As a divorced single parent of two young boys, I wont lie, it hasn’t always been easy whilst navigating a “new” relationship with my boy’s father. There had been betrayal involved, and my heart had well and truly been broken. In the three years since it ended, it has been tender and difficult at times.
As a funeral celebrants over the last 8 years, I have worked alongside thousands of individuals dealing with the realities of death; giving me privileged insight into not only how we cope with grief and loss but more importantly, the life lessons learned from those who pass.
I learned a magical lesson from a family I met with recently and one I am forever grateful for as I know it will have a huge impact on my children’s lives forevermore.
The father, Jim, passed away suddenly in his mid 60’s leaving behind his two twin boys in their early thirties. It was a devastating time for the families. In the following days when I was to meet with them, their grief was evident. The boys’ mother June was also present. Even though June and Jim had been divorced for a number of years, they had always maintained an amicable relationship for their children. If there was ever a time these boys needed their Mum’s support, it was now.
June was a pillar of strength for her boys grieving the sudden loss of their father, all the while no doubt navigating her own personal grief of losing a person who fathered her children and whom she had spent a large portion of her life with. Grief is grief and whether you are separated or divorced, you feel something.
What struck me about June was the love she had for her boys. She wanted to take their pain away and make this easier for them, if at all possible. A mother’s love. She had written many notes to give to me to help me with preparing the Eulogy and the service for their father. It was evident that June still had a relationship with her ex-husband’s brothers and sisters as well and they were calling in to check on one another.
It was evident from stories relayed to me, that Jim’s boys were the light of his life. They were his everything. He would often say being a father was the best thing that ever happened to him. Everything he did, he did for his boys.
Whilst sitting with her and the boys, June shared something with me that took my breath away. She told me that ever since they separated, every single Mother’s Day, Jim sent her flowers and a card. And he always wrote the same thing,
“Thank you for giving me my greatest gift – my sons”.
June told me he has never ever missed a Mother’s Day. That is gratitude at its finest.
I am sure this couple would have been like other couples navigating a separation and divorce with children involved. It would have been hard. You don’t go into a marriage or having children lightly. You dream of spending a happy, long life with your loved one. I am sure the end of their marriage would have been difficult for all involved. Yet Jim found gratitude. Despite what has happened in the past, he had gratitude to her, for his sons.
June was humble. She wanted no mention of her in the Eulogy apart from a family holiday they had all had together, she wanted no recognition for having organized it. She just wanted to be the support to her two sons. There was no animosity, no angry thoughts, no nothing. I guess I could say June and Jim’s feelings towards each other, in divorce, could put mine and many others to shame.
My greatest lesson in this, in observing June on the day of the funeral was she was there fully for her two boys. Jim and June’s respect for one another, even in death, was so evident.
It got me thinking … if something happened to my boy’s father, how would it be for my boys? Of course, I would be there for them. Of course, I would support them. But is it amicable with his family? No. Could I sit with the boys and prepare his funeral with no animosity from his family? At this point in time, I would honestly say, No.
My boys deserve better than that.
Had I ever expressed gratitude to the boy’s father since our separation, on him giving me without a doubt my greatest gift of all? No.
Will I? Now having learnt this lesson? Absolutely. Yes.
After witnessing what I have witnessed, how June’s two sons relied upon her. How she was their strength. How his family all knew his gratitude towards her for giving him his sons, I will absolutely change the way I act.
Yes, I have been hurt and betrayed. Yes, I have endured more than what I should have had to. But my love for my children is far greater and they deserve better. I want to show them gratitude. I want to show them that love still exists between myself and their father. Not the love that once was there, but love in another way now. It’s the shared love of our boys. It’s shown through gratitude of one another for giving each other our greatest gift.
And it starts with me. If I want to instill this change, it must come from within.
As I delivered the service, I observed Jim’s two boys sitting at the front of the service, with their mother sitting in between them. I watched one son as a pall-bearer, carry his father’s coffin to his final resting place, whilst the other walked arm in arm with his mother. Breathtakingly beautiful.
I will change, for my boys.
So today, being Father’s Day, I sent my ex-husband a card. It said:
“Happy Father’s Day. Thank you for giving me my greatest gift – our boys”.
Because he did. And I am so grateful.
Today i feel a sense of forgiveness and acceptance wash over me.
I have made a vow to myself every Father’s Day forevermore, to always send my boys’ father a card expressing my thanks to him for giving me my greatest gift.
Who knows the domino affect that will have on his and my relationship, and ultimately on our boys. My motherly instinct tells me it will be profound.
Rather than focus on the hurt and the past, it is about focusing on the present – on our gifts – our boys – and their future.