In the last week, I know of two women in our community who have become widows.  (I ‘m sure there have been many more.)  I don’t know these women well – one I’ve met and the other I’ve only heard mentioned.  But through many mutual friends and social media I’ve been able to follow their stories.  And so this entry begins –

To my new fellow widows:  Welcome to widowhood.  It’s not a coveted title or one you would ever seek out.  It may feel like a cold slap in the face or something reserved for ancient women wearing long black dresses.  Today and the days ahead will be filled with many lows, and even some highs.  Tears will sneak up on you and sometimes overtake you.  Sometimes you will be amazed at how well you handle the details of your life and sometimes nothing at all will bring a watershed.

There will be forms to sign and paperwork you never expected.  Get ready to be told you’re too old for some things and too young for others.  Take your time in dealing with your husbands’ personal clothes, papers and mementos.  But as soon as you feel able, do get up to speed on the bills, mortgage and other legalities because the rest of the world is marching ahead and they still expect to get paid.  (Get ready to have to sign an affidavit for some legal processes stating that you are single – I say this because it took me totally off guard and was like a punch in the gut.)  Get good legal and financial counsel, but be careful to keep your private life private.

Rally your children around you.  They may live out of town, or have obligations elsewhere.  Try to find the balance between times together and time apart for each member of your family.  They need you as much as you need them.  And if somebody has to take a semester off or an extended leave of absence, do it – twenty years from now it won’t have mattered, except to those of you that had that time together.  Retell all the stories, good and bad.  When you see or hear something that reminds you of your husband, don’t be afraid to say, “That’s sounds just like Michael” or “Michael would have loved this”.  And laugh.  I know this sounds impossible, but the day after Michael died as we were planning his service, I remember thinking “there is way too much laughter around here for a funeral”.  But we laughed a lot in life together and he wouldn’t have wanted us to stop after he was gone.

And lastly I would say, continue to do the things that you did when your husband was alive.  I know you won’t be able to do all of them, but the things that you enjoyed as a couple and as a family.  Go to your favorite restaurants.  Eventually travel back to your favorite vacation destinations.  Yes, it will be hard to be there without him.  But I think it is harder to never go back and remember all those wonderful times you had together.  And your children need to have those times of remembrance too.  They need to see their mom both strong and weak, both happy and sad, both active and idle.  Remember, one day they will probably be here without you, and you are showing them how to live in and through the loss of someone you love.

To the friends of these new widows:  Love these precious women.  In the first few weeks there will such a flourish of activity, and your help with so many things will be appreciated and remembered.  But a month from now and three months from now, be sure to continue to call them.  And pray for them and their children.  Whether you’re close by or far away, pray for them.  God hears no matter where the prayer comes from.

Continue your relationships with these precious women.  Go to lunch, if that’s what you did together.  Play tennis or exercise together, if that’s your thing.  They need to feel like there are some things that continue normally even thought their world has been turned upside down.

Include these ladies in whatever your relationship with them looked like.  If you normally did things as a couple with her and her husband, continue to invite her.  She wants to keep up her relationships with everyone, not just other women.  Yes, your dinner reservation will be for 3 or 5 now, instead of the preferred even number.  And there may be an occasional empty seat or unused ticket at the theatre.  So what.  She still wants to feel like she’s a part of all those same associations.

And by the way – she’s going to cry.  And don’t think you caused it and don’t worry about apologizing for it.  She cries.  She cries when she’s with somebody and when she’s alone, when she’s busy and when she’s still.  You don’t have the power to make her cry nor do you have the power to make her stop.  So just go with the flow and pass the Kleenex.

As for me, I have so much to be thankful for.  Michael and I had wonderful times together and wonderful children to share our lives.  I have managed to survive 13 months without him.  It’s been hard and I’ve learned a lot.  My children have soothed my heartache and made me laugh, while I hope I’ve helped them to grow and learn how to live through the surprises life throws at us.  I have the most incredible friends that still include me, travel with me, help me, pray with and for me, and laugh with me.  And I thank God for each one of them.

