The Longest Winter
What I used to think was a winter season in my life, I’ve since learned was merely an overcast January day…not a March blizzard that brings everything to a halt and covers the ground with drifts and piles of snow and ice. I’ve come to understand that “winter” is a relative term, depending on where you live in the world!
Winter in Costa Rica means chilly, rainy days where people bundle up in sweaters and winter parkas when the temperature hits 60°! Having spent much of my life in Michigan, South Dakota, Northern Iowa, and Minnesota, winter has an entirely different meaning. We barely put on jackets until we reach the 30’s, and then we probably don’t zip them! Zero-degree weather means ice skating, snowmobiling, ice fishing, snowball fights and many other outdoor activities. But then, moving further north to Alaska, we find snow like we’ve never seen before, and months of total darkness before the sun rises again.
I recently read an older blog I wrote called “The Winters of our Lives” and realized that this season of being a widow is truly the longest winter I’ve ever experienced. Although we know in our logical minds that winter is eventually coming, we tend to think that we’ll have one more day to get the yardwork done! And then suddenly winter comes with the first snowfall, and we’re all surprised and caught off-guard. “Why did it come so early?” we ask.
Becoming a widow is like that in many ways. My husband’s family all live to be 95 or older, so we thought we had many years together yet. He was full of plans and ideas and things he wanted to accomplish. Then the first blizzard hit in the form of cancer at age 70, and by age 71 he was gone. Even though I knew the statistics showed I’d be a widow someday, I had not processed that in my logical thinking. I fully expected to be widowed at age 90 – not age 70! I anticipated celebrating our 75th anniversary together – not having him gone three months before our 50th! Suddenly…. Yes, it came suddenly, as death always does even when it’s expected. On a beautiful March evening Dave went to be with Jesus and winter set into my heart. Everything stopped. I had to say good-bye.
In her book, “Fear Gone Wild”, Kayla Stoecklein expresses this beautifully in some lines called “Saying Goodbye”.
Goodbye to everything.
Goodbye to the love of my life.
Goodbye to growing old together.
Goodbye to life as I knew it.
Goodbye to every dream I ever had.
Goodbye to my best friend.
Goodbye to parenting (and grandparenting) together.
Goodbye to my beautiful life.
Goodbye to love.
She goes on to say, “The day everything changed. The day my old life died, and a different, unwanted life began. This new life terrified me to my core. It was a life I didn’t want to live alone, a life I hadn’t signed up for. I wanted my old life back. I wanted my guy back. I wanted to wake up from this horrific nightmare.”
As I look back from the vantage point of four years, I can honestly say that this has been the longest, most difficult winter season that I’ve ever experienced. However, there have been moments of joy when the sun has shown through. The frozen areas of my heart have once again begun to thaw, and I can sense that Spring is on the way. And yet…. There are still those days when I wonder how many years I will go on without him.
If you are a widow reading this, you likely can relate to the empty space where your spouse should be. If you have a widow in your family or friend circle, perhaps this will help you get a glimpse into her heart.
God’s word gives us an amazing promise in Genesis 8:22 (NIV) “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” While this refers to the seasons of the physical earth, I like to think it also refers to our hearts. As surely as we experience the winters in our lives, the spring will come again. There will be new life, new joy, and new adventures.
God has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us, so we have never been alone in this. Even on the bleakest of days, He has been walking with us and speaking words of comfort to our hearts. When I am tempted to ask, “How can I go on without my life’s partner?”, I realize that God has said I have a special place of protection with Him simply because I am a widow.
Let this promise sink into your heart today like a gentle Spring rain. God has a plan that will soften those places that have become hard and dry. He has a plan to bring forth new shoots of life that will eventually bear new fruit. I Thessalonians 5:24 says, “The one who calls you is faithful, and He will do it!”
Feel free to share your thoughts and comments, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.