The Cambrian

Viewpoint: Finding the strength to go on after the loss of a loved one

It is inevitable that, living in a community with a 55-plus majority, that death and disability will become a part of our lives. My wife and I are in our mid-60’s, fortunately still spry and healthy, but it is not always the case with our peers ... and certainly not our elders.

Last year we lost a good friend in Richard Chauvaux, computer/Internet impresario, green activist, and longtime (25-plus years) Cambrian resident along with his wife Charlene, who died the year before unexpectedly. They were our oldest acquaintances and who really introduced us to the town.

His wife’s death sent Richard into a tailspin from which he never recovered, and I still think about how unfortunate the series of events were — especially since the couple’s three children were left picking up the pieces. But what I really think about is what I TRIED to do to make Richard think a little differently about the future, and how both of them, our peers, have, almost unnecessarily, just vanished from the scene.

Now, just today, I understand, a member of our dance club, also a peer, took his own life. His wife had cancer, but he seemed to be weathering the challenges, and any conversations my wife and I had with him were generally quite positive.

A source just told me they had been together since age 15! His loving wife, despite her painful treatments, was at dances until fairly recently, and passed away only recently.

I am not immune from grief and tragedy and its outcomes: depression and loneliness. The mother of my son died two years ago, at 69, after a protracted illness. After our divorce in the early ’90s I met Laurel, also divorced, and although we did not “officially” marry, we had a marvelous, exciting life together for seven years until tragedy struck.

In very short order, we lost our home, business and, ultimately, faith in each other. Laurel eventually took her own life, despite its being anathema according to her Buddhist teachings.

Up to this time I had never loved like I loved Laurel, and it was devastating. I was in my early 50’s and my life was in tatters. But within a couple months I began putting myself in situations where I met single/widowed/divorced women, even though I wasn’t looking for “commitment.” (Actually, I have had to do this TWICE now).

I understand that those who have been married a very long time such as 20 to 50 years (my 15th anniversary with lovely Eleanor is March 1) may not even see the point of “going on” a second time. Men, especially, seem incapable of making a transition.

Women, who have their children, other kin, and friends, have generally a much greater support system. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that many women who have lost spouses do eventually let go of their grief and get back into the world — and have a lot to give to men (if only men will be open to them).

In groups I’ve seen men avoiding making contact with women, and being uncomfortable even around other men.

I met Eleanor at a private party involving dancing in Arroyo Grande (we need a dance club for singles, or at at least one that will regularly invite them).

Eleanor came with her girlfriends. She was divorced for four years and had a son still at home. We talked and I could see we had much in common.

The dancing sparked a little initial intimacy, and I later went out with her and her girlfriends that night. One thing led to another and we were married a year later. I’ve been as happy as I ever was and it IS possible for love to re-bloom. If I lost her, it would be very tough, but I know I could survive. My message to men is: don’t give up hope. (My message to women is: you might need to bring those casseroles!)

I don’t mean to make light of the situation here in Cambria. Relationships are difficult. Older people’s complicated finances may dissuade permanent bonds, or any bonds. But if you have lost a spouse, and still have a “few good years” left to do good, do it.

Good attracts good, and no one deserves to live alone, unless they want to.

William L. Seavey is a member of the Cambria Dance Club, Cambria Tennis Club, and is a published author. He is helping start SLO County's homeless Dignity Village (involvement welcome).