Frank A. Clark
The day was “supposed” to be one of the most meaningful days of my life—and it was—but for very different reasons than I expected.
June 3, 2006. Our wedding day. It was a day filled with meaning, beauty, joy, and love; it was a Hallmark card type of event.
June 4, 2006. We arise early in the morning and head to my in-laws to pack for our honeymoon and open the many wedding gifts we had received. We were knee deep in boxes and suitcases. Later that evening we would leave for the airport to fly to the breathtaking mountaintop vistas of the Grand Tetons, in Wyoming—one of the most extraordinary places on earth.
With anticipation, one by one we carefully open each gift. First a blender, then a toaster, then a crockpot. We savor each gift and each moment. We know that this will likely be the only time in our lives when we would be graced with so many blessings all at once. My in-laws pass the last box in the corner to my new bride; it is another Hallmark card moment.
Even today it seems impossible to put into words the gratitude and thanksgiving I experienced at that moment, that I had married the woman I loved and that so many people had showered us with their support and love.
Sarah leaves the living room and enters the kitchen. I remain seated in the rocking chair. Rocking back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, I reflect on the day and the new chapter of my life that began yesterday. I pull out my journal to record some of what I am feeling. Not knowing exactly how to describe the emotions running through me, I start writing. The thoughts flow.
As I turn the page in my journal, I find an envelope with my full name “Thomas” written across the front. There is only one person in my life who calls me by my full name, “Pops,” as my brothers and I call him. My dad.
An envelope from my dad? Beside my name on the front of the envelope is the stamp of The Community Church of Harrington Park, my dad’s place of employment, and the place where he has used his gifts in ministry so faithfully for the past 10 years.
I open the envelope, not knowing what I would find inside. My dad performed our wedding ceremony the preceding day and I knew it was an emotional day for him, even though he held his emotions in check.
Throughout my dad’s career as a pastor it has always amazed me how he stays strong, offering comfort and support to those who need it during the most intimate, sincere, and even painful times.
Inside the envelope is a letter. I open it:
My dear son Thomas,
I wanted to write you this note because as I get older, as one day quickly passes to the next, and as you make ready for your wedding, I feel that there is much unsaid that should be said.
When we were out fishing the other day, (a day I was looking forward to and now, a day already gone) I was hoping we would engage is some deep conversation about life and our relationship together. Of course, I probably shouldn’t have expected this. We were together enjoying what we both take pleasure in—fishing with one another. You seemed a bit quiet and being quiet isn’t bad. You have a lot on your mind; no doubt your thoughts drifted toward your new wife, wedding day, honeymoon and life ahead. And so it should be.
Forgive the foolish reflections of an aging man but I want to tell you I will miss our days together. You and I have always enjoyed many common interests: fishing, baseball, and sports in general. We’ve shared many special occasions together and I want you to know how much I’m really going to miss them. Oh, I know we will spend similar moments together in the future. Sarah will so neatly fit into our shared and common interests but our relationship will certainly change.
Son, I have always treasured our moments together. I vividly recall, and thoroughly enjoyed, watching you compete in sports, sitting with you watching other sporting events, and having you home living under our roof. I’ll miss all of it. I’ll miss you.
Please know and never forget how much I love you, know that I would do anything for you, and know how proud I am of you and how wonderfully delighted I am that God is leading you into ministry and has provided Sarah for your life. She’s a wonderfully special woman—a real gem who will bring you life-long happiness. You’re richly blessed and so am I. But, also know the way in which our lives have been linked and shared over the years is something I will truly miss.
My intention is not to be a downer. How can we be down when God has so graciously blessed us? Yet I know how much our friendship has meant to me, how valuable your life has been in mine and I will always treasure our memories. You’ve been a blessing to my heart.
May the good Lord continue to guide you and prepare you to do His will—I will always look forward to your visits and anticipate God will use you to accomplish His purpose. Enjoy to the fullest your life with God, Sarah and in ministry. God bless you son.
I love you!
I stop rocking. My tears start flowing, and flowing, and flowing, and I don’t understand why. Belly aching, gut wrenching, uncontrollable sobbing. For what seemed like an eternity, I remain perfectly still in the rocking chair and I let my feelings run their course.
I’ve done a lot of reflecting on that heartfelt moment. Why did I cry so intensely? What was it about that note that caused or awakened in me such raw human emotion? It has been nine years since that day and I have come to believe the answer is a simple one. A new life chapter had begun and a new day had dawned for Sarah and me. But my previous life chapter had ended, never again to be experienced or revisited in the same way.
For 20+ years I had lived under the same roof as my parents. We shared most mealtimes together, every holiday, every family vacation, every peak and valley of our lives. We shared it all—together. A new chapter in my life had begun, and while the new chapter has been a wonderful, miraculous, fruitful chapter, it meant the end of something precious as well.
Sarah walks back into the room. She hears the sobs and sees my tears. She knows, even though I don’t, why I am crying. She sits next to me. She holds me. She comforts me. She listens. She genuinely cares. She was with me.
God knows, even though I didn’t, why I was crying. He sits next to me. He holds me. He comforts me. He listens. He genuinely cares. He was with me.
She was with me toward the end of my previous chapter, She is with me as the page turns. She will be with me through the next chapter too.
He was with me in the previous chapter, He is with me as the page turns. He will be with me through the next chapter too.
Transitions can be very hard to accept. Whether it’s a returning veteran, a new baby, a marriage, a death, a job loss, a job change, an empty nest, a divorce or a major illness, it’s often not easy to let go of what we cherished and accept what is ending. Often, it’s not easy to accept the changes and the new life ahead.
I was sad that day because a wonderful phase of my life was ending. And even though a new one was starting, one that I knew would be especially good, I was overwhelmed by an incredible sadness. I think my dad felt it too. An important life chapter was ending for him as well.
I am so grateful for Sarah, who understood what this transition meant for me that day. She allowed me to feel the sadness amidst the joy. She didn’t take the sadness personally. She didn’t laugh at me or tell me I was ridiculous. She didn’t shame me or think any less of me for my feelings. She let me get them out and knew that in doing so this new chapter could begin with gratitude for what had been and in grateful appreciation for the promise that our life together could bring.