Love, loss, and how my boys taught me about grace & forgiveness.

If you’re here for a craft tutorial, a funny story or a DIY project, I’m afraid you’ll have to come back later or peruse the archives for them.  I’m going the serious route today: love, life, divorce, death, and what I’ve learned about grace, forgiveness and strength of character.

My family has had a very long, very emotional 3 weeks.  I had a steady line up of wonderful guest bloggers as I navigated my storm of crap, but the worst is over.

 circa 1989 in Hollywood, CA

My ex-husband Mike has been battling colon cancer for almost 4 years.  Three weeks ago the doctors told him that he only had a few days left to live, maybe a week or so at most, and that he needed to gather his family around him.  That meant I needed to get my two oldest sons (Devin and Conner) out to the hospital so they could be by their father’s side.  We knew that moment was coming.  I was surprised it hadn’t come sooner… but Mike was always stubborn and did things his own way.

Mike and I split up when I was pregnant with Conner.  As you might imagine, it was a very contentious and acrimonious process.  For about 5 years, we could barely be civil to each other.  When HH and I got married, he insisted that Mike and I get along.  He said it was non-negotiable and that it was the best thing for Devin and Conner.  You know what happened?  We actually repaired our relationship enough to be civil.  Then cordial.  Then we occasionally would even have moments where we caught a glimpse of the friends we once were.

While I never, ever spoke disparagingly of their dad to Devin and Conner, I harbored contempt and bitterness toward him in my heart…  And although I have been blissfully married to Handsome Hubby for almost 10 years, I had never really forgiven Mike for leaving while I was pregnant.

When Mike first got sick, I was worried about him, but I was mostly mad at him.  He had let it go until it was too late.  He ignored symptoms and family history.  In other words, he didn’t act responsibly… he did the very things that used to make me crazy when we were married.  It might have been a very different outcome had he sought help at the first sign of trouble.

June 2003

Cancer is scary.  It’s evil and insidious.  It might go away, but it steals your peace of mind.  They thought they got it all and that Mike was on the mend, but the cancer came back.

Devin and Conner spent every weekend with Mike, who had needed to move back in with his parents due to his condition.  As his condition deteriorated, it only fueled the boys’ devotion to their dad.

June 2011

In and out of the hospital, we thought we’d lose Mike around Christmas-time.  Amazingly, he kept fighting and bounced back a little.  But by the end of February he was readmitted to the hospital and told he only had a few days left… which is when the boys packed overnight bags and I took them out to stay by Mike’s side for what we thought would be just a few days.  That first afternoon and evening in the hospital I sat with them in their Dad’s room.  He would frequently nod off and be disoriented when waking up.  He had tubes and IVs and was in constant pain.  His cancer seemed to be particularly cruel.

The boys were out of the room and I sat by Mike’s bed as he slept.  I watched him sleep and thought about all of the water under the bridge… the range of emotions from love to hate and from laughing to shouting.

circa 1988

I laid my hand on his and said a silent prayer that he have peace in his heart, comfort in his soul and no more pain in his body.  I prayed to let go of any anger I was still feeling, because if you truly do reap what you sow, Mike had paid for it, and then some.  And even more, who was I to even be judging at this point?  This wasn’t fair and it wasn’t right.

Mike opened his eyes and he took my hand because he could see I was tearing up.  I told him I loved him. He said he loved me and he was sorry.  In that moment we made our peace.  We sat like that until the boys came back.

Since Mike left when I was pregnant with Conner, I don’t have any photos of the 4 of us together.

circa 1998

Mike and I could put on happy faces for Devin’s school events, but adding Conner into the mix just never happened.  We had never been a family of 4.  When they came back, the boys and I sat around the bed, laid our hands on Mike and we each took a turn saying a prayer.  A prayer of thanks, a prayer of protection… a prayer of love and gratefulness and healing.  Mike thanked God for us as a family.  We had a loving moment as a Family of Four.  It was the only time it had ever happened.  I am so glad for all of us that we had that moment, but am especially glad for Conner’s sake, as he had never known anything but us as divorced people.

I cried the whole way home in the car.  I expected that I wouldn’t see Mike again.  Every time the phone rang I anticipated that it would be the boys, calling to tell me that he had passed… but the only thing that was passing were the days.  I was worried about the amount of school they were missing, but there was no way I was going to tell them that they needed to leave the hospital.  As long as that’s where they wanted to be, they had my support to stay there.  They spent the days at the hospital with him and alternated spending the nights in his room.

