My dad turned seventy on Friday. I gave him eight birthday cards, one for each decade he’s lived plus one for his special day. Each card had a title with a prominent name or position he wore for that decade: Donald (0-10), Donnie (10-20), Daddy (20-30), Dad (30-40), Father-In-Law (40-50), Pawpaw (50-60), Personal Trainer (60-70).
Within each card I listed other names and titles he used during that decade of his life. For the eighth card I titled it simply, Friend. Out of all his titles and names through the years, the one I like best now is that one. It’s how we relate to each other.
What started as a cute idea quickly became a profound lesson as I reflected on all his names and titles. I’ve worn many of the titles he has and many of them I hope to wear some day. But right now I’m wearing one he’s never worn: widower.
I never planned on having this title, at least not at this age. This is something that only happens to people my dad’s age, right? Right. But hiding from it doesn’t help. Denying it doesn’t deny the reality of the circumstance. It’s the correct designation. But what does it say about me? Will I let it define me and my future?
There it is. Designation versus definition.
With a life change as significant as Widower, you can’t help but be affected. It is certainly a defining moment. How I choose to handle this will affect the rest of my life. Will it be a designation for this period of my life or define the rest of my existence?
Widow and widower both are terms that grate on the nerves. They portend deep loss, broken hearts and dreams, grief, sadness and fear of the future. Will that be the definition I saddle on my life?
Its a hard place. But in that place I have found resolve. Resolve to continue to love, to expect restoration, to heal my heart, to laugh again and to build new dreams. Where did I get that resolve? Love.
The opposite of fear is not fearlessness, but love. In fact there’s an ancient Jewish saying that says, “Perfect love casts out fear…the one who fears is not perfected in love.” Where do you find that kind of love? Only one place I know. It was demonstrated perfectly in the life of one person. Jesus.
In the tumult of care-giving and fighting Kristi’s cancer and in the wilderness of fresh grief and loss, love is hard to hear and easy to let slip out of sight. Training helped me find it again. Training won’t heal your grief. The love of Jesus can. Training can help you find your way though until you discover it.
I don’t know how long I’ll wear this designation, widower, but it won’t define me. How about you?