The First Cut is the Deepest…Divorce

Just read a young mother’s post on her blog about an impending divorce.  Don’t know all the details but did identify with the feelings she is facing.

It was almost 30 years ago I met my high school sweetheart.  He was a jock wrestler, which I didn’t know at the time or probably wouldn’t have gone out with him.  Most of the friends I had that joined sports ended up leaving their old friends behind for the popularity game.

Jeff and I would attend community college together and marry before we headed to University…so much for a honeymoon.  The next 4 years we spent with him in Engineering school and I in Nursing.  Many of our high school friends were at university also and married.  The single guys would jest with him that he must be “getting it all the time”.  How crude but also untrue.

In the 80’s AIDS was still pretty new on the scene and being in Nursing school helped me draw some necessary lines due to my husband’s infidelity.  He’d pretty much been a MENSA pothead and alcohol user since he was preteen. I, on the other hand, never did drugs and after having an alcoholic wifebeater for a dad, I stayed away from alcohol.  We’d fought a lot about his DUI’s and indiscretions during our high school and college years and I withdrew sexually from him in the 2nd year of our 4 year marriage.  He continued his bad habits until my junior year in nursing school and then decided his husbandly rights were being violated one night after a long day at the hospital and studying for midterms.

I woke up to pressure on my chest and by the time I figured out he was on top of me and forcing himself on me, it was too late.  I begged him not to do this.  He knew about my past as a victim of child sexual abuse and I had worked so hard I think because of my past to ignore his infidelities, figuring maybe it was my own fault…that I wasn’t NORMAL.  I participated in all he wanted to do and dabbled in porn videos early in our marriage because that’s what he wanted, but this night he just told me to lay there, B—-and it will be over soon.  I cried. I laid still and somewhere in it, I fell asleep.  The next year is a blur of continued violation when I least expected it and then he graduated and separated from me, going for a job in civil service.

I thought it would be easier with him gone, but it wasn’t.  Now, I was alone to face the pain of the past, the failing of my marriage, and the beginning of my senior year.  I went into a depression and thank God for a couple of wonderful friends who found me at the bottom of my misery, alone in my trailer, no food, no money, and no hope.

It took me a month to eat lettuce.  Jeff had seen to it that I was left with a junky car, debts from credit cards I got as a senior which he used to buy dinner and gifts for other women, and with my mother out of the country, I had not help from family.  I thought about going to the police about the rape but in the 80’s…they just laughed and said what everyone else said…he’s your it’s not rape.  ARGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Like my body wasn’t my own.  in those days, women had to have their husbands sign sterilization papers or they couldn’t obtain the necessary surgery regardless of the threat to their health and being left with multiple children and no support.  Sounds crazy, right?

Believe it or not, I tried to reconcile twice that year.  I think because my parents were divorced when no one else in our neighborhood was and they labeled us as their children, some ugly names and apparently my mother who worked two jobs became a swinger.  The only swinging she did was swing shifts from assembly line work to nights as a hotel housekeeper.  I didn’t want to be labeled a divorcee’.  After an attempt at the second reconciliation and exhausting my student loan money on his reckless spending, I went to my university law school and the kind gentleman told me I could get a lawyer for free as a student.  Finally, some sunshine in my dark world.

We had to threaten him with jail time for running up credit cards that weren’t his, but he finally signed and I got my divorce 3 days before I graduated nursing school.  He attended my graduation; I’m not exactly sure why, but he mentioned how I had changed my name on my degree and I countered with why would I have his name on a degree I earned and that truth be told my name should be on his engineering degree since I pushed him all the way through.  He said I looked great. I replied that the starvation diet is an amazing way to lose weight. He proceeded to follow my friends and i the whole night like some predator waiting to pounce.  I went home a few months later and he found out I was in town and accosted me at a gas station and grabbed me by the arm saying I was his.  I told him that might have been true once, but never again.  He pretty much trashed me with friends in my hometown, being there a year before me. Many felt uncomfortable and just disappeared into the background of life.  Some would still welcome me, knowing how bad he was and they encouraged me to keep my head up.

I remember still the day the judge asked me if I wanted my own name back.  I felt somewhat like the slaves when they were set free.  Who is that?  I hadn’t known that name for 9 years and I held someone else’s name for 4 years.  I replied yes, but not really sure about the mess of feelings laying within me.

I’ve been remarried now 26 years.  He’s kind, generous, compassionate, loyal, and we’ve had 2 children.  Is life happier?  Soimewhat.  I can honestly say it’s safer.  We talk. We’ve loved, but we’ve also realized that we thought we knew what love was, but we didn’t .  He tries but struggles trying to find the reins for what he calls, a “mustang”.  It’s sad that after all this time we find ourselves friends, but without purpose.  We have a type of love, but not the forever eternal kind of love.  I have tried to love many times, but been loved my only one.  One who knew the One who loves unconditionally, whole-heartedly and eternally.  I knew him for 15 years and he was a most precious friend who taught me the beauty that God placed within me, the love God intended and the pain of losing a friend most precious in his giving and forgiving spirit.  He died 6 months ago and so now I continue in the love he showed me and the faith I have that I will see him again.

