Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Strength In Numbers

The WOWs
When my mother lost her husband in October 2011, she joined a support group provided through Hospice.

Within that group, she met other women who had also lost their husbands.  Week after week they'd meet, share (or just listen) to the stories of the others in the group, leaning on each other's words, comforting them if but for a moment, letting them know they were not losing their minds, it was not the end of the world, and they were not alone.

Grief is an extremely powerful emotion.  Even though I've lost all four of my grandparents, and my own father, I didn't realize the grip it had until my mother lost her husband of 32 years, my step-father.  In the immediate aftermath, I didn't recognize my mother.  I could swear she'd stepped off the set of The Walking Dead.  She's different now.  Better, but different.  Although there was that bat-shit crazy stage, which I sometimes still think she's in.  

But the best thing to come out of her loss, if you can even identify a "best thing", are the women she met through the grief support program.

Week after week they'd go for their meetings or individual counseling sessions (provided free of charge through Hospice), and afterwards go for lunch.  It became a regular thing and little by little, more women were added to the core group.

My mother eventually started hosting the group at her house, to celebrate the birthdays of the women, something joyful to fill the sadness, once a month.  The honoree got to sit in the birthday chair - I guess they duked it out if there was more than one that month - while they all ate cake, drank coffee, and talked, laughed, and cried.

After some brainstorming, my mother put it to a vote, and it was decided to call the group the WOWs - Women of Widowhood.  I'd only met two of the WOWs in the past, but today Ed and I got to meet quite a few of the rest since we were still in town and the meeting was taking place at the house.  Usually there are about twelve in attendance, today there were only seven who made it.

I was SO thrilled to finally meet the women who have given my mother such joy.  I even baked a cake for the occasion!  And I wasn't even concerned that they knew LOTS about me - not all of it very flattering - because I have Mina's pixie dust . I wasn't too worried.

I got hugs from everyone, and I'm in love with them all.

Christine smells delicious.  And after she hugged me, I smelled delicious too.  She's incredibly kind, with the joy of a child in her face.  It just lights up.  She reminds me of my Nanny.

Jo gave me the warmest, tightest, longest, best hug I've ever gotten.  She has happy, twinkly eyes, and she's got travel in her blood.  She's been to every state in the nation in an RV, and has traveled the world.  She and her husband even lived in Saudi Arabia for several years.  I can't wait to sit and talk more with her someday!

Jean has a laugh that fills the room and takes over her body.  She jiggles with joy.  She's the second WOW I met, she knows practically every step Ed and I take, and she's my biggest cheerleader.

Diana sat with me right away, showing me pictures of her dog, and of her gorgeous farmhouse in Wisconsin.  I noticed in the photos that there was truck parking, and I think I may have kinda invited myself for a visit.  What?  She's got a barn and a bunkhouse!  There's plenty of room.  And I'm a great houseguest!  

Kristie (with an e!) also hugged me immediately, recognition of who I was in her eyes.  Boy, I wonder what my mother's been telling them??  I didn't have a chance to really chat with her, but as with the other women, I couldn't help but notice how happy they seemed to be among their friends.

Little Jean, the oldest of the group, exuded a calm serenity.  She had the kind of super-soft hands that only come with age, where the skin is like your favorite set of sheets - worn, yet full of a lifetime of dreams.  And she was so tiny, I wanted to put her in my pocket!

And Terry, with her thick New York accent (a good 'ol Brooklyn babe!), reminded me of home.  All we needed was a stoop to sit on, and I'm sure I would have gotten some good stories out of her.

I can see why my mother, and each of these ladies, loves to be in each other's company.  Ed and I left after meeting everyone, because we knew in addition to the joy and laughter they share, there are also personal moments and tears.  It's their thing, their bond, their little world.

They are a formidable group - in the sense of inspiring awe, admiration and wonder.  To look at them, you'd never know of their losses.  You'd never know it's hard for them to eat at the kitchen table, or buy perfume, or listen to certain music without crying.  You'd never know the challenges they've dealt with or hurdles they've crossed.

But they know.

And I know.

And if you were to meet any one of them, you'd know that WOW more than aptly describes them.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2013: Woman Cannot Live On Bread Alone
2012: Why Milk Is ALWAYS At The Top Of My Shopping List
2011: Fun For Sale
2010: Dublin Is Incredibly Corny
2009: Welcome To Snowhio
2008: When Big Hair And Denim Were King
2007: Open 24 Hours
2006: Lucky One Eye
2005: Sorry, no post on this day. The blog didn’t start until May 2005!


Al & Jo said...

Oh Salena---you are so very sweet & I live both you & Ed. These women & the others that were missing, keep me alive, happy, aware, & so much more. So many times they are my life line & give new meaning it "phone a friend"! Don't be surprised if your phone rings & it is me on the other end just checking on where you & Ed are. I'd love to stow away with you. :-)

Jenn from WA said...

Love this post. It got me all teary eyed. "Jo" is my mom and you're welcome to borrow her if you want - but you'll need to return her.

I love that she's part of this group since I couldn't be much help to her healing being so far away.

Thanks for the blog. - Jenn

The Daily Rant said...

JO: You can call me any time! Especially when I'm on the road and have HOURS to kill! :) I'm sure you'd be more interesting than any audiobook I listen to. I was thrilled to meet you and I'm serious about the hug - I want more! xo

JENN: Your mother is wonderful and I would love to know her better! It's hard when you're so far away - I know what you mean since I'm on the road so much. And you know, after checking out your blogs and some of the food you make, I might have to invite myself to YOUR house! LOL I looked at your photos too - they're fantastic!! I used to live in Kirkland years ago for a short time - I worked for Westin and I spent a summer working at the Westin downtown. Great area.

Haynes said...

I love you and Ed so much. You outdid yourself with the Wows post. Thank you for sharing all about us.

The Daily Rant said...

HAYNES: We love you too!! I'm so glad you came into our lives! Big kiss and hug!! xoxo