Over the last few months I’ve given away quite a few of Nate’s clothes, many of them to our Illinois church’s clothing distribution to the homeless. There’s one piece, however, I’ve decided to keep… and to wear. It’s his navy blue, terrycloth bath robe.
Nate wore this robe daily. Throughout 2009 when he was plagued by severe back pain, he couldn’t wait to get out of his business suit each evening and into the comfort of this bath robe. Usually the transition was made immediately after our 7:00 PM dinner by way of a hot soak in the tub with the day’s newspapers.
Although there were nights during his stressful career when he’d fall into bed very late wearing his white long-sleeved dress shirt still buttoned at the wrists, in recent years he did away with all that. And during his last year, he worked deliberately to reduce his pain and find a measure of comfort each evening.
Once in a while I’d get frustrated watching him abdicate the hustle and bustle of family life in favor of undressing and moving toward a prone position. I even grew to dislike the navy robe, which for both of us represented the end of his day. I’d ask, “Are you getting ready for night time already? It’s only 8:00.”
Now, of course, I feel badly about the implication of my question, but I hadn’t known the extent of his pain.
One of the reasons he loved his terrycloth robe was not having to dry off after a bath or shower. “It’s like a giant towel doing the job for me,” he’d say.
These days, as I wrap myself in his “giant towel,” I think comforting thoughts about Nate. I ponder the absence of complaining about his back and know he’d smile to see how I’ve come to appreciate his robe. I also imagine how he’d laugh if he could see me in it, the shoulders droopy and the belt nearly going around twice. But he’d be glad to know I’ve finally discovered there’s comfort in that terrycloth.
Many of my widow pals say they find a warm refuge in wearing a husband’s jacket, shirt or socks. It sounds silly, especially if we never shared our men’s clothing while they were still with us. But it’s one of the few remaining links we have to our partners, and because of that, wearing their clothes takes on special meaning.
Scripture tells us God is a good comforter. He provides his Holy Spirit as a soothing balm from our insides out, supplying comfort deep-down in those places nobody sees. Jesus said that when we mourn, he’ll see to it that relief comes to us. (Matthew 5:4) One of the many ways he’s comforted me is by coaxing me into Nate’s robe.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles…” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4a)