My husband feels the same way.  He’s lost a brother in the Lord and his example can only be described as one of a kind.  We now find ourselves united in our grieving for one who showed us how love never fails and still abides in the memories we share together.  We live each day now trying to give to one another as friends and parents and grandparents.

Waiting…for her, the power of forgiveness


It’s been a decade now since my mother-in-law, Lourdes, passed away.  I married her baby son 26 years ago in November.  It was never a great relationship.  She was the ‘matriarch’ of her family but had grown up the baby in her own family.  She had grown up in a large family of Spanish/Taos Indian descent and being the baby she had grown up used to having her way and being the center of attention. Her baby son had always been a treasure for her. She was pregnant 16 years after his birth and being older found comfort and love in his attentive care.  He had married when he was 20 and divorced about 6 years before I met him. I found myself constantly being told about previous memories from his marriage and everyone was “civil”, but it was one of those families where the elephant’s under the rug and everyone walks over it like a speed bump near their favorite shopping place.

There would be many heartbreaks of their disapproval of me or probably the thought that no one was good enough for her son.  I was determined I would prove that wrong.

My own mother had some pretty awful mother-in-laws.  My mother is Korean and both of them were pretty vocal about mixing of white and other ‘races’.  I was described by my own grandmother as that little ‘porch monkey’s children’. I didn’t really understand what that meant but that hillbillies in West Virginia had their own sayings. I would learn. My stepgrandmother referred to us as my son’s wife’s children…ugh!  My mother always held her head up and was kind. When my stepgrandmother broke her hip  and couldn’t get to the bathroom by herself, my mom was the one who wiped the trail of pee from the bed to the bathroom.  She had just been widowed that year but she found pleasure in serving.  After helping her thru breast cancer and the hip injury, my stepgrandma changed her attitude.  I remember still today her telling me how sorry she was as she lay in the hospital bed about her treatment of my mother and how much she loved her and how we truly were her grandchildren and she was blessed to have us.

My story would end much the same.  My mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000 and went into remission with treatment a year later, but in 2004 after my own mother’s stroke during a procedure, we were informed Lourdes had cancer in her spine and brain.  They both lived in Florida and while I went to rehab for my own mother, now paralyzed and without speech, we took care of Ken’s mom.  I drove from the East Coast to Orlando for a few weeks and then I moved in with my two children.  The other daughter-in-law, Bonnie, lived down the street and between the two of us, we kept her healthy and her spirits up.  I would lay with her at night as she retired to bed and she would stroke my head and thank me for being there .I just cried.  My own mother was withheld from me after weeks of going thru rehab with her.  I raised the youngest brother and the middle one had always been jealous because he lived with my grandma and dad after our parent’s divorce.  In an Asian family, number one son is #1.  My mother always struggled with that issue.  So I was pretty broken when I went into my mother-in-law to tuck her in one night and she asked how things were going and I broke down sobbing. She kept patting me on the back and kissing the top of my head while she lay there and spoke a wonderful gift into my life.  She said, “Cheryl, I pray God blesses you the way you have blessed me during this time. I am sorry for anything I did to you, but I want you to know how much I love you and until you get to see your mom again, I will be your substitute mom.”

I would help care for her for 4 months. I taped many conversations and prayed she would live until her next wedding anniversary which was Christmas Eve. She died December 10, 2004.  The week before we sang praises in her room. My son read her favorite psalms. I finished all the tapes and gave them as a Christmas gift.  Each family member received a recording of her speaking about how she felt about them and their favorite picture of her in a travel alarm clock.  I knew how important hearing her voice might be later.

My mother cannot speak anymore and is paralyzed on her right side. She is not the energetic, servant heart  she was before, but she is still with us. I got her back about 7 years ago.  It’s not easy. I also have my two grandsons and daughter living with me.  But, there are times when I lay next to my mama and tell her how much I love her and forgive her for all the pain we endured together.  She cries, strokes my head and kisses my face and we weep that things are not as we hoped but we love one another.  She was the first one who changed my diapers and now we change hers. She came to America hoping to have a better life and raise a family and she did. She can’t read and write and now there is no voice, but I hear her still. I hear her in the love she gave and that I also followed as I loved others that were many times, not lovely; I pray for her deliverance but I am always grateful for her presence.

So to all mothers, both stay-at-home and working.  Don’t think your children don’t see and learn. We’re watching your offerings of love, your perseverance, your willingness to serve and we will be going forward doing the same and remembering what we learned as we weep, hold you, and await the day we must walk through this life and do the same.  Your voice will always be there as it was the day we took that first step and you celebrated our step into the world and nursed us when we fell.

Do not grow weary in doing good, the Word says, for in due time you shall reap a harvest if you do not lose heart.  One mother’s gift of life would bring us our Messiah and He would bring eternal life for all who desire to walk loving, giving and serving purely for its own sake.  May He bless you today.