I thought I was finished. I had passed the 1-year anniversary of Roger’s death, and in my mind I knew that while there would still be rough times, surely things would even out a bit. Without a doubt I would have moments of sadness, and tears, but didn’t they say that time would heal? I had journeyed through my allotted “time” and now things would be better, right?
Well, since I’m still writing, you have probably concluded that things were not great. At all. This chapter is about December, the month after the first year anniversary. I have chosen not to put many dates in this section because time is not as important now as content. And—SPOILER ALERT—I will write at least one more chapter because January was worse than December. Who knows? There may be even more chapters. Stay tuned.
The Widows’ Banquet
Sometime in the spring of 2015 good friend Barb had asked me to speak for a “Widows’ Christmas Banquet” at a nearby church. It was a banquet just for widows. I knew how awkward it was for widows to attend church banquets—especially like those for Valentine’s Day. So it made sense to have a banquet just for widows to enjoy and be “pampered.”
The day came for me to speak, and I wondered what on earth I was doing there. Speaking to widows. What did I know? It had only been a year; my experience was fresh and full of mistakes. I should have been listening to the advice of those ladies.
I took an informal survey. “How many of you ladies have taken off your rings? When did you do it?”
Some did it the first year, some much later. Some never did take them off.
Conclusion: It must be a personal thing.
I stumbled through my words and finished speaking–feeling ineffective. As we stood around chatting, several widows came up to me. One older woman shared:
“My husband died when he was 39.” And she started crying.
I said, “Oh my. And you still weep?”
“Yes. It’s still tender.”
I thought: There is no hope for me! I’ll be a blubbering fool the rest of my life.
Then I started asking the women how many years since their husbands had died.
29 years. Married twice. 10 years since the last one
I was astounded. They had lived so long without a husband.
One woman told me the story of her rings. She always kept them on because she didn’t want any men flirting with her. One day she had been painting and decided that the paint was the wrong color. She grabbed her things and went to the paint store to get more paint. It was then she noticed that the clerk, an older gentleman, was paying a lot of attention to her. She couldn’t understand until she got to the car and saw that she hadn’t put on her rings!
That made me laugh. And made me think. A tiny part of me thought it would be nice to have a man flirt with me!
Speaking at the banquet was a good thing for me. I felt fulfilled. I may not have done well, but it felt good to share my heart. My fear was that if I spoke again about my journey, my words might not be fresh. My first year of grieving was up. Would I still be credible?
I had another opportunity to travel to the current Faith Bible Church in Joliet and sing at a missionary meeting. I found old friends, old memories, and I got to see my cousin. He blessed me with great gifts and some money.
State of Grace had a concert at the Nazarene church in Decatur. After the concert Della, Mike and Gary came over to move a cabinet that I had bought for the bathroom. They stayed and talked for a while after they were finished. And you know what? That was nice. I didn’t usually have people come over just to talk. It soothed my soul.
Something I read
From the book “Sunset” about the Baxter family in Karen Kingsbury’s series.
The matriarch of the family had died two years previously and now the father was getting remarried. A daughter shared her thoughts as she was about to attend the new “mother’s” wedding shower.
But then a different type of sadness hit. The knowing that without a determination to hold on tight to yesterday, the ever-pressing tide of the present would wash away the vividness of every beautiful memory.
By the time she had parked in front of Kari’s house, her sadness had been tucked away in its proper place, in the basement of her soul.
That sure described perfectly how I felt. I wanted Roger’s memory to be vivid. But so many times I had to tuck them away in the basement of my soul.
That’s why I was so encouraged when people at church would tell me they had memories of Roger in their mind. When they shared those memories it made me happy. They still remembered him.
And two other people shared how they appreciated my piano CD. One man put it on when he drove to work, a half hour away. He found the music put him in the best frame of mind. Roger would have liked to know that.
I was very aware of God’s watchcare and graciousness to me. Remember: I was (and still am) NOT a mechanic, gardener, nurse, handyman, or anything that had to do with fixing things. My engine light had been on for three days in November, and I called the service department. The man said if it went off, it should be ok. If it came on again I should call.
Well, it was on for a week in December. I took it in to Bob Ridings, and sure enough, it had something to do with the power drive train turbo stuff. (Or some gobbledy-gook like that.) The regular warranty was up two months ago, but this was covered under the power train 5 year/60,000 miles. The part was ordered, replaced, and I didn’t have to worry.
During mid-December I worked to get things set for the holidays. Baking. Shopping. Wrapping gifts. Our first grandchild was celebrating her 16th birthday, so I made a video for her. I cried when I showed it to Stephanie. I missed Roger enjoying this milestone in Lauren’s life.
I didn’t go to the Christmas banquet at church. It just didn’t make any sense for me to go. I wasn’t exactly sad, but I wasn’t the usual happy me. And it was just another memory of something Roger and I organized. Blech.
And then another thing made my emotions surface.
There was a knock at my door. I had a brief visit from Autumn and Josh on the front porch. It touched me deeply. There was just a simple singing of a few lines of “Jingle Bells,” a tin of cookies, a card, and “We appreciate you.” But it came at the perfect time. I cried and cried as I read the card. It meant so much to me. Yup–I was still struggling. I sent Autumn this message.
Ok, I’m crying. A lot. And don’t feel bad because I am. Your card just touched me so much. Thank you so much for remembering me…and Roger. I guess that’s one of my greatest fears. That everyone will eventually go on with life and forget about him.
And a Starbucks gift card. That’s where I go and write my blog. Perfect gift. Bless you.
I was scheduled for my second hip surgery on December 23rd. If everything worked out as planned, I would have the surgery, the kids would all bet here for Christmas (it was our turn to celebrate on Christmas Day), and the girls would take care of everything.
Prepping for the surgery involved bloodwork, EKG, chest X-ray, dental screening, etc. During that time I had sudden pain in my back. It was horrible. I was nauseated, my stomach was distended, and I wished I didn’t live alone. It was bad the next evening, and I was ready to drive myself to the ER. But the pain lessened (I believe it was because my son Chad had prayed for me), and the incident became a faint memory.
On the Friday before surgery I received a call from my primary care doctor stating that she couldn’t clear me for surgery. My heart T-waves were inverted on the EKG. Of course, this stressed me because my carefully planned schedule for surgery would be skewed. The doctor kindly made an appointment with a cardiologist two days before surgery. TWO DAYS! What if there was something really wrong? What if it was nothing, but it delayed things?
My good friend Kathleen sat with me at the appointment. I was grateful to have another set of ears listening to all of the details. The cardiologist scheduled me for a stress test the DAY BEFORE SURGERY! Lisa had arrived home by then, so she helped me through that additional test. I even had an ultrasound on my kidney. Good news: there was no kidney stone.
The afternoon before surgery I got the phone call from the cardiologist: I was cleared for surgery.
I was up early the next morning with Lance and Lisa to go to the hospital. My neighbor Maureen was the nurse who took care of me on the intake. Everything went well. And I was glad to have it done.
Scott, Chad and their families were home when I was discharged from the hospital on Christmas Day. We opened presents, laughed, but I felt like I slept most of the time.
Then Chad and Scott’s families left. I was so glad I wasn’t alone. Lance and Lisa were still there. I needed them.
OBSERVATION: A gift–tangible or intangible–matters to a widow.
OBSERVATION: When your health is on a roller coaster, your emotions jump in, too.
HELPFUL HINT: Ride the waves of sadness. There will be ups and downs, but you will eventually arrive at calm seas.
HELPFUL HINT: One thing for certain–change will happen. Be as flexible as you can.