As the days passed, Mike became increasingly agitated, was often hallucinating and was seldom lucid.  Devin and Conner worked as a team, calmly caring for their dad and working with the medical staff.  They got up in the night with him when he would call for nurses or need more pain medication.  I knew they were amazing kids, but it wasn’t until I drove back out to see them again that I saw them in action and understood the depth and breadth of the care they were giving him.

Taking care of Mike had become similar to taking care of a sick toddler.  The boys fed him ice chips, gently removed his hand when he tried to pull out his tubes, talked calmly to him when he was clearly delusional, (sometimes going along with it, sometimes reassuring him that it wasn’t real and that he was OK) and they advocated for his care with the medical staff.  The thing that struck me the most was that they conducted all of this with all of the respect and dignity that Mike deserved as their father.  They were patient, they spoke calmly, repeated things over and over if necessary, but always remained loving and respectful as they did so.  There is so much indignity that Mike suffered because of this disease… the boys’ respectful and loving care was truly a gift.

I watched them care for him and was amazed.  While they were on a break, I sat with Mike and fed him ice chips.  I moved his hand away from dressings and tubes when he was pulling on them.  I followed the boys’ example and spoke calmly to him.  As I did so, it occurred to me that even though we had been divorced more than 15 years, I was sitting there and I was upholding my vows.  For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, and until death do us part.

March 1990

Why couldn’t I have had this mental shift sooner?  I would have done things differently.  I would have actively worked at getting rid of my residual bitterness.   It wasn’t like it was something that was front and center.  I didn’t really ever even think about it… I mean, if the house is clean and organized, why worry that there is a mess in one corner of the garage, right…?  But there was a little mess in my heart that I just closed the door on and I didn’t think I needed to open up and deal with.  This sad situation allowed me to do that.  I’d like to think that Mike was able to do it too.  Watching the boys in action helped to drive the point home.  They reminded me of where life’s priorities need to be and that our time here on earth is finite.  No time or energy should be spent on negativity.

Mike was moved from the hospital back to hospice care in his parents’ home.  He passed away March 20.  Devin and Conner were at his side, which is how all three of them wanted it.  The boys each held his hands.  Conner said Mike was taking rapid, shallow breaths, then took one long one and didn’t take another.  Both boys began to cry, and they think it was like Mike could hear them and then struggled to stay, because he began the rapid breathing again.  They boys told him they loved him and that it was time for him to go.
And he did.

The funeral was yesterday.  Conner wrote and delivered the eulogy and Devin wrote a letter to his dad, which he read during the service.

They were amazing.  I am in awe of what strong, compassionate and downright phenomenal young men they have become.  They have even become closer as brothers through this experience.

There was a slide show running on a loop at the reception, watching it helped to replace the mental pictures of Mike at the end, with mental pictures of Mike in his prime.  It reinforced the idea that I need to ensure that Devin and Conner continue to develop and strengthen their relationships with Mike’s side of the family… I owe that to both Mike and to the boys.

I don’t understand God’s timing… or His plan, but I know that it’s perfect.  I was questioning the length of time the boys ended up being in the hospital, but I can see now that it helped them begin to grieve a bit early and helped them distinguish between the quantity and the quality our days..
It made it easier to let go.  For everyone.

For the past few weeks, each morning I have woken up with this song in my head.  Literally, I open my eyes and this song is running through my head.  It’s become like a morning prayer.

In just one moment I was gone
I always thought that I was strong
This hole inside me is the deepest canyon

I'm shattered pieces all alone
And I can't make it on my own
I hear a melody come soft and slowly

Hallelujah, a whisper in the dark
Hallelujah, it's tearing me apart
Hallelujah, all broken hearts

We hear it in a quiet song
We feel it in a mother's arms
When we can't find the words, it's hallelujah

And when I close my eyes in death
When I breathe my final breath
The last word upon my tongue is hallelujah

When my soul has finally flown
The moment I am welcomed home
The first song that I will sing is hallelujah

Thanks for listening, thanks for your support and thank you for your patience.  I’m hoping to be back to normal and a regular blogging schedule in the next day or so.

Much love,



  1. says

    Oh Viv. What a beautiful post honoring the father of your two boys. Sometimes it’s really difficult to see beauty through pain, but you seem to have done just that. I pray that you and your boys continue to find healing and peace through this tough time.

  2. says

    Beautiful. What amazing young men you have and what a wonderful opportunity for them to be able to share that final time with their dad. They will never regret that.

    Thank you for your reminder that bitterness never has a place in our hearts. We only hurt ourselves when we are unwilling to forgive. It’s a lesson I need reminding of a lot.

  3. says

    This is the most beautiful post I have ever read. I’m in tears along with you and am so touched by your words. I will carry this with me forever. Thank you for sharing it.

