Jan Richardson has said, “It came home to me that the most profound blessings we will ever know are those that meet us in the place of our deepest loss and inspire us to choose to live again.”
The other day I was on a Zoom call with some of the women I took to Switzerland last September. We didn’t know each other before that trip and met each other in person for the first time at the Interlaken train station. We spent nine days together walking the beautiful trails of the Bernese-Oberland area.
It was life changing for all of us.
Here’s why. Often as widows, someone will comment to us, “Well, at least you still have your memories.” And yes, we do have memories. We have many years of memories, but if we’re living there, we’re not really living.
I think we honor our husbands by making new memories. Having new experiences and adventures was the impetus behind my planning walking trips in some of my favorite places in the world. Our adventuring in Switzerland made each of us feel more alive, more present in the moment, and more hopeful that there is a lot of good living ahead of us. I think our husbands were smiling down on us, proud that as one member of the group said, “Swiss girls rock!”
In Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons, Jan Richardson asks the question: “What does it mean to re-imagine a life, especially when the life we have landed in is not the one we envisioned?” She responds to her own question with a blessing. Here are the final two stanzas:
will not fix you,
will not mend you,
will not give you
it will not talk to you
about one door opening
when another one closes.
It will simply
sit itself beside you
among the shards
and gently turn your face
toward the direction
from which the light
as the world begins
—Jan Richardson, from “Blessing When the World Is Ending”
We “Swiss girls” continue to deepen our friendship and celebrate each other’s growth, each other’s courage, each other becoming a new person in a new world we never could have imagined.
We all have January and February anniversary dates of the death of our husbands. Most of our friends and even family don’t know what to do with us as those dates approach, making those days feel more isolating and perhaps more sad than they need to be.
But during our Zoom call the other day, we decided that in remembrance of our husbands we would set up a Zoom call on Valentine’s Day, the purpose being to each share how we met our husbands. We don’t get asked how we met, and few friends will even mention our husband’s name to us, so having this time with each other felt positive, even joyful.
We shared old memories, precious memories, but in the context of new friendships and steps forward in becoming more of our new selves. It was a win, win!
How do you remember with friends who have lost a spouse? Does fear prevent you from saying their name or telling one of your own stories about them?
By Jeanie Stirling