A couple weeks ago our family had a reason to celebrate! We gathered together at the family ranch to watch my sister-in-law/Taylor’s sister, Kate, and her fiancé, Will, exchange vows to become husband and wife. The last time that many of us were gathered together at the ranch was a little over a year ago the night before Taylor’s funeral service. I think everyone was more than aware of the brother of the bride’s absence at the wedding, but as we celebrated Kate and Will’s union, I never felt strongly that Taylor was missing. I knew that he was right there with all of us that day.
I have seen on different blogs and support groups widows often venting about not having the opportunity to dress up and go to events anymore. But nobody ever mentions the young widows whose friends are still getting married and throwing parties to celebrate milestones often met in your 20s and 30s. Just six months after losing Taylor I put on a sparkly, gold gown and stood alongside one of my oldest friends as she said “I do” to her perfect match. I was honored to celebrate her wedding day with her, but could not stop thinking about how strange it was to be serving as a bridesmaid in her wedding…as a widow. It seemed like just yesterday we were girls attending cotillions and parties in that same country club ballroom. Those nights usually ended with sleepovers where we would talk about boys and fantasize about what our futures had in store for us. Looking back, I’m thankful for the innocence of our adolescence and don’t recall ever playing a game of M*A*S*H* where “widow” was circled underneath any category.
Standing alongside Kate as her Matron of Honor, I felt a similar confusion with the title of my role in the wedding conflicting with my marital status. I had to decide that even though I am no longer married, I will always be Taylor’s wife and he my husband. You aren’t technically a widow if you were never a wife, just as you don’t get to experience grief if you didn’t first have love. I think many of us go through life struggling to balance as we try to figure out what box we belong in. This is when I think it is important to remember that God created us in His image and The Lord is definitely not limited by boxes or confined by human titles. God is the one who bends time and space and intends for us to experience multiple roles, feelings and emotions all at once.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”Matthew 6:19-21
Even after a year of loss, I sometimes catch myself feeling guilty when I experience moments of joy. An even worse feeling is apprehending myself from truly enjoying those moments because I worry that if I let my caution down and allow myself to be genuinely happy, something bad might happen. This is when I have to put my guard up against the enemy who comes to kill, steal and destroy. We have to remember that all good things are from God and protect our joys from the thief of this world.
Another struggle within the joyous moments is getting caught up in fixating on what Taylor isn’t experiencing with the rest of us. I get caught up in my plans. Taylor should be here to see his little sister walk down the aisle. We have the greatest kids in the world and he should be here to see them dressed up as flower girls twirling in their dresses. He should be here with us to eat the most incredible steak dinner because he worked tirelessly to produce the best beef anyone has ever tasted. Taylor should be here to toast his new brother-in-law with a glass of whiskey as he takes a moment to soak in the incredible view; a change from his normal perspective on the back of a horse or dirt bike. This is when I look around and remind myself that whatever view Taylor is seeing now is more incredible than what I think he is missing. This is when I remind myself that those “shoulds” are just my opinion from a limited, human knowledge and life doesn’t follow my plan. This is when I have to trust that God’s plans are perfect and what I think Taylor is missing comes from that same limited, human knowledge. The treasures of this world will eventually fade away, but for those who believe in Christ, an even greater inheritance awaits us in heaven.
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