Looking back, you wonder in amazement where the two years since his passing on March 1, 2015, have gone. They seem to have evaporated like your spirit to carry on. But live you must, and only you know the true reasons for hanging on.
Well-meaning friends say, “take one day at a time,” as if there is anything else you can do.
It was sudden. The phone rang after midnight awakening me from a fitful sleep.
You instantly know it cannot be good news. The voice on the other end said, “I’m sorry to have to tell you your husband passed away at 12:15 a.m,” leaving me in shock and despair.
I was alone up north, isolated and unbelieving of the news I had just received. Death has been something I’ve always feared. No amount of attending church sustained me with reassurance there was a Heaven and that we would be with our loved ones again.
My husband had smiled at me as I was leaving that afternoon for much needed rest. He asked if I would return the next day. I thought that was odd and I replied: “of course.” We parted with what would be our last kiss and a goodbye.
I cannot recall the sequence of events that followed, but I notified my sons downstate and the funeral home. Even at this point I don’t really want to rethink it all; about how all alone, I proceeded to put things in order for his funeral. We got through it, but I know I could never have gotten through a regular funeral with viewing and people streaming by. This was a private funeral. He was a private man.
Other widows are left to deal with the aftermath of losing their mate to a long, drawin-out sickness, or a sudden death. Neither is of consolation. They are left to deal with the reality of losing their lover, confidant, and best friend. They all admit to much sobbing and loneliness. Having family helps but eventually they say when they are alone, the desolation hits them hard. They tell me each day is a challenge as the memories of life as it was flood their minds and some days they are paralyzed with fear. They also are told things will get better as time passes.
As for me, I drove back up north alone the day after the funeral. I had never been alone throughout my life. As an Armenian girl brought up in our traditional fashion, I lived with my parents until I married and then lived with my husband. The only time we were apart in 52 years of marriage was when I was persuaded to go to Ireland for two weeks with a Dubliner fellow real estate agent. She knew how hard I worked to succeed. I finally gave in to her, realizing I needed relief from the constant stress. So in 1992, my Irish friend and I landed at Dublin airport and I loved the Emerald Isle.
I always wanted to return to Ireland with my husband, but it was never to be.
Asking widows to express how they feel is a sensitive subject. Each and every one had the same thing to say: “I am lonely, so very lonely. I lost my life’s companion, never thinking death would be so difficult to deal with.”
The widows are overcome with grief when they recall the times they shared with their husbands. Laughing comes hard. They look at their wedding photos, amazed at how young they appeared. They recall the wedding ceremonies, the receptions full of family and friends. It brings solace, but still the tears flow. Where did those years go? Some of the widows are firm in their faith that they’ll be with their mate again one day—a few were hesitant to believe it but hoped it was true.
These women experience the ups and downs life throws at us all. They seemed to be resilient. Some have decided to fill the emptiness with volunteer work, some have joined card clubs and bowling leagues, others have devoted time to baking at church for bazaars and picnics.
It is bad enough to become an adult orphan when our parents die, but some have lost siblings and even a child. Death is a part of life and can be cruel when the loss sustained is young.
They all agree loneliness is the hardest part of being a widow. Many have had to take on new tasks like pumping gas, getting a lawn and snow removal service, having a new roof put on, getting estimates for foundation problems on the house, and of course writing all the notes of appreciation to those who had attended the funeral and paid respect to their families in other ways.
Some of these women—now alone—are fortunate, as they claim to feel the presence of their deceased husband in their home; they feel as if they are guiding them in many ways, which brings peace and serenity.
Death is a part of life, a path all humans must follow. It is a journey—not an end, but a new beginning into another world with God. They are there waiting for us widows and widowers alike.
Our hearts are heavy. Smiles come with difficulty. It is, as they say, “one day at a time.”