Dating and Remarriage: From a Widow’s Heart

Through my blog and several different private widow groups that I have joined, I have met and made long distance friends with many widows. Three of them have married this year and a fourth one, whom I met via one of my cousins and an aunt, just got engaged. I love the way that Suzanne Russell has shared her thoughts throughout her widow journey. Her words so wonderfully express exactly what her heart is feeling. How very happy I was when she shared last week that God has brought another man into her life and that they are getting married! Here is her story beginning with her first love story in her own words:

Ken and I met as counselors at a YMCA Camp in the Smoky Mountains. He had just graduated from UT Knoxville and grew up in East Tennessee. We married after he enlisted in the Air Force in 1974. His career spanned public recreation, the gas pipeline industry and health care facilities management and oversight. We spend the greater part of our 40 years together raising two children in Texas. He was a man who lived his life loving God’s Word and loving people.

We had a wonderful marriage. He died suddenly from a heart attack in April 2014.

Tom and Ken are so different. It amazes me. I’ve only had two men tell me they loved me. And shortly thereafter ask me to marry them. The same love resonated in them both. I am happy. I am grateful. And I am humbled by my Father’s love toward me. Marrying at my age is not without complications. But I am so joyful to have the opportunity to love and be loved again that the complications are there, but together you find your way. And it’s good.

The Pen

I don’t really know why i bought it.

It was a beautiful thing. The wood expertly turned and polished. My friend Richard made it.

But after I came home and actually used it to write, I realized it was too heavy for my hand. It was a man’s pen. Except I no longer had a man to use it.

But, it was beautiful. So I kept it and gradually began using it to underline verses and make notes in my journal.

One day, about a year ago, I held it out in front of me on upturned palms and said, “Lord, this is a man’s pen. I have no idea if it is your will to bring another man into my life. But if you do, then this belongs to  him.”

I still used it, and sometimes I would smile and think, “Who am I keeping this for?” Seriously? It’s not a simple thing to meet someone and fall in love. But looking out on my third year of widowhood, I thought, “Why not?”

My sister Michele said, “Get online. You might meet a Tom Hanks!” Seriously? Although I did miss messing with a man’s mind…

Am I getting too long here?

I met some real characters and had dates with some very nice men. Suzanne was popular. In a word, Geezerbait! But none, I told my friend Lizzo, were “pen-worthy”. I even had a standard copy & paste response for unwanted attention. And I wanted a tall guy. The taller the better. For once in my life I wanted to feel like a shrimp.

And he had to follow the rules. I felt it honored the Lord and Ken’s memory to remain chaste while being chased. 🙂 Surprisingly it comes up pretty quick in the conversation.

Shall I go on?

My social life was definitely on an uptick. Even my granddaughter, Charly, felt compelled to give me some rules for dating. They are epic, and yes, I’ve broken a few.

I got an email one night from a guy who was pretty interesting. But a whole inch shorter than me. I began to look for my copy & paste response, but something made me write him back expressing my interest while sharing the fact I would likely tower over him if I wore my heels.

This is what he said:

“Suzanne. I know that my appreciation for you will be just as you are, all 70 fabulous inches. If you know 69 is not going to do it for you, I respect that and suggest that you put something in your blurb. If you think it might be fine depending on the man, then let’s go to the Contra Dance on Monday night where you can dance with every age and every height and call it fun.”

That was a good answer! I went dancing.

And out to dinner. And movies. And hiking. And paddle boarding. And kayaking. And festivals….

Because I was spending so much time with Thomas, all the other guys were systematically getting thrown under the bus.

You’ve go to be getting bored by now. I never write this much…

I caught glimpses…Of him concentrating on his scrabble tiles. Hosting a small dinner party. Laughing at my movie pick and watching it anyway. Staring straight into my eyes and grinning while swinging me at the dances.

I knew he was becoming serious. Was I? I tell people I love them all the time, but I couldn’t tell Thomas. It would have opened a door that had been shut since Ken died.

Not a problem for him. He came out swinging and told me flat out he loved me. I just smiled and said nothing. Poor guy. Thomas would not get off the bus. He was riding up front, grinning for all he was worth!

I warned him the vetting process for me would be brutal. And span several states. He said, “Drag me wherever you want. I want Suzanne.” Another good answer.

I loved Ken. No. I love Ken. I know what comes with saying it out loud to a man. It’s foundational, taking things to another level and cutting off all escape routes.

Father, who am I looking for? One of Jesse’s tall sons? Thomas has a heart bigger and taller than many men. when he tells me I’m beautiful, when he tells me he loves me….I believe him.

