During the last four months of 2021, I was mourning the loss of my wife, Jan, to a fatal stroke after 26 months as an invalid resulting from three other strokes. I went to Tennessee to visit my sister two months after the funeral, and went to Colorado over Christmas to visit with my son and his family there. Christmas was grueling for me–too many memories. On the plane ride back to St Louis I vowed that I would not repeat my pain in 2022. So I planned to go nowhere during Thanksgiving and Christmas. For Thanksgiving, I spent a nice day as the guest of my financial advisor and his sister (an executive coaching client) at their gracious invitation. That was a good day. Christmas I planned to spend at home or someplace else.
I ended up doing a good deed for Christmas Day. I provided a feast for a couple who were close friends of my wife and me who had fallen on hard times recently. There were seven of us in total and I spent the better part of the day there and enjoyed myself. Christmas Eve was another matter. We had an arctic blast settle over us for three days with sub-zero weather. I stayed inside, kept my fireplace going, and made a pot of chicken stew and a left over pot roast. Fortunately, I’m a pretty god cook.
In December of 2021 I vowed that 2022 would be a better year for me, as I was determined to launch my ministry to men who are caregivers and widowers. I spent the first three months finding and getting qualified by two hospices to do that work. By April I was up and running and spent the rest of last year working with six men who were widowers and one who was a caregiver to an Altzheimer’s patient. His wife passed away on December 23rd. Christmas will always be a tough time for him, I’m afraid. I take this individual to lunch once a week. Now that he is alone I will reach out to him more frequently. As we all know, the walls close in on us rapidly once we have come to grips with our loss. He is just getting started on that journey. I feel for him.
Over Christmas I had plenty of time to contemplate my future. I decided that 2023 was going to be my “breakout year”. I had weathered the storm of Christmas grief and decided that 2023 I was determined to be even further along. I know I’m better because I can listen to music that would send me reeling in early 2022; I can look at a variety of pictures of us and feel warmth and love and fond memories. I couldn’t do that this time last year. And I got through the holidays. I was scheduled to go to Colorado for New Years but the Southwest Airlines weather related meltdown kept me away. So I am traveling there at the end of the month, instead,
So what does it mean to have a “breakout year”? Let’s start with my health. When I had brought my wife home as an invalid in 2019 I had stopped using our community center and all of its personal fitness resources. So I canceled our family membership. I decided over New Years that I was going to get fit this year, lose some weight along with the flab that has accumulated through a combination of a lack of exercise and lack of testosterone. So I rejoined the community center and am determined to put it to good use. I’ve started already.
Another promise I made to myself is my intention to revitalize my personal life by forging new relationships with both men and women. I’ve joined several “Meet Up” groups, and they are promising to be a source of many new acquaintances of like minds. One of those groups is for St Louis area travelers. I’ve signed up for a Danube River cruise in June. There will be 24 local travelers with me. Two other groups I joined are for stimulating conversations (philosophical and theological) that meet once a month at a local craft brewery. I’m encouraging the widowers I work with to join me at my home for comradeship and support. I‘ve got plenty of room. I expect us to go on outings, occasionally, too. I will be traveling within the US much more this year, to visit friends and family in diverse places. I began doing executive coaching again last year and will be continuing that endeavor during this year as well.
So I’m entering the year with a spring in my step (somewhat) and I’m starting to experience joy again, something I have not had in several years. I intend to nurture that.
I hope and believe that I will have a good report of progress this time next year as I review my progress made in 2023. I know now that change is inevitable, and positive change…is possible.
Michael Burroughs is the author of Moving Mountains: Facing Strokes with Faith and Hope and, Before Onboarding: How to Integrate New Leaders for Quick and Sustained Results (both at Amazon and Kindle)
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