Can You help Me? I’m A Widower?
By John Checki Jr. CFP®
March 1999. It was just after spring break and my wife was on the road to see our kids and grandchildren. I was having one of those low energy days and went home to take a break and the phone rang, “Where’s mom?” My son’s girlfriend was calling concerned. “She should be here already.”
I was surprised my wife wasn’t there yet. She didn’t have her cell phone on so, I couldn’t reach her. She was driving a little four-speed, compact station wagon, probably smoking a cigarette and having a beer. “We all have our vices,” I was told more than once, over our 19 years of marriage.
I heard the distinct sound of the police radio from the car driving up our pebbled driveway. The car door opened. Leaving the car engine running, and the police radio blaring, a tall young policeman’s shoes crunched as he made his way to our front porch. Soon, there was loud knocking on our front door.
“Are you John Checki?”
“Yes.” I replied.
“You need to call the medical examiner’s office. Do you want the number?”
“Officer, is my wife deceased?”
“Would you like their number?”
He would not answer me except to provide the phone number.
I called the examiner’s office and reached their voicemail. After what seemed like a lifetime, I finally reached someone on the other end of the line,
“The medical examiner handling this case is not in.”
“Okay, can you tell me if my wife is dead?”
“I can’t really comment.”
“Sir, I already left a message and I am begging you to get permission to talk to me, please.”
He put down the phone. I waited. He returned to the line.
“Mr. Checki, your wife Helen Janice Checki, was killed on I-35 just outside of Buda, Texas. Sorry.”
“How did this happen?”
“The report says speed and alcohol.”
I’m sorry to say, it’s not the biggest surprise. My wife drove fast, drank, and smoked cigarettes–– all at the same time.
My son and I called to let people know, mom didn’t make it. We made funeral arrangements, wrote the eulogy, and hired the trumpet player to play, The Saints Go Marching In. I wished I wasn’t there. After comforting the rest of the world, I got tired of it and went to Cozumel to scuba dive and take a break. I wrote, dove, and tried to enjoy being alive.
At first my world was scrambled––keys lost, phone lost, pots and pans all over the place getting lost. I put up hooks and reminders. I learned no one knows what to say and they’re hurting and missing my wife as well.
How did I come through the fog and back into the light of day? Community helped. God, prayer, and faith were all essential. Realizing there are stages of grief and grief recovery. Relearning who I was as a man, father, husband, and now, a widower. I gave myself permission to carry on, work out regularly, eat well, have a drink now and then, go to bible classes, attend church, and practice saying “me” rather than “we.” I learned how to shop all over again, since all the kids were in college, and I was suddenly single, with only one mouth to feed.
I was part of a speaking class with classes to attend, the opera to enjoy, and an old farm house on two acres of land to maintain. Life would not be boring despite the lack of orientation and confusion, and not being able to find the pots and pans. (Where did she hide them?) I attended some Widowed Persons Services meetings, and a couple of grief recovery groups that helped in the process of coming back to the planet earth.
My family pretended nothing had happened until Thanksgiving––the first holiday sans Mom. A trip in awkwardness for each and every one of us. My family was happy to gather for Thanksgiving and I looked forward to seeing them. However, all I knew how to prepare was the turkey and dressing. I asked our kids to think of what they would like to prepare so we would have more than turkey, dressing, and store bought pies. In the end, it worked out well and we spread my deceased wife’s ashes on our big tree in the front yard. That spring, flowers bloomed for the first time in several years. Nothing like ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
Let me tell you, I worked out long, hard and often during this fresh start. I was warned that single females would start calling and to be aware of their intentions since I was an active, financially stable widower. My phone would ring, and emails flowed wanting to know if I would like the pleasure of some female company. It was a busy time, especially for me, since I had very little dating experience beyond college graduation and that was nearly 30 years earlier and dating had changed a great deal. There’s a big difference between married and single people. I had not been around single people in years. What an adventure!
There but for the grace of God, go I. Sadly, good days can be replaced by daze if we’re not awake and aware of our situation: control our thoughts, feeling, emotions, words, and actions. And what widow or widower will be succeeding at that consistently?
My clients could not have been any more supportive, along with the broker who was helpful. My business partner did what he could to cheer me up. The Widowed Persons Services, had a wonderfully supportive chapter with activities and a swell group of people. I enjoyed the pleasure of their company. Prestonwood Baptist Church supplied a singles class that was really something. Toastmasters was an outlet, as were several standup comedy schools. No; I did not want to be a standup comedian. After a couple of years of studying and performing, I was glad that was behind me.
The Italian Club of Dallas, was where I met my wife Suzi. By then, I was two years into being a widower and thought I would never find anyone worth having. Suzi is a delightfully gifted and talented, Yoga teacher, artist, singer, and entertainer, and financially responsible.
We live and learn. In time, we studied some more. we do our best to guide others through the journey and adventure, and the joy of life. I enjoy exercising daily, eating properly, and continue to share my life and family with my wife Suzi. We work together in my practice and have the same interests such as our faith, family, hobbies, and experiencing new things. We are having fun together despite being older, if not wiser.
If you too find yourself a widow or widower, you’ll have to make the arrangements. Get to it and through it. You’ll learn to cook for one, shop for one, and get used to saying “me” instead of “we.” Remember to give yourself permission to enjoy life again.
Securities are offered through Securities America Inc., member FINRA and SIPC, Advisor services offered through Securities America Advisors., an SEC Registered Investment Advisor. John Checki, Jr. Representative. This is not a CPA Firm.
John Checki Jr. and his firm have been helping some of the nicest families in North Dallas, Richardson, Plano, and Frisco for about 30 years. They specialize in Baby Boomers Wealth Management and have a unique and complete Wealth Management Process. You can read the rest of their story on their website. (John’s proudest accomplishment is his family: Children, Grandchildren and Wife.) They love to travel, scuba dive, take pictures, study, and attend family and church gatherings.