Choices on this anniversary

Two years ago this weekend, Hubby and I rented a small cabin in SunRiver Resort to celebrate his birthday and our anniversary.

The cabin came equipped with bikes, and Hubby wanted to ride. “You set the pace, I’ll follow,” I said to the man who had grown considerably weaker and was losing muscle mass; the man who only had two months left to live, which we couldn’t have known at the time.



Photo credit: SunRiver Resort


We ended up riding out to the marina. About five miles from the cabin.

As part of my brave-making campaign—doing things alone that Hubby and I had done together—I retraced that bike route this past Thursday, our anniversary.

Getting closer to SunRiver, there was the oddest sensation coming from the general vicinity of my heart. I think it must have been bittersweetness. Distress alloyed with pleasure; sorrow closely blended with the sweet.

Distress at knowing my husband suffered, although he rarely complained. The pleasure of so many good memories in SunRiver that last year of his life = weekends with children and grands, a full week with Hubby’s sibs and mom, our anniversary weekend.

There was the sorrow of losing something so irreplaceably irreplaceable—(redundant?)—along with the sweetness of each day I had with Hubby. I counted those days, taking none of them for granted.

Recently I came under fire from an online group of widows. “There were a few [in a closed group] who appeared to be angry and jealous in not understanding your positive attitude,” wrote someone who was trying to be a peacemaker.

I’m sorry to say my first reaction was something along these lines: Why, you judgmental, small-minded people, you. 

The truth is, once we’ve lost something valuable — a loved one, our health, a way of life — things will never go back to exactly what they were before.

Grief is a natural and healthy response to loss. Everyone grieves differently, and everyone needs to take all the time they need to grieve well.

But if things aren’t ever going to be the same again, then in time, should widows in an online group — instead of complaining in private about other bloggers — set aside their mutual negativism and make some choices? Can we choose gratitude? Can we choose to get off the couch and do something challenging?

Riding a bike — alone — along the Deschutes River this week was sweetly sorrowful. Because the last time I rode this path, Hubby was with me. But I had choices on my anniversary:

1. Stay home alone with discouraging thoughts of how things won’t ever be the same without my husband.

2. Retrace a bike route Hubby and I rode on our last anniversary to show myself that I can be brave on this day that commemorated our years of marriage.

Option #2 seemed to make the most sense — especially given I have arms and legs, a dependable vehicle to get me to SunRiver, fresh air to breathe, lungs that work, eyes to see the beauty along the bike path, no enemy bombs falling from overhead, the warmth of intermittent sunshine, the anticipation of treating myself to Chai tea afterward.

If I write about the things that have helped me in dealing with the hard — like, counting blessings instead of focusing on all the losses, or like, doing things to make me braver — then don’t criticize me for wanting to share what has worked. Because I’m an encourager by nature.

And so I broke up with the online widow group because my writing isn’t a fit for their community.

* * *

The online widow conversation also included this comment: “I am annoyed by someone telling their story — which is fine — and then asking questions of the reader as if they are counseling them with their questions to think about. I don’t come here to be preached at.”

I think this particular critique had some validity. I’ve re-examined the questions I pose at the end of my blogs, and some of them do sound rather arrogant, as if I think I’m a psychologist or something. So, point taken.

But I’m still going to end this blog with a question. Because I can. Because it’s my blog. Smile.

If you encountered a hard situation — say, diagnosed with a terminal disease, or found yourself widowed or divorced or unemployed — was there anything you did that helped you face down your fears? I’d love to hear about it.


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  1. Diane Waldbueser

    I guess there will always be negitive people who will choose bitterness rather than gratefulness and hope. As you said, this is your blog, this was and is your journey and if you help someone along the way that is a blessing.

  2. Maryls, it appears to me you are practicing what I call “conscious grieving.” (I’m in the process of writing a book about that). People who are not as conscious can’t get that. 3 years later do I cry, do I grieve, am I sad? Of course I am, however it is not going to direct my life. I applaud you. This seems to me a case of “let the dead bury the dead.” So glad you are on the planet and modeling uplifting ways of being with grief, sorrow and sadness.

    • What a great phrase, Cristina: “Consicous grieving.” I’d love to read your book when it’s done. I love that you’ve decided not to allow grief and sorrow and sadness direct your life.

  3. Karen Wykes

    Marlys, don’t stop looking for the gratitude! You are such an inspiration and there is cross over for all of us in our lives of living the unknown, but wonderful mystery!
    This past week I was privileged to spend at the Worldwide Parkinson’s Conference in Portland. So much learning about living life to the fullest and thriving despite a cruel, debilitating disease with no cure. Please continue to share, your writings benefit many!

