By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published October 15, 2015
“Preserve me, O Lord, for I have put my trust in thee” is a prayer I’ve been repeating since my husband’s death. I’ve begged God to save me from going crazy from grief and also to help me make it through another day.
Every task on my to-do list has seemed impossibly huge, since even the most ordinary thing, like changing the name on a utility bill, means telephoning the company and then faxing in a death certificate, which means driving to the nearest store that has a fax machine, which means—well, you get the idea.
Picking up his last paycheck entailed first probating the will, which required going to the courthouse and filling out paperwork, waiting weeks for a letter in the mail and then opening a special estate savings account at the bank.
Most days, I picture my to-do list as a giant bear that is threatening to knock me down and stomp on me with his big powerful paws. As I cross off one task, I have to add five more, so the bear seems to be growing ever larger. Fortunately, I have discovered many people who are ready, willing and able to help me face the bear.
For example, shortly after the funeral, with a houseful of relatives, the shower handle fell off, which led me to turn to my sister and glumly announce, “I guess we can’t use this shower now.”
“Do you have a whatchamacallit?,” she asked without hesitation.
I knew exactly what she meant, so I hurried downstairs to my husband’s workbench and returned quickly with the right screwdriver. Then I watched in utter fascination as my sister managed to pry off the thingummy, tighten the screw and get the shower back in working order.
Getting into my husband’s computer meant deciphering numerous password clues that he had penned in secret places in his address book. My niece sat patiently at the keyboard each day while we tried different combinations of letters and numbers—and it wasn’t until our 80th try that we finally broke the code and declared victory.
Another crucial task was locating Jef’s signature canvas hat upon which he had affixed a leather band studded with genuine sharks’ teeth. I was shaken when I realized the hat wasn’t in the bag of clothing that came back from the emergency room, so I begged friends to be on the lookout for it.
The next morning my dear friend, Pam, picked up groceries for me and after carrying the bags into the house, said, “Oh, I have one more thing.”
She then went back to her car and returned with the hat, which she had discovered on the block where my beloved had died. She explained that she was driving along and suddenly had a strong inkling that Jef was directing her to the precise spot.
About a week ago, I woke up one morning and decided to give myself a break from the to-do list. Instead, I would answer some emails, have a second cup of coffee and take a nice leisurely shower before my friend came over for lunch.
The bear, however, had other plans. You see, the phone rang and it was a doctor’s office saying my insurance number wasn’t being recognized in the system. I spent the next two hours untangling the problem, and by the time my friend arrived at the front door, I still hadn’t taken a shower.
At first, I ranted and raved against the bear, but then someone suggested that the countless tasks associated with a spouse’s death may be a blessing of sorts. After all, being forced to fill out forms, get things repaired, fax documents and untangle insurance dilemmas certainly keeps you busy—and gives you a break from grieving.
There are still days that are overwhelming, I must confess, but I remind myself to put my trust in God who has promised to preserve me. I am also mighty grateful for family and friends who have stepped forward to help me tame the bear.
Artwork by Jef Murray. Lorraine Murray’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.