What If? (Post #37)

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“What If?” (Post #37) Lessons Learned by a Dating Widower

Two young adults from our church passed away just last month.  Both were younger than me.

A premature death is difficult to understand.  A spouse, a close friend, a brother, a mother, a sister, a husband, a father, a child, a grandparent.  If you can read this paragraph, most likely you’ve lost one or more of those loved ones.   And when death claims people when they are young adults, it’s a stark reminder that life IS INDEED fragile.

Believe me, as a widower, I know.

Every untimely death serves to remind me of the question “What if God calls you ‘home’ today?  Are you ready?”   Hebrews 9:27 tells us that each of us WILL die, and then we will face judgment.  So, am I ready for that?  If I knew that next month would be my last month, what would I do differently?

I’ve lost both my parents, all of my grandparents, and most of my aunts and uncles.  But losing my wife, ‘Ruby’, was absolutely devastating.  Just ask any widow or widower.  They’ll agree.  Except for losing a child, there probably isn’t anything worse.

So, other than having your heart right with God, I have just three pieces of advice for all of you that are married, and those of you that plan to marry.  1) Plan ahead.  Talk about what you’d like to happen if you ‘go’ first.  Share your hopes and wishes.  Share how you’d like to be remembered.  Talk finances.  Talk funeral arrangements.  TALK!  Thank the Lord, ‘Ruby’ and I had a couple of months to do that before she passed.  But I’ve met SO many widows and widowers that never had that chance.  So – TALK; now that you DO have the opportunity.

2)  Tell them that you love them!   Who’s “them” you ask?  ANY and EVERY one that you DO love, and even those you DON’T!   In the last couple of months of ‘Ruby’s’ life, I must have told her 200 times that I loved her.  Now I wish I had told her 500 times!  And a million more times in our 38 years of marriage.  And, don’t just stop with your spouse!  Tell everyone else around you!  TELL THEM ALL!  THEN SHOW THEM THAT YOU MEAN IT!  You won’t have the chance when you’re compost.

3)  Stop treating the unimportant stuff of life like it’s important.  I’m no expert, but I would guess that 95% or more of what we worry about . . . and fret over . . . and lose sleep over, I S  U N I M P O R T A N T!  Go read, better yet – MEMORIZE Matthew 6:25-34.  After I lost the love of my life, I THEN EXPERIENCED what IS important.  And unfortunately, many times people never learn that lesson until it’s too late.  Wanna hear my list of what’s important?  I’ll be happy to share my list over a cup of coffee . . . when YOU have the time.

Not Thy Will, But Mine Be Done (Post #32)

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“Not Thy Will, But Mine Be Done” (Post #32) Lessons Learned by a Dating Widower

 

I don’t know whose DNA I inherited when it comes to personality; my mother’s or my father’s.  For the most part, I think I’m pretty easy to get along with.  I think I’m congenial, pleasant, cooperative, sociable, affable, undemanding, and easy to please.

OK . . . now to be truthful.

More recently, I’m finding that my personality is transforming.  Depending on the situation or depending on the temperament of the person with whom I am interacting, I can be downright arrogant.  I can be ‘type A’, demanding and argumentative.  Please realize that I’m only admitting this to you, a faithful & private reader of my blog. I’d never admit it to a woman that I’m dating.  I’d only show her my congenial side.

To be frank, I have a hard time being submissive.

Where did that originate?  I don’t really remember being that way when married to ‘Ruby’.  I lived to love her.  I lived to please her.  I loved putting her first.  I lived unselfishly.  I loved making her happy.  I considered her feelings and wishes before my own.  And she reciprocated.  After all, isn’t that the basis for a great marriage?

But there’s no ‘Ruby’ now.

And I’m starting to frighten myself.  The longer that I am a single male, the worse I’m getting.  The higher my age-number climbs, the more stubborn I’m becoming.   Is there a ‘point of no return’ when it comes to being a single male (or female)?  If I choose to remain single for an extended period of time, will I become reclusive?  Unsociable?  Content in my cocoon?  I know that healthy grieving takes time . . . but is there a threshold I can exceed where I become UNCOMFORTABLE or UNWILLING to consider dating or remarriage.

