I just turned 65, and with it came roadmap revelations about the next steps in my life.
Apparently, these revelations struck a chord among the over 2.4 thousand readers as they saw themselves in my journey and the lessons that tagged along.
A few things to know about me. I am, first and foremost, a communicator of love. In my articles, books, counseling, speaking and teaching, love, caring, and compassion are at the core. Even when I am angry and outraged, broken and weary about the state of the world, I know that, ultimately, love has healing properties and can work miracles.
I am a social worker/psychotherapist, journalist, author, interfaith minister, speaker, teacher, coach, editor, and PR and marketing consultant. I have a full plate of responsibilities.
I am also a devoted grandmother to my nearly four-year-old grandson and 18-month-old granddaughter. They are the center of my universe, as my son predicted they would be. They are also my primary reason for being a peace and social justice activist. I want a better world for them and all the children on the planet. That translates to what I call “showing up, standing up, and speaking out” in the face of injustice.
I am also an advocate for nurturing touch by consent. In 2014, the same year I had a heart attack, I founded Hugmobsters Armed With Love which offers free hugs worldwide. Prior to the pandemic, I could regularly be seen on street corners and strolling through my local town of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, with my sign and open arms. For three years, I had done virtual hugs or, for the more adventurous, masked hugs. Now I am back out there, almost fearlessly. In October of 2022, I presented my first TEDx talk called Overcoming the Taboo of Touch on the power of hugs.
I am also a widow. I wrote this years ago and now, 26 years later, it still rings true:
“Long share, but bear with me as I bare my soul here—
I just had a memory about a pivotal event that occurred 16 years ago today that I had completely forgotten about it until I was speaking with my cousin Jody a few minutes ago. My husband had, several years earlier, been diagnosed with Hepatitis C and was in the end-stage of the disease at the time. He was on the UNOS list waiting for a liver transplant and used to say wryly that he wouldn’t be Status 1 on the list until he was ‘flat on my back in the ICU on a ventilator,’ since there are more in need of organ transplants than donors—one reason I am an organ donor.
I was working as a nursing home social worker back then and had received a call from the home care nurse who had come by for a visit. She told me that he needed to go to the hospital since his symptoms had worsened, but he was refusing. I asked her to put him on the phone and the last words he said were, ‘Leave me alone, I’m ok.’ By the time I got home, he was in a coma and I called 911 and he was rushed to Doylestown Hospital and then transferred to Thomas Jefferson in Philly since that’s where the transplant team was.
Thus began our 5 1/2 week adventure that had me literally living in the ICU with him, since I didn’t want to leave his side in case the transplant occurred or if he passed. It was one of the most profound spiritual experiences of my life that had me in almost constant communion with the Divine. I prepared myself for him to either live or die, focusing on the first, but knowing that the second was likely as well.
My friends and family rallied round, including my dear mother who flew up from Florida and spent nearly the entire time with me, sleeping in the waiting room or in a chair next to Michael’s bed. Bless all those who were with me through that ordeal, especially my sister Jan, my cousin Jody, my friend Barb, my friend Yvonne and Michael’s sisters, who are still in my life.
I learned more medical terminology than I would have liked to, but as a medical social worker, it helped to be on the other side of the experience. They treated me both as a peer and family member of a patient, which I appreciated, and explained everything in detail. I called them Angels in Scrubs.
I decorated his room with colorful art and plants, making it as homey as possible for both of us. I had a tape player on repeat with various types of soothing music wafting. The staff said it felt like a haven for them too. We were there through Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, so I put up festive decorations—we celebrated all of the winter holidays.
Michael passed on December 21st of 1998, and each year beginning on this day, November 11th, I have experienced body memory of those days. Over the years, that feeling has waned and waxed. Now that I am facing my own health stuff, I am experiencing much joy and appreciation for each day as it unfolds, respecting my choices without too many ‘have to-s’. I am honoring my body’s messages, so today I took a long nap.
This is not a call for sympathy since Michael’s death launched me into a life that brought with it a career as a minister, bereavement counselor, freelance journalist, and speaker with greater insight into resilience than ever I had prior. I continue to shed codependent tendencies. I have called into my life soul friends who I might not have met otherwise. I have learned to love in deeper ways than I knew how before. I am forgiving myself and Michael for choices we made in the years we were together throughout our ‘paradoxical marriage,’ as I call it.
We have both moved on and I am curious about what his afterlife is like and what he would think about all of the ways in which the world has changed since his death. Wonder what he would think of Facebook (since he was sometimes self-revealing and sometimes shy).
At this time, I am also a few weeks away from the 4th anniversary of my mother’s death on November 26th, so holidays can be emotionally challenging.”
A few years later, I penned this:
“There are times when it feels surrealistic. Michael died on 12/21/98. The woman I was back then has morphed from somewhat timid (hard to imagine for those who know me now), not wanting to make waves or rock the boat, or as he referred to me, ‘an emotional contortionist who would bend over backward to please people, a deer caught in the headlights when it came to making decisions, who was almost always looking over your shoulder to see if the ‘propriety police’ were watching.’ Not no more!
