An Unexpected Love
About the Guest
God makes beauty from ashes. Bill and Margie Thompson went to church with Rick and Evelyn Husband, and grieved along with the rest of their church body when Rick, the commander of the space shuttle Columbia, died in 2003. Years later when Evelyn heard that Margie had passed away, Evelyn called the Thompson family to extend her condolences, and encouraged Bill to call if he ever needed to talk. Hear Bill and Evelyn talk about their first phone call and the launch of their budding romance.
Bill and Evelyn Thompson talk about their first phone call and the launch of their budding romance.
Bob: There came a time after Evelyn Husband had become a widow when she started to develop strong feelings for a new man—a man who would eventually become her husband, Bill. She was surprised by those feelings but maybe more surprised by the way family and friends responded to her interest in someone else.
Evelyn: When Bill and I started dating, it was incredible to have someone that I could physically connect with again and pray with and love. So, it was just very exciting. Amongst our friends, they were very happy for us; but within our family, I did not appreciate at all the depth of the loss. It was very confusing to me why the reaction.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, August 14th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. When a couple is blending a family, they have to realize that it’s not just the new husband and wife who are involved in forging a new bond.
We’ll talk about that today with Evelyn and Bill Thompson. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, one of the verses in the Bible that is one of my favorites is a verse in Isaiah that says that God makes beauty from ashes. That’s a verse that just speaks to the fact that God is a God who takes whatever mess there is and He can do something beautiful with that mess.
Dennis: Even when it seems hopeless and grief is paralyzing. I think God delights in bringing hope. We’re listening, this week, to a great story about Bill and Evelyn Thompson, who join us on the broadcast. Bill, Evelyn, welcome back.
Evelyn: Thank you.
Bill: Thank you.
Dennis: They have been sharing a bit of how God brought them together out of Bill’s loss of his wife and Evelyn’s loss of her husband. We’re also joined by Ron Deal, who heads up FamilyLife’s Blended Initiative—and is the proud author of a new book called The Remarriage Checkup—great book for helping those who do find themselves in a blended or a remarriage situation. Ron—welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Ron: Thank you. I’m glad to be here. I should mention that Evelyn wrote the foreword to this book, The Remarriage Checkup. That’s very special to me.
Bob: And I have to tell you all, it is striking as we’ve heard you share your story—Bill you talked about a 13-year journey with your wife, Margie, as she battled breast cancer before she finally died in 2007.
Evelyn, your loss of your husband, Rick Husband, was very public because we were all aware of the space shuttle, Columbia, disaster that happened on February 1, 2003. I’m just curious, Bill, where were you when you heard about the Columbia disaster?
Bill: Well, I was in Washington, DC, after being out of the country for three weeks, doing some in-depth work for NCIS by the United States Navy—mobilized after 9/11. Margie called and strictly just came out and asked, “Do you think Rick’s okay?” I said, “What are we talking about?” She said, “The space shuttle.” So, I immediately turned on the TV and saw the picture—that was probably the front page of most newspapers—of the beautiful star lights scattered across the sky.
Dennis: You went to church with Rick and Evelyn.
Bill: Yes, we were members out at Grace Community.
Margie and I were out there for approximately 22/23 years. My kids grew up there.
Dennis: In Houston?
Bill: In Houston. Evelyn and Rick and Laura and Matthew—I still remember working back in the children’s department and seeing a little boy stand up with the brightest blonde hair. I can remember his image, although I didn’t know his name, at the time.
Bob: But you were part of the community that grieved, right along with Evelyn—
Bob: —the spiritual community—because, Evelyn, the church really came around you in a profound way when Rick died; didn’t they?
Evelyn: They did. It was amazing. I felt very protected and very shepherded. It was something that happened so quickly, and people responded just as quickly. My pastor, at the time, at Grace Community Church, Steve Riggle, was phenomenal at navigating me through this firestorm of media attention and all that came with it because it was so public.
They stood like soldiers around me—protecting me.
Dennis: Evelyn, you went to church, obviously, with Bill and his wife. Do you remember her passing and the church coming alongside him as well?
Evelyn: Very much so. In fact, I remember when Margie passed away—Margie and I worked in children’s ministry together. Their son, actually, was Laura’s teacher when Rick died. So, our families had all intersected. I knew their daughter as well. She worked in children’s ministry. So, Bill was the only one in the family—and I knew he belonged to them, but we had never really had a conversation before.
When Margie passed away, I got an email saying that Margie had passed and made the effort to contact them to express my condolences.
