Better Widow Than a Wife

Fridays with Robynn – a funny and poignant piece on imagination and marriage.

I have a very active imagination.

A couple of weekends ago my husband Lowell went out kayaking. He left our place on Sunday afternoon around 6 pm. I asked him if he’d be back before dark. He thought he would.

At 8:00 he called to say he’d gone too far down stream and was slowly making his way back up-stream to where he had put in to the water. But he didn’t think he’d be back before dark. He would keep me posted.

Around 9:00 pm he called again and said he was fine but it would be awhile yet. He was having a great time but it was slow going.

At 10:00pm I called him. He didn’t answer. That struck me as odd. I called again. Still no response.

Immediately my imagination kicked into high gear!

I imagined him dead. Something had happened to him. Maybe he had a seizure in the boat. Maybe he had a heart attack. Maybe an evil doer knocked him out and stolen his boat.

He was dead. I was sure of it and I was horrified. And I was so full of grief. In my imagination, I called our Pastor and the two of us travelled out to tell Lowell’s parents. I called our immediate circle of close friends. I notified others via email. In my imagination I was composed. I was brave. I grieved graciously.

I calmly planned the  funeral. During the service I delivered a very moving eulogy. All of our friends were amazed at how I held it together.

In my imagination I helped the children process the shock and horror of it. We banded together, widowed and fatherless. I communicated with their respective schools. Teachers and classmates were kind and supportive.

We were surrounded by community who brought meals and encouraged us along the way. I had to make the impossibly difficult decision whether we should move back to Canada, the country of my passport, or if we should stay here in Kansas where we were settled. I decided, for the sake of the children, of course, that we should certainly stay.

I was a lovely widow. I suffered stoically, beautifully.

And then my phone rang!! It was Lowell. He was not dead! I was furious. Why hadn’t he answered? I had completely forgotten that the phone was in the hold of the kayak to prevent it from getting wet. He hadn’t been able to answer it. He was nearly to shore. He was having a great adventure. He was so very happy.

I went to bed fuming!

When he returned home it was 10:54pm! He came into our room to tell me he was home. I coldly asked him if he had a good time. He had. In fact he had a grand adventure! It was one of the highlights of his summer! After a curt good night I rolled over, away from him, and pretended to go to sleep.

The next morning as we talked I realized how angry I had been. I was so worried. I really had no idea where he was and what I should do. Those few minutes of waiting for him to call fueled my fear and aroused my panic. When he did call, my relief wore my angry mask. I hardly recognized myself. Even I couldn’t understand why I was so angry. Why did my emotions do a double flip? Why did I respond with such venom?

It struck me: I was a far better widow in my imagination than I was a wife in real life!

I was holier in the face of mock suffering than I was in middle of a mild moment of anxiety. 

And I suspect that pretend holiness doesn’t count for much. It’s the real day-to-day responses that matter. It’s the way I greet Lowell, it’s the grace I extend to him, it’s the joy I share at his enthusiasm.

I’m working on becoming a better wife! Even after 18 years there’s still a lot to learn….

Blogger’s Note: Communicating Across Boundaries Readers – I am delighted to tell you that So.Many.Stories has launched out of Communicating Across Boundaries. This is a site that I hope will have many authors and even more stories. Take a look and if you want to participate fill out the contact form on the site!

17 thoughts on “Better Widow Than a Wife

  1. Interesting post — it is obvious that you do not grasp the despair of actually being widowed. Losing your spouse to death, catapults you into the abyss of grief. Everytime your spouse walks through the door, you should sing, dance, and embrace each moment you are granted together. Petra

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  2. great post – both for wives and for mothers! it’s embarrassing to admit it, but I’ve had similar thought patterns when my kids have been really sick. what a stoic suffering mother I’ll be – as long as no real sick and cranky kids actually annoy me in my imaginary suffering.

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  3. Been there, done that! Years ago I noticed that I reacted this way to fear and worry too. I decided to deliberately change my reaction when my husband walked in the door. I VERBALIZED by feelings to remind myself what I’m really feeling. “I was so worried about you! I missed you so much!” and when I verbalize my thoughts my feelings can’t run away with themselves. It nails them down by defining them. Plus it makes my husband feel happy that he was missed and gives him an opportunity to “make it up to me” for the worry he caused. Then we’re both happy.

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  4. I actually am a worrier, so I totally get the whole running the play out in your mind all the way through the funeral. I’ve done that many times when I can’t reach my wife when she works late. Especially since she is by herself in a building. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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  5. OMG :)
    It was nice reading your post.
    My imagination has gone there a couple of times when my husband was away from home and didn’t answer my calls.
    the imagined widow, the mourning …
    I feel guilty after those thoughts … thinking how mean of me to imagine him dead… but now I know it’s not just me :lol:

    with those daydreaming imaginary thoughts I start to believe I am a better widow than a wife… for I get angry at him at times … :)

    but the honest part is that after a few seconds of the thought (a few days or weeks in the imagination) I start to miss him badly and start to wish he hadn’t left me like that :) I guess it’s a good feeling when he actually returns at this juncture of thoughts… after the mourning wears off :)

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  6. Robynn- my friend! As always love your honesty and willingness to put it out there. May we all seek to live in love and not in fear.

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  7. I just love the material and situations you bring to thought! I too have had this experience of letting my ego take over and put me in “mind rehearsal” (what I call it), of events that never happen and justify it as a way to be prepared. I used to react to FD in the same way, being upset and angry when I had expectations of a phone call or contact. Oddly, my panic over keeping watch on Daisy deer taught me to react otherwise. She was a wild creature, free to roam and I could never have expectation of her because, after all, she was a deer and she lived in the moment. Sometimes being gone for days I put myself through much pain and misery watching to see her. I realized that I too, must respect FD to be wild and free when he chose to be. After all, he always checked in at some point and he most always let me know if he was going somewhere and about when to expect him. I don’t have the right to have grand expectations of anyone. What I can do is tell my ego to relax and quit bothering me. I often say to my ego, “Oh, stop it! You’re being silly!” I focus on something good… in the moment! Great post for pondering Marilyn!

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    1. You’re so right about the ego getting involved and needing to “relax” as you put it Lori! And I know I’ve said this before in this blog but my mom’s best line? “God never gives you grace for your imagination! He gives grace for the real deal!”

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  8. Love your honesty – thank you! Oh the spiritual heights I soar to in my imagination! And then I come down again with a bump when reality hits! I’m so thankful God doesn’t have any grandiose ideas about me. He knows the real me and loves me anyway! What a relief.

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