MCBAIN — Sue Eldridge, 71, had been drinking coffee at home when it happened.
The sunlight shone in through the window a certain way and suddenly, vividly, she had a moment where she remembered being in the hospital with her husband before he died.
All the memories came rushing back, she said.
Kathy Vana, 42, asked if it was a peaceful moment, to which Eldridge said, “it was a ‘why’ moment.‘
Why didn’t she do certain things? Why did she do certain things?
“I had a good cry,‘ she said.
Eldridge and Vana were sitting in Cornerstone Coffee in McBain with several other women, all part of the group the Single Seniors.
The Single Seniors, whose ages range from early 60s to some in their 90s, meet up about once a month at the coffee shop.
One member, Gin Dodde, 73, said they come “because we are all single, number one,‘ and that they’ve all lost loved ones, and people who have lost loved ones need support.
Sometimes the group will have up to 13 people show up to the meeting, led by Vana.
She’s in her fifth year of seminary and had the vision to start a group for these types of people to help them connect.
“It’s become so much more than that,‘ she said.
The women snacked on cookies, muffins, donuts and sipped their coffee while telling each other about their families and how they were doing.
Dodde talked about her nephew and everyone laughed as she described how he gobbled up applesauce and ran up and down the halls.
“Oh my stars,‘ she said. “He was just having a blast.‘
Along with sharing laughter, the group shares their sorrows and concerns with one another.
Like Eldridge’s coffee moment.
Eldridge’s husband died three years ago. It was sudden, she said, he had been ill, but not that ill.
He got sick on a Wednesday and was gone the following Tuesday. The doctors don’t know exactly what happened.
“We didn’t expect him to be gone,‘ she said.
She remembers everything, the day the doctors said they would pull the tube, then they did and he was gone.
The other women listened attentively as Eldridge spoke and then shared their own stories.
Dodde said when hummingbirds come up to her house in the summer it's her husband’s presence, as he loved hummingbirds.
For Dodde, it happened so suddenly, she was in shock for weeks afterward.
“You’ll know it’s coming and you’re still in shock,‘ Shirley Boven, 85, said.
With how her husband’s death happened though, Dodde knew it was in God’s plan. It was her husband’s wish to go quickly, as he had diabetes and was afraid of going into a vegetative state.
And he did go quickly. So she just accepted it.
Dodde’s husband had gotten his finger stuck in his truck’s lock. They got it stitched up, went to Walmart afterward, went back home. He took his insulin shot, then waited in the living room for their daughter to get home. There he had a massive heart attack.
She went to check on him and found him. Six hours later, he was gone. It was 1999, he was 56.
Ardie Sikkema, 78, said she went on after her husband’s death because, “well, I am busy.‘
She knew her husband’s death was coming and still had two years with him.
“If death is ever easy, his was very easy,‘ she said. He didn’t need much pain medicine and opted for no treatment.
Pearl Koetje, 92, was married for 64 years when her husband died. It would have been 70 years this past fall, she said.
She said she didn’t have a hard time, which she felt almost guilty for, but she was glad he went first.
He didn’t know how to cook or take care of himself, which was her fault because she “didn’t raise him right‘ she said.
The women talk about everything at the meetings.
They talk about doctors appointments, their families, church, “the backdoor trots‘ and countless other topics.
Through the meetings, they have gotten to know each other better.
Dodde said when she started coming to the meetings she was intimidated by Koetje.
“I thought she looked like the meanest person ever,‘ she said.
“I was and still am,‘ Koetje responded.
Not quite, as Dodde said. Through these meetings and Bible studies, she now knows that Koetje is the nicest person ever.
Eldridge said Dodde is a “get up and go‘ person who convinced her to start coming to the Single Senior meetings.
If it weren’t for her, Eldridge said she’d probably still be sitting at home.
“I look forward to these days,‘ she said, and being able to open up to this group of people.
Eldridge said it made her life very different and fulfilled. She joined a Bible study at church and gained friends through that as well.
“I was able to open up and become alive again,‘ she said. Her eyes were opened and she could see God in everything.
At first, she could not speak about her emotions, but the people she met after the fact have improved her life dramatically.
“Every day is a blessing,‘ Eldridge said.
“And you have just blessed all of us,‘ Koetje told her.
Vana said when you can watch someone else go through something like that and still have a full life, it impacts you and she learns from being around the women.
They share little tips on how to stay healthy and prepare for when she’s older.
Koetje said with Vana in seminary, she needed some information, “old, old information‘ so they had to help her.
“We’re doing her a duty,‘ she joked. “But we don’t advertise that.‘
Vana said if God calls her to widowhood, these women give her hope.
They all agreed that it is so, so hard to lose a spouse or loved one like that.
But life does go on.