One of our favorite places to walk the dog is the Sunset Mountain Trail in West Gloucester that ends at the Mt. Jacob Cemetery. It’s a small Jewish cemetery at the edge the woods; small enough to get to know the stones as you pass through. There is one that is different from any I had ever seen before–it’s hollow, an oval carved out of a rectangle, rough enough that you could almost believe it occurred naturally. It moves me every time I see it. When I first met with Kate to discuss her experiences as a widow, she showed me a manuscript she had written of a memoir. There were short, sweet memories of her life with “my Mitch,” and illustrations of the objects that made up her new life. As she was showing me each one she said, “Here is his gravestone,” and there was a little ink sketch of a hollow stone; an oval carved out of a rectangle. The care and significance that she put into every detail of their life together resonated with me in that cemetery before I even knew her.
Eleven years ago my dear sweet husband Mitch died suddenly. Instantly I became a widow, the unthinkable had happened to me.
I was alone; a single woman for the first time in forty years. I was in shock and had to learn how to be a widow, unmarried and very sad.
I’m not a natural crier, but at that time I desperately needed to cry. I had to gather the tears that were welling up in the corners of my eyes and let them out. Slowly they began to escape, at first a little at a time, later, when I got better at crying, the tears began to flow. Now, years later I can cry just thinking about something sad, it doesn’t even have to be my sadness.
Over the course of our thirty-three year marriage Mitch and I had become intertwined. When he died I needed to detach, separate, and mourn his passing. I needed to learn about the things that he had so expertly taken care of like paying the bills (was a big one). Also taking care of the house, the garden, and the car. I knew how to take care of the children, but it was so lonely doing it without Mitch. In order to continue living I had to learn the tasks Mitch did and do it my way..
The early years of widowhood are a nightmare, but like so many others I closed my eyes, held my breath and managed to get through those hard times. I was fortunate to have wonderful family and friends around me. My younger brother came and stayed with me for several months. Without consciously realizing it, I was learning, growing, and coping, creating a new life. It wasn’t magic, it was living everyday. I learned what bills needed paying immediately and which ones could wait. Eventually I hired a bookkeeper, a gardener, and my children’s friend’s father became my contractor (he looked after my house) and helped me to feel almost safe.
Mitch and I had always managed to do all the work of living our lives without hiring help. Now, it felt like I was cheating hiring people, but I needed help. I was going to lead my life differently. Now, I was making decisions alone and I had to find my own way, no longer the way Mitch and I together had done it.
Eleven years have passed (hard to believe it went so fast) and my life has changed dramatically. Now I am an independent woman making decisions about everything, like where I want to live, dating and traveling. I have excellent relationships with my grown children and grandchildren. I am so much more now than I was when I first became a widow. I am amazed and happy to be MORE.