Who are you missing that’s right outside your window? One lonely widow had lived across the street from us for years, but for too long I was too busy to let her in.
To the widow who suffers from being alone
Wiping the tears from her eyes….Say a prayer tonight
~Third Day, “Cry Out To Jesus”
It was a few weeks before Christmas. She had put a “For Sale” sign on her front window. And, oh, how we’d love to rent a 3-bedroom house like hers. We call on every one that goes up for rent in the neighborhood. But they are always much too far outside of our budget.
But when hers went up for sale, I saw a glimmer of hope. She had told me before she thought that rental rates were much too high these days. Our next-door neighbor suggested that if she couldn’t sell her house that she offer to rent it to us.
Oh, our 2-bedroom is sufficient. But to have a 3-bedroom, well, it would just be nice.
I told my husband our “dream” rental home may very well be within our reach, and I left the girls with him and bounded on over to her house.
She was raking the leaves. That was the first twinge of the Spirit’s conviction right there. She–75ish, wrinkled, hunched over and I dare say much more feeble than I in even my postpartum state. She was raking the leaves that I had noticed earlier that week and thought: “Oh, well, the yard men will come rake them for her.”
She wiped her brow with an old rag and smiled as I walked up.
“So I see your house is on the market, Mrs. Doris?”
“Yes, yes it is,” she said. “But I think I may just stay.”
“Oh really?” And my heart sunk a bit. Boy, how we’d love that house.
“Yeah, I don’t really want to leave. I like the neighborhood. It just gets mighty lonely.”
Ouch. I’m going to need a bandage for these stings soon. OK, Lord, I’m listening.
And she invited me in and showed me around. I had been inside once before (yes, just once) when I had delivered banana bread one Christmas morning.
The house was beautiful–but quiet.
She took me to her bedroom, told me to take a seat, and directed me to a 16×20 hung on the wall. It was her Ray.
And, with tears in her eyes, she begins to tell me of their marriage, their life, his death. “You can get over anything in life–“she says. “Well, most things. But I’ll never get over Ray.”
And I listen and nod my head and tell her how sorry I am. And realize: This lady is lonely. So lonely. And I’m home most of the time just a few feet away.
She tells me how strong she is. “That little girl of yours? You know she yells from the window when you tell her to stay in her room and take a nap.”
“Yeah, I know,” I laugh.
“Well, she’s just like me. Strong. Not afraid of anyone.”
Image by Horia Varlan
And I look in her eyes–strong, fierce eyes. But their light is faded, weathered. And those weathered eyes are framed by a weathered face, stroked by weathered hands…and speak of a weathered heart.
She’s just lonely. Oh, so lonely.
And how often have I pulled into my parking space with a carload of groceries and babies and just rushed in before the milked spoiled or the babe started screaming for the milk my body told me she was needing.
She’s just lonely. And the Lord tells us to care for the orphans and the widows and my thoughts are consumed with the widow half a world away when there sits one just as lonely just beyond my doorstep.
I see her out my window every morning.
Her sad eyes smile.
And she waves and talks a mile a minute and laughs at how my little girl–so strong and spirited–is much like her younger self.
And these thoughts invade my head: You can give to the poor and sponsor a widow…but if you have not love for your neighbor….you are nothing….
And I tell myself: This year will be different. Oh Lord, help me to reach her. Help me to forget the messy house and chaos of littles and just invite her in!
Christy, The Simple Homemaker
I think…no, I KNOW that this is the best post you’ve ever written. Very well said. Thank you.
This brought me to tears. It made me picture my mama, with the weathered eyes and saddened heart. She sold her farm after my father died and moved to the city to be closer to me. Makes me want to run to her and just visit for no reason.
Oh I hope you can visit your mama soon!!
Athena @ Life's Abundant Adventures
What a great post! 🙂 Isn’t it amazing when God shows you an opportunity to serve that you didn’t know was there? I love that you heard His calling and answered with “Yes!” There is no doubt that this will enrich her life and yours.
This made me think. My 87 yr old pap lives just 1/4 of a mile away (pretty close out here in the middle of nowhere), and I have to drive by his place everytime i go to town or to church, most times I think to call to see if he needs anything, but I only stop about once a week. I need to get better at this. Is it really going to hurt my kids to walk that short distance once a week. How much effort to stop some afternoon for a few minutes. Thanks for the wake up call to move beyond my small, but chaotic world to reaxh out to my own family that is lonely.
Alexis, A Moment with MOM
What a touching post, thank you for sharing. Yes indeed, we need to care for those around us and open our eyes to our neighbors in need. Thank you. ~Alexis on behalf of everyone at A Moment with MOM
Thank you, Alexis!
it is always a blessing when the Lord intervenes our busy lives and gives us an opportunity to serve, opportunities we would never have found without Him. I would love to know how it’s been trying to connect and reach your neighbor. It’s been a while since this post went up, but I am sending prayers towards your lonely neighbor and towards you and your ministry! Big fan of your blog here!
