“Maybe some people just aren’t meant to be in our lives forever. Maybe some people are just passing through. It’s like some people just come through our lives to bring us something: a gift, a blessing, a lesson we need to learn. And that’s why they’re here. You’ll have that gift forever.”
― Danielle Steel, The Gift
Nearly twenty years ago Laurel and I stopped by Dad’s home one evening and thanked him for watching our daughters for the week. Laurel and I were in Las Vegas for a conference and vacation. Dad had become a widower 10 weeks before our trip and was willing to put a little noise back into the old farmhouse. Our daughters were less than thrilled about the arrangements because, our oldest, Becca, was old enough to drive. We held our position and told our girls that they would be staying with Grandpa for the nights that we would be in Las Vegas. A few nights after returning, Dad, Laurel and I were sitting around the table talking about our trip to Las Vegas. Dad had been to Las Vegas a few times, so he knew all the landmarks and was willing to absorb the news of the new changes in Las Vegas.
As we continued our chat, Dad brought out a small clipping from the Country Today Newspaper, a local agriculture newspaper in our area. As I started reading the clipping and he encouraged me to read the second ad.
ATTRACTIVE, single Christian woman, 53, enjoys antiquing, auctions, camping, looking for widower, 50-60, sincere, honest, good conversationalist, and with similar interests. Let’s start with friendship and dating. Send a note to:
Dad laid his finger on the ad and stated: “She is looking for me!” He went on to say that he had met her and wanted us, his family, to meet her soon. He said Valentines night wouldn’t work because he had a date with her that night but the next night, Sunday night, would work. We met MaryLu that Sunday evening and the romance was on. The next year in April, Dad and MaryLu were married.
Being MaryLu was in her early fifties and a few years younger than Dad, she was full of energy and adventure. MaryLu had never been married and had recently left being a nun in California. She had an extended family but no children of her own. Now she was dating a man who had five grown children and many grandchildren. There was also extended family to get to know. Dad’s brothers and sister-in-law’s along with all their children.
MaryLu wasn’t afraid to take on a new hobby. One year she purchased a potters wheel and a kiln to work on some pottery. A few years later it was stained glass. The crafting was endless. Mixed throughout the years it was woodworking, knitting, and many other projects. Every year brought a new enthusiasm to a new project.
After four years of marriage, MaryLu became Nana to Mackenzie and then Tucker a few years later. It was her time to be a grandmother to two children. Some of the other grandchildren were older and remembered my mother as their grandma. She found a place in our family with each person. No, she was never my mother but was my father’s wife and that that position she earned my love and respect. Each one of my siblings had their own relationship with MaryLu and along the way, she would earn their love and respect.
The first few years she was married to a dairy farmer. Life revolved around the milking schedule. Then in 2004 Dad sold the milk cows and became a beef farmer. Beef farming came with looser ties to the farm. A bunk of feed and a tank full of water allowed for me or someone else to take care of the animals. The first few winters it was a two-week stay in the south to break up the winter. Then the weeks stay in the south kept getting longer. Four weeks, then six weeks. No area of the south was off limits. Florida, Louisiana, Texas, California, the desert southwest, and a slip across the Mexican border. Their time was spent in these areas staying with family and friends on these trips.
There were a few family trips with Dad’s extended family. Germany, New York, Norway, and of course the wagon train ride in the Grand Tetons. One year MaryLu and Dad invited our daughter, Sarah, to go with them to Ireland. After Laurel and I heard about the trip we found ourselves invited to go to Ireland. My sister Kathie also joined in on the trip. It was a fabulous ten-day trip and we did the trip on a frugal budget. Frugal budgeted trips were MaryLu’s specialty.
Over the years I often thought about what kind of life mom and dad would have had over the last twenty years. Would life have been at a slower pace? Would they be sitting on the deck and watching time slip by? MaryLu wasn’t going to sit and watch life pass her by. Full throttle on every minute! Not full throttle for the year or a few months, but every minute. So cheap flights, cheap housing, cheap vacations were constantly being researched. The internet was her friend for research. Even cancer had to take a back seat to the next trip.
As the last breath left mom’s body I remembered a Bible verse coming to me. “Today, is the day the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and let us be glad!” I wasn’t angry at God for taking my mother, but I looked forward to the next chapter of Dad’s life and for our family’s life, and what was in the next chapter!
Recently I have started doing some dental implants. The first thing they had to do was thicken my jawbone. The oral surgeon would open my gum and add some cadaver bone dust to the jaw. I wondered if the cadaver bone came from a Democratic, a Republican, or a donkey. Over time we will all find out by the words I speak. With the end of MaryLu’s life coming soon, I starting thinking metaphorically of my experience.
MaryLu was like bone dust added to our family. She would thicken the position of wife, mother, grandmother, an extended family member. Over time she would knit her life into our family and calcify her bond to our family. That is why today is so hard.
Almost twenty years ago Dad laid his finger on an ad and said she is looking for me. I have to disagree today. She wasn’t looking for Dad but God had led her to our entire family. God tells us in his word that he knew us before we were born. He knew Mom, He knew Dad and He knew MaryLu. MaryLu couldn’t be a part of Dad’s life until Mom passed from our lives. God knew the man who MaryLu was going to marry so long ago. God had taken the time to lay the foundation in Dad’s life and in our family’s life. Yes, we lost our mother to cancer twenty years ago and He would take MaryLu’s life by cancer today. He laid in our family’s members hearts the compassion to take care of His servant until her last day.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring for Dad and our family. But I am confident God has a plan and I will keep my heart open to His will.
“Today, is the day the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad!” Not in our loss, but that MaryLu is with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and that the flame of MaryLu’s spirit will continue to burn brightly in our hearts. Maybe some people just aren’t meant to be in our lives forever. Maybe some people are just passing through as a gift from God and we will have that gift forever.
MaryLu would close her letters with the words, Blessings.
Blessings to you, MaryLu