I loved the notion of being half of a whole and of being united with Matt.
What I didn't understand at 21 when we became engaged and planned our future, was that by attaching myself to that name I had the prize waiting for me of becoming a part of an entire family.
Matt's parents Brian and Vicki took me on like I was truly theirs. They loved me and poured into me verbally, emotionally, and spiritually. Early on in our marriage I spent significant time with Matt's parents both with him and even on my own. We laughed at how funny it was when I would go out to dinner with them by myself if Matt was working or had something else going. Vicki and I spent weekends together when Brian and Matt would go on biking trips. Over the last 12 years we have really grown to love each other deeply, Matt's family and I.
Matt has a brother. His brother Mark is one of the very best men I know. He is different from Matt in most every way. Matt loved Mark so wholly and completely. Though Mark and his amazing wife have lived in California for the last decade we became closer than I would have guessed we ever could at that distance. Mark and Kath visited regularly and made great effort to establish a strong relationship with Harper. As a result, I am pretty sure if Harper understood the concept of being stranded on a deserted island and could only pick one person to go with her, she would pick Mark in a heartbeat. She only has eyes for him. She adores this aunt and uncle and the cousins they have given her with every part of her being.
When Matt died in April his family rallied around me in a way that only family can. There was not a distinction made that I was the daughter they were slated through marriage. They treat me like I am their own. On that final day at the hospital when it was time for me to go, my dear friends picked me up at the door and took me straight to Brian and Vicki's house. I don't remember working it out. It was just a given. When all was done I would go home to them.
As a haven and retreat, a couple of weeks after Matt's death I went to be with Mark and Kath. Harper and I were heartsick and being with them was the only logical first step to the remedy. There is hope and life and healing in that relationship. When they decided to move home to Kansas City to support us, I was completely overcome. They uprooted their very lives to be more fully a part of ours.
Since Mark and Kath and the kids have gotten here I have been overwhelmed with gratitude. I thought of them as being here for Brian and Vicki and for Harper. I didn't expect that their being here would make me feel such comfort. I didn't anticipate the dose of peace it gives me that they are just 20 minutes down the road.
Brian and Mark have worked with Harper this summer to show her how to ride a bike. Mark came with his daughter and took Harper to school yesterday. You would have guessed Harper had won the lottery. A few days back I woke up and got dressed. I walked out to the kitchen. The dogs were barking, and I looked out the kitchen window. Brian and Mark were hopping over my fence and coming into my backyard. Brian was beaming and had his hand over his heart in relief. They thought my dogs had been exposed to some mouse poison in the basement where they usually sleep at night. We had all forgotten it was down there. Brian had woken up in a panic thinking my dogs might have died in the night. He was coming to check and do what needed to be done. He was coming to rescue me. Although right now I am wondering why they didn't just ring the doorbell.
At church a couple of weeks ago Brian and Vicki and I were sitting in one pew. Mark and Kath and Harper and her cousins were sitting in the pew in front of us. If you didn't know us you wouldn't have been able to figure out exactly who went with who and how we all fit together. But you would know it was true -- that we were all there together. We were smiling at each other over the girls' heads and patting one another occasionally. At the end of the service they sing a closing prayer. Everyone holds hands and moves in closer together. We were lined up -- all close and touching. The girls danced between us with happy hearts and glad faces.
What's in a name? As it turns out, pretty much everything.