Reminds me of when I was 25 yrs. old (almost 62 now) and had an 8 mo. old. We lived hrs. away from family and I was lonely. I found an ad in the local newspaper of an elderly man that would pay someone to take him to the grocery store once a wk. I remember thinking how sad it was that he would have to pay a person to help him. I called and offered to take him but only if he would not pay me. Every Fri. morn. I would load my son up and off we would go to pick up Mr. Stephens and take him to the grocery store. When he was finished and the groceries were loaded in the car, he would insist on me driving through Jack in the Box to get burgers and fries to take back to his house for lunch. We would get the groceries carried in and put away and enjoy visiting while eating our hamburgers. His wife had Alzhiemer’s so bad that every time I went out to get a bag of groceries and came back in she would ask me my name and tell me hers. We did this for a yr. until I was very pg. with our daughter and could no longer handle Mr. Stephens, a toddler and being very pg. When I had the baby 2 mos. later, I sent him a baby announcement. A few days later we got a card from him. When I opened it, 2 $100. bills fell to the floor. I cried major tears! Back in 1979 that was a lot of money. We had just received a shut off notice for our telephone and gas and had no idea how we were going to pay them but God knew. We went to visit Mr. Stephens so he could meet the baby and thank him for his generous gift to us. I so enjoyed our Fri. visits. It was such a blessing to me to help him. I wish more people would offer friendship to the elderly these days. It takes so little to brighten their day. Thank you for the reminder and a flood of wonderful memories.
Mary Lee Robinson
Oh, God has just blessed me with your post, Erin!!! I’ve written 3 books on this very subject, the first titled “The Widow or Widower Next Door”. I am a widow and a certified grief coach, and widow advocate blogger.
I was widowed at 60, the first in my circle of friends & neighbors. Those same friends and neighbors, and family far away, deserted me immediately. The neighbors assumed my family “had me” and the friends assumed my neighbors “had me”. In my entire life, I was never so alone. I came to learn that my experience is extremely common, and that makes me angry. There is a “thing” called widow-shunning, and it’s quite real.
I have stories of my own that are similar to some of your commenters, neighbors that my husband and I looked after. When my turn came, I was stunned at the neglect.
Churches do a really lousy job at this now, too. When I inquire if any of them have a program for widows & widowers, I usually am met with a response of no, or “we have a luncheon for them once a year”.
One of the first duties of the deacons is to visit widows and assess their needs, as prescribed in the Bible. I have yet to meet a widow who has had such a visit.
It was not always this way. We did a better job in decades past, and much improvement is needed now. By the way, their are 77 scriptures that speak of widows and their care. God thinks we are important, even when no one else does.
This reminds me of my very dear Grandmother who took my 2 brothers and I in to live with her when I was 5 and my brothers were 4 and 1 years. She was 73 yrs old when the Judge asked my Grandmother if she felt she could provide a good home for us and she said she absolutely could. He ordered my bio parents to pay a certain amt to her monthly, but she never received anything. They divorced which meant neither would be in our lives. Yet, we had a Ruby Lewis in our lives. She gave up her life as she knew it for three very frightened children because she refused to spilt us up in foster care.
Long story short, she decided to move us from Texas to Arkansas. It was there she purchased a 40 acre farm 8 miles away from a little country town. She had a barn built and bought us each a horse and we 3 city kids became country kids! We grew our own vegetables and swam in the creek surrounding part of our land.
The first Sunday we all joined a little country church down the road. That church loved us and became our second home. I played the piano for the services and eventually my brother got an electric guitar and my other brother got some drums and we sometimes would play at church and practiced in a soundproof room. Smart Grandmother!
By this time we were in Middle and High school and our Grandmother was in her 80’s, yet you wouldn’t know it. She attended every football game for my one brother and was at every Band Concert for the other and never missed a Piano Recital for me. She was at my wedding and was there at the births of my daughters. It was our bio parents that lost out because it was our Grandma we loved.
I think your beautiful story touched my heart so much because of the deep respect and love I felt for our Grandmother and many other older adults. She taught us respect for everyone not only in words but in action.
Our dear Grandmother went to heaven when she was 97. God allowed her to live long enough until we were young adults and doing well, yet it was the hardest day of my life. Nonetheless, I knew she was with her husband who died of a heart attack at 50 and her son who was killed in WW2 and was walking those streets of gold she taught us about.
We decided to have written on her grave, “Forever in our Heart” which she will be forever.
Thanks for sharing your beautiful story, Shannon! It sounds like you have some amazing memories with her!!