There is no way to over-exaggerate how often I get this question. I’m sure you’ve been wondering the same. This was one of my greatest concerns after Amanda’s death. How is Weston going to grow up without his mom? Every time this thought came to my mind it was a like a dagger was being driven deeper into my stomach. In short, he’s doing great. I can’t explain to you why he hasn’t been emotionally or psychologically effected outside of attributing it to God’s grace. There are going to be a lot of people who completely misunderstand me when I say this, but there couldn’t have been a better time in Weston’s childhood for this kind of tragic event to occur.
Let me explain.
Amanda had the primary role in the most crucial developmental 15 months of Weston life. Frankly, in the first 15 months dads cannot properly replace the nurturing an infant and toddler need and a mother can provide. When Amanda was killed, Weston was old enough that his foundation had been built. Amanda did such an incredible job with him. I’m so proud of her. It was always such a joy to watch her mother. She developed inside of him some strong rhythms for his life that helped established emotional security in his heart. He has always seemed like he feels stable.
At the same time, Weston was young enough when everything happened that he doesn’t understand Amanda’s absence. Somewhere between month 15 (when we lost Amanda) and month 20 (when I’m writing this) Weston formed the ability to understand when someone is absent from his life. My parents tell me while I was in Israel he asked about me incessantly. He never asks for Amanda. I can’t explain this, other than when she was killed his cognitive memory hadn’t developed enough to remember that she was present. So now he doesn’t necessarily feel her absence.
What I’m learning is that Weston is going to be ok. Despite the tragedy and despite him growing up without his mom, there are so many people playing huge nurturing and mothering roles in his life. Amanda would be so proud of this village that is raising her son. Here are just a few of them:
I decided from the very beginning of this journey that I didn’t want to shelter Weston from our new reality. We show him pictures and videos of Amanda all the time. We tell him about Amanda. This is another way we “run toward the roar.” Every time we show him a picture or video, he lights up! “Mommy!” he squeals. And what’s interesting is he never gets sad. I can’t explain it. I’m sure as he grows up I’ll have lots of questions to answer and tough conversations to step into. Until then we’ll just take it one step, one day at a time.
Every night I pray with him, “Dear Jesus, please give mommy a big hug and a kiss for us. Tell her we love her and miss her very much, and we can’t wait to see her again.” I’m trying to establish his worldview early, that in Christ death is not the final goodbye. We have the hope Jesus provided for us in the resurrection that we’ll be reunited with Amanda one day.
What is most important for Weston right now is consistency and stability. I knew I couldn’t abdicate the primary developer role in Weston’s life. Since Amanda was a stay-at-home mom, this was her role during the day while I was at work. Now, I’ve stepped into this role and I’m grateful my job at the church gives me the flexibility to do so. Here’s what my schedule looks like now and how I wear all the hats I’m now required to:
5am - 8am . . . My personal time 8am - 12pm . . . I wear the mommy hat 12pm - 5:30pm . . . I wear the pastor hat 5:30pm - 8pm . . . I wear the dad hat.
I don’t recall when this conversation occurred but months before her death Amanda was talking to me about my cousin, Jaime. “I wish I could mother like her. She makes it look so easy! She has 4 kids that are REALLY well-behaved, they look like they have so much fun, and she does it with such poise! She’s my mommy hero!"
I’m so grateful The Lord prepared us for this season with a conversation like that. Right after Amanda’s death, Jaime came to me and offered to take Weston any day, all day, half a day, whatever I needed! This was an answer to prayer! I didn’t even have to think about it! I knew this is exactly what Amanda would have wanted! Now Jaime watches Weston every afternoon while I’m working. This is a fantastic situation for Weston. He gets to hang out with his “brother and sisters” every afternoon!
Amber and Angela
Amanda’s sister, Amber, and sister-in-law, Angela, are down in Indy often! He LOVES seeing his Aunties Amber and Lala and his cousins, Audrey, Ray Ray, Rowen, and Hudson . Both Gavin and Amber and James and Angela have adopted Weston as one of their own. There will be lots of adventures with these cousins over the course of Weston’s childhood!
My worship leader, Derek, and his wife, Ashley, live with me now. People have their own opinions about this living situation, but frankly I don’t care about anyone else’s opinion. They don’t have to live this thing out 24/7 like I do. I’ve learned to be very leery of taking advice from people who either (1) have never lived through the situation, or (2) don’t have to live out out the advice with you.
Both Derek and Ashley have helped tremendously in carrying the weight of household responsibilities. They have helped me make our home a haven for Weston. Ashley was Amanda’s very best friend. Her love for Weston and her involvement in his everyday life is something that would make Amanda beam with joy! She does all the cooking for us, she helps keep the house clean, she helps get him to and from places, and she spends time with Weston as if he’s her own. I love seeing this. As affectionate as I am with Weston, it is still so important for him to have consistent female/motherly affection in his life.
Nonna, Grammy, and Mamaw
Last but not least there’s no way to over-emphasize how important his grandmothers and great grandmother have been in his life. He loves all three of them and they have been incredible through this transition. Not only do they help provide more motherly affection and nurturing in his life, they REALLY help take the burden off me as a single dad. Sometimes I just need a break! I’m so fortunate to have these wonderful ladies in my life!
It takes a village to raise a world-changer. Every night as I put Weston to bed I pray that Jesus grows Weston up to be a warrior for Him, that he would walk through life strong, brave, and courageous. I pray for his salvation and that if he ever has any doubts or any fears that he would place his full trust in Jesus all the days of his life.