A Widow’s Dilemma: Home Sweet Home No Longer


I was driving home in the warm summer rain the other night when I spotted three teenage boys sprinting across the street with smiles on their faces. 

That scene reminded me of another August day many years prior when my three sons were high school and college aged. Our city had seen a historic flood of immense proportions that day. Our family of five carried buckets and buckets of water from the basement to the backyard for disposal that morning and into the afternoon as all the drains in the house were overflowing. 

Although we all worked diligently that day and during the next week to recover what we could from our basement, we found that the one thing that wasn’t dampened was our spirits. 

Instead of sulking about the large task ahead of us, we remembered what Grandma Tess used to say, “Many hands make light work!”

All of us had come to love and cherish the little stone cottage that had become our home just a few years earlier. 

My husband Steven and I were married 20 years before we could afford a permanent home of our own.  So before the ink was dry on the deed to our new house on North 13th Street, we were eagerly anticipating all of the events that would unfold in our very own home.

And celebrate we did…birthdays, holidays, graduations, and much more!    

We painted, decorated, landscaped and furnished that home until it shown with pride of ownership.  When we were finished, we hung a stone sign near the front door proclaiming that this was “The Tess Home.”

The boys grew up, moved away, and two of them eventually married. Life for the empty nesters, my husband, Steven, and I, was very sweet. 

We had romantic candlelit dinners with wonderful music and dancing in the living room.  On starlit evenings, we sat at the picnic table looking for the big dipper and watching shooting stars. Some winter nights we simply cuddled up under a blanket on the couch and watched old movies.

Yes, indeed, life was good!


A darker day

Just a few years later in 2004, my life entered a tailspin with the unexpected death of our oldest son, and again in 2006 when I came home to find that my husband, Steven, had passed away

As any newly widowed person can tell you, it is extremely difficult to begin living on your own, especially if you’ve been married your entire adult life. But even worse than living alone for me was the echo of family memories that filled every square inch of my home – memories that were now tarnished by Steven’s sudden death in that safe place we had called home for so many years. 

At that point, I was unsure of what my future held, but I was certain that I could not continue to live any longer with the sad memories that were now permeating the walls of my once joyful home. 

Over the next few months, I pondered how to solve this dilemma. Should I stay or should I go?  

There didn’t appear to be any obvious solution. 

As I had in the past, I continued to pray to our Mother Mary for guidance.

Then one Sunday, about four months after Steven passed away, I happened to spot an ad in the local newspaper for an open house not too far from where I lived.   

Strange, but the picture of the house looked exactly like a home that Steven and I had wanted to tour a year earlier, but we had missed the open house for one reason or another and never followed through on viewing it.

The other strange thing about the house was that it was located on Marion Lane.

My brain immediately popped the question, “Now isn’t that odd, you’ve been praying to Mother Mary and now a house on Marion Lane seems to be calling your name?”  Sort of a neat little bow to our Mother, wouldn’t you say?

Since I was on my way to church, I put the paper away and kept the open house in the back of my mind, just in case I wanted to make a quick stop on the way home.

As luck would have it, church let out early so I decided to take a chance and drive up to Marion Lane for a look.


A ‘mysterious warmth’

 Immediately upon entering the house, I felt a very warm feeling that seemed to say, “Welcome home!” Every room I entered had a vibe going on. Other people were viewing the home, but they all found things wrong with it, while I continued to sense a sort of  mysterious warmth and a feeling deep within my heart that this house was to be my home. 

After leaving the open house, I attended a birthday party for my niece, but I couldn’t stop thinking about that house! 

The next day, I called my financial planner and asked if somewhere in my wildest dreams I could afford such a home. He thought the price was reasonable and indicated that I should go for it. 

Immediately, my phone rang and it was the realtor calling to say that there was to be another open house the next weekend if I should care to attend. She also mentioned that the house had been for sale a year earlier, just as I had remembered, but the new owners now had a job transfer out of town. 

I remember thinking back to how that home seemed to be exactly what Steven and I had been hoping to buy someday. You see, we wanted a larger yard, as we knew there would be grandchildren in our future and we just couldn’t wait to hear a little voice proclaim, “I’m at Grandma and Grandpa’s house!”

I called my son Mike and he agreed to tour the home with me the following Sunday. While I was waiting for him to arrive, I opened the paper and found the ad for the house. There it was in all its glory with the wrong address. The paper had mistakenly printed an address on the other side of town. This meant that I would be the only potential buyer to view the property that day.

Mike and I jumped in the car and when we pulled up to the home on Marion Lane and got out, an old cross that had been given to me many years ago while teaching CCD fell out of my purse onto the pavement in front of me. 

Looking up at me were the words, “God Loves You!” 

I was so astonished that I called Mike over to look. He chuckled at my good fortune and continued on to the house.

Now believe me when I say when Mike and I walked in the front door, all I could see was a look of amazement on his face. It seems that my youngest son was receiving the same sort of message that I had been getting a week earlier. We looked through a few rooms and proceeded to the basement, where Mike looked at me and said, “Mom, you have to buy this house!”


Wisdom from St. Matthew

After a short negotiation with the seller, the home on Marion Lane became mine. 

You may ask whatever became of the stone cottage on North 13th Street.  Well, I’m happy to report that God did in fact have a plan. Even though the housing market had been in a slump for a while, my home sold immediately for more than the asking price, and I never had to make a house payment on two homes at the same time. 

I attribute my good fortune in home ownership to none other than the Blessed Mother, who I prayed to regularly to get me through some very lonely times. I do suspect that only she could have led me to the cedar house on Marion Lane.

Over the last five years, I have filled many an empty weekend with gardening, painting and furnishing this special home that my granddaughter Maddie simply refers to as “Grandma’s House.”

As I sit here in my kitchen on Marion Lane, typing this story, I think about how my faith. just like the little stone cottage, withstood the floods and I remember these words spoken by our Savior Himself:

“…Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse;
it had been set solidly on rock.”                  

Matthew 7:21, 24-25

Blessed be the Lord, my rock! Life is good!



Further reading

According to this USA Today article, Barb is not alone: Single women bought one of every five homes sold in 2005.


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