I received a text Saturday night. “New widow – viewing Sunday – can you go?”
I looked up the location and, after church on Sunday, drove out to the mortuary nestled at the foot of the mountains in the south end of the valley.
I just recently learned about a group of widows who go and offer support to women who have lost their husbands, so they know that they don’t have to go through it all alone. I remembered how much support I had received from a widowed friend of mine when my husband drowned, and I wanted to be part of this movement, so I volunteered.
I arrived a few minutes before it was to begin, but the parking lot was already nearly full. I entered the foyer and saw a line that extended halfway down the hall. Obviously this man had been well-known and well-loved.
As the line moved slowly toward the room where the viewing was held, we walked past tables covered with items displayed to show the things he had loved – sports equipment, items from his profession, and photos – dozens of photos of him with his family: casual photos, photos taken on vacations, and formal family portraits. It appeared his family had been his focus.
Finally the line wound into the viewing room. I saw the widow standing next to the casket, her children on each side of her. She looked composed, almost as if she were comforting those going through the line rather than the other way around. I remembered that feeling, and the incredible strength I felt at the viewings, and the comfort I drew from each warm embrace.
But those days are over quickly, and people get back to their lives, and then the widow is left to wonder, “What now? How do I live through this?”
That is when we want to be there for her. We know – we’ve been there, and it’s awful. Especially alone. So we don’t want her to feel alone, and we try to let as many widows as possible know that there is a group of us out here who will help in any way we can.
When I arrived in front of her, I could see a question in her eyes – she didn’t recognize me, and wondered who I was.
“You don’t know me,” I began, handing her an envelope with a card in it, “but I’m with a group of widows that just want you to know we want to support you in any way we can. When it gets hard, or when you don’t think you can go on, give one of us a call. We want to be there for you, because we know what it’s like, and having a friend who understands can make all the difference.”
She looked relieved. “Thank you,” she said. “Thank you so much.”
She set the card on the surface behind her, and smiled at me once more, and then looked to the next person in line.
As I walked out, I thought about how much the support of others can mean in life. Being able to connect with someone who’s walked a difficult path before you can make your own journey so much smoother.
It won’t be easy. We know that.
And she doesn’t know me – yet.
But hopefully soon she will, and I – and all the others of us who know her pain – will be there for her.