This Easter season, the words of Christ on the cross captured my thoughts, especially those that he spoke to his mother, Mary. “Dear woman, here is your son.” I cringe at the thought of my Lord being crucified. The crowds passed by mocking him, bloody signs of torture were everywhere; how could he somehow catch his mother’s eye to speak to her? What words, what love, what unspeakable thoughts swelled in their hearts? Mary’s sister was there, another woman or two, and one of the disciples. Then Jesus said to the disciple, “Here is your mother” (John 19:27), and it was understood that the Apostle John would help provide for her.
I wonder—where was Joseph, Mary’s husband? He hadn’t been mentioned since Jesus was age twelve, so church tradition has accepted that Joseph died during the Lord’s teenage years. I’m touched that some of Christ’s last words were for the care of his mother, a widow.
I also wonder, though, where was Mary’s family? Although her sister stood beside her at the crucifixion, she had other adult children besides Jesus. Scripture tells families to be responsible to care for their widowed family members (See I Timothy 5, for example).
It’s interesting that Jesus told John to care for his mother. Perhaps today there are also times when the best person to help a widow is someone who has been closer to her than family members. The Apostle John, standing beside Mary, had seen the blood, heard the groans, and saw the torture. He had the kind of first-hand experience that gave him a great respect for her courage and faith. Sometimes family members don’t know what a woman’s been through; sometimes they don’t have respect for their mother; sometimes they don’t share the same faith.
Everyone can, and should, pitch in to help to one degree or another; a widow’s needs are too numerous for one person to absorb. They’re too numerous for the widow, too! It’s important that a widow is given time and training to adjust to taking on many of her husband’s responsibilities. Help beyond the family can often be something good to consider.
Widowed friends of mine recently shared with me the following ways their friends helped them. Dear Reader, if you recall ways you helped, or were helped, during widowhood, I’d love to mention your experiences also in the months to come. I’ll be looking for distinct ways friends, family members, and widows can help widows. Please e-mail your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Widow Column” in the subject line. I cannot promise to use every example, but if I do, names and locations will not be mentioned, so everyone’s privacy is protected.
HOW FRIENDS HELPED—IN WIDOWS’ OWN WORDS
· One dear friend called every month on the death date to check in on me. I didn’t even realize it until six months later. It meant so much to me that she remembered the date.
· A friend came in regularly and simply sat alongside me. No Bible quotes, lectures, or chastisement for crying. She sometimes cried with me; that was shared mourning.
· When my husband died, two friends came to my house and worked together to take care of me in the wake of the news. They answered the door and protected my privacy when they saw I needed some time alone. They just did what needed to be done, no questions asked. But now, months later, I wish I would get invited to lunch or something. Or a card in the mail that says, “Just thinking about you.” I wish someone would let me talk about my husband.
· When I arrived home the morning my husband unexpectedly died at the hospital, my friend had come by and left all sorts of items—paper plates, plastic ware, paper towels, soap, juice, bottled water, canned goods, donuts, pastries, groceries, etc. It was such a kind gesture, full of love and concern for us! I needed all those things, especially the zip lock bags for all the food to come. I will never forget walking up to my front door and seeing the abundance of items so necessary!
· Someone visited me, and on the way out they noticed an ambulance bill and water bill clipped on the refrigerator. They grabbed them and paid them! That was a blessing!
· I had two very dear friends who would take turns phoning me every other night. They knew I wasn’t sleeping, so one would call one night, and the other would call the next night. They did this for about the first month or so after my husband passed.
· A very dear friend had me gather all my husband’s sweaters, and she made patchwork throws for me, my daughter, and my son. (My husband had collected a lot of sweaters!) We loved cuddling up in them. When my second husband passed away after only three years of marriage, ladies from the church came and sat with me, wept with me, and made sure I was eating and drinking round the clock—about 36 hours of constant vigilance. I thought I wanted to be alone, but I was wrong. The Lord knew, and my pastors knew I needed that care. I’d lost two husbands in less than eight years.
· A friend took me to the store, let me pick out groceries, and she paid for them. She also bought me a new pair of shoes. She was a great help during a very difficult time.
· One of the men from church started showing up at my house unannounced to shovel my driveway in winter, mow my lawn in summer, or put air in my tires whenever needed. He never knocked on the door or stayed to chat. He just showed up, did the work, and then drove away. He did this for almost two years until we moved away to be closer to my family.
· The flood of sweet cards, letters, and desserts was special, but the nicest thing anyone did was to come and clean my house! I was in shock and did nothing for a few weeks. They insisted. They said they didn’t have money to buy flowers, but they had two hands that worked. I still appreciate it to this day.
These may seem like the simplest of things compared to employment training, financial planning, tax help, childcare, counseling, grief therapy, health issues, and a host of other concerns a widow might have to deal with. But these are starting points; we have to start somewhere.
May Christ be your ultimate help, but may you also be blessed by help from family and beyond.
Until next month,
To learn more about widowhood, order a copy of “Postcards from the Widows’ Path – Gleaning Hope and Purpose from the Book of Ruth.” It’s a gentle, biblical guide for widows that has many saying, “This is the best I’ve ever read!”