Thursday, December 27, 2012

Memories vs Monuments

     Over the past couple of weeks I have been answering some questions from various readers about mine and Vee's relationship.  I hope they have been helpful and eye-opening.  Recently in a comment I was asked the question "Do you ever fear that your continual talk about your past will prevent you and Vee from making memories of your own?"

     I want to start by saying I think that this question may be a common fear for people who are dating a widow(er).  There was definately a time when I wondered if Vee would have the desire to make new memories with me because of her desire to hold on to her memories with Jeremy.  While it is a nice idea to think that one can meld the past and present together while looking towards the future, Vee will agree that she struggles sometimes exactly how to put that into practice.  I am not saying it can't be done, in fact I would argue that it can.  What I am saying is that it's a balancing act that requires grace and open communication from both people. 

     Simply stated, I don't think talking about the past is something I fear will hinder mine and Vee's future.   In fact, I think that talking about the past is one of the best ways to gain understanding for the non-widowed person and can give healing and acceptance for the widow(er).  Talking gives our soul an outlet.  Sharing memories, stories, and hurts is a great way to build trust, show support, and practice unconditional love towards your widowed partner.  I believe the trickiest part in making new memories is not in the talking about the past, but feeling free to move into and accept the future. 

     As I have said before in different blog posts there are many different reminders thoughtout our house of Jeremy's life.  There are pictures hanging up, a few articles of clothing still around, some tools in the garage, a few guns and some electronics in the basement.  These items don't make me feel insecure or threatened.  There are pieces of Jeremy and Vee's life together.  They tell a story.  They share an experience.  They bring meaning.  The stir precious memories....but they are not monuments.

     It may be a fine line but I think there is a difference between memories and monuments. Memories can be shared.  While the deceased is not physically here, memories are living.  Memories are special and valuable but they are also a gift and can be passed on.  Memories may make us cry but they can also make us smile and laugh.  Memories live on through stories, sharing, and special everyday moments.

     Monuments, however, are not living. They stand as solemn, fixed, and ominous pieces. They may remind us of the past but only in somber tones. Monuments can't exist as everyday pieces in a life because they are no pliable to fit into the context of a daily routine.  They rarely bring about a smile or laughter. Monuments can be visited, but cannot be "shared" like memories. And, unlike memories which are free for others to experience and be a part of, monuments are "untouchable."

     In our house there are many things that stir memories of Jeremy... but there are no monuments.  While some may choose to place in their home a monument (something fixed and untouchable) this is not the route that feels comfortable to us.  There is nothing so fixed in Vee's life or grief that I feel like I must walk on eggshells.  There is nothing so looming from Jeremy's life that I feel my own existence in our home is diminished.  There is nothing that Vee has set up in our life, relationship, or home that would make me think or feel for one second that our memories together are less important or not equal to her life and relationship with Jeremy.  Instead, the memory pieces that exist are there to provide opportunities for Vee, me, and the kids to touch, hold, and remember Jeremy's life and - at the same time - allow us to grow into who we are as a couple and a family.

     So, while this blog (and Vee's blog) deals a lot with memories of Jeremy its important to recognize that we have chosen these outlets to reach out to others who are in similar situations as ours.  We don't talk about our normal, everyday lives, or our children, or much of anything else because these blogs are a tool for us to help others in a very specific area.  Outside of these blogs, if all Vee and I talked about was her memories of Jeremy then that would be a different story.  But as it stands, Vee's memories of Jeremy are just one part of our life.  Its an accepted piece of our relationship.  Its how I came to know Vee and how she came to be the person she is today... but it does not define us and who we are as a couple together.




Friday, December 7, 2012

50 Shades Of Grief

     Tonight I wanted to address the question posed a few weeks ago: "Do you ever feel the need to talk about your past marriage when Vee talks about Jeremy? Or do you avoid discussion of your previous marriage?"

     I have worked in grief counseling for many years and have come to one realization: Grief comes in many shades, many forms, and many different costumes.

     In our lives Vee and I have both went through a grieving process...but our grief has taken different forms and looks very different.  I grieved the loss of a marriage to a woman who had not been faithful, honest, or loyal.  I grieved the marriage I wanted, but could not obtain.  I grieved the idea that I couldn't make things work even though I wanted too.  I grieved the loss that my daughters would not grow up in a household that was untarnished by divorce.  I grieve the fact that my daughters would never be truly close to their mom because she did not have the capability to have that kind of relationship with them.  I grieved... and then I left the past behind me and moved forward.

     Vee's grief looks very different/  Vee grieved the loss of her husband to an early death.  She grieved Jeremy's presence, his love, and his support.  She grieved the fact that he would never get to see Faith, Caleb, or Carter grow up into adults.  She grieved the dreams they had made together and the plans they shared.  She grieved... and then she took her grief and moved forward.

     Jeremy is not a intimate part of mine and Vee's relationship, but he is an important part.  We speak of him often.  Jeremy's pictures are up in the house.  We tell stories about Jeremy to the kids and visit his memorial stone on occasions.  Vee knows it is OK to move forward in life and continue to grieve Jeremy.  Its the form and shade that is healthy and acceptable to her and to me.

     On the other hand, and maybe not surprisingly, I rarely speak of my ex-spouse.  Its not because I can't, it's more because my grief is different.  I have no need to carry those memories forward. My grief is over - and while I bear some scars from the hurt, I no longer carry the grief with me.  From time to time Vee and I have to discuss how to handle situations with my ex-spouse, how her instabilities may or may not affect the girls, or what obstacles we may face in the future in regards to her, but mostly her name is absent from our house. This doesn't mean that I have totally forgotten my past.  I can and do talk about experiences I had in my previous marriage, but it rarely if ever revolves around my ex-spouse.

     As I have said in previous blog posts, I think the key to any marriage is clear, honest communication.  When you get remarried you come into the relationship with past experiences, memories, and even some baggage.  Sometimes those memories and experiences can make the other person feel a bit insecure. 

     Vee and I have found a lot of comfort and peace in talking through our feelings about how and where to share those memories. We recognize that the other person has a different grief journey and the forms and shades vary from our own experience.  We don't hold each other hostage to how "we would handle it" but show grace and patience as we walk the journey with each other.

     If you are dating a widow(er) I would just like to remand you that each person grieves differently.  Some outsiders will try to tell you that the widow(er) is moving to fast.  Others will insist she/he is moving too slow in their grief journey.  Some people might suggest that they "should or "shouldn't"  do "this" or "that in order to aid in their healing process. I encourage you to take the time to understand their own personal grief. Walk along side of them.  Ask questions.  Listen.  Be observant. Be quick to support and slow to judge... because there are many shades of grief.



