Wouldn't it be great to live until you are in your 90s, be in good health and have great mobility until then, and die only days after your husband has passed? Your grief journey would be short. As a matter of fact, you'd still be in shock from your loss and never really experience the kind of grief that others have had to endure.
Only a handful experience such an ideal ending. Statistics show that there are 11.8 million widows in the US, and 2,800 new widows are being added to this count every day. The average age when women become widows is fifty-nine. I thought I was a fairly young widow, but it turns out I was average. There are no guarantees, so how can you prepare?
For thirty-three years, Curt's ministry was our main work focus. I partnered with him and helped in various capacities, but it was all volunteer work. Even when I worked part time at other jobs like medical transcription, his ministry had top priority for both of us. It was our calling. For many of those years, I didn't even have a paying job.
When my husband battled stage-4 cancer, I was fifty-nine years old and far too young to retire. So, in a moment of perplexity and weakness, I asked Curt, "If God doesn't answer our prayers as we hope, what should I do with my life?"
Without a moment's hesitation, Curt said, "Go in the direction of your gift." It was as though he had thought about it already, or perhaps God was speaking through him.
Months after Curt died, his words gave me clear direction and comfort. I had something to focus on. Something other than my grief. I needed a project, and writing became that project. So I continued writing the novel I had been working on, Ties That Bind. About three months after my husband died, I also began a blog about my grief journey, which later turned into another book, Facing Tomorrow Without You.
Somewhere in the first couple of months after I became a widow, I told the Lord that I would walk through any door He opened for me. I chose to trust Him with my future.
I never could have imagined that seven months after my husband passed, I'd receive a call from the Executive Director of the Assemblies of God World Missions and his wife, asking me to write their story. The Executive Director had experienced what doctors agreed was a miracle in his battle with COVID. There was no other way to explain it. And he and his wife hoped I'd help them share their story with the world.
Certainly, it was an honor to be asked. But it was also a story of healing, something my family had not received. At least not in my husband's battle with cancer.
I'll be honest with you. At this point, my faith was weak where healing was concerned. It wasn't that I doubted God's ability to heal. I knew He could. But I wasn't so sure He was still interested in healing people today as He did three decades earlier, when He healed our newborn daughter of Hyaline Membrane Disease and Pulmonary Hypertension.
I had recently seen too many people die of cancer and other diseases. I heard the reports of all the deaths from COVID. Once I became a widow, every time someone wanted prayer for healing, I cringed and hoped I wouldn't be asked to lead that prayer. I didn't want to pretend about something I felt unsure about.
So when I was asked to write this story about a miraculous healing, I wondered how I could possibly be the right person for the job. But almost immediately, I remembered the words I'd said to God, I will walk through any door You open. God was writing my story, and I had chosen to trust Him. So I accepted the offer, and wrote Patient #1.
In the process of writing this book, my faith in God's willingness to still heal today was restored. I can't say that I understand why some people are healed and others aren't, but I can say that God does heal today. And if He heals you, then He still has work to accomplish through you. With the healing comes responsibility.
So let's get back to the topic of preparing for your loss in case you become a widow. It's important to know what your God-given gifts are, so you will know in which direction to go when you can no longer partner with your husband. Find hobbies you enjoy doing alone. Learn how to be interdependent while maintaining a bit of independence too. Fully enjoy each other, but also enjoy your alone time.
The amazing thing is, God used my gift of writing to teach me more about Himself. And He used the gift He gave me to slowly heal my broken heart when I became a widow.
If you are younger than sixty, you probably don't want to talk about funerals. Most of us don't enjoy morbid discussions. But if you were to become a widow, you will be glad that you and your husband took the time for this difficult conversation.
Do you know if your husband wants to be laid in a casket, or would he prefer cremation? If a casket, does he want it open or closed? Does he want to be embalmed or would he prefer to save on that expense?
Is there a cemetery he'd prefer?
Is there someone special who he'd like to do his eulogy? Who should officiate the funeral? Does he have a favorite hymn or song?
No one knows when the sand in their hourglass will run out. If it's sudden and without warning, you'll have to guess about all of this. In your grief, you will have to deal with the uncertainty about whether you did everything as your husband would have wished.
Family members may have different opinions of what the funeral should include. This will cause confusion and stress. But if you've discussed these details with your husband prior to his passing, you can say, "This is how he wanted it." End of discussion.
However, if you or your husband are strongly opposed to talking about dying, at least ask him to write this information down on a sheet of paper. He should let you know where you can find it once he's gone.
