A few years ago, I found myself holding my newborn granddaughter—only she was not really my granddaughter. I had become a part of this family only 17 months earlier, and that as a result of another’s death—and I now held that woman’s granddaughter, a little girl who will one day call me “Grandma.” Though far more common in earlier centuries, remarriage after the death of a spouse is an uncomfortable topic for the church today. It seems—well, awkward. On the minds of many is a question they are afraid to ask: How do you love someone else again? Let me share my story and in so doing, I hope, glorify the God who multiplies love.
I met my first husband, Steve, here at Bob Jones University. Both of us were pursuing graduate degrees, and our assistantships at the University brought us into close contact with each other. Steve impressed me as no other man had up to that point—godly, intent on serving others. However, there was one potential obstacle. Steve had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease during his sophomore year in college, and he suffered his first recurrence of the disease during our first year of grad school. Treatments followed, and when he returned to school, we began dating. Despite the cancer, I had no doubt that God had given me a love for Steve. And in time Steve had the same conviction.
After a second recurrence and subsequent treatments, we were engaged. In 1989 we married, and we enjoyed six months of marriage busily serving the Lord and preparing for future ministry. Those blissful months were interrupted by the news that the cancer had returned. For the rest of our married life we dealt with his disease in one form or another. I suppose it was not a “normal” marriage. But I have no doubt it was the path God had for me, and I would not trade the years God gave us for anything.
For nearly five years I saw a young man pursue the knowledge of God and ministry to other people despite obstacles that would have stopped many others. God even gave Steve the desire of his heart—a church to pastor—a task he performed with all of his heart for the final 10 months of his life. At the age of 31, God called Steve home, and at the age of 32, I became a widow.
I will not minimize the heartbreak of losing my husband. But neither will I minimize the grace God poured out on me. Within weeks of Steve’s home going, God provided a ministry for me that would bring fulfillment, refining and maturing: supervising a girls’ residence hall here at the University. Did I think about remarriage? Yes. However, in all honesty, the ministry God gave me provided so much joy and challenge that I did not have time to think much about it.
I walked the path of widowhood for 17 years before God chose to bring someone else into my life. Doug’s path had been very different from mine. He and his first wife, Joyce, married before they finished college. God blessed them with four wonderful children. They were married for 31 years, all spent in Christian ministry. I was a widow for nearly 20 years; by the time we married, Doug had been a widower less than two. The main thing we shared in common was losing both of our spouses after long battles with cancer.
Doug and I knew each other since we both worked here at the University. After Joyce’s homegoing, Doug sought wisdom via email from other widowers and widows he knew. I was one of them. Over time, our correspondence grew, as did our relationship. Mutual respect became mutual love, along with a desire to bring together two different personalities, backgrounds and families into a new union for the glory of God. The result so far has been challenging but oh, so happy.
Shortly before we married, a dear friend voiced the question others (understandably) hesitated to ask: “How do you love another spouse?” Before I had a chance to answer, she said, “It must be like having more children. When you find out you’re expecting a second child, you wonder, ‘How can I ever love this child like I do the first?’ But you do. It must be like that.” I have pondered her words many times. Even though I have never had my own children, I think she was right. God’s love is like that—it is never static but is constantly expanding. When believing widows and widowers remarry, they have an opportunity to reflect this aspect of God’s love. And the precious granddaughter that I held in my arms, though not related to me by blood, has become related to me by love—God’s multiplying love.