Monday, December 3, 2012

Keep Breathing

     When tradgedy strikes it seems to knock all of the air out of you.  One second everything is normal and the next you find yourself in a completely different world.  It's a world that is unfamiliar.  It's a world that is unfair.  It's a world where there are more questions than answers.  It's a world that changes your views, perspectives, and life forever.  It's a world that brings hurt like never before.   

     It's a world where our friend, Amy Lewis, found herself this past Friday night when her husband of almost 11 years, Jim, suddenly and tragically died.  For those of you who have lost a spouse, you know what the coming days, months, and years will bring for Amy... but right now, she is just focused on breathing.  One step at a time.  One moment at a time.  One detail at a time. One breath at a time.

     At the young age of 34, Amy is trying to make sense out of this tradgedy... but luckily she does not have to do this alone.  She has the support of friends and her church who are standing beside her at this very moment.  We don't have any words to take away the pain or make sense out of Jim's death.  The ache that her heart feels and will continue to feel will not be soothed by our presence.  But, we are here and willing to do whatever we can to help.

     One of the ways that Vee and I want to personally support Amy is by raising money to help cover some of the costs of Jim's funeral. On top of tragically losing her husband, Amy just found out that the life insurance policy that she and Jim took out 20 months ago did not meet the required 24 month term period and therefore will not receive any fianancial assistance through Jim's life insurance.

      I encourage you to read more about Jim and Amy Lewis in Vee's blog. Since Vee receives a small amount of revenue from her blog, she has decided to donate whatever she earns from the month of December to Amy to help ease the financial burden that she is facing. All you have to do is click on her blog (CLICK HERE)- that's it! For each page impression, she receives money so make sure the page fully loads but it's really that easy. You are welcome to click on the advertisements on her page to earn even more, but just the click alone to her blog is huge.  So, even if you don't have any money to help... you can help raise money for Amy with just a few clicks on Vee's blog everyday!

Vee and I have also added Paypal donation buttons on our blogs. Click the button to easy and securely donate money to help Amy.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Measuring Up

     The topic this week is a very sensitive one.  The question was posed "How do you handle thoughts of comparing yourself and Jeremy in your mind?"  The "right" answer might be to say that I don't ever compare myself to Jeremy or wonder how I measure up... but thats not the honest answer.

    I think in every romantic relationship there is a desire to be the "one-and-only."  If at some point along the way you feel like your position as the "one-and-only" is threatened then you might ask yourself questions like, "What am I doing wrong or not doing right?" or "What does the other person do or have that I don't?"  Unless you are highly self-confident you may find yourself thinking about some of those very questions... or others like it.

     While some people may tell you that it's ridiculous to feel like you are "competing" with someone who is deceased, the truth is that those feelings are normal.  Don't beat yourself up for having those feelings.  At the same time, don't allow those feelings to beat you up either.

     There are definitely times where I feel insecure and compare myself with Jeremy.  There have been times in the past when I wondered if I made Vee as happy as Jeremy did, or I questioned whether she found me as attractive, or fun to be with, or if our intimate relationship looked different in comparison.  I think there were times that these thoughts were fostered by hearing Vee talk fondly about past experiences she had with Vee and wondering then how I measured up to those memories.

     It is at this point where I had to ask myself an honest question... was Vee making me feel second best, or was I doing that to myself?

     The answer was simple.  Vee has always been great at never comparing me to Jeremy.   We share some similarities, but she is careful never to compare us. In addition Vee is great about making me and our relationship feel special.  The problem lies in my own thinking.  My own insecurities cause me to question how I measure up and its normal to have those questions from time to time. However, if those questions are left unbridled they can eat you alive.

     While I can't answer for everyone, I have found a few things that keep those questions at bay and give me peace about my relationship with Vee while giving her freedom to share and discuss her feelings and memories about Jeremy.

1) Vee loved and still loves Jeremy.
I know this sounds simple (and maybe contradictory when dealing with this subject) but its true.  The love that they shared was genuine and did not die with Jeremy's physical presence.  Once you fully understand that love and know that it is ongoing, the need to compete will diminish.

2) Vee chose me.
Vee didn't have to choose me.  There were several guys that pursued Vee after Jeremy died.  She could have chosen any one of them or someone else, but she chose me instead.  She cherishes me and the qualities that I posses.  While I don't always understand exactly why she finds me so great, I have to trust her love for me.

3) Vee is not the same person with me as she was with Jeremy.
To try to compare if Jeremy made Vee more happy than I do is really comparing apples to oranges, because there is more than one thing that changed in the equation.  Vee is a different person, she thinks differently, sees the world differently, and has a different outlook on life.  I trust that Jeremy was the right person to be with her then, and I am the right person to be with her now.

4) I don't make Vee responsible for the way I feel.
If there are times when I feel insecure then I take ownership of those.  The truth is that it's normal to feel insecure from time to time when dating a widow(er) - just be honest about it and even more importantly don't blame the other person.  When I come across those times I make sure to let Vee know its about how I feel and not about how she is treating me.

     All of this being said, you might find yourself in a relationship where it's not you who compares you to the deceased spouse but your widowed girlfriend/boyfriend.  If you feel like this is the case then the best answer is open and honest communication.  Allow them to see how they compare you and be willing to let them see how it makes you feel when they do.  They simply may be unaware that they are comparing you or unaware of its affects on how you feel.  Either way, it is up to you and your widowed girlfriend/boyfriend to set boundaries in the relationship and figure out what works best and fits comfortably for the both of you.

     I have adressed this question a little more in my blog post "It's Ok" (CLICK HERE for the link) or on my guest post for Widow's Voice "Second Best" (CLICK HERE for the link)   I encourage you to check both of those out for more information about this topic.

     By the way, keep the questions coming!  I am open to trying to answer any questions you may have about Vee and I and our relationship together.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Heaven knows...

     Over the next couple of weeks I am going to be addressing some of the questions that have been submitted to me about dating a widow.  I always welcome more questions so if you have any that arise over the next few weeks feel free to ask away.