Bill: When she called, she actually had called to talk to Corey, who is my son. I guess, during the conversation, she said, “Is your dad around?” Corey handed me the phone. Evelyn came across and just basically said: “Hi, Bill. This is Evelyn Husband. I just want you to know I’ve been down this path of loss for five years.
“It’s okay if you need to reach out and call me or if you’d like to talk to me about the loss that you are going through right now. Maybe we can get a cup of coffee, or you can just call.”
Dennis: Now, she had no idea what your wife had told you, as she was preparing to die?
Bill: None at all. And I had—that was completely gone again out of my mind. When I walked out of the door that day, it was like it was slammed shut for—“This is going to be brought back to your memory in the future, but not right now.”
Dennis: Remind our listeners what your wife had said to you.
Bill: Well, my wife had basically told me, two months before she passed—we were back in our bedroom. She was just telling me: “You know, Bill, you’re young. You’ll probably want to get remarried again, but wait a week or two after I’m gone.” So, there was a little chuckle. As I turned to walk out of the room, she said, “I have someone of special interest for you.” She said, “Evelyn Husband.” I walked out and just—she said, “Just think about it.”
Bob: Evelyn, I’m curious, that call where you said, “If you ever need somebody to talk to,” I’m assuming that was simply a gesture of goodwill on your part.
Evelyn: It was. I knew Bill just a little bit. I knew his children better, and I knew that it would be difficult. It was funny because—I don’t know if I’ve ever shared this with you—but when I got off the phone, I thought, “I hope that was okay for me to offer that.” I just had a little check in my spirit. Even though Margie had just passed, I wasn’t trying to be forward in any way but just wanted to offer that if you wanted to talk because talking about it is a very helpful thing to get through it.
Bob: So, when did you get together for a cup of coffee for the first time?
Bill: Well, I guess it was a week or so later that I called her and just said, “Would you like to get a bite to eat?” We went to a restaurant, The Flying Dutchman, down in Kemah which is—I don’t know—20 minutes or so from our house. We met; and we talked, and we talked—
—and four-and-a-half hours later—we had talked about our spouses, back and forth. It was just kind of helping me, I guess, realize this loss.
Dennis: And so, when did you say to her—or tell her—of your wife’s prophetic charge to you?
Bill: We ended up—another four or five days—this would be around July 4th. I got four tickets to go see the Astros, which is a pretty easy ticket to get. [Laughter] Well, my cousin had four real nice box seats and just said, “Hey, Bill, would you like these?” I think he was probably thinking, “You can get Corey and Cassi”—my kids—“to go.”
When I asked my kids, they were kind of had some things they—“We could go, Dad; but we have something going on, but let us know. Maybe we can change our plans.” For whatever reason, Evelyn just kind of popped into my mind. I just thought about her kids—about just going to a baseball game. It was a really, really enjoyable game because I had Matthew on one side of me and Evelyn on the other.
Matthew was about 11 years old at the time. It brought me back to—all of a sudden, I am back in pee-wee baseball—and I’ve got my best buddy talking to me—just talking about baseball. We just kind of connected—and seeing the guys that were out there—this was back when we still had Biggio, Bagwell, and Berkman.
Bob: The “Killer B’s”?
Bill: The “Killer B’s”—yes. [Laughter] And on my other side, with Evelyn, it was really odd. You’re at a baseball game. Your seats are kind of close together. It’s kind of like flying Southwest. [Laughter] There’s just not quite enough room for everybody to fit in that row.
So, we’re sitting there. I noticed every time I nudged—our shoulders kind of popped together. There was like a charge. I didn’t say anything until I called her a few days later. I said: “Look, I am not weird, but I’ve got to tell you—I felt something going on there.” And she said, “You felt it too?” And I just thought, “Wow.”
I think, after we stepped back and looked at it, it was almost like God wanted to let us know: “You’re not going to go through a long-term chance to know each other. There’s—something is going to happen here. Something is going to happen very quickly.”
Bob: This is maybe—what?—six weeks / eight weeks after your wife died?
Bill: It’s more like four or five—five/six weeks.
Bob: Okay, I want to turn to Ron Deal, at this point, and say: “If this couple had come to you—and you knew their grief stories / their loss stories—and they said, ‘Hey, we went to the baseball game the other night and there was just this charge going on,’ what counsel would you have given them?”
Ron: You know, I probably would have said, “Slow down.” I probably would have. I do want to add here the comment though—that Bill’s grieving started 13 years prior to this. I think that’s really important for people to understand—that when you have a terminal situation and you know it’s coming—even though you never know exactly when and it’s not real until it’s real—in some ways, you do begin that grieving process.
