by Nancy Howell
I was doing great. Finished with a year’s worth of grief counseling, I “graduated,” with my counselor telling me to call only if I needed to talk. My boys? Doing really well. The first nine weeks of school is practically under their belts, and they have all A’s. They are thriving. We are living. We have established a new normal.
Then why did I feel like I lost my husband all over again last week? The raw pain, the emotions that I thought I was past, came bursting through with a vengeance I haven’t felt in over a year—all because of a stupid stomach bug. The scab that I hoped was well on its way to becoming just a big old scar? It got ripped off, and the blood trickled from it, fresh and bitter.
All the “firsts” I thought I had experienced. I had done the time. I have navigated wedding anniversaries, his birthday, our sons’ birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, my birthday, and every other special day I could dream up. So imagine my dismay and surprise to find that the one “first” I hadn’t experienced without my sweet husband was the first time I was sick without him.
Not just sick. So sick I could barely raise my head off of my pillow. So sick that it took every bit of strength I could muster to crawl out of bed and go to the bathroom, where I spent an inordinate amount of time. My boys were scared. Here was their strong mom, who had promised them she would always be there for them, curled up into a fetal position, head feeling like it was going to explode. I assured them it was “only” a virus, in a couple of days I would be fine.
Thankfully a dear friend took my sons to school since I was out of commission. I had a whole day to get through, alone.
As I lay there, head hurting, stomach churning, the day dragging, all I could think of was Mark. “If” he were still here, he would have taken the day off to take care of me. He would have taken boys to school. He would have brought a cool compress for my aching head. He would have made everything okay.
Instead, it was just me. Missing the physical presence of my dear husband. Lying in that bed, I grieved all over again. It was a terrible “first,” being sick without him. I cried big old crocodile tears. I prayed. I wished for what could have been, again. I wondered how in the world I had been doing as well as I had.
This strong mama—able to shoot a shotgun, drill holes in masonry, write outdoor columns—who has jokingly commented, “I am woman, hear me roar…” was reduced to a puddle of tears, off and on, for 72 hours.
The length of the illness seemed to be directly proportional to the length of my pity party, my sad ode to me. After a long wallow of helplessness, feeling sorry for myself, I began to pray. First I prayed for healing from the virus. Then I prayed for healing for the 10 year old, who unfortunately joined me in the big king-sized bed, 24 hours after my initial symptoms began. I prayed the 9 year old would be immune from it (and he was). I prayed for God’s presence to be enough, even without the physical presence of the man I loved for a quarter of a century.
As my younger son navigated preparing dinner for himself while two of us were in bed, unable to even think about food, I gave a prayer of thanksgiving. Thankful that I had equipped the boys for simple tasks, such as preparing a delectable peanut butter sandwich and a glass of milk. Thankful that I was beginning to feel better. Thankful for a cozy home, for two sons that love me, sick or well.
And as I slowly began to heal, the doubts of whether I was enough, whether I was up to this challenge of being a single mom dissipated and dwindled.
“Good friend, take to heart what I’m telling you; collect my counsels and guard them with your life.
Tune your ears to the world of Wisdom; set your heart on a life of Understanding.
That’s right—if you make Insight your priority, and won’t take no for an answer,
Searching for it like a prospector panning for gold, like an adventurer on a treasure hunt,
Believe me, before you know it Fear-of-God will be yours, you’ll have come upon the Knowledge of God.
And here’s why: God gives out Wisdom free, is plainspoken in Knowledge and Understanding.
He’s a rich mine of Common Sense for those who live well, a personal bodyguard to the candid and sincere.
He keeps his eye on all who live honestly; and pays special attention to his loyally committed ones.”
Proverbs 2:1-8 (the Message)
I claim the promise of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. I am and will be enough for my family—as long as I have God. Amen.