     One question that Vee and I have been asked over the last several months has been about our thoughts/views about heaven.  This question has been asked in various ways but last week one anonymous comment asked "Do you worry about what will happen when you, Vee and Jeremy are all in heaven at the same time?" (I guess this is presuming I make it there :))

     This can be a tough question for all involved and since it falls under the topic of "religion" (a sensitive topic for most people) it can be even more complex.  Let me first start out with how Vee has described this question in the past.  Although I have not lost a spouse and I certainly don't want to try to put words in the mouths of others, I have found that most widow(er)s find a great sense of peace in thinking about seeing their late spouse in heaven at some point in the future.  Vee has spoken and written about this topic several times in the past.  Her hope is that when she dies and enters into heaven she will be reunited with Jeremy and that they will be able to spend some time there together.  This thought brings her hope.  It allows her to find some comfort in knowing that she will one day get to see Jeremy again face to face.  Her belief allows her to, in some small way, cope with her loss.

     Before I share my thoughts on heaven I should probably preface a few things.  First, while I have a Master's in Theology I am not expert in this subject.  I have my own thoughts and opinions but it doesn't mean I am right.... nor do I think I have the answers to everything.  Second, while Vee and I have talked about this subject before I am usually very brief about this subject because I know my thoughts about heaven are not a popular opinion in most circles - especially in the widow(er) community.  Third, heaven is a subject that Vee and I have talked extensively about.  We respect each others opinions but don't always agree on what heaven may look like.  Last of all, I have noticed that most of our societal views on what heaven will look like come less from what the bible describes and more from our desires and hopes for what heaven will look/be like.  Having thoroughly scared you and primed the pump for you to be completely angry at me... here are my thoughts about what will happen when Vee, Jeremy and I are all in heaven together...

     I do believe that we will see our loved ones again in heaven.  I believe that one day Vee will get to see Jeremy again.  I believe that if I enter into heaven Vee and I will see each other as well.  Where my beliefs differ from most is that I do not believe that my relationship with Vee or Jeremy's relationship with Vee will be of primary importance when we get there.  On earth we are incomplete - we are distant from God who is the Only Being who can fulfill us.  Without getting too much into theology, I believe that while we experience God's presence here on earth we will experience it to the full in heaven.  We will finally be complete.  There will be no more aches and pains.  There will be no more sin or hurts.  There will be no more death.  And, there will be no more distractions that keep us from living fully in the presence of God ... things such as: Facebook, or tv, or money, or stress... or even spouses.

     Now, obviously I don't mean to suggest that spouses are a bad thing or keep us from living for God - on the contrary - I believe that Vee helps me have a deeper relationship with God... but I also know there are times where I  place Vee on a level that distracts me from God.  In heaven I don't believe we will feel the need and longing for our spouse in heaven like we do here on earth - our attention and desire will be for God.  Will we recognize our loved ones in heaven - I believe so! Will we be happy to see our loved one in heaven - I can't imagine it another way!  I am not sure, however, that we will have spouses in heaven.

     Having said all of this, I think the underlying question might be "Who will get Vee's loyalty in heaven?" or "Who is really Vee's true spouse?"  To answer the first question I would say that when we get to heaven Vee's loyalty will be to God.  To answer the second,  I think that Jeremy and I are equally her truest spouses.  I think that there is a tendency for some to think (and for those who date widows to feel) that the second marriage is "second best."  While I think its normal and natural to have times you might feel "second best" it's probably best and most helpful to allow your widowed girlfriend/spouse to speak into that feeling for you.  Vee continually reminds me that I am her choice, that she loves me, and that my presence in her life is as meaningful and purposeful as her marriage with Jeremy.  Another way of saying it is this: Veronica's love for Jeremy is no more diminished by my presence then is her love for me diminished by her past with Jeremy. Once you learn to trust that the widow(er) you are dating truly loves and cares for you - the answer to who they "love the most" is easy for you to answer (even if others want to debate it).


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Guilty as Charged

     I cannot begin to tell you how much Vee means to me.  At the risk of sounding too "mushy" I have to admit that often times I find myself thinking throughout the day about how wonderful of a person and spouse she is for me.  You see, I came from a long relationship where there was no communication, no trust, no desire to be a "team", no support or encouragement, no intimacy, and no hope.  I had tried for many years to get marital counseling, to build trust and communication, to be a "team"... but what I eventually discovered is that no matter how hard I tried, or how many times I tried, it took two people to make things work.  The end result was always the same - I was alone in my efforts, in my marriage, and in raising my daughters.

     On the other side, Vee was in a healthy and strong marriage with Jeremy.  Sure, they had issues like any other married couple but overall they were happy, content, and epitomized the statement of "the perfect couple."  They knew what it meant to be a "team", have honest and open communication, and were both dedicated to their marriage.  They had mutual likes, friends, and interests.  They enjoyed singing together, raising their family together, and living life together.  They had every intention of growing old together...

     ...then Jeremy died.

     After Jeremy's death Vee's focus changed.  It took some time, but it changed.  She began to realize the importance in life.  She began to separate out the "small things" in life from the issues that really matter.  She learned how to love deeper, to love freer, and to look for opportunities where she might have only seen the normal everyday occurrences before...

     ...this is where I came in.

     For me, beyond the emotions of grief and loss of Jeremy's death lay other emotions attached to the relationship I have with Vee...


     You see, the only reason I get to experience this amazing love, the only way I get to spend my life with Vee, the only way we get to have this amazing family is because Jeremy died and because Vee had to lose her husband.  And then it hits me... I benefitted from someone else's loss. The thought of that still cuts me to the core.

     To this day I still don't know how to cope with knowing that the only way I got to this point with such an amazing woman is because Jeremy died too early and Vee lost her love.  When I think about it too much the feeling of guilt overcomes me.  I know I didn't cause Jeremy's death.  I know I didn't cause Vee to grieve.  At the same time I know without those events my life would look entirely different.

     I don't have any hard and fast answers to helping deal with the feelings of guilt that come from feeling like you have benefited from someone else's pain, but here are a few things that I have tried to remember when those feelings of guilt become strong...    

1) I love Vee from this point forward.
When I fell in love with Vee she had already lost Jeremy.  Her life with Jeremy present was no longer an option.  She will never get the opportunity to live out her days with Jeremy which means she will be living them out some other way.... that means I get the opportunity to love her for who she is.  Sure, there are parts that are broken but there are also parts that are uniquely healing, strong, and impossible to obtain without going through such a traumatic event.  This is where I found her and this is where I fell in love with her... and I can' imagine her any other way.

