Lucy is one of the residents at the assisted living facility where my mother lives. I’ve always been impressed by her cheerfulness and good nature, and yesterday I had a chance to sit and chat with her for a few minutes. It turns out she grew up just a few miles away, in Irvine, which was then an unincorporated area of Orange County.
"I had a horse named Dolly," she told me. "She was a pinto mare. Oh, I loved that horse! We rode all over the bean fields. We were in a parade once."
Lucy met Steve, the love of her life, while they were still in high school. Her mother insisted that Lucy graduate from high school before she she started thinking about getting married.
"So I graduated from high school," Lucy says with a smile, "and Steve and I got married right after that. He was a sweetheart. He brought me gold hearts...a necklace..."
Steve and Lucy had a long, happy marriage until his death from cancer not too long ago, and that's how Lucy came to be living here, facing the holidays without him, missing him every day.
I think adjusting to the death of a spouse is surely one of the most difficult chapters of life. But despite her sadness, Lucy somehow manages to be pleasant and kind to everyone around her. I ask her if she has any advice to share with others facing life after the loss of a husband or wife. Here's what she told me:
"Get a job if you can. You have to keep your mind occupied. You can't change what is. Don't dwell on it. There is a life afterwards, and you live it."
"But you know what?" she adds wistfully. "We were lucky. My husband and I had all those years together. Even now, I always feel that he's looking after me. So I have that."