Thursday, 14 January 2010

Widows are Martyred by Love

A friend of mine lost his wife to motor neurone disease a few months ago. Her death in only the first year of the onset of the disease was unexpected. Retired, he is involved at the local unemployed families centre where he volunteers in the office. He was faithful and loyal to his wife in sickness and in health and loved her passionately and with all his heart. Now that she has departed from this life he is a shadow of the person he was, abandoned and without hope. He cries, "at least once a day" saying that even a word, or a song can set him off.

Widows are martyred by love, because they are left behind. Perhaps that is why we are encouraged, notably by St James (whose holy letter urging the early Christians towards works of mercy, the nasty protestant, Martin Luther, apparently detested) to 'protect the widow and the orphan' because both are made orphans by death. They are abandoned and face the dereliction and sorrow of the Cross, often alone, and need a Simon of Cyrene. Time heals, but those who truly love bear the invisible but indellible wounds of Christ in their souls.

Being unemployed, off and on, for quite a long time, I strike up odd friendships with older people in a way I wouldn't were I working and mixed with colleagues of my own age. Also, at St Mary Magdalen's Church there are many retired people who have faced bereavement and been made widows. For these people, where once there was joy and intimacy, there is loneliness and isolation. The counsellor tells him that over time the pain will lessen and maybe that is true, but once you have been married to someone for 40 years and suddenly they are gone, how do you get over that? It is no wonder, in a way, that many people prefer transient relationships with 'no strings attached'. For who, having truly loved, would want to face the loneliness of the Cross.

Widows are marked by Love. Having poured themselves out to their spouse, in love, they are bereft when their spouse is taken. Whether they have faith or not, they witness to the love of Christ and Christ's Passion is made manifest in them. For this is the love that is God's, the love unto Death and beyond. They pay the price of loving and know what love really is. It is sweet and yet it is bitter and like Our Lady, they too know all too well, the sword that pierces the soul that loves. For widows, all of a sudden, this life becomes a vale of tears, an exile all too real, separated cruelly from the one whom their heart loves. Say a prayer for my friend and please the soul of his departed wife, a baptised Catholic. While he says he is coping with the support of friends, he is vulnerable to falling into and giving in to, despair.


Jane said...

Thank you for this post Laurence. Yes, I will pray for your friend and all widows tempted to despair in their bitter anguish.

God bless you.

pelerin said...

How I feel for your friend, Laurence. You say he is coping with the help of friends and I am sure your friendship is a comfort for him. It appears that he is seeing a bereavement counsellor which I think is a good thing.

I thought I was coping after the death of my husband after 36 years of marriage but I was persuaded by a friend to see a bereavement counsellor and it was only then that I realised that I had not really been coping and preparing myself for moving on and getting used to life on my own. These sessions really helped and I do hope they help your friend too.

You have written so beautifully of how we feel when we are left behind. We do indeed pay the price of loving. I always remember one of my friends saying to me after the death of her daughter 'It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.'

Yes even after seven years I still have moments of deep sorrow. I would be lying if I said I did not. I remember being on the verge of tears during a homily on death
a few months ago - sorrow is always so near the surface but if that is the price of having loved someone then I would not have it any other way.

The Bones said...

Because in doing so we share in God's nature. We were made by Love, for love. I don't think we can comprehend why this side of Heaven.

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