Sunday, March 26, 2017

She Walks These Hills #1, Fitted for Widow's Weeds

My husband Dave died one year ago, after seven years of on-again, off-again illnesses, on March 17, 2016. During the last years of his life, and during the year that has followed, I kept a journal. Two weeks ago, I read it. All of it. And, as I did, I took the journey again, but this time with perspective, and I saw the winding path of those days, and where they led--where they had to lead--and the gentle hand that guided me through them.

I've often said that the sorrow of my loss is always mixed with gratitude for the many years Dave and I shared--full of constant love and lush laughter--but it's taken time to understand what was so gradually accomplished in those days, both in him and in me.  And that is the best part of the story, the part that renders less important our physical ends--after all, Dave did die and I did not--but it gives an opportunity to see what God did for us during these days, how He listened, how He answered each prayer as we put one foot in front of another into a place we did not want to go, and how He welcomed us there with grace beyond our imagining.

This post is the prelude to what will eventually be a year of posts, published chronologically just as they happened, almost all taken directly from my journals. I give them as a gift, both for those who have walked this path before me, for those whose daily walk is still healthy and whole, and also those for whom mortal illness holds a vibrant terror. God is with us all in each of our places. This was my walk through the valley.

#1:Fitted for Widow's Weeds

I don't know why I didn't record this in my journal, because I remember it vividly--the day I bought my widow's weeds.

That's what they used to call them back in Victorian days, the clothes a widow wore for a year following her husband's death.
Long, heavy, impenetrable, they included a weeping veil whose purpose, I'm assuming, was to hide her puffy face and red eyes. We don't wear these anymore, of course, but we do need a black dress for our husband's funeral. We do need that. And, more than a year before he died, more than a year before anyone knew he would die, I found one.

I was in Goodwill of all places, browsing for something to wear to a wedding, I think, and there it was. Crepe, mid-calf, with little pintucks down the front and a belt in the back. Just the style that looked best on me and a bargain besides. Obviously, however, there's a problem with this. One does not buy a dress to anticipate one's husband's death. It's not done.And for good reason.

How could I even consider it? I knew he was sick, very sick, and had been so for a long time. My common sense told me that, eventually, he would die. But not soon enough to necessitate buying a dress. Not even close. I didn't try it on. I hung it back up like I'd been stung instead, and walked out.

But I kept thinking about it, trying to imagine what would happen if--when, if I was being honest--Dave did die. Would I want to go shopping then? After all, I almost never wore black. I didn't have one thing in which to wrap grief that big.

And I kept remembering the little, almost microscopic, ways that God drops favor into my unexpecting lap, and I kept thinking of the dress.  Would it not be better to get it now rather than have to get one later, when I would rather be doing absolutely anything else? I knew it would. OK, I thought, I'd put it to the test. I'd wait a couple of days and if it was still there when I went back, well, I'd get it.

It was and I did, but guiltily, without telling anyone, and I shoved into a corner of my closet. I didn't want to look at it. And it hung there for 13 months, after which I took it off the hangar, wore it exactly twice, for both of Dave's funerals, and got rid of it, casting it out as though someone had coated it with acid.

My widow's weeds, for which, by God's grace I did not have to shop while broken and weeping, had served their purpose and I never wanted to look at them again.

Images: Shutterstock, Amberrose Hammond

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