The Widow's Might
I am part of the fastest growing demographic in the United States. We are targeted by new-home builders and surveyed by designers. We are a lucrative niche for health and beauty products, and financial planners invite us to dinners. It's no wonder the marketers are after us: 800,000 join our ranks every year.
Who are we? We are the invisible among youthe widows.
Studies show that widows lose 75 percent of their friendship network when they lose a spouse. Sixty percent of us experience serious health issues in that first year. One third of us meet the criteria for clinical depression in the first month after our spouse's death, and half of us remain clinically depressed a year later. Most experience financial decline. One pastor described us by saying we move from the front row of the church to the back, and then out the door. We move from serving and singing in choir to solitude and silent sobbing, and then on to find a place where we belong.
With my husband Bob's exit to heaven, my daily life has changed: my calendar, my checkbook, the thermostat, the contents of my refrigerator, and even the look in my children's eyes when they step through the door on holidays. My living space is more cluttered. I seldom use makeup. I am now familiar with the smell of car oil as I sit in Lube Right waiting for an oil change. There are other changes so private and personal they cannot be shared. Loneliness and solitude are not descriptive enough of the space that becomes the cocoon of the widow.
Had I been faced with these facts five years ago, I would have stated, "It can't be so! In the community of believers, we support each other." But I look back on my own responses to women who had become widows and realize how little I understood, how little I empathized, how seldom I walked beside them.
Yet because of our shared experience, we have an incredibly strong bond that links us to each other. We discover we are vulnerable as we have never been before. I learned this one evening as I walked through the city, hunched over into the wind with my hood up on my long black coat. In my haste to the train station, I passed only two other people as I hurried over the dark waters of the Chicago River. I've never done this before in my life, I thought. Widows experience so many firsts that we stop counting.
Life with Bob
At 19 years of age, I embarked on my journey with Bob that lasted 41 years, 2 months, and 21 days. It began soon after the first day of my college career.
"May I walk with you?" The soft hazel eyes of a gentleman looked down into mine. It was a warm September afternoon on the campus of Indiana University. Singing Hoosiers rehearsal was over and the baritone soloist was asking to walk with me! Sixteen months later, this 18-year-old freshman who had never been to Chicago or heard of Moody Bible Institute married a man who knew his life calling was to serve God through Moody Broadcasting.
Together we finished degrees, moved from the farm to the city, had children, adopted children, sang in church choirs, offered hospitality, and traveled to 40 countries. I became an educatora teacher and counselor in public high schoolsa working mom. As Bob followed his calling, he expanded the mbi network to 36 owned and operated stations. He successfully negotiated with the Federal Communications Commission and began a satellite ministry that at times has served 600 affiliates. We parented our children to adulthood, unquestionably the greatest challenge of our marriage. We enjoyed the marriages of threeincluding two receptions in our own yard. No smile was broader on either Bob's or my face than while watching our three incredibly handsome African American grandsons grow up.