31 January 2005

Single...With Children: Finding Meaning In Life After Death Of A Spouse

Single with Children: Life goes on - even after adversity

By Susie Parker
Publication Date: 06/11/03

Last week I had the opportunity to visit Northern England.

My daughter, who is an au pair living and working in Ireland, was going to visit Manchester. That's the same town where my boyfriend, David, was born and raised, and he had left the week before to spend some time with his mom. So I took off a few days from work and flew over to meet with my daughter whom I hadn't seen since she started her overseas adventure April 3.

I had the pleasure of meeting her "Irish Family," and they allowed us to spend three days with her, touring the surrounding area.

Katie and I accepted an invitation to stay in the home of a 72-year-old single mom - David's mother. Audrey came to be single not through divorce but because of the death of her husband 15 years earlier. Of course, her sons were already grown and on their own, but it was a loss that required major life changes. She had been happily married for many years and not only adored her husband but also worked side by side with him.

I asked what it was like to find herself suddenly alone. She had to cope with the loss of a beloved husband and find something to give her a reason to get up every morning.

Initially, she confessed, this new set of circumstances threw her into the depths of depression. She said someone used to say "Pull yourself together," to which she would respond that she wasn't a "pair of curtains" and it just wasn't that easy to do. She didn't quite know where to start, but she isn't a quitter. This diminutive dynamo of a lady had faced pretty tough obstacles before, bouncing back from two bouts of breast cancer and a heart attack.

Her family and friends were an enormous sense of comfort. She doted on her grandchildren. She also sought professional help from a doctor and, after being prescribed an antidepressant, she eventually saw that life was going to go on. She wasn't about to sit back and let it pass her by, so she jumped back in and did it the way she's always done everything, giving her very best.

A few years after the loss of her husband, she moved to be closer to her son and his family and, more importantly, just a few blocks from a large hospital within walking distance. It was here that she found her new mission. She started not only attending but also assisting with the services at the hospital chapel and made new friends by providing coffee and tea and most of all, warm hugs, smiles and encouragement for anyone who remotely looked in need.

When I had visited her in December, she allowed me to tag along on one of her daily hospital visits to meet a friend who was battling a complicated set of problems. Most of the staff knew her by her first name and smiled at the sight of her. It was almost like being in the company of a British Mother Teresa. On the way back home, she told me this was her mission and why she was meant to move from the area she had raised a family.

One day last week, we drove to a rural, hilltop cemetery that overlooked vistas too beautiful to adequately describe. On the way, our hosts had stopped to buy some fresh cut flowers and then we headed to a very old, country cemetery where Audrey navigated the rocky terrain to seek out the headstone where her husband Bert was buried. He would have been 75 that day, and Audrey wasn't about to let the day go by without visiting the man she loved for so many years.

Before we returned to her home after a long day of sightseeing, she asked to David drop her off at the hospital before dinner so she could check on a friend. Typical Audrey. I smiled as I watched her make her way toward the hospital with that ever-present grin of hers. She's a lovely reminder that life does go on, even after really difficult things happen and there's always a positive difference to be made.

Readers can e-mail Susie Parker at Susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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