Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Amy and Pete
There is more great news regarding the make up of our family. Our family is once again growing!! (No, Lisa and I are not great with child). My daughter, Amy, is engaged! Pete, very sweetly, popped the question this past Friday evening. Lisa and I, and the entire family couldn’t be happier. They make a great young couple. They are both such great kids and their relationship is truly rooted in Christ’s love for them.
Answered prayer!

Thursday, December 04, 2008


So, I’m back with more non-profundities.
“Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer...” Not so much this summer. Maybe crazy does apply. Wow! I can’t believe it is the end of the year and the holidays are here. When I look back at the activities since summer began, it’s no wonder I haven’t written anything. ...So many stories, so little time to share them.
A few of the biggies this summer include Sara’s graduation and wedding a few weeks later :), Matt’s graduation, many softball games, basketball games, many trips to DeWitt to see Mom and a quick, drive through the night type, trip to Colorado to visit Kevin. We also squeezed in a trip to Ohio for a family reunion weekend. In addition to all of that activity, we worked very hard at preparing my house on Azalea St for selling.
After our wedding in February, Lisa and her daughter moved into my house. From the beginning we knew that it would be best to sell both of our houses and get one that would be “ours” together. Before I had even started dating Lisa, I had begun to remodel my kitchen knowing it needed updating asap. As we looked forward to selling, the kitchen project became a high priority. We painted the cabinets, installed new counters and backsplashes, new flooring and painted the walls. As I am too “dutch” to pay someone else for what I can do myself, I did it myself. Of course, that takes a longer amount of time. Once we completed the kitchen we contacted a realtor and put our house on the market. The real estate market in Michigan pretty much stinks as many of you know, but God is good and our house sold fairly easily. We had it priced aggressively and the new kitchen and addition really helped. So, in August we were packing like crazy, preparing for our moving date. In the meantime we decided to build a new home (another story...). We are very excited about building but that meant finding a place to live temporarily while our home is being built. Again God had that one figured out long before we did and we were led to a nice little home in Wyoming that very adequately meets our temporary needs, dogs and all. We will likely be on Walter St until mid-March or so.
It has been a pleasure seeing our two families “blend”. There continue to be challenges but so far things have gone very well. We appreciate the continued prayers of many as our families move forward together. Bryan recently gave a speech at the high school he graduated from and one of his themes was “restoration”. It is good to observe that our children also see the restoration process happening in our lives.
Lisa and I wish each of you a Blessed Holiday season. We pray that LOVE may increase in the coming year.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I have decided to (finally) start again with posting a few thoughts from time to time. The direction of my thoughts will be quite different than they were in the beginning. This change is a testimony to God's healing power.

Because of the "new direction" I am also changing the layout and opening blog description, however I want to mark that point in time by saving the old description within this post.

Thank you to all of you who have stayed in touch with my "journey" by stopping by to read these pages from time to time and for you prayers offered on behalf of Carol's loved ones as you read these pages.

Bear's Blog
I have always said Aug. 5, 1977 was the happiest day of my life. That was the day I was united in marraige to Carol. Then, in April of 2006, out of the blue, she started having problems breathing and on May 7, 2006 she died. That day will forever be the saddest in my life. This blog site will be a place for me to record some of my "grief journey". You are welcome to read along and comment with your thoughts as well. Fred

Saturday, May 03, 2008

It's been two years...

