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Healing Hearts


It will soon be five years since my beloved Papa Bear became a part of my life.  When I first met him, via an Internet dating site, he had just recently become a widower for the second time, having lost his wife of five years to cancer. You can read that story here. 

We fell quickly in love and began to make plans to join our lives together.  In doing so we encountered a great deal of disagreement and clear disapproval from some of his family,  coworkers and friends.  What could he be thinking, not spending sufficient time in mourning, they wanted to know.  How could he choose another wife without playing the field a bit, testing all the waters, others asked.  Wasn't he being unfaithful to his wife's memory by moving on so quickly with his life?  Many saw me as an opportunist, taking emotional advantage of someone grieving and lonely.  There were actually a few people he knew who turned away when they saw us out together!

While two of his daughters welcomed me with open arms, seeing their father's new sense of happiness and hope, the third, who had become very close to his late wife, was very upset - not ready to see that connection  severed and her father in someone else's arms.  My little sister had reacted much the same way when my mother died and my father began dating the woman who would be come his treasured companion for the remaining years of his life. 

My children and my friends adored John, but were also concerned, wondering if he was rebounding from loneliness and despair.  Even the minister who married us at the lovely little bed & breakfast in East Texas expressed reservations about whether John was ready to decide on and commit to a new relationship so soon.  We both felt that deep down he didn't expect our marriage to last a year.  He was wrong though, as we are even more in love today, over four years later, and it keeps growing stronger, just as Papa Bear said it would.

What none of these people knew well enough, was the man that Papa Bear is. Not only does he think through his decisions rationally and carefully before proceeding, but he takes his commitments seriously.  When he has decided something is right for him, no one is likely to change his mind - and he believed, as I did, that we were right for each other and belonged together. 

When his daughter expressed her disapproval of our relationship, John asked her straightforward... "How long do you want me to be alone?"  He reminded her that he had been married for nearly all the years of his adult life and that he didn't like living alone.  While he understood her inner struggle with his decision, he was not going to allow her or anyone else to dictate what was right for him.

What people didn't understand was that by bringing me into his life, John was not in any way being disrespectful to his past wife or abandoning her memory.  It did not mean that he suddenly woke up one day and decided to forget her, quit mourning her absence, and move on. Mourning is a process with  many steps that occurs over a long period of time. 

When I entered into a relationship with John, I fully understood that he was still hurting inside from the loss of the woman with whom he had shared five-and-a-half wonderful years of love and laughter. Those memories were still fresh in his mind and I had no intention of expecting him to stop feeling the loss, nor to stop talking about it.  He knew with me he was free to share the joys, the struggles, and the pain... all of it, at any time, and he did. I took the responsibility to walk with him as his new wife as a sacred trust.  It is what Shelia had told him she wanted, for him to move on and find happiness again.  She did not want him to spend his days sad and lonely. 

I am very different from John's last wife, as she was from the one who was before her.  The things that he and I have in common are not the same as what they did, but they are just the right match up for both of us now, at this time in our lives.  As time has passed healing has taken place, and we have made many wonderful memories of our own together; there is love and laughter, shared struggles, fears, joys, and tears.  We are each other's best friend and companion, there is no one else either of us would rather spend time with.  If we are not at work, we are nearly always together, being content in each other's company is a wonderful thing!

John has told many people that my presence and love helped him greatly to heal from the loss of Shelia.  My understanding, my acknowledgment of how important she had been in contributing to the character of the man I now knew and loved as my own, enabled him to walk that road of mourning with the comfort and companionship of a caring, loving friend.  Isn't that better than having to face the emptiness alone? 

Mourning was not intended to be a period of punishment or inner torture, it is a time to come to terms with what has happened and to heal from the loss. It is no one's right to tell another in what manner they should mourn, or for what period of time.  It is a highly personal issue and each individual has to carefully listen to and follow the direction of their own heart.  I know that Shelia is happy that John now has a good life with me, that he has someone who values him, cares for him, and loves him as deeply as she did.  Isn't that what you would want for someone you love if you could no longer be with them?  John and I both believe that God brought us together at this stage in our lives, because our love was meant to be.

It is my belief that we should never seek to devalue or erase another person's past.  All of who and what we have experienced has worked together to make us who we are.  John is an amazing person, having survived more hardship and pain in his nearly sixty years of life than anyone else I know, yet through it all he has remained a man of faith, hope, love, laughter, and integrity.  I am honored that John chose me to be the one to walk beside him. Embracing his past has added strength to our relationship and depth to the meaning of our love for one another.  The Bible says "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." I am grateful that I was there to comfort John and to help him heal. 