  4. says

    Wow, Vivienne, that was beautiful. Just beautiful. I recall a time when you offered to answer any questions that your readers had and I asked how you kept from shooting Mike when he left you pregnant. Remember? You had already forgiven him back then. You are a good woman. Better one than I.

  5. says

    Beautifully written, Vivienne. I know it couldn’t have been easy to write these words, post these pics and feel these feelings. But they are appreciated. And they are a strong message – to make peace now w/those who have ‘wronged us’ or with those who have neglected us.

    Your boys will surely be considerate, conscious, thoughtful men – not just because of this experience with their father, but also because of how their mother handled this experience too.

    God Bless.

  6. says

    Hey Viv…so as I started to read this I saw our own history as we took care of my father in law here at home until he passed about two months ago and the tears started to flow… He Also passed from cancer. I cannot imagine the pain you felt having seen your young boys see their dad that way. It isn’t easy to see someone you love suffer…..and at the same time how proud you must be of such amazing kids…what a blessing to know that amongst all the ugliness of cancer. Blessings to your family Viv…sending so much love….xo

  7. says

    I’m sitting here in tears. This is such a beautiful post, you said everything so perfectly. Thank you for sharing it.

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Viv, and keeping you all in my prayers.

  8. says

    Oh Viv, this is really a beautiful and honest post. I’m so sorry for Mike and that your sons had to go through this experience. Although I know this will help them grown into even better men. Thank you for sharing your personal thoughts and photographs.


  9. says

    Love you Vivienne. I started getting choked up just at the title!

    What a beautiful post, and tribute to your boys. And I know you keep being told this, but they learned their quality of character, and their strength, and their grace from a mother who exemplifies those qualities, and teaches them well.

    I can’t wait to see you next month, and am keeping you all in my prayers.

  10. says

    Such an amazing post. I am in awe of your boys too! It’s an amazing thing how children can step up like that. They seem to understand even better than we adults do sometimes.

    So glad you were able to get resolution and that in the end there was peace. Still praying for you and much love!!

  11. says

    Tears are streaming down my face. What a sweet post. You have lots to be thankful for. Thanks for sharing your story with us! Loved seeing all the “older” pictures!

    Love you~

  12. says

    Viv, thanks so much for sharing. I can only imagine it was a difficult post to write, but probably somewhat of a release. I will continue praying for you all as you grieve this loss. You have apparently done a wonderful job raising such wonderful boys!!

  13. says

    I have tears welling up in my eyes, that painful lump in my throat and an ache in my heart for my sweet friend.

    You and HH are the reason your boys are as wonderful as they are. Be proud. Heal. Move on. We’ll all be here when you get back.

    Love you Viv!

  14. says

    The journey of a lifetime… How lucky your boys are to not only have you, but also have each other as they went through this. Each time my family goes through a trial, I’m so thankful for the siblings I have by my side. We don’t always agree, but the love that comes from that blood bond is irreplaceable.
    Wishing you much peace in the coming days, and joy in those beyond…

  15. says

    A beautiful, beautiful post, Viv. I am so sorry for your loss. I thought I could read this post without crying, but that didn’t happen. You are a blessed woman to have such mature and courageous sons.

  16. says

    Oh Viv, hugs from afar. I had tears in my eyes as I read this. Tear from thinking about those wonderful boys you raise and tears for all the emotions you must have been going through and that you are such a good person to let him leave with positivity all around.

  17. says

    So beautifully written, Viv. I think you touched every corner of my heart, with your words of such honesty and truth, and the pictures you painted with them. Your boys sound SO amazing. Of course you are so proud of them. There is no doubt this painful experience of losing their father in such a way, will make them stronger and more thoughtful men of love and character, than they would have been without it. It already has. You gave them that gift in a way, with giving them that time to be with their father through it all.
    Thank you for sharing so much. In a way, stories like this teach us and change us all.

  18. says

    Oh, Viv. Words rarely fail me, but they do right now. I’m typing with tears in my eyes.

    I am so grateful–for grace, for forgiveness, for love. And for getting to know more of your story. Thank you for sharing it.

    Blessings to all of you.

  19. says

    Thank you for this. My Oldest half-brother is battling stage IV colon cancer and he is so alone. He never mended his relationship with his kids, he lives in another state with no one around him. I would do what I can to help him…
    What brave boys you have. I hope you guys can find comfort and peace in knowing that he is no longer in pain.

