“So I learned how to play the waltz during the waltz itself. And maybe that’s what my mother meant when she said life works that way. Maybe the circle keeps moving and maybe you keep finding new ways to move on the dance floor, even if your moves are all wrong. Eventually you learn to keep time in your own manner, no matter what happens, just as long as you don’t stop turning.” – May the Circle Be Unbroken by Sean Dietrich
I had lunch today with a woman who is an even newer widow than me. Her husband also had pancreatic cancer. It was so good to finally talk to someone with similar experiences. To sorrow together but also to have hope together. We are both trying to figure out this waltz, this dance that we are now dancing alone. But, even though we are dancing alone, we are in the same ballroom. I’m so grateful God drew us together, via my sister-in-law.
“Let that true religion still support you. What it has done—it can still do. It has proved to you its reality and its power—still trust it as the anchor of your soul, sure and steadfast. If it prevented you from sinking, when the shock came first upon you, it can do the same through every future stage of your solitary journeying, and every future scene of your now unshared sorrow.” – The Widow Directed to the Widow’s God by John Angell James, 1841
Such good advice, and like much advice, not always easy to follow. In the weeks after Chuck’s death I was so busy with paperwork and decisions that I just kept going full steam. I had to. Now, as things have settled down, finances have worked out, decisions have been made, the day to day living comes at me begging to be heard. What now? How do I live out this life I have now?
I think God has laid a burden at my feet for other widows. I desire to take this empathy I now have, one I never asked for but am grateful to have, and share it with others. I am seeing such a great need for ministry to widows that is being sorely neglected in so many of our churches. But, how many others are being neglected? What about the elderly cooped up with no one to visit them? The young mother struggling to make ends meet? Do I have empathy for all these? No, but sympathy, certainly. So I have to go with what I know, with what I’ve been given. To take that “cup of cold water” in Jesus’ name.
I had a conversation today with an old neighbor friend. We lived next door to each other for nine years, but I think I talked to her more today than I did those nine years combined. God has been so gracious to me to bring people back into my life to be an encouragement. Talking to her helped me to see that perhaps I AM on the right track as far as plans for the immediate future. I feel God leading me to be a help to my family. To be there, nearby, to be a help in their time of need and in mine. That looks like moving and it looks like traveling.
“Still, ghosts have a way of finding your new address.” – From All Over but the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg
I have found this to be true more than once. I thought when we moved from Winter Haven back to Jacksonville years ago I was going to leave some ghosts behind. But problems often have a way of following you.
The weight of lies will bring you down
And follow you to every town 'cause
Nothing happens here that doesn't happen there
So, when you run make sure you run
To something and not away from 'cause
Lies don't need an aeroplane to chase you anywhere
- The Weight of Lies/The Avett Brothers
Now there are different ghosts, memories. Memories can be good or bad. Or both. But, either way, they have found me and will not let me go.
October 17, 2011 · Hi Angie, hope I’m doing this right. I just wanted you to know that I am thinking about you and hope you have a good class this year! I have been very busy going to Drs. and dentists and seeing my family. However, I hope we can get together before our birthdays and then just maybe Robin Ann will go out with us to celebrate our birthdays! Love , Donna
I recently came across this message on Facebook from an old friend. My college roommate, going back to 1976. We didn’t really become friends until our senior year of high school. We found out we were going to go off to the same school – Georgia Southern College (that was before football – they are now a university). This brought the bright, giggling spirit of Donna into my life. Our birthdays were just a day apart.
Things weren’t always perfect; we sometimes got on each other’s nerves in our tiny dorm room. I had to learn to share space – I never had a sister. But we learned, we adapted, we were there for each other. Donna played the guitar and sang. She put my poems to music when I was missing my high school boyfriend. That didn’t last too long. Absence doesn’t always make the heart grow fonder.
She returned to Jacksonville to finish out her education at UNF and went on to be a teacher and a guidance counselor. She was a perfect fit for both of those positions. We kept in touch, but then a year or so went by and I hadn’t heard from her. This was in 2005 when we moved back to Jacksonville. I found out that she’d fallen, broken an arm, and something went wrong during the surgery. I think it was too much anesthesia. She was in a coma for four months and had to relearn everything. She made a remarkable comeback, but could not go back to work. And even though she won a lawsuit against the hospital, she would have rather been back at work, loving on her students.
The last time I saw her I took her to get her hair done and to lunch. She still had that high-pitched, sing-song voice that just made me smile. She died in January, 2013.
So many deaths and it never gets easier.
Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”
I found the following poem on an old post. I wrote it in 2017. I’m not sure what I was thinking then, but it has new meaning to me now. The clock hands seem to slow down and speed up randomly these days. The dark and quiet follow me each night. “Till death do us part” has a whole new meaning on the other side. But my love was not blind. It was aware and alive. It still is.
clocks hands so slowly move
on across the minutes
twenty-four and repeat
quiet dawn to soft dusk
and moments in between
at last the lovers meet
that raven evermore
returns time and again
dark and quiet to mind
until death do us part
in faded lace and white
oft times love is so blind
I am slowly reading a book called A Widow’s Journey by Gayle Roper. It is like picking up someone’s journal and almost mistaking it for my own. Her husband’s name was also Chuck and the things she relates hit so close to home it’s weird. But in a helpful way.
She talks about how much of her schedule revolved around her husband’s schedule. “I sometimes thought how much I’d love to do what I wanted when I wanted. Now there’s no one to build my life around. I set my own schedule, and it’s scary to have the freedom I thought I wanted.” Wow – so honest. And so me.
She ponders which is better, a prolonged decline to the end of life or a quick death. She tells of the difference between herself and her friend who are both widows, yet with different experiences.
