Last Sunday, I was a Eucharistic Minister at Mass. At the end of communion, while I was still up at the altar, my pastor asked those who would be distributing communion to the homebound to come forward for a special blessing.
In his blessing, Father Jim asked that the sick be granted “a time of peace and grace” when they receive the Body of Christ. That simple phrase “a time of peace and grace” got me to thinking about the journey of health and healing that I have taken as a young widow and how my current sabbatical from work has enriched my life.
From time-to-time everyone has what I call a “bad hair day.” I think you know what I mean: You get up on the wrong side of the bed and everything goes downhill from there.
You let the dog outside to do his morning business and when he comes back into the house with muddy paws (five minutes before you have to leave), you have no alternative but to stick him in the tub.
In your hurry to get to the office, you spill your morning cup of coffee on your only clean shirt, and to top it all off you get behind the ultimate slowpoke on your drive into work. When you arrive ten minutes late, your boss has already left you three messages concerning a new project that he needs your input on in less than an hour. Such is normal life!
Six years ago, when I was a newly minted widow, I prayed every single day for the goofy, mundane, normal hub-bub of daily life. During the preceding two years I had lost both my oldest son and husband to death. I was forced to make decisions that will follow me for the rest of my life. In the case of my son, I needed to decide whether it was time to unplug him from life support after brain death, and whether or not to donate his organs; while in my husband’s case, I needed to decide on whether an autopsy would be performed to determine the exact cause of his death.
In both cases, I used my Catholic faith as a guide and thought about the acronym WWJD (What would Jesus do?) I had to choose a funeral home, a cemetery, in-ground burial or entombment in a mausoleum, headstones (in my husband’s case whether I wanted a double headstone with my name on also or a single with just his name), obituaries and a host of other end of life decisions. There was no “small stuff.” It was a time of chaos and confusion in my 40-something life.
Suddenly, I was in charge of every aspect of home ownership, parenting, and bread-winning. When I was young, my parents trained me to be a wife and mother. Dad never told me how to run a snow blower, shut off the main water valve to the house, how to change the oil or steering fluid in my car, how to change a furnace filter, what stocks I should invest in, or how to diagnose the problem when my son called to say that the furnace in his new house was making a knocking sound.
I was scared, lonely, devastated, and overwhelmed at the prospect of life on my own. I longed to take a sabbatical from work and learn how to deal with my life as a widow. I reasoned that if I could only have time to think, answers would surely come to me. I began to throw myself a “pity party” on a daily basis and cried until there were no more tears left to wipe.
When I suggested to my dad that I was contemplating quitting my job to stay at home for a while, he encouraged me to think that decision through. He reasoned that depression was getting the best of me and that I was better off for now with a daily routine. Sure I was: get up, work, come home, cry; repeat. I thought my dad was wrong, but since he seemed so adamant in his advice, I decided to wade through my days by just existing. I stopped eating, cut off most of my hair, dimmed down the make-up, wore loose fitting clothing and ugly glasses. People wondered what in heaven’s name had become of me and so did I.
I soon stumbled across the book Widow to Widow by Genevieve Davis Ginsburg. The book contains thoughtful, practical ideas for rebuilding your life. There are five parts to the book and they are titled as follows: A Ton of Bricks, Rebuilding Your Life, From Widowhood to Selfhood, Besides Which, and Resources. This book covers everything from A-Z including how to turn off that main water valve, emptying closets and drawers, and the all important question “What am I without a man?”
After reading Widow to Widow I began to consume books on healing including On Grief and Grieving by Elizabeth Kubler Ross and David Kessler which delves into the five stages of grief which are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. And sure enough, I learned that I had only just begun to deal with my grief and that time and prayer would become my most intimate friends on this journey.
Years have passed since I took my first tentative steps down this path less traveled. It’s been a long and arduous trip, but in my humble opinion I’ve become a proficient mechanic, a seasoned traveler, a single grandmother, and to my delight a “girlfriend” to a very charming widower who I met on CatholicMatch. Yes indeed, I have the world on a string. The only thing that was missing until last June was that sabbatical that I’ve always wanted to take.
When the company I was working for reorganized in June, I was downsized and a bit frightened to be at another crossroads in my life. But I quickly remembered that acronym “WWJD” and I smiled when I realized that old saying is really true, “When God closes a door He opens a window.” I would probably never have sought a new and better job opportunity. Instead, I would have stayed in my safe and secure niche and never ventured out on my own. And I might add that had I not ventured out onto the CatholicMatch website two years ago, I most likely would have never met the handsome Mr. Right, who has changed my life forever in all the important ways.
I can’t help but think that this sabbatical I am currently on is the most refreshing break that I have had during my lifetime. It has been the final step in healing my heart and mind which were so very troubled in my forties. I have found this year to be “a time of peace and grace.” I am healthier than I have been in years, happy as a lark and in love with a wonderful guy!