My grandmother, Etoile (Starr) Hazan Bitterman, was born and raised in Casablanca, Morocco, until she immigrated to the United States as a 16-year-old shortly after World War II. Like many families in our beautiful country, her story is one of tragedy and triumph; one of bravery, love and loss. Much could be said about her journey to America—how she left her family and didn’t see them again for over 60 years, or how she and her sister made a pact with each other (one they kept almost until their last breaths) that they wouldn’t tell anyone they were Jewish. It’s a mind-blowing, made-for-the-movies kind of story. However, one aspect of my grandma’s life left the biggest, deepest impact on me: her last seven years as a widow.
My Epiphany | On a sunny day about four years ago, I was out running errands. As my thoughts began to wander, my grandma came to mind and I thought about her life as a widow. It was a moment I’ll not soon forget. Until then, I hadn’t fully grasped the loneliness and heartbreak someone can experience when they lose their spouse. I knew it was hard for her, but never to the extent I felt that day. As I drove down the highway it was as if—for a moment—God gave me the heart and mind of a widow. I began to feel a heartache too deep for words. The harsh realities of my grandma losing the love of her life (she would often say through tears, “He was dee best man!”) began to set in.
James 1:27 has always been a favorite verse of mine. It says, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
It’s simple. It’s to the point. It tells me what God cares about so I know what I need to care about. There are amazing local and national ministries caring for orphans, but when was the last time you were encouraged to go visit a widow? I can’t recount a vivid moment where the importance of that mission was made clear to me. Yet here it sits in James 1:27, as if it’s just as important as caring for orphans.
The combination of seeing my grandma struggle and the Truth carved out for us in this verse stirred me to help be a voice for widows—especially those who don’t have family or a church to help them.
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