I am fortunate to have many beautiful family and friends in my life. Today, though, I feel moved to express just how important all my widowed friends are to me. I know I would not be able to walk through my own life now without them.
The day Mike died, as we were making all those terrible phone calls, and just after that word “widow” had entered my consciousness, one of the first people I thought of was Cheryl. We had been friends with her and her husband since we first moved to Kona in 2001; they were among the first martial arts students Mike found here and we ended up sharing some memorable evenings together too. Her husband sadly passed away from skin cancer a couple of years before Mike - also, far too young. Mike and I went to his memorial together though we had kind of lost touch with them during those interim years. However I’d see her around town occasionally, and she only lives a few blocks away from me.
Being the stellar human being she is, she appeared at the house that day and was a rock for me that first horrific week. At the time I wondered how it was possible she had survived it all herself. She seemed so strong; so together, and even upbeat and positive about everything. And she has remained one of my rocks. We get together regularly now and are closer than we ever were. I will always treasure her presence in my life, and look up to her as an example of a life lived well, and fully, despite the circumstances.
About three months after Mike died I was put in touch with Margaret through common family and friends. It had only been a matter of days since she had lost her husband to a sudden and very unexpected stroke. Thus began a slew of novella-length emails which eventually became a flurry of texts…we became friends long distance through our common misery. I’ll never forget one particular exchange that first summer, me crying so long and hard I could barely see…somehow the conversation ended up with us wondering if we were going to resemble the characteristic old Greek widows dressed in black with warts and all. She texted me a picture she found online and I couldn’t remember having laughed so hard in my life, even through my tears. In fact we still laugh about that one occasionally…somehow our middle-aged widowhood has made us both more conscious of things like unwanted hair sprouting from surprising locations as we age and it has brought some levity into an otherwise torturous situation. I visited her once in California and she has stayed with me here in Kona twice. I know we are friends for life.
My grief counsellor of course is absolutely one of the best people I’ve ever known. She was the one who helped me see the forest through the trees…and although the individual sessions were where so many of my struggles found respite, I did also briefly attend a few group sessions. It was there I learned how many of us there are…how different we are, and how different the experience of grief can be, even through the commonalities. It was very eye-opening.
Ironically it was the musician who opened up my world to more widowed friends. Since his life took him out and about so much more than Mike and I ever wandered in this little town, I soon found myself part of a new group of friends, with a surprising number of them being widowed. In fact I still never cease to be amazed how many of us there really are out there. At one point I rationalized it this way: well, people die, and lots of them were married. Ergo: widowhood. A rather well-populated subsection of our society.
Just one of those things people might not think about much until they find themselves walking in those shoes.
I had dinner with my friend Lynn again the other night. We met at one of the musician’s shows well over a year ago now, and have become fast friends as well. Our circumstances are similar in many respects, including that we both lost our husbands to unexpected heart attacks and came upon their bodies, and we also are both dating new men. We talk a lot about the challenges we face with it all - and we also talk about our independent spirits. How we work to appreciate our own inner strength - something we might not have done had our husbands still been here. I also look up to her as an example of a life lived well, even given the circumstances. “Making the best of it” isn’t just meaningless lip service. It’s a way of life for us, trite as it may be. We miss our husbands deeply and always will.
I could seriously list at least a dozen other names of widowed ladies (and men!) who have made a difference in my life since Mike died. When we see each other, email, or chat, we don’t need to explain why any particular idea of the day carries a certain weight…we all know we are dealing with life without our beloveds. We get each other. We know where we are coming from. We relate. We know how much more agonizing a given problem can be without our partners’ support, and that our hearts will ache for them no matter how many years have passed.
And this blog…this community at Soaring Spirits, this amazing place where we can share and support and bond and commiserate…and even, sometimes, celebrate. Only my widowed friends really understand how important it is to be a part of it. Writer, reader, camper…sufferer, survivor…friend and confidante.
I am so grateful for you all. It has made all the difference.