By Nancy Meanix
No matter what, a woman can never be ready to continue living after her husband dies.
Bob and I shared 55½ years of happy marriage dotted by his health crises which included a heart attack at age 42. He died at age 79 of congestive heart failure early on Sunday August 1, 2010, at home surrounded by some of our nine children.
We met as teenagers at ballroom dancing school in Boston where my sister and her husband also met. Bob slowly awakened to my charms — we started dating seven years later! Because he was in the Navy after college and I was working for the Defense Department in Washington, we courted long distance. Our marriage was strong because we shared the same religion, came from the same city, and loved big families. Bob was always affectionate and considerate.
I remember attending a dinner dance, at age 35, as he was recovering from knee surgery. We leaned against the wall in a long hug and talked to the music! Other times, when I was first suffering from depression, Bob and the older children danced and sang songs to me: Don’t let it get ya… Don’t let it get ya… Don’t let it get ya down! Even though he was sick for a long time, I was still shocked by his death and could not sleep in our king-sized bed because I felt so bereft without Bob next to me.
I asked my sons and grandsons to switch the beds and bureaus between my room and the guest room. Gratefully, I had a queen brass bed with no memories. In the next few weeks, as I fulfilled my executor duties, I occasionally visited favorite art galleries. Finally, I purchased two new floral paintings and a large framed floral photograph, all vibrant orange and yellow matching the brass bed’s comforter. My bedroom renewed before my eyes.
In my continuing loneliness, I turned to other new widows dining out every Tuesday night. These gals are still dear friends, and we still keep our Tuesday date. When one of us is down, the others know how to help at the restaurant, on the phone, or while taking a walk. Two months after Bob died, I started attending a Hospice grief support group twice a month, making new friends and unloading many worries. I was surprised that I was not too shy to speak up often.
Our drab home office also required a new look, so I hired a talented woman to peel off the wallpaper and paint the room gray and the trim white. I spent weeks sorting 35 years of business records and discarding outdated articles, but the office was finally neat, clean, and mine in a new way. I arranged many of our travel photos on the walls and framed the windows with fabric pattern of old newsprint. I no longer enjoyed reading in my favorite living room chair, so I purchased a bright yellow recliner, gave away the old chair, and re-arranged the remaining furniture into an inviting conversation area. I purchase fresh flowers every other week to brighten the house. My home’s entire décor is now so altered that I feel a shot of adrenaline every time I enter each room or come home from a writing assignment to my empty house. I am smiling much more often these days.
My church asked for a volunteer to lead the grief support group because the facilitator retired after 20 years. I was accepted and have just completed four weeks with ten members who thanked me for my leadership. I quickly learned that helping my grieving peers is better than receiving help.
Bob has been gone for 27 months, but my new relationships and the decorative changes in my home have helped immensely, even though I still miss him too much to describe.
Several grief counselors agree that my courses of action made my life better. They are so correct; I feel stronger and in charge of my new and different life.
WNC Woman reader and freelance writer Nancy Meanix is a Boston native writing in the North Carolina Mountains since 1995.