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A Thrill of Hope

Posted by on December 24, 2014 in My Health Updates - 18 Comments

And now these three remain: Faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13.

As Christmas approaches, love is the overriding theme. And while I wouldn’t dare quibble with Paul about the greatness of love, I’d like to make a good solid case for the significance of hope.

In today’s world, we often diminish hope to a meager wish. I hope the weather is nice. I hope I have a good hair day. When faced with dire circumstances though, the magnitude of hope becomes clear, and it shifts from a fleeting thought to the very thing that keeps us afloat.

When Chris was first diagnosed, I hoped that he would be cured. I hoped that the cancer would be eradicated from his body, and he would live to see his children grow. Over time, my hopes changed. I hoped that he would live to see Josie turn four. I hoped that he would feel well enough to play a little golf. Then, in the hardest moments of my life, I hoped that his pain would end. I hoped that, as Kate put it, God would heal him in heaven.

Then, when he was gone, I hoped that I would hope again.

If love is, as Shakespeare wrote, “an ever fixed mark,” an unwavering pillar, a lighthouse that never moves in the storm, then I think hope is our destination. An ever-changing shoreline that we seek out. While it may not be fixed like love, our need for hope is just as constant.

Which is why Christmas seems the most fitting time to introduce you to some new and hopeful things occurring in our lives.

I first met Jonathan and his children, Tad and Madeline, a few years ago at Grace Church. He was a constant fixture each Sunday, kneeling with his children by his side. Chris and I often tried to discern what magical cocktail he gave his children to get them to behave so well. Mostly we respected his devotion to his kids. Over time, we became friends, often having brunch together with our friends the Solsbys. Jonathan followed our story faithfully. The kids prayed for Chris and our family each night. He was an usher at Chris’s funeral.

After Chris died, we stayed friends. A native of Rochester, NY, Jonathan was kind enough to shovel my walk when the snow was too deep last winter and dropped off rock salt for the stairs. One day after church, he mentioned to me that he had tickets to an event in Alexandria. He offered to drop them at will call if I wanted to go. I found that I did want to go. And in fact, I wanted to go with him. I told him that will call was unacceptable. That he should pick me up. I bought a new dress. Jonathan was uncertain about this idea. But my persistence won out.

This past summer we began spending time together every weekend with the kids. Splashing at the pool, cooking out on Sunday afternoons. Getting to know each other slowly and thoughtfully. In August, we packed all four kids into the minivan and drove to Savannah to spend a week at the beach. I introduced Jonathan to my family there. He passed the Battle test with flying colors.

I learned that, sadly, there is no secret cocktail to getting your kids to behave in church – just repetitive teaching. I’ve also had the great joy and honor to get to know Tad and Madeline and have delighted in watching them occasionally misbehave.

I could list all the special things about Jonathan. That he is handsome and a great golfer. That he enjoys doing the dishes with me. That he’s an accomplished attorney. But what I really want you to know about him is that he is the most hopeful person I’ve ever met.

When his marriage ended five years ago, all that he had hoped for changed. His course was drastically altered. He could have become angry and bitter, but instead, he charted a new course. He focused on creating a life for his children that would show them that, despite their circumstances, they are still loved equally by two parents.

I know that you will all ask the very important question about how Kate and Josie feel about all of this. It’s been interesting to watch this process unfold. What I’ve found through our journey is that children look very directly to us for guidance. We are their lighthouse, and when our light shines brightest, they are comforted and feel safe. Seeing me happy has made them happy. They adore Jonathan and thrive having Tad and Madeline in the house. We’re smart people though. We know that change is hard for children – so we’re taking things day by day.

Change isn’t easy for adults either. Each of you will greet this news differently. That’s OK too. Take your time and process it as you need to. I hope it brings you joy!

My grief for Chris will never end, but the presence of grief doesn’t require the absence of hope. I’m reminded of this fact by the words from my favorite Christmas song, “O Holy Night:” A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Merry Christmas dear friends – may you know the thrill of hope!

  • Helen Frith

    How wonderful! I am so glad your gifts will be shared and you will find happiness again!

  • Robyn Hinkle

    Merry Christmas. So glad you have hope. Praying for your family and Jonathon’s.

  • Wendy

    Thank you for sharing this. I am so delighted to hear you are flourishing and happy. As the one walking in Chris’s shoes, I can honestly say that all that you have experienced and said is all I ever hope for those I may leave behind. I’m doing well and am a very, very lucky soul. But knowing that life goes on and goes on well means a lot to me. Much love, Wendy.

  • Christine

    Dear Deana, I cried when I read this. It coukdn’t happen to a more beautiful person, I wish you every happiness in the world – you deserve it.

  • Eileen Vliet Kjeldsen

    Thank you, again, for sharing your story, your writing brings hope to us all.Wishing you all a beautiful Christmas.

  • Susan Linton

    Beautiful! May your Christmas be joyful, and full of love and laughter.

  • marianne

    Dena…..I once tried to explain to someone what you just put into words about hope. It was Ina conversation with a friend who was losing her mom to breast cancer. The whole notion that hope changes along the journey. That you never lose hope…just that your hopes change. Thank you for putting it into words.
    I am so very very happy that you are still finding hope, and that you have found someone to hope for the future with. Have a blessed Christmas and a wonderful New Year..

  • Evan Fusco

    So so happy for you & your family! I believe that Chris would be thrilled.

  • Karen in Ottawa Canada

    I’m thrilled for you & the girls Dena! Life goes on and Chris would be happy that you’re all living life! Very best wishes for a Merry Christmas and awesome 2015 from Ottawa Canada.

  • Linda

    So wonderful to see another post! All my best wishes for and your girls. Merry Christmas Linda in Ocean City

  • Pamela Jean

    Congratulations! You deserve to be happy. Often, it is so hard to move on with life after losing a loved one. I remember feeling *guilty* for being able to go on with my life after my younger brother died at the age of 41. It didn’t seem fair and I wasn’t sure how I was ever going to be happy again knowing he isn’t here to celebrate with us. The holidays are tough, especially for my mom and dad.

  • Chris Fegles

    Dena, how wonderful for you and the girls. I believe that Chris would be the first person to say, “Thank God for Hope, and Love” He loved you and would never want you to morn his death for long, with out the hope of love again! This is something that Mike tells me all the time. He just says that I can’t start looking yet :) Merry Christmas to you and yours!!!

  • Mary Pattison

    Beautifully written Dena, I am so happy for you, Jonatha
    n and all of the children!!

  • Shaun

    Dena, you and the girls deserve all the peace and happiness that the universe has to offer. If I’m not mistaken, when we visited Chris’ monument there were two rocks on a ledge. One said Hope and the other Love. How fitting! (There’s also a SP lapel pin there now.) Thank you for sharing your beautiful story with us.


  • Linda C. Shepard

    I am happy for your happiness and I so enjoyed your post on Hopefulness. May 2015 bring continuing joy to you and yours!

  • Sally Stacey

    I actually just read this although I knew from FB that love had again made you and your young family happy! I am so happy for you all!

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