I received the following from someone who stayed with us for a summer about a decade ago. My wife's illness prompted her to write it. I've removed her name but everything else is as I received it.
I post it here not as a tribute to my wife and me (though the wife is certainly deserving), but as a marker of sorts for what commitment to God and family may do for others unknowingly:
Dear Rick and Linda,
For 10 years I've had every intention of letting you two know how much of an impact you've had on my life. For 10 years, I've pushed it off for something else. Hearing about Linda made my heart break. There's no way I can put it off one more day.
I'm sure it wasn't a secret that I didn't have the best parents in the world. My examples of family mostly came from television and books. I can't remember one moment where I saw my parents embrace or smile at each other with love. To tell you the absolute truth, I'm not even sure why they got married in the first place. My childhood was always about money and accomplishing goals that would get you more money. I've celebrated quite a few academic successes, given speeches to an entire school, and cheered at many games. I can not tell you one time my parents were in the audience. I'm not saying my childhood was abusive. I had it way better than many many children but, lets just say, it wasn't ideal.
I'm not sure if you're aware but the summer after my freshman year at William and Mary changed my life. I was able to be a part of a family that fully encompassed the word. That summer gave me a definition of family that far outweighed anything that I had experienced in my 19 years of life. I saw a man that loved and adored his wife. I saw a man that provided for his family, but still made them his priority. Most importantly, I saw how a real woman takes care of herself and her family. I remember Linda working away at that little desk and still always being there when the boys needed her. I remember the sparkle in Linda's eyes and her laughter. It was the sparkle of true happiness, love and family.
I'm not going to say Linda was perfect that summer. No one is perfect. I will say she was great. She was the greatest example of a wife, mother and woman that I had ever seen before. Her example still sticks with me to this day. When I met my husband, I knew we would get married and have a family. We discussed whether I should keep my job and our large dual salary or if we would sacrifice a little and I'd stay home with our children. I always think back to the summer I spent with you guys. The biggest house, the nicest cars, and the best clothes seem to be what people want, but its not what our memories are made of. Its not love and faith. I am forever indebted to you for teaching me that.
My heart breaks when I read about Linda's diagnosis. I sit here with tears in my eyes right now. Please know that I am praying and will for as long as you ask. To me you are not my ex boyfriend's brother and sister-n-law. You are the people that taught me what family is and what is really worth it in life. For that I thank you.
And we thank this young gal who today is raising her own family and who we suspect is passing on what she's learned about love and faith to others, likely unknowingly as well.