Our children and grandchildren met each other for the first time over pizza on a Friday evening. A bonfire was built later that night. Marshmallows were toasted and paired with graham crackers and chocolate, and grandkids were sent back to their cabins sugared up (because this is what grandparents get to do).
With COVID occupying the daily news, Dan and I planned an outdoor wedding weekend surrounded by our adult children, children-in-law, and the grands. Each family occupied their own tiny cabin near a wild and clear river.
Grandpa Dan flipped pancakes on Saturday morning at a cook station set up on the deck of a woodsy house. Here is where the bride and her junior bridesmaids, pre-teen granddaughters from both sides of the family, would later dress for the afternoon wedding.
But first, a grandkids’ fishing expedition to a nearby pond.
As sunflowers bowed from galvanized buckets, Dan and I said, “I do,” before a small company of witnesses. Round tables were set with linen beneath impossibly tall trees. Wild salmon and smoke-roasted tri-tip were on the menu.
And then the handsome groom carried a happy bride off in the honeymoon carriage (some would call it a fifth-wheel trailer) for two weeks of camping, hiking, kayaking, and zip lining. Up through Washington with a right hand turn toward Glacier National Park in Montana before looping homeward to Oregon.
Back at home, Dan and I couldn’t get over how surreal it all felt. “I get to stay! I don’t have to go home tonight!” I say this out loud and we both grin like a couple of teenagers. You can cut the happiness and peace with a knife—it’s that palpable.
I Was Fearful to Fall in Love Again
The significant thing about the peace is this: I was fearful about remarrying after settling into widowhood. But I didn’t recognize it as fear. I simply thought I had good reasons to stay single. I could pack up and go when friends and family invited me places. I could spend long hours writing and forget to eat lunch and then eat popcorn for dinner if I wanted. Would a potential husband understand that writing is a calling and takes a good deal of time and effort? Would he understand that my deceased husband’s family is my family, as well? And what would we do about combining our finances? Shouldn’t everything he worked for and invested be his children’s inheritance? But would this require some sort of prenuptial agreement? And wouldn’t that feel more like a business arrangement than a loving, trusting relationship? The few times I dated during widowhood felt too much like being back in high school. Why would I put myself through the angst of wondering if the man would call or text again?
Oh, I had my reasons for staying single.
And then Dan entered the picture—unexpectedly—over an interview about the shower truck that he helped build for the homeless in our community. Long after the interview was over, we sat and talked. I asked questions about his recently-deceased wife, and as he answered, tears leaked from his eyes. How much strength does it take for a man to be this vulnerable, I thought, especially in front of a woman he just met?
He said it felt good to talk with someone who had experienced the grief of losing a spouse to cancer.
“Anytime,” I said. “I’m a good listener.”
It didn’t take long for him to suggest a hike, followed by Chai tea. We built a friendship along the trails in the nearby Cascade Mountains, hiking and snowshoeing through that winter.
And then one day in the spring he said, “I love you,” and asked if he could kiss me. Wow—hadn’t seen that coming.
And then one day he said, “I love you,” and asked if he could kiss me. Wow—hadn’t seen that coming.
Later, when he proposed marriage, there was no hesitation. Because God had changed my fearful heart.
“There is a different beauty and a different force when two people who have been down that road far enough to hit some bumps decide to bend themselves once again toward partnership,” author Shauna Niequist wrote. “Where there was naiveté, here there is sobriety. Where a young bride leaves her family, an older bride brings hers with her. Where a young groom hopes all goes well, an older groom knows what to do when it doesn’t.”
It’s a Wonderful Thing to Fall in Love Later in Life
Dan and I want our remaining days on earth to matter. We want to help lighten the load for other people in hard places. We want to partner in serving, in giving generously out of our abundance of compassion and wisdom and resources.
Niequist finished her thoughts about the later-in-life wedding: “That night felt sacred and beautiful and imbued with something heavy. It was a hard-won celebration, a willingness to re-believe in love, to fall again, to teach and be taught, to enter through a door both had believed was closed forever.”
Dan and I both re-believed in love because we believe in a God who writes the best love stories. God gave me the grit and grace to step off the edge of the cliff into the unknown only to be caught up and held tightly.
A couple weeks before our wedding, my friend, Allison, handcrafted a card for my bridal shower. In it she wrote:
“Prayer is powerful …
I know this because I’ve prayed for you and Dan long before you were aware, long before you were ready for another person in your life.
Love is powerful …
I know this because it was the emotion that removed the doubt and fear that once clouded your mind. Allowing you to try again, to trust again.
God is powerful …
I know this because He answers prayers. He is the manifestation of love. He heals broken souls, unbearable loss, and the hurts of this world. He joins total strangers together in the bond of marriage through His amazing grace, love, and mercy.
Your marriage will be powerful …
I know this because God is the force that binds you two together.”
When two hearts join together with God—determined to love and serve each other and determined to impact their corner of the world—that’s powerful stuff.
English writer and philosopher G. K. Chesterton put it this way: “It may be conceded to the mathematicians that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one.”
What if we asked God to make our marriages and families strong and powerful—not for the sake of having power, but for the sake of partnering in making a difference while we still have time on this wildly spinning globe?
For more on relationships and second chances, check out this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: From Widow To Wife, Julie’s Getting Married – 145