While we have pretty much dissected Oliver’s baggage about being left not only by Holly but also by his mother, I think that we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of Shane’s baggage from her father’s leaving and her seemingly distant relationship with her mother.
After Shane’s three month absence in Higher Ground I began to wonder about her mother. I have no children of my own but I imagine that if I did I would be worried if I’d gone that long without hearing from my daughter. I’d be more than worried. I’d probably hop on a plane and go make sure she was all right. Would Shane’s mother do the same? And what would happen if she suddenly showed up in Denver?
What do we even know about these two? Shane said in For Christmas, that when her father left her mother “never saw it coming.” Shane, in her letter to God, wanted her “happy family” back. We know that she was 10 when all this trauma occurred, that she cried for 6 months, and for a year ran to the window every time a car pulled up to the house, hoping it was her daddy coming home. I can only imagine her mother’s broken heart breaking again and again as she repeatedly saw her daughter’s heart breaking.
Shane has a cherished necklace from her parents, the last gift she received from them while they were still a happy family. Then there’s the infamous porch swing that signaled the arrival of spring. Apparently after her father left, her mother assumed the task of taking it down every fall and setting it up again in the spring. Then when Shane went away to college, every fall her mother sent her the “last rose of summer." And even now, every birthday, she still gets a box of macaroons, a little taste of home.
What can we surmise from all these little hints? Shane, unlike Oliver, grew up the first 10 years of her life, in a happy family. There is no hint of arguments or fights between her parents. Someone, most likely her mother, instilled faith in God in Shane when she was little – she wrote to God, not Santa, for what she wanted most for Christmas that year.
I see her mother as a woman of faith, a sentimental person, a “home” maker – who likes to bake and tend to the garden. What caused her “rift” with Shane? Shane admitted she was angry with God for not answering her letter. And her anger turned to bitterness and she apparently walked away from her childhood faith. Shane gave up hoping that her father would ever come home after one year.
I think her mother may have reacted differently, clinging to her faith for the comfort and strength that she needed after her husband left, and hoping and praying that one day he would come home again. It may also be that Shane’s mother, as a woman of faith, continued to celebrate Christmas, the birth of her Savior, which Shane wanted nothing to do with. In For Christmas, Shane wasn’t going to spend Christmas with her mother, opting instead to go alone to a spa in Arizona. Two very different reactions to the same event that may have eventually caused a rift between them. Or was it Shane who distanced herself from her mother, like Oliver did from his father?
What about the two families? Surely if her family thought that there was something wrong, they would have intervened on behalf of their daughter. And his family? If they had any sense that he was unhappy or that there were problems, she would most likely have heard something from them - and it probably would have been negative. Did anyone see this coming? I almost get the impression that no one saw it coming.
And once he was gone, how do you explain it to family and friends?
“Did you have a fight?”
“Surely you must have some idea?”
And when there are no answers, people start to come up with their own answers to fill in the blank, including the one most deeply affected. Did Mrs. McInerney come up with her own answers, like Oliver did with the dance lessons, wondering if she’d only...maybe he would have stayed?
Or did the comments from family and friends come in the form of accusations? Here is this seeming “happy family” man who suddenly leaves; something must have been terribly wrong. The worst accusations would probably come from his family since their “wonderful son” could not have done something like this without a very good reason. And I can imagine them concluding that it was all their daughter-in-law’s fault.
With all these unanswered questions and accusations, did she begin to believe that yes, it was her fault? Somehow she wasn’t good enough, or failed to do something or had some character flaw that eventually drove him away.
And then, if Mrs. McInerney comes to Denver to check on her daughter, she would undoubtedly meet Joe, her daughter’s special someone’s father. What would a relationship between them look like? Here are two people with very similar life stories, left by their spouses to continue raising a single child, children who are now officially a “couple." They both enjoy gardening. Would Joe take her to see the community garden? Lunch afterwards? Would he hope to see her again? Would she make another trip?
With Joe and Oliver’s reconciliation, however, I think that Joe is perhaps a bit further along in his healing than Shane’s mother. But perhaps now with the spiritual growth that Shane has experienced, she and her mother may be at the point of reconciling. And who knows, there may be another whole story that Shane is unaware of, just like Oliver was unaware of the reason for his parents separation and divorce.
Shane’s mother might need someone like Joe, patiently reassuring her that he will not leave (“Take your time; I’m not going anywhere.”) And also reassuring her that she is not some terrible person who deserved to be left, but worthy of being loved, cherished and that he would keep her safe.
So how does all of this relate to me? From the beginning of SSD, I could relate to Shane – someone who was in love with a married man. But my story is a bit different. There was someone in my life who I loved and who the Lord clearly led me to begin praying for as a husband. We’d been good friends for several years, but slowly, as I prayed and trusted Him, our relationship became romantic. I had every reason to believe that he loved me and that one day I would be his wife.
Then, one day he informed me that he was marrying someone else. I “never saw it coming." A few months later they were married. I was still in love with a now married man. My heart was broken and tears flowed freely for weeks and months. Obviously, our relationship couldn’t remain the same and I withdrew completely from his life.
So I watched closely as Shane walked a similar difficult path. The Treasure Box will always be one of my favorites. Even though he was in no position to propose to Shane, the proposal written by Jonathan, was spoken from Oliver’s heart. And Katherine’s reply, “Yes. Yes, I will be your wife, if not in this life, then in your heart forever,” was spoken from Shane’s heart as well. And from mine.
I lived through the “what happens when people don’t have an answer” for an unexpected event. I was asked: “What happened that he married someone else and not you?” I didn’t know. I had no answer. He never gave a reason. I began to imagine answers to the “what happened” and the “whys”, and in some ways began to believe that it was all my fault.
After his marriage, some began to make assumptions about our relationship. Others have made accusations, believing that I want to break up his marriage. It can get pretty nasty and way out of character. This has only added pain to my already broken heart and has left me wondering if my closest friends and colleagues ever knew me at all.
The more that I thought about Shane’s mother and what she must have experienced after her husband left, I began to imagine her meeting Joe and what their relationship might look like. I imagined him patiently understanding her past and her fears for the future, his compassion, his love and faithfulness. Slowly, I also began to realize that that it was nothing more than my own heart cry for understanding, compassion, love, faithfulness.
While this whole relationship with Joe and Shane’s mother is pure conjecture on my part, the Lord has used these musings to continue healing my broken heart. Regardless of how Martha writes Joe’s future and what we may learn about Shane’s mother, it’s a dream that will always hold a special place in my heart because through it I have seen not only myself but, once again, my Father’s great love for me and His faithfulness to me and how He continues to woo me to Himself.
As always, the Living Letters series continues as long as there are stories to share, and I'm always looking for submissions. If you would like to contribute something about how Signed, Sealed, Delivered has impacted your life that you'd be willing to share here on A&D, feel free to email me.