My husband of 46 years just died. It was cancer, yes, a long and ugly cancer, like cancer always is. He was 82, a young 82, and the prospect of spending his months in a home hospital hooked up to IVs to sustain him, and meds to make him “comfortable,” was just simply unbearable. For him, and for me. He was looking forward to recovering and getting back on the golf course. In the end, it was just not to be.

But, that’s not the point of this article. I am trying to figure out how to be a widow. What does that entail? How am I supposed to feel — what am I supposed to be doing each day when I wake up and realize again that I do not have to go to the hospital and spend time sitting with him because he is not there. He is not snoring softly (or earth shatteringly loudly) next to me. He is dead. He is dead. We always knew the day would come but we did not expect it to come so soon because it was always seemingly so far away. Months and years from now and plus, we had so many other things to do — especially around the house. Projects, lots of projects, because owning a house means there are always projects even if you are old (or as my cousin aptly noted on marking his 75th, “too young to be this old”) And, though, we’d done our share of travelling, there were just a few more trips to make, maybe Paris again, and perhaps somewhere in Africa. But time ran out. So now, what do I do?

So, I am here, alone, in a marital sense, a single woman, a widow. During our marriage, we were both fiercely independent, never the inseparable twosomes so many of our time were. We both did our own things and had our separate interests. Our friendship circles were different but converged for our social events. Even at our home parties, people always noted that there were always “interesting people” there, people whose paths were not likely to cross except that they knew one of us. My lawyer people, his golf people, my arts people, his airline people, my Links & Soroptimist people, our music people — they all converged in a racial and cultural mix, and marveled at how well it worked. We were definitely not the clingy couple type.

So, this is very different for me — I won’t be a fifth wheel in a couple’s clique because we never did that. I have my own interests, my own life, my own friends, my children, all of that. But I am scared. I was so comfortable navigating my seemingly independent marriage without realizing how truly dependent we were on each other. My fierce independence was tethered to his steadiness. Sure, I can take out the trash and set the cans out on the right days and walk our dog, and even cut back the bushes in between the gardener’s visits. But, I don’t know how to do all the other stuff that he always did and that I never thought about. I did not negotiate (argue) with the repairmen about the best price for resealing the driveway — or replacing the windows, or telling mechanics their price was outrageous who then, always, always relented, giving him the benefit of the doubt. And my God, what is all this stuff in the crumbling backyard shed and in the carport storage area — what on earth is it all and what am I supposed to do with it?! The lockdowns arising from COVID19 restricted hospital visits to one person at a time so when he took his last breath, I was not there. My daughter Sharon’s visitation shift had just begun. I now realize that even then, he was being very careful to assure that I was not present when it happened… he knew his last breaths were coming. I told him I’d be ok and the kids were all ok and it was ok for him to not fight it, but, he still did not want me to see him leave — he knew his fiercely independent wife could not handle that either. I could have. Maybe. He made certain my daughter was there in those last moments, as he would have preferred. Just like after his eye surgery, when he could not see to roll his medical marijuana joints, he did not want me to roll them (I tried, and they were awful, laughing through the pain), and insisted on having my daughter come and roll the joints!

“We had a good run.” My brother David shared this perspective that our Chicago pastor had said to his wife as he transitioned after over 50 years of marriage. “We had a good run.” It seemed so apt when he said it to me. As I am going through piles and boxes of stuff and things, we really did have a good run. Travel, family trips, him and me, solo trips, apparently we entertained quite a bit, lots of backyard party pictures. School stuff galore as living with 3 kids entailed. Since COVID19 prevented traditional funeral gatherings, nearly every day, I have been receiving flowers, cards, and gifts, each a reminder of a friendship, a fond memory of a special time. The cards and notes from “his” people speak of a kindness and gentility shown to each of them that struck me with the magnitude of the special love we shared.

So, here I go. What’s next?

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sandra simms

sandra simms

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I am a retired judge and author of “Tales From the Bench — Essays on Life and Justice” and was Hawaii’s first Black female judge. So now I write stuff.