In my memories of the movie The Sound Of Music, Maria sang a song to the children and told them that “Whenever God closes a door, He opens a window.” When my husband died, God not only closed the door, but I felt like He slammed it in my face, locked it and threw away the key. I didn’t see a window. I didn’t look for a window. I didn’t even care if there was a window. I’ve just realized that somewhere in the past six months I found the window, opened it, crawled over the ledge and my feet are now firmly planted on the green grass outside. Life does indeed go on after death.

I have a new job working as a Unit Secretary in a Nursing Center. I’ve only been there two weeks and already I have found a peace that I never thought existed. Two years ago this month when Jim got sick, I put part of my life on hold and concentrated all my energies on him. As the months went by I got terribly behind at work, and my apartment looked like a natural disaster area. The worst part is that I didn’t even care. My entire life revolved around him and nothing else mattered to me. When he died it got worse, not better, because I had nothing to do with that void. I would go to work and find myself staring off into space. I’d go to bed and lay awake for hours. I’d sit in the trash pile that my apartment had become and not see the piles of papers and books around me. The dirty dishes and dirty clothes piled up til I had no clean ones left. I ate junk food and gained a hundred pounds.

Finally in December I acknowledged that I had a problem and took a leave of absence from work. I sought out a Psychiatrist and Clinical Psychotherapist to help me find myself again. They diagnosed me with Classic Text Book Major Clinical Depression. I had allowed my grief to take over my life to a point where I just didn’t care about anything anymore. I packed up my apartment, put it in storage and moved in with my single brother in January. I was not only homeless, but felt useless as well. By March I decided I would be less of an annoyance living with my parents, so I moved into their second bedroom.

I also officially resigned from my job. That was scary. Here I am fifty-eight years old, living with my Mommy and Daddy, with no means of support and outstanding bills to pay. For a while, I didn’t even care. I liked the hugs and the love that they surrounded me with. Ever so slowly, I came up out of the fog and realized that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life sleeping and reading and watching TV. I also did not want to spend the rest of forever living in someone else’s space. I wanted something to do and a place to call my own. I wanted to have a reason for living again.

I updated my resume and started calling on places that I thought I might enjoy working at. I had a few disappointments, and then stumbled into a Nursing Home that happened to have an opening as a receptionist of sorts. I applied for the job, was interviewed and offered my choice of three positions. What an ego-trip that was.

I started working a little over two weeks ago and I feel like I have found my niche in life. I’ve finally found the place that God intended for me to be. I’ve always believed that everything that happens to us is for a specific reason. Whether it is a good or bad experience, we learn from it. Now I understand so many things that were always unclear to me before. My first husband was twenty-six years older than I was and in poor health most of the eleven years that we had together before he died. I have always been more comfortable with people older than myself than those that are my age. I tend to radiate towards people that are lonely, elderly, disabled, or in some other way in need of a friend or a helping hand. I love to get a smile out of a crabby old man that everyone calls mean. I am entranced as I listen to the old grouch of a woman, and watch her face light up as she talks about her children.

In the short time that I have had this job, I have been allowed to slip into the lives of some very lonely people. They seek me out sometimes just to say hello, or to listen to my latest adventure. I love to make them laugh and see their faces light up with glee instead of seeing them slump in sadness. I think I was born to be a caregiver and I love it. I had the opportunity to sit with a dying old man that was designated as mean. He had slapped and hit other people, refused all food and drink and fought when they tried to give him medicine. He held my hand and let me wipe his face with a cold cloth. I sang songs to him from an old church hymnal I found on his dresser and when he thought I wasn’t looking I could see his lips moving along with mine. No sound came from his mouth, but he was surely singing along with me.

I visited him several times over the next few days, and when he slipped peacefully into death, I feel that I helped him make the journey with a little less pain and not quite so scared. It was such an exhilarating feeling that I can’t begin to describe it to you. Yesterday, on my day off, I went in to ask my supervisor a few questions that had been bothering me. While there I found out that another of the residents on our unit was near death and her husband was very upset. I went and talked to him for a few minutes and again, felt like I helped a little. I was able to share my feelings with him and tell him that I truly understood what he was feeling. I’ve talked to several family members, offering up suggestions on how they might make their visits more pleasant for both them and the person that they are visiting. I’ve hugged and held the hand of many people that are scared and lonely. I’ve said or done something to make a lot of crabby, cranky, cantankerous old people laugh or at least smile for a second. I feel like I have become an advocate for elderly and disabled people and I love the feeling of accomplishment I get when I help to straighten out a problem. I am so good I can hardly stand myself. I feel so good I can hardly believe the difference in myself from a short six months ago. I guess I needed a long vacation to recharge my internal battery or something. What I found out though, is that I think I understand now why all those bad things have happened to me over the years. Why David, my first husband was so much older than I was. Why he was sick most of our married life. Now I see why Jim, my second husband had to be so ill and in a nursing home for almost a year. Why I became so depressed that I gave up and wanted to die.

I understand why God led me to find a new job when David died, managing a housing facility for low-income elderly and disabled people. Why I was required to live in the building with these people. I can see that going so long without a vacation made me appreciate spending the time with my parents and brother that much more. I realize that working twelve-hour days, seven days a week makes my new full time job seem like a walk in the park.

Yes, I have found my window and I leaped out of it dragging all of my experiences, good and bad, with me. I feel like I have just graduated from the School of Hard Knocks with a 4.0 average and earned a Masters Degree in Caregiving. I feel like I have finally passed through my apprenticeship and now have a real job in a real world for the first time in my life.

If you ever find yourself in a position where you feel really down in the dumps, depressed, grieving, sad and lonely, look for your window. If God has firmly slammed the door in your face, as I feel he did to me, look for your window. It’s there; you just may not see it at first. Know, however, that it is there – within reach. All you have to do is stretch out your hand and open it and you will find a whole new world waiting for you to explore.

Don’t let the closed door stop you from living. Look for your window and let your experiences help others.