My Response to the Today Show, Part 2: An Open Letter to Kathie Lee Gifford
(Read part 1 and see a video of the encounter I'm responding to.)
Dear Kathie Lee,
I watched your show on Friday, February 4, and you were laughing an awful lot when that young widow, my friend Brenda, called in. I recognized it, that discomfort, that laugh. See, I’ve been there, and I got stung. Death is way scary, but if it’s happening to someone you love, you – yourself, alone – will yet end up okay.
Now if I were married to Frank Gifford – but of course! I forgot, I can’t be, because you are. But if I were married to a man much older than I – oh wait! I was! But I’m not anymore because – oh yeah, you know what? HE DIED. So if I were a talk show host with a terrific national platform, and an avowed woman of Christ, I might use my pulpit a little differently.
And if I were – still – married to a much older man (Gavin and I had 20 years between us; looks like you and Frank have 23? Correct my math: 1930-1953 = 23, right?) I would probably laugh in a pretty uncomfortable way when the topic is raised, too.
But I wouldn’t be stupid enough to be married to him and reproduce without a solid life insurance portfolio behind me.
Which – I did. Once.
So see, I know what it’s like, and I know how to act at parties. I “get” polite society. I understand that sometimes you might just, oh, pretend, that you don’t know what V!agra is. You don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable or anything.
But when someone who’s 25 and who’s lost their helpmeet, their love, their partner, their Christian-married husband, someone without a trace of botox or need for a lotion of any kind, calls in asking for help?
I’d try not to laugh too hard. Because I know it hurts. I know it’s a threat to open your heart. You might actually hear something, and words, they can make magic, they make things happen. If you don’t hear it, he could live forever. (I know he’ll always love you.)
I’m not saying anything will happen. But you said your vows, and you said the old ones, didn’t you: one of you will go while the other one stays. It could easily be you first. But statistically, it’s far more likely that Frank will be the one who goes first.
Hey, don’t look at me. It’s not me who created these rules. I’m not even the messenger. The ancients said death will part us and you both repeated it, willingly, smiling even, I bet. (Gavin and I did.) I’m not wise enough to scribe that in stone for everyone to use every day and mean it.
So if I were you, and I didn’t listen so well the first time, I might try to make amends. I might think about what my giggles were hiding. I might open my ears and my heart. I might talk to others. I’d apologize to Brenda, give the panel of men a good talking to about how women like men who listen and are sensitive, and how widows are the best deal in the dating market, and maybe start listening to some human stories from situations that scare you.
I can’t tell you to lay off the vino. I’m not the one who placed the glass there at 9 a.m. That’s not your fault, and hell, I’m a thirsty girl.
And Kathie Lee, I ain’t saying you need to own the word “widow” yet. Fact is, I saw myself in your nervous tittering, in your dashing to the explanation: “Maybe she’s not really ready to date yet!!!”
And yeah, when I had an older husband, I’d spend the energy ingratiating myself to the younger men sitting next to me, too. I might laugh at their dumb jokes. But I wouldn’t be proud of it.
I’d like you to be prepared better than I was. You won’t be poor, and you won’t have a kid in diapers, or responsibility for his senile mother, so you’ll already be way ahead of me.
But you can do better than you did on Friday. You can listen. You can let that big heart of yours, big enough for loving your man and your family, open to hear the stories of loss AND of loving again that are out there in the world beyond the studio, the people who make you look good and the ones who say "yes" to everything.
What do you think Frank wants? He wants you to be happy. He'd want you to be out there dating again someday, with full respect for the love you two shared. (Wouldn't you want the same for him?) It'll be an act of courage to love again, but we don't compare. We're women of action, we who grieve.
Lady, you've got a platform, and I know you like to work on making the world a better place. Let’s work together to increase understanding for young people living with loss, struggling to raise children alone, and help prepare folks for the death that, if we are human, and if we love God, we know will come for all of us. Tell me what you’d like to do, there’s more than enough work for us all.
C’mon, woman. I know you can do it.
Supa Dupa Fresh
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