Girls Write Out
Wednesday, September 01, 2010
Tonight I stepped into a funeral home for the visitation of my former brother-in-law. It was a crowded parlor, because my brother-in-law was well-loved by townsfolk, and I could overhear old farmers and grizzled men in plaid talking about his life and work in our community.

But when I saw my stepsons and their mother in one of the front rows, I burst into tears. I'm getting more sentimental as I get older. I sure do love those boys, and that funeral parlor carries a huge chunk of our history together. Most people wouldn't consider them to be my stepsons now, since we're no longer legally related, but most people wouldn't understand the power of our bond. I'm so glad Mel understands and enthusiastically encourages it.

I sat down behind my stepsons and their mother when I reached the front of the parlor tonight, and recalled old times and tried to catch up with their lives. So much water has flowed beneath the bridge in the seventeen years since I was legally, and unwillingly, disconnected from those beloved boys, and I seem to miss them more with each passing year.

Their mother--whom I affectionately call my ex-sister-outlaw--has been generous about sharing them with me. Mel and I have attended a graduation, weddings, everything we're invited to attend in order to see these wonderful young men. I've flown halfway across the country twice in order to spend time with them. When their mother and I can get together for lunch, we do so. She gets a kick out of seeing the expressions of some of our local citizens who know us and know our history. They think we, being ex-wives of the same man, would naturally hate each other. But she's a kind and generous person no one could hate, and she has proven it.

Twenty-five years ago, her eighteen-year-old daughter--only twelve years younger than I--was involved in an auto accident. Our lives imploded when we were called in the middle of the night about the wreck. I arrived in Neuro ICU to find my stepdaughter swollen past recognition, hooked to life support, with her mother and father standing across the bed from each other. I was stunned beyond feeling, and could not imagine how her parents could even be functioning.

When a nurse stepped in and saw three of us standing at the bedside, she said, "Only parents are allowed in here. Someone will have to leave."

As I turned to step from the cubicle, the mother of my stepdaughter--whom I barely knew, and with whom I'd had very little connection during my seven-years of marriage to her ex-husband--took me by the arm. "No," she said. "You need to be here. You're her mommy, too."

Those words transformed a non-relationship into a friendship that has withstood the test of time. We planned a funeral together. My stepdaughter was disconnected from life support on my thirtieth birthday. We had the funeral visitation in that very same funeral home where I saw my stepsons tonight.

The mother of my stepchildren stood beside me through the divorce, encouraged me, reassured me. All these years later, she still calls me when she knows they're going to be in town for an event, making sure I can see the boys if I want to. I always want to. We've spent Thanksgiving together, and have met together at far too many funerals. She has forgiven me for many things over all these years--from painting the boys with indelible green food coloring for Halloween, to teaching the kids how to throw water balloons at passing cars cruising town on a Saturday night. I was so young then...

She keeps me informed about the boys and their lives and their beautiful wives. She has shown grace to me countless times when I, with no children of my own, would have been childless. But I'm not, because of one woman's selfless generosity.

What a difference her kindness has made in my life. She has taught me to think outside the typical box, and has shown me the concept of grace in a very powerful way.

Think about it. What can you do to share grace today?

Hannah Alexander  
posted at 12:34 AM  
  Comments (18)
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At 3:52 PM, Blogger Denise Hunter said...

What an amazing story, Cheryl! I wish there more selfless people in this world.

At 3:54 PM, Blogger Pam S. said...

Wow! She sounds amazing...but then, you are too! As my dad used to say, "It takes two to tango." :)

At 4:01 PM, Blogger Pam S. said...

Today was the first day of our school--always a good day to spread around grace and mercy (liberally!!). Then again, every day is an opportunity to do that. We need more people in the world like your sister-outlaw who "do" grace and acceptance naturally. :)

At 4:38 PM, Blogger Hannah Alexander said...

Thanks, Denise. I just got home from the funeral, where I got to sit beside that amazing woman and cry, and gaze at the "shared" youngest son and embarrass him by bragging about him to all who would listen. He's with the Coast Guard, and was in uniform today. He's been on duty in the Gulf for several months, working as liaison and information handler, handling reporters and government officials. He's the one who rescued me from a cave when he was ten. My little hero--who's not little anymore.

