A Letter to Elizabeth
Author's note: Names of individuals and locations where they live have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.
It was nice to receive an email from you this morning. It's been many months since we've last talked. It sounds like your life is just as busy as mine but I'm glad to hear your husband and children is doing well. And yes, it would be nice for our families to spend an evening together and catch up. Since we live so far apart, how about meeting at a restaurant somewhere near Bountiful? Marathon Girl knows our schedule better than me. I'll have her call you tonight and arrange a night when we can meet.
You asked some questions about my first wife and Marathon Girl and I thought I might answer some of those questions now before the hour grows too late.
It amazes me how many people pick up on how happy I am with Marathon Girl. Just the other day I received an email from someone stating that one of the reasons she continues to read my blog is because of the optimism and hope I continually exhibit. Others email me and want to know what I've done to become so happy.
The question you asked, however, is one I've never been asked before, though I know that there are probably friends and family that wonder the same thing: Could I or did I have the same happiness with my first wife as I do with Marathon Girl?
I believe I could have been just as happy with my first wife as I am with Marathon Girl, if I was the person I am now. But I was such a different person when I was married to my first wife. I was more selfish, less caring, and less loving. It's not that I think my first wife and I had a bad marriage (I would marry her again in a heartbeat) but with Marathon Girl I've learned how to be a better husband and have a stronger relationship with my wife.
Ironically it was my first wife's death that was the catalyst for my current happiness. In those moments of mighty darkness, on the days when I thought I'd never be happy again, I spent many hours pondering what I'd do differently if I was given a second chance -- not necessarily with my first wife -- to be married again.
In those moments of absolute darkness and despair I came to the conclusion that you only have one chance at life. Slowly, I began changing my life and doing the things I always wanted to do. That's why I went and saw the Tigers play in Phoenix that summer, for example. I decided I would live my life in such a way that I could do so without regretting anything else.
There are so many things about my relationship with my first wife that I regret. Not big things but little things I could have done to make my marriage to my first wife stronger. My first wife and I had a wonderful relationship. But there were little things I regret. My first wife always wanted to take a trip to San Diego. We never did it. The times when we could have spent an evening together but chose not to because we wanted to spend time with friends or doing things that didn't involve the other person. I vowed that if I was ever blessed enough to find someone else I could give my heart and soul to, that I would not make the same mistake again and would put everything that I had into making my second wife happy.
I tell people all the time that Marathon Girl and I have a very unique relationship. Most people assume it's because of the widower issue. They're partially correct, but the uniqueness of our relationship goes much deeper than that. Marathon Girl and I do everything together. And I mean everything. If we need to pick up a loaf of bread that the store, we pack up the kids and do it together. The only time we are apart is when I'm at work or Marathon Girl does a church activity one night a week. Most married couples we know don't spend nearly as much time together as Marathon Girl and I do. In fact most married couple I know seem to be in a similar kind of relationship that I had with my first wife: a good marriage but not doing everything they could to make it a strong marriage (Please don't think I'm comparing our relationship to yours. This is something I've observed since being married to Marathon Girl.)
If Marathon Girl was killed in a horrible accident I'd be very sad. But I would be able to look back on the three years we were married and say that we had a wonderful marriage and that I have no regrets about anything in our relationship. I don't mean to imply that Marathon Girl and I have a perfect marriage. We don't. But we have a good and strong marriage and relationship with each other. And I credit it to the fact that we both put everything into it.
The hour is late and I'll write more tomorrow and answer some of your questions about my first wife's suicide.
It was my intent to finish up this email several days ago. I went to bed that night thinking of what I was going to write. Then I received a phone call that delayed my completing this email until now.
An old friend of mine, Anne, tried to kill herself last weekend. I don't think you knew her. We dated off and on in high school and kept in touch over the years. She married this great guy, Trent, about 12 years ago. Three years ago they moved to Iowa. She's the mother of four young children.
Anne was in town a few months ago to visit family and had dinner with Marathon Girl and me. She seemed happy and normal. She told us about going back to school to complete her bachelor's degree. She talked about her kids and how much she enjoyed being a mom. So when I received the news that she attempted to take her own life, I was stunned. According to her mom, several people have mentioned that she left a note behind stating that Trent and her children would be better off without her.
I've talked to Trent once since then. He's in shock and "pretty messed up." He blames himself for what happened. I tried to console him the best I could from 1,000 miles away. Of all people you'd think I'd be the one that would have comforting words and but I really didn't know what to say to him. Mostly I just let him talk.
The only part in which I felt I was somewhat helpful was telling him about the day my first wife killed herself and the three promptings I ignored that, had I heeded them, may have saved her life. You know all about that but Trent had never heard that part of the story before. I'm sending him a copy of my book because I think some of my experience might be beneficial to both him and Anne.
Over the last few days, I've thought about Anne and what was going through her mind when she tried to kill herself. And, in answer to your question, I've thought back to my first wife and what she was thinking when she put the gun to her head. But knowing Anne and my first wife as well as I do, I've concluded that there must be a dark place that some people reach. I cannot fathom such a place but it must be horrible if people think the only way out is death.
I was surprised to read in your email that before your second child was born a few months ago that your husband constantly worried that you'd do something similar to Krista even though you've had no history of depression and mental illness in your family. How powerfully the effects my first wife's suicide still reverberates years later continues to amaze me.
In Sunday school last week, I taught the teenagers at church how there is no such thing as a "private" decision. Every decision we make will affect someone else at some point in our lives. Rationalizing that what you do won't hurt anyone else is a lie. The world, I told them, is made up of the "private" decisions of millions of people. I think if we understood how our actions truly affect those around us, we'd think twice before doing certain things.
My mind returns to Anne. I wonder how her decision will affect her relationship with her husband and her children. I think of my own life and choices I need to make in the upcoming days and weeks. Some are minor. Others are looming large. I hope and pray that I can make good decisions that will not only be beneficial to me but to my family.
Again, I apologize for the delay in sending this email. I hope it finds you well and let's arrange our schedules so Marathon Girl and I can meet up with the two of you for dinner. There is still so much I'd like to talk with you about.
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