I want to start by saying that I’m a firm believer that not everything has to happen “for a reason.” I think that cliché is incredibly insensitive to anyone who has gone through something as soul-crushingly awful as losing a spouse.

HOWEVER… I do think that sometimes, because of the sad and horrible things that happen, some beautiful things can come from it.

When Luke died, I knew right away I needed to start over in a new house. Brand new. Not one that was previously lived in and saturated with the memories of other people. I needed new paint, new carpet, new scenery, and new neighbors. I am lucky that I was able to find just that… my adorable, tiny, NEW house on the outskirts of the city.

Shortly after moving in, I introduced myself to my neighbors, 90% of whom are above the age of 70 (just the way I like it). Everyone watches out for everyone, packages are never left on doorsteps for long, trash cans are rolled up to the garage door, and absolutely everyone smiles and waves. It’s the kind of neighborhood you see in old sitcoms.

Next door to me is my favorite of them all. Her name is MaryJo. I don’t ask her age because that isn’t polite, but she has confirmed she is “over age 70 but doesn’t feel it, damnit!” She also lives alone because her husband also died. They were married for a lot longer than Luke and I, but she has reassured me that comparing grief is just silly. We both lost our people, and we both miss them dearly.

Like myself, MaryJo is a physically small woman, not more than 5’3 and not possibly more than 120lbs (honestly.. the physical resemblance between us is almost familial). Inside, her heart is the opposite… big, bold, and full of so much love and loss. She keeps her patio full of colorful flowers and her porch perfectly decorated with designer outdoor furniture. She wears her late husband’s old t-shirts and washes her own car in the driveway. She drinks a glass of wine every evening, and she loves to have her grandchildren over to visit. She is brave, kind, and most of all, wise. She’s my friend. There may be more than 40 years between us, but our shared titles bring a bond that very few can ever understand.

She sweetly tolerates my giant Newfoundland and his intimidating bark, and she reminds me that I have all the strength in me to carry me through whatever else life has in store. She says that sometimes life doesn’t work out the way you imagined it would, and sometimes the waves take you down with them. She also says that there is far more good in this life than bad, and it’s okay to cut people out if they don’t make you happy. She says I’m going to be just fine, and for whatever reason, I believe her.

August will mark two years of being in my cute, little house next door to dear MaryJo, across the street from Charlotte (another single widow in her 70s), and caddy-corner from Lane, who takes care of my sprinklers, and Jack and Barbara, who have been married for 57 years and “would do anything for the widows.” The house isn’t brand new anymore. It has weathered storms, both physically and emotionally. It has dried tears of not just me, but several friends and family members, too. It has been a safe place for anyone who enters. I frequently get told that it’s just “easier to breathe here.” To me, there is no greater compliment.

Home is not a place. Home is a feeling. I have felt the feeling of home all over the country. Luke was my home in a person. His soul felt so much like home. Right now, it’s under my favorite blanket, next to my giant Newfoundland, writing about life as a 27 year-old widow. Tomorrow, it may be something completely different.

Cheers to this house, to wise neighbors, and the feeling of home.