“We both lie alone at night. We both cook for one. We both lug our garbage to the curb each week…but our ache is the same.”
I found such a friend yesterday. She became a widow about a month and a half after me, but she had essentially lost her husband long before to dementia. Finding these kindred spirits has been a blessing from God, my Father who is watching over me.
I cry aloud to the LORD;
I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy. I pour out before Him my complaint; before Him I tell my trouble. Psalm 142:1-2
I’m sitting in the backyard testing out my fire pit and reflecting on the blessings God has sent me in the past 3-4 months. This list is not comprehensive, but a start at saying “Thank-You” to God and to those He has used to bless and uplift me.
To my daughters, Katherine and Leah, who were my anchor in the storm. Their love was expressed over and over in their actions, from making phone calls and making decisions to giving insulin shots and massaging feet. And finding this little house that is slowly becoming a home.
To my sons who called and visited and lifted my burdens in numerous ways. They provided expertise and they provided conversation and they gave love.
To my daughter-in-law, my third daughter, who gave so much advice and held Chuck’s hand on her last visit, with tears in her eyes and love in her heart.
To friends, known and unknown, who prayed when I couldn’t. I felt the prayers holding up my feeble arms.
To my little brother Norman who gave of his time to get me moved – twice – and provided his home to me and his heart. And his cooking- top notch stuff.
To my big brother David, who talked to me in the night as I walked Ruby, who knows firsthand the pain of losing a spouse.
“Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous” I Peter 3:8
To Al, who drove across town to take my car to get new tires. And visited Chuck. And Darlene who made cake.
To Holly and Ken, who visited and prayed and fed us with deliciousness and gave advice and showed the spirit of Christ in actions.
To Candace who was supportive in a time of need, who knows loss, and who gave me a bird feeder that brings me birds and joy every day.
To Darla, Jeannie, Robin, Peggy, Erica and Lee, who reached out and loved on me.
To Aunt Amy who was always a supporter of our family, and is no stranger to loss. She has empathized with tears and I love her.
To the nephews and nieces who have given the strength of their youth and reached out to me across the generational divide.
To Judy and Sheryl and Crystal and Maureen and Sarita who text and call and write letters from Birmingham. A sweet combination of southern hospitality and Christian fellowship.
To cousins, those childhood friends who are forever linked to my heart, no matter how many years go by. Thank you for all the prayers and conversations.
To my sisters in widowhood who have grieved with me and have suffered their own loss: Mary, Beth, Libby, Pam, and Tommie.
To Mark and Eric who prayed with me over the phone and Steve who texted scripture and encouraging words and prayers.
To Dorothy who prayed and wrote a poem, because those are her gifts.
Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. – James 1:27
“Did you know that Levitical priests were required to stop their service at age 50? In other words, retire.”
We talked about going home for at least two years. About retirement. The sadness of Chuck never getting to enjoy his retirement, his grandchildren, just knocks me over sometimes.
“This applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall come to do duty in the service of the tent of meeting. And from the age of fifty years they shall withdraw from the duty of the service and serve no more. They minister to their brothers in the tent of meeting by keeping guard, but they shall do no service. Thus shall you do to the Levites in assigning their duties.” Numbers 8: 24-26
Thinking about this topic, I did a little googling and found this –
“As a society it makes sense that certain jobs that require extreme physical skills such as fireman might have age restrictions. The way in which the Biblical concept differs from that of our society is that as long as the person is mentally and physically capable of contributing to society in any form whatsoever, they should do so. Certainly, one might have to move from one function to another, but sitting at home waiting for one’s pension check and focusing only on pleasing oneself tends to hurt the individual as well as the society.” – Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin
So, I guess I’m officially “retired” now myself as a teacher in the state of Florida. I don’t know what the Lord has in store for me in the coming years, but I pray that He will use me somewhere, somehow.
I received some lovely cards after Chuck’s death. Some were very meaningful and I want to share a few. This card was from Chuck’s “State Farm Family”. I felt like it was from a close friend. I don’t know who picked it out, but I’m guessing who it was. I thank God for using these ladies, only one of whom I ever got to meet, to bless me with these timely words.
… I imagine you may be overwhelmed because you’ve been dealing with so much lately, and maybe you’re wondering how things are ever going to work out.
And I just want to remind you that although life brings many changes, God’s love for us remains constant.
He’s always there, guiding us through decisions and helping us do the hard things…
And the most beautiful thing about God is that the more we need Him, the closer He is.
That’s how I know He is especially close to you now.
God has truly been helping me do the hard things. And He has sent others to help me do some of those hard things.
“Grief is not on a schedule that you can rush.” – Ed Wallen, Leaving DarkLand
I received some lovely cards after Chuck’s death. Some were very meaningful and I want to share a few.
One was from my old friend, Jeannie. We go way back to the early years of our marriages. Our husbands knew each other as boys and worked together for a time. That’s how I met Jeannie.
I remember Chuck would sometimes go to several stores in order to find the right card for me, or our daughters or his mother. Jeannie knew of our love of music. She paid attention. That means so much. The card she gave me was perfect, something hard to find.
Remembering Their Beautiful Song
God gives every person their own unique song —
It’s one that will play their entire life long,
Through the love that they give and the gifts that they share,
Through the memories they make and the dreams that they dare…
It’s a song filled with beauty and day-to-day grace,
That plays through until they see God face to face.
A song that is heard in the heart, loud and clear —
A song, if we listen, we’ll always still hear.
Thank you, Jeannie. Thank you, God, for old friends.
“And His grace will be sufficient when your heart is pierced with pain.”