As I have been writing the words of this chapter, my thoughts have turned repeatedly to the single mothers who are rearing boys on their own. I'm sure that the findings I've reported about fathers and about divorce have been deeply disturbing to some. Forgive me for that. Your circumstances are tough enough without my making them more difficult. The overriding question for you is, "How can I compensate for the absence of a father who should be there to teach my boys the essence of manhood?" That is not an easy question, but there are answers for it.
Despite everything I've shared, there is hope for women who are raising boys alone. Admittedly the task is terribly difficult, but millions of mothers have done it admirably, overcoming serious limitations and obstacles. Let me simply say that family life is almost never ideal. That is why each of us has to cope with unique challenges and problems. Some parents are confronted every day with sickness, some with poverty, some with an alcoholic spouse, and some with a disabled child or parent. In those situations and many more, families must evaluate their circumstances and decide how to make the most of them. I urge those of you who are single parents to take this considered approach to your family. God loves your children even more than you do, and He will help you raise them. There are also ways to substitute for an absent father, and I have offered some ofthose ideas and suggestions in chapter 16. I hope you will find them helpful.
Before moving on, I want to share a letter sent to me a few years ago from a mother who had lost her husband. I am enclosing it for the benefit of the fathers who are reading along with us. It illustrates the vital role men play in the lives of their children and why it is important to contribute what you can to your children while you have the opportunity. Here is the letter that came from Mrs. Karen Cotting:
Dear Dr. Dobson:
Since listening to your broadcast you always encouraged your listeners to write in. Our family never has until now. We have a story totell.
My husband, Cliff, had been a pilot with a major airline for thelast eleven years. On a four-day trip last October, and with sometime on his hands before the third day began, he decided to go jogging. Unfortunately for us, that would be his last run. While jogging, he had a fatal heart attack. He was a young 38 and in the best of health. He always ate well and was always exercising. There were nowarning signs. So when I received the call from the Vice President of Operations at the airlines, I was in utter shock. Our family was sounprepared for this. My husband was in the prime of his life. Our three daughters were all under six. How could God do this to our family? How could He take away my best friend and the head of ourhousehold? In the months that followed his death and every dayIbreathe, God is revealing some of the answers as I trust His faithfulness.
Cliff was a very loving and caring person. He adored his family. Our three daughters, Nicole, Anna and Sarah, and I were the apples of his eye. We hated to see him go to work as we'd be without him from anywhere from two to four days. But we anticipated his return and he was always greeted with elated screams of joy from the girls (and even an howl or two from our German Shepherd, Tess). Of all the memories I can think of, the one that stands out the most is his playfulness with our girls. He'd always end with exhaustion and a playful question, "What's the most important thing in the world?" And the girls would shout out, "Knowing God." Cliff would be satisfied in his daughters' knowing that a personal relationship with Christ was the foundation for their eternity.
God has revealed some things to me that I never knew about my husband. At his funeral, we allowed time for anyone who wanted toshare his or her memories of Cliff. I was amazed at the number ofairline staff that filled the church. Just about everyone shared how great a friend he was, how he could always be counted on to lend a helping hand. But I learned he often spoke when he was at work of meand the children and of his love for God. I never knew Cliff to be this bold in sharing his faith with others. I always assumed he talked of office policies or golf while on the job.
Almost seven months have passed since he went home to be with our Lord, and I finally got the nerve to look in his flight bag. On it was the date, October 9, 1999, the day he went jogging for the last time. I cried thinking about how serious he took his responsibility as apilot, how prepared he always was, from getting shirts ironed the night before an early "show" to knowing his schedule for each day. Hewas prepared and ready to work on October 9th. But most importantly, I heard God whisper to me through my tears, "He was prepared to meet Me."
That thought comforted my family. The spirit and flesh battle within me every day. I miss him terribly as I work through the tears ofsadness in his absence. He was my backbone in many ways. Yet my spirit is comforted with the truth that Cliff is in the presence of our holy Father and he walks with Christ today. Cliff was prepared for themost glorious day he'd ever experience.
I am learning that through what can seem like a devastating experience, we are to lean on God for strength even when we don't think we "feel" His presence. The Bible has comforted our family with Psalm 27:5: "For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe inhis dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon arock." Even with Cliff absent from us, God showed me He would never abandon our family as in Jeremiah 29:11-14: "'For I know theplans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to give you hope anda future. Then you will call upon me andcome and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found byyou,' declares the Lord."
As God reveals many wonderful things about His character and how much He loves our family, we want to encourage your listeners who may not know Christ in a personal way. He will "never leave you, nor forsake you." We all have eternal life. It's a matter of where we choose to spend it and if we are prepared to meet our Maker. Do not hesitate.
Our family has always received much encouragement from your broadcast and your monthly magazine. God bless you, your staff, and families.
Karen S. Cotting
I have shared this letter primarily for the benefit of the young fathers among my readers. If you are among them, let me remind you that only God knows how long you will be on this earth. Life can be unexpectedly short. Do not squander today's opportunities to relate to your children or to teach them about your faith. Don't let your career absorb your every resource and make you a virtual stranger at home. May the memories you leave behind, whether you live an hour longer or many more decades, be as warm and loving as those created by Cliff Cotting. His record is in the books; yours is yet to be written.Book: Bringing Up Boys
By Dr. James Dobson