Valerie J. Steimle
The New Year has finally arrived for me. I say finally because this past year was the hardest year I have ever lived in my whole life. I have gone through hard times before but never this.
It started on New Year’s Eve of 2005. My husband of 25 years fell asleep in his favorite chair as he has done in the past and did not wake up the next morning. He seemed fine all night while my children and I were running around setting off fireworks in the backyard. After watching the ball drop from New York, he looked so comfortable; I left him there to sleep. Little did I realize that would be the last time I would see him alive. An hour after we all went to bed, my 22 year-old daughter was on the computer emailing friends. She said she kept turning around looking at her father because he didn’t look right. She finally woke me up and I called 911. We tried CPR but it was too late and so this past year I forged ahead without my soul mate. For those who want to stop time, I know just how it is done. Lose your spouse and the days drag on. One year felt as if it were three.
My therapist counseled me (as many widows get counseled) not to make any major decisions until after a year. So now I can go on and figure out what I want to do in my life on my own. It is a difficult task to understand what you are to do, when you are suddenly face to face with a whole new life. A whole new life of not knowing what in the world you are supposed to be doing. What is my purpose now that my spouse is gone? What am I to accomplish in the next 40 years? Of course, I have five children I am still responsible for so I am limited to what I can do. That means I can’t pick up and move to Australia as my sister-in-law wants to do. I can’t join the military and fight in Iraq as my brother is doing. I can’t take a cruise around the world as. . . . . .as. . . . . . I don’t know anyone who is doing that. None the less, I really can’t do that either. So what is left?
What is left is the life I made for myself so far. The other day my 12 year old daughter asked me an interesting question.
“Mom, do you think you have done well in your life?” It didn’t take me long to answer with a resounding “yes”. I don’t live in a mansion nor have expensive cars. I don’t have a triple digit income or travel to exotic places. I am a mother of nine children and I am an author. From the world’s point of view, my life would seem pretty ordinary. (Is nine children ordinary?) But raising five children on your own is not ordinary. Homeschooling three children during the day and working at Barnes and Noble at night are not ordinary. As Teddy Roosevelt said in the movie “Night in a Museum” “Some people are born great and others have greatness thrust upon them.” I think under the circumstances, I am the latter. I have had to rise to the occasion. I have had to keep everyone together and happy when life seemed hopeless. I have had to make my life work with what I had left. Looking back on the life my husband and I have created I have done well.
So this whole new life of mine is not really new at all. I’m just carrying on without him. I’ll still homeschool my youngest three during the week. I still have four other children to keep track of at home. I’ll still work at Barnes and Noble at night. I’ll still volunteer my time at my church and I’ll still write. That’s plenty to keep me busy. That’s plenty for a whole new life.