Sunday, September 18, 2011

Instant Widowhood

No one gets up in the morning and says to herself, "Today I will become a widow." That's why it's such a shock when it happens.

Even though my husband of 53 years had spent nearly 20 of those years battling Parkinson's Disease, he showed no outward signs that death was imminent. Not to me nor the live-in nurse I had hired to care for him nor the neurologist we'd seen just a week prior.

Yet on Palm Sunday of 2010, Jim sat up on the edge of the bed, vomited, passed out and died--in less time than it takes to tell it. And while my brain acknowledged what was happening, the whole scene seemed surreal. Like a nightmare from which I'd wake to find all was well.

But that isn't what happened. Because I'd witnessed the whole scene, the video played and replayed in my mind and heart so that it seemed I lived through that agonizing moment over and over again with no reprieve--even during sleep. And while I didn't recognize what had happened to me for many months into this journey, I had gone into shock to the point that everything seemed out of focus. I was confused and dizzy at the same time. I found it impossible to think or function.

Decisions were impossible. If not for my daughter and her two grown girls to make every arrangement, I would have been lost. I discovered, to my horror, that I could no longer drive safely and handed the car keys over to my sister who had arrived by the end of the first day--mainly because no one would ride with me and told me so. I was dangerous behind the wheel, or so my family said. I knew they were right. I had gone out on the second day to buy groceries and got lost along the way. What makes it so ridiculous is the fact that the store is less than a mile from home and one I'd shopped at for untold years.

Because Jim was a Korean War Vet, I wished a military service for him and although we gave the Navy little warning, they came through with flying colors and in just two days, produced a color guard and a bugler. The service was small, just immediate family. Our pastor gave a wonderful message and led us in some of Jim's favorite songs. I had asked him to read John 1:6-12, one of my husband's favorite scriptures. He spoke of Jim's love for his God, his country, his family, and the legacy he had, not just to his family, but all who knew him well.

My kids wanted a memorial at church and I agreed--as long as I didn't have to do anything but show up. My son and daughter combined forces, long distance, and orchestrated a lovely service that took place two weeks after the graveside service. I was honored that all of our family showed up as well as so many of our personal friends and more than a few of Jim's friends who had worked with him for so many years before he had had to go off on disability and eventually into retirement.

If you are a widow you know that the grief doesn't end with the burial or the memorial. Family goes back home; friends cease to call. The world continues to turn on its axis and life goes on. Life went on for me too, although I didn't wish it to be so. After begging the Lord to take me too and getting nowhere, there came a time I decided I'd best get on with grieving and heal so that I might continue with living. I knew it was what Jim would want me to do.

Herein is my story about that journey. It is the hardest road I've ever had to walk. Along the way I learned that I was not the only one who had lost of the love of their life and been forced to begin again--alone. This is also a story of faith and discovering first-hand that the Lord really does walk with us through that dark valley. No other way could I have survived.

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints."  Psalm 116:15

Author comments:

In all my searching, I could find no other widow writings that resembled the one I wished to write. Many books I read concerned finding a new spouse; others are about picking yourself up quickly and getting on with life. Neither of those subjects represent me or the widows I know or have spoken with. 

Those who study the subject of widows and widowers say that those who have been in a long and loving marriage grieve about three years, and while the pain eventually dims, the heart never gets over the loss. One widow told me that she'd gone to a grief group, only to be told to find a new man and get into a relationship as quickly as posssible. It didn't have to be a permanent one. She never went back. I understand why.

Another widow told me she'd been ostracized from all the friends she and her husband had hung around with for so many years. The other wives had mistakenly decided that now that she was single, she'd come after their husbands. Better off to banish her. What a sad commentary on our world today.

What I'd like to share with my readers is not only the pain of instant widowhood, but the gentle way the Lord dealt with me, allowing me to fully grieve with meltdowns, endless sobbings, and all the other ways a widow handles losing the love of her life with no warning. What I wish to debunk is the notion that Christians either don't or should not grieve. Our God is merciful, allowing us to move through the grief stages as quickly or slowly as is our nature. I'm a slow mover. A slow processor. The Lord knows my frame better than I do. He lets me take all the time I need.

That is what I want to share. Please comment, for what you say will help me fashion this book to not only be my story, but inspiration for my readers to always look forward while still holding dear that which we've lost.




  1. I am sorry you lost your husband and I wish you well getting back into your writings and yes he was a handsome man

  2. Hi Sandy, I just found my way to your blog, first I offer my sincere condolences on the loss of your husband. He looks like he was a good man. I hope you will continue to write more, would love to hear more stories of the times you enjoyed together and your life in general. Write and they will come! I have a blog but have not posted since May, personal issues, but hope to get back going soon. Nice to meet you and again, please don't stop writing!

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