my sister’s house for dinner.  Remember it was Christmas dinner and Ginger was suddenly thrown into what would be a very uncomfortable situation.  But my family (two brothers and their wives and my sister and her husband and their three kids) were very welcoming and Ginger of course Ginger held her self with great poise. To be truthful I think it was a little uncomfortable for everyone.  My sister had set the most beautiful table with China, and silver. Keep in mind I’m the youngest child in my family and the youngest person there were my sisters kids who were in college.  I remember after dinner we were sitting in the living room having wine and talking politics (a normal for my family) Ginger leaned over a said, “This is nothing like my life.”  Looking back it makes me smile, because I know now that Ginger was still in the throws of potty training the twins and her oldest was only 10.  You did not sit down to a table of china nor do you drink wine and talk politics after dinner with 5 kids under 10 years old.  Ginger left that night and the following day we met for coffee.  I remember waiting for Ginger and having the oil changed in my car.  As I sat in the waiting room I began to write to Ginger things about me.  My strengths, my weaknesses, my likes and dislikes, who I was, and what I hoped for in life.  I’m not sure why I would have told that to someone I had just met but I did.  I kept that page of notes; it is in my Bible and every once in a while I pull it out and remember that day in December. 

It is hard to believe it has been two years since we met.  I’m still adjusting to my new life, but I knew God had brought us together and I know He has plans for our life.  I’m very proud to be Ginger’s husband.  I’m thankful we met Dec 25th 2007 and I humbled by her love for me. 

Yes we have gone though some adjustments getting to know each other, but they are mostly minor things. And yes it is more difficult to learn about each other when you are newlyweds with 6 kids in the house.  But I can tell you this, when I look into Ginger’s eyes, I feel the same love and adoration that I did when I looked into Andrea’ eyes.  I never thought that could happen to me again.  I felt God had blessed me once and I did not deserve such love again.  And truthfully I probably don’t deserve to be loved so deeply, so purely as I am with Ginger, but thankfully God does not feel that way. He has given me life again a life I am very happy to live.  And in the end it is that happiness and laughter that we share that reminds me of God’s amazing grace. 

Isaiah 55:8-9
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.
"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

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