Spiritual advice from a seasoned widow

Lorraine Murray
Lorraine Murray

My husband died of a heart attack five years ago, while walking home from a car-rental place. He died on a patch of clover-covered lawn a few blocks from our home. On my daily walks, I pass that spot and see him in my mind’s eye, stretched out in the August sun.

A doctor stopped to give him CPR, but he was already gone. Later, I spoke with the doctor and a lady who’d been there, and heard the same words: “It was a very peaceful death.”

He was a peaceful man, with a calm, gentle voice, so that made perfect sense. Children flocked to him because he entered their world so easily, as evidenced by a photo showing him with the neighborhood kids, wielding wooden swords he’d fashioned for them.

Losing a spouse, when the relationship is really close, isn’t something you ever “get over.” However, I learned ways to cope, which might help other widows and widowers.

First, I sought a grief counselor in the early weeks after his death, since I knew I couldn’t manage this huge loss alone. She helped me manage my anger at a doctor, who I believed had missed obvious signs of an impending heart attack. She also helped me endure the strong waves of grief that seemed overwhelming at times.

Second, I began attending daily Mass at St. Thomas More Church, where the Gospel readings and prayers brought me closer to God. True, I was living alone, which I hated, but the biblical verses put my suffering in perspective.

After all, Jesus himself had undergone emotional agony, when he’d reflected on his impending death. “Father, take this cup from me,” he prayed, “but not my will, but thy will be done.”

There were no other words that so eloquently expressed my struggle in accepting this all-encompassing change in my life. Over time, I came to see that Jef’s death was God’s will, rather than a mistake made by a doctor. One day I imagined Jef asking, “Can you be happy for me?”

Third, gratitude began replacing grief as my dominant emotion. Yes, I would have liked more time with my sweet husband, but we’d been married 33 years -- and I thanked God for the amazing marriage we’d had.

Together we had moved from an existence where Sunday was just another day to a life where it was the pinnacle of the week, when we attended Mass and spent time with our community.

We did our best to trade selfish pursuits for volunteer work, and saw our callings --his artwork and my writing -- as gifts God had given us to help others.

We once talked about our purpose on earth, which for me was writing. Since he was a well-respected Tolkien artist, I thought he’d mention his artwork, but he surprised me: “I think God put me on this earth to take care of you.”

He did a wonderful job, I must say, since he was my best friend, plus a terrific cook, who also grew grapes to make wine and filled our home with gorgeous paintings.

I miss him with all my heart, but trust we will meet again, as promised in John 16:22. “Therefore, you too have grief now, but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.”

Lorraine’s email address is lorrainevmurray@yahoo.com.

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