So, it had not just been four weeks. It had been much longer than that. Now, it might have only been four weeks for his kids—
Ron: —which creates some natural gap between you and them, I would think.
Bill: It did. Later, from—I guess—in late August, we ended up making a trip to England. I had to meet Angus Hogg. Angus was Rick’s best friend, and I had to pass muster—not that you’re in the Navy. We have to go to another country to pass muster on all this: “What’s going on? Who is Bill Thompson, and what is he all about?”
And one of the things Angus ended up telling us—during the trip and about our marriage, whether it was right then—but I did want to introduce his name into our conversation. Angus said: “You might want to slow down a bit and determine, ‘Who do you want in your wake?’ You guys are a new ship out there. Who do you want close in to you?—because, if you are going too fast, you’re going to leave a lot of people behind.”
In a way, that’s kind of what we experienced.
If there was an area I could go back in time, it would be to comfort my kids, and be able to spend time with them, and help walk them through. I felt, for some reason, I guess—maybe my age—there was urgency. There was an urgency of what I saw going on in Evelyn’s life—of two young kids who were fatherless.
Ron: Bob asked me the question. Let me ask both of you the question: “So, if you were talking to a couple, who had come together rather quickly and was thinking about marriage, what would you caution them—what would you say to them, as it relates to their children?”
Evelyn: I know, with my children, it was very challenging as well. The same baseball game—Laura was very stressed that Bill and I were going on a date. Matthew was just excited to go to a baseball game. So, he said, “Who cares?
“Just take me to the baseball game.”
But I would advise to not throw your kids under the bus—to just really have conversations with them—and understand that every body’s grief journey is unique. So, what you might be feeling with the loss of a spouse—a child might be feeling something completely different. Just try to stay in touch with that as much as you possibly can.
Bob: Yes, this is not simply an equation where one plus one come together to make a new family; but this is a situation where one plus one with two on your side and two on your side are coming together—all with their own processing of grief—your kids for five years / your kids for a few weeks.
Bill: Yes. Looking back again, it is—I think Evelyn chose the words wisely—“Don’t throw your kids under the bus.” Don’t expect them to have the same feelings that you have, going into this. Instead of hanging up my cleats—if I could use that as a proverbial jock—
—there was a whole another life getting ready to open up and happen, and it was happening quickly. And there wasn’t a script out there.
Ron: You know, I’m struck by two things. You had 13 years of your wife passing away—that journey towards her death. So, when it came, you were prepared, at least, in some ways. So, that grieving process had begun, and you had her blessing. She had verbally said to you—not only can you go on and remarry—but “Hey, actually, I think I know who;” and now, you had actually connected with Evelyn.
Both of those things—your children didn’t have. I mean, they didn’t have the same experience of preparing for her death the way you did. They don’t have the maturity to do that, as children. They didn’t have necessarily the same sort of blessing from Mom. She may have prepared them in many ways for life after, but it just leaves you in two different places.
So, of course, you get to a wedding—soon after the wedding—and the family is formed. Of course, then, you begin to realize how you’re in a different place from where the kids are. That had to be a difficult time. It had to be a tough moment when you kind of began to maybe have regret. Is that true? Is that fair to say?
Bill: The regret is probably that we didn’t take a little longer to stop and take this all in—even though the way my kids might have responded or even the way Matthew and Laura did. Seeing Cassi and Corey—my children—what they went through and watching this evolve over the next—well, we’ve just celebrated our sixth anniversary—so, we are just now in a place where we’re having to—and I think it’s the dad, for me—to take back the reigns of making sure you’re in contact.
And one of the things Evelyn does is—she asks me, every couple of times through a week, “Have you talked to your kids this week?
“Have you talked to your kids today? What’s—how are things going?” And they are in a very—this is a very rapid world that we live in. Things are moving about, and there are a lot of moving parts. We’re trying to wrap our hands around just what’s in front of us and to get that quality time with them. It’s so important.
But I would, Ron, want to go back and say—I would like to have been able to pull off to a side and spend some time with my children and explain what’s happening here.
Dennis: Ron, I want you to comment on this because we mentioned earlier—how when two people get married, and it’s their first marriage, it’s all a beginning—but when a couple is kind of mid-story, like both of you were, it’s not just a new beginning. It’s coming out of the midst of the tragedy of two losses. Yet, to the couple, who is getting married—at the point they are starting the new beginning—puppy love is real.
Ron: That’s right.
Dennis: And it kind of masks the loss and a lot of the emotions that accompany that. Just speak into that if you would.
