My dad sharing his thoughts after we moved

Hi, this is Jennifer’s dad again.  Given all that has happened of late I thought I would give you another post about my perspective on everything.

I wrote a blog post awhile ago about Jennifer’s story from my point of view, you can read that HERE.

My Dad’s thoughts after we moved out:

Today was a surreal day for me.  I woke up today and for the first time in 1,435 days and for the first time…the house was completely quiet.  No pitter-patter of tiny feet waking me up early, no toddler standing next to my bed and terrifying me when I wake up staring at his eye 4 inches from mine.  Just total silence.  It was horrible, to be honest.

For no particular reason I walked downstairs just to make sure.  Of course, I knew what I would find, but had to see it again.  An empty basement.  No real sign that anyone had been there.

Just to make sure, and perhaps to torture myself a bit more, I looked at the empty “secret room” which has been the source of so much joy over the past many months.  Sadly, as I already knew, that too was empty and lonely.  I knew it would be…but still.

In my heart, I knew this day would come.  In truth, 1,435 is probably more than I deserved anyway.  But today, my thoughts are on the empty house and true blessing of being able to be around those boys every day.  As I told Jennifer jokingly the other day, “I love you deeply, but let’s be honest, I love the twins more.”     

The entire journey has given me a lot to think about and I have spent a lot of time considering the process of grief.  I know that there is no way to quantify grief.  For example, is it harder to lose a husband to cancer or to divorce an abusive husband?  Is it harder to lose a spouse or a child?  The questions are endless.  What I have come to believe is that grief can’t be quantified and that different people feel grief in their own way and work through their own process to deal with grief. 

I am certain, however, that no matter how hard the entire episode was on Linda and I, it was much, much harder on Jennifer, Justin’s parents , and his siblings.  Sometimes I wonder how any of them made it.  I was in a position to watch Jennifer more than the others for the past four years, and I came to appreciate how hard it was for her to even get-up in the morning.

READ: Do I have a relationship with Justins family?

Every morning she would wake up thinking it was all a bad dream, only to realize it was not a dream at all.  Every part of her life was turned upside down.  Everything she had hoped for and dreamed of… gone.  It was meaningful to me to see her get up, cope, and go to bed. And then do it all over again the next day.  When I see her now developing her own business and starting a life with her and the boys, I’m even more impressed.  Could I have done that?  Not sure.  I hope so, but not sure.

READ: Coco’s full story HERE

But, none of this is the real dilemma for me.  For me, the real dilemma is how much I loved, loved, loved being around those boys all day everyday.   We moved back to Colorado to be around our grandkids. As grandparents, Linda and I often talk about what a perfect situation it is to not only be around our grandchildren, but to see them grow so close so fast. 

But, with all this happiness in our home has come the great dilemma to me.  The fact is, the past four years have been perhaps the happiest four years of my life.  And for that, I feel very, very guilty.  I know the personal devastation Jennifer has felt and continues to feel.  I see it first-hand.  And it is not just the loss of her husband.  It is also the fear of the unknown.  What happens in the future?  Can she provide for the boys while earning a living?  What is the best way to be a provider and a mother?  All the issues of being a single mother in 2022. 

I also know somewhat of the loss that Lynette and Mitch feel.  But, only a small portion.  I am sure that there is no way I can fully appreciate their loss. My big personal question is then “why should I alone be allowed to feel such happiness and joy out of the remnants of such tragedy and loss?”

In truth, I have enjoyed and been thrilled with every second I have been able to enjoy with the twins in my home.  Being able to wake up to boys jumping on my bed or asking to read a book or go for a walk has been one of the highlights of my entire life.  I must admit, it is different being a grandparent.  As a parent I did not fully appreciate the minutes I have with my kids.  As a grandparent, I do and I have worked to take advantage of every single one I have with them.

When I need a boost I can take the twins for a walk or read them a book, and I get many, many such boosts.  But, in the end, I know that Jennifer has lost her husband, she is living with her parents, and her life has been sent in a spiral.  What right do I have to gain any boost and any joy.  It has been a real dilemma for me.

At first I honestly told myself that I would take the boys for a day or two because I wanted to give Jennifer and Linda a couple of days off.  Jennifer has the boys all day and Linda helps every time she can.  I persuaded myself that my obligation to the process was to take the boys for a few days so that I could relieve some of the pressure at home. 