To my new widow friends, if I can do anything at all, please contact me.  I won’t leave my phone number here, but you can friend me on social media and we can go from there.  I’m not an expert at this, I’m just a few steps further along this journey of life than you are.  And I welcome a fellow traveler.

Ashley Madison

Ashley Madison.  I’ve seen and heard this name in the news a hundred times in the last week.  No she’s not one of my girlfriends or someone I met again at my recent reunion.  I can tell you the best of my understanding about what (not who) Ashley Madison is.  Ashley Madison is a web site where people can go to sign up to meet someone for an extramarital affair.  Money can be paid on different levels depending on what your circumstances and desires are.  I guess I knew these types of web sites existed though I never gave them much thought until recently.

You see a few weeks ago a group of computer hackers hacked into Ashley Madison’s data base of customers accessing their names, addresses and even credit card information.  The hackers then tried to blackmail the site by threatening to publicly release the names and information of all their clients.  When the site refused the blackmail threats, the hackers did just what they said they would do – they released the names of millions of customers along with their addresses and the amounts of money they spent on the web site.

Now the mainstream media, of course, picked up on the salaciousness of all this and peaked our interests.  For several days the news reports announced the names of people on the list who were involved in public offices, major corporations and others with some public notoriety.  I’m sure they’ve been met with humiliation and embarrassment, not to mention what it’s done to their families.  What the media hasn’t talked about are the millions of folks that have no public persona who now have to try to pick up the pieces after their names have been damaged all over the web.

Here’s my take on this whole situation:  I’ve seen the lists for two states.  I confess to you that I didn’t have sense enough to look away, but instead perused the list of names.  As a result I’ve seen no less than six names of people I know in two different states.  Some of these folks I know well, others only by association.   Each time I saw a name I recognized my heart dropped a little more.  My heart aches not only for the one who chose this association, but also for their husband/wives, children, parents and close friends.  I can only imagine if I had come across Michael’s name on one of those lists.  Or one of my children’s names.   And don’t be fooled into thinking it can’t happen to someone you know and love.  Don’t think there aren’t believers’ names on those lists too.  Because there are.  Because believers are people who make mistakes too – who make poor choices, even when they know what the right thing to do is.

And now I’m seeing the great fallout of more hurt and more tragedy as a result.  Families are shattering apart.  Innocents are paying a great price.  And I want to find fault.  And twenty years ago I would have – at the top of my lungs, upon my tallest soapbox.  It makes me so mad that the web site organizers would ever set up this site to ensnare people.  How dare the hackers illegally obtain the information and then choose to spew it to all the world.

But today, more than anything, I feel sorrow and compassion.  Mostly my heart aches over those individuals who made the mistake of seeking this kind of relationship, and those close to them.   I don’t know what drove them to it.  I don’t know what they were thinking at the time.  I don’t think it was right.  BUT I DON’T CONDEMN THEM.  Because mostly what I see is someone who’s had their secret sin announced publicly to the world.  And I can relate.  You see I have secret sins too.  Those things of which I am ashamed of thinking and doing.  Those things that I hope no one ever finds out about.  Those things I have carried most heavily before God for forgiveness, knowing that He is faithful to cover me with His grace and put my sins away for eternity.  Who among us could stand to have our lives spilled out for all to see?  No. There will be no judgement from me.  And along with that commitment, I tell you there will be no gossip, no snickering and no finger-pointing.  I’m sorry I even looked at those lists, because I don’t want that information to be in my head and my heart when I deal with those involved.

God, forgive me when I fail you.  Thank you for your unending grace and mercy.  Thank you for loving me, in spite of me.


I hardly know where to start in revealing this, but here goes …

For many years now I’ve not been much of a television watcher.  Michael was always in charge of the remote control and that was usually OK with me.  The occasional shows I was interested in watching were recorded and watched while I was on the treadmill.  But in the last year there’s lots more time to fill and no one to relinquish the remote to.  So I’ve been watching more TV than usual.

