10/08/2012 06:54 am ET Updated Dec 08, 2012

'How Long Were You Married?': Is ANY Length of Time Ever 'Enough'?

July 22, 2011, 5:45 a.m.: I was awakened from a troubled sleep by the telephone call that our family had been expecting with a tremendous amount of dread. Expecting, yes... but dreading all the same:

After a brave battle with a number of health issues, my beloved Uncle Harry had passed away.

Crying softly, I made myself a cup of tea and sat down to quietly watch the day break over the mountains while I contemplated how I was going to share this horrible news with my daughter and my mother. And as we all do during times of loss, I let my mind wander back to the lovely days of my childhood


Uncle Harry was a bit of a scallywag; a mischievous scamp, really. A "second daddy" to me, he was bold and bawdy and out-loud hilarious. As my cousin so beautifully put it, "Dad loved a good joke. He loved a bad one even more". It was true. Uncle Harry loved a good practical joke -- particularly if he was the one who played it and when it was at the expense of the females in the family. And you can be sure that from the time I was permitted to date at the tender age of 15 to the very end, no man I ever brought around was truly welcomed into the family without a stern looking up-and-down.

But most of all, I remember Uncle Harry having a gift that not many people boast today.

Uncle Harry listened.

Really listened.

Whenever he asked, "How are you?" it wasn't simply a pleasantry. He actually wanted to know how you were doing. He took interest. He asked questions. He was always interested in what I was up to, where life was taking me next and my opinions on everything. When I was 16, he wouldn't let me drive home from their house at night because he felt the weather made driving too dangerous... and when I was 50 years old, I endured intense questioning as to how I met my new husband -- and as he did when I was younger, he concluded his line of "man-terrogation" with, "If he ever gives you any trouble, you just let me know".

And the thing is... he meant it.

He always meant it.

He made me feel like I mattered; especially during a period of my adolescence when I was convinced that I didn't matter.

He made me feel important; even when I fell flat on my backside (and I've certainly done that more than once).

For our family, Uncle Harry's death was the latest in a long line of overwhelming losses.


Since loved ones generally get bombarded with calls and visits after the death of a spouse, I gave my Aunt Charlotte a few days to catch her breath before I called to check on her. She was doing about the same as anyone else would be doing mere days after losing their beloved spouse.

As we were talking and crying and even laughing together, Aunt Charlotte said something that struck me profoundly. She said that she kept asking herself, "Why did this happen?" Knowing all too well that this is a question that most widowed ask themselves but that this question also means countless different things, I asked Aunt Charlotte what she meant. She replied, "I was not ready to lose him. I thought we would have another twenty years together. It wasn't time yet."

They were married for 53 years.

I then thought about the countless letters that I receive saying essentially the same thing:

"We didn't have enough time together. It's not fair."

"People say that I don't 'count' as a widow because we weren't together 'long enough.'"

"I wasn't supposed to lose my husband/wife/partner after only...." (fill in the blank with any amount of time).

While many of these letters are written by those who have been married a short period of time, I also receive many more letters written by widow/ers who were together twenty, thirty... and over fifty years. Further, I know that people who were married for a short period of time will hear ridiculous things like, "Perhaps you were meant to be alone" or "You weren't married long enough to 'count' as being widowed"; while people like Aunt Charlotte who were married for longer periods of time will hear very helpful things like, "He lived a full life" and "Well, you had a long life together."

Comforting? Not especially.

My dear Aunt Charlotte was the person who actually made me stop and ask myself:

How much time with your beloved is truly 'enough'?

Regardless of the duration of the marriage, I have yet to hear any widow/er say, "Yes, he/she's gone, but we were together for 'x' amount of months/years, and that was enough. I was completely ready for them to depart this earth and leave me all alone".

Nope. I have not heard that statement even once.

So as they have been doing for much of my life, Uncle Harry and Aunt Charlotte are still teaching me... and their life lesson compels me to remind the widowed:

There is NO amount of time that is or ever will be... "enough."

Whether you were married for 53 years or five minutes, the loss of your beloved is the loss of your beloved. It is devastating on levels that you didn't realize existed. If you were married for a shorter period of time, your time together still "counts" (in other words, you are a widow/er) and you obviously did not have the time together that you richly deserved. Guess what else? If you were married for a longer period of time, you still did not have enough time together! No amount of time will ever be enough. Let no one tell you otherwise; implying that you are not entitled to mourn because you were together for many years... or conversely, that you don't "count" as widowed because you didn't have the opportunity to be married for decades.

No matter the amount of time you spent as a couple, you will always feel robbed and cheated out of even more time with your beloved because you were forced to say goodbye. No one is ever ready for that terrible day -- or for that terrible goodbye.

Not even after 53 years.

While I always invite and encourage you to peacefully reflect on your time spent with your beloved -- whatever that amount of time turned out to be -- I will never tell you that your time together was "enough." Don't let anyone tell you that your time together was "enough."

Because it wasn't enough.

And it never will be.

Dedicated to and written in loving memory of Harry Fredrick Williamson
January 30, 1934 - July 22, 2011

For more information about Carole Brody Fleet and Widows Wear Stilettos, please visit

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