2) I dismiss hypotheticals and "what if's".
Vee and I are often asked hypothetical questions about our situation, such as "If you would have known how Jeremy were going to die would you have been with him... or taken him to the doctor when he had a severe headache...etc?" or "Comparing the life you had with Jeremy as to the one with Steve, which one seems to fit you better?"  These are all hypothetical questions and could drive a person crazy! I sometimes find myself here thinking "Where would I be if Jeremy was still living?" These questions only lead to me feeling guilty about the love I have found and the truth is... I cant go back and change a thing.  I can only move forward.  So, whenever my mind begins to ask the hypothetical questions I try my best to dismiss them and live in the present situation.

3) I accept reality.
Vee and I both came from really traumatic life events.  Those events are true and real and whether we like it or not, life is not always fair.  My reality prior to Vee was that I had been in a relationship where the other person was not in love with me and that out in various ways... as hard as it was, that was reality.  Prior to me, Jeremy and Vee were in a great relationship... then Jeremy died... and as hard as it was, that was Vee's reality.  We can't go back and change things, so we are forced to accept the reality of our circumstances and go forward from there.

4) I cherish the present.
The truth is, I am really blessed!  I have a wonderful wife who loves me and accepts me the way I am.  She encourages me, supports me, and loves me like I have never known before.  I cannot imagine anyone loving me anywhere close to the way that she does.  Several years ago a woman at my church was trying to help me put things into perspective and shared with me a story about a "good wolf" and a "bad wolf."  She asked me which wolf I thought would grow bigger and stronger than the other.  I knew there was some kind of catch even though I wasn't smart enough to figure it out, so I waited for her answer.  "The strongest one is the one you feed... so don't feed the bad wolf."  I could spend a lifetime feeding the "bad wolf" by thinking about hypotheticals and wondering how things might be different "if"... but then I would only be wasting the time that I could be using to enjoy what God has given me now.  So I try very hard to feed the "good wolf" by soaking up every day and by recognizing the wonderfully amazing life, woman, and family that God has blessed me with.

     In the last blog I mentioned I wanted to share some of the challenges that Vee and I have had go walk through in our relationship.  I want to encourage you (whether you are dating/married to a widow... or a widow looking to date or marry) to ask any questions that you would like and I will do my best to answer them as honestly and openly as I can.   I can't promise I will give any solutions, but I can at least share our journey with you.



Thursday, November 8, 2012

the outsider

   When Vee and I decided to allow God to use our lives as a ministry to help others we did so with the understanding that our lives, including our hurts and struggles, needed to be transparent.  Because God has blessed our relationship and our family so much I fear that sometimes it comes across that there have been no struggles, no challenges, or no hurdles that we have had to overcome.  The truth is- there have been.  Not many and none so treacherous, but there have definitely been things we have had to work through.

    Every relationship has its areas that need refined, and our relationship is no different.  Over the next few weeks I want to walk through some of the obstacles that Vee and I have had to walk through - and some them are common for those who are dating or married to a widow.  So if you have any questions or any topics that you would like for me to address, please feel free to leave a comment and I will try to address as many as I can over the next few weeks.  I can tell you that I don't have any hard and fast answers to anything... I am NO expert! What I can do is to give you an honest glimpse into our lives and how we have navigated our relationship.  As I already stated, my goal is to be as transparent as possible, so feel free to ask the hard questions.

     Recently Vee and I read the book "The Color of Rain" by Michael and Gine Spehn.  Before I go any further let me say that this book beautifully walks the reader through the painfulness of grief, the hardship of raising children in the midst of loss, and in the end has a beautiful story of redemptive love... so if you haven't read it, you should! One night as our family was making one of our many road-trips and the kids were finally starting settle down and drift off to sleep enough to the point where Vee and I could begin to hear ourselves think, Vee pulled out the Color of Rain and began to read. The chapter she started to read quickly drew my attention and before long I felt the the words on the page were the words that my heart had been trying to speak but my mouth could never quite find the right words to articulate.

    I want to let Michael Spehn's words speak here, but before I do I want to set up the chapter.  Gina Kell and Michael Spehn both lost their spouses at and early age.  As the book continues you begin to see that God has woven their lives together - not to make sense out of death and loss - but to give redemption and love where neither had any hope.  Sometime after both Gina and Michael lost their spouses they began a friendship and soon after a dating relationship.  In chapter 37 Michael shares that Gina's late husband, Matt, had several very close friends who had started a foundation in his name for families who have small children who lost a parent to cancer.  Since Michael's wife also died of cancer and left behind small children, Gina approached her late husband's friends with the idea that she wanted to change the name of the foundation to include Michael's late wife as well - the "New Day Foundation for Families, in honor of Matt Kell and Cathy Spehn."  Matt's friends were visibly and audibly against the change and, although polite, stood their ground that they wanted to support their friend who had died and were not interested in anyone else coming in the picture.  The following is Michael's words from this encounter:

     "I was a little insulted, sure, but I got it.  At its root was the fact that these guys weren't ready.  They were not prepared for the concept of Gina and someone else... anyone else, other than their brother Matt. I understood that completely.  I was frustrated by it but I was sympathetic to them at the same time.
     We spend years building the really important relationships of our lives; the guys you meet in school, the ones you play ball with, the few who made it through all of the years and all the experiences.  These are more than your friends; they are your touchstones that keep you grounded through life's ups and downs.  These people, and the collection of memories you share, form the bedrock that gives you the confidence to get married, have children, start new businesses, and so forth.
     When Matt Kell died, these men were shaken to their core.  They looked around and saw that the foundation of their lives had cracks in it.  The grief they felt wasn't simply sadness; it was also fear.  Men in general tend to respond to this feeling by shifting into task mode.  These guys did that by organizing golf outings and taking Matt's sons to ball games and figuring out ways to help Gina.  Which is perfectly well and good, but the core issues remained unresolved.  The result is grief delayed. The opposite of those who slip from grief into despair and hopelessness, these folks seem to consciously defer their grief for the sake of the widow and her kids.
     I was keenly aware of my status in this group from the start.  I was the outsider."

     "That's it" I said to Vee and we drove down the road into the dark of the night... "That's what I feel!"  Since Jer's death in 2010, his "brothers" and people who knew and loved him came to the aid of Vee and the kids.  They didn't know what else to do, so they did whatever they could!  They helped take care of the kids, took them out on special trips like Jer would have done if he were alive.  They helped with odds and ends projects around the house that Jer would have taken care of if he were still there.  They organized the Annual Jeremy King Memorial Hunt and a Jeremy King Memorial Dinner where money was raised to help Faith, Caleb, and Carter as they entered college.  All of these things were, and are, super important.  And these men and women who stepped up to fill a hole after Jeremy's life ended too short were a God-sent in the truest of senses.