I’ve kept up with the few series that I’ve been watching for a while now.  And a new cable package has allowed me to see several movies that I missed in the theatres.  The kids have recommended several good series.  And services like Netflix and Hulu have allowed me to “binge watch” so I could catch up with past seasons.  Most of the things I’ve found have been pretty good, with a few exceptions.  And even the regular network shows today stretch the boundaries pretty far when it comes to acceptable family entertainment.

There’s one series I’ve heard about for a while now.  I’d never seen it and didn’t know much about it other than it was getting a lot of press and awards.  I asked one of my kids about it, who told me they had watched a few episodes but found it so objectionable that they quit.

Well, being the adult/grown-up/parent that I am I thought I’d check it out for myself.  So I started to watch.  I watched several episodes each night for about a week to get through the first season.  Before long I was several weeks into Season 2.  This particular series tells the story of its characters in all sorts of immoral situations and alternate lifestyle relationships.  So you can imagine not only the story line but the vocabulary that was being used.

After about a week of watching the show nightly, one morning I woke up to something strange.  Even before I got out of bed that morning, I was hearing certain words in my head.  Words from the dialogue of this show.  Words that aren’t a part of my normal vocabulary.  Words that I know none of you have ever heard me say.  I was puzzled.  Even as I went through my day, when different situations would arise, the first thing I would hear in my head were these words.  But would I be deterred?  NO!  The next night I continued to watch a few more episodes.

Again, the next morning, the same thing happened.  In my head, a barrage of words I would never speak out loud.  Well, finally, I began to get the message.  This show had to go.  I was being directly affected by what my ears were hearing and my eyes were seeing.  Throughout the day I heard the words.  That night – no more episodes of this series.  The next morning, I was still hearing the words, but not with as much strength or frequency.  Within a few days, they were gone.

Now here’s the kicker: I know better.  I know what God says in His word about keeping ourselves pure and holy; about being set apart from this world and its effects.  I know that what I put in through my eyes and ears affects my heart and mind.  I know that I’m created to reflect the image of God, not to be a part of the crowd followers in our society.  And yet still I watched hours of this “entertainment” somehow thinking I would be unaffected.  What a fool!

So, since I don’t have anyone here to keep me accountable, I’m confessing to you.  To keep me accountable.  To keep me reminded that my flesh is weak and I’m easily coaxed into believing I know better than God when it comes to what I should allow in my life.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”   Psalm 51:10

The Way We Are

RHS Reunion bag

Last week I had the privilege of attending my 40th year high school reunion.  (Yes, do the math and now you know how old I am.)  An event like this makes you look back on a lot of memories, some you cherish and some you wish you could forget.  As the day grew closer my Facebook feed was overrun with comments from classmates on all sorts of vital issues – what to wear, who would be there, and that always aggravating last minute zit that was appearing just in time.  Well, somethings really haven’t changed in forty years.

We began as 547 graduates in 1975.  There were some twenty-five of us who have passed away over the years, each one mourned and missed.  Of the remaining 500+ about 200 gathered that night.  We came from an all-girl public high school, a unique situation created when our parish government all those years ago decided to segregate the sexes after being required to desegregate the races. So many people think this odd and undesirable, but it was normal to us and afforded us opportunities to lead that we might not have otherwise had.

As I look back on our lives together I am reminded that we came of age at a exceptional time in history.  When we were in the first grade we heard announced in our classrooms that our President Kennedy had been assassinated.  In junior high we watched grainy black and white television sets to see the first man walk on the moon.  In high school we saw the Supreme Court rule on Roe v. Wade which changed the decisions women were allowed to legally make regarding child bearing.  And always in the background of our lives was the Vietnam War.  I remember well, the day in my sophomore year, when our leaders announced that our troops would be brought home. The relief we felt, expressed in both cheers and tears, was very real as my brother was just months away from his eighteenth birthday.

