Saturday, April 19, 2014
Carolyn Caple Moor founded the Modern Widows Club that has met every third Thursday for the past 29 months at her Orlando home. Carolyn lost her husband Chad Moor on Valentines Day in 2000 in a hit and run auto accident as they drove home from diner. I saw one of Chad's original sketches of a horse on display in the home when I first entered. He was a gifted artist. There are 11.4 million widows in this country and 3.5 million of those women are under 65. Carolyn finds strength and hope as she reaches out to help others. She shares inspiration and mentors every woman who enters her home. These meetings are a safe place where incredibly honest conversations blossom.
A fire was setup in the fire pit on the back patio as dusk settled in. There was plenty of food and drink inside and everyone mingled through the social hour. I poured a white wine and settled in to sketch outside. The fire started to fade, but Carolyn's daughter, Mackensey Moor used some dry palm husks as kindling to reignite the blaze. I got to learn about her camping experiences in Colorado where she earned a patch as an expert fire starter. I used this time to pencil in the perspective. As women came out, I quickly placed them in the sketch. The wind kept blowing the fire's smoke and ashes my way, so by the end of the night I smelled like a Phoenix rising from the ashes.
Mackensey was busy setting up a Skype session on her laptop with Becky Aikman the NYC Author of 'Saturday Night Widows'. Martha Curtis-Garry skyped in via Rome, Italy at 2am her time and actually talked to Becky from iPhone to laptop. It is so amazing how digital tools are changing the way we communicate. Carolyn panned the laptop around so Becky could see everyone in attendance. Becky complimented everyone's shoes since that is what she saw on her end of the digital divide. Becky's book was about her journey along with six friends after they were all widowed. She went to a widow's group and some psychologist was wallowing in negativity while outlining the five stages of grief. Becky doesn't believe in set steps to grief, everyone is different. She suggested the group might want to focus on some more positive viewpoints and after the meeting, the head of the group told her she wasn't welcome back. This was an all time low for her, being kicked out of a support group. As a journalist, she decided to form her own group and each of the members knew their stories would become part of a book she was writing. One of the participants said she felt naked, but brave. Another Widows meeting in NYC involved a lingerie sample party where everyone got to try on their favorite frilly outfits. Why hadn't I been invited to sketch that meeting?!
Becky mentioned one joint meeting where the widows club met with a widowers club in NYC and then the conversation turned to how men are different from women. I think they forgot there was one man sketching in the shadows. A woman might feel guilt if she dated soon after her husband's death, but men can compartmentalize their emotions. They might truly love the wife that they lost, but there was no guilt in getting back out and dating. Men envy the strong binding friendships that women have. Men's conversations seldom venture and deeper than sports along with one word grunts. The group of women in NYC were fairly affluent, but the conversation in Florida turned to women who have to give up their homes and scrape by when their husband's income is no longer available. Insurance money is only a short term fix for a lifetime to come. Widows seem to be invisible in many societies.
The atmosphere of the meeting I was sketching felt warm and supportive. After the Skype session conversations returned to warm often funny memories. One woman related the fun and playful game of trying to beat her husband to the TV remote. I realized she wasn't talking in the past tense. Memories shared are very much alive and in the moment. Another woman related that her husband used to watch so many Crime Scene Investigation shows, that she thought he might be plotting to kill her without leaving evidence. Laughter erupted frequently as stories were shared. One woman had been to the "Love" themed Pecha Kucha" event that Carolyn and I had been presenters for. Based on the talks she heard that evening, she decided to sign up on OK Cupid an online dating sight. She glowed as she showed me an iPhone photo of the handsome guy she is now dating.
After the meeting I sat in the living room chatting with Carolyn and Mackensey. I had been sitting silently sketching all night and was a bit hungry for conversation. When Carolyn's other daughter Meagan walked in with her freshly showered hair, I realized I might have over stayed my welcome. I was surprised that I was the last to leave. Vicki Garcia had left white Easter Lillies for everyone to take home. Carolyn gave me some lilies as I left with instructions to cut the stems before putting them in a vase. I handed the lilies to Terry when I got home. She asked where I got them, and I told her. "You could have lied you know, I would have believed you." Darn, men can be so stupid sometimes. This morning one white bloom opened to the sunlight, a symbol of hope and resurrection.