I told him I love him not long after he gave another good answer to a deeply personal revelation. It was so good to finally say what I had been feeling. Nice. So very nice. A relief.

So. About a week later. After a great day trip to Chattanooga. Seeing Rock City, visiting my cousins and stopping by Ken’s grave, he says – “Marry me Suzanne.”


What did I say? Thomas says I stalled.

What would people say?

Thomas: “Your friends will think what they will and tell you they are happy for you.”

At home later that night I prayed. My Father’s blessing was what I needed. I love my friends and they love me. Yet here is a man who had the courage to offer himself to me 24/7 for the rest of his life.

I told him he would have an answer.

The next time we met, he told me he heard my hesitation and knew the confidence I had in his faith and walk with Christ was of great importance. He wanted me to have it and did not want to pressure me.

I handed him the pen.

Lizzo: “Gene! Sue gave him the pen!”

Gene: “The pen? What pen? And what’s the significance?”

Lizzo: “It’s almost more significant than Thomas asking her to marry him!”

Gene: “Sue’s getting married?”

Yes. I guess I am. 🙂

Glimpse of Heaven

We said good-bye at the small country airport where I boarded a commuter plane bound for Pittsburgh. There I would make a connecting flight that would take me home. Nine months earlier we met or should I say collided as I slid into home base during a college work scholarship baseball game. He was determined to get me out. I was determined to score a run for the team. The results were torn ligaments in my right leg and that was the beginning of our friendship that quickly blossomed into a forever kind of love.

Four months later we were engaged. Six months after that we said our “I do’s”. Our love was strong from the beginning. Before we married, we made a pact that no matter what problems we would encounter or what disagreements we might have, we would always work through them. When you put two stubborn and imperfect people together, you are bound to have conflicts. But, that stubbornness also fueled our resolve to love each other in good times and in bad, whether we had money or not and in sickness or in health.  All of those situations came up in our marriage. We made it through the thirty six years, four months and ten days that God gifted to us to be together.

When God creates someone just for you and allows you to meet when it is just the right time, the love that comes out of that is the greatest love that a person can ever know on this earth. Yet, that love is only a glimpse of the love that God has for us. So many times I try to look deep into my mind and heart to fathom what the Father’s love for me is like and find that it is so far beyond my imagination that it can sometimes become frustrating.

Resting in Bob’s love totally and completely trusting that he loved me and me only was easy. He never gave me any reason at all to think otherwise. There was great comfort in that kind of love knowing that I was his and he was mine. I realize now that many people never truly experience a love like that. In hindsight I see what a priceless gift Bob gave me when he promised himself to me on this day forty-three years ago. When you love like that, you never dream that your lives together won’t go on forever.

The beauty of us both knowing Christ and accepting Him as our personal Savior is knowing that one day I will see Bob again. The joy and anticipation that my heart feels about that is beyond words. This is the man that was my one and only. He was the love of my life. We’ve been separated by death for a little over six and a half years now. The longest we had ever been apart was for a week. Yet, how much more will be the glorious wonder when I step over to the other side and see my Savior face to face! This is the One who formed me in my mother’s womb and created me to be just the way that I am. He is the One who has loved me from the instant of my beginning, who constructed Bob just for me, who brought us together, walked with us throughout all of our married life and who carried us both together to the end of Bob’s life.

My becoming a widow did not surprise my Savior at all. He knew it would be a part of my life. He knew how much losing that great earthly love would break my heart. He didn’t need to ask me “Candy, are you going to be alright?” like Bob did two days before he died. The struggle to “be alright” has been great and is harder some days than others. Bob’s physical presence is gone, but his love for me goes on in so many different ways. God’s physical presence has never been seen by me, but His love for me has become much more real now that it is just Him and I.

Love given is the greatest gift a person can ever experience. To be loved is to be given a glimpse of heaven. My heart is so full as I close my eyes, go back June 22nd, 1973 and re-experience all the beautiful and wonderful emotions of that day. But, it’s nothing compared to all the glories that are yet to be revealed when my faith becomes sight and I finally see the One who loves me with the greatest love of all – an everlasting love.

Face to face with Christ, my Savior,
Face to face—what will it be,
When with rapture I behold Him,
Jesus Christ who died for me?

Face to face I shall behold Him,
Far beyond the starry sky;
Face to face in all His glory,
I shall see Him by and by!

Only faintly now I see Him,
With the darkened veil between,
But a blessed day is coming,
When His glory shall be seen.

What rejoicing in His presence,
When are banished grief and pain;
Death is swallowed up in vict’ry,
And the dark things shall be plain.

Face to face—oh, blissful moment!
Face to face—to see and know;
Face to face with my Redeemer,
Jesus Christ who loves me so.