I married a woman whose husband suddenly died. She married me, a man whose now ex-wife slowly slipped away. Our individual stories of pain combine to become a single story of God’s redemption.
When we began talking about getting married, we worked through potentially problematic issues. Combining households, changing schools, figuring out careers, and jumping through legal hoops for adoption were balanced with the excitement of finding each other, the love and connectivity we felt, the unique nature of our intimacy, and the sense that God had flipped the whole story on its head by making something so unlikely into a gracious reality.
Ours is a balancing act between the difficult and the joyful. The joyful part makes the difficult part palatable. We have a vision of a new family where healing is the norm. Sometimes healing is painful, perhaps more painful than the initial injury, since every moment of healing is an echo of a single event, playing over and over and over again. There’s a reason that suffering produces perseverence: it’s because you have little choice but to power through, using soul muscles you didn’t even know existed until you woke up spiritually sore the next morning.
I’ve often written about blending our families and the paths that led to this new era, so I hope the above summary doesn’t strike you as too redundant. Our friends and family have been supportive, loving, and prayerful through it all. I wanted to risk covering old ground because 1) it sets you up for the paradox I’m about to spill and 2) it gives us another chance to glorify God.
A paradox is “a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.”
Here’s a paradox regarding December 22:
December 22 is a bad day.
December 22 is a wonderful day.
December 22 is a bad day because that’s the day that Britt’s husband Shawn passed.
December 22 is a good day because that’s the day Zac was born.
It’s a paradox, or maybe a dichotomy, which is where you have two mutually exclusive, opposed, or contradictory ideas. Depending on what family you’re part of, the day is either a terrible memory or a celebration. But what if, in at least one family, the day is both terrible and joyful?
What are the odds that Zac’s birthday would fall on the same calendar date as Shawn’s passing? About one in 365, right? We knew it might be awkward. No — we knew it would be awkward. How do we grieve the passing of one person while simultaneously celebrating the birth of another?
You get moments like these:
Reader, please understand — nearly everyone at that table is there because it marks the day Shawn passed. Yet, there they are, singing “Happy Birthday” with gusto.
Every year since Shawn’s passing, the family has come over to remember, mourn, and celebrate. Though I never met him, I feel like I get to know Shawn with every memory and story. We sat around the table that night and shared. I listened and learned. It was a beautiful time.An hour later, we had candles in cheesecake for Zac’s 14th birthday.
It wasn’t as if the mourning cancelled the birthday, nor was it that the birthday cancelled the mourning. They coexisted… strangely and beautifully. This is a fitting example of the paradox/dichotomy we live in each day.
I see this as an example of how God brings beauty from ashes. I show this to you as a split second snapshot of what kind of life we get to live. It’s like nothing I ever imagined.