We have lost many notable people the past several years, including award winning actress, best selling author–and widow Lauren Bacall.
Bacall’s first marriage was to the famous actor Humphrey Bogart. Their May/December romance and successful union became a Hollywood legend. Married at twenty, Bacall was a widow by the age of thirty-two.
A news story about her death at eighty-nine included excerpts from several interviews. She talked about the ups and downs of her sixty-year career and the fact that she always put her marriage to Humphrey Bogart first.
Bacall was asked about the pain she endured during her husband’s illness and subsequent death. I was struck by her comment about making it through the darkest times. Her philosophy was: “Anyone can be a survivor, but I prefer to prevail.”
According to the dictionary, “prevail” means to triumph, win out or to be greater in strength. After the death of her husband, Lauren Bacall decided to be more than a survivor. She wanted to prevail.
I really took those words to heart. All of us want to survive the death of a spouse. But preferring to prevail is more important than just surviving. In Bacall’s case, she outlived her husband by fifty-seven years. And in those almost six decades, she prevailed and went on to more stardom and notoriety as an author.
What better way to honor her husband than to move ahead with her life and achieve even more? She triumphed over her tragedy and became a stronger woman whose life after Humphrey Bogart’s death included a best selling autobiography, Tony Awards, Golden Globe Awards and an Academy Honorary Award.
Of course most of us don’t have the opportunities to achieve such greatness after losing a spouse. But we can learn from Lauren Bacall’s example.
The death of a spouse should not be the end of life for the surviving spouse. It should be the beginning of a new life–one where we all can do more than survive. We can honor the memory of our loved ones by becoming stronger because of our losses. And– our memories can help sustain us as we take a different path to a happy and productive life. With our spouses in our hearts, we can prefer to prevail.
Updated: September 19, 2016