Moving On

Jeanine Brenner, a United Methodist Church Minister for 20 years, shares her personal story about the struggle with lonliness and the feelings she had while searching for a new life after the death of her husband. In an excerpt from this article, she states: "While it was through pain that we became acquainted, when we were together I laughed easily. I rediscovered joy. I had peace and was beginning to accept my loss. My present life was not what I would have chosen, but it was what it was and it was, good."

by Jeanine Brenner

I rubbed my forehead, trying to ease my prickling concern, as I sat staring out my office window at the multi shades of green in the woods bordering my back yard. My friend hadn’t called for several days. This was unusual, for in the last few months he had called daily, and I began to depend on his calls. This was the third day – no call and no white car appearing unexpectedly in front of my house. I was surprised at the anxiety I felt. Since my husband’s death a year ago from Parkinson’s Disease, I knew all too well what it is like when no one is there if you are in trouble. I was worried.

In this year, I had come to treasure Larry’s friendship. His slow smile, his offbeat sense of humor and his common sense advice had become part of my life. I enjoyed having him ring my bell and ask if I had eaten dinner or if I wanted to go with him to the discount store. I enjoyed listening to the oldies he played in the car as summer breezes blew through the open window. I felt younger than I had in years when I joined him on his outdoor photography treks. I relied on his help with a stubborn hose or light bulb that I could not unscrew. It was comforting to tell him my family concerns and I appreciated his attentive interest in their comings and goings.  Because he was such a good listener, I liked telling him about my day. I also wanted to hear about his.  When I was upset, his understanding and wisdom often gave me new insights and encouragement. It sometimes seemed as though he knew me better than I knew myself.

Having lost his wife from cancer, he knew what it meant to have a hole gouged out of your heart – a hole that, although diminished by time, would never be completely filled. We both understood the pain of knowing that our loved ones would never again call our name or walk through our back door. Since we had both spent several years as caregivers, we understood the emptiness experienced when days were no longer filled with responsibilities. We shared the longing for something to fill that void. We spent hours talking about our spouses, and even though we had never met each other’s spouses, it seemed like we had known them for years. While it was through pain that we became acquainted, when we were together I laughed easily. I rediscovered joy. I had peace and was beginning to accept my loss. My present life was not what I would have chosen, but it was what it was, and it was good.

So now, after having lived through one devastating loss, just thinking about another loss scared me. I told myself I was merely anxious for a good friend, but I also had to wonder if something was happening that I did not want to acknowledge. I hated to admit how much I thought about Larry and how I enjoyed being with him. I looked forward to our times together, and I was sad when a day passed without talking to him. I waited for his quick hug when we said goodbye, enjoying the warmth of his closeness, and sometimes not wanting to leave the security of his arms.

My marriage had lasted almost 50 years. We had a love that was satisfying and rewarding. Now, it was over. Grief books tend to gloss over the loss of physical intimacy, but I missed the love I once knew. However, I had no intention of starting another relationship. I liked my life as it was. For too long the demanding responsibilities of care giving had defined my life. I now appreciated the freedom of being my own person. Besides, any attachments at this time could seriously complicate my family relationships and financial status.

When I saw Larry later that day he laughed sheepishly, but his eyes had their customary teasing twinkle. Although he did not admit it, I could tell he appreciated my concern, even though there was no need to be worried. Nothing serious was keeping him home – just a bug that had him under the weather.   

So why had I felt such uneasiness over not hearing from my friend? Did my feelings go beyond the bounds of friendship? Could I be transferring my love and desire for my husband to someone I enjoy being with, someone who is a very real reminder of my spouse? Is this my way of holding on to the past? Common sense tells me that as comforting as love might be, an impulsive infatuation could cause much pain and might destroy a beautiful friendship. While I may be moving on with my life, I am still vulnerable and my emotions are easily unbalanced. Friendship is good, but anything that might become something more would seriously disrupt both our lives.   

The wise writer of the book of Ecclesiastics says, “There is a time for everything in life.” God has given me this time with Larry to fill a void and to be my companion while waiting for God’s healing. God has a timetable and it is unwise to thwart that timetable. I may not be able to resist tender feelings, but I am accountable for how I respond to those feelings, and for the choices I make. Larry may not always be around, but I know God will be there for me forever.  

God has a plan for my life, and he has given me this time to draw close to Him so I will be ready for that plan. God’s love is a safe love. He will hold me in his comforting arms and He will never leave me. A passionate love affair with an all loving God can fill the empty space in my life. In his infinite wisdom, God knows my every need. He is sufficient for that need, and as my relationship with Him grows, I can be His channel to express love. Many people are hurting and need a friend. I believe God can use me to be that friend.     

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