I met my in-laws for the first time about six weeks after Chad and I had been dating. We were studying abroad together in France our junior year of college, and his family came over to visit for Christmas. I met the whole family at once: Chad’s parents, his older brother and sister, and his brother’s new wife. I remember eating dinner with them one night before I flew home for the holiday. When I returned to France to finish the semester, Chad’s parents, Ned and Sue, were still there and we took a couple day trips to some wineries and to Luxembourg. I remember thinking they were generous people, very family-oriented and friendly. And they loved God. I didn’t know at that point how important they would be in my life.
One of my favorite memories of Chad’s dad is from 2006, the first time I saw his parents since meeting them in Europe. I had came home from studying abroad a semester before Chad did, so when he was due to come home (finally!) from France, his parents invited me to come to the airport with the whole family to pick him up. Chad’s sister met us there. As she walked toward us in the arrivals terminal, Sue got up to give her daughter a hug. Unexpectedly, Ned got up and ran to his daughter, swooping in at the last second and stealing the hug from his wife, who was left standing there with her arms outstretched, a little stunned, but laughing. It’s a cute, funny memory that I love thinking about.
Over the next few years, while Chad and I continued to date, I learned what it was like to be part of their family. We did a lot together: went on trips, attended family events, played games. Chad and I lived at least three hours apart for a long time, so when I visited, I would stay at their house. And I was always welcome, always. I’m a quiet introvert, who sometimes struggles with conversations, but they were patient with me, and always put forth effort to get to know me and share their lives with me. When Chad and I got married, I knew I was welcome then too– welcome to become a part of their family for good.
Not everyone gets in-laws that they like or get along with. But that’s not what I got. I got a family that cares about me and accepts me. They are different from my own family, first and foremost, because they are Christians. (My sister once referred to me as the “black sheep” in the family– somewhat ironically– because I “like all that God stuff.”) So we go to church together, talk about God and theology, and pray together, usually while holding hands. I’ve lived and grown alongside my second family as one of them.
I’ve always known my father-in-law, Ned, to be a man of integrity and humor and love, to be a man of God, who didn’t waste time in getting to know you. You could always tell he was proud of his family, so proud, of all of us– he was proud I was his daughter-his-law and I felt it. And I miss him.
Ned was diagnosed with prostate cancer shortly before Chad and I got married just over four years ago. Throughout the disease he displayed a peace and acceptance that was stunning. He always recognized that God was sovereign, in control of every detail. His concern was always much more for how we were all handling his illness. He would have been 61 this weekend, but we lost him two weeks ago.
He is and will continue to be so missed. It’s still early enough that sometimes we almost forget he’s gone. We expect him to walk into the room. We feel like someone is missing when we’re all together, because someone is.
We will be celebrating his life on Sunday with so many people who loved him and were loved by him. It’s been somewhat of a challenge for us as a family, discussing how best to celebrate him, his life, and his contributions to all of our lives. How do you sum up someone’s whole life in an hour? I don’t think you really do. I think this weekend, and for many, many occasions to come, family and friends will gather and tell stories and share memories that will honor Ned’s life. They’ll tell of his financial prowess and affinity for doing income taxes, his generous heart and love for his family and God, his service as church elder and his mission to meet each visitor on their first day at the church, his dry wit and practical jokes, his dedication to provide for his family and be an honorable man of integrity, his role as supportive husband and proud father and grandfather, his love for tennis, ice skating, movie theater popcorn, card games, croquet, and stamps.
He left an indelible impact on the lives of many people who he grew up with, shared his life with, or even only met one time. We miss him so much and wish that we had been granted more time with him. But with a person as special as Ned, no amount of time would ever have been enough.