My mom has a boyfriend.
There’s a sentence that I never thought I would say.
For the last two years, I’ve gotten used to having my mom to myself. She’s my best friend and my advice-giver and my hero and my inspiration, and we have gotten so close over my twenty-two years of life, our friendship strengthened by tremendous loss. But now I’m learning to share her again. And it’s a good thing.
Parents with boyfriends and girlfriends always seemed to me like a weird sub-species. In my head, step-families were associated with divorce, and my parents were so weirdly in love, that it was never even a thought that trickled through my mind. (And for a chronic over-thinker, that shows how far removed the idea was). I never once wondered if I would have a step-dad and how many kids he would have. I never pictured my mom holding hands with a man who wasn’t my dad. Logically, my parents were going to grow old together and be that couple who were still holding hands and teasing each other when they were 89 years old. Logically, everything was going great, and my family would be perfect and stable and chaos-free forever.
But then my dad’s truck crashed into a bridge. And in seconds, life was flipped upside down and backwards. My precious dad was gone, and all logic of what life should look like left with him.
But God’s logic is not my logic. And God’s ways are not my ways. And that’s a good thing.
Grief is such a hard thing to comprehend. I’ve had so many people ask me, “What’s the best thing to say to a person who’s grieving?” I can give a few examples of things not to say, but the reality is that it’s impossible to find any “best thing” to say because nothing will bring back the person who was lost. Each day and each moment is so tremendously different from the one before; so the same thing might be incredibly helpful one day and jarringly hurtful the next.
The day after my dad died– after I felt that I would shrivel up if I cried any more tears– I was standing in a circle of my friends when we all started laughing. And I remember seeing people walk by and just staring, their eyes saying, “She shouldn’t be laughing. Doesn’t she know what just happened?” But here’s the thing: you can’t say how or when or why a person can grieve. I wish I could hand out a “List of Things to Say to Grieving People”, but life is complex, and until we dive into the messiness of a person’s life with open arms and boundless grace, we have no right to say what someone should or should not be doing.
My mom is the strongest person I know. (And here’s another note. As nice as the sentiment seems, saying “Stay strong!” to a person who’s grieving with the implication that strength means not breaking down or not crying is extraordinarily flawed. Taking the time to grieve is the strongest thing a person can do because it requires diving into the worst moment of your life and stewing in that reality. When all you want to do is run away, grieving requires you to stay… and stay just a little bit longer. Emotions are never a sign of weakness.) If anyone could rock a life of singleness, it would be my mom. To put it colloquially, she’s a strong, independent woman who don’t need no man.
The day that my dad died, my family met at a Husky truck stop off the 401. It was first time we were together as a broken family of three. And on the car ride home, through sobs, I told my mom that she couldn’t ever remarry. There was no way that anyone could ever replace my dad, and I wanted her to promise me that it wouldn’t even be a consideration. But in the manner of a true realist and with wisdom that could only come from God, my mom replied, “Rach, I don’t plan to. I was prepared to be single for my life before I met your dad, and I can do it again. But I can’t promise because I don’t know what God’s plans are.”
Because God’s logic is not my logic. And God’s ways are not my ways. And it’s a good thing.
Over the last two years, my mom somehow managed to care so deeply for me and my brother and the people around her, even when she was dealing with the worst earthly pain imaginable. She continued to serve as a deacon, even when her other half was missing. She went back to work full time as a principal and worked tirelessly for the good of the school. People would see her at school or at church, with a bright and genuine smile on her face and comment, “Lena, you’re so strong.” (Again, not always helpful.) But they wouldn’t see her at home, worn out from all that life continued to throw at her, broken and hurting. Do you know how helpless my brother and I felt when we would hear my mom’s sobs from the next room over? Ryan and I did our best to support her, but it’s so hard when the roles of supporter and supported are flipped. As kids, we could always lean on our parents, but now my mom was leaning on us. And sometimes, it’s really hard for hurting people to support each other without all falling. I wished and prayed so many times that my mom would have someone just for her – a friend that could help hold her up and help her to keep moving when Ryan and I couldn’t. Really, I just wanted God to somehow bring my dad back.
But God’s logic is not my logic. And that’s a good thing.
