Something new is happening in America.  This year was one in many recent times that some large retail stores decided to “go dark” for Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day to allow staff time to spend with family and friends.

Since the pandemic I’ve seen an increase in businesses and companies becoming more aware of the needs of employees and being willing to sacrifice “economic growth” by closing their doors during holidays.  I highlight “sacrifice” because I believe America is based on capitalism and economic gain, so it’s a big deal to most companies to not be physically open.

Additionally, retail management and other industries are realizing the value in happy employees practicing “self-care.”  Taking time out to travel to relatives or friends during the holidays can be viewed as self-care activities.  Going home to relatives or just spending time at home can be therapeutic in many ways.

I applaud this national shift to a gentler, kinder America.  Everyone needs days of restorative rest and the opportunity to spend quality time with family and friends.  It’s a positive shift in perspectives, especially after the pandemic caused us to look at life differently.

I reflect on how similar it was for me being a widow and realizing how valuable my husband was to my lifestyle.  I truly didn’t realize or understand the importance of a husband, and in many ways, I took advantage of his kindness, humor, helping skills and even his love.  To say I was spoiled is an understatement!  lol

Some of the things he regularly did- like take out the trash, take the cars to get them washed, driving me around to do errands or travel,  handled all the finances and budgeting, and even rubbed my tired feet after a long day at work, were all undervalued.  Boy, do I miss those things now!

Like many employers- I only fully appreciated him and all he did after he was gone from my life.  Many employes have lost thousands of employees who exited after realizing they needed a better work and life balance.  Some staff members left to seek out companies offering 4-day work weeks or the opportunity to work remote or a flex schedule.  Others left to seek out fulfilling entrepreneur opportunities to utilize their own God-give skills to launch a dream.

Others like me, sought less stressful work environments after my husband died.  Work environments that allow me to work remote or not at all on days when grief takes over and I can barely “put on foot in front of the other.”

I’m glad some people now understand the importance of taking care of themselves and valuing ‘time-out’.  Subsequently, I’m glad I learned to value the 24 years of marriage I had and now I cherish the memories I share with my daughter about her dad.  He was a good, good man who loved me unconditionally.

Gratitude is the ability to appreciate and cherish memories, people in our lives, situations and even possessions. It’s also the ability to be thankful for what’s missing in our lives and to know its God’s grace and mercy that allows us to have what we have and to appreciate the good and bad times.  Combined, it makes for a full life while being grateful for the times I had with my husband.

Like some employers, I wish he was still around to help me achieve a full life as a seasoned senior citizen. As I age, there are so many things and activities I struggle to complete and so many things I miss about our life together, that are only left in memories.  So now I try to focus on self-care and experience life as a widow while on this earth and I know he’s wishing me the best.


Ajai Blue-Saunders is a servant leader and works for a nonprofit in the Richmond VA area. She is always seeking ways to encourage and serve others, even while experiencing the sudden death of her husband in 2015. Her work experience includes project development, herbalist, management, supervision and overseeing several companies and nonprofits.

Ajai has a heart for the disability community and serves on many local and national boards. She currently is solo parenting an artistic adult daughter with disabilitiies and together they are navigating this life with faith and love. She currently runs a widow's support group that meets monthly sponsored by a local funeral home which provides a safe place for widows to experience their grief journey with love and compassion.