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Life in Williston: Triumph over tragedy

By Karen Wyman

Isn’t it ironic how it usually takes a tragedy to put our own problems and worries in perspective? This dichotomy hit me hard last week as I spent time in Rhode Island with one of my dearest girlfriends who had just lost her husband to a heart attack. I watched in awe as she tried desperately to be a pillar of strength for her two young children while on the inside her poor heart was breaking. It was inspiring to see how her faith and the outpouring of love and assistance from family and friends helped to keep her together and composed.

One of the hardest concepts for me to grasp is that, like me, my friend is a worrier. She will share her “what ifs” and second guesses with anyone who will listen. I tried to think of her most recent fears that she expressed to me right before her beloved husband’s untimely death. It didn’t take me long to remember that she had called me worrying about driving her daughter two hours to a sleep-away camp and all the terrible things that could happen to her while she was there. Although some of these qualms were totally legitimate, some were so ridiculous that I couldn’t believe she even thought of them! I could only imagine the burden of worries that now lay on her shoulders, and which unfortunately are all too real.

She is also a huge planner who puts me to shame with her ability to organize and multitask. These qualities clearly explain her ability to plan a beautiful wake, funeral and reception in only two days during such immense grief. It made me cry to think of all of the activities she had diligently planned for the four of them to do together during these last few weeks of summer vacation. Even this amazingly efficient woman was going to have difficulty getting life back on schedule for herself and her children.

I know people in our own community have lost loves ones way too early. When this happens in a town as small as ours, it touches and affects so many of us. I love the way Williston churches, schools and organizations rally around these poor, grieving loved ones. I hope we can continue to be there for these families throughout their difficult journey. They will never stop needing support and love from our community.

It has now been a week since my friend’s husband has passed, and when we talked on the phone last night she sounded tired but surprisingly calm. I asked her if she had any concerns or worries she wanted to get out, and I would be glad to listen for as long as she needed me to. Despite having her husband’s business to look after and endless amounts of his estate to settle, she surprisingly expressed only a few pressing issues. When I remarked how proud I was that she was staying in control and not getting overwhelmed, she gave me a witty reply, which indicated to me that her amazing sense of humor was beginning to reemerge. “Well, I’m too exhausted to spend as much time worrying about the future as I used to, so I took a cue from good old Charlie Brown: ‘I’ve developed a new philosophy, I now only dread one day at a time.’” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Here is one of the few times in life when she had valid reasons to worry, yet she finally realized it was too exhausting and futile to worry about the future. I knew I wanted her to have a more optimistic motto to help get her through these difficult days and maybe lessen the dread a little. After we hung up, I sat down to write her a card, and finally came up with a few words by Abraham Lincoln that I hoped would offer her some comfort. “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count; it’s the life in your years.” I knew her husband had experienced so much in his life: he ran a successful business, had a beautiful family and home, had traveled extensively, and, most importantly, had given so much of his time and resources to those who were less fortunate. He had definitely put a lot of life into his years.

I know this week’s column doesn’t have much to do with Williston per se, so I will leave you with this: Let’s be truly grateful for every day we are given and enjoy our “Life in Williston” to the fullest!