Tomorrow would be my first husband’s 59th birthday. He was murdered while at work on May 4, 1988. Our sons were ages 10 and 12 when Dale died. I realized very soon that the anticipation of red-letter days was more difficult for me than the actual special days if I prepared for them. The first year that Dale died, I didn’t know what to do with Dale’s birthday. I didn’t want to ignore it. It would have been impossible to forget it. I was a receptionist and wrote the date many times during the course of my work day.
Dale was a good man—a very good man. He was kind and helpful and had a wonderful easy smile. He was happy to help without being noticed or acknowledged. He knew our mailman and garbage man by name. On garbage days when he was home, he would run along with the truck for a few houses talking to our garbage man and helping throw the garbage in the truck. One day I asked Dale why he did that. He said, “I want him to know that he is a person.”
So in anticipation of his birthday, December 12, 1988, I made plans. I cooked Dale’s favorite meal for our dinner. I baked cookies and made hot chocolate mix with powdered milk—a recipe that I used often—and packaged it with directions in sandwich bags. At dinner, the boys and I talked about remembering Dad by doing something kind for someone without them knowing who did it. We made a list of people to “Ding, Dong, Ditch.” That simply meant that I would drive and drop the boys, the boys would run up to the door and ring the doorbell. They would leave a gift of cookies and hot chocolate and a typed Merry Christmas note and then run down the block behind trees to where I was waiting in the get-away car. I wanted the evening to be fun and also a remembrance.
We did that for a few years—sometimes dropping gloves and mittens to a needy family, one time delivering a Christmas tree and always a few bags of cookies and hot chocolate. Eventually the boys either got too busy with sports schedules or no longer wanted to participate in “Ding, Dong, Ditch.” Then we encouraged each other to do something kind for someone during the day and report on it when we all got together again in remembrance of Dad. I was always touched by their sweet stories. I remember a couple of stories in particular. One year when Brad was driving a truck and he saw a man and woman struggling to take a mattress home. It kept falling off of the man’s car. Brad stopped and offered to help. They loaded the mattress in the back of the truck. The man rode with Brad in the truck to his home and the wife drove the car. Their home was quite a distance away—I think about 10 miles. Brad had an opportunity to share with the man about his dad and why he especially wanted to help on that day. The couple was very grateful.
After Andy was married and lived in Vancouver, he and Amy raked and bagged leaves for someone in their neighborhood. They never were recognized or thanked and it took them several hours. They did it to remember Dad by helping someone else.
Several years ago, I released the boys of remembering Dad in that way. They are adults. Their schedules are very full and I did not want them to feel pressure or guilt over that tradition. Dale has been gone from us a long time now and I believe that there needs to be a stopping point on some traditions or they become burdens. Brad told me that he spends some one-on-one time with his son Jackson either on May 4th or on December 12th telling Jackson about his daddy. I am proud of both of my sons. They honor their dad every day by living as good men.
But Dale was my husband. I loved him. I usually try to talk with Dale’s mom on December 12. I try to remember to send her flowers. Her loss is still great. We both miss Dale. Additionally, I love to do some little secret special act of kindness for someone else. Bob—my husband since 1996, has often joined in and helped me. I have prayed today from time to time today asking God for an idea. I ask God to put someone on my heart that I could have the privilege of blessing. I can’t blog about it or it wouldn’t be a secret. I’m excited because I finally know what to do.