By OPAL FLINN

I appreciate all the positive comments about our stories written for the Generations page. Your support has given me courage to continue sharing with you.

It's been one month since Jim passed away. If you don't mind, I'm going to try to tell you how I feel and what's happened since the day my life changed.

The first week, I was kept busy; so many decisions to be made. With help from my daughter, the intern and funeral director, I was able to write the obituary, plan the funeral service, pick out the casket and buy the cemetery plot.

At the viewing, the family decided not to be gloomy; let's celebrate Daddy's life. So when friends come to pay their respects, everyone shared happy memories.

The funeral service was beautiful. The WELCA ladies prepared a wonderful meal, and St. John Lutheran Church gave a gift CD of the service to myself and each of the kids (It is nice to hear the service again when we're under less stress.)

Life continues after the funeral. Thank-you notes to write for flowers, memorials, food, prayers and personal acts of kindness. The wait for the death certificate begins, insurance claims to file, Social Security checks changed and there are countless name and ownership changes, which accentuates the fact Jim is no longer with me.

I still can't believe it's true; it seems like a bad dream. I've lost my partner. I now live alone, first time ever. At first, I lived with my parents. When I went to college, I had a roommate. Then we were married to each other for 60 years last October. Being alone is tough. I keep waiting for Jim to come in the house from outside or call to me from the other room. There's an emptiness. I'm thankful for TV and radio; they fill the room with sound.

Have you hugged your spouse today? Do it often. I didn't do it often enough and sure would love to do it right now.

I found this statement in my Daily Devotional: "Every time I sensed a connection that ran from their touch to my heart." That explains how I feel when friends give me a handshake, a hug or a pat on the shoulder.

Everywhere I look I see him, his medications, his clothes (I've been wearing his shirt around the house), his magazines, his CD and DVDs, canned and frozen food he especially liked -- such as oysters, steak and chili beans. It's hard to cook for one; something else to learn.

There are many little things I miss. Jim always fastened my bra and tucked the tag in my shirt. If you ever see me and the tag is sticking out, please come and tuck it in for me.

I wish I could tell him what's happened, such as the bull was caught in the cattle guard (all four legs) and the neighbor's oil tanks were hit by lightning and burned to the ground. I wish he could see all the cards, hear all the expressions of love and sympathy and feel the touch of hugs. I miss him so much.

Sometimes I'll burst out in laughter because I'd just thought of a really funny memory, but then tears begin to fall for the same reason and tears of sadness knowing we can't do the things we enjoyed doing together. He always called himself Opal's "Go fer-chauffeur." Now I have to "go it" by myself.

Small things that made me smile: a postage stamp, Gene Autry smiling on an envelope from Caldwell, Idaho, one of Jim's cousins, a baked sweet potato wrapped in foil ready to eat and an invite out for lunch.

"How are you doing?" is a regular question I'm asked. I usually say, "OK," but it's tough. I miss him, miss his voice, miss his laugh. I know I'll never forget him; he will always be a part of me.

When someone says, "I can imagine how you feel," they can't know. I know now. Until it happens to you, you can't even imagine. I've received advice from other ladies who are living on their own since they lost their husband. Advice: Be sure to keep your car filled with gas, keep busy, don't stop doing what you enjoy and ask for help when you need it.

My -- "our" -- kids continue to worry about Mom being alone. I get the feeling I appear older and frail to them. When Dad and Mom were on the go, they weren't concerned because we took care of each other. I really appreciate their concern.

I'm going to close with this verse found on a sympathy card. It is a message I believe is from Jim to give me peace.

"Remember me as you pray at night, for this is when you sense me the most -- know that I am and forever will be alive, with God, as my host."

Opal Flinn is a member of the Generations

Advisory Group.