Ron: This book that we are talking about, The Remarriage Checkup, and the small group study guide that goes along with it—it’s a great curriculum to help couples really understand that it’s not just about what happens between the two of them. We’ve heard Bill and Evelyn talk about how they came together. It’s a wonderful, romantic, magical moment. At the same time, there are other people around them that experience that relationship in a different way and in a different timing.
One of the things we’ve found—this book is based on the largest survey ever done of couples getting married with children. One of the interesting things we found, Dennis, is that seven out of the top twelve stumbling blocks for couples in blended families has nothing to do with coupleness—has nothing to do with husband and wife relationship. It has to do with the stuff around them or the past behind them. It has to do with losses. It has to do with grieving. It has to do with children, stepchildren, parenting, stepfamily matters, and ex-spouses.
We don’t have that in this particular situation, but many of our listeners do. So, that’s seven of the top twelve.
So, if you are only seeing one another, you’re not seeing the whole picture. That’s what we are trying to do with this study and with FamilyLife Blended™—is preparing people to deal with everything going on around them.
Bob: So, did you write this book with the thought that a couple before they enter into a remarriage go through the material or right after they’ve gotten married?
Ron: It’s both/and. It really is. The book is written with an understanding—some people are going to read it when they are dating / others are going to be already in a married situation. There’s actually a profile built right into the book. You get a voucher at the back of the book that allows you to take this online relationship profile. You get an x-ray of your relationship—what’s strong about it, what’s great, what’s healthy, what you can celebrate. It also flags some things that need some attention in your relationship.
That, in conjunction with the book, really helps people make the next-step decisions.
So, if a dating couple is reading the book, they are going to say: “You know what? We need to pay attention to this, this, and this. Then, we’ll be in a better place to make a decision about marriage.” If a married couple is reading the book, they’re going to be saying: “Ah, here is how we can grow. This is what we’ve got going well. Let’s keep paying attention to this. Let’s share this in our small group and find fellowship and support with people at church.” That’s going to strengthen them for the long journey.
Dennis: Ron, I want to commend you for writing it for the couple who are dating—who are contemplating marriage. We’ve been doing Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways since 1976. We’ve had over three million people trained at all of our events, and I still think one of the best things we do is take a couple, before they get married, and help them sing off the same song sheet—or another metaphor—help them build off the same set of blueprints.
It’s not that you can’t bring a lot of hope and encouragement to a couple after they’re married; but the tendency—to an engaged couple—is to think: “Oh, this will never happen to us. Our emotion will carry the day. It’ll surpass all of the debris that occurs in the losses that are brought into the relationship.”
Bob: And you guys found that the incline in a remarriage was a little steeper than you had anticipated; didn’t you?
Evelyn: The dynamics of it were completely different from what I expected.
Bob: And same for you, Bill?
Bill: I think so. It’s—take the largest granite or cinder block—and trying to push it up the hill. It, all of a sudden, kind of came out of nowhere—or should I say, “I hadn’t taken that into complete understanding of what all was going to be happening,”—not that you were just going to support, take care of, fall in love with your wife, and have a restart—but you have other people, that are involved, that you must take into consideration of their hearts and what they’re experiencing.
Dennis: And it really points out the need for why a resource like what Ron has created here is so essential, moving forward.
Bob: Yes, this could be a great course for a couple to go through as they consider remarriage. In fact, there are a number of resources that Ron has developed for remarried couples / for blended families. His book, The Smart Stepfamily, has been recently updated and expanded. Of course, we’ve got that in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.
The Remarriage Checkup, The Smart Stepdad, and The Smart Stepmom books—all of these are in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to find out which of these resources would be best for you. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says, “GO DEEPER”—it’s at the top left-side of the screen. It’ll take you right to where you can order these resources from us, online. Or if you’d prefer to order by phone, you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329.
That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.” And if you have any questions about the resources, we’ve got folks here who can help explain which resource might be the right one for you.
And if you are involved in ministry to couples, like Bill and Evelyn Thompson—couples who are in a blended marriage or a blended family—and you’d like some additional training / some additional help—we have an event coming up on October 3rd, in Washington, DC. It’s the Blended and Blessed™ National Summit. Ron Deal is going to be leading that, and there is still space available for those of you who might like to attend this special event in Washington, DC.
It’s right before we have our I Still Do™ event in Washington, DC, which is going to be simulcast to churches, all across the country. So, if—again, if you’d like more information about Blended and Blessed, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link that says, “GO DEEPER.” The information is available right there.
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And we hope you’ll join us back tomorrow. We’re going to continue our conversation with Bill and Evelyn Thompson as we talk about the challenges they faced blending their family. Hope you can be here for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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