Leona is a spry 72-year old who was widowed 18 months ago. When he became ill, she promised Stan, her husband of almost fifty years, that she would not wallow in self-pity after he was gone, that she would, instead, use whatever time she has left to enjoy herself and learn new things. Childless, and with many friends already gone she wasn't sure what that would entail but she gave her word so that he would not worry about her.
"I was so full of panic the first few weeks after the funeral that I could not move off the couch. I didn't even know how much money was in the bank because Stan had always shielded me from what he considered mundane matters which included our finances."
But Leona was determined to make Stan proud. So she slowly went from the couch to the kitchen and then from the kitchen to the patio until she eventually made it all the way to the sidewalk. It took all her courage just to step out of the house.
Her first outing as a widow was to her local library. "I didn't even want a book, I just wanted a safe place where I could sit and watch people." It was there in the entrance that she saw a flyer advertising computer courses for beginners. "It was time to play catch up," she told me with a chuckle, "so I did something very uncharachteristic."
Still reeling from her loss, she enrolled in the course without even asking what it would cost. "It forced me to get out of the house once a week, no matter how lousy I felt, and it ensured that at least on that one day I would have to interact with other people."
Two weeks into the program Leona realized that in spite of the pain of her loss, she was enjoying what she was learning and that she was among other adult people who did not judge her.
"I really loved discovering all the things a computer can do", she mused, "and that opened up a whole new world for me."
Armed with her computer competency certificate some ten weeks later, Leona enrolled in a more advanced course, and a third one after that. She bought herself a computer and although she needed help to set it up, she soon became adept at handling it. She learned how to make her own greeting cards (do you know how expensive store-bought ones are???) and how to pay her bills online. "Stan would have been so impressed by that!" she declared proudly. She was also able to keep track of her expenses, check her bank balance as well as her investments which alleviated her anxiety considerably. "I realized I was never really in charge of my own life before."
Of course, she also learned to send e-mails to those of her friends who have computers. Most of them are in Israel and it has made it easier to stay connected with people she likely will never see again. "At my age, travelling is not that appealing anymore. But I like staying in touch, especially with Stan's sister who is working on the family geneology chart." The project has prompted both women to have a daily exchange of e-mails they look forward to, filled as they are with memories and anecdotes about Stan and 'the good old days'. Learning about new technology has been very therapeutic for both grieving women, bringing them close at a time when they needed each other but could not physically bridge the miles between them. "The best part about all this," said Leona "is that the computer has allowed Stan to remain an active part of my life."