I consider myself an independent woman, something that when I was a young girl I would have been very proud of.  I would have been proud of the fact that I had a good job, proud of the fact that I had my own place, proud of the fact that I supported myself, and that my finances were in order.  Proud of the fact that I was a published author, and extremely proud of the fact that I was confident in making decisions and handling my affairs.

Yes, I am an independent woman, but I am also a widow, which changes everything.  You see when you are older and a widow your independence isn’t something you yearn for.  In fact it wasn’t something I even gave a thought to.  Independence wasn’t something I wanted.  No, instead my new independence was part of a horrible nightmare that I longed to wake up from.  I’ll never forget the day that my life changed forever; it was April 26, 2005.  That was the day my husband of 35 years passed away.  Eddie was my lover, my best friend, and my heart’s inspiration.  So, you see my independence wasn’t something I expected, it wasn’t something I wanted, it wasn’t something that I strived for, it wasn’t something that I even anticipated, and it certainly wasn’t something that I was ready to accept.

When I was a young girl I longed for independence, I couldn’t wait to be the person I felt I could be.  And, before I was married I was well on my way to being that confident, proud, independent woman that I dreamed about.  I had my degree, I had my first teaching job, and I was engaged – my life was wonderful!  I married my high school sweetheart, it was 1969 and the world was ours!  My husband and I shared life’s up’s and down’s together.  For 35 years we lived the, “American Dream”, life was good to us.

Then, it happened; you know how they say, “That your life can change in an instant.”  Mine changed in three weeks – a sudden illness, hospitalization, then hospice, and then death entered our lives.  My heart was broken into a million tiny pieces, and nothing anyone could say or do would put it back together.  I realized how fragile life can be.  I was lost and alone, and overpowered by my grief.  I never knew when grief would wash over me and drag me down into the dark depths of despair and deep depression.  For the first time in my life I was in a situation that I had no control over…I was helpless and I was so very alone…

The years following my soul mate’s death I struggled trying to live my life in “our” world – Eddie’s and mine, but it wasn’t “our” world any longer, and I just wasn’t ready to accept that.  I struggled to keep up the large house we lived in, I struggled so hard to keep the life we knew together alive.  I did this for six years, and then I finally gave up.  I don’t know if I gave up as much as I suddenly woke up after being in such a dark place for so long.  A place where grief was my constant companion.  Yes, I was an independent woman for those six years, I had to be to survive, and in my mind I had something to prove.  This wasn’t the kind of independence that I was proud of, this wasn’t the kind of independence that I ever wanted.

After I surrendered, gradually my life took on new meaning, and I was able to leave the physical world we shared together, and begin my life again.  Oh, don’t misunderstand me, Eddie is still the love of my life, and he always will be.  I still love him deeply and I know that our love keeps us connected in the most spiritual of ways.

I’ve found a way to move forward, and my life has gone full circle, I am back to being that same confident woman that I was back in 1969.  Only now I am not so young, no, I’m 68 years of age, and it is 2014.  I like to think that I’ve reached the age of, “wisdom.” Yes, the age of wisdom where I can put everything in perspective, where I have a deeper understanding of life itself, where the little things are just that little things, and where independence is now part of my life’s journey.  The age of wisdom is a place where I am able to, “accept” graciously what life puts in my path.  It is independence filled with a love of life, with kindness, and understanding.  Yes, my new form of independence has given me a heart filled with love, memories, and a life worth living.

The world is full of independent widows; we are in a class all of our own.  I can say that am now once again proud to be an independent woman.  Although there are still days when in my heart I long for the life I once had.  I long for the love that I had, I long for the sharing of decision making, and I long for being, “us” and not “me.”  I am proud to be an independent widow, a state that I have accepted graciously.  But I would be even prouder to once again be Eddie’s wife…

 

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Paula Ezop

Paula M. Ezop is a spirituality commentary columnist. Her inspirational columns Following the Spiritual Soul have appeared in Oconee Today, a South Carolina Scripps Howard publication. They are currently in: Celebrating the Success of the Modern Woman, Esteem Yourself, and Open to Hope. She has contributed to such popular books as Chicken Soup for the Caregivers Soul and she has written the foreword to Whispers of Inspiration, a collection of both poetry and prose gathered from voices around the world. Paula also co-authored a book in the Mommies Line, Spirituality for Mommies. Her Ebook Sparkly Bits of Spiritual Wisdom is available online, it is a collection of her inspirational columns. She has also written Sparkly Bits of Spiritual Wisdom – 29 ½ Ways for Women to Get In Touch With Their Spirits. Closest to her heart is her most recent book, A Widow’s Journey – Healing a Broken Heart. Wiggles Press has published her children’s chapter books, The Adventures of Penelope Star and the Mystery of the Three Dragons, and Lee McKenzie’s Summer to Remember – both are the first in a series. Paula holds the Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Elementary Education from Northeastern Illinois University. Her heartfelt and meaningful writing began as a means to overcome the loss of her husband. Paula has now written hundreds of articles and several books centering on life and faith. Her sustaining philosophy is that “we are more than the woman we see in our mirror.”

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