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

Sunday, March 15, 2015

We're Born and Then we Die---What's the in Between all About?



A good friend of my niece’s just passed away this week while on a trip to Hawaii. He was only 65. I knew him slightly back when he was a college student working part-time at a large wholesale/retail flower shop and greenhouse where, at the time, I was working full time. But over the years I’d read and heard a lot about him as his career path took him from being a fourth grade teacher to a district reading coordinator to the principal of the elementary school where he and my niece both recently retired from. He was also active in the Michigan Elementary Principals Association but the kids at his school, perhaps, will best remember him as Zero the Hero, a red tights and swim goggles wearing guy who was passionate about getting each and every child in his school fired up about reading. It’s hard to lose a good friend. I could be wrong but I think this is the first time my niece is experiencing that unwelcome life experience. He was the best man at her wedding, a golf buddy to her husband, a fellow member of their long-standing poker club and far more than just her principal.

Other than my husband, I can’t even say that I’ve experiencing losing a close friend and especially to something as unexpected as a lethal heart attack. Before Don died, I had occasionally wondered who would be the first in my circle of friends to die and I even recall thinking after he passed that I didn’t need to wonder anymore. It was Don. He was my first friend to die. We are acclimated to losing older members of our families and can console ourselves that the person who died lived a long life filled with many blessings or joys. Widows in my age bracket can even console ourselves by saying the same thing about our spouses. With a person like Zero the Hero I know many will be consoled by his life-long history of giving his all to his passion projects. At his retirement party Zero the Hero said of his school, "I feel like I've taken more than I've given with this job. You just can't have a down day here. There's just too much positive energy all the time." But from what I hear tell, he wasn’t giving himself enough credit for having created and maintained that positive energy for so many years.

When someone we respect dies and the dust settles, even someone we mostly knew through someone else or through the media we can’t help looking at our own lives and taking stock of what we’re contributing to the world. Have we fulfilled our legacy, made our tiny piece of the world a better place? Have we accomplished enough things on our Bucket Lists? Have we had enough fun, given enough, loved enough? And I keep coming back to the sentiments expressed by Burt Bacharach’s song: “What's it all about, Alfie? Is it just for the moment we live? What's it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?” Theologians have been working on that for centuries and think they have all the answers, and perhaps they do. We grow up learning about good versus evil, free will, the concept of God, the soul and the afterlife. And we like to think we are a part of something bigger than just waking up every morning to a new day, a new start. What is that something bigger than ourselves? A minister once told me: “The secret is there is no secret. Life is about love. You can interchange the word ‘love’ for ‘God’ and ‘God for ‘love’ and that’s all there is to it. We are here to love one another.” If that's true, then people like Zero the Hero left this world full-filling his mission. He was loved deeply and he loved deeply. 

I can’t image what it’s like growing up not knowing love. As a widow and a person who lost both my parents I still struggle with feeling like there is no one left on earth who loves me. Intellectually, I know that isn’t true but in my heart I miss hearing the words. I have one niece-in-law who never misses saying it at the end of a visit or phone call but that’s all. I have friends who have a pact with their spouses to say “I love you” at the end of every phone call. Something about wanting that to be the last words the other hears if one should die while they’re apart. It seems strange, sometimes, to hear one side of a phone call where heated or tense words are being exchanged but they still end their call with, “I love you.” But then again, maybe that’s exactly the right time to say it. I’ve read a few widow blogs where the writers were racked with guilt because they’d been fighting just before their spouses passed away and they wish they'd gotten the chance to say, "I love you." I got to say that to Don a few minutes before he died and to hear him say back, “love” which was the very best his aphasic brain could do and that was enough. I hope Zero the Hero’s family also got to hear the three most important words in the English language. Note to anyone still reading this, please say them today to someone you love. ©

10 comments:

  1. Hubby and I say them often each day. My granddaughter is so good at saying she loves us.

    When one of us leaves for an appointment we always kiss and say I love you. You never know if that's the last time you'll see each other. Yes, it's important.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. That's not something that was commonly said out loud in my family or between me and Don. It was more a thing actions spoke louder than words. But I can see that your way is better.

