Margie Hord

Expat by Default

Category: Widow

Reflecting on How to Answer When Told “You’re a Strong Person”

When my husband passed away after 36 years of marriage, several friends encouraged me with the words “You’re a strong woman!” In other words: “You can handle this.” Much as I was thankful for their trust in me, more than once I answered: “I’m weak, but I have a strong God!”

Strength Doesn’t Appear by Magic

When friends face tragedies, a common response is to console them by exhorting them, “Be be strong; have faith.” But strength and faith aren’t resources we can drum up as if by magic. They aren’t innate in us; the truth is that they grow in the middle of challenging experiences. In the long run, I’ve found, my true strength is God-given.  Continue reading

From Mourning to the Morning Light

“O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” These words came to mind as the sun and wind caressed me there in the cemetery. Not in traditional mourning garb, I wore a long, loose white native “huipil” with small colored designs woven into it, one my husband had loved. The workers had begun the long process of filling the grave, as off and on friends sang beloved hymns and choruses of hope.

Just one day after my life companion took off on a new journey, I was overwhelmed by the loss, but at the same time upheld by those “everlasting arms”, sensing the freedom that Refugio’s soul now enjoyed.

It was the rainy season, and in the afternoons a downpour was almost inevitable, but my heavenly Father cared enough to make that day different and the sun shone gloriously.

Divine “coincidences”

There had been innumerable “divine coincidences” that had come together to cushion the blow. Knowing that my husband’s health was fragile with a chronic disease, I had asked if he thought I could visit my aging mother, for those last years can be so unpredictable. He felt he could get by without me, so the long-distance tickets were bought… and not long afterwards my Mum passed away! The memorial service was set for a few weeks later, when I had already planned to be there.

Two weeks after my return, our daughter and family arrived from afar, by surprise. Their presence was so special and perfectly-timed. “Pa” decided to leave us the day before their departure was programmed, just a month after my arrival. Well, our heavenly Father had his hand in it, of course, and they changed their tickets to be with me for the funeral.

These incidences and more have helped to bring rainbows to my life as the sun– and the Son– shine through the tears.

Person waering neutral colors walking through a field of wheat

Only Smiles?

This week I shared a Scottish poem someone had posted in social media about losing a loved one but instead of crying, smiling with the memories of their life. It seemed appropriate. Then a friend commented, “Doesn’t the author accept the reality of grief?”

He’s right. Denying the reality of sorrow, in fact, the need for grieving, is hurtful in the long run. It may mean pushing down those feelings that are natural, real, profound. Releasing those emotions in the form of tears is part of the healing process.

Even so, the glimpses of light filtering through the darkness are more frequent, I believe, when you can cling to the Easter message of resurrection. This is not the end. This life is, in fact, only the Shadowlands, as C.S. Lewis called it, where we prepare for true Life.

Lessons on Mourning from the Word

  • Mourning and grief are an integral part of this fallen world, with the inevitability of death. I am always touched by the tears Jesus shed upon the death of his friend Lazarus. Surely he, who promised eternal life and indeed was LIFE, knew the end of the story. Still, he understood pain. At the same time, he showed there could be victory over death when he raised Lazarus from the dead… a foretaste of his own more permanent resurrection.
  • Two people in mourning or grieving on a couch in a living room

 

 

  • God is with us in the process, and can show us “the light at the end of the tunnel”. Much as there may seem to be no end to our pain, there is hope:

 

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
    You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,”

 

  • The “nighttime” is real; the weeping should be allowed to wash the soul. There is a “morning” ahead:

 

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

  • It is natural to mourn, and it is a time in which our presence is most needed… much more than words. Even crying with them is identifying with their loss.

 

Mourn with those who mourn”.

 

  • Those of us who are people of faith do not make light of grief, much as we hold a hope beyond this life’s sorrow.

       “Godly men… mourned deeply for him.”

 

The day of the funeral, I was able to catch a glimpse of the light beyond the grave. In the days following, there have been tears, often at unexpected times. Friends have been a strength, as has been God’s Word. Joy is not a stranger, however, and is richer now that it can be sensed in counterpoint to the grief.

May you who mourn… find there is “joy in the morning”!

What’s your Word of the Year? Mine is “Brave”

It seemed to happen all of a sudden, that on social media people were talking about choosing their word of the year, to guide them as they faced the near future. That clicked with me, simpler than going for resolutions or goals that ended up in the dust.

Then I came across a short online quiz to help you decide on “your word of truth” after asking you several questions. There were multiple-choice answers, which didn’t excite me, but in the end the word I chose was “Brave”.

Continue reading

Recordando los aniversarios… en el primer aniversario a solas

Woman wearing flannel stands over wooden post with dark lighting

Esta semana, cuando otros andan cursi-románticos por el día de San Valentín, yo ando nostálgica por una historia de amor que culminó hace 37 años.

Casi nunca soñaba llegar a los cincuenta años de casados, pero pensaba que fácilmente llegaríamos a cuarenta y pico. Es que Refugio ya tenía cuarenta años cuando ese simbólico lazo nos unió.

Unos siete años antes, él se había atrevido a pedir mi mano en matrimonio, y recibió un “no” contundente. A fin de cuentas su perseverancia tuvo fruto, pero ¡esa es otra historia!