There are many forms of mourning... we mourn not only the loss of loved ones by death, but also the ending of relationships, the loss of jobs, the loss of beloved pets, the loss of our health, our youth, children who have become estranged, and even the lives we once had that have changed.  I believe that we are here on this earth together to comfort and encourage others, to walk the road awhile with them, to help them heal and move on with their lives.  Be a friend... reach out to someone and offer them the gift of comfort, I promise you that it will bless your life as much as  it will theirs!
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I'm linking up with Sunday Scribblings where the prompt this week is "heal".

36 comments:

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    1. Thanks Gail, I still wake up amazed by it every day!

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  2. This is beautiful. I don't normally stop to read long posts via Sunday scribblings, but your story captivated me :-) as someone also married nearly 4 years it was a joy to read. Much blessing on your years to come x

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    1. Thank you! I try not to go on as long in my posts as I used to, but this prompt just led to something that I wanted to share. I appreciate you taking the time to read it. Papa Bear always says he loves me even more today than yesterday, and he's making a believer out of me!

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  3. Sounds as if you both have put up with a lot of busybodies. I wonder why some people have a set of rules they expect others to follow in these situations. Good for u both in choosing life and love over others expectations!

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    1. You are so right, the best plan is always to think things thru for yourself, and then to follow your own heart about what is wrong and right. We believe this was meant to be, and it has turned out to be so very good.

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  4. This is beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you Victoria, it is the best kind of love story of all.. a true one!

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  5. I am glad you found each other and healing was possible for both of you in different ways but the main thing it HAPPENED for the Best <3

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    1. Knowing my story as you do, Janice, you understand correctly that it was not only John in need of healing, and that he has been a tremendous blessing in my life as well.

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  6. I really enjoy reading of your love, and your relationship, and send my best wishes to the both of you for many years of happiness together.

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    1. Thank you Shimon, our story is one I never get tired of sharing, I waited fifty long years to experience this kind of love and I like to believe it could happen to anyone!

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  7. Your love for each other shines out in the beautiful writing. My wife was a great list maker and when she was first diagnosed with an incurable illness set about making a list of who I could marry when she had gone. That showed how much she loved me but I haven't gone looking elsewhere either since being a widower but I can certainly relate to and applaud your post.

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    1. That did indeed show how much she loved you, Old Egg! Like you, I can't really imagine myself ever wanting or trying to find a new love, if John was to leave this world before me.

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  8. I've spent ALL of my life mourning first one thing, then another. After Joe came into my life, I saw a lifeline and grabbed for it. Thankfully, all my fears never became real, and the ones that did were merely from the intense change that came about in my life all of a sudden. We've settled into each other like a fluffy sock in a comfortable shoe. We've been together 11 years and I know, without a doubt, that after I die, Joe will NEED someone in his life . He could not live without making someone happy.

    Of course, I've sworn to accompany him in spirit, and she'd BETTER pass muster. There WILL be requirements. LOL

    I, on the other hand, have known so much sadness in my life that I would not expect, look for, or want, another person to upset my applecart if Joe dies. I'm hanging onto the perfection in my heart that he placed there.

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    1. I loved this comment Lotta Joy! So very true that when we have gone thru a great deal in life and had so much to mourn, it is hard to believe that things can and have changed for the better. It took me a good year to stop waiting for the other shoe to fall in my relationship with John, and to trust that he really does love me. LOL at the image of your spirit, no doubt toting a gun, scaring off any woman not good enough for Joe! I agree with you, once you've had the very best man that life hs too offer, anyone else is bound to be a disappointment. I wouldn't even want to look, just live with the wonderful memories of having known a love that amazing. We truly are a couple of lucky old hens, aren't we?

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  9. I agree, Josie. My first husband's family didn't understand the need for me to among people, among the living, after he died. I was so young but they felt I should be home grieving instead.

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    1. One only needs to read your posts about him to know how much you loved him, Elsie. Indeed you did grieve, you do at times still grieve, and a part of you will always grieve for him. Others saw you as being uncaring when nothing could be further from the truth, you were just trying to find a bit of life to keep your own heart from dying. Life IS for the living, we must all go on with our lives, and do so at the pace and in the way that feels right for us. NO ONE else has the right to judge, having not walked in your shoes.

