It’s the question we widowers and widows must one day face. It is like the other questions we encounter as we move forward in life. Do I continue to wear my wedding ring? Do I stay in my house or apartment or move to another place of residence? Do I choose to date or choose not to date?There is no right or wrong answer to any of these questions. It’s a decision that, with time and understanding, each of us will one day make.
I am fifteen months into my journey as a Widower. As I have done all my life, I proceed with caution. I am taking steps to enter a new chapter in my life without my wife. I would pass by my late wife’s walk-in closet for several months and always ensure the door was closed. I did not want anything disturbed. After ten months, I decided it’s not a mausoleum or a tombstone but a place that brought lots of joy to my wife and a place that always smelled so nice. It’s the place containing all her clothing and shoes and some medical supplies toward the end of her life.
My wife was the most meticulous person I ever knew. She arranged her closet with business suits, expensive dresses and gowns on the top shelving, and ordinary everyday clothes on the lower shelves. Shoes were organized from dress to casual, including sneakers and sandals. Everything had to be in its place. It was how she lived her life: organized, structured, and well-balanced.
After my long period of hesitancy, I one day opened the closet door and smelled the fragrance that in so many ways defined my wife: beautiful and sweet.
I noticed all the clothes that were neatly hung as I previously described. I thought of the many celebrations we shared in our lives. I remembered the beautiful dresses and gowns from so many events and milestones. The shoes always had to match the outfit. I recalled with fondness the sandals and sneakers my wife wore at the beach. Fond memories of our many trips to Rhode Island, watching the ocean, and enjoying the majesty of nature.
I laughed at the red converse sneakers my wife had me buy her several years ago. In 2016 my wife suffered a mild stroke and was in the hospital for several days. The stroke did not affect her physically but did affect her ability at times to speak. One of the grandchildren came to visit her and had brand new red converse sneakers. My wife loved them and said to me: “When we get home, get me a pair of those sneakers.” Being a dutiful husband, I did what she asked. She wore them proudly on many occasions.
Recently my four youngest grandchildren stayed with me for a week. We had a great time together, and one night they saw me go into my late wife’s closet. I was removing some of the medical supplies, and they asked if they could help me. Of course, I said yes. They then sheepishly asked: “Can we look around the closet”? “Grams,” as they affectionally called her, would let us, they reminded me. I let them go in one by one to spend some time looking around. Their eyes lit up as they saw her clothes and shoes. I know my wife would have laughed and been delighted with their joy. I decided it was time to share what my wife wanted me to give them with them.
The sixteen-year-old has grown so much and is about as tall as my wife was at 5’5″. I asked her what her shoe size was, and she said 7, the same as my late wife. I asked her to try on the sneakers, and of course, they fit her perfectly. I knew at that moment it was time to ask her if she would like to have them. She, of course, hugged me and said, “Yes, yes, absolutely.”
I said, you can have a part of your grandmother by wearing her sneakers. She told me, I want to show you something; let me get my purse. She came back with her grandmother’s memorial card. She said I carry it all the time with me. It reminds me of my grandmother. Now I can wear a part of her on my body.
My grandson’s youngest wanted something from the kitchen that he always loved: one of “Grams” traveling mugs. He was so delighted to fill it with ice and Sprite, his favorite drink. I gave gloves and a scarf to the two younger girls, and they were so happy to have a part of “Grams” with them.
The grandchildren all went down into the basement to relish their new treasures. I went back to my bedroom and into my late wife’s closet and closed the door as I shed many tears. They were tears, yes of sadness, but also joy. I took a step that I postponed for a long time. It is not a significant accomplishment; a few small steps brought joy and happiness to the grandchildren who loved their grandmother so much.
I have since given away a few more items of clothing and will continue to do so.
I believe I am fulfilling the responsibility I have as the caretaker of my late wife’s belongings. It’s not an easy task, and yes, there will be tears along the way.
I know I am paying homage to the woman who taught me about love and about sharing love. As I share her love, I am acutely aware of the man she chose to share her life with and the man she helped mold.
Strength to you brothers