    • “Learning about living life to the fullest and thriving despite a cruel debilitating disease” — *learning* being the key word. Sounds like a fabulous conference, Karen.

  4. Allison Mccormick

    Marlys, the story of your journey is inspiring and such an amazing demonstration of a life focused on others and directed by the God of love and grace.

    I think it could be hard for some to understand your journey, approach to life, and strength because perhaps they don’t share your source of strength. Also each person’s journey takes time and if we allow, transforms and grows us. But in the midst of the journey, we can be angry and bitter.

    My heart goes out to those that responded negatively to your blog. I hope their journey moves them to a place of peace.

    Please keep writing, sharing, and challenging us to live beyond our pain and grief. There is so much more for each of us, if we allow ourselves to pass through the season of pain.

    • You’re exactly right, Allison. Each journey takes time. And each person grieves loss differently. And anger and bitterness aren’t unusual. I can remember struggling with these emotions in the earlier years of our wilderness journey. “There is so much more for each of us, if we allow ourselves to pass through the season of pain.” Well said.

  5. Pam DiDente


    Keep on writing and keep on asking questions. We all go about it in different ways. Your way gives me hope.

    You are a courageous and beautiful woman. I admire your writings.

  6. Marlys, you are an inspiration, a breath of fresh air breezing through your hair as you bike along the Deschutes, celebrating the life of your husband and divine Bridegroom. Do you offer counsel in your writing? Yes, the authenticity of the Comforter and Counselor Himself. I am happy that you ask hard questions. I am happy that we may not know the answers, but you consistently direct us to Him who does. What have I done to face my fears? I journal and write out Bible verses and personalize them with my name. I write out my identity in Christ and then, like you, write about what God is showing me about His nature, and reach out to people and encourage, encourage, encourage.

  7. Tami Brigham

    I am speechless that a Widows Group would be so mean to you or anyone!
    (I was just thinking of joining an oneline support group.
    I am glad you made me aware that not everyone is welcoming -Geez!)
    Well, we love you Marlys!! …and we like your questions.
    I thought you were very brave to retrace your anniversary bike ride.
    Blessings to you!

    • Tami, from the string of email, I think this group of widows didn’t necessarily intend for their remarks to be personal – because they don’t know me personally – but I got the impression that they’re angry at and don’t understand positive widows in general.

      I did wonder how long they’ve been together as a private group. If they’re newly widowed, if this private group was founded fairly recently, that’s one thing. But if they’ve been encouraging each other to embrace negativity and complaining for some time now, that’s quite another (sad) thing.

  8. Janet Stewart

    I like your questions which do not come across to me preachy but as curious and interested in other’s experiences. Expansive.
    Thought Provoking.
    A way of “spurring one another on to love and good deed” or healthy thinking and reacting.
    I vote for keeping them.
    Thank you, Marlys!

  9. Peter Howe B.E.M.

    It’s that English guy who loves Oregon!!!. You see what happens when you try to help folks, be open and share without any specific intentions, there will always be ‘the negative’. Anyway, I don’t wish to join in anything negative. Please keep doing what you do Marlys, I’m sure your sharing brings more good to those who need some positiveness.
    As for your ride, ‘This guy’s in love with that whole area’. You see, you brought back such positive vibes for this guy and my Barbara, who is also a cancer sufferer/survivor who has nerve damage from radiotherapy BUT she has cycled some 1,000 miles with me in Oregon & many other places somewhere in the world… how good is that. Finding the source of the Metolius nearby & all those chipmunks at Sunriver was special.. we were with dear friends George & Barbara Winterfeld AND no-one can take those memories away, thankfully. Thank you Marlys, God Bless, Barbara & Peter.

    • Hello English guy who loves Oregon! What a trouper your wife must be. So glad you and she were able to cycle through Oregon and other places around the world. Barbara W. speaks well of you both. Blessings to you.

  10. Marcia Dennis

    Positive widows are few and far between. That’s why I read YOUR blog and not THEIRS. I haven’t found any other widow quite like you. You’re helping me shape my mindset for the tough times ahead. Thank you for that!

    • Marcia, I want to make sure I’m real and vulnerable in my positivity. These kinds of critical comments help keep me honest with myself, which means critique, even though it stings, can be good. I’m sorry you’re facing hard times, but I love that you’ve determined to work on mindset for the tough times ahead.