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  10. Thank you for sharing your beautiful love story!

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    1. Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to read it! :-)

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  11. This story brought tears both of sadness and joy for the two of you, what strong individuals you are and together you are like the rock of Gilbrater. I am so happy for both of you that an enduring love has entered both of your hearts, I know you will have many more years together to love more each day.
    I found my love in 1984 and as he is 72 and not in the best of health I know he will go before me I do not wish him to suffer and he would without me I will not look for another love or even companion as I know there is not a love like ours anywhere or with any one else it is too perfect. We are truly blessed are we not?

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    1. I was so touched by your sharing here Len. I also hope that John passes on ahead of me, not because I can even fathom what it would be like without him, but because I think he's had to suffer enough with the loss of two wives. Like you, I would have no desire to even try to find someone that could measure up and be what John is in my life. We are true soul mates, and it sounds like that is also true of the two of you. Yes... blessed beyond measure, and more than I ever thought could be!

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  12. Well, I think this is a lovely post! I could feel your heart as I read it. (:>) I am glad you you and John found each other...and that you have helped him through his grieving process. It is a sweet thing...and I am sure he loves you very much too!

    God was good to bring you together...and I think you are a good match!

    Linda @ Truthful Tidbits

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    1. Thank you Linda! We really do compliment each other amazingly well, I couldn't have asked for someone more perfect for me. John is one of God's finest, for sure! There is not a day I'm not thankful for the blessing of having him in my life.

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  13. A touching love story. It is most important to talk and share experiences from the previous lost spouse, as you have said it helps to heal. I know this because my partner and I both lost our previous husband and wife. It takes this to understand.

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    1. You know exactly what I speak of then Tigerbrite! The lives we have before we met up are important memories to us.. years shared, childred raised, etc. It would be sad if we couldn't still talk about those things and share them with each other. They are a big part of who we are! I respect and admire John's love for his previous wives, it is because of that devotion that I also know how he feels about me and that he will always be here for me.

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  14. Josie, this touched me deeply. My aunt (by marriage to my mom's brother) lost Uncle Tommy to cancer. A year later, she met Bob, who was an absolute sweetheart and the antithesis of Tom: My uncle was 6'2'' and my aunt was 5' tall, Mutt and Jeff. Bob was about 5'4" and a lionhearted veteran of WWII. He made my aunt laugh again, they traveled everywhere.

    Healing is what we make it, sometimes, and it's a family's duty - not choice - to support the grieving person. It's THEIR life. Clare has pictures of both her late husbands, and she and Bob, who was also a widower, talked lovingly about their spouses, honoring their memories. Thank you so much for this, Josie. Amy
    http://sharplittlepencil.com/2012/11/05/healing-and-healing/

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    1. I loved this story! You are right, it's not a choice, its an obligation. If we love someone we want what is best for them.. as they see it (not as we see it). It sounds like Bob has made your Aunt very happy and that makes me smile. We share all of our past life with each other, the happy memories and the sad ones, they are part of our story. My heart goes out to anyone who has not been shown the same kind of compassion and understanding. I've seen those albums with faces removed!

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  15. I am so happy that you & John are together. You are meant to be. I love your stories and how they come together as one. Life has so many roads and journeys, and it is so much easier with a partner. I love you guys!

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    1. I am incredibly happy about that too, McGuffy Ann. I still sometimes expect to wake up and find it's all been just a wonderful dream. THere is not one thing about him I would change if I could. I also believe that we were meant to be, and so does he. You and Bill have a long, long love story that is made of that same magical, forever after, stuff! We are blessed beyond measure, if I was to lose everything else I have today, I would still have enough with just having him!

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  16. This is a lovely story. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. To me it's the sweetest story ever, Belva Rae! Thanks for dropping by!

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  17. Honesty is the greatest lesson..I admire yours..there is much to connect with..even though I am in a very different 'story'..Jae

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    1. Thank you Jae, I strive to be real, honest about myself and my life. It's all a learning curve, so I have nothing to hide, and perhaps someone somewhere might read something in my story that resonates with them. That's why I love to blog! This is a story I never dreamed I would be a part of, Jae. We truly never know what life will bring!

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  18. I'm very moved by reading your post Josie. Thank you for sharing. I dropped you an email last night with some thoughts. Thanks again.

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    1. Much of the fun of blogging is connecting with people who can relate, Andrew. Your email was the bright spot in my day!

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Your comments are always appreciated... they make me smile! :-)