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Wednesday, 8 March 2006

The death of widowhood

CounterReaders may not know, or appreciate, the stand this blogger takes on marriage. So to set the record straight, it is as follows:
One man, one wife, for life. Every marriage ends in widowhood.

Unless, of course, both partners die simultaneously--an exception for which allowance has been made in my will. But this is hardly ever the case, compared to the many other ways marriages are thought to end these days.

Speaking of which, I note that widowhood itself, what's left of it, isn't even fashionable any more. I keep running across references like "the wife of the late so-and-so". And it's no longer a typo--it's a reflection of actual usuage. As if we don't even have a word for such a person. Well, we once did, and that word was "widow." And last I checked, it's still in the dictionary of current usage. As is "widower," which was never so common a thing as a widow, nor was its respecive title.

Now, language does change, and anyone older than a single generation--as I am--has seen it happen. It has been a long time since a woman was commonly referred to as "The Widow Smith," but widows are still allowed to list their phone numbers under their late husbands' names, decades after those marriages ended. Once our concept of widowhood inexorably follows the same fate as our word for it, that practice will have to end. Already it is impossible for a woman to fill out a form on the internet using the title "Mrs. John Smith."

Widowhood is an integral part of my culture. All four of my children's great-grandmothers, now deceased, were widows when my children knew them. Each one lived in the house her late husband had shared with her for most of their marriage. But this is a dying culture, and most young people cannot relate to such permanence.

Some day, widowhood will no longer be a recognized status in the culture at large. How it will happen, or when, I can't say. But those who believe and live the Bible will find themselves at odds with their culture over yet another core belief:
The need to "honor them that are widows indeed."

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