The following list represents why my heart is grateful in 2012. (The timing of this post does not reflect the depth of my gratitude this Thanksgiving.)
- A Beating Heart. It’s been six and one-half years since my heart attack, so I am truly grateful to be alive. I still feel young and strong most days, though I certainly need to work out more and eat less. Now, I know that Heaven will be amazing–seeing Jesus face to face, meeting our three miscarried babies, and being reunited with Ann. We can only imagine. Yet, I have a lot of life I would still like to live. I want to relish my new bride Fran. I long to watch our kids complete their journey to adulthood and enjoy them as peers. And I desire to spend a greater portion of my time learning, teaching and writing before my heart does stop beating.
- A Proud Heart. I’m proud of all eight of our kids. Each is amazing in his/her own unique way. None are perfect. All have been broken by Brian’s and Ann’s death. I’m grateful that maturity is minimizing many of our frictions and frustrations–their maturity and mine. This year, I take special note of Paul and Steffi. They are independent and responsible, grown up and growing, living for His Kingdom and residing in Denver. We missed them this Thanksgiving and I often subconsciously watched the front door, half expecting to see them. Yet, their adulthood and independence is what we’ve worked for all these years. “Enjoying the fruit of our labors” was our hope as parents and the reason Ann pleaded with God for more time.
- A Restored Heart. I wept when I received received an email two weeks ago that a close friend was in the middle of an adulterous affair and was defiantly refusing to stop. So I decided to call another close friend a few days later after three years of silence. He had defiantly thrown away his wife at the time my wife Ann was dying of cancer. I cried when he described the gutter he was in. I cried when he thanked me for calling him every week for a year, even though he only answered his cell once. I cried when I told him I loved him. And I wept hard after I hung up the phone. For this friend of mine was dead and is alive again. He was lost and is found (Luke 15:24).
- A Mended Heart. July 2010 was the lowest point in the darkness and depression brought on by Ann’s death. The grief and loneliness were pulling me under like quicksand. My kids and friends grew concerned. Any struggle on my part to “pick myself up” was pointless. Grief is the strongest foe that I have ever faced. Yet, God gave me a Priceless Gift in the midst of this hopelessness. I received a thank you card from a widow across the lake for the book (A Grace Disguised) that I had sent her via a mutual friend. Her husband Brian had died a few months after Ann, and her struggle with grief mirrored mine. I befriended her on Facebook because I desperately wanted to talk with someone who understood grief. We were best friends by the end of the month and married by Thanksgiving weekend. I never thought I would be happy again in this life. I never thought I would remarry. I never thought I could love another woman. I was wrong. She is the rope that God threw me to pull me out of the quicksand and mended my heart.
To be continued…