  11. Debi

    Old friend I love your positive outlook! It is true that everyone deals with loss differently, we each have the choice to either pull the covers up over our heads OR throw open the curtains and thank the good Lord for what we did have and what we still have difficult as it may be. Stay positive and continue to push forward. I personally think you inspire more than you anger. 😉

  12. Mary Kittelson

    I always love reading your blogs; you are an excellent writer. You have courage to share your story, not an easy thing to do. I’m sure some are jealous of you or just don’t understand your positive attitude, and I pray that they can reach that stage themselves of having a more positive attitude. The source of your strength, your faith, shines through. I know that I could never have gotten through some of the hard times in my life without my faith.
    So please keep writing and inspiring others!

  13. Peter Howe B.E.M.

    Going head on with positivity. Our grand daughter Laura was 7 when she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia. On the day she had to go into hospital to start her treatment, I wrote this with so much hurt in my heart… ‘How my heart feels’. She held my hand tightly as we walked slowly through the park. A cold winter North wind made her shudder, stronger was it than her. Pale but smiling and warm, her tiny hands, I pulled her hood up around her head, her eyes so appealing and oh so brown, they made me feel a little helpless. No running about, but a playful moment or two as she sat on the swing with that cold blue sky highlighting her silhouette. Not many words, just looks and my aching heart, for time was precious. Holding back that chocking feeling, a little kiss as I held her face – and a wave after a blown kiss. My whispered words, “Be brave”, brought a flood of hurt within me and tears only for her, as our 7yr old little grand daughter Laura sat looking forlornly from her leukaemia ward bed at the RVI hospital, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. I pray we hear those words, “Our Laura’s in remission”, knowing then we can hold onto our hopes for her – warm, secure and safe once more.
    After relapsing twice, having had a bone marrow transplant from her then two and a half yr. old brother and a new regime of chemotherapy, Laura is now 29 and she nurses children in the same wards where she was treated. She is our miracle and she is an ambassador for a children’s cancer/leukaemia called Toma Fund, helping those in need on those same wards at this same hospital. Do I need any more inspiration or motivation, she is our positive way forward. To share this with your readers I pray it will help them to look ahead and deal with this day and ‘Count it all Joy’ – James 1 – 2 God Bless, Barbara & Peter.

  14. Barbara Winterfeld

    I think you know you are loved by me and I know you to be careful with your kind and encouraging words. Grief journeys are as unique as are the love stories of those couples. My journey started midway through 2005 and I see the pathway as being in God’s Plan. I was given widows and widowers to share stories, friends to encourage, some activities to help me to take steps out of my comfort zone. Had occasion to take a long road trip and this forced me to check into a motel alone for the first time in my life – I’d never done that before, it was George’s job. I’ve been able to do that many times since. I know George is my cheer leader in Heaven and that helps me do things that I wouldn’t have before. God has blessed me with wonderful friends, three of whom are Peter and Barbara Howe, and you, Marlys. I am so blessed!

    • You are my hero, Barbara, when it comes to doing things alone. Like road trips to Texas from Oregon. What other widows do that? Alone?!! Regarding Peter and Barbara Howe, it feels as if they’re my friends through you. Even though I’ve never met them!

  15. Peter Howe B.E.M.

    The truth is Marlys, Barbara pointed me in your direction recently, due to the fact that I was having to deal with ‘total burn out’. When the mental, emotional, physical or spiritual exhaustion hits an individual, it is hard to understand and any one element might strike without warning. So, Barbara suggested I aught to read your blog and here I/we are, thanks to Barbara. In the words of Andrew Gold’s song, ‘Thank you for being a friend’, it reminds me of a real gentleman Senior Officer in the British Army, whom I knew, he gave me a reference. He handed me the sealed reference and shook my hand, knowing I was starting out as a young Police Officer and he said, “Remember Peter, a stranger is the friend you’ve yet to meet”. That quote has stood me in good stead all through my life, thanks to that dear man. I will sing a song for you tomorrow at our Harvest Festival concert and Faith meal afterwards… may be ‘Jesus is on the main line…… tell him what you want….’ or my own ‘I love October days’. Bye for now, God Bless and let your smile speak volumes. B & P

  16. Peter Howe B.E.M.

    We had a tremendous Harvest Festival concert & Faith meal afterwards and I did get to sing both songs – “Jesus… is a Gospel song of praise (you probably know that) and ‘I love October days’ is my own, so you and many were in our prayers & this morning too as the churches Harvest weekend service & meal concluded today. God Bless, B & P

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