Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Church on Widow Lane


I’ve wondered at times if widowhood is easier for women who are regular churchgoers. After all, they have their church families---communities of people who supposedly care about the sick, elderly and lonely people in their congregations. But when ever I start thinking along those lines I remember a widow writing in her blog about her minister who, just days after her husband’s funeral, wanted to bring a committee over to her house to clear it out of every thing that her husband owned. The minister told her she couldn’t “get over her loss” until she did. She was so distraught over the thought of a half dozen people coming to her house to pick it over that she was thinking of changing churches if he didn’t stop badgering her. Call me cynical but my first thought was that the committee sounded like a wake of vultures picking over a dead carcass. Wow, I need a new flying rod. Look at this beauty!

I’ve never been a churchgoer unless you count the Sunday school classes my brother and I attended for a few years until we decided that exploring the near-by Indian mound was a better way to spend our Sunday mornings. My folks were not churchgoers either but they thought their kids should learn the basics and it didn’t matter to them which of the four churches within walking distance that my brother and I attended. Throw in a few summertime Bible School day camps and some religions-of-the-world type classes in college and you have the sum total of my religious upbringing. I keep waiting for a lightening bolt to strike me, to deliver a message from beyond that I’m missing something important by not going to church. So far it hasn’t come.

Friends of ours---a couple---got struck by that lightening bolt and they joined a mega-church then they totally immersed themselves in the culture of the church. Classes, committees, Christian tattoos on their bodies, daily devotions on their Facebook page and prayer cards at their place of business. To this day, they positively glow whenever they talk about their transformation. I was happy for them. They obviously needed something in their lives to anchor them but I must admit it was weird seeing this couple---one of whom had a potty mouth before finding religion---try to fine my husband fifty cents for saying the word “shit” after his stroke. Cripe, he only had a 25 word vocabulary at the time and they were trying to talk scripture with him. What did they think he was going to say? Hallelujah, amen and here’s a twenty for the collection plate? One time a faith healer was due to speak at their church and they wanted me to bring Don out to the event to have his paralysis prayed away. “Worth a try,” they said. Ya, sure, I thought but didn’t say, if I believed that I’d be down at the bank arranging for a loan to buy some ocean front property in North Dakota.

Shortly after Don passed away I was alone with him in his intensive care room when the Chaplin showed up. She asked if she could do anything to help Don “find his way home” and I said, “No, we’re not religious.” Then she asked if I minded if she said a prayer for his soul “before she walked me out to my car.” Queue the stage hands, it’s time to close the final curtain and turn another newly minted widow out of the room. I guess someone has to do it, why not a hospital Chaplin? I let her say her prayer and then I kissed Don and whispered the words that are etched in our grave marker: “Happy trails to you until we meet again.” That made the Chaplin positively beam and say something about that being a prayer in my own way. She might as well have said, “No heathens in this room! The widow believes in an after-life.” She was too young to have ever heard Roy Rogers and Dale Evans sing those words at the end of their radio and TV shows in the ‘40s and ‘50s. But she was on the right track. I do believe our souls have always been and will always be connected in the Great Beyond.

When you google the phrase ‘finding religion late in life’ it comes up with 42,500,000 hits. It’s clear I’m not the only one who wonders if that lightening bolt is going to strike. At the very first website I clicked on was the following quote by New York Times op-ed columnist, Charles Bows:

“While science, logic and reason are on the side of the nonreligious, the cold, hard facts are just so cold and hard. Yes, the evidence for evolution is irrefutable. Yes, there is a plethora of Biblical contradictions. Yes, there is mounting evidence from neuroscientists that suggests that God may be a product of the mind. Yes, yes, yes. But when is the choir going to sing? And when is the picnic? And is my child going to get a part in the holiday play?”

Bingo. Haven’t I known all along that the appeal of church is the sense of community, of family and the traditions they provide? As appealing as that is in my widowhood, to join one of the churches in the area I would have to give up my world view of religion and spirituality and the idea that there are many paths to God. Not going to happen, boys and girls! So I’ll go on being a church of one on Widow Lane. ©

7 comments:

  1. This made me think of the conversation I had with the hospital chaplain next to my husband's bed. I told her I am a person of faith, but I wasn't thinking of God much at the moment. She asked my husband's faith, and I said he didn't even believe in God.

    "No, wait!" I corrected myself. "He's an agnostic. He's probably an atheist, but he's decided to be an agnostic--you know--just in case he's wrong."

    That gentle woman paused for a moment to take it in.

    "Your husband sounds like a witty man."

    "He is," I replied, "He really is."

    Thanks for sharing your story of those moments in the room, Jean.

