Categories
Faith/Religion Moving Forward

Angels Walk Among Us

by Herb Knoll

Author: The Widower’s Journey

“Hi, my name is Richard.” Thus began my knowing a giant of a man named Richard Blount (62) as he sat down in the chair beside me. The occasion was my first meeting at GriefShare, a widely available program for those who have experienced a loss in their life.  I was attending the program as part of the research I was conducting for my then soon-to-be-released book, The Widowers Journey

I would soon come to realize that Richard, a native of Tampa, Florida, was no ordinary man. Built like a linebacker from your favorite football team, Richard is also a giant of a man in another way.  You see, Richard loves people … especially children. He loves children so much, he and his previous wife had two children, Rebecca (35), and Matthew (34). When Richard married Terri in 1991, her three children, Joshua (37), Ryan (36), and Tyler (35), joined the family.  

As deeply religious people, both Richard and Terri felt a calling from the Almighty to do more in the service of those in need. “We prayed over it,” says Richard. “We then decided to become foster parents.” Once approved by the State of Florida and over some time, Richard and Terri, opened their loving home to forty foster children. You heard me; forty. 

As any foster parent will tell you, foster parents become very attached to the children they are asked to care for as their own until the day a court orders otherwise. This sense of attachment caused Richard and Terri to adopt five of their foster children, Alex (19), Ricky (15), Sarah (14), Abigail (12), and Jacob (9), two of whom have special needs (autism and bipolar disorder). Ten children in all, each showered with love in the Richard and Terri Blount home.

When asked why he and Terri felt a need to serve as parents to ten children, Richard replied, “You’ll have to ask the Lord that question. He placed it in our hearts to care for his children.” 

Tragedy struck when Terri passed away, leaving Richard as a single Dad with 10 children, ranging in ages from 1 ½ to 30.  As a widower, Richard needed time to grieve the loss of his wife Terri, but he had little time to do so.  After all, he had ten children who needed him, a house to maintain, and a career he desperately needed to preserve if he was to provide for eleven people, including himself. Again, Richard turned to the Almighty for strength and direction. Believing no prayers go unanswered, it wouldn’t take long before Richard would meet Cheri (63).  

A widow with four children, Jenny (42), Jason (40), Lizzy (38), and Michelle (37), Cheri‘s life parallels Richard’s in several ways, including having served as a foster parent with her deceased husband Jim to over 100 foster children. Also like Richard and Terri, Cheri and Jim adopted some of their foster children, six to be exact, Lucy (24), Kayla (23), Emma (14), Daniel (12), Izabella (10) and Isaiah (9), three of whom have special needs.

“I prayed the Lord would point me in the direction of a man that I could love and who loves children,” said Cheri.  Once introduced, the chemistry between Richard and Cheri was immediate. It didn’t take long before Richard asked Cheri to marry him, bringing the total number of children in their now consolidated household to twenty. Yes… TWENTY CHILDREN, several of who have special needs.  With so many children residing in their home, one of their neighbors complained to the local authorities that Cheri and Richard were forming a “group home.” Cheri said, “I can’t help myself, I love babies, and I love God.” 

“We’re a good team,” added Cheri. Indeed. But their union did not come without significant sacrifices.  At 62 years of age, Richard is unable to retire for another ten years.  “We look at people our age who are empty nesters, enjoying their senior years realizing we won’t be able to retire until we’re in our 70s,” Cheri added.  “At times, I feel as though I have lost my identity, I had to quit my career as a nurse.” Cheri went on to say, “It was all worth it.” Richard added, “We make time for ourselves and our marriage, which includes a date night every Saturday.” He went on to add how the date may be a simple meal at a local diner or perhaps they’ll take in a movie.    

When asked what surprises arose raising 20 children, Richard said, “I’m surprised I could do it. I’ve become more humbled by the blessings I have received, including being able to provide our twenty children with a stable home and a sense of belonging to a family that loves them; I have also become closer to my Lord.” 

Today, Cheri and Richard live in suburban Orlando, Florida with nine of their twenty children, the youngest who is just nine years old, including several with special needs

Widowed, and faced with the responsibility of raising twenty children, Cheri and Richard have plenty of reasons to be angry, even jealous of others, yet they choose to celebrate the lives of their deceased spouses by gracefully touching the lives of Our Lord’s children.

Cheri and Richard didn’t stop there.  When it was time to acquire a therapy dog for their children with special needs, you guessed it, Cheri and Richard adopted a beautiful Golden Retriever named Mr. Wilson (4) from an animal rescue center. Did I mention that Richard was at the GriefShare meeting on the evening I first met him because he volunteers as one of the program’s facilitators? Some people just never stop giving to others.

Are there Angels walking among us?  Say hello to Angels Cheri and Richard Blount. 

(Ages shown are as of May 2019)

Pictured are Cheri and Richard along with 17 of their 20 children along with assorted spouses and grandchildren

Herb Knoll is a retired banking executive, an advocate for Widowers, a professional speaker and author of the breakout book, The Widower’s Journey.  Available at Amazon.com in paperback and in all digital formats. Herb is the founder of the Widower’s Support Network (WidowersSupportNetwork.com) featuring the Widowers Support Network Members Only, a private Facebook group page for men, and a second Facebook page which is open to the general public at Widowers Support NetworkContact Herb at  herb@WidowersSupportNetwork.com.  

Attention Widowers and Men who are serving as Caregivers

Apply today to join the Widowers Support Network – Members Only (WSN-MO) on Facebook. WSN-MO is a FREE private page exclusively open to MEN who have lost their wife or life-partner; men who are currently serving as caregivers for a seriously ill spouse or life-partner; and other good-hearted men who wish to help assist and comfort them.  

