Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Interview with Red Dwyer About Widowhood

A special welcome today to participants of The Widowed Blog Hop! These are widowed bloggers from all sorts of backgrounds and experiences. I recently met Red Dwyer through the Hop----of course we all "meet" bloggers all the time, but Red and I met IN PERSON!
She had visited this blog in January, and when I mentioned how I post widows stories and interviews she took two seconds to write "I'm open to an interview." And so . . . .(drum roll) . . . here we are today! Turns out only 60 miles run between us, so I got my wheels, Red donned her chef hat, and over steaming bowls of her delicious jambalaya, I met her two sweet children still at home and glimpsed her remarkable life.
Three years ago Red's 45-year-old husband was diagnosed with mesothelioma and adenocarcinoma--two types of cancer. He had less than six months between diagnosis and death, which left Red and nine surviving children between the ages of twenty-one and four.  During this time she wrote Killing Us Softly - Becoming the Surviving Spouse of Cancer.
Did the doctors or anyone give you a timeframe? Did you know how quickly life would change?
No, they knew better than give us a date. He was in no position to handle such news, but I knew from experience. We knew it was metastatic, and before it was over had spread to the bone and brain. At the same time, my stepmother was dying of metastatic breast cancer. She died six weeks after he did. 
Red, you were raising children, writing a book, caring for your home, battling with the state for your autistic children's educational needs, your stepmother was dying  . . . on top of trying to get decent medical care for Russell. As a writer, what word or words would you pluck to describe those months and weeks?
When I look back the one word which sticks out is focus. The tide of emotion and the undercurrent of information, coupled with the rip tide of misinformation and verisimilitude, easily wipes out the most organized, balanced people. Focusing on the minutes instead of the (weeks, months, years) left is what reveals the stepping stones amongst the stumbling blocks.
What thoughts come to mind when you think back to that time? Is it hard to believe it's been three years already?
For me it is harder to believe it has only been three years. The intervening time has been very packed. When I look at things and wonder how they would be different it is hard to conceptualize all the changes in just three years.
If you were going to write a book about all the changes---perhaps a sequel to Killing Us Softly---what would be some of your chapter titles? 
Tarnished Silence
Chores are not the enemy.
Dates belong on calendars.
Tree of Life=Family Tree
Corporate Rebirth
Just call me “Momdy
Lick this, Timex!
Thursday, 3PM: Nothing
What did you do that helped you the most? 
Staying the course. I had an epic battle with the state of South Carolina over the school situation for my autistic toddlers. On the day of my husband's memorial service, I had a grandson born, and a son graduated from high school. Had I the time, I likely would have fallen more to pieces. My role in the family was not forborne because of my husband's funeral.
What was the hardest thing about widowhood for you?
The way the children deal with it in their own ways. The autistic children (we have three of those) took a pragmatic, yet slow approach to it. The teens took it cyclically hard and easy. The twenty-somethings were a mixed bag of detached and devastated. With all of the emotions on differing planes, it was, and still can be, difficult. Today, they are doing better. As with the death of their sister, we revisit less frequently than we did even a year ago.
What was the most helpful thing people did for you? The worst thing?
Helpful: Chores. Worst: Evangelize. 
Would you please talk a little bit about how Russell's death affected your faith?
This shook my faith to its core. It eclipsed what I felt should be shouldered by devout and faithful followers. It was compounded by church members who paraphrased the Bible to suit their particular brand of faith. My relationship with God remained, but subdued. The blessings in the aftermath and the deliverance of peace were the only reconciliatory fragments between us. I needed it to later show others how faith can endure.
Had my faith not been so shattered, I never would have learned what held it together and how to keep it from disassembling in the future. I was carried when I was weakest, so I could concentrate on the tasks at hand. It was God’s hall pass for me to do battle without meeting demands only placed by mortals. I had to tend the spiritual garden in my home rather than the one with all the able bodies at church.
You're not alone, Red. Abandoned, cut in half, forsaken by God . . . shaken to the core . . .I know I've felt that, even though my experience seems like it was so much easier than yours. And add to your pain a panel of church people judges---just like Job's "comforters." Yet, you've discovered more than survival.
What would you like most for others to learn from your experience?
Not only is it survivable, it is so with grace and abundance.

What encouragement can you give a woman who is in the early raw pain of loss to help her find that grace and abundance?
Take every offer of help. You may have no idea why this person would offer to help. It is part of the great design. Take the help. Ultimately, you may be helping them on their own journey of grief.
What Bible verse has been most comforting to you?
2 Timothy 4:7
I don’t recall anyone else ever tagging that verse as a comfort—except for me. I had those exact words engraved on Bruce’s tombstone. How is it a comfort for you?
Two ways. First, my husband did not succumb in weakness, but transcended in triumph. Second, I did not succumb in weakness, but transcended in triumph. My husband embraced his faith and died in peace. I fought beyond his death to exist on a plane of peace which is stronger for the fight.
In five years from now, if anything were possible, what would you like to be doing?
Hosting an author's retreat at a bed and breakfast.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I have been touched by those who have read my book. They claim my strength through the process, where all I see are the places where I was carried. There is great healing in helping others on their path, even those who are merely witnesses to others' grieving.

Thank you for visiting with us all today, Red, and may God open up some effective opportunities for you.
With boundless energy Red works with writers.
Her blog for writers: The M3 Blog:
Link to her book:
Her production company: Redmund Productions:


  1. Thank you Ferree and thank you Red for sharing this uplifting and encouraging story of yours.

    FlowerLady Lorraine

  2. You are very welcome, Lorraine. Ferree is as terrific a host as she is a guest.

  3. I'll make sure to check in again in five years time so I can book a room at your B&B :-)

  4. Great interview. Red is an inspiration to a lot of people. I'm glad our paths crossed.

  5. I am hoping it does not take five years to get it together... Already shopping for property ;)

  6. I am, too, Bo. I love your work.

  7. I'm so glad we could get together Red, and I hope if others on the blog hop find themselves in such close proximity, they'll meet in person too sometime. Thanks again. hugs to you and the kiddos.

  8. So do I. Networking is terrific when you are close enough to meet. xxx

  9. Thank you Ferree and Red, for this interview. I am very touched by your words, Red. I am humbled by your strength and encouraged by your faith. Having read Killing Us Softly, I feel intimately aware of your journey to surviving beyond Russell's death. May I have such wisdom and strength should I be in your position in the future.

  10. Thank you for reading, Gail. I believe you will in the hour of need. My prayer is you will not need. xxx

  11. This is a great interview. Thanks Red for sharing your thoughts with Ferree. That is truely amazing you live only 60 miles from each other. Samantha


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