(Originally posted on December 5, 2014.)
As we just came out of the Thanksgiving holiday here in America, I thought I might share a lesson I’ve learned over the past two weeks.
Some of you might be aware that almost exactly one year ago, Tiffani’s mother left us to move into her heavenly mansion. I wrote about that experience as we were going through it… here (Praying For Healing), here (Praying For Healing-Part 2), and here (My Mama Woke Up In Heaven Today).
Tiffani has been dealing with the grief over the past year in various ways, both subtle and not-so-subtle. But I guess I was sort of dense in that manly-kind-of-way to not see this Thanksgiving situation coming.
My dad and stepmom came to visit us for several days wrapped around the Thanksgiving holiday, as we haven’t seen them in awhile. They are getting to the age where travel is very hard on them. They live in Florida, while we live in Virginia. And the truth is, we may not get many more holidays with them. Tiffani’s mother taught us that lesson a year ago… you just never know when your last touch will be with close family. Enjoy the time you have been given!
A few days before they arrived, I began to notice a sadness in my dear wife and I asked her about it in the privacy of our bedroom. She said, “You already know I miss my mom. But this will be the first Thanksgiving without her. I’m not handling this well.” I hugged her, and encouraged her.
As the days progressed, and we got through the wonderful thanksgiving meal, her sadness deepened. Several times over those days, I would walk up and put my arms around her, and remind her that my shoulder is ALWAYS a safe place for her to cry on. She would smile, thank me, and then move on about her business with the words “just pray.”
To sidetrack for a moment, you all should understand that my love language is definitely of the physical touch sort – at least with my wife. With others, it might be acts of service – I’m not entirely sure. But anyway, here I am wanting to swoop in, wrap my arms around my bride and be her hero. But she doesn’t seem all that interested! What’s up with that? Read on…
Towards the end of my parents’ visit, Tiffani seemed especially stressed. I waited until she was away from everyone else’s ears, then asked… “Honey, are you ok? What can I do?” She broke down and tearfully told me “If I could just hide away from everyone for the next couple of days, I’d be better off. I MISS MY MOM!“ Then she laid her head on my shoulder and let the tears roll. I gently held her close and prayed over her. This relaxed her a bit, and she was able to get herself back together to continue our visit. This wasn’t brought on by any perceived “wrong” committed by anyone in the house… Tiffani was simply overwhelmed by having to entertain everyone, when she would rather have been completely alone – not having to put on a smile for anybody. I was seeing for the first time how my beloved deals with gut-wrenching grief.
The lesson I came away with from this holiday experience was this… though my love language (with my wife) is touch, hers is not the same. I cannot EXPECT to use my language on her, and have her receive it in the same way. This doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to be touched or held by her husband. It means that I cannot force it. I have to be content with praying for her, and BEING AVAILABLE when SHE decides that she needs my shoulder to cry on, or a simple hug. When she makes that decision, and comes to me looking for her safe place, I know now that she will feel loved and cherished way beyond anything I could hope for.
When Tiffani comes to me and looks up into my eyes, most often she doesn’t even need to use words. I’ve been with her for almost 3 decades. I know when her eyes are saying “Please put your strong arms around me. I need you to comfort me.”
And when this happens, I am a man on top of the world. I have become Tiffani’s hero.
Lord, I thank You for the wife You’ve given to me. In so many ways, she is the strong one where I am weak. But I also see the flip side of this, and I know you’ve matched us up to be good for each other. Help me to be the husband that doesn’t hesitate to bring her before You in prayer. Help me also to know the difference between needing to give her space to work something out internally, and when to come to her rescue. This is a big struggle for me, and I want to do a better job. Thank You for sharing Your daughter Tiffani with me for this lifetime. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Image used with permission from David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net