Copyright 2019  Widower’s Support Network

Categories
Faith/Religion Grief/Dispair Mental/Emotional Health

Grief is Love

Fred-18

Three years ago, I would have used the following words to define “grief:” physical and emotional pain, suffering, anguish, cruelty, punishment, abandonment, loss of self, guilt, misery, and loneliness. I experienced all of these, and I saw no way to survive them or to become whole again. I found the same to be true of my fellow travelers during Men’s Grief Group meetings. A frequent question was, “How can I survive this?” 

During my second year of grieving, I began to evolve and to expand my definition of grief to include: forgiveness, cathartic, purifying, therapeutic, honor, and most importantly… love.  

  • Forgiveness – grieving forced me to confront my own self-doubts and regrets (the could haves, would haves, and should haves) about our marriage and how I conducted myself during her illness, etc.
  • Cathartic – the pain of grieving purged me, forcing me to confront and expel those parts of my behavior which were not in line with honoring my wife.
  • Purifying – as I progressed in my grief, I found myself becoming much more emotive, empathetic and nurturing towards others.
  • Therapeutic – the expression of my grief, whether one-on-one or in groups or in writing, was both curative and restorative, gradually helping me to become more whole again.
  • Honor – over time I came to accept that grieving indeed was my way of honoring my wife and all that she meant to me, and my way of remembering her.
  • Love – as I regained my psycho-emotional balance again, I realized that the whole grieving process was about expressing my deep abiding love for my wife. Because I suffered so much over her passing, I was acknowledging how much she meant to me and how important she was to my very being. 

This revised and expanded understanding of grief has helped me to emerge from this experience as a stronger and better person, a person my wife would have been proud of. 

No matter your faith (or non-faith) this time of year is about renewal and rebirth. For Christians, this is a time of remembering and honoring the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For members of the Jewish faith, Passover is a celebration of spring, birth, and rebirth, of a journey from slavery to freedom, and of taking responsibility for yourself, the community, and the world. There are many other celebrations around the world with similar messages.

To me, this sense of renewal and rebirth ties in beautifully with our eventual emergence from grief into a new and better expression of our self. Grief causes us to confront all of our pain and guilt and forces us to build a new foundation upon which we can create a new self. This new self can carry forward all that was good about us in the past, all of the attributes, skills, and values that our wives instilled into us… while also growing new and even stronger attributes, skills and values.

In the end, I hope that I can look back and say, “I would never wish this horrible experience on anyone, but ultimately it has made me a better person. Thank you my dear loving wife for having given me the strength and love I needed to survive it.”

Categories
Faith/Religion Holidays Loneliness

A Widower’s Christmas Wish List

by Herb Knoll

Author: The Widower’s Journey 

From as far away as Australia to the British Isles, from Canada to Nigeria, the Widowers Support Network hears the cries of men who mourn the loss of their wife, their soul mates, their partners in life.  Widowed men don’t ask for much, never have, never will.  After all, men who mourn are expected to “get over it,” right?  You know, be a man. Macho if you will.  Unfortunately, that’s not the way it was meant to be.  

It is said that to grieve, you first must have loved.  For without love, grief does not exist.  To have loved is among life’s greats joys.  As such, it is unrealistic to think one who once loved doesn’t grieve when it is lost.  And with grief, comes sorrow, tears, fright, despair, pain, loneliness, depression, aimlessness, and more.  Each of these behaviors is dangerous.  At times, life-threatening. Yet for some reason, widowed men continue to be held to a different set of expectations vs. widows when they experience the loss of their beloved spouse.  

Following a speaking engagement in Connecticut, it hit me.  “Men don’t think they have permission to grieve.”  This is why they retreat to the shadows of our communities to mourn in private, many in total despair, for they wish not to be viewed as less of a man, then society would have them be. How sad for the widowers of the world; our fathers, brothers, uncles, nephews, grandfathers, neighbors, and colleagues. 

In the Gospel of John (John 11:1–44), we learned of the story of Jesus’ dearest friend, Lazarus of Bethany, also known as Saint Lazarus or Lazarus of the Four Days.  Jesus loved Lazarus.  When Jesus wept after he learned of Lazarus’ passing. So painful was Jesus’ loss, he decided to perform one of his most prominent of miracles in which he restored Lazarus to life four days after his death.  For those of the Christian faith (and I invite others as well), ask yourself; does anyone see Jesus as less of a man for his tears?  Jesus’ reaction to the loss of his beloved friend reinforces the view that grieving is a natural extension of one’s love for another.

As we approach Christmas when all of the Christian world celebrates the birth of the Christ child, and presents are so bountiful, do so with a new awareness of the plight of the widowed man. You may know a widower who you are contemplating purchasing a gift.  But what does one gift to a widower? The answer lies in this article.

From around the world, widowers have shared with me a listing of the gifts they would truly love to receive. Don’t worry about the cost. The presents widowers seek won’t cost a nickel.

Categories
Faith/Religion

Welcome Home with Barbara Beck

The lessons and best practices featured in Herb Knoll’s breakout book, The Widower’s Journey were the topics of discussion during Channel 45 favorite show, Welcome Home with Barbara Beck.  The program aired four times every other day for two weeks in January 2018.

Categories
Faith/Religion

Annunciation Catholic Church Profiles Herb & Maria Knoll

The charitable efforts of both Herb and Maria Knoll were featured in the November issue of Annunciation Catholic Church Parish Magazine.