Friday, 12 March 2010

Widowhood ... pain, laughter, sharing - from the story of Tamar to our stories and our mother's and grandmother's stories

Fulata Mbano Moyo led prayers this moring on the theme of widowhood - returning to the theme of her sermon on Monday but with a rather different emphasis. Today we had the rather extraordinary experience of reading the whole of the story of Tamar from Genesis 38. Fulata just shared out the reading paragraph by paragraph with those who happened to be sitting in the row nearest to her- It was strong stuff listening to us in our various accents struggling with lots of strange names and pretty embarrassing subject matter. The story details how the men of one family marry, don't marry but have sex with Tamar, how she has to prostitute herself with great resourcefulness to the most powerful remaining man in her story and how she humbles Judah into saying "She is more in the right than I" once she finally falls pregnant. Her intelligent reading of and acting in the situation finally saves her. However the act of this widow is neverthelss one of desperation, selling her body to her deceased husband's father under the cloak of anonymity.
Fulata once again shared some of her own story of being a widow - how her sons had tried to push her to find them a new father. She encouraged all of us to think about and share stories about widows we knew, to think about who are widows in our societies today ...
During the few moments of our prayers this morning I thought about my extraordianry mother in law who brought up two children on her own; aloud I wondered about the women abandonned by men, left with children - are they in a similar state to biblical widows?
After prayers were over I shared the story of my own mother's widowhood with Fulata, making her laugh. At the end of the day I wrote it down in and shared it via email with those who had been at prayers:

To those of you at morning prayer today, this is the story of a widow I only shared with Fulata at the end - one of the reasons we were laughing - the widow I know best is my mother.
40 days after my father's death she arrived home in the bright red convertible sports car she had just bought ... they had been looking at it together before his death and decided his wheelchair would not have fitted into it ... waiting for her at home when she came back with the car was a package from the undertakers containing my father's ashes.
She decided "he should enjoy the new car too" and placed his ashes in the boot ... and drove with him for quite a while ...
I'm not sure this is a liturgical practice I would recommend (ecumenically or confessionally) but it seemed to help her!
Two other colleagues also shared stories of widowed mothers and grandmothers who had shouldered large family responsibilities alone and done so with great resilience and dignity. Symbols of the strength of widows. Despite desperation the story encourages us to resourcefulness and not to be victims.


janetlees said...

Funnily enough my Dad also put the casket of my mum's ashes in the boot of his car and lovingly took her for a ride in it - with tears in his eyes. Maybe this is a more widespread litrugical practice than we think

Michele Neff Hernandez said...

I love the stories of widows. A resource you may be interested in, the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation, provides peer-based grief support programs that encourages members to live the life we are given.

Many blessings for you and your work,