     For some (though not all), Vee's status as a widow gave them a tangible outlet to ignore their grief and dive heart first into helping her and the kids.  In fact, it was not just an outlet... it was an important role.  As Vee and I began to talk and started dating it was hard for many of the people that had been close to Jer.  As Michael stated, they were not prepared for the concept of Vee and someone else... anyone else, other than their friend Jeremy.  For some, it threatened their "role" in taking care of Vee and the kids, for others they were not ready to see Vee move forward because they themselves had not yet been able to grieve because they had "delayed" their grief in order to help the family Jeremy left behind.

     Although it was hard, I understood where these folks were coming from.  I had been hurt too.  I had scars, but these were not my friends, these were Jeremy's friends and the bond that they had with Jeremy went deep.  I could not be mad at them for being hesitant, although it was frustrating at times.  As Michael so simply stated, "I was keenly aware of my status in this group from the start.  I was the outside."  I needed to be as patient with them as I wanted them to be with me.

     The good news - by and large, Jeremy had great friends who over time have come to accept me into their circle.  I am not "one of the guys" yet - and I may never be.  I will never be Jeremy's replacement (not for Vee or anyone else). But I have come to be accepted.  And I have come to accept them.  I have learned stories from them and have watched them grieve their friend and brother.  I hurt for them because I know in Jeremy's death their innocence was taken from them and has left them vulnerable.  I stand beside them, as many have stand beside me now.  I appreciate them for their friendship to their brother Jeremy, for the way in which they love and care about his family, and for their ability to look beyond their own grief to accept a new person into Vee's life.

     So, to make a long story just a little shorter, here are a few helpful tips to remember if you are dating or marrying a widow(er) whose late spouses friends are still active in her life:

1) Just because your widowed girlfriend/boyfriend is ready for a relationship with you does not mean everyone else in her/his life will be.  Expect some resistance and be prepared to be an "outsider."

2) Give grace and patience.  If the friends of your girlfriend/boyfriends late spouse are not ready, it doesn't mean that they will never be ready.  It may take some time but if they see that you honestly care about the widow you will gain their trust and respect.

3) Just because it was their friend doesn't mean they have to be yours.  There may be some people you find that you can be friends with, others will just be acquaintances, and others that you may not be close with at all... and that is ok!

4) Remember to be respectful.  Many of the "friends" were there to be helpful in a very tragic time.  Your girlfriend/boyfriend may not be very close with all of her/his late spouses friends, but chances are she may find their presence meaningful as it reminds her/him of their late spouse.  Putting these friends down or trying to remove them from the picture all together may be seen as a threat to remove the memories that your girlfriend/boyfriend has of her/his spouse.

     I hope these thoughts are somewhat helpful in your journey.  Again, over the next several week I encourage you to ask any questions, challenges, concerns you have about dating or marrying a widow.  I look forward to hearing from you and walking this journey with you!




Thursday, November 1, 2012



     Every once in a while I get a comment either from a blog, or Facebook, or in person where someone will say something to the effect of, "Vee is such a lucky woman to have you!"  While it never hurts to have your ego stroked... the truth is that I am the lucky one. Since Vee and I first started dating there were a lot of hurdles for me to overcome and Vee was patient with each one, knowing where to encourage me, where to support me, and knowing all the right ways to make a very insecure heart feel safe enough to love again.

     I came out of a very dysfunctional relationship that left some pretty deep scars.  The only things that were higher than the walls that surrounded my heart were the reasons why I shouldn't trust anyone into the very intimate parts of my life again.  Don't get me wrong, the idea of having a healthy relationship sounded good... but the thought of opening up my heart again literally scared the hell out of me!  I had been hurt before, my two girls had been through enough, and even the thought of having someone knock us down again was enough to make me want to lock the doors on my life and never let anyone in... but thats where I found her...

     I think it was easy for some people to peg Vee as a helpless widow who didn't really have much to offer.  In fact, I think for a time Vee saw herself in this way.  But the truth is, what Vee was able to offer me was exactly what would tare down the walls around my heart, heal my brokenness, give me and my daughters security for the first time, and change our lives drastically.  Vee wasn't (and isn't) some kind of charity case.  She is strong.  She has been through hell and back.  She has looked her worst nightmare in the face and lived through it.  And best of all (at least for me) she came out on the other side with a new perspective on life and the ability to love and live deeper. 

     I truly believe its because of what Vee learned through her brokenness that gave her the ability to love me to the point of healing my heart.  I have come to understand that a widow(er) loves different.  Its a focused love.  Its rooted in seeking the most of each moment.  It looks towards the best in the other person.  It skips past the superficial parts of life and is consumed by the truly meaningful and important pieces.  In its effort to find healing it bring about healing.  While it may be fragile it is as endless as an ocean and that is exactly what I needed, an ocean of love and acceptance.

    And that is exactly what I still need!

     Everyday Vee still showers me with the love that is re-writing and re-training my heart.  Its a slow process, but grief has taught her patience for this journey.  She accepts me for my flaws and my insecurities and continually reminds me that she is "in this journey with me for life" which is the salve to this old heart. 

   A few weeks after Vee and I started dating I heard a song on the radio that I hadn't heard in a long time.  The words rang true.  They spoke to exactly how I felt (and still feel) about Vee in my life.
                     "I don't get many things right the first time

                    In fact, I am told that a lot                    Now I know all the wrong turns                    The stumbles and falls brought me here
                   And where was I before the day                   That I first saw your lovely face?                   Now I see it everyday                   And I know that I am                   I am, I am the luckiest
                  What if I'd been born fifty years before you                  In a house on the street where you live?                  Maybe I'd be outside as you passed on your bike                  Would I know?
                  And in a wide sea of eyes                  I see one pair that I recognize                 And I know that I am                 I am, I am the luckiest
                I love you more than I have                Ever found a way to say to you
                Next door, there's an old man who lived to his 90's                And one day, passed away in his sleep                And his wife, she stayed for a couple of days                And passed away
                I'm sorry, I know that's a strange way                To tell you that I know we belong                 That I know that I am                I am, I am the luckiest!"

      I tell Vee all the time that I am SO glad to be the one who gets to love her for life... and that's the truth!  I am convinced that God brought us together for a healing that neither one of us could have ever thought possible but neither one can deny.

    So, thank you babe!  Thanks for tearing down my walls, for helping me find myself again, for loving me unconditionally, for loving Zada and Reagan like your own, for being patient with me, for healing my heart, and for walking this journey with me!   

