Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

wonderful life

Last night I watched the old black and white film It’s a Wonderful Life for the first time. Released in 1946, thirty-three years before I was born, it’s about an angel-in-training who gives a despondent man driven to the verge of suicide a look at what the world would be like if he had never been born. The plot reminded me of a message I received soon after I started this blog: ‘Do you ever wish you’d never met your wife?’ the stranger asked boldly.

I was quite taken aback at the time and I don’t think I ever replied because I didn’t think the question even warranted an answer. I remember feeling quite cross that anyone could be so insensitive. But after watching the movie last night it occurred to me that perhaps that person meant no offence. Maybe they could sense how much pain I was in from what they read in my posts. Perhaps they hadn’t lost anyone close and were intrigued to know if the love felt in life was worth the pain felt in death; maybe they had and wanted to hear that they weren’t alone in their dark grief-stricken thoughts.

I imagine that many of the film’s viewers come away from it wondering what the world would be like had they never existed. This was a question that I posed about my wife instead, though. I went to bed in tears as I began to contemplate my life entirely without her: I would have felt none of the love that we shared; my life so far wouldn’t have been as much fun; I would never have met half of the friends I have today and I would have only half of the family; our son, Jackson, would quite simply never have been created. And that is just how I would have been affected. Other people whose lives she touched might not have been so successful in their careers or as happy in their lives. Relationships might never have started and, as a consequence, other children never born. It’s hard to imagine how completely different life as I now know it would be.

It is Christmas Eve as the film’s lead character, George Bailey, who is facing financial ruin and disgrace, contemplates suicide at the edge of an icy bridge. ‘Strange, isn’t it?’ his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody, begins. ‘Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?’

I know that Desreen has left an awfully big hole in many of the lives she touched now that she is gone. But I also know that that hole would be far bigger still if she’d never been here at all.


Having fun on the other side of the world in 2007

6 comments on “wonderful life

  1. Janice
    December 30, 2013

    Thank you Ben.
    Beautifully said. I haven’t plucked up the courage to watch the film but maybe I should take the time. X

  2. J Shah
    December 30, 2013

    My husband once said that he wished our son had never been born because of the anguish his death at the age of 23 has caused. At the time I was speechless with anger, but thinking about it, I can understand what he meant.
    Nik’s birth brought a lot of happiness and laughter, his death an abyss of grief and sadness, but I would NEVER wish that he hadn’t been born.

  3. Heidi
    December 30, 2013

    “I would rather have had one breath of her hair, one kiss of her mouth, one touch of her hand, than eternity without it. One.”

    I love this quote from the movie City of Angles. What you wrote here reminded me of this.


  4. Ruth
    December 30, 2013

    My husband died nearly 3 years ago, my boys were 7 & 12. He still leaves a hole that can’t be filled but I loved your slant on it. If he hadn’t lived, the hole would be bigger. Thank you, you write beautifully.

  5. Eric Vink
    December 30, 2013

    Interesting article. My wife passed away 7 months ago and my 4 yr old daughter and I, this is our first Christmas without Isabelle. I had just finished a grieving support group last month and we were all sending e-mails last week, wishing each other Merry Christmas. In my message, I had told the group, not only we give thanks for the birth of Christ, but we should give thanks for the birth of our spouses. After all, they came into our lives and and it was wonderful.

    Your article hits right on, just like the movie – it would not be the same without our spouses. Thanks for your writings on how we should be so thankful for having our spouses in lives, even though it was shorten.

    Isabelle once asked me, during her battle with cancer, if I was sorry to marry her, if I had known what laid ahead. No, never in my mind did I ever regret it then and after her death. I am happy she came into my life as much I came into her life.

    Merry Christmas to you and your child. I enjoy reading your posts!

  6. katherine martinez
    January 16, 2014

    About a month after my husband Ray died, a friend asked me if I would marry Ray knowing he would die. I didn’t hesitate to answer her. I said yes. I would marry him a million times over because he gave me my two beautiful daughters. I will never regret saying I do, because he did. He promised to love me until the day he died and he did.

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