  20. says

    it is amazing that sometimes
    in the deepest pain
    the Lord allows a little bit of joy in too

    what a gift that you and your boys’ dad
    were able to make peace with one another
    and all the hurts in the past

    and priceless indeed
    is the time that your boys spent
    with their dad
    and each other

    i’m so sorry that you all have had
    to go through something like this
    but encourage to read of the healing
    you experienced

    thanks for sharing your heart


  21. says

    I can’t say anything that hasn’t already been said, and probably been said better than I could ever put it.
    Love you. Hold fast to your boys.

  22. says

    Oh Viv, again I am so very truly sorry. Even through all this you got a little glimpse of the kind of men Devin and Conner will grow to be. You’ve experienced just how very supportive HH is. You found the courage to forgive and let go. These are truly all beautiful things rising up through the sorrow! Take your time. Grieve. We’ll still be here.

  23. says

    Such a beautiful testimony of grace Viv! Thank you for sharing your journey and your story. I can’t imagine how proud you must be of your boys right now. Praying for you all as the healing continues.

  24. says

    I usually don’t comment on post but I just had to tell you that this is one of the most touching post I’ve ever read on a blog. Thank you for taking the time to put your feelings in to words. I know it had to be very difficult. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers during this very difficult time.

  25. says

    As a new follower I’m glad I didn’t skip this and dig through the archives to find another post…. this one spoke volumes.


  26. says

    I am sitting here in tears – what a beautifully written post. Absolutely beautiful and honest…My father passed away a yr ago from an 8yr battle with colon cancer & it brought back so many memories of my Dad’s final days. How brave of your boys to stay at their Dad’s side until his last
    moments — it speaks so highly of the type of boys you’re raising! Keeping you & your boys in my prayers!

  27. says

    Oh Viv, my heart breaks for you and your boys. Kids can teach us so much! What a blessing each one of them are. I am so glad you and your ex were able to make peace. Praying for you all!!

  28. says

    What a beautiful tribute to your boys and their Dad. The gift you gave them to be with their Dad is so precious. I’m sure you don’t want to make this about you, but by being open to forgiveness and not allowing bitterness to show, you gave them a fantastic blessing. Hugs to you and your lovely family.

  29. says

    Oh friend…I feel completely at a loss for words. We are honored that you allowed us to come along on this journey with you and that you shared from your heart about the way this has impacted all of you and how God has used it to bring healing and peace. We will continue to lift you all up in our prayers and particularly your boys as they grieve and process this loss.
    Blessings to you Viv,

  30. says

    Sometimes, in the darkest hours, we are given the chance to heal. Your sons were such heroes, and made their father so proud, and you as well. Your marriage may not have lasted, but your sons are proof of the love that will go on. I am sorry for their loss, and for yours; it does seem that all of you had a chance to express a love and devotion that will be with you always.

  31. says

    Wow! I’m going thur exactly the same thing with my X, I just can’t forgive how he hurt me but I try!
    Two weeks ago we learned that he a a mini stroke, I know I should forgive him, like you I never really think about it really, I hope that by reading your post this evening I have learned to forgive and have peace. Thank you!

    ps you have two wonderful sons!

  32. says

    Thank God for His amazing love that allows forgiveness and compassion. Like others commented, this post also made me cry. Cancer is indeed a formidable opponent, no one should ignore any signs. Blessings to you and your family.

  33. says

    What an amazing story you just told! I cried the whole time. You have amazing boys and I know you are so proud. I love how you said you were holding up your vows….WOW….that is such a testimony of strength and forgiveness for you!!! You are a great mom, wife and friend and I what you did for not only your boy’s father but for your boys I know they will never forget! Praying for you all at this sad time!

  34. says

    Thoughts and prayers to you and you’re amazing boys. When my FIL passed away we received a little ornament with a wonderful saying. “When someone you love becomes a memory, that memory becomes a treasure.” Be sure to treasure all the memories (good and bad)!

  35. says

    V, Thanks for sharing your story. I just wanted to tell you to take as much time as you need. We will still be here! Don’t feel pressured to have to post something fun. You need to time to deal with this and to grieve.

    Sheila @ Sheila’s Potpourri

  36. says

    You take as long as you need for you are grieving too! So proud of the boys and I am glad they had this time with him and each other.
    Take good care

  37. says

    Sweet Vivian…thank you for sharing. This post shows the strength and maturity of your young men as well as you as the humble and supportive mother. Words can’t even express how moved I am by this entire situation. God is good and He will continue to sustain you and your family. Love ya!