    I truly am the luckiest!



Thursday, October 25, 2012

myths and misconceptions...

     Some things are hard to hear.  Not necessarily because the intent is bad but because the interpretation doesn't match the intent.  This can happen in any relationship but is especially true in relationships when someone has lost a spouse.  Widow(er)s can say things that you may not hear in other relationships and, therefore, it can be interpreted in various ways.  Sometimes the interpretations can seem more "negative" in nature and can be reinforced by outsiders who may be well meaning but do not understand the heart or words of the widow(er). So if you find yourself dating or in love with a widow(er), here are a few things to keep in mind...

If your widowed girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse says "I really miss _______!" (their late spouse's name here)
                                ... it does NOT mean...

"You are ok, but not as great as my late spouse, therefore I am missing them."
     Widow(er)s shared life with their late spouse.  Their lives were intertwined with their love to the point they cannot be separated... even by death.  While there may be tangible reminders left behind, the physical presence of their loved one is gone and leaves them with a deep expression of "I really miss...."
     If you are lucky enough to be with a widow(er) who is ready to move forward and share her/his life with you, know that no matter how much joy and happiness that you will share together there will be times they miss their late spouse.  While it can be a difficult thing for your ego to swallow it has nothing to do with how they feel about you. It has everything to do with the life they were so intertwined with.  Their life was and is ever changed because of that relationship.  You can make them happy.  You can show them love.  You can make them laugh... and all of that is just as genuine and real as the thing they lost.  Its not a competition, its life.

If your widowed girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse says "I love _______!" (their late spouse's name here)
                        does NOT mean...

"I don't love you as much as I loved him/her."

     Whether its "socially kosher" or not, widow(er)s will continue to love their deceased... period! Asking them to "stop" or "not talk" about their love will not change they way they feel inside.  They loved their spouse. Their spouse died.  But the way they felt and still feel about their spouse is unchanged.  Widow(er)s can love again however! And if you are with a widow(er) who is brave enough to share their heart and love you - then you are blessed indeed!  What I have found is that a widow(er)s love is "refined."
     Widow(er)s have gone through the fire of life.  They have been burned in the worst of ways, yet they come out on the other side changed and new.  Priorities are different.  Love is different.  Life is different.  Vee continually tells me that Jeremy's death made her realize the important things in life she took for granted before that she does not now.  We who are loved by widow(er)s may get to experience a love that is in its purest and most raw form... a love that is willing to look loss in the eyes, to risk it all once again, and to soak up the everyday moments while cherishing each day.

If you widowed girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse says "I have been thinking a lot about ________ (their late spouse's name here) lately!"
                         does NOT mean...

"When I compare you and my old life, I would rather have my old life and thats why I think about it all the time."

     Its hard for a non-widowed person to really understand it but there is no comparison between pre-grief and post-grief life.  I have said before that comparisons are tough for me... it makes me feel super inadequate in certain circumstances.  But not only are Jeremy and I different, Vee is different as well.  She is not the same person she was 2 years ago.  There is no comparison between the life that was and the life that is... they are as different as apples and oranges.  So when things come up that remind her of Jeremy I realize its not because I am not measuring up and she is unhappy but it's because she has a lot of fond memories that she wants to treasure.  Instead of being insecure I try my best to be a supportive learner... to encourage Vee to share her heart and memories while learning more about her whole life, Jeremy, and her heart.

If you widowed girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse says "I can't talk about it right now."
                       does NOT mean...

"I don't ever want to talk about it - so leave me alone!"

     Grief is personal.  Its complicated.  And sometimes - grief doesn't make any sense.  One night when Vee and I were on our honeymoon in Jamaica she began to cry out of the blue... then sob... then left the room and began to wail.  I wasn't sure what was going on, what happened, or what I should do.  She was so upset she couldn't talk and it didn't appear that she wanted to talk to me. While she curled up in a ball on the couch of our living room area I knelt beside her on the floor and let her cry.  I gently stroked her hair and got her tissues as she writhed in grief.  It was hard.  I wanted to know what was wrong.  I wanted to fix it.  I wanted to help... but I couldn't.  So I sat in silence so she didn't have to grieve alone.  I let her know that I was there, but that she didn't have to explain anything.  After a couple of hours she was finally ready to talk and I was ready to listen.  I try never to pry (although every once in a while I do) but just allow her to share when she is ready.  Thats the key.  Stick around, be silent, and be ready to listen and support when they are ready.

If your widowed girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse has pictures or mementos around the house of their late spouse
                      does NOT mean...

that they are not ready to move forward in life with someone else.

     I have read several blogs about making the widowed person get rid of all things that remind them of their deceased spouse and honestly, that makes me sick! Having pictures or other items around the house does not mean that they are wrapped up in the past but that they appreciated and valued what they had. It shows the depth of their love and loyalty.  It gives them opportunity to move forward while embracing their past.  Vee has several pictures of Jeremy throughout the house.  Some of his clothes are still around.  There are many tangible things of Jer all around and each of these things are a testament to the person Jeremy was and the life that he and Vee shared together.  They aren't a shrine.  They aren't a sign that Vee was not ready for our relationship. They aren't something that comes between Vee and I. They are a part of their story.  They are a part of her story. They are a part of our story.

If I can offer one last word of advice, its this: if you are dating or married to a widow(er), leave your ego at the door.  There are going to be statements and actions that if you are egotistical will upset you and hurt your pride.  True love, however, is not egotistical.  It seeks to uplift and support the other person... to give more than you get... to put your needs and wants aside to seek out the needs and wants of the other.  It is my experience that if you are fortunate enough to love and be loved by a widow(er) that you will not only get the opportunity to love selflessly, but that you will also be loved selflessly!


Thursday, October 18, 2012

It looks.... different


     Have you ever noticed that if you say two words together for a long enough period it sounds funny to say them just separately?  This cant be true about small, trivial things such as peanut butter and jelly... but it is even more true and profound when it comes to people and relationships.  Think of any couple you have known for a while - don't their names just kind of "go together?'  The two names almost become  inseparable.

     When Veronica and I met, she had spent almost a decade as "Jeremy and Veronica."  It was who people knew her as.  It was who she knew herself as.  Anything different from that was... well... different.  Not only did the names "Jeremy and Veronica" go together, but their relationship defined them as a couple. Had you spent enough time around them, were friends with them, and knew them at all, you knew "Jeremy and Veronica." When you talked about them you might talk about Rochester College, or singing, or (God help me) Rock Band (sweet Jesus I said it).  They each had their own personalities, likes, and hobbies that were separate from each other, but in the end, they went together like ... peanut butter and jelly.

