february 14.this guy & God is good

February 14, 1992

I promise to love you

For better or worse

In richer or poorer

In sickness and health

Until death do us part

Simple, traditional wedding vows. Everyone says them, but how much do we think about them? 

For better or worse - every marriage has good days and bad days, that one makes sense.

In richer or poorer - ok this one is fairly easy too, both may come, though I'm guessing most people hope there's more richer than poorer.

In sickness and health - this one might be harder, especially the in sickness part, but we still vow it, thinking, hoping the sickness part doesn't ever come our way.

Until death do us part - when we're about 80 years old right? When our kids are grown and we are enjoying our grandchildren and great grandchildren, that's how it's supposed to go right? That's what marriage is, growing old side by side, enjoying seeing our family grow, and welcoming children, their future spouses who we've prayed for, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

I'm guessing if you are anything like me, that is the scenario you had in your head when you repeated those sacred vows, when you made that covenant before God and loved ones. 

What happens though when the death do us part comes much, much sooner than you expected? When it comes just three months shy of your 20th wedding anniversary? Twenty years, that's all Lord? But, but, but, I wanted to celebrate 20, and 30 and 40 and hopefully 50. This is not what I had planned. It's not what I signed up for. This is not a fairy tale ending.

When my world as as I knew it came to a screeching halt on November 5, 2011, and the "until death do us part" of our wedding vows became my reality my heart was shattered, my dreams were gone and what I always thought life would be was forever changed.

In a moment, in the blink of an eye, in the sigh of a doctor and 6 words, "I'm sorry, Rickey didn't make it" the until death do us part of my wedding vows became my new reality. The day of Rickey's funeral, I remember putting his wedding ring that had been returned to me in the hospital back on his finger and telling the funeral director's wife that no, I didn't want it taken off, it was Rickey's and it was staying with him. 

He had fought the good fight, he had finished the race and I fully believe that he stood before his Lord and Savior and heard the words, "well done my good and faithful servant, well done".

Until death do us part. Death is very final. That may sound strange but until I experienced it first hand, I didn't fully realize the truth of how final and life changing death is. Life is never the same again. There is always something different in your life because of death.

But Rickey, he loved well, he loved fully, he loved with all that was within him and I fully believe that because of the way he loved, he helped to teach me how to love and not just how to love, but how to love well. He taught me what a good thing real love is and even in death, he left me with love and the courage to live life without him.

I never for a moment doubted that when Rickey left this earth, he was immediately with the Lord. That the joys and splendor of heaven exceeded anything on this earth and even if he could, he would not return to us, even for a day. Because of the life he lived, even though his death left a huge hole in our hearts, I had the calm assurance that he was with the Lord and all could be well with my soul ... some day.

Because I was loved well, I believed that God could bring love to me again, I didn't know when or how, or who, but I felt in my heart that God had plans for my future and that I needed to trust that future to Him!

I also knew that I would need to find someone special, because to love someone who has lost so much would probably not always be easy. I would need someone who was willing to love me and help me learn to love again. I would need someone who would understand that I will always have a special place in my heart for the one I loved and lost but that my heart was big enough to love them too. No small task, and I was fully aware that not everyone could do that.

God, in his great grace, in his love and mercy brought just that person into my life and I am amazed to this day that I have been given the great opportunity to live and laugh and love again!

Because of this man, I can honestly say I have found joy, and happiness and love again and life is good, very good! 

Valentine's Day is typically pretty low key for us ... this guy keeps it that way on purpose ... he remembers with me that this was my anniversary. He knows and remembers that is was a special day that Rickey and I shared and he chooses to honor that  - for me. He took the chance and fell in love with me and three teenage girls. He let me love him when I was honestly still pretty much a train wreck! He was patient with me, he encouraged me to grieve, he grieved with me, and he proved to me that God does bring beauty from ashes! He is the only person who has visited Rickey's grave site with me, and he has always respected the love that I and others had for Rickey! He has never tried to be a replacement as a husband, a dad, a son in law or friend. He has been an addition, a bonus to a life that had been good, and now is still so very, very good!

To say I've been twice blessed is an understatement. God saw fit to bless me for almost 20 years with an amazing husband and the best daddy ever to our three girls. When God allowed the worst heartache I'd ever endured into my life, he carried me through. He gave me the courage and strength to carry on and then he brought Rick to me! Just today on the way home from quietly celebrating this Valentine's Day, Rick reminded me that he still remembers this was my anniversary, and that he honors that day by the quiet celebrations we have, and for that I love him even more today than I did yesterday! As I said yesterday, our move to Chattanooga has been good for us, it has been a sweet season in our marriage, and Rick's tenderness to me today was another reminder of his great, great love for me, and of God's tender loving kindness towards me!

p.s. even though he keeps it low key, I think he pretty much nailed it with these pretty white topaz earrings! :) 

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