  38. says

    I could barely get through the first half without tears and imagining myself in your shoes and your children’s.. I am so sad but also glad that Mike is finally at peace and not dealing with that pain that cancer brings. Your boys really amazed me and you were just as amazing being so supportive and loving– and Handsome Hubby deserves a lot of credit for being so strong and helpful to aid in your friendship connecting again. I’m just at a loss for words and wish I were close enough to give you a HUGE HUGE hug. xoxo

  39. says

    You must be an amazing person! While your boys need to be commended on their extreme maturity,it is you that gave them this deep love. You taught them well. Yes I am sure others helped but you have been the one constant in their life! I will pray for your family’s healing. You are a strong lady. I hope to meet you someday! Peace! I hope you take the time you need. Blogging can come later, We all understand.

  40. says

    I have reread this a few times over the past day – I sit in awe at the amazing woman and mother that you are. I am so absolutely blessed that God brought you into my life and I have such an amazing friend and role-model.

    Love you! See you in 5 week for a REAL hug!


  41. says

    Viv….I’m so glad that you ALL got a chance to say Tge things that were in your hearts. I’m so glad you were able to put the past behind you and take care of Mike one last time. So proud of your boys…..

    Love you !

  42. says

    Oh, Viv. This is just beautiful. This post just shows that God takes tragic horrible things and makes something good out of it. I don’t understand His timing or all the “whys”, but like you, I know that His will is perfect. All te heart healing that took place over the last few weeks is definitely the good that has come out of this. Your words brought me to tears. I think it’s nothing short of amazing how your boys handled themselves in the wake of their father’s death. I know you must be super proud of them. I’m glad you all got your moment to be a family of four. I’m sure that is something that the boys will look back on and cherish throughout their lives. Praying for you all. Sending hugs across the miles. Love you!

  43. says

    Oh Viv- I am at a loss. How how amazing what your boys did, what you were able to experience too. Your boys are incredible. You have raised them right. I am glad they were able to be there. I will be praying for all of you

  44. says

    What a beautiful story. I’m glad you were able to find your peace. And what an amazing, grown up thing for your boys to do. My heart goes out to them, and to you as well.

  45. says

    This is the first post I have read at your blog, although I have hear of your blog. It is sweet, it is moving, and it made me cry…which I don’t like :). The pride you have of your boys is so deserving, and so touching. The bravery of sharing your heart so openly is outstanding.

  46. says

    Vivienne, this was so beautifully written. I am so sorry for your family’s loss. Thank you for sharing this. You have taught me a very valuable lesson about forgiveness.

  47. says

    What a truly beautiful post. I cannot imagine it being more perfect than what you wrote about anger, love, forgiveness, patience. Truly you and your boys were doing exactly what Christ asked each of us to do. To love without judgment, forgive and leave judgment to Him. Service to someone who has either wronged us, or we have anger in our hearts is one of the purest ways to eradicate it and make peace with what we do not have control of in our lives. I cannot imagine the hurt corners of your heart that must have existed, having your spouse leave you while pregnant, but I am amazed you were able to be so forgiving and so loving in your ex husband’s last days. You gave your boys an incredible gift and you have shown them the best way to be a decent human being. I am truly in just in awe of what you did and how you handled this. I am sure it must have been so painful to have to travel this road and face these feelings after so many years. So many people go through life never healing these hurts. What a blessing your boy’s father is no longer suffering and your heart is healed. Forgiveness is sometimes the hardest thing to do, but it can be the greatest gift we give ourselves. Hopefully each day for you and your boys will be better and they will be comforted greatly in the time they were able to spend with their dad in his last days. Much love, -K

  48. says

    What amazing young men you have raised. Your ability to let go of the bad was a huge testament to them. I pray for peace and good memories for your family.

  49. says

    Viv, I’ve already left you a comment here, but I wanted to come back just to tell you how much I appreciate your linking this to Grace at Home. Thank you, thank you for sharing your story and for linking it up. May God continue to bless you and all your boys.

  50. says

    What a beautiful tribute you’ve put here to a beautiful family. You’ve given a great voice to the devastation and unwelcome growth that grief brings. You’re obviously an amazing mom as witnessed by your terrific boys. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope the future brightens and lightens to help you all in your journey.

  51. says

    Vivenne, I read this after meeting you for the first time tonight, and it was just as well-written and heartfelt as I thought it would be. I’m glad to know you – and your sons are lucky to have such an insightful and sensitive mom.

  52. says

    HI, Vivienne

    You and I have very similar stories in the sense of the way we divorce. You post just touch my heart and I pray your sons are doing well since their dad’s passing. Praying for you all.



  53. says

    Viv, thank you for sharing this. I realize its not new news now, but I’m just now reading this and am sitting here in tears. What a wonderful gift you have given your boys with letting them spend their time in his last days, and sharing it with all of us. I’m sure your boys will always respect and love that about you, and see that divorce can end in forgiveness and grace. You’ve taught me that as well. Thank you :)
    Jackie –


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