At Church on Saturday evening we heard a reading from the Bible that included a widow. As the lector read the word "widow," she changed the inflection of her voice. Later, during the sermon, our priest talked at length about the widow in the parable we'd just heard. Every single time he said the word, I cringed. He changed his tone too. There was an implied sense of fragility that I found myself wanting to reject whenever the widow was mentioned. In addition to the implied weakness was a shadow of sorrow that irked me. Sorry, I was sitting in Church seriously annoyed.
My brain started to tune out the sermon, and try as I might I could NOT pay attention to the lesson at hand. Instead I started parading all the widowed people I know across the front of the Church. Each time the word widow was mentioned I resisted the image being implied of a needy, teary, helpless woman and imagined the widowed skydivers, rock climbers, runners and bikers, single widowed parents who manage a family alone, people who honor the love they shared with their spouse by raising money for causes, founding organizations, writing down their most intimate fears and hopes so that others like them won't feel so alone. By the time the homily was over I filled the Church with the widowed people who inspire me to keep reaching higher, loving deeper, and giving more than I ever knew was possible before I survived the loss of my husband. You guys looked great!
The thing is I was once needy, scared, dependent, teary, and at times pretty sure I was helpless. But that was only one part of this grief journey. When I hear the word widow I don't think about the first weeks after someone loses their spouse, because in my opinion those early days are not the most difficult part of this experience. The hard part is picking up the pieces and reconciling yourself to the fact that the picture of your life will never again be the same. Which is not to say that life is over, however much we may wish that were true sometimes. Eventually we learn the beauty of the mosaic....taking the pieces and creating a whole new picture with what we have in front of us. The resulting image will not be the same, but it can be perfect none the less.