The longer that I’m single, the more unwavering I am becoming on certain qualities in a future mate:

a) spiritually healthy

b) attractive

c) in good physical shape

d) articulate

e) intelligent

f) emotionally healthy

g) healthy love of family

h) great sense of humor

Is that too much to ask?  I’ve had that list about a year after ‘Ruby’ died.  But, you know, the longer that I’m single, that ‘must have’ list seems to be growing.  For example; I also have these ‘unwritten’ qualities (until now) that I WANT in my mate:

i) spiritually compatible (our theology should match)

j) I’ve gotta feel a ‘spark’ when I’m with her

k) financially independent

l) musically compatible (sharing similar passions & dispassions)

m) she’s gotta tolerate, and maybe even support my love of sports, nature, music, traveling, and entertainment.

n) politically compatible

o) she’s gotta LOVE being active – no ‘couch potato’ or ‘stay-at-home-hermit’

I’m worrying myself now.  By next month, I may have added 5 more to that list.  And at that rate, by next year, I will have run out of alphabet!  And opportunities!  And patience.  And time.

ON THE VERY FIRST DATE THAT I HAD AFTER ‘RUBY’ DIED (see post #2), my date ‘Alice’ proclaimed, “…most of the single men I know are just happy to remain single.”  WHOA NELLY!  WAS THAT PROPHETIC OR WHAT?!  And now I wonder . . . I don’t know if there is a correlation of that seemingly prophetic statement with the age of men, or their widowed condition, or of the length of their singleness.

But I do know this.  There IS a correlation between God working in my life, and His perfect will for this imperfect male.  That’s all I really need.   Come to think of it, that’s all I really want.

PLEASE NOTE: The title of this post has been intentionally misquoted.  Click here to see the original quotation of Matthew 26:39.

Monopoly (Post #28)

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“Monopoly”   (Post #28) Lessons Learned by a Dating Widower

I loved playing board games as I grew up with my parents & siblings.  We played Parcheesi, Gusher, Risk, Sorry, Scrabble, and the infamous Monopoly.  Monopoly was a game that originated in the USA and first published by Parker Brothers in 1935.

Subtitled “The Fast-Dealing Property Trading Game”, the game is named after the economic concept of monopoly — the domination of a market by a single entity. It is currently published by the United States game and toy company Hasbro. Players move around the game board buying or trading properties, developing their properties with houses and hotels, and collecting rent from their opponents, the ultimate goal being to drive them into bankruptcy.  Wikipedia

I still enjoy playing Monopoly as an adult, but unfortunately, other versions of the game have found their way in the dating games that people play.  Allow me to explain.

As a dating teenager, I remember ‘dating around’.  For example, if I went on a first date with a girl on the first weekend in May, we were NOT necessarily expected to go out again the following weekend.  I may choose to date a completely different girl the next weekend.  You get the picture.  And that was true for girls as well.  It was no big deal.  At that time of our lives, we dated for fun, for companionship, for friendship, or just to have a good time.

Now if I stopped dating other girls, and if I happened to exclusively date the same girl for a period of time, we MAY start going ‘steady’ as we called it.  That meant that we were choosing to JUST date each other.  No rings were necessarily exchanged (I was too poor to buy one anyway).  It was just a mutual understanding that we were choosing to go ‘steady’.  Hypothetically, on date #7, I may have actually asked the girl “hey, do you want to go steady?”, and she would respond affirmatively or either think I was just kidding (it usually was hard for girls to tell when I was just joking or if I was serious).

Well, that was back when I was 17.  I don’t know what happened, but the ‘rules’ drastically changed between those teen years and now when I’m in my 60’s.

For example, at age 61, ‘Polly’, and I enjoyed a few dates together.   I invited her to attend a show with me (tickets were about $75 a piece), to which she readily accepted . . . until she found out that I was ‘communicating’ with other women.   At the time, I was a member of an on-line dating site (where I had met ‘Polly’), and I happened to be swapping emails with a couple of other girls I contacted through that dating site.

Hey, I wasn’t even DATING any of these girls.  I was merely emailing them every whip-stitch.  Well, when ‘Polly’ was enlightened to that fact (…and I was just being honest with her), she politely informed me “well, if you’re still communicating with other girls, then I don’t think I can go along with you to the show.”

What’s up with that?  I wasn’t ready to figuratively stick a ring on my finger!  I was just keeping my options open.  Is that so wrong?  It evidently WAS in ‘Polly’s’ mind.  She wanted to be the “one and only”; the Monopoly in my life.  I really liked ‘Polly’, and saw the potential TO BE serious with her.  But, believe it or not, I wasn’t ready! (I know you really can’t believe that!)  The net result?   We stopped dating, and I took ‘Plan B’ to the show.

Lesson that I learned: people my age (both genders) have a propensity to be prematurely serious in a relationship.  And widowers are probably the most notorious at ‘pulling the trigger’.   We’re sometimes so quick to commit that we’ll stay with someone that we really don’t love – convincing ourselves that we DO love them, or WILL love them eventually – because we’re so desperate for love and companionship.

The mindset of a 60-year-old IS DRASTICALLY DIFFERENT than that of a 17-year-old.

