I have two families. The one I was born into and the one I married into. I know plenty of people who don’t get along with their in-laws. I’m one of the lucky few who not only get along with them, but love them deeply. They’re genuinely kind, overwhelmingly generous and welcomed me into the Ferguson/Marty clans with open arms. When Heather and I married, I truly gained another Mother and Father.
Having two fathers is a blessing. Both are men of deep faith, conviction and kindness. Neither are perfect, but they don’t have to be. Whatever flaws they have, they overcome them with courage and forgiveness. Which is why my heart broke when, just after Thanksgiving, I learned that my father-in-law was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Doctors give him 6 months to 2 years to live.
Mr. Ferguson Andy has pretty much done everything right. He has a healthy prayer life, exercises regularly, doesn’t smoke and drinks only sparingly. He just recently retired with my mother-in-law after a lifetime of service to our national parks. He lives in his dream house in his dream community. He lived life in accordance to the laws of God and man. If anything can be called premature, horrible and utterly unfair, it’s this diagnosis.
His response has been shockingly simple: listen to the doctors, follow the treatments, continue living life with integrity and purpose, and most importantly “God’s will be done.” It almost sounds absurdly zen, especially for a man who would be justified in being confused, angry and in crying out: “As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice, the Almighty, who has made my life bitter…” (Job 27:2) Yet this is who Andy is; “God’s will be done.”
As the son-in-law, my role in all of this is to be the supporter; the solid foundation for Heather. She’s the one losing her biological father. I’ve only been able to call Andy “father” for 7 years. Which has been much too short; but I’ll continue to take what I can get. So I smile and love as much as I possibly can for both of my families.
The truth is, I’m hurting inside. I’m barely holding my grief in check. Like a little boy, I want to be selfish and cry and tell life to get the hell away; to tell death to stay away from both my fathers. To cry out and say “THIS IS UNFAIR! I WANT MORE TIME!”
But I’m not a little boy. I’ve learned a few things from the men in my life. The strength I have right now comes from what my fathers have taught/shown me:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
I also know a little secret. I’ve experienced a certain amount of serendipity in my life and Andy has a track record of beating the odds overcoming obstacles. He was in a serious motorcycle accident years ago, was told he may never walk (much less run) again; he ran anyways. He has already beaten cancer twice while finding time to work on his house, never mind the chemo treatments. He is a man of no excuses. If ever a man can defy the odds through strength of character or will of God, it is my father-in-law.
Which is why I still believe in miracles. Just being part of this family; my being married to Heather; my privilege in having more than I deserve… they are all small miracles, and they exist. Therefore, there’s hope. Always hope…