Twenty three years ago I was in Estes Park, CO for Labor Day weekend. A beautiful little town that is packed with tourists in the summer months near Rocky Mountain National Park. I was there for a very important reason and a confession to share.
I wasn’t thinking about work, laborers, parades, picnics, fireworks or patriotism. Labor Day could have come and gone and I wouldn’t have even known it. I would get an extra day off of work to party and vacation.
My world was focused on one thing and one thing only. It was my wedding day on Sept. 4, 1993…… Not my first wedding, my second. My first marriage was only 8 months long and a decision I made under intense pressure as a 20 something from myself, parents and friends. He was a good man, just not the man who was good for me.
From the very moment that I met Chad I knew something was different; my heart, my body and my mind said so. The magnetism on multiple levels was undeniable as if we were being reunited from another cosmos. Some invisible tie that bound us together that we willingly allowed each other to discover. I didn’t need to understand this, I just needed to embrace it. So I did. Fast forward 3 years and there I was in Estes Park getting married on a busy Labor Day weekend to a man who loved me for me and I, for him.
America was celebrating and so was I.
My fireworks were wildly different though. Our participation in Labor Day was more about enjoying the fruits of a ‘year of laboring’ to pay for this wedding. It was the end of summer, but for us the beginning of our life together and I thought it would last forever.
It lasted 7 happy years. We built a company, birthed two daughters, designed and built a dream home and strengthened an intensely loving marriage that was built for the long haul.
Every Labor Day we’d enjoy our time off from working together and celebrate our beautiful life. We were living the American Dream.
In the years since his death, I’ve studied more about the history of Labor Day. The riots, the unrest and unmet needs of the American worker and the desire for fair conditions for a hard days effort. There have been many times when I’ve emotionally related to the intensity of unfairness, the long 12+ hour work days and seven-day work week that never seems to end in which our American laborers felt during the late 1800’s.
But who do you riot or shout out to when these conditions are created after you lose someone you love?
I’ve wanted to riot and shout out about the tough conditions and renegotiate my hours and pay as a new widow. How do you explain to society the 24/7 ‘inner’ work conditions of facing shock, pain, suffering, grief and a laborious rebirth 24/7/365 while still going to work to provide the essentials for ourselves and our families? There is no legislature or city hall to storm or union representatives for the overworked widow.
No doubt if we were ever able to unite and boycott the struggling conditions of many widows- we might find ourselves in the public’s eye with a voice and opinion. We might actually wake up a massive culture who doesn’t understand or empathize with being widowed until they find themselves marching in our very own shoes. Who knows? Modern Widows Club might be the catalyst of this kind of unleashed awareness that could result in a nation embracing more conversations about all things surrounding this stage of life many of us find ourselves in someday. It’s true that 70% of married women will become widows.
The fruits of our ongoing labor will show others a positive way forward because we can’t go backwards. So as we share with each other, we also teach those around us and so on. An organization that raises awareness will be remembered as we create history with our own individual stories united collectively. Our life work, as tough and unfair as it feels, will be celebrated and recognized in a new kind of way if we persevere. And we must.
Labor Day marks the end of summer and back to school. For us, we do the ‘end’ of anything better than most and as far as going back to school- there is nothing like widowhood to show you how much you still have to learn. Our school supplies are never-ending.
So, this Labor Day, MWC salutes YOU!
A widow who is giving it her best shot should be noticed for her pioneering efforts….just like our forefathers, and mothers, who would tell us if they could. Hard and smart work pays off. This is what I learned from my late husband about celebrating Labor Day.
“The effort might be toilsome, the uphill battle grueling, but the celebration from giving it your all and standing up for what is good and right is always worth it”.
Marrying that man, having a love together, even becoming a widow and learning to work at living this ‘new me‘ life has been an honor. I salute this kind of life. It’s a legacy worth marching for.