I’ve written before about my fellow grief traveler, Joe Hall. As a young man in his mid-twenties, he married his wife knowing she was dying. He’s an amazing young man. Later, God brought another beautiful young lady into his life. He’s much younger than I am but farther along in grief. And wisdom, too. He’s been good for me.
We met one day for coffee after I began dating Amanda. I wanted to catch him up on my recent status change and get some counsel. We talked about the confusing transition when you move from full grief to exploring new possibilities. It’s gradual but stark. Moving on is not healthy but moving forward is a necessity. And there’s a difference. It’s not a ninety-degree turn. Nor is it a one-hundred-and-eighty degree about face. Again, it’s gradual. It’s a transition.
Navigating new normals is an art form. One normal is ended, but the phantom impulses do not simply go away. Your new normal is bombarded by the old reality. Slowly you come to fully accept your new reality only to have it change again with the prospects of a new relationship. Confusing for sure. Again, it’s a dance from old to new. And it’s a time for patience as you seek to take steps with great care in a new aspect of your grief journey.
Besides, grief really never ends. It changes and comes at you in different forms. Healing comes, but it keeps coming. Healing continues slowly. You seem to be healed but still healing. The waves are spread out and smaller. Most of the time.
In our coffee conversation, Joe said something insightful like he always does. As we talked about Amanda, he asked me if she’d ever been through deep grief. Amanda, like all of us, has been through her own experiences with brokenness but not the loss of a spouse, I explained. His reply was quick and to the point. “She doesn’t need to have been through deep waters,” he said, “but she needs to be able to swim.” I looked at Joe in the same way a zealous student fixes his eyes on a favorite, wise, valued, and respected teacher.
“She doesn’t need to have been through deep waters, but she needs to be able to swim.” Joe Hall
She needs to be able to swim.
I had not even considered such a thought. Mine is not just a new relationship with another person. Not nearly so simple. It’s a relationship involving someone who has lost a spouse after a long and happy marriage filled with lots of wonderful memories and someone who does not have that same experience. Amanda has never been married.
So, she needs to be able to swim in deep waters.
“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.” Proverbs 31:10
Amanda is a godly woman who exudes kindness and gentleness. She’s a woman of high character. She’s a woman who loves the Word of God. She’s a woman who prays. She’s a woman who thirsts for righteousness and follows Jesus. She’s selfless and understanding. And she’s full of love. She is a woman who fears the Lord.
She has also served as a missionary in the jungles of South America and knows how to use a machete!
But I digress.
“The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.” Proverbs 31:11
Amanda is able to swim.
She has told me repeatedly she knows my grief is not over and never will be fully complete. She has told me she will walk with me with loyalty through whatever comes our way. She cares deeply for me and my journey. And my family. And Kim’s memory.
As I prayed about my future and the prospect of marriage again, I had three primary hopes: first, I refused to settle for just any relationship after having had a wonderful marriage—I hoped for a woman of character; second, I hoped for someone who would not be intimidated by Kim’s memory but would honor her; and third, I hoped for someone who would love and invest in my children and their families.
God answered that prayer in an Ephesians 3:20 fashion—beyond what I asked or imagined—because Amanda is able to swim.
“She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.” Proverbs 31:12