Divorce demands sides. It doesn’t only affect the immediate couple and their children. Divorce injures just as severely friends and family closest to them. Bonds that were once important are severed and the withering strands are left to die away slowly and often painfully.
This is most common with in-laws. Almost without exception, divorce lands one of its heaviest blows here. Blood is thickest. The relationship with my former in-laws was good. I enjoyed being with them. Because we differed at so many levels, being in their presence was like standing in a fresh northerly wind. When we divorced my relationship with them ended immediately and, I think we would admit, unwillingly. They, as is natural, chose sides and I was on the losing one.
I never held ill will for this. Though wounded at the loss of that relationship, I carried on with my new life, albeit less than before due to their absence from it. The relationship with my former father-in-law was strongest. His timing in my life was providential. I believe I filled the shoes of a son he never had and he filled those of a father I prematurely lost. We had long conversations about politics, science, and current events. He had a love of cars, Corvettes particularly, I gladly played along. The end of that relationship was one of the most painful.
It was those fond memories that rushed back when the ex-wife said he was dying. After battling cancer over two years, that black treachery had finally won and she was flying home to say her last good byes. There came an inexplicable and burning wish to share with him, in his final days, the affection I held, the impact he had, and to thank him for all of it. She carried with her a sealed envelope addressed to him. In it was this letter.
How does one really say good-bye? We walk out the door most mornings, kiss our wife and kids, and head off into the world; never giving a first thought that it could be our last. Most of us take for granted the control we think we have over our lives. It’s this mistaken belief that, I feel, makes it so difficult when we taste the hard reality, through the loss of those we love, that none of us can truly know what tomorrow may bring.
Life is beautiful and fragile. The Bible compares it to a blade of grass that, shoots up in the morning, only to be burned by the day and then wither and fall away in the evening. If we really lived as if we believed that, we wouldn’t put off until tomorrow what we should do today. We would say what needs saying and never think, there’s always another day.
I hope to change that, here.
You played an important role in my life. If you remember, I had lost my own father the year before we first met. I’ve come to believe passionately that a son needs a father as much at twenty-six as he does sixteen. A son needs a father for guidance, wisdom, and perspective. A son needs a father to tell him he is finally a man.
When my own father wasn’t there for those things, God saw to it that you were. He determined that for a season you would fill the shoes of a father who was missing, but so desperately needed.
You welcomed me into your family, and your heart, with open arms. You gave me self worth by entrusting to me the care of your daughter. You offered me guidance and perspective when I might otherwise have gone without. Through your influence and acceptance, you showed me that I was a man.
It’s for those things I will always remember you and be forever thankful.
Your influence in my life can never be forgotten. And my prayer is that in years to come I can pour that same influence into your grandchildren. And by doing so hope to remind them that in the heavens above stands a guardian angel that will always look over them.
He died four days later.