The Suburb Woman
Second Chapter
​Mutual friends posted an obituary on Facebook. A wife, a mother, a daughter, and friend who loved animals, lip smackers, beach vacations and caring for the homeless had died. Prayer was requested for Robert Black, a respected chef and restauranteur, daughter Hanna and son Jude.

My heart broke for them. As I sat with Mike our last days together, the beautifully written tribute prompted me to do what I had delayed… plan a funeral, write an obituary and produce a memorial video.

Following Mike’s funeral, people naturally went back to their lives. I put on a face. I counted the minutes between tears, then hours. I just wanted to sleep. I answered, “How are you?” with, “I’m fine.” Sitting in the ashes of what had been my dreams… I needed a lifeline. I wondered if I could breathe in two weeks, much less two years.

That’s when I uncharacteristically sent a message to Robert, whom I’d never met, but shared a few mutual friends and the grief of losing a spouse… “Does it get better?” I asked. I was so desperate for a glimpse of relief. I wanted to recall the message as soon as I hit send.

A few days passed when a reply came: “I wasn't sure how to answer. First, thanks for reaching out to me. Just knowing there are others who have to work through something like this makes me not feel so alone. I'm very sorry to hear about your husband. I'm also very sorry to know you and your kids are working through this. It's been a month to the day for me. I can tell you while my days have gotten easier, evenings have not. I struggle the most when I'm alone with my thoughts. I don't know if you're up for it, but I would be happy to meet you for coffee or just some conversation. Like you, I have plenty of support from family and close friends, but none that know what it's like. Many blessings, Robert.”

We met on a Sunday afternoon in July. To talk to someone without the worry of hurting them was a respite from being “strong.” Robert and I shared about our kids, the trauma of death sharply etched in our memory, the guilt of thinking we could’ve done more, and the dark chasm of loneliness.

We shared and cried for two hours in an empty restaurant. Thankful for the impromptu “support group,” we made plans to try and visit every couple of weeks.

There was safety in spending time with someone who had the same plans for the rest of his life as I did – never fall in love, never marry. As far as I was concerned, that part of my life was over. We both still faithfully wore our wedding rings.

But over the course of the fall – casual dinners and a chance meeting at an event – we discovered while our hearts were severely wounded, they were open to healing. As a result of the great loss we’d experienced and out of concern for our children, we were blatantly honest about what we liked, disliked, as well as compromises we wouldn’t make when considering the possibility, we were becoming more than friends.

We shared the same values, with honesty and being a good person at the top. Over dinners, we also discovered so many similarities in our stories: Jami, his late wife, and I both had daughters when we married; our wedding anniversaries were separated by only one day – Oct. 27 and Oct. 28; we had sons born three years apart who loved Minecraft and Doctor Who; and we shared an immense love for family. He grew up without a dad and intimately understood how that feels for Sam.

LifeChurch’s Pastor Craig Groeschel shared a message that resonated deeply with me: “When God is going to do something wonderful, He always starts with a hardship; but when God is going to do something amazing, He starts with an impossibility.”

A year ago, every sunrise burned. I couldn’t escape the pain and the helpless, hopeless feelings that continually flooded my heart. The thought of being social, much less dating again, was impossible. Finding joy, friendship, adoration, trust and comfort with how broken hearted, exhausted and frightened I felt – well, it was incomprehensible.

Robert and I concluded, given enough time, we could've finished the fortresses we were building around our hearts and been fully capable of living the rest of our lives alone. So, in God’s divine wisdom we met early while emotions were raw, strength was limited, and filters were gone. We cut through formalities. And as a result of our friendship and growing relationship, over many months we worked through complex feelings that accompany the loss of a spouse that might’ve just stayed locked away.

I know there are those that think this is too soon. There were times during my life I made the same judgement of people without having walked in their shoes. But what we’ve discovered is our story and love doesn’t diminish the love or the memory of those we’ve lost… Our love for Mike and Jami are forever woven into the fabric of our hearts, our lives and the lives of our children. We kept our vows. They will never be forgotten and it’s special that we’re both able to openly share memories of our late spouses with our children.

We see the concept of time much differently too. You always think you have enough time to plan that trip, take that walk, write that letter, make that call… The 16 years Robert spent with Jami and the 14 years I spent with Mike seem like a vapor. We thought we had the rest of our lives. So, we’ve learned to make the time now for what matters most and to choose the important over the urgent when schedules are busy. We don’t need more time to be more sure we were meant to be together.

Robert took me to dinner at Signature Grill (Edmond, OK)  in August. The only other time we had dined there we were just friends. I wanted to be upfront the first time we met there as to why I was uncomfortable – I still felt married and it felt wrong to be one-on-one with another man. Robert assuaged my fears by ensuring me the thought of dating or being in a relationship was only possible in “an alternate universe.”

Yet, here we are, in that impossibility of an alternate universe… where at the end of an amazing meal, Robert gave me a handwritten written card, shared moving words from his heart, then pulled a ring from his pocket as he dropped to one knee. I said, “Yes!” over and over.

We are the sum parts of our life experiences and the people who have played a role. This was not the story Robert and I started out writing for ours or our children’s lives. We are not in each other’s lives because someone died. We are here because of a God that is so big we can’t begin to comprehend His plans. It is a beautiful gift to love someone so deeply again.

I’ve learned the human soul is capable of immense love. The writings of a woman in her 30s whose husband died in a plane crash and found herself falling in love and remarrying said it best:  “Love is not mutually exclusive and human beings are not replaceable. I’m not moving on – I’m moving forward. I’m writing beautiful new chapters with a man who has the emotional capacity and understanding to be the man that came after… And there’s no place I’d rather be.”

Robert understands. He says I’m complex, not complicated and allows me to feel the myriad of emotions that still happen at times. He has the comfort to do the same. I could’ve never imagined the blessing of a second chapter with a man as good, thoughtful, kind and loving as him. 

And I can’t wait to spend what I hope is the rest of my life with the man who came after... Robert Black.