A Way of Life

This morning, while walking our dogs, I passed by a house at the end of the block. There in the garage, was an old, bent over woman still in her dressing gown, digging into a brown box. Not wanting to frighten her, we went past quickly as I kept a tight leash on Emma and Anna. Probably she did not even know we were there.

older_coupleA neighbor had told me that the man who had lived at that house, passed away a month ago. All of this registered in my mind after I got back home. Yes, I remembered the man. He always pushed the garbage can down to the curb on Tuesdays. He, too, usually had nightclothes on and used his cane to direct the container on its path. Sometimes he was aware of our presence, but most of the time, not.

Now, his wife will be putting out the garbage. Now, she will do the household chores that he did; perhaps even paying the bills. Judging from my observations, I would guess they had been together for a long time. Now it is just her- with a daughter who comes and goes on a regular basis.

My first marriage was thirty-two years long. My second marriage will celebrate twelve years this September. I can only imagine how many years these two people were together. A lot longer than my two marriages combined!

Now the old woman will begin a life alone. We will keep her in our prayers as she learns a new way of living. I know she will experience the usual changes with the death of her husband and I wish her well. As, any of us who have been through this change know, there is a lot to do. A lot of decisions, many choices, and lots of digging into boxes-also filling them—to give away. Perhaps we will see things at the side of the curb as she changes from WE TO ME.

I would bet that this old woman couldn’t believe how fast her life has gone! She probably can’t even imagine that they were married for such a long time. I will pray for her good health and when it is her time to die, to die quietly, not be sick for a long time, and to join her beloved up in heaven.

There are many things that I do not know! However, I do know that years of marriage are kind of like a huge water pail. If they are happy years, they spill over only to be filled again. If they are sad years, they will evaporate from not being used. However, I hope there was a combination of years…some happy…some sad- that combined, kept the water pail at a constant level. I believe that both of my marriages will look like that someday.

Therefore, years from now, when a dog walker comes down the street and sees me stooping over a brown box, I hope I portray an aura of happiness. Even in my bathrobe and slippers, I hope that observers will see me not old and bent, but upright and straight with a smile on my face. That is my wish!

About the Author

Maryann Hartzell-Curran, a retired educator and counselor, has written a personal account of her journey through the first year of grieving the loss of her husband in her book, “From We to Me,” to help support those who have suffered the loss of a loved one.
Maryann founded a successful family therapy practice and taught in the public and private sectors. She also founded and directed a church-based preschool in Lombard, Ill., and gained experience working with the elderly as director of a senior dining center. She has a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s degree in counseling from Illinois Benedictine University.

Comments (1)

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  1. Nancy Stevens says:

    Great story. I think she was lucky to have lived to a ripe old age and had all those years to enjoy her loved ones.