(Carol and Gordon, April 5, 2005)
On this, the 10th anniversary of her husband’s death, my sister-in-law, Carol, has agreed to share an excerpt here from her recently written series of reflections on the first year of being a widow. Yeah, it gets confusing, both of us being Carol and all. Her excellent booklet, “Checking the Widow Box,” refecting on her first year as a new widow in her early fifties after almost 25 years of marriage is available HERE
The loss of my husband of nearly 25 years left a gaping hole. I was only 52. The unfinished book “The Excellent Wife” (by Martha Peace) sat with a marker frozen in place between its pages. There is no longer an urgency to pick it up again.
Photo albums will no longer be of a family of four, but completed scrapbooks softened the edges of that jagged hole. My then 23 year old daughter asked “Who will walk me down the aisle?”
And I wonder how I will be able to support myself, take care of the yard, live alone. Who do I call about adjusting the automatic thermostat, the broken shower door or with computer or car repair questions? Who will finish the projects he started?
With whom will I reminisce about the trip to Georgia and Alabama when it was just the two of us to remember? Gordon won’t be there to share our dreams for the future or sit with me in church or fall asleep on my couch. I won’t have a reason to fix his favorite potato soup or pecan pie. There are so many layers to losing a husband that only time would reveal, and often unexpectedly. I never thought “til death do us part” would come so young and in this way.
I learned grief is like a shadow, a permanent, attached part of me. It used to cast a long, obvious shadow, but now, even though that shadow is short and sometimes hidden, it is and always will be there. I learned you cannot fully understand grief’s broken heart until you experience it yourself. I learned sorrow and joy can exist side by side, not only in the same day but in the same moment. I learned my anchor in Christ was strong enough to hold me through the storm. I learned I needed salty tears to wash my broken heart.
I learned just as others’ lives continued on around me, I had to make my own also go on. I learned how to redefine “a hope and a future” because my future was no longer linked to my spouse. I am learning to deal with loneliness as I learn to fill the holes left by my husband’s death.
I learned grief is weird, making me feel conspicuous yet invisible, surrounded yet alone, comforted yet afraid. I learned to do the things I think I cannot do. I learned every loss has layers. I learned how to navigate through my own journey of loss and pain.
My belief God is never early and never late was tested to the max and I came through the experience with that belief still intact. Above all, I can say with the Psalmist “I have seen the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13)
by Carol Jones Longenecker
And now from the other Carol, me, the sister.
And who walked that daughter down the aisle when she got married? Her mother and her brother. Carol said we would experience JOY on this day and we did. See it in their faces?
“A Day of Joy” four years later
Four little boys have been added to the family – my brother’s grandsons. : He’d be over-the-moon proud of his grown-up children, their spouses, and those little men. (updated, January 1, 2022: There are now six rambunctious boys and one sweet little girl, who has her own version of rambunctious.)
And to my brother I would say – you would be so proud of that wife of yours. She just put one foot in front of the other and did the things she thought she couldn’t do. I think she surprised herself. She’s quite a woman!
You are welcome to leave messages here for her in the comments below.
You can now order “Checking the Widow Box” HERE – Available in Kindle and paper back
(You can also read a letter I wrote to my brother HERE on the 5th anniversary of his death.)
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