At the end of this summer, my mom and Andrew started dating. Andrew is a wonderful man who knows grief personally and loves Jesus and loves his family and loved my dad and loves my mom. (I don’t think I can ask for much more). And even though I didn’t realize it at the time, and I still feel like a baby clumsily tottering through this new phase of life, God answered my prayers. He gave my mom a friend and a supporter. It has been such a major life change, but God’s presence and perfect peace have been evident through the whole thing.
There are things that are tough about inviting a new person into our lives. I really don’t like change, but God must have a sense of humor, because I have had my fair share of it in the last number of years. I was really comfortable with my little family of three. Four was perfect, but three was pretty great too. And now that’s changing again. And God is still good.
My mom having a boyfriend also flips what I thought my future would look like. It’s weird thinking that my mom could get married before I do… again. (On a side note, I have waited 22 years for a date, and my mom got one after a year and a half of being single! What a babe! 😉 ). But for all the things that are complicated, there are many more things that are wonderful.
My mom has someone to take care of her. On Friday, I got a text from my mom at 10am, even though she’s normally gone to school by a little after 7. When I asked her why she wasn’t at school, she told me that she was very sick and feverish and decided to stay home. This is the same woman who went back to being a principal a measly three weeks after her husband died. I’m convinced that if there was the zombie apocalypse, she’d still make it in for staff meeting; so hearing that she was sick enough to stay home worried me. I felt helpless, but when I walked into my house that evening after a draining week at school, Andrew was sitting on the couch beside her, and I thanked God for that tremendous gift of peace knowing someone was looking out for my Momma.
My mom has someone to talk to. Ryan’s not always the best emotional empathizer (more of an advice-giver :P), and I’m away at school a lot of the time. The thing that I hated most about losing dad was the amount of time that my mom would have to spend alone. I am so excited that she has someone with whom to share her joys and struggles, to go for walks or watch movies. There is so much joy in knowing that even when Ryan and I are not around, my mom is not alone.
My mom has the freedom to be spontaneous. One day, Mom and Andrew came to visit me in Hamilton on a random Friday evening to take me out for supper. Something that would have normally been prefaced by planning and figuring out the perfect time just happened. It was Andrew’s idea, and it was awesome! (Plus also: free food 😉 ).
Ryan and I have the freedom to be kids (or at least young adults) again. All my friends are in the stage of life where they’re moving away from home and getting their own apartments and beginning the transition to adulthood. It just wasn’t a consideration for me. My mom is independent, and she wouldn’t have needed us there to physically take care of her, but there’s no way that Ry and I would leave my mom in a house by herself. But now, doors are opening again. God has been pulling me out of my comfort zone, and I have peace in doing that because I know that someone’s looking out for my Momma. When I was content to do all my teacher placements in Aylmer, God opened a door for me to do a placement in Honduras in the spring. And He’s warming my heart again to the idea of serving Him through missions way outside my small-town comfort zone. I don’t know what the future looks like, but my vision of God’s Kingdom and my role in that is expanding. And I have peace to let my heart explore those bounds because God gave my mom a boyfriend.
Yeah, it’s different. And since Mom and Andrew are both people in the public eye, and since Satan feeds on gossip, there have been some nasty rumors going around. Some people have been saying that Ryan and I are angry with our mom that she’s dating, and others just want to know every detail about Mom and Andrew’s relationship to fill their own individual curiosity. The only reason I can see for this is that Satan loves to destroy the gifts that God so mercifully gives us.
We would all turn back time if we could, and heck to the yes, I would trade anything to have my dad back. But that’s not how life works. My dad’s life is over. My parents loved each other until death did them part and even longer. And now God has given my mom the amazing new gift of someone to love again.
My friends were all a little unsure how to respond when I first told them about this update. After the life-changing words, “My mom has a boyfriend” would leave my mouth, there would invariably be a pause, and a little whisper from them, asking “Is this a good thing or a bad thing?” When I would tell them that it was a very good thing, each one responded with a mixture of surprised exclamations and excited squeals. Their opinion of the situation was coloured by my opinion because they were sharing in my story. What an amazing picture of community in Christ!
Gossip is so deadly because it plasters your own perspective over other people’s stories. Scripture tells us to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice. My family is in a time of rejoicing for God’s mercies that are new every morning and His gifts that cannot be squashed by even death itself! Satan tried to destroy my family, but he will NEVER win because my God is so much bigger.
And my mom has a boyfriend. And my family’s story continues. Because God’s logic is not my logic. And that is a very good thing.