Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Father's Day for the Wives Who Miss Them 2021

Dear Friends,

For over five years I've been writing a monthly column for widows in a magazine called "Plain Values." The magazine is mailed to every Amish home in the US, free of charge, and it's just lovely. Full color pictures, great stories, interesting ads... Click here to visit their website and see some sample articles if you'd like.  

My column this month features three vignettes of what Father's Day might be like for widows at various stages in life. There are no easy ways through this widows journey, but love is a direction that I find many many of my widow friends take without hesitation. I hope these little stories reflect the beauty I see in them, and make your day richer for the reading. God bless you with many meaningful memories this Father's Day. 

💗 ferree 

 💗 Patterns of the Heart 💗

Father’s Day: it can be a tough day for widowed mothers. It’s such a strong reminder of the man we so dearly miss. Will we ever be rid of the deep sorrow and move forward with only joy instead?

When we remember that Jesus was called the “Man of Sorrows,” yet he was also full of joy, we can realize that God created us with the same capacity. May the following stories inspire you to see ways in which sorrow and joy can coexist.  For although each of the following scenes is fictional, sorrow and joy—together—form unique, wise patterns for life.

***

Susan was six-months pregnant when her husband was killed in an accident at work in April. As sun rays touch the edges of her window this Father’s Day morning, what thoughts await her?  A thud and movement deep within remind her that the baby will be due in a few weeks. She turns on her side and looks at the empty half of the bed. She places her hand on the cool sheets and smooth pillow.

Will it always be like this when she wakes up, she wonders? Will her heart always start to ache as soon as she opens her eyes?

The past two months have been a blur:  forced to sell her beloved first home, she’s still not settled into her parent’s house yet. With the baby coming, she’ll need their help with her daughters: ages two and four—cute as buttons, but mischievous as monkeys.

She’d better get up and start the day. Father’s Day. She shakes her head. No!  She can’t do it this year. Not yet. The wound is too fresh and raw. Her girls still cry; they don’t understand where daddy went. They keep asking when he will come home. Next year they will start Father’s Day without a father, when they are a little stronger.

Ooops! Too late. She hears little bare feet running on the wood flooring. Laughing and squealing, the girls dash into the bedroom and jump into her bed. For a few brief moments they all snuggle under the covers. Susan presses her daughters close. Their shiny, sleep-tangled hair smells so good. They giggle and tunnel up tight to Susan’s belly. The baby inside gives them a playful thump, just like their father would have, Susan imagines with a deep yearning. Will this baby look like him? She hopes so.

***

Mary reminds herself once again, “In saving your kids, you save yourself.” She’d read that in her early days of widowhood. She feels like she’s worked day and night ever since, holding onto that promise.  Her husband had died instantly of a massive heart attack when their four children were in grade school.

It’s five years later now. She doesn’t have much, but she stretches what she does have. As for Father’s Day, some ideas worked for her family and some did not. Sitting in a circle and sharing a memory was awful for her boisterous bunch, even though other widows said it was a great idea.

Instead, one time she marked everyone’s height with a measuring tape and wrote their name in pencil on the doorpost in the breezeway. She remembered how tall her husband had been, so she marked his height too. Now, a few years later, the children look forward to Father’s Day so they can measure how much they’ve grown. Who will be as tall as, or taller than him? They often talk about him too. Sometimes they make his favorite dessert or play his favorite game.  

Over the years, they’ve each expressed grief very differently, even though they all lost the same person. However, Mary’s keenest insight so far is that as she and the children have matured, sorrow and joy are settling in and making for peace.

Almost unknown to her, Mary has learned to pray constantly, with every breath. At first she felt so silly and weak. Her every thought was, “God help me with this… and that…” but it’s second nature to her now. Sometimes the children hear her talking out loud to Jesus. The older ones might roll their eyes, sort of teasing; but all in all, she senses they’ve come to feel a bit safer knowing that God is at her side throughout the day.   

***

It’s still dark when Rose opens her eyes. She sighs, and squints at the luminous hands of the alarm clock on her nightstand—four o’clock—again. Why can’t she sleep until six anymore? She feels like she could leap out of bed! Or, more honestly, her mind is willing to leap, but the old body is slow to start.

She knows she’ll feel worse if she stays in bed, but she also knows she has to take a few minutes to warm up her muscles and joints before getting up. Her husband fell out of bed when he had his stroke and she’s certain he got up too fast. While going through her exercises, she remembers today is Father’s Day.  On the oak chest that was her husband’s, stands the card she bought him this year. Tucked in the top drawer are fourteen cards from the past fourteen years.

The first Father’s Day without her husband, Rose made several attempts to buy a Father’s Day card before she succeeded. She knew people would think she was very odd, but she was determined. The first store she stopped at was her favorite, but as she entered, she saw two women she knew—the town gossips! She panicked and fled before they could spot her. She ended up at a large retail chain where no one would recognize her.

 There, reading row after row of thoughtful and touching cards she began to cry, softly, at first, then the full waterworks started. In great need of a handkerchief, she had to rush out empty-handed.  A few days later she gathered her strength, and some tissues, and went back. Allowing herself only ten minutes, she purchased the first card in her collection.  

 She smiled to herself. Each year it got easier and easier. She had no idea it was something that would bring her such joy.  

‟Why didn’t I get him cards when I could give them to him in person? Well, I don’t know if he would have wanted them. He didn’t like to talk about feelings. But now he’s gone. So, I say how I felt back then. How I still feel. I really loved him. He said I told him that enough, but maybe I never told him enough for me.”

‟Father’s Day means so much because of our sons (who I see him in), our daughters, and all the grandchildren. Papa wove so much into each of our lives. Our family lives on because of how he loved us. My heart will always have the sorrow of missing him, but oh, the joy of having loved him.”

Sorrow and joy—together may they create a unique pattern in your heart this Father’s Day. 💗


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