My Dear Carol,
Wow, I can’t even begin this letter with out tears coming to my eyes. I am finally starting it after not being able to so many times before. This is very difficult and if this were paper it would be wet with tears. The emotion I feel writing this is a bit of a surprise to me, but I really wanted to send you a note, now, at the two year anniversary of the lowest point in my life. So here it goes.
Well, it has been two years since your death. Sadly your arrival in Glory had to include losing you here on earth, where tons of people still miss you like crazy. We have tried to make some sense of it but that really hasn’t been easy. I guess I still think your death was a wrong result of sin in this world. But God also gives grace and healing for us to be able to proceed with our earthly lives without you.
We, the kids and I, are doing pretty well here. I think you would be proud of us. I have to say that first summer was extremely difficult. For me the only thing worse than climbing into bed alone at night was getting out of bed in the morning and facing the day alone. As you would imagine, our family and friends from church offered us tremendous support, and still do. That first summer, between Tim and Maxine, my sister Marcie, and others, there were hardly any evenings that I was home alone. They were wonderful listeners and supporters even as they themselves were grieving your death.
I think the kids are ok. Early on, they too, had their circle of friends and supporters who were wonderful and there for them in countless ways. You would be extremely proud of the young adults they have become. I continue to see you in them every day and for that I am so very thankful.
Amy actually has your job at Hillside. Everyone keeps telling me what an outstanding job she is doing there. I know, also, that they miss you tremendously at Hillside. Amy has also bought her own house. It was a real fixer upper and she did a wonderful job of turning it into a very nice home. As we were working on it, I was thinking about how much you would have loved to be there cleaning, painting and helping Amy any way you could. Here’s some big news! How I wish you could be here to share and celebrate this. Amy has a boyfriend. His name is Pete and he is a good friend of Laura’s husband Tim. They make a great couple and seem very compatible. Amy seems very happy!
Perhaps the news about Sara is even bigger. She is doing great. I’m so proud of her. She is graduating from Calvin this May with her nursing degree. She has worked so hard at it...while working two other jobs. She has been hired full time by Spectrum hospitals here in town. She and I have had many good talks since your death and her gentle spirit continues to be a blessing to us all. Her graduation is May 17 at VanAndel Arena. Maybe you could look in if things work that way. Here’s the big news about Sara. You really won’t want to miss this. On June 21 she is getting married. She started dating Laura C’s brother Josh and before long they were engaged. There have been showers and parties, etc. in Sara’s honor. We all wish so much that you could be here to enjoy this time with her.
Matt is doing very well. I think maybe he has missed you the most. I know he still misses all the funning around the two of you used to do and I know he misses your input and direction in his life. He has been attending a local film school and has really dug into it in a way you would be proud of. You would love that he always stays positive, and never speaks poorly about anyone. He has become very involved at Hillside also on a volunteer basis. He sings, he plays guitar, and recently has begun doing many video type presentations. These are shown during services and other special occasions. I hope you got a chance to see some of his (and Amy’s) work recently at the “Hillcademy” awards evening. I also hope you got a chance to see him as the” Beast” in Beauty and the Beast last summer at CCP. He is a very talented young man (takes after you). So far there are no love interests for him, but he can’t afford to consider it just yet.
As for me, yes my life has been changed in huge ways. Nearly everything you and I had ever dreamed of went out the window. There is that cliché about “a new normal” but that doesn’t come easily. I’ve learned so much about death and grief, stuff no one would ever want to learn. I learned that grief, in some form, will be with me as long as I live. It has gotten less intense, of course, but I still have my moments.
One of the things young widows talk about is that their spouses would want them to be happy. As impossible as that seems at first, I know that is what you would want for me. I have tried to remain positive and maybe I have succeeded at that on some level. I have tried to trust that God has some big picture plan that makes all this worth while and maybe I have succeeded at that on some level as well. I do believe the God I have believed in my entire life has never left me. I believe he has worked diligently in all of our lives since May 7th, putting the leftover pieces back together in good ways.
Honey, I really believe you will be happy to know that last summer I met another widow who quickly became very special to me. We met while both attending a widow support group. Her husband, Phil, died a few months before you. Her name is Lisa. Lisa and I have often wondered if the two of you have met each other there in heaven. We both definitely feel like the Lord has brought us together. I look back and think about last summer and all the feelings bouncing around in my head, but I feel very strongly that it was God who made it possible for me to love romantically again after losing you. Lisa is a sweetheart and maybe it’s strange, but I wish you could meet her. I know you would approve of our relationship. We really have a lot in common and she has been through a very difficult grief journey herself. Much like loving a second child without loving the first less, I want you to know that I really love Lisa. She is a gift that could only be given by a GOOD God. We were married on February 8th. Pastor Ron performed the wedding and did a great job given the losses that our two families had experienced. Lisa has three, great kids also. It has been a real pleasure getting to know them in a deeper way. I just pray that I may learn how to be a good “step dad”. I never figured that would ever be a role I would have to fill. It really does seem like I’ve stepped into a new life. Lisa has been great with Amy, Sara and Matt also and they really seem to enjoy having her in their lives. I must say also that your Mom and Dad, not surprisingly, have gone out of there way to make Lisa (and kids) feel comfortable in our family. They have been great to all of us.
Honey, there are still a couple of things I think about often. I’m so sorry I never got to say “goodbye” to you. I’m sorry I wasn’t there with you, holding you at the end. I never imagined you would be leaving when you did. I was just out of the room letting the doctors and nurses do their work, then you were gone. I ask for your forgiveness in that. Had I known, they couldn’t have pried me away from you.
I still wonder about heaven. What it’s really like. What you’re doing. What you’re seeing. Some day, soon enough, I know I will find out for my self. I am learning that whether one lives 1 week, 18 years, 50 years, or a hundred years, it’s all really just a short time, then we get to walk the “streets of gold” that lead to the “sea of crystal” for eternity. I know I will see you again then.