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  2. Fortunately, although I was raised NOT saying these things aloud, Mr. Ralph was the total opposite. I couldn't say I LOVE YOU enough, in his mind. So I'm much better now about expressing some emotions. Even more important is to tell someone "ouch, that hurt me". I used to keep that bottled up, but years of trying to have a relationship with an addict has taught me a lot. It's just as important to communicate about lots of things ... often the other person has no clue that they hurt you. It's working pretty well for me!

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    1. It takes a village to train us, does it......

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  3. You and I were lucky those were our last words we spoke and the last words we heard from our Sweethearts! No I love you in my growing up, except from my Grandma. It was just "assumed" that Mommy and Daddy loved us, I guess. I say it every time I see or speak on the phone to my kids or grandkids, but...my sister and I rarely say it to each other. We just assume :-)

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    1. It is comforting and a blessing to have heard and said those words at the end, I know. I can't remember the last time I said it to my brother...years. Like you and your sister, we just assume. I have tried in recent years saying it to people I love but it sure feels awkward and I backed off again. I do write it in cards and mean it or I don't write it.

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  4. "I love you" is a weird thing. I loved when it's said with meaning -- whether in a light-hearted vein or a serious one. But sometimes I think it's over-used -- like at the end of every phone call? That just seems like a rote habit to me, but I get the underlying "just in case" motivation. I've also had people say the love me who I barely know and their presumed closeness feels like an invasion -- I think them saying it is a projection of them wanting to hear it and has nothing to do with me. "I love you" is an intimate expression of deeply knowing, honoring and respecting a person and I think it belies a vulnerability both in the speaker and in the receiver that may be difficult for some. I'm not saying it's use should be so judicious that one rarely utters the phrase. I say it often to those I truly and deeply love. But some of my more "blissed out" friends are constantly spouting LOVE as if it's a spritz of sweet-smelling mist that will eliminate the odor of rancor, violence, and death in every corner of the world. Hmmm.... great blog post; this one has me really thinking... Don't be surprised if you see this topic in MY blog soon. Thanks! :)

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    1. I agree that some people over use the phrase and I feel uncomfortable saying it back when I know they say it to everyone and anyone. I also used to think it was weird and silly to be fighting on the phone and say it at the end, but since I've become a widow, I do understand the mindset behind doing it. So I'm a little more open minded about it now. Still, I don't think I could say it in the same situation.

      A nice thing happened after I wrote this post. One of my nieces read my blog and called me today and we talked for nearly two hours about a whole lot of things and at the end she said "I love you" and then we talked about how rare it is to hear those words in our family even though we all know how much we love one another. She said we should start a new traditions and tell the others in the family to get on board. That will be interesting. LOL The call was well time as I was feeling sort of sorry for myself and depressed for reasons I couldn't even figure out. Then she called and the son-I-wish-I-had called an hour later and my depression disappeared!

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  5. I always say I love you to H before he leaves the house. Always. Interestingly, my DIL dose not 'get' the I-love-you thing. We're from the South. Maybe it's a cultural thing. Maybe it's because she's from another country that is more reserved culturally, or it could be because she is reserved herself. I still hug the crap out of her when they leave. What can I say? I love her, so I'll hug her till I'm sure she knows it. LOL

    So sorry about your/ your niece's friend. It sounds like he put a lot of good into the world, and the world surely needs more people like that, especially kids. I always think that we should be grateful to people like that, even if we don't have kids in school. It makes the world better for all of us when kids grow up to be good, productive people.

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    1. I see all kinds of people doing it both ways---the say-it-all-the-time people and the ones who rarely say it. I was raised in the latter group but I got hugs a lot and always knew I was loved. Your daughter-in-law is lucky you show her your love. So many DIL's don't feel that from their MIL;s.

      Don and I didn't have any kids but we never minded paying school taxes and for other programs the benefit them. We always said someday they will run the world and care for us in our "Golden Years" and they need a good, well-rounded education. My niece's friend was truly one of the good guys who had his heart always in the right place.

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