Sunday, March 7


I was at a church function a few weeks ago, and was introduced to a young widower by a mutual friend. In conversation, she turned to me and said something along the lines of "I thought it would be good for you two to meet, because being widowed at your age is so rare."

"Actually, it's not as rare as you might think." I calmly informed her. She looked at me, somewhat surprised, and the conversation quickly dropped.

I've thought a lot about that comment since then, and the perception-shared by so many-that being widowed at my age is rare. I think it's a common perception, and I understand the desire to believe that as a whole, young people don't die. Of course, I know that to be a falsehood-a myth that is hurtful and alienating. Since I became widowed nearly 2 years ago, I have learned that there is a vast network of other young widows surrounding me. I have met them everywhere-at school, at church, at the grocery store. I'm part of a large online network geared specifically toward young widows, but I have come across them in almost every other walk of my life as well.

The young widowed don't talk much. We rarely go around shouting about our status, and oftentimes I will know somebody at least casually for quite some time before we will discover the bond we share. I've noticed that the times I am in a group of young widows, we occasionally have people ask why we are together. The response is almost universally the same-the questioner stands silent waiting for a response, while the widows shoot looks at each other and weigh possible responses. Almost always, somebody will offer a half-truth, and attempt to leave the crimson 'W' out of the equation entirely. People-as a whole-are uncomfortable with death. It's like the question-I understand why people want to know how he died. It fills a need for the brain to categorize and make sense of something that doesn't make any sense at all. People who haven't been touched intimately by death don't want to think about the ease with which a human body can cease to sustain life. Those of us who HAVE been touched by death are too aware that a single moment can steal away life. I envy the naivete of the un-grieving. I wish I could go back to the days where bad things happen to 'other people'.

Every day we hear about traffic accidents. You can't turn on the news or open a newspaper without reading about a murder, an industrial accident, or some other terrible event. How many people die from cancer every year? How many heart attacks? Strokes? Every single one of these deaths leaves somebody behind. It's easy to grumble about an accident that ties up the interstate and disturbs our evening commute. What I can't forget is the family whose lives were just shattered. I'll never forget driving to Tennessee last June for a camping trip with the boys and a group of young widows. Alongside the interstate, I passed by the aftermath of an accident.

Burned into my memory is the sight of the the red minivan on the side of the road. The emergency crews, for the most part, were gone. I can only speculate about the inhabitants of the vehicle based on what I saw. In the back of the van, the detritus of a family vacation was piled above the seats. Sleeping bags, stuffed animals, pillows. The windshield of the van was smashed in a way that sent my heart into the pit of my stomach-smashed in a way that ends lives and destroys families. With my heart in my shoes, I pressed the accelerator and quietly gulped back tears while we went along the road, muttering a fervent prayer that the inhabitants of that vehicle-and the family of who wasn't there-would be okay.

Every time an ambulance comes screaming up behind me on the highway, or drives past in the opposite direction with lights and sirens blaring, I say a prayer for the family that now has unspeakable sorrow to bear. I've been at the scene of the accident, waiting for the ambulance to come and work a miracle. For many people, the sound of an ambulance screeching into existence would bring about relief-for me the thought of an ambulance pulling up near me gives me enormous anxiety. Ambulances, fire trucks, and Sheriff's cars bring bad news. They accompany death, heartache, and pain.

These accidents-these illnesses-these nameless people who die quietly of cancer or heart failure in the hospital downtown-they each leave behind a family. A wife, children, siblings, parents. I wish with all my heart that being widowed at my age WAS a rarity. Unfortunately, it's entirely too common, and there is nothing-NOTHING-I can do about it.

It's Perfect

Right now these are cooking in the oven, the kids are downstairs playing, and the sun is shining. I get to go to church today to learn and be uplifted.

Today couldn't be much more perfect.

Saturday, March 6

Early Gratitude

Dear Early Spring,

You are the season who answered my plea from the other day. In response you brought us three glorious days of this:

in a row, with a few more forecast.

My heart sings with gratitude, Early Spring. My soul delights in stark shadows on the ground and the need for sunglasses in the car. This morning I sat outside on my deck and basked in your warmish rays.

Thanks for your quick resonse, Early Spring. Please stay for a while-make yourself at home, and make all the plants, trees, and flowers come to life.


Thursday, March 4


I've been thinking a lot about these little people who live in my house.

The other night-late-I took my garbage and recycling out to the curb for pickup early the next morning. As I was walking back to the house I heard a loud, angry voice cutting through the early morning silence. My next door neighbor was screaming obscenities at somebody in his house at 1 am. He was screaming loud enough that I could clearly make out the F-bomb sprinkled liberally in the tirade.

This man is mentally unstable on the best of days, and everybody on the street knows to steer clear of him, and how to know when it's time to call the police to come calm him down. This man is also married, with 3 children ranging in age from about 2 to early teen. The child I know the most is a girl a year or 2 older than Jeremy. They play together outside frequently, and she has been to our house a few times. The other two children-the older and younger-are boys. The wife is always gone, doing who-knows-what, leaving the mentally unstable man home with the children most days.

I don't know a lot about what goes on in their house, but I know that children's protective services have been called several times, along with the local police department making approximately quarterly visits to the home. Legally, it seems that nobody is able to do anything to help this family in crisis.

Standing on my front porch that night listening to him scream, I thought about his children. I imagined them huddled together in one bed, listening to their parents fling vicious words at top volume. I imagined those children trying desperately to sleep through the violent anger, through the dismal existence they lead. I hurt for them. I included them in my prayers, and I have thought of them almost nonstop since that night.

In turn, I've also thought a lot about my children. I know I complain a lot-about my life, and how hard it is being a widowed parent. When I came back in the house and got ready to crawl into bed that night, I woke Kadon up and asked him to come sleep in my bed. I curled around his sleeping form and stroked his curls. I listened to his breath go in and out of his lungs, and relished how his legs fit perfectly in the bend between my knees and my waist. I smelled his breath; the vestiges of bath odors clinging to his hair; the warmth of his soft cheek.

I thought about my children, and how much I adore them. For all the things that are wrong in our household, I know my children will never huddle together in bed at night, wondering when the screaming will stop. Instead, they will huddle in bed with me-fighting for covers and pillow space. We will tickle, and giggle, and fight over who gets to hold the popcorn bowl.

It is so incredible that I get to be their mother. It occurred to me the other day that for at least the next few years (and hopefully far beyond that!) I get the distinction of being their very favorite person in the world. My children are lucky to be surrounded by a great group of people-they have friends, aunts, cousins, and grandparents who adore them fully-but I am the favorite. Given the option between me and anybody else in the world, they will choose me every single time.

The parents out there know how heady this is.

I love that when they're hurt, they reach for me. I love that when they color a pretty picture at daycare or make a valentine at school, they bring it to me. I love when something is unfair in the world, they look to me to fix it.

I am their favorite.

It's intoxicating.

And I ache for the children who don't get to have a favorite, who have nobody to make valentines for and nobody to snuggle with them at night. I wish I could fix things for them, and show them a way out of the darkness that they're living in. I don't like feeling helpless.