The week after my wife, Lisa, died was bewildering. There were so many decisions that had to be made and arrangements that required my attention that most of the time I felt like someone else was controlling my movements. That week was also comforting because of all the people who offered their condolences and their help, and because of my family and friends who were so willingly available.
The weeks and months that followed were different. My life had changed drastically and yet the world around me was going on in its normal manner. I had responsibilities that could not wait: my youngest son was a freshman in high school, and I served as a pastor in two churches and as the ministerial alliance benefits coordinator in my community. I did what had to be done, but nothing about my life felt right.
With my chronically-ill wife gone, I found myself with too much free time. The Holy Spirit led me into giving more of my time to my relationship with God. I started reading The Upper Room every day. I spent more time looking for and reading books and articles that helped me to be a better disciple of Jesus Christ (Dallas Willard is one of my favorite authors). I also used some of that time to strengthen my relationships with my three sons. My sons James and Bill were both out on their own working and/or going to school — I tried to talk with them as regularly as their mother had. Sam was just 15 and got a bit spoiled with hot chocolate chip cookies and cold milk most evenings, and Sam and I went ahead with our planned summer vacation to Colorado, Utah, and Arizona.
In seminary I had learned that everyone handles grief in their own way, but now I know that from experience. I am thankful that there was no one in my life telling me what I “had to do” to “get over” the death of my wife. Ever so slowly, I felt life coming back to me. This was real life, true life, what I call normal living. It is not the normal that I had been used to — it is a new normal. This new normal is a gift from God. It is not better or worse than the old normal. It is simply different, and it fits me.
Sometimes I still feel sad when I think about Lisa. I am sorry for what we miss without her sharp wit and great sense of humor — though her family upholds that tradition well. I feel a pang of guilt now and then, because Sam and I did experience some relief without a chronically mom and wife to care for. We also felt a positive change in our finances due to the drastic drop in medical costs. But now I have a closer relationship with each of my three sons than I did before their mother died. James and I have been to Israel, Egypt, and Greece together. Bill and I have been to England and Ireland together. Sam still lives with me and is working on his bachelor’s degree. We were all together this Christmas — including my new daughter-in-law, Karyn!
I am supposed to feel the loss of my wife; it is a good thing that I notice Lisa’s absence. It means that I loved her and she loved me. Despite her multiple sclerosis, we had a good life together. I am thankful to God for all of the blessings I have received before, during, and after our seventeen-year marriage. Life is for living, thank God!
I could not have found The Upper Room Moments of Prayer (on Facebook Live) sooner. For it is during these moments of centering spiritual practices, meditating on the words of scripture, praying with and for the world, that I find moments of transcendence, hear whispers of peace and hope, see glimpses of truth and justice, behold visions of love and beauty amid all the stark realities that are around me.”