Today I googled the term “the winter of our lives” thinking I might like to write a blog entry with that line as my jumping off point. But Google turned up 111,000 links to that phrase and I’m not sure the world needs another one. One of those links was to a paraphrased version of William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 97 on Wikipedia:
“My separation from you has seemed like winter, since you give
pleasure to the year. Winter has seemed to be everywhere, even
though in reality our separation occurred during summer and fall,
when the earth produces plant life like a widow giving birth after
the death of her husband. Yet I saw these fruits of nature as hopeless
orphans, since it could not be summer unless you were here; since
you were away, even the birds did not sing, or rather sang so
plaintively that they made the very leaves look pale, thinking of winter.”
After reading that, I googled away another fifteen minutes before landing on a blog entry titled Widowhood Explained. I was excited. At last someone can explain what I’ve been going through since Don passed away in January. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a blog about racing pigeons. Widowhood racing, I learned, is a race just for the male birds---the cocks as they are properly called in the world of birding. The people who race these birds seem to spend a lot of time talking about whether or not cocks are better racers if they’ve been allowed to rear a brood or two before setting off on an odyssey to find their way back home from hundreds of miles away.
As I thought about pigeon racing it stuck me that widows going through the grieving process have things in common with the pigeons in a widowhood race. Both homing pigeons and we widows are sent off on a task
not of our own choosing. Some of us hurry through the process as if the devil himself is chasing us and some of us don’t want to leave the starting gate. Some of us get lost along the way, a few get injured. And have you ever known a group of widows who didn’t eventually get around to discussing whether or not the older widows who’ve had time to raise families with their spouses have it easier or harder than the young widows who just barely got started living with their mates?
There are other similarities as well. We are encouraged to take care of our health during our grieving period. Widowhood racing pigeons are pampered with special grains, vitamins and electrolytes. We can find mentors and widow clubs all over the country, same with people who are new to racing pigeons. But there is one thing that homing pigeons have that we widows don’t and that’s a numbered band that can help them get back to their lofts if they get lost. When we widows get lost in our travels through the grieving process wouldn’t it be nice if some kind stranger could look at a band on our body and gently help us find our way through this winter of our lives? ©
Sonnet 97 by William Shakespeare
How like a winter hath my absence been
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!
What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!
What old December's bareness every where!
And yet this time removed was summer's time,
The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,
Bearing the wanton burden of the prime,
Like widow'd wombs after their lords' decease:
Yet this abundant issue seem'd to me
But hope of orphans and unfather'd fruit;
For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,
And, thou away, the very birds are mute;
Or, if they sing, 'tis with so dull a cheer
That leaves look pale, dreading the winter's near.