Técnicamente no planeábamos una boda para el 14 de febrero, pero las vacaciones de un miembro de la familia así lo dictaron. La principal ventaja: ¡era casi imposible olvidar la fecha! La desventaja: los restaurantes siempre estaban llenos al tope, e idealmente había que hacer reservaciones.

Es difícil recordar cómo pasamos los primeros aniversarios, pero normalmente salíamos a cenar a algún lado. A veces preferíamos ir el día después del 14, para evitar restaurantes llenos.

Después de varios años de matrimonio, nuestra amiga Joy decidió que nos faltaba añadirle un poco de sabor. Aunque las finanzas eran limitadas y yo era ama de casa, iba a recibir un ingreso después de ser suplente para unas clases. Ella sugirió que planeara yo una salida sorpresa para nuestro aniversario. Me dio otras ideas también, como empacar una vela, una foto de bodas, algo romántico. Hasta nos dio un juego de tarjetas con preguntas para ponernos a platicar de cosas románticas, por ejemplo “¿Cuando fue tu ocasión favorita…?”

 

A bearded man beside a lake holds his hands in a triangle, the sun shining through

En los años siguientes, casi siempre fui la encargada de idear nuestro escape de aniversario, y ya no era sorpresa. Una vez hasta llevamos a los niños, porque ¿cómo podían perderse de esa cabaña en una barranca, con una chimenea incluida? A veces íbamos a pueblos que no conocíamos bien o que queríamos explorar más. Disfrutamos viajes a museos y cascadas, comidas típicas y más. Una vez nos quedamos en una cabaña ecológica muy en el campo; al otro día fuimos a la sierra a comer truchas en un local rústico. Muchas veces solo estábamos fuera de casa por una noche, pero aun esos viajes cortos y económicos eran todo un deleite.

Para el aniversario número 30, eso sí, gastamos más. Se pospuso ¡cuando la aerolínea en que íbamos desapareció! Afortunadamente pudimos transferir las reservaciones y salir en otra fecha, para visitar el Cañón del Cobre en el norte de México, que había sido uno de mis sueños por mucho tiempo, y tomar el famoso tren que va por las montañas hasta la costa.

Hubo un par de veces cuando cumplimos treinta y tantos, que añadí unos detalles cursis como cortar corazones de fresas para adornar los hot cakes, o corazones de betabel para la ensalada. Hasta llené el parabrisas de corazones adheribles, color rosa, con mensajes románticos.

Nuestro último viaje de aniversario fue para los 35 años y otra vez se pospuso, esta vez para el funeral de mi cuñada. Yo había hecho reservaciones en un balneario de Hidalgo, con aguas termales. Me habían informado que no se aceptaban cambios ni había reembolsos, pero a la mera hora pedí que reconsideraran; al fin, ¡la muerte era impredecible! No quisieron, y preferimos ir a otras fuentes termales, más cerca de casa, donde disfrutamos unos buffets excelentes. Aunque mi esposo ya tomaba medicamentos para la presión alta, poco imaginábamos que dentro de un mes estaría hospitalizado por varios días.

Así que la vida trajo sus propias sorpresas, con una condición de salud que a la larga significó cambios considerables. Refugio ya no podía dar un paseo corto en nuestra calle, y mucho menos hacer una de esas caminatas largas en el campo que le encantaban. Durante buena parte del día estaba enchufado al oxígeno, así que sospechábamos que ya se habían acabado nuestros viajes.

El año pasado, para nuestro aniversario 36, ni fue posible salir a comer. Refugio estaba débil y tenía poco apetito. Aparecieron corazones adheribles en el espejo del baño. Nuestros hijos hablaron para felicitarnos.

Ahora, han pasado casi seis meses desde que mi compañero decidió que era hora de descansar, y ya va a ser el 14 de febrero. ¿Qué haré? Tal vez me anime a dar una vuelta a un restaurante que no conozco, para celebrar de todas maneras.

¿Cómo ves, podré derrochar y comprar unas flores también?

'14 feb. 1981, hace 35 años.
Feb. 14, 1981, 35 years ago. (The cut-outs are not really from our wedding pics, as Cuco gave me this gift previously)'

Remembering Anniversaries… on My First Anniversary Alone

This week, when others are getting mushy over Valentine’s Day, I’m waxing nostalgic over a love story that culminated 37 years ago. Wherever you are in your journey, I hope you can relate.

I hardly ever dared dream we’d make the big “five-oh”, but thought we could make it to forty or so. You see, Refugio was forty when we tied the knot. Almost literally, because Mexican weddings involve a big lasso that is placed around the shoulders of bride and groom!

Some seven years previously he had dared to ask for my hand in marriage, to receive a resounding no. His perseverance eventually paid off, but that’s another story for me to tell one day.

Technically it wasn’t our plan to get married on February 14th, but a family member’s spring break made it happen. The main advantage: it was virtually impossible to forget the date! The disadvantage: restaurants were sure to be chock-full, reservations only.

It’s hard to remember how we spent those first anniversaries, but usually we went out for a special meal. Sometimes we would go the day afterwards, to beat the crowds.

After we’d been together for a few years, friend Joy decided we needed to spice things up. Though our finances were limited and I was a stay-at-home Mom, I was about to have a little income after a short-term subbing assignment. She suggested I set things up for a surprise get-away, and gave me other ideas too: pack a candle, a wedding picture, something romantic. She even gave us a set of cards with questions to get us talking with one another about “our favorite time when…” and so on. Continue reading

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