By Marlys Johnson
“Two years,” the medical experts told my husband, Gary. “Because you’re young and in good shape. And it’s slow growing.”
Gary tenaciously lived ten good years with late-stage prostate cancer before it spread even further throughout his body.
“I want you to get married again,” he said one day while he was showing me now to manage online banking, use the GPS on my phone, and where he kept the list of passwords for our online accounts. “You still have a lot of life in you.”
But I knew I’d never remarry.
And then three years after stepping into widowhood, I began to think about dating and possibly remarriage.
Being an obsessive list-maker, I drafted an inventory of what was important to me: A man who is family oriented, active outdoors, takes good care of himself, someone who is making a difference in the lives of others.
And then a friend counseled: “You don’t want to limit God to a list.” So, I filed it away.
In time, I dated a couple different men and eventually decided that dating wasn’t for me.
But then, ‘Maybe I can do this.’
Followed by, ‘Nope, too complicated.’
A regular roller coaster ride.
As brave as I like to think I am, I suspect it was ‘fear’ that fueled this particular roller coaster.
On a hike through snow-covered hills last winter, I finally admitted my fears and spoke them out loud to God.
Among other things, I was afraid the man wouldn’t understand that my writing is a calling and it takes time.
I was afraid he might not understand how my deceased husband’s family is just as much family as my blood relatives – that these are my nieces and nephews, these sisters-in-law are the sisters I never had while growing up sandwiched between two brothers.
I was a afraid of change. Transitioning into a married life after being comfortably and contentedly single sounded scary.
William Bridges said this: “We resist transition not because we can’t accept the change, but because we can’t accept letting go of that piece of ourselves that we have to give up.”
Did I really want to lose my independence? My ability to say, “Yes, I’d love to go to Israel with you,” “Yes, I’ll meet you in the Outer Banks,” “Yes, I’ll come to Mexico to help celebrate your husband’s birthday”?
Hence, roller coasters.
We met while I was interviewing him for a story about a shower truck ministry for the homeless. The conversation naturally turned to our similar experiences as cancer caregiver and widow/er.
He thanked me for listening.
I said, “Anytime.” And he took me up on it.
Our conversations continued over hiking and Chai tea and snowshoeing and a concert and dinners out and more hiking and more Chai tea.
It just happened. I hadn’t planned on it, but I grew to love this good man.
Not too long ago, I stumbled upon that old “dating qualities” list in an online file.
Ironically, Dan fit each item, even this one: “Romantic in a thoughtful way, not in a spend-lots-of-money way.”
The last item on that list was “cancer widower.” It wasn’t a deal breaker, but still…when I wrote I was thinking how nice it would be to partner with someone who had trekked through the same harsh wilderness I had. One more thing in common.
Dan is a rescuer of people with dead batteries and leaky faucets, and sweet elderly ladies who need a man’s fix-it powers.
He’s the co-designer, builder, towel washer, and one of the drivers for the shower truck that serves the homeless in our community. He’s a regular volunteer on maintenance projects at Ochoco Christian Conference Center.
He enjoys hiking, camping, snowshoeing, kayaking, canoeing, mountain biking, and snorkeling(previously a scuba diver) – and I’m having fun trying to keep up with him.
Dan refurbishes vintage motorcycles, and I’ve officially been outfitted with a black leather jacket and helmet.
There is dust gathering in his easy chair at his house.
Last Sunday, this kind, thoughtful, big-hearted man said, “Here,” as we stood warming our hands in front of the wood stove at a friend’s cabin on the Metolius River. “You’ll need to set your tea down.”
He took my hands in his, looking me in the eyes, and listed all the reasons he believes we belong together.
And he asked me to marry him. (I said ‘Yes!’ Rather joyfully, in case you’re wondering.)
This isn’t about not wanting to do Friday date night alone.
This is about partnering with a teammate headed in the same direction in life, a best friend who loves adventure, a man who enjoys making hard places a little easier for other people.
Jake Canfield writes: “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”
I am in the process of transitioning toward marriage, toward belonging heart and soul to a good man.
I am not losing anything – not my freedom, not my independence, not…anything!
Rather, I’m gaining someone who will venture out with me, someone I can serve alongside.
And there is no fear anywhere near – oh, miracle!
What if we could conduct an honest search of our hearts to determine if there’s something we’re a little afraid of?
And what if we could name those fears out loud – to God, to someone we trust?
Jesus said; “Peace is what I leave you; it is my own peace that I give you…Do not be afraid.” John 14:27
This is me, choosing not to be afraid as I transition away from something that was quite comfortable and familiar.
This is me, hanging on tightly to this good man. Because I have a suspicion the ride is about to get even more deliriously fun and wildly purposeful than it already is.
Bio: A cancer widow, speaker, and award-winning writer, Marlys would rather lace up hiking boots than go shopping. She has a passion for repurposing old junk into cool new stuff, and an even greater passion for showing people how God loves to scoop up the shatters of our brokenness and create new purpose. Marlys blogs at http://www.RenewRepurpose.com.