The Death of a Family

I stand outside the open door of the grand hilltop house, looking into the foyer, past the stairs, the kitchen, the dining area and all the way to a sitting area on the opposite wall where the polished hardwood floor ends. The laughter of little children echoes off the high ceilings and photograph-lined walls—but only in my

Marriage Day

Marriage Day (Photo credit: Fikra)


The children are at Grandma’s house while their daddy comes over to clear out a few pieces of furniture so he can live somewhere else. Beyond the reach of my vision, husband and wife talk about who will take what. They speak in civil tones, without emotion, much like acquaintances discussing an upcoming municipal bond election. Likely the tenor of the conversation is in deference to my presence. My friend, whom I’ll call Ray, had asked if I could come “as a witness … otherwise, things could get ugly.” Maybe he thought about my posting of November 7, 2013, “Is This the Ultimate Weapon?”

From the time I arrive, actually all the time Ray and I are there, his wife is most solicitous. Breaking away from friends in the kitchen, she asks several times, “Can I help?”

Each time, Ray ignores her offer in grim silence.

It takes us no more than a hundred minutes to dismantle, collect, and carry out the few items we will load in the small U-Haul truck. With each passing minute and each trip down the stairs past the photos of children preening, jumping, laughing … I feel a growing weight of distress. Visions of bombed out neighborhoods in Benghazi and Aleppo float through my mind. Am I visiting a similar destruction upon this family, simply by helping my friend?

Preposterous. No blood or broken bodies. No splintered doors or cratered, rubble-strewn streets. No evidence of bullet-pocked walls and broken windows. Nor am I the perpetrator of such savagery. No, I’m simply a witness.

Had I the vision to peer into the souls of the little ones whose world is being inextricably shattered, I would see hearts leaking blood for years; I’d see unanswered questions and stark loneliness, the anguish of confusion and search for personal identity and relationship, unshed tears and thoughts of what might have been … Well, you likely know or sense what I’m talking about, as half or more marriages end in divorce. Someone in your family has been or is about to be a casualty of their own private Basra or Baghdad.

Ray and I go back a ways. He’s come to me and other friends to vent, to ask for prayer and encouragement. We listen and we pray. Sometimes, we offer advice. Then he comes in one morning with the news that his wife wants a separation. I wonder then and afterward, and especially now—could I have been/can I be more than a witness to the destruction and sorrow that cries out from the walls of this home?

Can I stop it right now? Refuse any further removal of goods; tell Ray to get back in there with this woman he already calls his “ex” and put this family back together? Not now. Too late.

Shortly after we arrive, his wife tells me that she’s glad Ray “has men like me in his life.” Oh. Well, how nice. She thinks I’m the kind of role model he needs.

Then I get it. He needs help. If he weren’t so deficient, this wouldn’t be happening. And her offer to help Ray move stuff out (I can just see her hauling the huge lounge chair out the door.) could better be stated, I’m offering to help, because the sooner you’re out of here, the better. No wonder Ray ignored her.

Yeah, Ray has his issues, too. Some of them pretty big. As do I.

God knew what kind of creatures he was dealing with when he had Malachi the prophet judge the breakup of a marriage, the death of a family: God hates divorce.

And he does. It maims both spouses. Which is nothing compared to what it does to the children whose lives will never be the same again.

Do not—I beg of you—do not allow the divorce option to cross your mind. Don’t think it. Don’t imagine how it would relieve the pressure and pain. Make it work. With God’s help, it will.

Rita and John's Marriage Certificate

Rita and John’s Marriage Certificate (Photo credit: mary hodder)

The only exceptions: marital infidelity, abandonment, and/or physical or emotional abuse. Abuse. Not conflict. We all have to deal with conflict.

Remember the children. Remember your vows. Know the price that Jesus Christ paid for you. For me. Know what you’ve got going for you:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,  and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength  he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.


About samuelehall

A follower of Jesus, husband, father of 3 adult children, writer and learner.
This entry was posted in Families, Husbands and Wives, Risking change/changing the risk, Sin and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Death of a Family

  1. Sam, what a timely post. I’m sharing this on FB and Twitter. Divorce these days is considered casually and hastily pursued. One more aspect to consider is what comes after; people should not act hastily after divorce. Before remarriage, there is still a chance for reconciling.

    • samuelehall says:

      Jason, well spoken! That’s my prayer and hope for “Ray,” that he would pull away from hasty actions and liaisons that would compromise his ability to 1) hear the voice of Jesus, and 2) reconstruct his family.

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