We organize and bring order to our lives with time and seasons. We use clocks and calendars, weights and measures, and history and future to mark the places, experiences and events of our journey to make it possible to relate and communicate with each other in meaningful ways.
Holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, and special occasions we celebrate as family traditions or life experience all become markers in the expanse of time as we journey through life. The more sentimental we are, the more emotional we will likely be when we cross these markers in time. When we experience a significant loss, these markers can trigger unexpected or emotional responses unique to each person.
As I approach another birthday apart from my husband, I find myself swept down yet another trek through memory lane. I was at my Bible study and the group decided to start celebrating the birthdays of group members on the first Friday of the month. I was showered with more cards than I’ve received in years.
When I got home, I realized I haven’t received hardly any cards or birthday wishes for several years. During my years as my husband’s caregiver my focus was entirely on him and his care. Life since he’s been gone has been so radically changed I’ve just spent this day alone.
The last birthday I spent with my husband ended up being the last time he left our home to go out to eat with me. He was already under hospice care and wasn’t feeling very well, but he insisted on going out. We went in mid-afternoon so the restaurant would be pretty quiet, and we could get him in and out more easily with his walker and wheelchair. He wanted to spend time alone with me and tell me how much he appreciated what I was doing for him.
Now this memory is linked to my birthday and brings with it a mingling of deep appreciation and love for my husband, combined with that gut-wrenching pain I was feeling as I watched him slipping away and felt so helpless to stop. Yes, I’m one of those very emotional people who feels things with intensity. Just thinking about that day releases the same extreme pain and threatens to crush me and destroy what progress I made stepping forward.
My husband was three years older than me. Last year I turned 63, the age he reached and remained because he moved to Heaven. I felt pangs of grief each time I thought about my age. I never considered I would catch up with him or move past him in years of life. Now I’m about to step out past him.
Throughout Scripture God’s people often find themselves engaging in the unexpected and the unplanned. My husband and I planned to live a long and happy life. We were just approaching our dreams of retirement and starting a new focus in ministry as we expected to become empty nesters when he was diagnosed.
His debilitating illness changed the direction of my life to be his fulltime advocate and caregiver. Slowly but steadily, I dropped more and more of my plans and needs to give my focus to his. I readily and willingly did this out of my love for him. My world shrank as his care consumed my time and energy.
Sometimes we find ourselves facing things we never conceived or expected, but God meets us without fail. His presence cannot be managed or controlled. He created us for relationship, and He is dedicated to walk alongside us no matter where this life leads us. If we look for Him and ask for His help, He is ready, willing and able to step right in. Even when life doesn’t work out the way we thought it would or should.
I don’t know why God chose to take my husband home when He did. I don’t know why life has been so incredibly difficult, especially since my husband went home. What I believe is how we heal over time ultimately depends on how we decide to use the opportunity to shape our present and future circumstances.
Time allows us to reflect on the difficult experiences we encounter in this world. When we ask God to help us, He provides insight and gives us the ability to press on. Healthy reflection involves taking our emotions and thoughts and going to the Scriptures to find insight and direction and help us gain new understandings. When we pray and ask God to show us, He always does.
When God leads us in unexpected ways or doesn’t do what we think He should do, our natural inclination is to believe there is something wrong. We might either believe God is not present or He is angry or punishing us. If we go this way, we become bogged down in negativity and doubt. What if there is a higher purpose beyond what we can see?
Sometimes we converge God’s will with our own ideas. It’s easy to do and human nature. Yet, if we seriously desire to follow God’s will, and honestly pray for God to take control of our lives, we must willingly accept God sometimes leads us in ways we would not expect. Acknowledging God may guide us to places where we feel stretched, uncomfortable, or maybe even a bit frustrated takes faith and trust to believe He knows what He is doing and He will protect and care for us through the process.
The truth is, because our life isn’t always the way we design it, we can know God does guide us. God is faithful. He is reliably present no matter how we respond. We always have a choice because He gives us our free will. We can either ask Him to lead and provide for us or we can tell Him we want to go our own way. We can choose to assume God is passive and distant, or we can recognize God loves us and is with us even during life’s unknowns.
My sister widows in a group I joined a while back scheduled a trip to the zoo on my birthday this year. God provided me with the money to go and a ride to get there. I don’t think they know it’s my birthday, but God does. I’m going to enjoy the day and give thanks to Him for making it possible to not have to spend the day alone.
It’s time to set new markers in time. Going forward on my birthday I choose to remember how my sister Bible study friends showered me with love. I choose to remember my sister widows scheduled a special outing to share a time of fellowship and fun. To God be the glory, honor and praise forever.
** Mark your calendars! Hope For Widows Foundation’s annual virtual Widows of Hope 5K event has returned on Friday, May 12 through Sunday, May 14, 2023. Anyone can join! Whether you are a widow, widower, or a friend/family member showing support or walking in the loss of another family member, everyone is welcome to participate. The proceeds will directly support widows through the annual financial Restoring Hope and Peace Grants, Sunshine Boxes program, and Bring Hope Holiday Assistance Program. Do you have or know a business that would like to sponsor? That’s an option too! To register and frequently asked questions- please go here: http://getmeregistered.com/WidowsofHope5K