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A Mid-Winter Family Update

Family

It is hard to believe it has been 10 weeks since Nick went to heaven—10 weeks since I last FaceTimed him, since I last texted him, since I last shared a belly laugh with him. He is still the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning and he’s still on my mind as I fall asleep at night. The pain is different now than it was in the first few weeks, but while it may be less sharp, it’s no less present. I miss him dreadfully. I miss our friendship, I miss our conversation, I miss him teaching me what he was learning at seminary. I miss him personally, but then I also miss the very fact of having a son. Being a father to a son was one the great joys of my life, but a joy that has now been interrupted. I hardly know who I am without a son following eagerly in my footsteps.

As time passes, we are slowly working our way back into normal life, though normal life is still plenty abnormal by any objective standard. A couple of weeks ago our province was put into a soft lockdown, but with COVID cases still continuing to rise, we have been placed under stay-at-home orders. Though the government doesn’t fully define the order, the general rule is “If you’re not sure if it’s essential, it’s probably not, so stay home.” We can shop at the few stores that are open, get takeout food, and exercise, but not much more than that. Churches are restricted to 10 people per service or per room. Of course Aileen and I work from home and Michaela’s high school is online at the moment, so it’s only Abby who has a job that takes her outside these four walls. And even then, she has only a couple shifts left at the grocery store before she is due to head back to Louisville, Kentucky and Boyce College.

Which brings me to something I’ve been meaning to say. For many years I deliberately avoided mentioning the names of my children in public settings like this. It seemed like a way to protect them and their privacy. But after Nick’s death my girls spoke publicly at both the memorial service and the funeral, and their names became widely known. At this point they’ve said I can stick with using their names when it makes sense to.

Okay, so back to Abby who is due to return to Boyce College to take up her studies again. You may remember that at the beginning of the first semester I traveled down with Nick and Abby since at that time the CDC required a two-week quarantine for arriving travelers. That requirement was later lifted and, for a time, travel became a little easier. However, here at the beginning of the second semester, it has just become more difficult again. Last week Canada began demanding a negative COVID test for anyone boarding a flight to the country, which means if we venture south, we need to get tested within the 72-hour period before our return flight. Canada still has the two-week quarantine requirement and, to add to it all, there’s suddenly been a massive upswell of social stigma against those who travel—the kind of stigma that is forcing formal apologies, resignations, and firings for having done nothing more insidious than taking a quick trip to Florida. Meanwhile, America has also just begun requiring testing for travelers arriving from any foreign destination, including Canada. So it’s test before you go, test before you return, then quarantine for two weeks. At least in Canada it has been made clear that the purpose of these measures is to make travel so onerous that people just give up and don’t even try.

Still, Abby’s travel is considered permissible and essential by both countries, so she will head down in a week, Lord willing. Quite needless to say, this will represent something of a test of my faith. Letting her go will be difficult, and even more so when travel is so very complicated. At any other time we’d be just a few hours away by plane and just half a day away by car. Now, with the land borders closed, with flights reduced to a minimum, and with mandatory testing, she’s more like two or three days away. That seems like an eternity when we’ve so recently undergone such a trial, but all we can do is pray and trust. While she, too, is a little hesitant, she loves college life and is looking forward to returning to her friends and her studies.

Some people have asked us about Nick’s fiancée, Ryn, whom he was due to marry on May 8. Ryn remains part of our lives and we are very grateful for that fact. Canada is closed to foreigners so she cannot visit us, but we do stay in close contact. I often walk into the kitchen to find Aileen and Ryn cooking or baking together by FaceTime. That always makes me smile. The more we get to know her, the more we come to love her and to understand why Nick set his affections on her. The fact that she’ll never formally be our daughter-in-law is no small sorrow. Yet we’re sure she’ll always have a place in our hearts and always be welcome in our family.

Michaela, meanwhile, is probably hardest hit by the pandemic as her school is shut down, as are all the schools in the province. She has little access to her friends (especially those who live far away) and has seen her social life reduced substantially. She’s a very gifted writer, though, and spends much of her time tapping away on various writing projects.

Aileen has picked up some of the loose ends she had to let go in November. She is back to coordinating the preschool program at church, a position that currently involves recording lessons on video and sending crafts to homes where parents can create them with their children. She and I have often pondered how the grief of a father is different from the grief of a mother. We are finding there’s distinction and complementarity in grief even as in joy, in the bad times even as in the good. In many ways she is the chief counselor in our home, so commits many hours to working things through with Ryn, Abby, and Michaela. She is proving godly in her sorrow, submitting herself to God’s will, even as she continues to shed tears every day.

Personally, I feel like I’m doing okay given the circumstances, though I don’t have any good way to gauge it. I’d estimate I’m probably capable of working at about 30% of the capacity I was at before Nick’s death. Over time I am slowly incrementing my way up. As I do so, I hope to begin making progress on a book project that had just gotten underway before our lives came to a screeching halt. I do have one other book that was completed last fall and is currently making its way through the editing and printing process toward a fall release. I’ll tell you more about it soon. Then, as always, I continue to make the blog my primary work and, as always, it is my great joy. I’m grateful to you for reading it.

Family

(Happier days)


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