Until Then
Your Loving Husband

Monday, March 31, 2008


I don’t know that I have ever understood death. I don’t know if I still understand death. Although I have learned a lot more about it in the last couple of years. This weekend we were reminded again, a little bit, about the nature of death. One of Lisa’s uncles passed away last Thursday.

I had only met him once and did not know him at all. I do know that this family, largely through the loss of Phil, Lisa’s late husband, has to struggle again with the pain of losing a loved one. The thing that got me thinking about this was Lisa’s mother-in-law mentioning that she had asked her brother to say hello to Phil when he got to heaven.

I remember saying those exact same words when I last saw my Uncle John. That was in July of 2006, two months after Carol died. My Dad had died in March, Carol in May and now my dear uncle was obviously nearing the end of his life. When I had to leave him that day I knew that this would be the last time I would see him alive. I knew that within a few earthly days he would be seeing Carol and my Dad within the glorious beauty and majesty of heaven. I asked him to say hi and to tell them both that we missed them like crazy. I cried and cried just asking him to do that. He didn’t cry at all. I think he was so at peace with the thought of going there that he really longed for it. He was getting weaker by the minute and other physical issues made it difficult for him at the end, and I think he truly longed to be HOME.

Do you think that happens? Can we bring a message from this life over into our heavenly existence? I’m thinking yes. I’m thinking that while time in heaven may or may not be running parallel to earthly time, there is an awareness of one’s earthly existence, one’s relationships, and one’s thought process, etc. I remember reading a book about heaven after Carol died. It seemed that I wanted to learn all I could about it because the person I loved more than anything was now there. I really wanted to get an idea of what she was experiencing. One of the most comforting things I learned was that our loved ones can continue to intercede on behalf of their loved ones while in heaven. WOW! In the months since Carol’s death I have often been encouraged by that thought.

While death seems so final and like such a stark ending, if we can look at it through “eternal” eyes (easier said that done) we can see that its affect on us is temporary. We will see our loved ones again. We will see our Savior face to face. We will have a chance to bring our loved ones, those we will inevitably leave behind, before the throne of God.

Recently we celebrated the Christian holiday of Easter. Because of Easter, because of Christ's resurrection, death is victory. Life is eternal. Joy is perfect. We can “hold on” until the day we can say hi to our loved ones ourselves. Our loved ones lead the way.

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
PSALM 42: 5

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Wise Words From A Friend-

WORK Like you don’t need the money.
LOVE Like nobody has ever hurt you.
DANCE Like nobody is watching.
SING Like nobody is listening.
LIVE As if this is paradise on earth.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I love my Mom! I just had to say that right at the beginning. We had the pleasure of having her stay at our house the last two weeks while my sister and brother-in-law were taking a break in Florida. We had a great time. Lisa and Kelli really enjoyed her company.
It was her 85th birthday on Saturday. That was the day that she was being picked up again so it was a perfect opportunity for us all to get together to celebrate this milestone. However, I think her real party was on Sunday in DeWitt. I was not able to attend that one but I’ve heard about it and would like to tell a little about what I know.
My sister and niece had the idea of having a "card shower" for Mom. They sent out invitations to many of her friends, family, church family, former coworkers etc, asking them to send Mom a birthday card. The response was amazing. Mom received over 40 cards, each with nice comments and well wishes. I could tell from talking to her that it really touched her heart. Another fun aspect of the way my sister presented the cards is the "yellow brick road”. Mom is the queen of the yellow brick road. She would wrap many gifts separately and then put them all into one larger box. She would connect them with yarn (usually yellow) so that there would be a path from one gift to the next. So that is the way her cards were presented to her. Perfect!!
Following is the poem my sister wrote to accompany her card journey:

We just couldn’t resist
To give you a package
That’ll make your eyes mist…

With tears of happy memories
From those you hold dear;
Old friends from afar
And ones right here.

