The statistics are there for anyone to see: Our men are living to an average age of just under 76; women, to almost 81. And we usually marry men who are two or three years older than we are, according to recent statistics. Ergo, most of us wives are likely to outlive our husbands by a number of years.
I think about this fact often when I visit my friends at what my mom called "the old ladies' home." And it’s sort of hanging around the back of my mind the rest of the week, too, because these women are my heroes. They have survived what must surely be one of life’s greatest trials -- losing not just their mates and their caretakers but even their identities, as Joe's wife became Joe's widow.
Some, however, are spared the worst of it. And guess what: It's not those independents with feminist leanings, but those who count themselves children of God.
These, in fact, are the widows who seem to have recovered most successfully from their losses, in my experience. Sure, they miss their husbands greatly and speak of them fondly. They keep pictures on their night tables and walls to remind them of their happy lives together. And they are definitely looking forward with great delight to their impending heavenly reunions.
But for the time being, they are positioned solidly in the present, living new lives sans spouse, and gratefully accepting whatever help they need from their brothers and sisters in Christ.
I remember wondering about this before I became a Christian myself: How do you do that? How do you face tomorrow without your beloved companion at your side? Which is why I look at these women with awe, knowing that they have gone through this dark tunnel and somehow came out the other end smiling.
I remember my mother saying, after my dad’s death at age 59, that she had now turned the page to a new chapter in her life. She didn’t say that right away, of course; it took some months for her to heal enough to view her life in those terms. But she did ultimately say it, and mean it, and live it.
I wonder how well the women of my generation will fare in this department. I'm sure the born-again Christians will be fine, but we are a dying breed, according to surveys I've seen over the last decade. How will those who are not born-again manage?
If the Lord tarries, it's going to be very interesting to find out.