REAL LIFE RELATIONSHIPS: Finding love as a young widow

Image credit: Elizabeth Landt

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Image credit: Elizabeth Landt

A widow at 31, Keisha Blair rediscovers a fondness for mangoes and an old friend

When Larry found me again, I was shattered. I was 31 years old, newly widowed, with two little boys who needed me, and a demanding job that kept me busy.

I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear from Larry. My childhood friend had a knack for finding me in moments of distress. Like when my dog Toby died. Larry comforted me and helped bury my beloved pooch in the backyard. No matter how many times we lost touch over the years, Larry was like my guardian angel, always finding me when I needed him.

I was still overwhelmed with grief, after losing my husband suddenly, when a Facebook message from Larry popped up on my screen. We exchanged numbers, and I felt a tingle of excitement to reconnect with my old friend. When I told my mother, she wasn’t the least bit surprised. That should have been a sign. Dating was the last thing on my mind. I was far too busy, and my wounds far too raw.

That evening the phone rang. It was Larry.

My best friend, recently divorced, had nudged me to try online dating. Like me, she was on the backside of 30. To me, the prospect of meeting guys seemed like a chore. And the idea of introducing these strangers to my kids was out of the question.

Reluctantly, I did as my friend instructed, selected a dating site, and set up a profile. It wasn’t long before I abandoned the entire escapade.

Then came Larry. As kids, Larry and I had spent countless hours together. His family lived across the street, and our lives were stitched together from a young age. Our older brothers are still close friends. I’ve attended his family’s weddings and funerals.

Some of my fondest memories of Larry are rooted in a sprawling mango tree that grew outside my bedroom window. Larry’s mother loved mangoes, and she often sent Larry over to fetch some in July and August, when the fruit is in season.

We certainly had plenty to share. My parents estimated that our tree produced 20,000 pounds of mangoes each year. My bedroom window served as the conduit to collect the heavy orange orbs that rained down on our roof. Each morning, we would have enough fruit to fill several large laundry baskets.

In India, the mango is known as the “divine fruit,” a symbol of prosperity and happiness. Buddha was said to have meditated under a mango tree. Some of my fondest memories of Larry are rooted in that century-old tree, and the hours we spent laughing and telling stories.

As we grew older, Larry and I went our separate ways. We were each preoccupied with kids, mortgages and careers. When we reconnected, thanks to social media and Skype, the miles that separated us across an ocean didn’t seem quite so vast.

After my husband passed away, I awoke to Larry’s texts and spent evenings on the phone with him, chatting about our day. Our conversations grew more personal. I’d listen as Larry recounted his past relationships and their inevitable demise. He listened to me pour out my sorrows, with every gruesome detail.

I was unmoored, still not believing that my 34-year-old husband, fit and trim, went to work one April day and never came home. Larry and I talked about the odds of discovering that you have one of the rarest possible diseases known to mankind, one so little known that most doctors encounter it only in medical school textbooks.

Our conversations were a huge comfort to me when I needed it most. They filled me with energy and provided a respite from the aching loneliness of widowhood.

On one of our nightly calls, I mentioned the possibility of dating again. Without so much as a pause, Larry said, “Please let me know when you’re ready so I can put in my application.” I was dumbstruck.

In the United States, 14 million people lose a spouse each year. For many of us, the overwhelming grief at losing our life partner is followed by a sense of guilt at the thought of finding happiness again. Starting life anew with someone else feels like a betrayal. I wasn’t looking to meet a new man. But Larry wasn’t just any other man. Would I have eventually clicked one of those dating profiles if Larry hadn’t fallen back in my life?

Larry and I began a long-distance relationship that grew in intensity. Our short visits ended with teary goodbyes and promises to meet again soon. We savored our moments together. We went to concerts, movies, and took trips to the beach. We brought our kids along, not knowing exactly how this story would end. We fell in love. Yet all along, one question nagged at me: Why now?

We had been neighbors for 14 years, then we lived far apart for several more years. So why were we connecting now in such an intimate way? I thought about our separate journeys that had taken us to two faraway countries. Like that mango tree, which had withstood hurricanes and drought, could our relationship survive a battering by natural forces?

“Everything in life has a reason and a season,” a friend told me. A year and a half later, on a cold day in April, Larry and I were married in a castle, surrounded by our family and friends.

Keisha Blair is an economist and award-winning, international bestselling author of Holistic Wealth Expanded and Updated: 36 Life Lessons To Help You Recover From Disruption, Find Your Life Purpose and Achieve Financial Freedom. She is the Founder of the Institute on Holistic Wealth and is regarded as the “Mother of Holistic Wealth,” who started a global movement. Keisha is also the host of the Holistic Wealth Podcast.

Real Life Relationships is a monthly reader-contributed essay that explores the many ways in which we are connected and the all of the emotions those connections can bring into our lives. Interested in contributing? Email nedra.rhone@ajc.com with the subject line “Real Life Relationships.” Read more on the Real Life blog (www.ajc.com/opinion/real-life-blog/).