The McFarland Story

By Sue McFarland, Danville, IL

I lost my husband suddenly due to a massive stroke on Dec 17th 2004. I was alone to close his own heating and air business, do his business accounting for taxes, sell his tools and truck and settle his bills in court. He was in the midst of remodeling our home, installing a new boiler, the basement and the rest of our home was quite a mess! There were pipes hanging from the ceiling and part of the house was cold. There were numerous boxes of HO trains that my husband planned to set up in layout in his retirement.

My adult step children's advice to me was to shut the doors in our home, not look at it, drive his truck with an ad in the window and advertise his tools in the paper. At the funeral, they participated in the service and referred to their father as a dreamer meaning he did not complete his plans. He fully expected to complete the projects and even planned to drive his '68 Cadillac to the Woodard Avenue Cruise in August '05.

I did not know anything about remodeling, calling repair persons, handling legal claims, tabulating business expenses for tax preparation. And I certainly did not know how to drive the Cadillac convertible. I knew I needed to survive and sought out grief groups, books and any resource I could locate. My husband was my mentor and my whole life. I lived in his shadow. The grief groups were a disappointment as they played films that were over 25 years old. The books I read only told the phases of grief, they merely scratched the surface. I read more than 24 books the first six months, because I needed to know if other people had finished their spouses' projects. Counselors told me that if I handle these business affairs, I would be delaying my grief recovery. No person or book could provide me with this information until I found your book, The Heart of Grief. I only just acquired it. How I wished the helping professionals could have told me about it.

Just a week after his death, I took on his projects one day and one step at a time. I recognized that my heart was telling me that I had to fulfill my husband's projects as his dreams were also my dreams. I needed to convey to his children that their father had planned to finish these projects. I needed to leave a legacy of putting his plans into action so they could actually see the finished project. I got a home mortgage and two guardian angels (father and son contractor/project coordinators) who helped me locate any of my husband's materials which he had bought so they would go into the house. The contractors arranged for my house to be completely remodeled as my husband and I had planned. They could determine where my husband left off and start from that point. They even helped locate persons to buy his truck and tools, set up a model train layout, and taught me to drive the Cadillac. I even finished his dream of driving the car in the world's largest cruise on Woodard Avenue weeks after learning how to manage this long car.

On the day of the first anniversary of my husband's death, I invited his children and their families along with the fifty persons (angels) who helped me make it through the year for an open house to see the remodeling completed, the model trains running, and photos from the Woodard Avenue Cruise. I feel good about what I have done. Your book, The Heart of Grief, conveyed what I was looking for - it is ok to love my husband in separation and to continue to cherish him by fulfilling his legacy. His gifts of planning gave me a blueprint to follow and hope. He inspired me to continue our dreams.