In my recent reading, Ben Sasse, author of THEM, was talking about marriage when he mentioned the common midlife crisis and the empty nest syndrome that most of us go through. The next phase he talked about was the “sweet spot”. 

My first thought was that Chuck and I were robbed of that by his cancer because he died just two weeks after his official retirement. Our vacation for last year was already marked on the calendar and I’d been doing a lot of research and making lots of plans before he got sick.  

But, I stepped back and realized we actually did have quite a few years of that “sweet spot”  after the kids left home.

We were able to do a lot of hiking together. We traveled a bit, always hitting up used bookstores in whatever town we were in. We enjoyed Saturday morning coffee dates at the Farmers Market, visited wineries, watched baseball and always, always, worshiped together on Sunday.  

A few years ago I gave him a turntable and together we grew a small collection of albums, mostly by scouring used record stores and antique shops. We even bought a few new albums when together we developed a love for the music of The Avett Brothers. We even got to see them in concert three times and I played their song, No Hard Feelings, at the graveside service. 

Now, because of his love and planning and God’s mercy, I’m able to still do some of those things, though it’s not the same without him. Now I press my kids and grandkids into service as my companions and I’m trying to make new friends, though that is slow going sometimes. 

I’m so very sad that Chuck could not enjoy his retirement with me and with the grandkids, but I know I have a duty to carry on in a way that would honor him. I’m so sad that we could not grow old together, but I’m thankful for the years we grew together in other ways.


Angie Bell was born in Georgia but raised in Florida to where she recently returned after six years in Birmingham, Alabama. She is a former teacher who loves hiking, photography, and writing, often combining all three.

After planning for several years, working on a way to live on a shoestring budget, Angie’s husband of 41 years put in for early retirement so they could move back home. They put their house on the market and had a contract within four days. Less than two weeks later her husband was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. They decided to transfer his care and move back to Jacksonville, Florida, renting a furnished apartment and hoping for a miracle. One month later he was gone. After her third move in less than a year, Angie is now in Tampa where her grandchildren live, trying to find her way in her new life. God, in His mercy, has put numerous other widows in her life and a new empathy for this sisterhood she never would have chosen.