“When half of you is taken away. . .”

The group discussed the questions and answers for Martha and Louella together. Here they are, with the questions for Martha first:

Louella, who loves firecrackers and makes quilts.

Martha, who writes books.

Q. (From Louella, to Martha) Does it ever not hurt?

A. Time does heal, but sometimes it takes a long, long, long time. The first five years were really hard — the long winter nights are hard.

Q. (From Naomi) One year at conference, I saw Martha and the light was out in her eyes. I prayed, and others prayed, and it came back! I asked her ‘What brought back the light?’

A. It was, says Martha, a gradual healing time, but equally important is what you do with that time.

“It is hard not to be a number one in someone’s life” when you’ve been that for 50 years. “There’s nobody out there that cares whether you come home.”

Q. (From Carla) Who do you turn to now?

A. Martha has moved to be close to her daughter Rosie’s family, and she says her daughters are her best friends. She turns to the Lord and her daughters for help.

Q. (From Elnora) What is your favorite memory of your husband?

A. He loved to sing and Martha loved to see him sitting behind the pulpit, says Elnora. She liked seeing him in the workshop, covered in sawdust and glue. He created things from pictures.

Q. (From Sabrina) How do you find time to write?

A. Martha has written two books and writes a weekly column for her local newspaper. Here is an excerpt from her book New Moon Over Slick Rock Hollow. It’s a letter to her husband, who had died the previous year:

Dear Wesley,

The Bradford pear tree is in full bloom. Do you remember last year this time? You are sitting in a lawn chair, under the pear tree with your walker beside you. I am sitting beside you. You are wearing a mask because of spring pollen, but your eyes are smiling. You are watching the Turner boys plow and telling  them how! . . . You were so happy!

I suppose I will remember that every year when the pear tree blooms. The cherry trees are blooming in D.C. I wonder which trees are blooming on each side of the river of Life where you are. Wish I were there with you! ~ Martha, IGD

(IGD is a secret code, taken from the Pennsylvania Dutch words ‘Ich gliech dich‘ — I love you.)

And from another letter to Wesley: As long as we are apart from each other, that’s how long my heart will ache. It looks like you aren’t coming back, so I will plan to come to you. The only question is: when?

Q. (From Dot) Is there one thing people say or ask that never stops being hurtful?

A. It’s not what people say but what they might be thinking, like ‘Where are we going to put her?’ at an event with other couples.

Another problem is the person who tries to “fix it” when it’s something that really can’t be fixed. That’s hurtful. Martha says, “I have friends who’d like to fix me and make it better and make this thing go away, so I will not be an embarrassment to them. But this journey — you take it alone, and you can’t avoid it. You have to go through it. It can’t be fixed, it can just be lived.”

Dot also brings up the person who wonders why you’re not over it yet. One person introduced Martha to a single, happy friend and suggested, “Why can’t you get over it and be like that?”

Martha: “It is difficult to walk with somebody through grief . . . My daughters [and I] just wish it would go away so we wouldn’t have to go through this.”

Q. (From Mim) If the right person came along, would you entertain the thought of a second marriage?

A. Yes, now she could. “When there would have been an opportunity, I wasn’t ready.”

And now, questions for Louella:

Q. (From Sabrina) Do you have any regrets?

A. No, not really, Sabrina reports. Louella and her husband “spent so much time together.”

Q. (From Mim) Is there any time of day that is harder for you?

A. The time of day she misses him most: evenings. After he died, she’d just cry and cry. At one point, she decided she needed to figure out how she was going to do this. So she began making candlewicking quilts, and is ready to start on her fifth. She is grieving, but also thinking, “What can I do to help myself?” The quilts were sold for relief.

Q. (From Dot) Is there one thing people say or ask that never stops being hurtful?

A. At the viewing, says Dot, you always wonder what to say. Louella extended grace to people for that. But when you are the one who has lost someone, when you are the needy one, it’s hard when someone comes through the line and turns themselves into the needy one.

Q. (From Elnora) What is your favorite memory of your husband?

A. She has so many favorite memories it’s hard to pick. “But just to be able to lay in bed at night and just talking and talking, being able to bare our souls to each other. . . ” He was her best friend.

Q. (From Martha) What do you do to keep his memory alive with your grandchildren?

A. This isn’t a problem. They’re old enough to remember him and they talk about him all the time.

Lynette knows Louella’s daughter and says, “Your daughter often talks about her dad. She keeps him alive and it’s really precious. All kinds of things trigger a moment of respect or love for her dad.”

Q. (From Carla) What do you miss the most about Leroy?

A. She misses the companionship. And if no one mentions him, it’s like no one misses him.

Martha understands. When Wesley was sick, people were always asking about him, but it felt like as soon as he died, they quit.

Lynette says people are afraid to bring it up because they don’t want to make people cry, but it’s okay for them to cry. “It makes them feel alive and like somebody is remembering the person they loved so much.”

Last thoughts from Martha: “I have a theological question for God. He designed marriage to be a picture of the church’s relationship with Jesus; we are one with each other in marriage. Yet when one person dies, that oneness is broken. Why?”

And from Louella: “We were married almost 49 years. When you’re close and it’s that many years, you’re just molded (she illustrates this with her hands, clasping them together, weaving her fingers together), and when half of you is taken away — (she pulls her hands apart and is left looking at only one of her hands, puzzled) — it’s fractured. And you have to learn how to deal with that fracture.”

Readers, what do you want to say to Martha and Louella?

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One Response to “When half of you is taken away. . .”

  1. Sue Hooley says:

    That’s my Mom (Martha) !! and I love her to pieces!! Tears are flowing…

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