Already in our 2022 journey around the sun, we are almost to Valentine’s Day! It is the perfect time to celebrate the love that is currently in our lives as well as the love that has been shared with us throughout our lives. Even when we lose someone, we can find new ways to celebrate that person. Mike taught me this lesson of finding purpose in grief many years ago without even realizing it. I have been writing about my journey after losing my husband Mike of 49 years in Finding Joy After Grief, Finding Faith in Difficult Times, Finding Happiness After Grief, and Finding Hope After Grief .
Something Old, Something New: Finding Purpose in Grief
Mike’s dad, Ralph Vernon Emmerson, passed away in January of 1990 at age 64 after battling diabetes and heart disease. Mike found himself lost in a blur of depression for months afterward. His characteristic sense of humor waned and he lost interest for a while in the game he loved the most, golf.
“I still look for him in the office,” Mike told me several months after Ralph passed. Since Mike’s pre-teen years, he had worked with his dad in one incarnation or another of Slick’s Auto and Trustworthy Hardware. Ralph was Mike’s confidant, his partner, and his best friend (besides me, of course). Although they were very different, their passion for their families, comfortable relationship with each other, and interest in cars created a strong bond. That common interest in cars is where Mike’s heart began to heal after his Dad’s passing.
Mike found a purpose in grief with a new project to keep his hands. mind, and heart busy in the months following his loss. In addition to sharing a passion for cars, Ralph and Mike had reinvented Mike’s vintage Mustang as a drag racing vehicle. Years later, they teamed up to rejuvenate a 1957 Thunderbird . As far as cars go, their entire workday centered around matching the right part or tool to their customers’ automotive needs.It was only logical that the best celebration of his dad focused on a car.
Somewhere in the course of scanning through parts catalogs, Mike located a shell of an old Porsche with no internal working components. The once regal automobile was now dependent on the skills and determination of a West Texas, small-town parts man. Mike had never before lifted the hood of a car with such illustrious European roots with a screwdriver in his hand.
The Challenge: Finding New Purpose With Determination To Carry On
Keep in mind that the official start to the Internet phenomenon was in its infancy in 1990. Mike had to rely on a dated parts paper to pencil inventory lists and an occasional correct click on an ancestor of the modern computer. Along with a few professional mechanic friends and customers, Mike and his “team” surgically removed and installed every piece of that Porsche. It took well over a year of daily tinkering. At the end of it all, a polished silver masterpiece gave homage to Mike’s dad. It also marked the beginning of Mike’s emotional entry back into his world. His characteristic sense of humor crept back gradually along with his love of golf. The silver Porsche represented Ralph’s determination to care for his family. It also stood for Mike’s determination to carry on with a life forever gifted and enriched by a father who loved his family more than life itself.
Our Challenge: Finding Purpose in Grief by Honoring Mike while Helping Others
Before a funeral service was even planned, the girls and I began to think of ways to honor Mike while helping others. Mike believed in spontaneous and honest empathy, kindness, and generosity. One answer for memorializing Mike was obvious: we would set up a golf scholarship for high school senior golfers in our two Winkler County high schools. Thanks to the overwhelming generosity of our dear friends, we were able to give four scholarships to golf-loving seniors. The criteria for the scholarship money reflected Mike’s life-long love of the game well played, his value of good sportsmanship, and his generosity in supporting others who were willing to practice hard. Like Mike and his Porsche project, we had a project of our own on which to focus positive energy. In May, four scholarships totaling over $7,000 dollars were awarded to deserving students. Plans are already underway for this year’s scholarships, and we hope to make this an annual occurrence for years to come.
A Place to Go— Finding New Places to Send Energy and Emotion of Love Lost
“Love never ends . . . ” 1 Corinthians 13:8 – It has been said that, “Grief is love with no place to go.” Grief is a very complicated life process with many hills and valleys difficult to traverse. However, finding new places to send some of the energy and emotion of love lost can be a positive direction. There are many types of Valentine’s in shops-candy grams, cookie bouquets, beautiful cards, etc. Mike’s Valentine’s sentiments will look a little different this year, but the girls and I will surely be sharing our love for him in new, unexpected ways. I believe that he might just send us some surprises, too.
Have a Valentine’s season filled with unending love and joy!