The Life Club I Didn’t Choose To Be A Member of: Widowhood

My early twenty’s seemed to prove a perfect blue-print already laid out for me and my life: wife, step-mom, mom, and teacher. I had married the love of my life, found someone better than I even imagined I deserved to spend the rest of my life with, and vowed that life with him. In fact, it was the vows of “In sickness and in health, until death do us part,” that I remember the most vividly. The memory of mouthing those words as I looked into my husband’s eyes, was the moment I could see him, and me, as an old couple sitting on our front porch swing, enjoying the lake view and sunset in front of us. I could see us, enjoying being “us.”

What I didn’t see was the sickness in less than a year ravage my groom’s body. I didn’t see him screaming out in pain, begging me with his eyes to fix the pain, and the cancer. I most certainly did not see myself seven-months pregnant begging doctors in multiple hospitals to cure his cancer and to promise me my husband would be there to watch our children grow-up through their childhood. I never imagined a possibility of living in hospital floors for weeks-on-end, entertaining an infant while soothing my best friend in a hospital bed. But, most possibly, the worst nightmare I never thought possible was nursing our son at his Daddy’s funeral, with our daughter curled up next to me, sobbing as we prepared to say goodbye to the man that created our family. And the nightmare of the future without him as my husband and best friend, and his children’s Dad has never been so real, as it has been the past two years without him.me-and-my-baby

My future and widowhood was never even in my most distant recollection of a possibility. Moreover, separately they were two complete different realities. Widowhood was elderly women who sat on their front porch, and their grown children came to check on them. My future life was happy, full of life and hopes and dreams to accomplish. They were family vacations at the beach, birthday parties with the kids’ friends swarming our house, they were spontaneous weekend road trips, and family pictures. And yet, I still am not quite sure how these two different worlds collided so quickly. Most shocking, is that these two different worlds look nothing like I envisioned, all wrapped together.

I still have yet to figure out what my life is supposed to look like in my future. I once knew, but that was changed entirely when Joe joined the good Army above. At twenty-eight years old, I often wonder if being a widow is what is left for my life. I wonder if Joe’s love will carry me through, until he meets me at the gates with the King who gave us both eternal life. I wonder what my life will be like when Porter evolves into a great young man, like his Dad and leaves our home to pursue his own dreams. I wonder what I am supposed to do to attempt to map out my future from this point on.

Although the given advice from many is that Joe would still want me to live and love, there is no one more certain of that, than myself. It’s deeper than that though; to retrain your brain, your longings, wantings, desires, dreams. To have to start over and envision a different life–but one that, really, you don’t desire at all. The life you desired is over, and you have to come to accept that.

I didn’t choose widowhood. It chose me. It is a club that I never wanted, or dreamt, I would be apart  of. I wish I could check my membership card from the moment it took my breath away on October 26, 2014. I cannot, however. Until then, I do know that widowhood looks like how I make it–not anyone else. The same is true for each and every one of us widows living without our spouse. We literally do take a moment at a time, walking through a haze of grief, unsure if our next step is right or wrong. We just do it. I am no expert on grief, or widowhood, but walking this road for the past two years has proven tougher than ever imaginable. Reaching out, loving each other, and connecting with others who do not want to be in this club, proves to be the only true understanding in this world.

To you other members in this club: I am sorry you belong to this club too. Don’t let your membership define your future. I am attempting to do the same. kissing-him-goodbye

The Old Neighbor Man Who Became My Best Friend and Grandpa

I saw him for the first time when I was walking home from the fourth grade on a hot August day. As I scurried across the street, a small, elderly man on his hands and knees caught the corner of my eye, as I approached his front yard. The smoldering sun already had me sweating, when I looked upon this tiny old man, who was himself saturated. His weathered skin proved a lifetime of working outside, but his smile portrayed his heart in that very moment.

“Hello, sister.”

“Hi,” I quickly exchanged, and picked up my pace to get to my house two doors down.

Little did I know, this quick exchanged would lead to a friendship and relationship that 18 years later is still one of my most cherished possessions.11bdaybert

This man was more than my neighbor. He began by doing the neighborly thing and mowing our yard, to help my single-mother, raising three kids. He then cooked breakfast for us every morning, as we walked to his house before school to just hang out. Then came the times I sat on his lap, while he widdled my dull pencil to a point with his pocket knife, as he coached me through long division. Snow days proved glorious, as we had an all day long, and never-ending tournament of the board game “Sorry.” His spit can stained our game board. Sunday evenings were my coveted days, as he sat in his lawn chair to the left of the screen door on his front porch, and myself in my own lawn chair to the right of that squeaky door. He read his romance novels, while I buried myself in my chapter books. Yet, the most fun thing I ponder on are these nights he would sip his coffee that he first poured into his saucer, and I gulped down my Wild Cherry Pepsi in a can.

My fourth grade Spring and Summer came unintended hard-work and empathy lessons. He led me to my favorite smell in the whole world: fresh cut grass, through lessons of mowing yards. It was the “who” we mowed yards for though, that proved one of the greatest life’s lessons. Widows. Elderly women in our small, farm town community that needed someone to take care of their lawn. The empathy I felt for these women was immense, even at my young age. We always sat on their front porch after we finished, sipping lemonade and some sweet treat they had whipped up. Some days I ask myself, if God was telling me something way before I could imagine my life today.

Most importantly, this man taught me that time given is the greatest gift any of us can give. He was my best friend, and I did everything with him. I wanted to be at his house, rather than hanging out with my friends at ten years old. He taught me how to cook, how to do math, he taught me how to work, he taught me how to save money, he taught me how to “just be.” He taught me there was no stereotype on friendships and love. He taught me that God knew exactly what He was doing when he places those least expected into our lives.

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My best friends and I celebrating my 13th birthday with Bert, at his house. He would pass away only 15 days later.

17 years ago today, January 27, was the day I experienced my first soul-shattering loss. My best friend, the man I only refer to as my grandpa, left this world to cancer. He wasn’t my grandpa, not by blood; but he was the closest thing I had ever had to a grandpa–still to this day. He waited many years here on Earth without his wife, whom I never had the pleasure of meeting. The way he still talked about her, was the way I knew I wanted to love my own husband, one day. And I did. The way tears still fell from his eyes as he reminisced during our front porch chats, hurts my soul even more now as I now know the longing that was in his heart for her.

I have often wandered since Joe has been gone, what they say to each other, what the other one thinks of the other. Then I remember, they have one girl who they both loved with all of their hearts. And I also remember, my amazing husband allowed me to name our son after this elderly man. That’s when I know they love each other, and must have so much to talk about, watching as a little boy who carries both of their names, becomes a great man, just like both of them.

This is my seventeenth year beyond the first year without my sweet, precious, John Deere-loving Bert. And my heart still aches at how much I miss him. Just one more time, I would love to hear, “I do you, too, Sister. I do you too,” in response to my parting words every time I hugged him, “I love you Bert.”

I love you Bert. I will always love you. Until we meet again, my sweet grandpa.