Another Life

With a New “Family” in Assisted Living

By Kitty Widner

Photos by Lynda Huddleston

On a chilly, seemingly ordinary day in January 2018, my husband Dude (a childhood nickname) took our little dog for a walk. Dude had a history of stomach problems, including two operations. That particular evening, the pain was so severe that we took him to the emergency room and from there he went to the hospital where he spent three nights, quietly slipping away on the fourth night.

It’s true that life is what happens when we are making other plans. My life took a 180-degree turn. Bereft and shocked, I was left wondering how I would survive. Just six months earlier, we had lost our daughter to lung cancer and we were still grieving for her. The two people I had loved so much and depended on were gone. Fortunately for me, the younger relatives on both sides of our families circled the wagons, making decisions to help me. Since I am ninety-one years old and partially crippled from arthritis, their help and support was like a gift from God.

After fifty-one years of an especially happy marriage, there were many decisions for me to make. Dude always took care of business affairs and paperwork. I can’t say I jumped into that responsibility. Rather, I fell into it. One of his nephews, Rick Rothwell, took on the job of assisting me.

This merry-go-round phase of my life began with a search for an assisted living home near my niece, Jeanne Helmich Combest. I’ve had friends and relatives in various nursing or assisted living facilities, so I had a good idea of what was out there and what would work for me.

Our antiques from the South were given to my sister’s children and  the Widner family antiques went to my stepson, Rocky Widner. Soon the house was prepared for selling the remainder of my possessions. Two nieces, Floy Helmich Hester and Terrie Helmich, spent days preparing for the big sale. The beautiful home into which Dude and I poured so much love and care now belonged to someone else, and I needed to adapt to a different life.

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