I buried my husband on New Year’s Eve. His unexpected death came in the midst of the holiday season—just six days before Christmas and twelve days before the new year.
When death came, I resented that the world kept turning. Time felt as if it was standing still and I thought it should. My life had come to a crashing halt. How could everyone else continue as if nothing had changed?
The turning of the year felt like another blow. My husband had been alive in 2020. But 2021? It would exist without him. It was a year his life wouldn’t touch—365 days I would have to face without him by my side.
It’s hard to believe I am about to do this … again. 2022 is coming to a close and soon the calendar will say 2023. Another year without his presence. Another year further from the days when we laughed together at our son’s antics while decorating our Christmas tree. Another year of solo parenting. Another year of digging deeper than I ever have before to take care of our son and manage our life by myself.
A lesson from grief
Grief has taught me nothing more profoundly than how fleeting life really is. It’s so easy to assume life will be long and we will get our fill of days. We assume we will grow old with our spouses, hold our grandchildren someday, and maybe even check some wild experiences off of our bucket lists.
Grief has taught me this isn’t always so. My husband died at 35. Thirty-five short years and then he slipped away. I couldn’t hold on to him no matter how hard I tried.
Since the day the dirt was placed over his grave and I stood numb with shock and despair, I’ve seen life differently. Through the eyes of grief, I look at my son and know I may not get to watch him grow to adulthood. I see my possessions and realize some day they will all be left behind. I check my calendar with the startling realization that I have far less control over how my life will unfold tomorrow than my carefully logged events would make it seem. I hear women complain about their husbands and I ache for reasons to complain about mine. I see people living as if their lives will never end and I feel an urgency to shake them out of their slumber.
Life is a vapor
The Bible confirms these things are true. We’re reminded in James 4:14 that, “you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”
With the turn of a new year, we’re encouraged to find ways to live better—to be better—than before. This world offers us many things to “live” for. We can live for success; for making a name for ourselves and achieving our goals. We can live for family; to make our relatives proud and carry on the culture or legacy we come from. We can live for happiness; pursuing anything and everything that claims it will give us a moment of escape or satisfaction.
We long for peace and hope these things will bring rest to our souls. Yet rarely do we ask if they are truly worth living for. Rarely do we stop to consider that our lives could end tomorrow and everything we’ve worked so hard for could be lost in an instant.
Have we taken time to ponder if we are ready for death to come?
Holding life loosely
In 2020, with no idea how my life was about to radically change, I spent the morning baking Christmas cookies for the family cookie-decorating party we had planned for the following afternoon. But the next day, instead of sitting around the kitchen table laughing and singing along to Christmas carols with sticky fingers covered in icing, we found ourselves huddled together, surrounded by piles of wet tissues, trying to wrap our minds around the events that led to my beloved’s body being taken away in the middle of the night.
Sometimes we expect that tomorrow will be as fun as Christmas cookies, but instead, it is as sorrowful as the grave. We truly do not know what tomorrow will bring.
As I start another new year without my husband, I am reminding myself to hold onto this life loosely. I will endeavor to hug my people often and make sure they know I love them. I will try to savor the little moments and the precious gift of time with the ones I love. And I will strive to live in light of what grief has taught me about the fleeting nature of life.
After all, tomorrow is not guaranteed.
Copyright © 2022 Elise Boros. All rights reserved.
Elise Boros lives outside of Washington, D.C., and spends her days raising her son and investing in the lives of college students through the campus ministry of Cru. As a young widow, she is passionate about helping other people walk with God through grief and sorrow in an authentic way. Elise blogs monthly as part of the content team for Songs in the Night, a widow discipleship ministry. You can read about her and her husband’s journey through and beyond heart transplant at Waiting For True Life or follow along as she tells their story on Instagram @waitingfortruelife.