When I was new to this widowhood thing, I kept hearing stories about a childhood friend of a friend who had been widowed in a very similar way to me. Sawan had died in late August and this woman was widowed in November. Her husband was the same age as Sawan (40) and was super healthy. In fact, her husband collapsed while on a run, happened to be in front of an emergency room, and they were unable to save him. It turned out to be blockages in his arteries, which was also a contributing factor with Sawan’s death. There were so many similarities in our stories, and I was longing for fellowship with someone who could understand me, that I really wanted to meet her. She eventually moved to Denver and when we finally met, it was one of those meetings that can scarcely be explained. Her brother told me, “Noel, I’d like you to meet my sister,” and she and I, after hearing about each other for so long, but never actually laying eyes on each other, just fell into an embrace and sobbed in each other’s arms, without even saying a “Nice to meet you.” At last, here was someone who “got it.”
She and I have become friends over the years since then. Our stories are similar and yet very different, as is always the case with widows and grief. We relate to a lot and then struggle with it in our own unique ways. She is a delight to me and it is always just so good to be with her. To get her different perspective. To have someone who can somewhat relate.
We both have busy lives; she and her husband had four children. Our time is mostly spent talking about widowness. It's girl time. Our last visit was about a week and a half ago; we just met for coffee and chatted, as we always do, about how we’re coping, about how we make sense of all of this.
And then, two days later, her oldest son died. He was 14.
My heart is broken in a whole new way. I think, for the first time, I’m getting a glimpse of what it must have been like to be the people that loved me when I went through those early days after Sawan’s death. To want to do something, anything, to make it just a little better, knowing that there’s really nothing you can do. It feels so helpless. I don’t know what to do or say. I want to hold her and protect her. I want to do it for her.
And then there are the things that it stirs up in me and my own grief, as well. I know that neither of these options are truly logical, but I find myself thinking that as a widow one of theses scenarios is true: Either I’m completely exempt from more pain, I’ve seen the worst and nothing bad can happen to me again, or I’m one of the people that all of the bad things happens to and everyone else gets to lead a charmed life. As this has happened to another widow I can’t help but live in great fear that the second is true and I’m doomed. Doomed to a life of pain. Doomed to bring pain to everyone around me that I come into contact with. I feel a great sense of responsibility in this, as well (“Ok, as one of the doomed ones, I should never love again, it’s not fair to them, they’ll only die young because of it”). C.S. Lewis wrote that he never new that grief would feel so much like fear, and I’m really getting that this week. I’m constantly reminding myself that, “True love casts out all fear.” It’s hard in these situations to live in that reality, but I know, logically, that neither of those two options is true. I’m neither doomed nor exempt. Death is a part of life and we can’t try to explain the “whys” to ourselves.
So this has been a dark week.
With the holidays upon us, I think of her and her family. I think of their celebration and how different it will look, and how painful it will be. And then I think of the way she addressed it in her speech at the funeral and feel that this is the hope for me, as well…Why would we not celebrate? We, the grieving, more than anyone else, have something to celebrate because of all that it means for us. Unto us a Savior is born.