Getting to know Holly in the beginning via email was a delight. It truly was love at first write…if such a thing exists. She has a captivating way of writing which reveals who she really is, and I looked forward to every email I received. Personality traits began to blossom through the conversations with her wit coming full force at me, physically making me smile as I would read. She even provided a glimpse into her competitive nature by issuing resolute statements about how I was destined to lose at various sports. It only served to endear her to me all the more.
Meeting her in person only solidified how much I liked her. It would be impossible to describe her beauty with any word other than stunning. From there, it was easy to look forward to every moment I was able to spend with her. We just had fun. We talked, we laughed, we dated. Butterflies would show up each time I knew I was going to see her and I didn’t come down from cloud nine until long after we had parted from each other’s company. It was bliss. It was really easy to fall for Holly. The list of completely awesome things about her is pretty long from my perspective. The hilarity, the uncommon intelligence, the sass, the athletic drive, the swagger (yes, I meant swagger), the empathic sense, the love for Jesus – it’s all there.
As Holly and I continued to date, I was able to see more of her world and really to see more of Dave, both literally and figuratively. Dave was present in pictures, in blog posts, in stories, in items around the house. It was hard not to feel him too. It was just hard. I tried to remain humbled whenever Dave would come up, but as Holly will tell you, I was not the greatest. I selfishly had the thought, ‘Perhaps this will fade. Perhaps Dave will not always be as present as he is. Perhaps if our love grows, we can make new memories.’ I had a lot to learn about Holly, about how selfish my thinking was and a lot to learn about grief.
I began to read anything I could about being with a widow -Ruth and Boaz, online blogs galore, anything. To be honest, I didn’t like all that I read and shared some of it with Holly. Would I always be her ‘second’? Would Dave forever be in her mind? What did that mean for our relationship? Shouldn’t Holly just ‘get over’ Dave in time? When we all come together in heaven, will Dave and Holly be together again and I’ll be cast aside? How does that work? There were a ton of questions flowing through my mind. This was going to be a tough lesson to learn. Reading all I could find finally helped me to understand howyou lost someone is important. Divorce and death are very different with respect to grief. This is where I felt like God needed to educate me to help me understand how He wanted me to love her. And educate He did. It humbled me even more so than I felt I had been from the divorce. A lot more. I was finally able to let Holly honestly know that I accepted and understood loving her meant loving the fact she was a widow. I understood this fact but I wanted to feel it too. I began to open up and really change my way of thinking. I felt like God was stripping away pieces of understanding I had representing my thoughts on love and Holly. Nope, that’s not it, Tony. Try this. Do you see? I had the wrong vision. The wrong thoughts. I needed to accept loving Holly meant loving all of her, including the part that still loves Dave. I needed to feel who she was. This was so counterintuitive to me. How could I love knowing she missed someone other than me? An opportunity to help me answer this question came shortly after I understood what I needed to do.
New Year’s night was hard for Holly to say the least. Grief, as I have understood from her, comes in waves. This was a big wave and one that had not come in its size in a long time. Moreover, I felt like this wave had been building for weeks before in little things like Holly pulling away from me or how the days surrounding Dave’s anniversary of passing weren’t as powerful as I thought they might be. In fact, I thought I was misreading her completely. It almost seemed like she was ‘ok’ with things and she was truly ready for December to come as her blog post had said. That was not the case though. I asked her to open up that night over the phone, to tell me everything she was feeling. I begged her even. She was reluctant at first but it felt like we both needed to hear what she had to say – audibly. To hear it spoken aloud would somehow make it more real, for me especially. I asked her to scream it out through the tears that were coming if she could, to let it flow. Sobbing heavily, she told me how she missed Dave so much. So much! I could hear the complete anguish in her voice. I could hear the other-worldly pain she felt. She continued and told me all she wanted right now was for Dave to come walking through her door and make everything alright, how she wanted that with all her heart, how Dave coming back would heal the brokenness she felt. We talked for about an hour, letting the wave wash over both of us. To hear all those things was devastating. She didn’t want to be with me; she wanted Dave. And quite frankly, I wanted Dave for her too. It was a complete and total rejection for me.
What I didn’t realize was Holly and I were bonding at the exact same time I thought my heart was breaking. Finally, I felt some of what she was feeling. I felt who she is. In the few days following, I felt more broken hearted for her than I did in being rejected. I didn’t realize during that moment Jesus was loving me. I wasn’t being rejected, but rather loved by both Him and Holly. I feel like He was showing me a new way of loving and a new path I was to follow. He is, after all, in the business of making things new. I feel like He gave me a new pair of eyes, too, and they feel like the ones I imagine He sees Holly with. Falling hopelessly in love with Holly from that point of view was pretty easy. It’s a peaceful kind of love as well, one which created a greater heart of gratitude in me. Gratitude for Jesus working in both our lives to use grief to show us love.
You never hesitate to express yourself when it comes to Holly, T. I am so glad that on our journeys with the Lord, even when we think all is lost, we are SO wrong. This is one of the few truly happy things in Holly’s life since the loss of Dave, her single parenthood and her back surgery – proving that we must never lose hope. I am thankful for this new thing – true beauty rising from ashes.
Man, so many layered and complicated feelings. True, honest to goodness feelings, but lots to wade through nevertheless. And we are blessed because you and Holly have decided to do the hard work it takes to really give this thing a go. Not that you now have everything “all figured out,” but the intentionality with which you are both approaching this relationship is inspiring, and captivating. Your vulnerability and humble willingness to learn is a key component in all of it. We are rooting you both on and believe there is grace upon grace as God lavishes His abundant love on all of you.