Why Get Married (after being a widow), Anyway?

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Why Get Married (after being a widow), anyway? My dad shares his thoughts that he wrote to the children before the marriage.

It’s been amazing to me the outpouring of emails, comments, texts, etc. I’ve received since sharing about my dad’s 2nd marriage after being a widower. For many it’s been uplifting and hopeful, for some (it sounds like from comments) salt in a wound because they didn’t experience the same positivity. Without expounding because it isn’t MY story to tell, it hasn’t been all roses for everyone. Yes, all 8 of my dad and Stephanie’s children (+spouses & grandchildren) were at the wedding with smiles on to show support, but some were masking uncertainty behind the smiles. Not negativity, but apprehension, with a twinge of sadness. It. has. not. been. easy.

Out of my siblings, it’s been the easiest for me, and I’m the storyteller here, so I just don’t want anyone to think that my perspective is what everyone feels. For some, that video I made of my dad and Steph was challenging to watch. Even for a friend of mine that adores my mom, and loves Stephanie, too, it was hard for her.  Why has it been so easy for me? I’m not sure. Sometimes I feel guilty that it’s been fairly seamless for me, going back to the guilt I’ve felt for a large portion of my life that my mom and I weren’t super close.  I’m grateful it’s been easier for me, because it’s allowed me to be a confidante for my dad, and form a great friendship with Stephanie early on.

Bonus Family

{Original 8 kids}

I wanted to share something my dad wrote before they got married, which he shared with us children at the wedding. I asked his permission to share, and he gave me the thumbs up, and I thought it offered an interesting insight into HIS mind, as he’s grappled with this decision, amidst questions himself.

Why Get Married (after being a widow), Anyway?

There are many reasons that marriage is a good thing for a young couple in their 20’s, at the cusp of adulthood and careers and their own new life together. These reasons include beginning a family, sharing responsibilities, supporting each other financially and emotionally, and simply “doing the right thing.” But what about us: two people who’ve had good marriages, raised our kids, had our ups and downs, and now wonder what else life holds for us? While we may not be “old” in the traditional sense– the mid-60’s may now be the new mid 40’s—we certainly are not “young” in the traditional sense, either. We are not fledgling whippersnappers by any means.

When we’ve told friends and acquaintances in the past few months that we are getting married, most have congratulated us and then said something to the effect of “it is good to have someone to do things with, a companion who’s around with whom you can travel or tell stories or even someone just to take to the movies.” While such companionship is a plus for us, it has not been a compelling enough reason for either Stephanie or me to get married. We have been okay going to places alone, being by ourselves, making new friends. We are “comfortable in our own skin.” That’s not to say we don’t enjoy being together now, we like it a lot. It’s just that we’ve not experienced the kind of loneliness that others in our situation have told us about; friends who are not only alone but also very lonely. We have not felt that way. It is not the reason we are getting married.

After congratulating us, friends and strangers alike tend then to ask: “What do your kids think about it?” It seems that adult kids often have the most consternation when a parent marries. And as far as we can tell, the track record isn’t very good—even amongst those of our faith—for adult kids accepting a new “parent” in their lives. Reasons vary. No doubt, comparisons abound about the new person and the deceased spouse. And the warts of the “live” new person loom much larger than the “hero” or “heroine” who has passed on.

So, what’s to be done? Stephanie and I talk often about how we want to have our families “join forces,” how we, in particular, can together be part of your lives, nurture and support you, listen and participate, share and grow together– and not get in the way. We think we can do it. Most of all, we think you can do it with us. It may begin by you seeing each of us as “a bonus” not a replacement; an add-on, not an obstacle. We want you to help us achieve that goal. We believe that if we can openly talk about it that it will work for us all.

A few weeks ago a close couple friend of mine visited me last week and met Stephanie over FaceTime. They immediately bonded with her, of course. During our discussion the wife asked how our kids felt about each other and then they told about a brother who married a good woman but somehow neither the adult kids– nor their parents– seem to be handling the situation very well even after several years. At one point she commented commented, “As faithful people, we strive to be Christian and fully accept and embrace others in new situations. When a baby is born, parents and siblings make room for the new child—the new person. Why can’t it be just like that when a parent remarries?”

Making room for others is a goal Stephanie and I want to make real. For you, in particular, but also for missionaries, neighbors, and new friends we hope to meet and make. Years ago, we had two different foster girls: Dawn who was 10 at the time she came to live with us and Tracy who was 9 at the time. They each lived with us for over a year. They were not our biological children, but even today we still talk about them and their impact on our lives—what we did for them, what they did for us. We tell stories about them. We look for ways to share what we learned from them. We look for ways to learn more based on those experiences over 30 years ago. Stephanie and I want to turn this time of our lives into experiencing “more.” We gave each family a book about “more” a couple of months ago. We want you to think about us—all of us—when you read it. We hope you will read it to your children often. Maybe during holidays and on a few other special occasions. {Book: I Wish you More }

I wish you more childrens book

We want to live life abundantly by experiencing more of the good things life has to offer, which the gospel of Jesus Christ promises, and that Heavenly Father gives us. We want to share in this adventure with all of you who we love so very much and who are so dear to us. We want more together.

So, going back to the question with which we started with: why get married, anyway? We are getting married because we want “more.” More of you and what you have to offer us. More “bonus” children and grandchildren for us; more cousins, a bonus parent or grandparent for you. We also want to follow the example of the Savior who, as Luke wrote in Acts, “went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed…” Stephanie and I also want to do our part in doing good and healing those who are oppressed. Stephanie is innately “a healer.” She has great empathy. Others sense that and readily tell her their stories. We want to keep track of these individual experiences and share them appropriately with others to encourage them, help them, and heal them. We want to do that on an individual basis, one-to- one, in a discrete and personal way when we are invited to do so. We want to be sought out as counselors and healers.

We also want to help organize efforts that meet broad needs as well as individual ones. I am now involved in helping sponsor a new, third round for the Saints in rural Ghana to get chickens, then produce and sell eggs so they can become self-reliant. We want to do more. We are organizing a group of dentists who are going to Ghana in late June; we are trying to build a feed mill with the Children’s home (orphanage) at Dabayim with Ghana Make a Difference. We are writing to a variety of African Returned Missionaries helping them find jobs and serve in the Church. We want to go about “doing good” in St George and Provo as well since we know there are many needs in our own communities, our own backyards, and we don’t need to go to Africa to do good things but can do a lot here at home. We want to be “ an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” {See more about my dad’s mission in Ghana when we visited: Family Travel to Ghana }

Stephanie and I want our relationship with each other to have real substance. We don’t simply want to keep an empty seat warm for a few years. We want to cherish each other, to feel and act like a team, to be grounded together in the gospel of Jesus Christ, to ease each other over life’s bumps and bruises. We want to live and apply practical principles of healthy relationships. We want to enjoy concerts and the theater together, to go on long bike rides together, to read good books and discuss them together. We want to do as much as we can together.

Helen Keller once said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

Come, lets explore together.

Love, Dad

{In case you missed the interview I conducted with my dad and Stephanie you can watch it here}

YouTube video

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