On September 25, 2015, my wonderful 30-year-old son-in-law, Patrick, suddenly passed away from an unknown heart related condition. He left my only daughter, Brittany, who was 25, the mom of 3 small boys. The oldest son, Peyton, was one day from turning 3-years-old, Evan was 1 1/2 years old, and Nathan only 3-months-old.
My wife was out of state so it was just Brittany and I at the hospital crying together. My tears were not for Patrick because he knew the Lord and was in heaven, my tears were for my daughter and 3 young boys without a father. God immediately placed in my mind and heart that I must do my best to provide a father figure for those boys.
At nearly 58-years-old and with a busy life of my own as a realtor and flipping houses, I was already spread thin, so I prayed for God to help me help them. They stayed in our home for approximately 6 weeks before they went back to their home and then stayed with us a lot of weekends and holidays. I also stopped by to see them as they live only 25 minutes away.
It has now been almost 4 years and these 3 boys are well balanced, good kids that I believe will do great in life despite not having a father in those early years. These are 3 of my 14 grandchildren, at the time of Patrick’s death, all were 5 or younger and 12 of them are boys! During the early days it was obvious that I spent more time with these 3 than the rest and my 3 sons and daughter-in-laws graciously understand that.
At times, I was their 3rd mom behind my daughter and wife, but most of the time I am just “Pops” to them. I was, and still am, very intentional about everything I do with them.
Here is a sampling of the ways I would serve Brittany and love on her boys:
- Most of the time we went to church together, and I would meet up with Brittany to help sit with the boys.
- We also went on vacations together, otherwise it would not be a vacation for a widow with 3 small boys. This provided 3 adults with 3 sets of eyes to oversee their care.
- On some weeks I tried to take 1 or more of the kids with me to run errands or to work on a flip house or to show a client a house.
- We live on several acres with a garden, flower beds, orchard, berry patch, playground, zipline, 4-wheelers, tractor, mowers, and all kinds of cool stuff that boys love! When I needed to do some work I took them with me and taught them how specific tools worked while working and making repairs–they loved it!
- Even my touch was intentional, patting them on the hand, sitting them on my lap, holding hands, hugs, kisses, and wrestling!
- My father never encouraged me verbally and only abused his authority, so I made sure these boys got plenty of verbal praise and “I love you’s.” Young men crave their father’s approval and these boys get what I can give them.
- They are my grandkids, but I tried and still do not to spoil them in any bad way. I drew a firm line and didn’t put up with bad attitudes or misbehavior. During those early days this helped my daughter to not be the only one keeping them in line with important discipline. They are respectful and tender enough to not want to disappoint me most times, so it has not been an issue. Withholding privileges, snacks, and special dates is usually enough to keep them in check.
- When they came to stay with us, a bedtime routine was incorporated as I had with my own children. We had a time of Bible story, prayer, and goodnight kisses. Sometimes I would dance with them to the soft bedtime music or music playing in the house and they loved it and so did I!
Her 3 boys are young and resilient and will be good God-fearing successful men with their own families someday soon enough. I’m glad that God somehow gave me the time, strength, energy, and wisdom to be there for them in this season of their lives.
I was not alone in the quest to help these boys, they were blessed to have their other grandfather, several uncles all living nearby, and other men who had also been intentional to pour into them. They are loved and prayed for by many of us and that all combines to make for a great support system for them.
These past.4 years, especially the first 22 months, I changed many diapers, got up during the night more times than my tired body wanted to, fed, cleaned up, clothed, bathed, and did what a father would normally do with them and what their amazing father, Patrick, did for them. We also played, wrestled, rode the 4-wheelers and zip line, went fishing, did routine house chores, like taking out the trash, repairing things, and have many other great memories.
We cannot control what God allows to happen to us but we can choose to make the best of it. I choose to embrace the task and enjoy the journey and that makes all the difference!