     The moment that Vee and I started dating something very audible happened.  It was no longer "Jeremy and Veronica" that people would say, but rather "Steve and Veronica."  This was a huge change for people. It was a huge change for Vee.   The change, however, was more than just names.... it was in the relationship that defined us as a couple.

    While Vee is an amazing singer, I... well... I probably should be banned from singing anywhere, even in the shower by myself.  Unlike Jeremy, I didn't go to Rochester College and I don't have a history with many of the people that Jeremy and Veronica made there.  And, while Jeremy and I share some similarities in certain places (humor, music, a strong sense of self, and a good ability to judge character) we are very different in other places.  Therefore, the relationship that "Jeremy and Veronica" shared looks very different than the relationship that "Steve and Veronica" share... but there are multiple reasons for this change.

     First, Vee adamantly tell you that she is not the same person that she was before Jeremy died.   And, its true.  Grief changes a person.  It breaks your heart.  It opens your eyes.  It stirs your soul.  It causes you to focus on what really matters and live each day with that understanding.  It places things in priority.   It changes priorities.  And the journey through it is ongoing.  Vee's love is deeper now in the sense that she realizes that things can change in an instant, so the small, insignificant distractions of life are not as important as they once were.  This doesn't mean that there is no fun, or that there aren't distractions - she is still human. But because grief is never far from her, she is continually reminded that life is short and to love deep for the time you can.

     Second, our relationship is our own.  Much like when Jeremy and Veronica met, they began and fostered their own way of doing things, their own traditions, and their own ways of communicating. Vee and I have developed our own unique relationship.  We have different things we like to do together, different ways of communicating, and are continuing to build our own traditions as a couple and family.  Our relationship is defined by us, our personalities, and our dreams.  We bring our own unique personalities to the table and... whoa-la... it's a new creation.

     Third, Jeremy is still present in our lives.  Not in a creepy "marriage of 3" like I have heard some people talk about when referring to widows or widowers getting re-married, but more in the sense that his presence and memory is evident in our everyday lives.  "Jeremy and Veronica" were always and only "Jeremy and Veronica"... but the truth is that sometimes "Steve and Veronica" needs to pause in order to reflect back on the memory and relationship of "Jeremy and Veronica."  After all, it is only through the first relationship that the second existed and its only because of the love experienced through the first relationship that the desire for love was sought out in the second.

     It took Vee time to adjust the new name and the new relationship dynamics as much as it did for others to make that adjustment.  But as time goes on, "Steve and Veronica" feels more normal... like we are suppose to go together :)  Maybe we are not the peanut butter and jelly that everyone was use to... but we are a new combination.... peanut butter and chocolate (and lets face it... who doesn't like chocolate?).  And the great new is that Vee as "Steve and Veronica" continues to grow and develop and become the new normal, her identity as "Jeremy and Veronica" will continue to carry on in the stories, memories, pictures, special anniversaries, and faces of Faith, Caleb, and Carter.


PS - After writing this blog I am suddenly in the mood for peanut butter :)      

Thursday, October 11, 2012



     Starting a relationship after divorce or widowhood is not easy.  I have discovered that following either of these two life circumstances people suddenly assume that the divorcee or widow(er) has lost all ability to think rationally about relationships.  Somehow we can pay bills, raise children, work a job, manage a household, and keep up with daily life issues all on our own.... but when it comes to going on a date, well you had better call the President, schedule a meeting with the Pope, and take a national survey because everyone will want to chime in with their "2 cents" ... reason being - somehow you have lost that ability.

     Before you jump to conclusions and think I have lost my mind (fyi - you have to have one to lose it!) I have been a grief counselor for many years and understand that people in crisis should avoid making major life decisions.  I have worked with hundreds of people who have made rash decisions when caught up in emotions only to regret it later... but there is an important distinction between someone in crisis and someone who has gone through  crisis.

     Divorce is a crisis.  It sucks.  It hurts.  And depending on what happens throughout the marriage and divorce it can leave scars.  I spent many years trying to fix a marriage that was out of my hands.  I spent  many nights fixing dinners, cleaning house, bathing the girls and putting them to bed by myself while my ex-spouse chose to leave the family.  I know what the sting of rejection feels like.  I know what it is like to have someone manipulate and lie in order to get what they want, to be so turned around by false statements and half-truths that you don't know what end is up.  I know what it is like when your spouse chooses to be with someone else over you. I lived in crisis.... but I don't live there anymore.  Sure I still have some insecurities.  Are there parts of my past that still plague me? Absolutely! I bear the scars of a dysfunctional relationship, but scars are signs of healing.

     Grief is a crisis.  It sucks.  It hurts.  When you lose someone you love you lose the ability to breathe, to dream, to think that life is good and just.  Vee experienced grief when she lost her husband, Jeremy, at age 31.  They had a great relationship, wonderful family, and Vee was 6 months pregnant with their 3rd child when Jeremy suddenly died.  She knows the sting of death.  She knows what its like to feel grief knock the wind out of your lungs and the joy out of your soul.  She understands what its like to question God's plans, to have more questions than answers, and to lay in bed with small children trying to explain to them why daddy isn't going to be coming home anymore.  Vee lived in crisis.... but she doesn't live there anymore.  Does she still grieve?  Yes.  Does the pain of losing Jeremy still grip her heart and bring tears to her eyes? It always will.  She bears the scars of grief, but scars are signs of healing.

     Vee and I have been in crisis.... but when we started dating we were at the point where we could both say we had gone through crisis.  Not everything was perfect, we hadn't mastered all of our hurts... but we weren't in crisis anymore.  That was something we both talked about early and made sure we worked though prior to anything else.  "Dating for fun" was something neither of us were interested in, but we also wanted to make sure that the other person was "ready" for a relationship.  We were honest, upfront, and openly communicated our intentions, fears, and excitement.  We were ready.... others were not.

     I cant say that we had a bunch of people who opposed our relationship - in fact - the people who know us both (and know us best) were in complete support of our relationship from the start.  However there were some people who were not ready to see either of us begin in a relationship.  Some of this came from people who wanted to give us a "timeline" so to speak...  you know "You shouldn't date for at least _______ (you fill in the blank) after a death or divorce!"  I am even convinced that there were some who really wanted both Vee and I to stay single for the rest of our lives.  Others would have been satisfied if we would have waited 10 years, or 5 years, or just a few more years.  But when it boiled down to it - we knew the time was right.  We knew we were not in crisis anymore, but were were ready to move forward.  Sure, we would move forward with a limp, with scars, with fears, but we were ready.