In this digital age, you need to know your husband's passwords. It helps if your husband has a password manager like One Password where all his usernames and passwords are in one location. You will only need to know a single password to access the entire list. Otherwise, you will need him to make a list of all his usernames and passwords and place it with the funeral arrangement list.
You have probably heard that you should never write down your passwords since it makes it too easy for someone to steal. However, it is wise to do so anyway and put it in a safe location where your family knows to look for it in case they can no longer ask you.
If you should become a widow, you will also need the password to your husband's computer and other devices.
Unless you can pay for any task you need done around the house or you have adult children or family members who can help, you will need to know how to correctly perform the household tasks your husband is responsible for. Do you know how to change the filter in your furnace? You will need to know when and how to fertilize your lawn. When do you need to put down grub treatment so your lawn won't be destroyed over the winter? What about maintenance of the car? Most husbands do a lot for their families, so it becomes difficult when all that responsibility falls on your shoulder as a grieving widow.
It would be helpful to have a list of home repair technicians in case something breaks. For example, who is your plumber or electrician?
About three months after my husband died, my furnace stopped working. Fortunately, I had a list of all our service companies, so I knew who to call.
On a different occasion, I needed someone to come clean my dryer vents, but this person wasn't on the list. I went on the Facebook page for my town and asked for suggestions. This was so helpful. People in our communities are often ready to step up and give recommendations or offer their services.
You might want to consider installing a security camera, so you don’t have to go to the door at night. You can look on the camera to see who is there. If it’s a stranger, don’t answer. Buy a camera with a speaker, and you can ask what they want without answering the door.
It would be a great help to have a list of all the utilities you and your husband pay regularly and the website links. Since most of us pay online, you will need to have this list on your computer. For example, who services your electric, gas, water, garbage, etc. Once your husband is no longer with you, eventually his name must be removed from all of these utilities, so you will need to know who to contact.
My husband was an organized man. He had bookmarked on his computer (on Google) all the businesses that received a regular payment from us. After he passed, I only needed the password for his computer and his password for One Password. Then I located each company that was bookmarked and continued making payments in his name until I got around to changing the accounts to my name. His organizational skill was a huge asset in the middle of my grief. I felt like he was still looking out of me.
If your husband is the main breadwinner, the kindest thing he can do for you is have life insurance. He should purchase a plan that will allow you to pay off your mortgage, a car loan, and it would be so helpful if it also covered a year or more of income while you adjust to being a widow.
He should leave you without a credit card debt. This was a wonderful gift my husband gave me.
It would be helpful if he would make a list of all your assets, such as life insurance, stocks, annuities, retirement account, etc., so you know what type of income you can expect. He might also have a life insurance through his job. You will need to know where you can find all this information, so you can call the companies to let them know your husband has passed away, and you are the beneficiary.
Sometimes we want to hang on in faith so badly that we refuse to prepare for the possibility that our prayers won't be answered as we had hoped. But even if your husband is battling something very serious in his body and then is healed, you can still benefit from being prepared. Sooner or later, he will die. And if he dies before you, your grief journey will be a little easier because you took the time to prepare.
When my husband was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive stage-4 cancer, we clung to our faith. We prayed and trusted God to help us through this. Doctors told us, that patients with the best outcome are those who do not lose hope. So we filled our minds with positive and faith-filled songs and Scripture verses. We focused on healing and our future together.
But one day in the middle of all our positivity, my husband said, "Can we take just a moment to consider the possibility that God will not heal me? I think we need to discuss funeral arrangements, so you will know what to do."
I wanted to fulfill Curt's every wish. So if he wanted to talk about his funeral for a bit, I would do that. I listened and jotted down notes as he explained the details.
When he finished, we continued with our positive and faith-filled attitude, holding onto faith until he took his last breath.
I never regretted that we clung to God through everything and we never gave up hope. But after my husband died, I was so glad for the wisdom he had to stop for just a moment and discuss his funeral. I knew what I needed to do to honor his memory.
Often we think wonderful things about our husbands. We feel gratitude for them. But life is so busy, and we forget to speak the words out loud. In closing, I want to say, don't forget to tell your husband how much you love and appreciate him and the things he does for you and your family. Honor him through your words.
Let your children overhear you compliment your husband. Let your friends see and hear how highly you think of him by how you treat your husband in public and how you speak to him.
One day he will be gone, and you'll never get another chance to express how much you love him and how glad you are that he is your husband. Do it while you still can.
July 26, 2023