Looking back; living forward

My friend, Mike, emailed a couple of photos of the first hike he did with us, before he was the official hike leader. The photos sent me pouring back through old hiking pictures that represent the hundreds of miles Hubby and I put in together.




Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park where a rather large bull elk crossed the trail in front of us. Instead of throwing himself between me and the bull, Hubby whips out his camera and starts photographing, using me as a shield.




On the ridge above the moraine lake in Broken Top. Part of the magnificent Oregon Cascades.




In the Tetons on our way up to Inspiration Point above Jenny Lake. This, just one year before Hubby died.




We made so many fabulous memories, Hubby and I, as cancer was taking over his body. I can’t tell you the number of accumulated miles or the total feet in elevation gain. But every distance, every height represents a memory I will clutch closely for a long time to come.

I recently signed up for an 8-week widow grief class. Mainly to meet other widows.

A fascinating thing happened at last week’s meeting. The group facilitator asked us to say a little about our husbands. “How would you describe him to someone?”

I went first and described Hubby’s personality, his dry sense of humor, how he loved to tease our grandchildren, how they adored him.

And then each of the other six women described how their husbands died. In long, agonizing detail and with much leaking of tears. Every last one of them. My guess is, it was cathartic for them to remember and verbalize the details of their husbands’ deaths.

But I find it fascinating that this was how they would describe their husbands.

It’s good to remember. It’s good to look back at photos.

To smile at something he once said. (Hubby once said—after Daughter Summer buys size XXL pajama bottoms to fit over his lymphedema-swollen legs and mid-section—“Your next husband’s going to have to be XXL.” Smile.)

It’s good to wrap up in a quilt made from the shirts Hubby once wore; to experience something and think how much he would have enjoyed it.

This from Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts:

Remembering is an act of thanksgiving … this turn of the heart over time’s shoulder to see all the long way [God’s] arms have carried.

Just as it is good to remember, though, it is also good to live forward. Which is why I recently moved my wedding ring to my right hand. It doesn’t mean I’m interested in dating or remarrying; it simply means I’m ready to move forward as a no-longer-married woman. (Although my left hand feels awfully bare.)

Author Kate Braestrup writes about the death of a spouse, the stones representing the place that marks a grave:

Leave the stones where they are, but take your heart with you. Your heart is not a stone. True love demands that, like a bride with her bouquet, you toss your fragile glass heart into the waiting crowd of living hands and trust that they will catch it.

I don’t know why my experience of standing watch as Hubby died was a sweetly sacred time and not at all similar to the experiences described by my fellow widows in class.

I don’t know why there is so much peace in living alone, why I have so much hope for my future, even though on paper my financial future doesn’t look so great.

I don’t know why so many living hands are raised to catch my fragile glass heart, why I am the lucky one who is surrounded by so much love.

This I do know: I am grateful for the extended time Hubby and I had together; grateful for the privilege of walking beside him as he slowly died; grateful for a sense of purpose as I live my life forward.

This quote by E.M. Forster on a card that was given to me a little over a year ago:

We must be willing to let go of the life we had planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

There is life ahead. Which I will continue to live well. Because it’s what Hubby would have wanted me to do.

What about you? Are there things you need to lay aside that represent your old life in order to move toward what’s ahead?

P.S. If you found this post helpful or inspirational, please share, tweet or pin!


3 steps toward purpose


Wedding ring on right hand


  1. It is the Father’s loving embrace to give you such peace and hope about your life. I love your heart, Marlys. I remember Gary telling me about the time he asked Summer to vacuum when she didn’t want to. While the vacuum remained unplugged on purpose, she ran it all over the carpet to make the vacuum marks. He laughed thinking she could have just plugged it in. It was the same effort.
    Jim told me a funny story about an XXL shirt. A woman said to her husband,”If you gain another X, you’re going to be an X.” Ha. It’s good to laugh and to remember. You have so much love around you because you’ve given so much love to others.

  2. Lexy

    Marlys, it’s 5 yrs 3 mos since my sweet Randy died after 31 yrs married. We did everything together (other than work), sailing, hiking, bicycling, kayaking, etc. We were like peanut butter & jelly, we got along so well. Our family was/is dog, cat & parrot (all seniors). About 3 yrs ago, got back into motorcycling on my own, which I love (never too old). Enough rambling on here, my point is … Been depressed somewhat and today discovered you on WV. Even though you also lost your love, your comments are so uplifting and full of joy and hope and your smile is beautiful. You made my day and I’ll continue to follow your blog. Thank you for sharing – you make a difference.

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