Becoming a member of the widow's club

Posted 7/17/21

July 16, 2020, my life changed forever.  I became a member of a club that no one wants to ever join. My husband, Rick Watson, died suddenly in the early morning hours on July 16, and that …

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Becoming a member of the widow's club


July 16, 2020, my life changed forever.  I became a member of a club that no one wants to ever join. My husband, Rick Watson, died suddenly in the early morning hours on July 16, and that dreaded first anniversary is this weekend.  

We think of anniversaries as events to be celebrated, at least that is what I thought in the past. What I have learned in this club I am now a part of is that those words, anniversaries and celebrate have taken on very different connotations. By the way, if you haven’t figured out the name of this club, we who are members call it the “widows club.”

This first year has been filled with firsts without him. The first night alone, the first cup of coffee alone, the first meal, the first drive, the first sunrise, the first sunset, the first fall, watching the first Alabama football game alone, the first burst of color in the fall, and the list builds daily.

The first frost, the first full moon, looking at the stars in the night sky, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years and all the traditions and memories that had been shared and celebrated lost their luster and joy. I understand the value of new traditions and I know those will come with time.

We were married for 46 years and for almost every one of those years I painted our Christmas cards. Some years I painted almost 200 cards and there were times I thought my fingers might drop from my hand. Those cards were Rick’s favorite Christmas tradition (and my hot apple cider). This year I painted them and though they were painted with love, I could not sign them Merry Christmas.  Signing just my name was a chilly reminder it was no longer Rick and Jilda.

His birthday came in January, mine in March, and then what would have been our 47th anniversary in May. In between each of those days, there were hundreds of firsts that I experienced without him.

Because of my previous job, I know many counselors and therapists. Through the 15 years I worked with them, they often talked about grief and trauma. They all said the same thing; the worst of the devastations came with the death of a child or spouse. Through my 69 years of life, sadly I have known many who have lost a child or spouse and each one would often make the comment that a part of them died with that loss.

I thought I knew loss; I had grieved the passing of my parents, my oldest brother, Rick’s parents and brothers, our grandparents and so many friends and relatives.  This grief, this loss of a part of me has been the worse; I understand how the living can exist with a missing part, and how that existence is a sort of suspension of time. 

Rick left behind so many friends and family members who love and miss him. You, his readers, reached out to me in so many acts of kindness this past year. Your cards, letters and calls have touched my heart deeply. I know that the words of love and respect that each of you have said about him would make him smile, yet he would shrug them off and think himself not worthy.

This would have been a year he would have celebrated with gusto.  One of his columns which ran in 280 Living won first place in the Alabama Press Association Awards. It was a dream of his to win that award and I hope with all my heart he knows he did it.

I think he would be proud of me. I work hard to keep our little farm the way he wanted it. I have continued to write my blog and I have started to paint again. The dogs and the chickens are doing well. I gave the beehives to his friend and mentor, Ricky Grace. Everything has changed, yet so much remains the same. On the 16th, I will pick up my guitar for the first time and sing him a song.

I hope he hasn’t seen my tears, felt my pain of his loss and watched as I have stumbled through this year without him. No one gives you a map for this journey; no one can walk it for you. Grief is personal and I can assure you there is no timetable, no schedule. It washes over your soul and grabs your heart when you least expect it. There are times I have to remind myself to breathe. But there are memories of such delicious joy that I laugh out loud with gratitude and I know he is with me.

The question I am asked most often, “ How are you?” The best I can say, “I am doing ok.” To borrow the title of one of Rick’s books, “Here’s how I see it… Life Goes On.” You were right Rick, it does.  


Jilda Watson is the widow of former Daily Mountain Eagle columnist and reporter Rick Watson. Follow her blog at