It was never really my idea. I didn’t want to begin a widow/widower support group, though I’d certainly seen the need for one. In the four years since my husband’s death, I’ve encountered many widows and widowers; first in the Bible study I began in April 2013, then in my public speaking for churches, hospice, and grief support groups, as a library director, and now, as a newspaper reporter. And I kept hearing the same thing, that lament of my own soul; no one understands.
No one but those who have also lost a spouse.
As much as I saw a need for it, I didn’t want to be the one to begin providing that kind of support. I still have children at home. I have a job. I’m busy.
But I’d look into the eyes of yet another widow, and see that lost and hollow look I recognized from my own mirror. My initial prayer of “Please don’t ask me to do this” became one of “Show me how.”
I approached one church, where I was informed I could start a group but “You’ll have to do all the work yourself.” Appalled, I attempted to do just that for two months in a row, wondering all the while what kind of church would abandon its widows.
Then one day I received a phone call from a minister who’d heard I’d been doing presentations on finding hope in grief. He called me into his office, asking if I knew how he could help the grieving spouses in his church. A minister who truly cared about his congregation. What a novel idea.
I told him about the group I’d started, and my wish to plan a special meal in February for those who’d lost their spouse. The minister’s secretary heard me and asked if she could make chocolate cake for the meal that up until then was only a vague idea. In her capable hands, that meal became a reality. She picked up the phone and somehow got the Olive Garden in Dubuque to donate enough lasagna, breadsticks and salad for 36 people.
(Andrew Mialkowski at Olive Garden, with bags of food for our widows/widowers)
Members of that parish offered to serve the 28 widows and widowers who attended the event. Desserts appeared, including the chocolate cake promised by the secretary who’d spent most of her day decorating the room. Local businesses had donated gift certificates and centerpieces that became prizes in a drawing at the end of the meal. One man served the widows with a finesse that had them all a twitter. “I’ve never had a man serve me,” I heard one comment with a girlish giggle. His wife in the kitchen carried in desserts and filled coffee cup after coffee cup. The secretary’s young daughter went from table to table, serving with a smile. A man I’d never met entertained the room with a CD full of television theme songs and a game of guessing. I was in awe of what was happening.
(Bill Scanlon waiting on widows, minister Rev. Phil Rogers in background, entertaining a table of widows)
God’s people serving widows and widowers a special meal, acknowledging their loss of a very special someone. Their missing Valentine.
Psalm 68:5 Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.