Like often happens when I read the rest of the writing team's posts, Sarah's post on Sunday struck a chord. I wonder when I'll get to the point where pretty much the first thing I say to someone isn't "I'm a widow; my husband died two and a half years ago" or some variation on the theme.
And then changes just keep on happening around me that have me feeling I am being told to hurry up to the next identity stage.
First, I didn't get the internship, but I'm ok with that and was expecting that outcome.
Just considering work at this time is a change in and of itself.
Then the next one hit.
Sunday evening it was announced to our church community that our Minister has been called to another congregation. This community shockwave has come after our Associate Minister announced he was leaving about a month or so ago. They each move on to their new communities early in the new year.
Honestly, I'm glad I have a counsellor's appointment this week.
This change is significant in terms of Ian and I's story. The Minister was there when Ian first brought me to this community about 5 years ago. Then a little while after, in the space of 15 short months, he baptised John, married Ian and I and conducted Ian's funeral service. And just last week, he conducted a short ceremony as I interred Ian's parent's ashes at the church's memorial wall.
But he won't be there to do Ian's when I'm ready to.
Since Ian's death, I have developed many more connections and friendships within the community, but at that time of crisis, it's the ordained leaders that get turned to and who get the front row seat to the action. My dad's most repeated phrase during Ian's hospitalisation was probably "Call the Minister".
The change will signal different things to each of us in the community and as a result some will stay, others may seek alternative congregations, some may play 'follow the leader' to the next congregation, others may step up into leadership of some form. In many ways, this transition period is probably going to shake out similarly to what I saw happen to the workforce during a company acquisition and the instillation of new leadership.
But personally, I think my experience will be I'll feel their departure twice over:
Loss of the friendships forged through the support they gave through Ian's illness and death.
And John's dealing with the departure of men he adores & who've helped fill the male role model gap left by Ian (along with plenty of others in the community).
Just as each member of the community will face their own process of growth through this season of change, maybe for me it's a sign that I'm really through the darkest period of my widowhood and like Sarah said earlier this week, ready to emerge into a new identity that's coloured by the experience, but not defined by the title of 'widow'. A sign that maybe I no longer need some of those key players around as consistently as I have to date - but it's ok to wish they'd be around.
Like every significant loss or change to date in my life, there is a bit of lead time, a period of transition to come to terms with the changes. Time in which I can coach a particular small person that sometimes people move, but they're not permanently gone (since that's all John's actually experienced to date).
The community the Minister's going to lead is the local church of a friend of mine and is not too much longer a drive from my home than our home congregation.
And as good friends do, she's offered to have us over for lunch after service every now and then.