These days, I am assertive, openly communicative, (almost) no holds barred, although diplomatic and compassionate when I share what is on my mind. I am decisive and go for the gold much of the time. I still sometimes question if I will be judged for some of what I do, so can be a bit reticent about baring too much of my heart and soul.
Although he and I had our head-butting and heart-rending issues, I still honor what we shared. Do I wish that our lives together had been smoother and more peaceful? Yes. We came together with dovetailing issues that both fed and starved each other. Do I wish that we had never met? Never, but I do wonder what my life would have been like had on October 24, 1986, our mutual friend Ute Arnold not been our yenta and had I not gone to hear Ram Dass speak in Philadelphia and instead was in Russia on the Citizens’ Diplomacy Mission I had planned to be on…and so on down the timeline.
Being with him taught me who I am and who I no longer choose to be. It taught me the infinite power of love to overcome obstacles, It ushered me into a deeper relationship with Spirit, since at the end of his life, I had many God-versations and God wrestling moments.
I also learned a huge lesson when one night in the ICU, where I lived with him as he awaited a liver transplant that never happened, I heard a message from the Divine. I had said, ‘He’s mine and you can’t have him.’ God said, ‘He’s mine and he’s on loan to you, like everyone else in your life.’ Within a week, he had passed on to the Infinite.
In the past nearly 19 years, I have gleaned deeper lessons about love and loss. I have, as one friend encouraged me to do in 2004, ‘Loved whoever God sent.’ I have run scared from the possibility of life partnership. I have desired it as fiercely. I have called in wondrous lovers and friends who have danced with me for a bit and then moved on, as have I at times. I treasure those people. I have questioned every aspect of my life. I take nothing and no one for granted. I sometimes feel embarrassed for wanting what I don’t have at the moment.
I have distracted myself with work, allowing The Muse to be my lover. S/he never lets me down. Never walks away. Never expects me to be loyal to him/her. Never is jealous or angry. Allows me to engage 24/7 and doesn’t roll his or her eyes in frustration when I want to process feelings. S/he doesn’t require caregiving. S/he doesn’t abandon me. S/he knows that sometimes I am insatiable. S/he takes me on grand adventures. S/he tickles my imagination. S/he nurtures me. S/he provides sustenance and offers financial support. S/he is patient and kind. S/he brings all kinds of wondrous people into my life. In his/her presence, I feel beautiful. In return, I listen, love and learn, and share what s/he wants the world to know. A small price to pay.
Now, to welcome those attributes in human form…I know you are out there somewhere. All you need to do is knock.”
When Michael died, I was 40 at the time with an 11-year-old son to raise as a single parent. I considered my family history. Both grandmothers, several aunts, and a cousin were widowed young. Some of them dated a bit after their husband’s deaths, none of them re-married.
Would their past be my destiny?
I started dating around five years after, have had short-time loving relationships and friends with benefits. I got healthy platonic touch and emotional intimacy needs met with close friends. I have, to this day, not called anyone into my life who I could see being a lifelong partner.
My parents modeled a beautiful, nearly 52-year marriage that ended here on the Earth plane when my dad died in 2008 and my mom joined him in 2010. Nothing I have experienced came close to what they shared.
Did they set the bar too high?
Less than 10 years ago, I attended a holistic event and found myself at the table of a psychic who I had never met. One mark of a talented psychic is if they reveal information that they would have no other way of knowing. I asked her about whether there was a romantic relationship in my future. Her response was: “Your relationship will be with your Muse.”
I wondered at the time if she was implying that the love of my life would also be my creative inspiration. Now, all these years later, I suspect she meant that the central focus of my life would be creativity itself.
Back in 2020, I wrote a piece called “At 61, I Am Coming to Terms With the Possibility That I Will Always Be Single.” When I wrote it, there was a sense of sad resignation that I would indeed be following in the footsteps of my ancestors. Now, four years after the article made a worldwide, whirlwind tour with people commenting that they felt the same way, I am fully enjoying my single life.
I make my own schedule outside of work and childcare. I travel if I want, or stay snuggled in at home. I have dear friends and expanded community. With the marvels of modern technology, I can be in touch with people any and everywhere. I get invited to fun events and activities, and can say yes or no at my whim. I am rarely lonely. I am a caregiver by nature and have taken that role in almost all of my relationships.
This time around, if there is one, the person will be able to be a mutually supportive, full partner. They will have done their own healing work and be financially stable and independent. They will want a relationship but not need one. They will appreciate the beauty of a life well lived and have that gift to bring to the table, as do I.
Am I living out a family legacy by staying single after being widowed? Time will tell. What I do know for sure is that I am living a full, rich, and juicy life—and for that I will always be grateful.