January 9th…

As I approached a well-traveled bridge in our neighborhood, I was aware of all the emergency vehicles parked on either side of the roadway.  The paramedics, leading me to believe that a tragedy had just taken place, wore grim faces.

I continued on to my gym planning a “New Year’s” workout. Making good time and arriving early, I opened the door and looked into sad faces.  My friend, usually sitting at the front desk, was not there to say Good Morning. I asked, “Where is Brenda?” and was told …she left on an emergency call.  That call had come from the police an hour before.

As I shared my story about the emergency vehicles, all heads nodded in the direction assuming it was my friend’s husband. The police said there had been an accident on the bridge and for her to come quickly.  For an instant, I became breathless, feeling a great sadness grip my chest.

Now, three hours later, the local news has confirmed that a man had been found dead in his car submerged in the water. Pictures darted across the TV screen and I recognized the bridge.  As the victim’s name was displayed, I started to cry.

Reality! Brenda’s husband has died, she is a widow, and life has completely changed for her.  Visions of the moments after my husband died flooded before my eyes… the difference was… we had had time to say goodbye. They did not!

When accidents like this happen, the main reaction is numbness.  I feel extremely sad for my friend, for her family and even for their dog.  Their car, shown on the TV screen, was one I had seen on a regular basis at the gym.  It was being pulled from the water.  The passenger window had been broken but no other visible damage had been done.

I thought of the “what ifs” before I again realized that only God determines timing in our lives.  What if Brenda had still been in the car or what if the car had veered into the path of another or what if the accident happened up the street at our local elementary school?  Now, hours later, I have stopped such thoughts knowing those incidents did not happen.

I did not know her husband.  I had never met him or shaken his hand. I had no idea what he did as a profession, his favorite foods, or beloved books in his library.  I did not even know his name but I did know his wife!  She made him “real” to me so I feel like I “knew” him.

She had shared stories of their family, of her children, of different places of residence over the years.  A Midwesterner, like me, we giggled about the same memories of that culture versa the southern one.  Many good moments of conversation passed and I already miss her.

daffodilI do not know what the next days will bring.  Our prayers will be constant for her as she proceeds to arrange for his funeral.  I do know she will have many painful, unreal moments and my heart fills with sadness knowing she will have to travel the road of grief.  All I can do for now is be here… loving her from a distance.

Ironically, today was her last day at the gym.  Her church had offered her a fantastic job opportunity, which she decided to take.  I told her when she shared that news, that anywhere she worked would become better because of her presence. I know that  is true.  But for now, God has a different plan.  She will follow His lead… but it will be tough.

So again the thought…Life is fragile, life is fragile.

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. Brenda says:

    Maryann, please know how grateful I am for your sweet spirit. I think of you & all the other wonderful ladies often. I’m incredibly honored to call you my friend. I hope you can forgive me for the time it’s taken to reach out to you. It’s been an extremely difficult journey so far, but I’m blessed to have my faith, family & friends. I love & miss you.