Last week as I attempted to sort through my old clothes, I came across a top that had the Esprit logo printed on it. I had modeled this garment years ago in a fashion show. It was one of my husband’s favorite tops on me. I held it to my chest, as jarring darts started to pierce my heart. The slow erosion and the trigger factor of being a widow unfolded again.

Esprit- French from Latin, “spiritus,” means liveliness of mind or spirit, and the quality of being lively and vivacious; the total opposite of what I felt now. The day my husband died, my spirit diminished. The unending shrill in the pit of my stomach caused a lethargic reaction that, in return, glued a mask to my face. My mask held my pain at bay. A smile plastered on, but spiritless.

This Esprit top brought back elated, yet, bittersweet recollections of blissful times. My husband and I had taken a one week boating trip. This was the only time that we had taken a trip just the two of us, without our girls, throughout our entire 23 years of marriage. The memories are sacred. We spent the days basking in the sun, fishing and crabbing. The nights were spent sitting by the fire indulging in the feast that we had caught that day and savoring the imperialness of God’s kingdom and each other.

During that week we met numerous people from many walks of life. People would just come up to us out of the blue and start talking to us. One of those “out of the blue” occurrences took place while we were preparing for another excursion. In the distance, I could tell an elderly lady was observing me. Fifteen minutes later, she walked up to me and said, “I just had to tell you that I have been watching you, you caught my eye because you seemed so full of life, so spirited and happy and then I read what your top said and it just fits you to a T.”  I was wearing this same Esprit top over my bikini. Back then, I was full of enthusiasm about my marriage, our 3-month unborn child, my Christian walk, my children’s ministries, and my volunteer work. I was a full-fledged cheerleader of life with no mask.

Still holding on to the top, I wondered where did that spirit go? Sorrow had sculpted me into a new person. Someone I didn’t recognize. Without my husband by my side, my whole world was abruptly altered- nothing was the same. I had to navigate a new environment, new identity, new family and friend dynamics, new schedule, new financial situation, new responsibilities, and new challenges of being a single parent to a child with autism that requires 24-hour care. Plus, I was in continual mourning.

Just then, I received a much needed Fb message from a dear friend. She wrote that she was praying for me and wanted to remind me that years ago when she was struggling, I had sent her a card where I had written Ezekiel 36:26, “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you.” Truly a Christ orchestrated note, as she had no idea that I was clutching my Esprit top or examining my lack of vitality. Her message ever-so-gently nudged me to rip off the mask and allow my spirit to be revived.

As humans, through our faith, we have an inner resilience to persevere, learn, and adapt. This reiterates to me J.R.R. Token’s quote, “It’s not the strength of the body that counts, but the strength of the spirit.” Our spirits grow between the bearing of our crosses and tribulation.

If your spirit has suffered a jolt, like mine has, please embrace your vulnerability, discard your mask, do not give negative thoughts the spotlight, do not deprive yourself the luxury of life, and most importantly, allow your new spirit of vibrancy to emerge.

May You Have a Blessed and Faith-Filled Day!

Lisa Dempsey Bargewell

As always, please feel free to comment and/or share. Hope for Widows reflects the essence of community as we foster and empower each other. I originally published this blog on October 22, 2014.

My new blog topic for next Wednesday: The Unspoken Secondary Losses of Being a Widow