At 4:40 PM, Blogger Hannah Alexander said...

She is amazing, Pam. Thanks for the compliment. I told her I'd blogged about her and she said, "What nasty things did you say about me?" When I told her they were good things, she said, "Did anyone ever tell you you were full"

You can imagine she keeps people laughing.

At 11:57 PM, Blogger Xochi said...

Thank you for this honest post. I, too, am a step-mother. The road has been bumpy, but I love my step-son as if he is my own by birth. As he chooses his own way as an adult, we've had a few more bumps on the road, which caused a few bruises. But, as I read your post, I was gently reminded that we are not promised tomorrow. God used you to soften my heart and extend grace as I love my "son" with the heart of Christ. Thank you for being a vessel of encouragement and a testimony of His love and grace. :)

At 2:22 AM, Blogger Ruthie said...

I am overwhelmed today by the grace God gave you with your step-children's mother and with the birth of our granddaughter this afternoon. With so much death and hate in our world, isn't it fabulous that there are people who are willing to love and share and extend life? You and I are both very blessed women, indeed.

At 9:48 AM, Blogger Diann Hunt said...

What a beautiful story, Cheryl! You are such a blessing!!

At 10:11 AM, Blogger Hannah Alexander said...

Xochi, thank you for saying such a wonderful thing. I was treated as a friend, not a mother. They had a mother they adored, and a father, and didn't need another parent, so my role was as a friend--perhaps an aunt they spent a lot of time with. When I saw it that way, it became easier.

At 10:13 AM, Blogger Hannah Alexander said...

Ruthie CONGRATULATIONS!!!! What wonderful news! I have another friend who is awaiting her granddaughter, and she's so excited she cannot stop and sit down. How children can bless us! Even when they're all grown up!

At 10:15 AM, Blogger Hannah Alexander said...

Thank you, Diann. I gave a copy of the blog to my ex-sister-outlaw after some soul searching. It will bring back many painful memories for her, but I also hope it will let her know how special she is.

At 11:48 AM, Blogger Julie Carobini said...

What a beautiful post.

At 11:55 AM, Blogger Hannah Alexander said...

Thank you, Julie. There are some beautiful souls in this world.

At 4:40 PM, Blogger Amy said...

First of all, WOW! 2nd, I just discovered your books yesterday at my local used book store. The name struck me because you write with your husband. I've read this blog but never put two & two together before - cool!

At 4:40 PM, Blogger Amy said...

First of all, WOW! 2nd, I just discovered your books yesterday at my local used book store. The name struck me because you write with your husband. I've read this blog but never put two & two together before - cool!

At 4:40 PM, Blogger Amy said...

First of all, WOW! 2nd, I just discovered your books yesterday at my local used book store. The name struck me because you write with your husband. I've read this blog but never put two & two together before - cool!

At 4:40 PM, Blogger Amy said...

First of all, WOW! 2nd, I just discovered your books yesterday at my local used book store. The name struck me because you write with your husband. I've read this blog but never put two & two together before - cool!

At 4:44 PM, Blogger Hannah Alexander said...

Thanks, Amy! So glad you finally found us!


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The Authors
Kristin Billerbeck
Kristin Billerbeck is a proud Californian, wife, mother of four, and connoisseur of the irrelevant. She writes Christian Chick Lit; where she finds need for most of the useless facts lulling about in her head.

Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble writes romantic suspense with a strong atmospheric element. A lovable animal of some kind--usually a dog--always populates her novels. She can be bribed with DeBrand mocha truffles.

Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter writes women's fiction and love stories with a strong emotional element. Her husband says he provides her with all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too.

Diann Hunt

Diann Hunt writes romantic comedy and humorous women's fiction. She has been happily married forever, loves her family, chocolate, her friends, chocolate, her dog, and well, chocolate.

Hannah Alexander

Cheryl Hodde writes romantic medical suspense under the pen name of Hannah Alexander, using all the input she can get from her husband, Mel, for the medical expertise. For fun she hikes and reads. Out of guilt, she rescues discarded cats. She and Mel are presently taking orders from four pampered strays.

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