We Always Have a Choice
When my husband died at eighty years old, I began a difficult journey of acceptance and healing.
Fred and I married when he was twenty and I was twenty-one. We had only dated six months, so our families were a bit concerned.
Sixty years later, Fred often talked about the time I opened the door of the apartment that I shared with his sister. He would
say "I took one look at your beautiful red hair and fell in love." Fortunately, he still felt the same way years
later when my hair turned white.
Every night, as we settled down to watch our favorite PBS shows, he would take my
hand and say, "This is what's important. I love you so much." Of course, we often fell asleep before the shows were
over. I can't tell you how many murder mysteries are still a mystery to me.
In the following weeks and months after
his death I tried to focus more on gratitude than sorrow. I grieved for my soul mate, but I also was grateful that he had
a stroke in his sleep and died peacefully five days later. No fear of dying, no suffering. Those five days gave our family
time to say goodbye, even though he never regained consciousness. On the fifth day, I suddenly felt the need to tell him that
he could "go home." That I would be all right. Two hours later, the nurse called me to say he had died. He would
jokingly tell people that he always did exactly what I told him to do. I would say, "Sure you do." But, in the end,
he lovingly did exactly what I told him to do.
My gratitude sustained me until four weeks later I was in a horrendous
accident and my car was totaled. Fortunately, I was not, and I was so grateful that neither myself nor the woman who ran into
me was badly hurt. I was bruised, and it took a few weeks to heal, but I was okay, physically. Now, however, fear became a
strong emotion. Not just of driving but of the unknown. The fear of what unexpected event was going to happen next. It would
sometimes strike in the middle of the night and I would have to tell myself to stop thinking and trust. I eventually would
go back to sleep and if fear returned the next day, I would pray for help and choose to go to my place of peace and stillness.
Although I would have preferred to just stay in bed and watch TV, I had to wade through a mountain of paperwork regarding
the estate, the insurance and finding another car. Ten days after the accident, I was gratified to find a duplicate of my
old car but four years newer. The accident provided me with a more reliable car, which hopefully will outlive me.
accident, on top of Fred's death, was traumatic, but I knew I had a choice. I could feel like a helpless victim or continue
to believe there is a reason for everything and trust that I would make it through to a better place. I allowed myself to
cry and feel whatever intense, negative, perfectly normal emotions I felt in the moment and then I did whatever I needed to
do. I practiced the adage, one day at a time. During the blitz in London in World War II, there were posters in the city that
said, "Stay calm and carry on." This became my mantra during my own personal blitz.
I also did a lot of writing.
Getting thoughts out of my mind and onto the page calmed my emotions. I recommend that everyone write in a personal journal
during a difficult emotional time. It is cathartic.
What sustained me most during this time was the love of family
and friends through phone calls, cards, emails, messages on Facebook and personal visits. Even the business calls involving
strangers were kind and thoughtful. My heart was touched and comforted by the sincere, caring words.
A few months
later, I made another decision. I could huddle in a corner, feeling sorry for myself, or create a new, positive life, albeit
alone. I knew Fred wanted that for me. I could feel him close by, encouraging me, loving me. I still do.
One of my
goals in this new life is to spend the years I have left helping others through my writing. Share my life in blogs and articles,
encouraging those who may be going through similar challenges.
Help others decide: self-pity or gratitude. Fear or
We always have a choice.