Oct 30, 2014 at 12:02 PM

ALS & Widowhood - A Transition

By Jenny Gore Dwyer

"Widow" Really? Me? Yep.

Widowed. Yep. That's me. Reality has hit square in the face.

I was recently filling out some forms at the doctor's office, and they needed to update my files, since I hadn't been there in a while. (A good thing when your doctor is an oncologist!) I came to the part of the form, where I had to check marital status. I became frozen. There were the standard choices, no big deal right: "married', "single", "divorced", and, in this doctor's office, "civil union."

And then there was the big flashing "WIDOWED." I swear it jumped off the page, and stabbed me in the heart.

This was the first time I've filled out a form that I had to define my marital status, since Pat passed away. Well, maybe it wasn't, but honestly, I hardly remember anything that happened the first year of living without Pat. Now, as I enter year two, the reality of Pat deciding to be done with his ALS, is hitting me square in the face, on many accounts.

Widowed. How can that be? There are days where I am still stunned that Pat is gone. But then on the flip side, there are days, few and far between, that I can deal with his loss rationally. Knowing the disease ALS helps me rationalize, but I still can't get past the unfairness of it all.

I'm 52. Pat was 52 when he passed away. We are too young for this widowed life. I think of widowed as older, way older than 52, and having lived of life of accomplishments. We didn't get that. Wait, I mean we did. We raised two awesome kids, built a thriving business, filled our life with laughter, friends, joy and yes some shouting during the years. But at the core of everything, even the shouting, was love. Love and respect. Love and respect and trust.

There were many milestones in our 29 years together when Pat and I simply had to love and trust and respect. Working together on a boat, out in the middle of Alaska's waters, you have to trust and respect, and for us, we fell in love. Plus there were the "land" decisions about business, my cancer gigs, raising our kids, and even who was going to drive the soccer carpool. Like I said, some of this led to shouting, but overall, we managed to figure most stuff out, together, and respect that decision. Pat was way better at that than me…respecting the decision...don't tell him I told you, but he was usually right in most cases. His gut instinct spot on, and the shouting that commenced was mainly me trying to prove him wrong…hey, that's part of marriage right?!

Pat and I started out business in 1986. We have always worked together, side by side, except for a few times. Our office is downstairs in our house. Our desks are side by side. When we worked on the boats together, our stateroom (our bedroom) was tiny, but everything we needed was right there in the room. Things got a little more crowded when we put up a port-a-crib when we took our daughter Brenna on the boat, at six months of age. But again, side by side, everything we needed, and doing something we loved.

ALS & Widowhood - A Transition

Now. Let me just say one thing. As romantic as that might sound, married people, according to me, are not meant to be together 24/7! Space, personal space…one needs it to keep their sanity, and to keep from wanting to throw shoes at your spouse. However, looking back on that time now, I feel very very fortunate. In our 29 years together, we were together. Really together, pretty much all the time. This presents the good, the bad and the ugly. Pat was a "do it right the first time so you don't have to mess with things again," kinda guy. He worked hard, he worked brilliantly, and accomplished so much in his short life time. Yep, looking back now, I feel like the luckiest girl in the world being able to spend that much time with my boyfriend…my husband…in the good, the bad and the ugly.

Widowed. For me to even form that word in my brain, well, it just seems so foreign. How can I live as a widow? I'm used to having my partner here by my side. I'm used to having someone to bounce things off of, used to having someone here who loved everything about the business we created, used to having someone here at night to talk over the day, and laugh at silly stuff that happened, used to having someone here who's blue eyes twinkled with merriment when a good deal was negotiated or teaching his kids something new, and used to having someone keep my feet warm at night.

The fact is, I don't want to be that word. Widowed. It was not part of the plan. At the risk of sounding cliché, we had been through so much other stuff. So much other stuff, before ALS, walked right into our world, with out a care for anything, except it's own damn timeline and plan. But if there is one thing that ALS is, it's real. Unbelievable, but real. So I guess the reality is, I am a widow. Just typing that out makes me want to swear really loud…

Now what? Now that I move into the realities of the second year of "widowhood" what does that mean? Honestly, I have no idea. Is it the opposite of being married? Is it a chance to begin again…dear god, I'm 52…that does not sound fun. Is this a chance to be the best Auntie ever and fly around and feed my nephews, nieces and great nephews and nieces candy?

Jenny Gore Dwyer - Family & Friends

I have no clue. But one thing I do know. With the support of my family and friends, what ever widowhood means, I'll survive. I've had friends and family help to remind me that life is for the living. I've had friends give me back parts of life I thought I wouldn't enjoy again, and friends who have kept me laughing along the way, and friends who just sit back and as I ramble crazy thoughts, and tell me, it's ok, and to enjoy the exotic flowers and occasional spiders along the way. 

Jenny Gore Dwyer & Anthony Carbajal
Jenny & Anthony Carbajal

I've got the ALS community…an amazing community like no other.I've got family that supports me in every possible way. All the crazy GG's, and Dwyer guys, Pat's brothers and families, and my kids. Our kids. My Brenna and Sean, who both inherited the best parts of their father…they are my loves, and keep me focused.

Plus. I have Pat. As I live this year number two, I know I have Pat with me. There are times when I'm struggling and suddenly he pops into my day, assuring me things are ok. I know he would want me to move through this grief, this widowhood, and live life. I know that he is in a place of love, and I know that's what he would want for me.

Widowed. I think I can do this…One thing I know for sure that widowed means. It means I will continue to do what ever I can to #endals, and so we can all move #BeyondALS forever. One more ALS widow is one to many.

Posted in Overcoming Adversity.

Nov 02, 2014 Arrow1 Down Reply
elinore jacobsen

Jennifer Gore Dwyer is the family hero for all she has done and will continue to do for what she calls this "cruel disease." I continue to love and pray for our beloved Pat, Jennifer, Brenna and Sean. and will forever hold all of them in my heart and prayers. Jenny's Mom Elinore

Jun 06, 2019 Arrow1 Down Reply
Karen Kleinman

I have been an ALS widow since 1999...I have remarried and found a new life, yet, it creeps up on me daily but something said/done/thoughts...we also had 29 years of wedded bliss and in 5 shorts months, it was ripped out of our life...and we wrote notes until he couldn't handle a pencil...he was so frustrated trying to get his message thru to me...I wish I could do it over...even tho it was hell, he was at least with me...My new husband is so kind and understanding about my loss...he is awesome! I have been blessed twice in my life...God is Good....