Two are Better Than One:  The Road That Led Me Home to Stan

Love after traumatic loss is a gift—a gift that often begins before the death of a spouse and comes in unexpected manners.  There is no timeline on grief, nor is there a  limited capacity of the heart to fully love another again.  One feeling does not negate the other.  I will always love Phil, but it isn’t an either or thing.  I love Stan with everything in me—the me that came from being loved well for 23.5 years.  The me that emerged from the ashes.  Stan loves me for the girl I have grown into because I had no other choice, and he shares and lives the same faith that is central to who I am.  That faith is my rock and where the story starts.

My story with Stan began in the last face to face conversation I had with Phil.  I wanted nothing to do with the what if conversation because Phil had been in the military 26 years.  We had never talked about the what ifs until his last deployment.  Because he was going over in the role of an officer training military members, it felt safe.  It was supposed to be safe;  it was supposed to be a year -long interruption of our life together.  I made jokes about Raul the pool boy because I did not want to consider living without Phil.  I made jokes because I thought it was stupid to be wasting our last few minutes together talking about something that wasn’t going to happen.  We all know how this deployment played out, but the biggest gift Phil gave me was this simple statement—“Linda, stop it.  If you died first, would you want me to be happy again?”  Well, yes, yes, I would.  He gathered me in his arms, kissed me, and said, “I  love you so much that I want that for you.  Your heart is big and would be able to love someone in a different way than you love me.”  I never forgot that conversation and thought about it often both before and after he was killed.  Equal but different….

God’s promise was the second thing that has brought me to Stan.  This one is still hard for me to talk about, but I have written about.  It scared me and it came from the absolute worst day of my life.  The worst day of my life was not hearing that Phil had been killed—it came about six weeks later when the pictures of my husband’s very broken body came in the mail.  I broke.  I went to my bed and wrapped myself in all of the blankets.  As I lay weeping and with every bit of hope gone, I wondered why my Phil and why not me.  I cried out to God begging for death and for release from the shattered shards of my heart.  A jolt zapped me and I felt and saw a light everywhere inside and outside of me.  I saw myself standing in front of a minister with a man who was clearly not my Phil.  I couldn’t see his face, but I felt our love and our joy.  The man clearly adored me.  I denied it and cried harder.  “No, God.  Please no. “  I didn’t want to consider another person then or for a long time.  As I wept harder, the jolt came again.  The jolt and the vision was stronger than before.  It terrified me.  I jumped out of bed and tripped on the covers.  As I lay on the floor weeping, I looked up.  Through my bedroom window, I saw the first complete double rainbow I had ever seen.  I knew then that God was promising me something.  I just didn’t want to consider it.

It took me a long time to date.  I went on a date here or there in the past year,  but nothing felt right.  Something was always off in the person.  They weren’t bad people, but they were not someone I saw myself with in terms of marriage.  There was always a sense of something missing.  The missing piece was always the understanding of the faith that compels me to be the woman that I am.  That faith has defined me and carried me since I was 6, but never more than at the moment of Phil’s death and in the journey that followed.  This is not the life I imagined for me and my speaking and writing emerged from the fire of the Holy Spirit calling the least able, least willing, least prepared, and least ready to be the girl that stands before you.  I am a hider.  This is not natural for me, and yet, this is what I have been called to do since the start.  In the past, the few dates I had, they couldn’t understand.  I don’t understand.  I just obey.  In that obedience, I took the only job that felt right to me this summer.  That job was in Missouri—Misery.

I got offered many jobs this past summer, but none of them felt right.  I got offered jobs in the states that I felt called to go to—WA and CO, and the job that brought me to MO wasn’t even the job I loved, but when I was offered the job in MO, everything clicked.  My heart quieted.  I knew that I was being called to a state I never saw myself living in.  I bought a house without seeing it by letting my brother pick it.  I just came.

The next part of God’s humor in our journey is something that started when I saw my daughter more than a year ago.  She had encouraged me to try online dating.  I wanted none of that because I felt like people grocery shop for looks and that people were looking only for hook ups.  I was afraid of the psychos.  I signed up with her encouragement and then did nothing with it (nothing for the entire more than a year) until I was offered the job.  I went online to see if there was someone about my age to get information from, but I did not want to date the psychos.  I found Stan who was just starting his dating journey.  So there we were, two jaded people.  I wrote to him about this new area I was moving to and told him all of the reasons I wasn’t datable.  We became friends.  I looked forward to having a good guy friend in my new area.

We went to dinner the first night I was here.  I liked him, but I still considered him a vanilla friend.  It wasn’t until he agreed to spend hours in the car with my brother and his family going to Branson that I began to look at him in a different light.  As my brother probed him about his faith and about his life, I recognized a kindred spirit.  I recognized that we had potential.

Still, it took us seeing one another almost every day to recognize that what we share is truly the Ecc 4:9-12 love.  That verse says that two are better than one for if one falls down the other is there to pick him up.  That verse recognizes that a person cannot keep warm alone and that shared faith is the tie that binds a lasting love.  I felt this only once before and I eloped after knowing Phil for 7 months.  When I was making jokes about Raul the pool boy, I told Phil he would have to shove someone into my arms for me to recognize love again—that he would have to make it abundantly clear.  Well….God has the greatest sense of humor because here we stand as two people leery of online dating, leery of relationships and intentions, leery of marriage.  We share our faith and we share loyalty and commitment to not only each other, but to God.  We share a love for our children and for the people in our lives. Stan understands and is proud of what I do and why I do it and he is there for me whenever I need him.  There is no wavering, no doubts.

While we are figuring out how we can marry and when we can marry due to benefits and retirement, all we know is that we want to spend our days building a life together.  We want to grandparent together and travel together.  We want to honor God and be the people we are being called to be.  I recognize what is in front of me because of where this journey started—well before I met my Stan.  My heart echoes and is full because I have been doubly blessed in my life.

As Job says to God, until now, I had only heard of your blessings, but now my eyes see you (42:5).  Now—you have the rest of the story.


  1. Linda Reeder says:

    Gods special timing has finally happened for you! May much love and many blessings be sent your way! So incredibly happy for you! I know Phil is smiling down on you too.❤️

  2. Judith R Gentz says:

    Linda, may I share this with my daughter-in-law? I especially love the way you say your love for Phil prepared you to love Stan…not an either – or.

  3. Elke Drayton says:

    I am so happy for you because you are a very special person. I knew all along that God will send you another different love.

  4. Absolutely beautiful Linda! So happy God has blessed you with a “Chapter 2!” xoxo


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