Once upon a time I started compiling a list of facts I’d learned since turning 50. It was a list of things I’d finally come to understand and accept during a year of therapy between my divorce and falling truly in love for the first time in my life. I fancied turning it into a Results book, not so much a How To book because what I learned—the Results—made such an impact on my life. What I learned allowed me to draw in the greatest love of my life, and I thought all of it should be shared. Some lessons were funny, some were serious, some were silly, each were worthy. First among them? You will go gray. Everywhere…

But then my husband died eighteen months into our marriage. To say that my life spiraled would be the mildest of understatements. Immediately and fully I was thrust into a life I had no interest in: Widowhood.

Sure, I had navigated a new life before; after divorce you are thrust into a new life, too. I knew how to be a single mother; I had been one for many years. I knew I needed to work after my first marriage fell apart so I knew how to support myself, too. But this was different. This was a life filled with unbearable and inconsolable grief and I knew nothing about grief. I didn’t know how much it hurt physically, mentally and emotionally, the depths to which you plummet, the feelings of loneliness and isolation. The plans we had went up in smoke so fast that I didn’t know if I was even breathing at times. In truth I’d say I wasn’t.

But I also knew before John died that the book I had been putting together was meant to have another layer, a deeper piece. After he died, I knew without knowing that I’d be compelled to write, write, write. I’d need to save my heart and my soul, somehow, amidst the grief. And if I could share my story and what I learned – that no matter what happens in life, there is an opportunity for growth, even if you don’t want it – perhaps I could help just one person.

I also kept hearing John’s most used expression, “Drive on.” He used the expression often whether it was advice for one of my girlfriends who was in an unfulfilling relationship or in recounting his own past experiences from which he had to drive on… It was his modus operandi and I kept hearing him, even in the earliest and darkest days, giving me his most valued counsel.

This is just one of many lessons I’ve learned:


About two months after John died I was still beating myself up. You know, what did I miss? What didn’t I see? Was there something more? It didn’t matter that the doctor he had been seeing for fifteen years and whom he had just seen three months prior didn’t see any red flags. I was blaming myself and feeling guilty because I was still here and he wasn’t.

But after dropping my son at fencing practice one hot summer night, I drove home with tears streaming down my face, the salt drying instantly on my cheeks. At a red light, a complete stranger rolled down his window and asked if I was okay. I tried to smile and tell him I was fine but the words wouldn’t come. I was speechless. He looked at me and said, emphatically, “You’re alive!” It so startled me because there was so much force behind his words. Or maybe it startled me because I heard the universe or god or maybe John telling me the same thing, “You are alive!”

And in that moment something deep inside of me shifted.

Truth be told this wasn’t the first message the universe or John had tried to deliver. About 10 days after he died I received a Skype message from John. The only thing is, we never communicated via Skype. Ever. And again, he was dead. But the message was short and to the point. It read: Rhonda Turner Gardner, you now have all the tools you need.

Now ten days after John died I was in no position to receive any kind of message, I don’t care if it was hand delivered by god him/herself. And I was used to ignoring blatantly obvious messages meant just for me. This was only the umpteen-millionth message sent to me over the course of my life. Some I heard, some I heeded, many I ignored.

But the universe or god or your John will keep bringing you the messages you need in many different ways. So sit up and listen because your job is to hear them.