Saturday, December 17, 2011

payoffs and widows

I hesitate to post my thoughts - but widows understand, so I can do it here. I read this;  via a facebook post today. It's an awesome story. I love it.

But there is one line in there that only another widow would get. Only another widow would wonder about. Here's the passage:

Before she left the store Tuesday evening, the Indianapolis woman in her mid-40s had paid the layaway orders for as many as 50 people. On the way out, she handed out $50 bills and paid for two carts of toys for a woman in line at the cash register.

"She was doing it in the memory of her husband who had just died, and she said she wasn't going to be able to spend it and wanted to make people happy with it," Deppe said. The woman did not identify herself and only asked people to "remember Ben," an apparent reference to her husband.

Did you find it?

...she said she wasn't going to be able to spend it...

Is it just me, or did your thoughts go to - wait. How old is she? When did her husband die? I wonder if she is giving all her money away - "she said she wasn't going to be able to spend it" - because she is planning on killing herself.

Typing that, I feel panic. Should I tell someone? Alert them? Hello - big ol' flashing warning sign!

But not only was the donor anonymous, I also feel like - you know, I understand. And maybe she isn't suicidal. Maybe she just has too much monetary wealth and she is going to sell everything, buy a camper, and move to alaska. Or mexico. Or India. Maybe she cannot stand the thought of spending life insurance money on average, mundane things, and doesn't need to. Maybe she just needs to do something, to be some kind of good force in the world.

I guess I just had a wee little reaction to the subtext. The gloss-over - knowing full well that "kind widow in her mid-40s plays santa" is so incredibly much more than just a happy news story.

. - An addendum. Maybe I am a busy-body. I sent an email to kmart corporate. Then I looked up the assistant manager listed in the article, found the person I think is said asst. manager on facebook, and sent her an email. Of course, typing it, I was thinking - oh my god, what if this brings massively unwanted attention to the poor anonymous widow? What a horrible horrible thing I might be doing! But I typed anyway. I kept it kind of short, and told her that there are some warning signs in the woman's actions, and that if anyone knows her, they might consider reaching out to her. I said that the woman doesn't need attention or pity, but that love and acknowledgment - a card or a phone call - can sometimes be the difference between getting through one more moment, or - not. Thanks C - I wouldn't have thought of that one. I also encouraged said assistant manager to pass along the SSLF and Widows' Voice.

Maybe I did the wrong thing, and have brought unwanted attention to someone who does not in any way want it. But if said woman got through the whole Kmart without accepting attention, I bet she is pretty good at saying No to intrusions.

Meh. Must stop over-thinking.



  1. i read into it too, about all the variables of what she could have meant. i wish someone would have asked her. there are layers here that no one is looking at. i am worried about her.

  2. At first I kind of naively thought about it as life insurance money, blood money she could not in good conscience spend on herself. Then I thought it was money she would've spent on gifts for him and now can't. I hope that the good feelings being spread by this story come back to her and help her to Get Through This. Sometimes surviving even one more hour is all you can ask for, and maybe all the press about it will make a difference in her life.

  3. There are so many possible reasons why, and I too wish someone there had asked. C - that is an awesome thought I hadn't thought of - that maybe the good press and good feelings will help, even for one moment.

  4. All or any of those possibilities could be the case. I know that, in the earlier days after Don died, it made me feel kind of ill to spend any of his insurance money. Even now, I pretty much feel that way and try to keep that money aside. When I go in a store and buy mundane things, I sometimes get a sick feeling looking at what is in my shopping cart and want to leave without buying anything -- and have actually done so on occasion. There is just something horrible about it. The other thing that has happened is that it makes me feel less bad when I spend some of the money to help out other people. I'm not sure why, but maybe it helps me to think that Don didn't die for nothing (or something) and that maybe his money can be used to make someone else's life better. He was the kind of man who loved to help people, so it feels good to do the things I think he would have loved to do for others.
    However, I have also come to think that I don't need to worry about "saving up" for old age anymore as I don't have any belief that I will live to be old. Having seen so much death, the thought of being around another decade or so seems so preposterous to the point that I can't even imagine it being possible anymore. Maybe those are some of the thoughts that this widow is also experiencing. Perhaps she is also ill (I have known far too many widows of cancer victims who are diagnosed with it too soon after). Who knows - there are so many possible scenarios.

  5. exactly. Which is why I hesitate to reach out at all to this person - so many reasons she may have, all of them valid, even the suicidal possibility. I read through some comments under one of the versions of this news story (it's all over the place), and out of thousands, only a couple acknowledged the giver, I mean actually saw the reality. I guess that's what I hope for her - just to have her reality acknowledged, whatever her choices and reasons.

  6. suicidal angle crossed my mind in reading this... and while there could be so many reasons for her to say this ... checking on her should be a priority.
    Because we all know (well *I* know at least) that the suicidal angle isn't exactly a ridiculous assumption....

  7. I'm worried too, I think you did the right thing by contacting the store--thank you for doing that. Everyone totally missed the price she had paid for her generosity--(I'm seeing parallels to the real Christmas story it that thought) I'm glad you noticed and brought it to my attention. Only kindness matters . . .

  8. darn right ferree - only kindness matters. And, I was stunned, though maybe not surprised, to see how few people acknowledged the reality of what she is living. A few of the newstory comments I read said "wow, her husband was an amazing man to prompt her to do such a thing." Huh? What about the amazingness of her, in her own right.
    There were many many comments saying "I wish I had enough money to give it away like that" - how many people would pay the price she paid?