As we stepped out into the world in 1975, the women’s liberation movement was in full swing.  I expect more graduates from our class than any previous one, went on to college and advanced education. But I think, more important than going on to college and careers, was the fact that we had choices available to us.  No longer were we encouraged only in the direction of marriage and motherhood. We were actually told that we could become doctors and lawyers, nurses and accountants, artists and inventors, business owners and elected officials. And we did!

Who knew that typing skills, not considered a college prep course in 1975, are today the indispensable keyboarding skills?  Who could have imagined iPads and wireless internet in a world of  televisions with knobs to change the channel?  Could a cell phone be possible when our house phones were connected to the wall and used rotary dials?  The changes in technology and communication have been unprecedented in our lifetimes.  And socially we have seen such great changes in the rights of women, minorities and the disabled – I know we have a long way to go, but these things weren’t even discussed forty years ago.  (If some of my former employers made the comments today that they made to me years ago, I’m sure it would be a case for a discrimination or sexual harassment suit.)

To gather together again meant contacting people throughout the United States and in foreign countries. Some of us still live close by while others came from as far away as California. Some of us look the same and some of us look remarkably different. We laughed and hugged and tried to remember names and places. I learned that there are some folks I’ve met in the last forty years that I didn’t know I graduated with until we saw each other on reunion night.

By now this group of girls (or do I call us women or ladies?), has seen enough of life to know both the joy of love and the sorrow of loss. To look around the room, clearly life has been more difficult for some than for others. But we gathered for pictures and recounted silly stories as we promised to get together again soon. And I must say, though I’ve spent much time remembering what it was like forty years ago, I am less impressed with The Way We Were than I am with The Way We Are.

And at the end of the night, we joined arm in arm to sing the same song we sang forty years ago:
Can it be that it was all so simple then?                                                                    Or has time rewritten every line?                                                                                   If we had the chance to do it all again tell me, would we? Could we?  Memories may be beautiful and yet                                                                  What’s too painful to remember we simply choose to forget.                         So it’s the laughter we will remember                                                                Whenever we remember, the way we were.

RHS Reunion

Falling in Love Again

Have you ever experienced love at first sight?  Is it just something you see in Life Time movies and read about in fairy tales?  When I first met Michael it was not love at first sight.  I don’t think there was anything wrong with that.  It was like at first sight.  And getting to know him didn’t take long, because within a few weeks I knew that this was a love for a lifetime.  I remember after our third date telling my mom that “this is the man I’m going to marry”.

When my children were born it wasn’t love at first sight either (sorry to disappoint, kids).  It was wonderful and exciting and scary all at once.  But I never had that lightning bolt experience that you read about some new mom’s having.  I was both in awe and terrified at the thought that I was now responsible for another human being.  But, again, it didn’t take long.  Within a few days they had my full and unconditional love, and they still do.  The kind of love that doesn’t end, regardless of time or miles or circumstances or disappointments.

So imagine my surprise, shock even, to now, (at my age, ugh!) finally have experienced love at first sight.  That lightning bolt experience.  For someone new to come into my life and change my heart in such a profound manner.  From the first time I saw him I knew this was the beginning of an incredible new relationship, unlike any I had ever experienced before.  Someone that met me with no requirements. No expectations.  No judgements.  And I’m able to say that I see him the same way.   With only love between us.

So how do you respond to such a weighty experience?  Well, I responded the way I so often respond to things these days.  With tears.  Right there at our first meeting.  And I wish I could say it was a gentle cry where the tears softly rolled down my cheek.  But no.  For me it was a big ugly cry.  The one where you have to put your hand over your mouth to keep big audible sobs from alarming everyone around you.  The one where your shoulders shake and you’re not sure your legs will hold you.  I thank God for this new relationship in my life – for the hope of future days and new experiences, for the anticipation of many years ahead to get to know each other and learn from each other.

Welcome to my life Drew.