Posted by: Jenny | October 4, 2010

New Beginnings

The BeginningThere are times in my life that I really pay attention to how very fortunate I’ve been. God has been so good to me, even during those days that I thought life could not get worse. As I’ve grown older, possibly wiser, I try to keep in mind that whatever trial I think I’m going through is probably going to result in a richer and happier life down the road.

My son got married this past weekend. Brian and his wife, Kate, dated in high school, went to different colleges, dated others but remained best friends, and when she graduated from college, they moved in together and became engaged. This is a couple who likes and respects each other very much. They complement one another like no other couple I’ve known.  Brian reigns her in, and Kate loosens him up. They’ve been together 10 years but are obviously very much in love.

When I was 19, a sophomore in college, I got pregnant. I was engaged to Dave, a senior I had known for only four months. I know this is not what my parents had envisioned for their first-born, but my dad told my fiance and me that the most important things to focus on were the baby, Dave & I, and the rest of the world was a distant third. And so, we married, and five months later, Brian came into our lives. We loved each other, and absolutely adored our son.

Everything about Brian was special. He was very patient with his immature parents; I believe he knew our hearts were in the right place and we’d eventually figure out what we were supposed to do. He was a focused baby, walking when he was 8 months old, absorbing all that the world had to teach him, and was an endless source of entertainment to all of us. First grandchild for both families; first great-grandchild for my family, and for nearly four years, was the center of the universe for us all, until he had to share the stage with his brothers and cousins.

 Having all that attention in no way spoiled him, however. He had one – and only one – temper tantrum in his childhood. It was such an out-of-character moment that I snapped a photo of him. Enraged that I made him come inside on a cold March day, he stood at the front door crying, stomping his feet, telling me he was not done outside. He was 17 months old.

I included this photo in the slide show for his wedding reception. I think he was a little embarrassed, but it shows a human side of this man who has always made good choices, done the right thing, and reaped the rewards as a result. Among the photos of his charmed life, this moment in time balances what seems to be perfection.

My husband and I had two more sons, also wonderful, smart and loving men. Our marriage was rocky, but for 21 years we had a common goal of raising these gifts from God. Divorce is a terrible, tragic thing. Even when life is easier and happier after it’s all said and done, it’s still heartbreaking. Six years later, I still get emotional when I think about our family that is no more.

In that sadness, though, I am grateful that it happened. I’m remarried to my best friend, the man I can’t imagine a day without, and now have a step-daughter. Our home is relaxed and happy, the sanctuary I always dreamed of. My ex-husband likewise is remarried, to someone far more suitable for him than I ever was. In our brokenness, we found love and happiness.

Weddings can be tricky, a minefield of emotional bombs waiting to explode with the wrong step. So many people to consider, and everyone has a vision of what the day should be. I wish I could have included all of my friends to celebrate with me, but that was impractical. My core group, however, was there, minus one. Lorraine, Julie and Nicole, three women who have known Brian most of his life, who have held me up and cheered me on when the future seemed so dark, were present for this event. Lori, my best friend for 35 years, could not make it. She was instead across the country, spending precious moments with her dying father. Not what we had planned for, certainly one of those dark times in our lives, but this is what was supposed to happen.

Julie and Nicole were present without the loves of their lives. Missing were the wonderful husband of one and the precious son of another. They died two weeks apart, one suddenly, the other after more than a year of suffering. Mark was a mentor to Brian, guiding him in their shared love of running and Indiana University. A few months before Mark got sick, he and Brian went for an early morning run. Mark later told me how much it meant to him to have that time with Brian.

Stevie was like another little brother to Brian. He and my youngest son, Andrew, were best friends growing up, and his parents are like second parents to my boys. He was gone in an instant,  happily playing high school hockey when his heart failed. That terrible month of February 2007, robbing us of these two wonderful lives.

My father could not attend the wedding. His health is too poor to consider traveling, yet I think we all hoped that somehow he could make the 3-hour drive. I spoke to him after the ceremony, and his main concern was how my mom held up. My husband and brother recorded the ceremony for him, and there will be many pictures to share, but it’s not the same.

So much, of course, was lovely and perfect and meaningful and fun on my son’s wedding day. It rained that day, after a 4-month drought, but we could see a rainbow from the 36th-floor reception hall when it cleared. Fireworks went off at dark at Monument Circle, not for  Brian & Kate but another event, but it was perfect nonetheless. Almost all of Brian’s aunts, uncles and cousins were there, most of Kate’s huge family was there, and together we celebrated the creation of this new family.

I’ve handed my son to an amazing woman, and he has joined a loving and joyful family. Brian and Kate’s wedding was a beautiful beginning to what I’m sure will be a strong and happy marriage. I know there will be times that they have challenges, and heartbreak, and doubts about what to do next.  I’m equally certain that they’ll make the best of what God gives them.



  1. Jennifer, you are an amazing writer. You captured a whole life in a few paragraphs – every sentence spoke volumes. You are spot on in your description of Brian, but, don’t forget – kids don’t turn out that good by accident – YOU did a great job and should be very proud. The bumps are what makes life – and us – interesting, not the smooth going – that part’s easy and anyone can do it! I am proud to be your friend and was honored to be included in such a special day.


  2. So beautiful! I want to see the video some day, I would have loved to have been there too.

    Thanks for mentioning me and my Dad, coupled with your Dad’s illness, the loss of Mark and Stevie, it’s such a powerful message of life’s wins and losses; and how they overlap and are jumbled up, bound together.

    Which is why it’s so important to celebrate and savor the smiles that life and love hold. Oh god I miss you so intensely at this moment!


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