In a few days it will be eight months since my wife of more than 43 years died suddenly. In an instant my life was changed forever.
Friends, relatives and even strangers have been so kind and supportive. As I have shared previously, I have been overwhelmed by kindness.
I am often asked, "So how are you doing?" I usually respond by saying, "I'm okay; but 'okay' is a relative term."
This week (as I write) I am home on vacation. Let me clarify: This week I am taking vacation to do what I have been putting off for months.
This week I am taking many of Cindy's things to a Salvation Army Thrift Store. This week I am inundated with memories. This week I am taking a difficult but necessary step to embrace the truth that life goes on.
A week after Cindy died my daughter and sister-in-law removed her clothes from our closet. It was too difficult to walk into the closet each day and see her clothing there. They put her clothes in large trash bags which sat in the basement until last Friday when I took them to the thrift store.
Earlier that day I cleaned out her desk here at home. Cindy was a "saver." It was difficult for her to throw things away. I was reminded of that when I found in her desk a large number of empty check registers, bound by a rubber band. The calendars on the check registers went back to 1996. We moved twice since then but she held onto those empty check registers.
I laughed. Then I cried.
I did so again when I pulled open a small desk drawer to find more than 30 pens and nearly as many pencils. Most were "freebie" advertising pens she had collected over the years. I found four letter openers (also "freebies") still in their original plastic bags.
Cindy loved to play Solitaire. I found more than a dozen decks of cards, some still sealed in their original plastic wrappers, in her desk. I was reminded of the times I asked her if she had won or lost playing cards by herself. She would flash her famous brown-eyed stare at me and then ignore my stupid question.
On Monday a friend helped me go through boxes, drawers and cabinets full of things that Cindy had squirrelled away over the years. She had saved newspaper clippings of events that I had forgotten. She saved greeting cards, award certificates and senior photos of her Webster City Class of '69 classmates. I even found a coloring book in which she had colored as a little girl.
Over the course of the week I have set aside those items that have special significance and appropriately disposed of the rest.
Meanwhile, I deal with the memories, memories of many good times and memories of times that tested our relationship. All memories of a woman deeply loved.
I'm doing okay; but "okay" is a relative term.
A few paragraphs back I mentioned a friend who helped me sort through boxes, drawers and cabinets. My friend is Julie, a widow who I have known for at least a dozen years. She lost her husband, a man I deeply admired and respected, to cancer nearly five years ago.
I'm a people person. I don't mind being alone for a little while, but not for long periods of time. After sitting home alone for too many weeks, I called Julie and asked if she would like to go out for dinner on a Saturday night. Fortunately for me, she said she would.
We have been seeing each other regularly since. We share many things in common, not the least of which is the painful experience of losing a much loved spouse. We recognize that we will never replace our departed loved ones, but we both embrace the truth that life goes on.
"The world is full of suffering," wrote Helen Keller. "It is also full of overcoming."
I'm doing okay. I am overcoming.
I am overcoming thanks to friends and relatives, thanks to Julie and, most of all, thanks to a faithful Heavenly Father who has given me strength to face each new day.
Life goes on. I am overcoming. I'm doing okay.