    It's good that you steer clear of overbearing church committees. That said, a unitarian church may be worth a visit. The one in our town has Christians and Pagans and everyone in between and outside. There is no doctrine to sign onto. I visited it when I was church-shopping when I moved here. It didn't fit me right, spiritually, but I'd wished it had, because it was weird and wonderful and offered such a lovely community and the building was so pretty.

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  2. Thanks for sharing that story of your bedside experience with the hospital chaplain. That pretty much describes Don and his beliefs as well and if I had thought quicker I might have even had the exact same conversation that day.

    The Unitarian Church is about the only one that sounds interesting enough for me to check out but ours is downtown and I don't drive down there.

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  3. Gosh, I'm not sure what to say. I've conflicts, too. #1 deeply spiritual and committed to God's guidance. #2 resistant to prayer warriors interpreting sickness as an enemy to slay. #3 presently wondering if re entering a community of church people will be supportive or stifling.

    I was deeply involved in church life for fifteen years, then left its community twenty years ago. Upon departure, my faith had a big growth burst, released from its constraints of denominational ideology. Now, in this stage of my life, I guess I am more at peace without constraints than I am without community.

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  4. Fred died in a Catholic hospital, so a lady Chaplain was there, wanted to give me communion and I told her I was a Protestant. Then she wanted to know if she could pray, I agreed, and when she was done, she leaned over and put the sign of the cross on Fred's forehead. I almost wanted to get a wash cloth and wash it off and then thought, "What does it matter?" She left, his nurse came back in and said, "Is everything all right?" and I replied, "Well, we had our Methodist minister pray for Fred and now a Catholic has prayed for him--if I could just find a Rabbi--Fred would have all his bases covered.!" She actually laughed!!! I don't think any non-denominational Mega church is going to give you what you need, nor is the Unitarian Church---I've been there and done that. Baptist Church is going to be "too churchy" for you.You might find some sort of peace in a nice, smallish Methodist Church--we are into free will and choosing how you want to worship God--we are also into finding our own way. I have been going to one up town, since Fred died--maybe half a dozen people know who I am, (" the tall blonde woman who sits in the sixth pew") other then the minister. We don't shout--we don't raise our hands in the air and rock to the music--we are pretty laid back and calm. No one has come up to me and asked if I wanted to join the woman's groups or serve on any committee. I don't join any of the groups--I like to stay incognito, LOL. The best part of it is the singing of the old songs--probably the same ones you sang in Sunday School/Vacation Bible School. I go to the Traditional Service because I absolutely deplore the new, Contemporary songs that just repeat and repeat and repeat the same words over and over--ad nauseum. OR--you can continue to hold your own services at Widow's Lane--all you have to do it say, "Thank You, God. For the best husband I could ever have." Pretty simple. "-)

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  5. Such interesting contributions to this discussion, Judy and Gowitheflow! The minister who did my husband's service could have gotten me into a church. Unfortunately, he got moved to another state. We talked for a long time to plan Don's service and he and I were in perfect harmony. Those mega churches don't appeal to me, either, Judy. I like your idea of going "incognito" and that's what I'd do if I ever do get struck by lightening. There is a Buddhist temple near-by that intrigues me. But it's so small there is no way I could go incognito. LOL

    Five years ago I was on a kick where every Sunday morning and write something about morals, ethics, philosophy or values for living. I called them my Sunday Sermons. One of my favorites is here: http://voices.yahoo.com/fess-anyone-gluttony-greed-174249.html?cat=60 It's somewhat irreverent, so read it at your own risk.

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  6. Jean, Thanks for this. I was a very devout Catholic into my early twenties. As I discovered my feminist soul, however, I found the sexism of the Church more and more difficult to deal with and stopped going to Church. In the years since, I have found a deep sense of spirituality in connection to nature and the sense of being part of the web of life, but I've never been tempted by any kind of conventional religion. When I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer 15 years ago (prognosis for 5-year survival: 20%), I wondered if I'd get religious in the face of death. I didn't. The doctor I saw for chemo had a big religious thing going and had a "patient advocate" whose job was "to pray for you." Yuck!! (I still feel as though having their religion shoved down my throat as the price of getting treatment was probably a violation of medical ethics.) It was a relief to me, however, to realize that my experience of mortality anchored me more deeply in my own non-religious spirituality rather than sending me running to church. -Jean

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  7. I try to be respectful of deeply religious people in hopes that in return they will be respectful of my chosen path to God. But having a 'prayer warrior' assigned to you (without your permission) was definitely going over the line! When my husband was alive it wasn't uncommon when we were out and about to have a strange ask if he/she could say a prayer for him and I always said 'yes' but that was a prayer in passing, not an invasive thing while getting treatments. With all your gardening and working with the earth, it's easy to see where your spiritual comes from.

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