You’ve given so much
Your whole life through,
Here’s a chance for loved ones
To give love to you.

From friends at Good Sam
Where you gave it your all;
Caring for the needy
Spring, summer, winter and fall…

To friends from your church
That you’ve known for so long.
You served side by side
And shared many a song…

And to nieces and nephews
Who call you “Aunt Grete”,
They love you so dearly
From your head to your feet…

They’ve all come together
With wishes so dear;
That you’re not forgotten
They’ve made perfectly clear.

You’ve touched so many lives
With your kind and gentle heart;
They really have missed you
Since you’ve been apart.

So sit back and read these
Again and again…
Whenever you get lonely
And puzzles run thin.

Happy Birthday MOM - We love you
Thanks to you who have made this day extra special for Mom.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without words, and never stops at all and sweetest in the gale is heard.” - Emily Dickinson

One of the activities that Lisa and I have enjoyed this winter is attending basketball games together. Two of Lisa’s three children are still playing organized basketball (one in high school and one in college) and it has been a pleasure getting to know them in this way. These games have also been a great way to meet each others friends in an easy going, social sort of manner. Every once in a while someone we meet at these games stands out in a special way. Last night that happened.
Over the last several months Lisa and I attended a young widowed support group as we were working through our grief journey. There were usually somewhere around 25 of us that attended these meetings on a monthly basis. From time to time we would run into friends from the group outside of the meetings. Last night that happened.
Apparently the word is out about Lisa and me, about our dating and marriage. Recently, at a basketball game we were attending, a friend from our group spotted us. He made a point to come and talk to us. He said he had heard about our engagement and that Bob and Susan had announced it at the most recent meeting. (We did give them permission to do that.) Of coarse everyone was really happy for us. Lisa asked him how he was doing and he got a little emotional and said he was lonely. It has been about a year and a half for him and he is lonely. It is a feeling that some of you know all too well, and others hope to never know. He said he would like to meet someone but really doesn’t know how to proceed at this point. Once again that reinforces to me what a gift it is that Lisa and I met each other as easily as we did. We wished him well and said that it will happen, just keep trusting. God will lead someone to him. He then said a very special thing. He said that seeing us and hearing our story gives him HOPE. He said seeing us together shows him that there can be happiness again, that there can be love again, that life can be good again! Hope! It is nice to know that we can model hope for some of the people who know us.
When I thought about hope, the following verse came to mind:
"... but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. "Romans 5: 3-5
I’m still not to sure about the part about rejoicing in our sufferings. I think that is nearly humanly impossible, but I do believe in the truth of these verses. As widows we suffer, we persevere, our character is defined and, with God’s help, we come to have hope in the future. The Holy Spirit comes to us and lifts our hearts, our spirits, with hope. That is the way of God’s healing. We find ourselves with a brighter outlook because of the hope God gives us.
So, my friend, I’m glad that the gift of love God has given Lisa and me is also a gift of hope to you!

Monday, February 11, 2008

God Is Good

Greetings from Mexico! Lisa and I are here on our Honeymoon! I believe right now it is approximately 75 degrees warmer here than home in Grand Rapids. I think we picked a good week to be here.

Our wedding went very well. Thank you to all of you who were able to attend and even more of you who have been praying for us and wishing us happiness.

Joy has come - there is dancing!

Friday, January 25, 2008


Song of Solomon - Chapter 2:10-13 My lover spoke and said to me, "Arise my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me. See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come. The cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me."

Today is a milestone of sorts. Two weeks from today Lisa and I will be married, remarried. I have to say that I never, ever, would have thought that some day I would be “remarrying” any one. Carol and I were going to grow old together. I suppose it is nearly inevitable that one spouse will die before the other, but not at 50 yrs old. My thinking was that sometime well into old age one of us would be widowed and the other would live out the days that way. Things didn’t work out that way.
Two weeks from today we’re getting married. To me, this is such an incredible testament to God’s grace. God has healed our hearts and given us the capacity to love, romantically, once again. That’s incredible!
I came across the above scripture from the Song of Solomon book of the Bible. I love it! I love Lisa.
Thank you, Lord, for the way you continue to do miracles.
Two weeks....