You, Too (Post #26)

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“You, Too”   (Post #26) Lessons Learned by a Dating Widower

I’ve JUST returned home from visiting a friend and his wife in a local nursing home.  I’ll call them ‘Dick’ & ‘Jane’.  ‘Jane’ has been battling cancer for over a year.  I just got the word today that she was admitted to this nursing care facility after they learned from doctors that she has only a few days to live.  After seeing her just about 30 minutes ago, I’m in shock.  I’ll be surprised if she lives 24 hours.

And ‘Jane’ is only 38.  ‘Dick’ is a mere 36.  I’m not making this up. I truly can’t believe it.  I feel so horrible for ‘Dick’.

My ‘Ruby’ was 60 when she graduated to Heaven. I almost feel guilty that she made it all the way to age 60!

This grave reminder of death claiming the spouse of my friend is forcing me to remind you; that if you are currently married and remain married, you or your spouse WILL face the same questions, the same struggles, the same heartache that I’ve described in the previous 2 dozen+ posts.  GUARANTEED.  One of you WILL die before the other.  Or if your marriage crashes in a divorce or annulment, BOTH OF YOU WILL lose each other.  (The ONLY exception is if you both are tragically killed in the same calamity.)

Yes, you, too, WILL travel the same grieving journey, and will MOST LIKELY deal with similar dating issues.   It’s just a matter of time.

You, too, will struggle with handling the grieving struggles simultaneously while deciding if you want to date/love again.  It will either be YOU or YOUR SPOUSE that will be taken first.  It will be either YOU or YOUR SPOUSE that will be left behind.

Unless you never marry . . . you, too!

I can read the minds of some of you who are reading this post.  You’re starting to skim the text in this post.  You’re starting to live in denial.  You’re beginning to think “well that won’t happen to me for a long, long time, so I don’t need to worry about it now.”  Dick is 36!!  Did you hear me??  36 !! 

First of all, you who are still married, ya gotta start talking together with your spouse about the “when it happens…”; NOT the “what if it happens”.  ‘Ruby’ and I were blessed with years to talk about it after she was first diagnosed with cancer.  We talked about what we wanted at the memorial service; about cremation; about finances; about the cemetery headstone; about DATING (I hated that discussion); and about other sundry details.  We didn’t discuss all of those topics at the same time, and we discussed them when it was appropriate; NOT, for instance, when she was sick from getting chemotherapy.

I admit, some of those topics were painful to discuss.  But in retrospect, and after ‘Ruby’ had passed away, I sure was grateful that we had.

Second of all, those of you who are still married have to begin living like next month is your last.  ‘Ruby’ and I might have been married for 38 years; and we might have had a wonderful Christian marriage . . . but regardless, I wish I had told her more frequently that I loved her.  I wish I had demonstrated my love for her by doing more of the cooking & more of the housework.  I wish I had held her more.  I wish I would have taken more time just to talk with her.  I wish we could have traveled more together.  I wish we would have just taken more walks together.  I wish . . .

When you DO lose your spouse, you will then (AND ONLY THEN) know what I’m talking about.  When you start the dating ‘game’ again at age 60 like I did, then you will realize how good you had it with YOUR ‘Ruby’.  No matter HOW WONDERFULLY BLESSED YOUR MARRIAGE WAS, you’ll begin (all too late) to make your own “I wish I had . . .” list for yourself.

Don’t ask (it’s forbidden to know) what end the gods have granted to me or you, Leuconoe. Don’t play with Babylonian fortune-telling either. How much better it is to endure whatever will be!Whether Jupiter has allotted to sink you many more winters or this final one which even now wears out the Tyrrhenian sea on the rocks placed opposite — be wise, be truthful, strain the wine, and scale back your long hopes to a short period.While we speak, envious time will have already fled: seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the next.                                      Quintus Horatius Flaccus

Carpe Diem!  You’ll never regret it.

5/2/2013 UPDATE TO THIS POSTING:  ‘Jane’ passed away just last night (the night of 5/1/2013) after her struggle with cancer.  Please be in prayer for her 36 year old husband ‘Dick’ and their two young children.  

5/3/2013 UPDATE; EMAIL RECEIVED FROM A FRIEND:   My wife, ‘Ruth Anne’, suddenly became ill and when I took her to the hospital I had no idea that she would never come home.  After that point we had no opportunity to talk together.  From what I was being told I believed she would get better but it didn’t happen.

We were both in good health and I thought we would have fifteen more years together.

I also have a regret that I did not tell ‘Ruth Anne’ more often how much I loved her and how special she was.  We also had the goal to do more traveling.  I can think about the special things we did together.

I am so thankful we had no issues between us to have regrets.  We were always very open with each other.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to cleanse my mind.