But, as time went on and we started to love being at “the mountain house” more and more I had to admit to myself that this was not as much about helping Jennifer as it was spending more and more time with my best friends in the world. 

Intellectually I am sure that there is a diagnosis for this and that I must not be the first person to feel these kinds of feelings.  I suspect that if I were to talk to a counselor they would tell me that such feelings are normal in a situation like this.  Still, knowing that provides little solace for some reason.  The fact remains that the tragedy has caused great joy in my life.  That feels counter-intuitive and gives me pause.  I’m not sure the solution.  Rather, I have learned to live with the guilt and still take advantage of every moment I can.

I will say, however, that it is clear to me that I am not the only one who had developed the bond!    That helps me a great deal!

As many of you know Linda and I are serving a church service mission in Canada Toronto.  This full-time, voluntary assignment starts June 22 of this year and will last until July 1, 2025.  We feel honored and trusted to receive the assignment and very much look forward to working with the youth missionaries there.  

But, it has brought this happiest of seasons in our life to an end.  Perhaps the sadness of waking up to an empty house.  All is know is that for four years I have been in heaven as I became best friends with this little boys.

But, with our pending mission it is time to take the boys to their new home in Utah with Jennifer.  As we recently flew the boys out to live with Jennifer in her new home it left me with many questions:

  • I still have not rationalized the part about my own joy for the past four years and honestly don’t know what that says about me.  All I know is that I have loved every single second of being with those boys.
  • My greatest fear is that the boys are too young to remember me.  Will they remember that we are best friends?  Will the remember the times we have been together?  
  • When I think of the question above, I quickly realize that the boys have more support in Utah than they had with us and their cousins in Colorado.  I realize that they will be fine and that my concerns are more centered on myself more than on them.  So, then I feel guilty all over again!   UGH!
  • And, what about Jennifer?  She is truly alone now, and I can’t help feel a bit guilty about that.

Lots to think about.  What I do know is that Jennifer gets great support from her Caravan.  Thank you all for your continued love and concern for her and the boys.  I will wrestle with my guilt if you all will promise to stay supportive and engaged!  You make a difference.  Thank you all!!!

Rulon Stacey aka Coco’s Dad

READ: Why more about why we moved


  1. Oh wow I dont know what words to put but to say how amazin & loving your sweet dad is ! I am so beyond happy u have him & your family of love support wish i had that! I know you will miss them as they serve but so happy u get to go see them soon wjat jpy & excitement u will all be to reunite again! I am also so happy these 2 bpys u have keep u on ur toes & busy bc that helps tremendously especially the love that they bring to u on a daily basis! U r amazin u got this dont give up heaven is cheering u on today , tomorrow & forever love ya girl xoxo

  2. The reflections and conflicting feelings of love and guilt resonates so powerfully – the tears rolled down my cheeks as I read this. I found myself smiling at your recount of waking to their faces, jumping on beds, pitter patter of footsteps, etc(imperial March one of my faves by the way) My dad echoed the same about about his grandchildren before he passed away from cancer. The impact on a family is devastating but the love which grows out of the heartbreak and grief is so so powerful and your family is testament to this. Thank you for sharing and we look forward to the stories about future visits to Canada! Bon voyage 👋

  3. Beautiful. The attachment and joy you feel is right, proper, and a good gift God. There’s a special bond between grandparents and grandkids.
    Welcome to 🇨🇦. I’m in Guelph, about an hour west of Toronto. I hope you can get out of the city once in awhile to see the beauty of Canada.

  4. This is a great experience for your dad, you guys have a close knit family as oppose to what we read about white and their independent life style. Africans mostly have extended family to support in cases of loss, separation and crisis. However this is gradually eroding because of civilization and effects of Western education.
    We wish your dad best time in Canada, am sure he will have a great time and experience. Jennifer, you will be fine, you are lucky to have great people around you. Best of luck and regards to twins

  5. This made me cry. You have the most amazing parents but it is true you had to go through such pain to put you in that position. You are such a strong person, I admire you so much!

  6. The most absolute sweetest letter! Your dad’s unconditional love for his family is amazing. The Lord allowed your dad to give to you/boys in ways that the boys will remember!!! Praise Him for all the support! Sincere condolences on your loss. Beautifully written! xo

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