Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I Know Him But We Never Met

I am filling in for Janine today, she will be back with us next week!

Tribute Tile Wall from Camp Widow West 2011
 Soaring Spirits is moving into a new donated office space...and even though I am writing this on Tuesday night, boy has it been a long week! While making room in our new digs, the relocating of desks, file cabinets, book shelves, and storage boxes has unearthed a variety of photos, old stationery, Christmas decorations, and two appointment calendars from the 90's.

The thing is these calendars belonged to the late husband of one of our board members. As I turned the pages and viewed Carl's writing I was struck by the proof of his existence...staring at me from small boxes marked with words written by his hand.

I never met Carl, but I feel I know him. I have heard his voice only once (on a cassette tape actually), and when I listened, somehow the timbre sounded familiar to my ears. Carl is someone I can pick out in a photo; I can tell you that he was meticulous and funny and fiercely loyal. I know that he helped his step-kids avoid their mother's wrath when they found themselves in hot water. He loved to give jewelry as a gift...I have seen the evidence! Carl was respected by his peers, valued by his employers, and kind to his family. When his daughter was diagnosed with cancer, he tried desperately to bargain with God to let him trade places with her so that she and  her young family would not be at risk of losing each other through death. Personal details, daily habits, food and wine preferences, and favorite travel destinations: all this I know about a man I never met, which I find odd and amazing at the same time, because my friend Barbara shared her love with me.

As I stared down at the maroon colored book in my hand today, I realized that not only do I "know" Carl, but I know so many other men and women whose hands I have never grasped in my own. You see, as a widowed community we share our late spouses with each other through stories, photos, tears, and laughter. When you leave a comment here, or send a message to us at SSLF, we meet your loved one for the first time through your words. Then every story you share there after, adds to the total picture we have of the person with whom you shared your life. Slowly but surely people we never had the privilege of sharing a meal with become dear to us, known to us.

In this beautiful way, our loved ones live on. Not just in our hearts, or even in the hearts of those who knew them in life, but in the friendships we share as widowed people trying to make our way without the people we miss and love so much.

Thanks Barb for sharing Carl with me. And thanks to each and every one of you who share your loved ones with us. Our community includes not only you and me, but all the people we love who have changed our collective lives. What a gift.


  1. Thank you for a lovely post.

    So true.

    Having a spouse die is a life changing event. Sharing with others who understand has been priceless.

    And meeting others who have experienced a spouse's death has surprisingly been a way of making new friends. To me these are the real friends with benefits:

    Friends who understand why sharing stories of a late spouse helps to define us to each other.
    Friends who I honestly believe will be here for me in my new life whatever happens.
    Friends who "get it" and know why being there is so important.
    Friends who are grateful for each day of life and want to seize moments.

    And in these new friendships is often expressed that we wish we could have met the other's late spouse.

    Each day I think of these new friends and wish them well.

    Thank you for having this place for such friends to gather and share.

  2. Beautiful.
    I believe our immortality lies there - in memory. In sharing the person we once walked with, still alive in mind and heart.

  3. This is by far one of my favorite parts about the widowed community. We all care so much and open are hearts to these wonderful people and their equally wonderful partners who we never got to meet but end up feeling like we've known forever. It's such a blessing.

  4. One constant thought I've had since Dave died is how much I need to find connections with other widowed people. Those connections have sustained me in the most difficult phases of the last 8 months. On the other hand, when I've felt strong, being able to support another widow in his/her lowest points has also sustained me.
    Seeing those tiles at 2011 camp was a moment I'll never forget. I felt the beauty of all of the love represented by those tiles and the sight of my tile amongst them nearly brought me to my knees. It was one of the most profound moments of my life. Actually, I can say that Camp was just one big string of profound moments in my life and it was only 3 days.

  5. Lovely post and lovely comments. I have changed so much since my husband died in ways I could have never imagined. The one positive thing has been the "new" friends in my life and SSFL. This blog and friends I have yet to meet, has not only kept me going but given me a reason to go on. It has touched my life deeply. I don't feel alone in my grief. I can hardly wait till April when I'll be attending my first CW, looking forward to something in my life again, it's been a very long time since that has happened.