A Letter to Clay
By Geneva Alumni Mary Claire Brock
It’s been three years since my mentor’s husband, Clay, passed away in a car accident; three years of watching a newly widowed woman care for two young children amid her own grief and heartache. Though the days have been hard, the family is healing and they are strong. Loneliness and doubt are real, but “Team Aderholt” has turned their weeping into laughter and their pain into purpose. Clay would be so proud of the family he started. He would be gloating over every single princess dress Gracie tries on and every single baseball Reid throws. But most of all, Clay would be proud of his bride, the leader of their tribe.
You would be so proud of her. She keeps you alive.
They didn’t know you long, but they know you well because of Allison. They didn’t know your people, but they know them because of Allison. She doesn’t stray from your name at the dinner table. She doesn’t stray from home videos when the kids ask to hear your voice. She doesn’t stray from pictures of you on the walls or love letters from you on her desk. Allison still goes to the ranch every year with your college friends because that is what Team Aderholt does, they keep you alive.
Allison tells me stories of you. She tells me how you were present in your kids’ lives, being fully present every chance you got. You were steady and kind, yet you could shoot a gun at the ranch like nobody's business. She tells me how you loved your Aggies (I forgive you for that one) and you never missed a game. You were not only dedicated to your team, but to your people as well. Your family, your friends and your church: you poured into them so much.
She tells me stories about you leading college students weekly, and trying your best to give girl advice when Allison brought high school and college-aged girls to the house. You would have been the best girl dad.
You would be so proud of your daughter Gracie. She is joyful and altogether lovely. She’s five now and the spunkiest five-year-old you could ever imagine. She swirls around in princess dresses in the kitchen as Allison laughs and delights in her glittery pink soul. Gracie is a light during the dark days; she brings excitement when Allison needs it most. She was only two when you passed away but she asks about you often. She loves watching videos of you spinning her around on Christmas Day. Gracie has become familiar with your voice and the way you danced her around at Reid’s fourth birthday party. She wore a pretty pink dress and you had on that cowboy hat you cherished.
Allison knows the importance of “guy time” for your Reid. He’s only eight, but he has matured in the most beautiful way. You would be so proud of him. She’s teaching him to open doors and throw baseballs like you did. You wouldn’t miss a practice and she doesn’t either. She lets him try on your baseball glove and wear your hats. He is gentle yet strong, silly but a man at heart. At such a young age, he loves his Maker like you prayed he would.
You would be so proud of Allison. She is brave. She lives in the land of Barbies and baseball games but she has hope in Jesus and runs Team Aderholt with grace and love.
You wouldn’t believe me if I told you that in this past year alone, she moved out of the first and only home you lived in together. The two of you became four in that home and then the four became three. She stepped out of her comfort zone and into a new reality by moving. She is so brave. I can’t forget to tell you that she bought not one, but TWO dogs this year. And to add to that, she brought home TWO kittens as well. Year three was the year of courage and new beginnings for the Aderholts. You would be so proud.
Clay, you would be proud of your community.
They have stepped up in mighty ways since you left earth three years ago. They have cleared out the clothes in your closet when Allison could not bear to walk into the smell of you or the fabrics your wore. Allison has witnessed men in the community pick up Reid and take him fishing like you would do if you were here. They have celebrated with her in the small and big victories; they have taken action when parenting alone seemed unbearable to her.
Your bride, Allison, has walked through the deepest trenches, yet still cares enough to sit with me on your couch talking about my life and eating Oreos at midnight. Your girl encourages her friends when we should be encouraging her. Your bride has created new traditions for your family, like an annual beach trip for Father’s Day. She has learned to be vulnerable and ask for help when she needs it. And she has used this pain to walk through life with other widowers or anyone experiencing loneliness, grief or any type of pain. Read what your girl wrote recently.
“I used to think loneliness was a lack of people around, now I see I was wrong. In a room full of people – in my kitchen with children running circles around me – in the presence of married couples – in a small group of single divorced women. In all of these places, I have felt lonely...The reality is, sometimes I just want Jesus with skin on to comfort, encourage and be with me in my valleys and on my mountaintops. Because of this, my tendency has been to go to people over Jesus. For the past three years, I have asked Jesus to take me to a new place of intimacy with Him over people. I’ve asked Him to use this season of “less people” to allow Him to become my end all – that He would be who I run to in my victories, defeats, heartache and joy. Don’t hear me saying people don’t matter. The Trinity of God is relational. He created us that way, and we are to celebrate that and live in community, not isolation...But they can’t be our hope, our end all, or our satisfaction. We are a fallen people, broken and unable to perfectly meet the needs of others. Only Jesus can do that. ”
Clay, I wish I could know you today. I know so many people wish the same. But, because of your tribe, your Jesus is being lifted high and your legacy will not die. Allison, Reid and Gracie have exemplified the kind of courage and gentle love you instilled in them and, because of that, my life has been changed. They have crossed seemingly impossible storms yet they still have the faith to walk on the waters when they are called. I know you are proud of your Team Aderholt. They are doing amazing things.