By Francis Ewherido
A friend and big brother had a private birthday celebration for his wife recently. In the course of the ceremony, he spoke glowingly about his wife and prayed for her. He also prayed for long life for both of them. What struck me most during the prayer was when he called the wife by her pet name and told her that: “…I am seven years older than you are. I came before you, so I pray that I go before you.”
Three days later, we (my ward and I) took the empty domestic gas cylinders for refilling. I noticed that the man whose cylinder was filled before ours was apprehensive. I probed; he then confessed that he is never comfortable anywhere there is gas. “That’s why I don’t go to the kitchen; ask my wife.”
He gestured to his wife who was nearby. Then the prayer at the birthday came flooding back.
One husband is praying that he dies before his wife. Here, another husband does not go into his kitchen because he is scared of being killed by gas explosion. But it is okay for the wife to go into the kitchen and possibly get killed by gas explosion and die before him. Okay, maybe he was not thinking along that line, but if you are scared of gas explosion, you should find a holistic solution to minimise or eliminate the risk for your entire family and not a selfish solution that saves only you. This man is not likely to pray the kind of prayers my friend prayed.
The two incidents got me thinking: husband and wife, who should die first, all things being equal? Like my friend, I pray for long life, but when the time comes, I certainly want to go before my wife. I am older. Over time, I have found out that wives tend to cope better when they are predeceased by their husbands. This is especially so if the family is well off. Many widows in their 50s upward never bother to remarry. I even know some whose husbands died when the wives were in their 30s and 40s. They simply poured all their resources and energies into bringing up their children.
But the same cannot be said of men. Bereavement disorganises many men. Basic things like preparing meals and organising the home become mountainous tasks. That is one of the major reasons why most men remarry when they lose their wives. They remarry to bring back order to their lives. But these new marriages come with their own packages. You have to learn to understand and live happily with a new spouse.
Sometimes it is not an easy task. It is a question of you win some and you lose some. Some men win more, when the chemistry with the new wife is better than the chemistry with the deceased wife. On the other hand, some men lose more when the new wife is an introduction to hell. I have heard widowers lament that they did not know what pushed them into a second marriage.
Issues can also come with the age of the new wife. If the woman is of childbearing age, she wants to have her own children rather than just help to bring up the children of the late wife. That is why some widowers in their 60s upwards simply look for older women (widows, singles and divorced), who have passed childbearing age, to marry. They do not want the hassle of having new babies. There is a time for everything, some will readily remind you. They just want a companion, lover and helpmate to help sort out the home front.
Talking about lovers, sex drive has some correlation with age, so marrying a much younger woman can sometimes lead to sex urge misalignment. I heard a sad story from a friend some time ago about his uncle. About two years after his wife died, the septuagenarian uncle married a young girl in her 20s. They had two children together.
Not long after, the young lady started an affair; then her escapades became brazen and very embarrassing, not only to the husband, but to the whole family. A family meeting was called. Before everyone, she justified her action with a claim that her husband is “dead,” he could not muster an erection, not to talk of making love to her. So what did they expect a young girl like her to do? She had to get young blood to meet her sexual needs.
Whether it is the fact that she made the husband’s condition public or the callous way she said it, my friend is not sure, but the humiliation was too much for the uncle. Shortly after, he suffered a stroke and died two years later. I do not support adultery, but I feel older men should examine themselves very well before marrying much younger women. New wine and old wineskin should be handled with care. Be careful before your much younger wife uses “harder, harder” to hasten your journey to your grave.
Some widowers who remarried have had to deal with situations where their new wives maltreat their children under their nose. Some wives convert these children to maids in their father’s homes. There have been reported cases where the fathers turned a blind eye to the wrongdoings of the wives, while it is a major source of friction between spouses in some homes. Some fathers, however, take sides with their wives.
We also have children who will not accept the reality that their mother is no more and the father must move on with his life. They see their stepmother as a usurper and antagonise her.
There are men who are miserable today because their houses have been turned into Fuji House of Commotion because of the quarrels between their children and their stepmothers. Some men are today estranged from the children from their first marriages because they remarried after the demise of their first wives. It takes more than a very firm man to manage these situations; you simply need the grace of God.
As we know, all things are scarcely equal in life, so death does not follow chronological age. Anybody can go first. Nobody, except those who commit suicide, knows when s/he will die. But husbands tend to die first before the wives and it is not necessarily age-related. Many men blame it on the vagaries of life that ultimately take their toll on the men. It is like lions and lionesses. Most lions in the wild live for about 10 years, while lionesses live for about 14 years.
While the lionesses enjoy the relative safety and comfort of the pride, the lions leave the pride at adolescence, wonder for a couple of years, and when they are strong enough, look for a pride to take over. Thereafter, they spend the rest of their lives defending their pride and territory until they are overthrown by younger and stronger lions. Then they wonder off again until they die of hunger, from injuries and, in rare cases, old age.
But we are humans, not lions, and we must take good care of ourselves. With insecurity, bad roads, poor medical facilities, etc., there are no guarantees to a long life, but let us at least give ourselves a fighting chance.
Back to the question, who goes first after God has given a couple long life? For me, the older spouse should go first, provided the other spouse is in a better physical shape. However, God, who is all-knowing, has the final say.