     When people confronted me with their expectations and "timelines" of who and how I should date after divorce I (in typical Steve fashion) was able to shrug off those comments... I knew the truth about me, about my first marriage, and what I new was right for me and my girls as far as dating Veronica. Vee on the other hand has a harder time when it comes to disappointing people and was more bothered by the expectations others had of her dating life.

     Both Vee and I knew from very early on that we had found something special in each other and were not willing to allow someone else to interfere with that, but I knew that for Vee grief and expectations would come into play.  I knew that I would need to be patient as people adjusted to seeing Vee from "the widow" to someone who was dating and then engaged.  I didn't want to push Vee nor did I want to push others away.
     Many of these people who had expectations were good people, people who loved and cared about Vee and the kids.  Some folks could not view Vee in any other light but a widow who was in need.  In some way Vee's grief and pain gave them them a sense of purpose and a special role in life.  They were able to give and support Vee and her children in very meaningful and tangible ways and seeing Vee move forward would change that sense of purpose and role for them - something some people were not ready to give up.  For others our new relationship was a sign that her grief was moving forward... something that their grief was not ready for.

     The last thing I wanted to do was to come barging in create an "us verses him" relationship.  I knew I couldn't win everybody over but I also knew that a little bit of patience goes a long way.  Allowing people to see my intentions with Vee, my love for her, my love for Faith, Caleb, and Carter, and our interactions as a couple went a long way in helping people adjust expectations.  Many of those people who had seen Vee in crisis had had been so busy with concern for her and the kids that they had not noticed when she was not in crisis anymore.  We had to be patient with these people and give them time to see her in a different light.

     The truth is Vee and I still need that support in our lives.  While we are not in crisis anymore we still benefit from the support of others.  It looks different than before.  Our need for support is not as dependent as it once was - it is mutual. We have healed to the point that we can show our scars, tell the story, and help others along the way.  While the scars remind of us the pain we went through and occasionally still bring tears to our eyes they also give us a new and fresh outlook on life that we did not have without them.  We appreciate life more, love harder, laugh better, and live more.  We wear our scars visibly to show what God has brought us through and what he is doing in our lives.



Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Learning You

    Jeremy and I were friends. Not close friends or best friends but we knew each other and had hung around in the same circles for a couple of years prior to his death.  In fact, Jeremy and I had known each other years before I had ever met Veronica.  The interactions that Jer and I shared together are something that Veronica and I both find a lot of unique peace and purpose in.

     One of the first times I met Jeremy was at a youth rally.  We both walked into the "hospitality room" (which is code for the room that adults go to at a youth rally to grab a snack and sanity after spending all day with hundreds of teenagers) at the same time and struck up a conversation.  I don't remember much about it other than swapping hunting and fishing stories, but I remember walking away thinking that Jeremy was a guy that I could be good friends with.  He was down-to earth, had a crass sense of humor (which we both shared), and was a "tell-it-like-it-is" kind of guy.   We ran into each other several times over the course of a few years, always going out of our way to say "hello" and maybe sharing a sentiment that we should get together for a hunting or fishing trip in Indiana (Jeremy had never been hunting or fishing in Indiana before and was game for a new experience).

     Our paths crossed again when my best friend, Adam Hill, moved from my hometown of Anderson, Indiana to Rochester Hills, Michigan.  Adam and I have been best friends since elementary school and when he moved to Michigan he began working at Rochester College - the same place that Jeremy worked for the last couple of years before he died.  Just a couple of years after Adam left Anderson, Chris and Vicki Lindsey - close friends of Adam, Jeremy and Veronica, moved down from Rochester Hills, Michigan to Anderson, Indiana to work in ministry with me.  Sharing such close personal friends I heard many stories about Jeremy and over the 4th of July weekend of 2010 I got to hang out with Jeremy for what would be the last time.  Jeremy and Veronica were driving through Anderson and we wound up getting together and going out for dinner.  Jeremy and I sat on the end of the table.  Sharing stories, cutting-up, and trying to make the other person laugh as much as possible.  When Vee and I talk about this interaction she remembers looking down at the table at Jeremy and I laughing and sharing together.  Little did she know that at that moment the two men at the end of the table would both give themselves fully to her and love her for all she is.

     Needless to say I knew Jeremy prior to dating Veronica... but I didn't "know" Jeremy.  When Vee and I began our relationship I wanted her to know that I validated not only her past with Jeremy, but her ongoing love for him as well.  This meant I had to get to know Jeremy better.  It may sound a little crazy or unorthodox but periodically on our phone calls or dates I would ask Vee questions about Jeremy.  It wasn't all the time and it was never to put her on the spot, but when the time was right or I sensed that she wanted to talk about Jeremy, I would ask.  I wanted to know how she fell in love with him, what made him tick, what he liked best, and what made him upset.  I asked lots of questions.  I still do.

     It's important - not just for Vee but for me too! My questions allowed Vee to share about her love but it also allowed me to learn.  It allowed my love and respect for Jeremy to grow.  It deepened my appreciation for their marriage and relationship.  I remember thinking that if Vee and I were going to get married I would want to be able to pass down memories, values, and stories to Fatih, Caleb, and Carter about Jeremy.  I wanted to honor him, respect him, and share his story.

     I have also learned a lot about Jeremy through his family.  Hearing about his childhood, his upbringing, and many funny stories.  I listen carefully to Jeremy's dad, Byron, as he talks about hunting stories with Jeremy or when Arlene, Jeremy's mom, talks about taking him to the baseball diamond several nights out of the week.  I listen to his sisters as they share stories about their older brother and how much they miss his presence in their family.  I listen and I learn.  I don't learn for information sake as if there will be some kind of test I need to pass but I learn to better honor his memory, love and respect Vee, and pass down his life to his children.

     Regrettably I have learned more about Jeremy in his death than in his life.  I have looked through countless pictures, heard countless stories, and listened to countless memories about Jeremy... but I am not done learning.  As time goes on I always hear a new story about someones interaction with Jeremy that maybe Vee had never even heard before.  Or I see a new picture from his childhood or one that surfaces on Facebook that I have never seen before.  All these things help me know him and appreciate him even more.  While I never got to be best friends with Jeremy while he was alive I have gotten to know him in a very unique way though the eyes and hearts of those who knew him best - and for that I am very thankful!