I moved my foot over to his side of the bed like I had done many times during the last twelve years, to gently touch his toe. That movement had brought with it a great sense of comfort all those nights when I needed to feel close to him but didn’t want to awaken my Don from the sleep his weak body so desperately needed. Toe touching was our way of comforting one another, but it was also intimate love making for us as we were deeply committed to sharing ourselves with one another amid the restrictions set for us by an illness that we had no control over.
After years of battling cancer, Don’s earthly fight was over. The reality of being a widowed mother of three young children was beginning to sink in and that single again “widowed” status brought with it harsh realities that would shake the ground under me and change my life forever.
Glancing at the clock, I knew I had to get up. The demands of the day were ready for my attention. Whatever happened to my youthful dream of an idyllic life? Life is not always idyllic, and most often does not come anywhere close for the single again adult.
My Don was sick when we married, and we were unable to secure mortgage insurance. His death impacted every cell in my body, but also I was left with a stack of medical bills with no help from anyone. I recall looking at those bills and crying so hard that my face hurt. “God, what am I going to do?” Added to the mountain of debts, my kids needed me, and there was other “stuff” that required my attention. In those twelve years of being married to a man critically ill much of the time, I had become terribly weary. I was on the brink of physical and mental exhaustion; however people kept telling me how strong I was so I continued pushing hard to keep things looking normal on the surface. All the while, the depth of my weary soul began to cave in and I was ill equipped to handle the onslaught of suffering inside myself. I did not want to be strong: I wanted to waddle in my pain for a while, to take a break from life and rest for a while. I wanted some time to myself, time when I wasn’t up half the night doing laundry, cleaning house, or preparing meals at 3 AM. I found myself sleeping less, unable to see how anyone, even God could get me out of the mess my life had become.
Life was hard, but God had not left me to face the days alone. Joan, a dear friend called at a time when no one else could have done for me what she did. She said, “I don’t understand what you are going through, but I’m here to listen to you cry, and to cry with you, if that will help.” And we did just that! Together, we cried for an hour and she listened as I talked about my Don, my children, and the ways they were suffering over the death of their father. I don’t recall another person ever asking me how the children were dealing emotionally with losing their dad. The tears stopped and we laughed and enjoyed good fellowship. That was twenty-five years ago but I have recalled it many times as I share with others the need to just be a friend. A friend who might not understand, but who is there to listen, to share tears, and to laugh! That time with Joan has remained a source of strength for me over the years.
The time did come when I realized that God had not abandoned me, but not until after I had given up. The late Larry Burkett, Christian economist, radio host, and a friend, had a heart for single again adults and sensed the great need I had, so he sent an associate to me. She become a buffer allowing me the freedom to be real. She offered counsel without judgment or condemnation and comforted me while pointing me to Jesus. I had been a Christian for years, but the pain that accompanied the loss of my Don and the details of my life after his death were insurmountable.
When our bodies are weak and tired, trauma is magnified. The weight of being single again was enough to face, but added to that was what made me a single again adult. All the “stuff” that required attention could bring even a strong person down, but one who is broken and fragile is no match for the intense pressure.
Life can’t be played out like a childhood dream. When Christ is our strength, then what we do in the minutes and hours in a single day become increasingly more productive. Finally able to abide in the Lord, a marked change in life, attitude, physical and mental abilities was evident. He was there all the time. He understood my hurt. He was what I needed in that gut-wrenching loneliness. He is the only one who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that I ask or even imagine (Ephesians 3:20). I came to realize in those dark and lonely nights that God wanted me to cry out to Him and to recognize that He is my all, and that He has toes, too.
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