Milena Bekteshi is a young widow I hope to meet. In exploring helping widows in Albania, my friend, Enkelejda, sent me her story. I share it here with encouragement that God’s love for widows transcends differences in cultures and countries. While I cannot imagine the death of one’s husband while in the hospital giving birth to her son, I do know God’s comfort is great enough for any circumstance.
“When you lose a husband the very first thing you want to do is to tell to someone else that had that kind of loss how deep is the pain and to be understood . It is so important to ask them how long your soul will be shattered and if there’s any hope because you don’t see any.
So when I lost my husband I didn’t have around me a mature widow to ask these many questions I had. I was so full of pain, and angriness. I had just given birth to our son, and I had a 1 year old baby girl to take care. My pain was greater because I never saw my husband dead. I was in the hospital giving birth when my husband died and my parents and the parents of my husband decided to bury him without my presence. Nobody understood my pain. I begin to search on the internet for books and caught my eyes the title From one widow to another from Miriam Neff. I sent the link to one of my US friends to buy a copy for me and she did.
I read and I read it very often. It was like having someone in front of me and was like reading my mind and the hundred question I had on my head.
Through the pages of the book I was helped seeing myself through a journey with bitterness but also with hope, with many challenges but also with victories. The book helped me seeing the new me not so ugly as I thought I will be not having the half of me. Thank you Miriam”
– Milena Bekteshi.
Of the many delights of visiting Albania this fall was meeting Milena personally. She became a widow at the time of her son’s birth. With her one year old daughter her pain was intensified by the family not telling her of her husband’s death. She did not know that the burial was completed until after her son was born. Today, she is 35, her son is 6 and her daughter 7.
She traveled with me in Albania to widows meetings. We shared walk and talk time shivering under an umbrella on the last leg of a visit to a widows home that could not be reached by car. I was impressed by her effervescent spirit and optimism.
Sitting in Radio 7’s conference room later, warming our hands over hot coffee, I asked her what her greatest challenges are today and her greatest blessings.
# 1 is always financial. Good full time jobs are hard to find in Tirana. She pieces together part time jobs to make ends meet.
# 2 Working versus parenting. How like employed moms dilemma here! Work expects 100% and children require it.
# 3 Decision making. So many voices advise her: parents, in-laws, but ultimately every decision rests with her–a lonely place to be.
# 4 Lack of understanding friends. She states, “When Genti died, our friends said they’d be there for me. It simply is not true. They don’t understand the pain, my needs, and they have their own needs and lives as well. Even after 6 years, its just so different.”
# 1 Facing challenges! (This shows Milena’s strength!) She is sorry that Genti does not have the privilege of seeing their kids grow up. Like that first day of school. Just talking with them She’s loving it!
# 2 Raising her kids with her Christian values. Her’s are, first, good kids, and second, education. When she became a Christian she wanted to know God, and have a relationship with Jesus. Marrying Genti, his desires were the same. She realizes that life is temporary; she won’t always be there for them. But God will be. And that’s enough for her.
# 3 New friends. God has brought amazing friends into her life. They read your mind sometimes and recognize your needs, she says. They like to laugh. “They accept me as I am.”
I was humbled to share God’s love and Jesus salvation offer with a group of war widows. Milena told her personal story. 15 accepted Christ that day. One widow told me afterward, “You are like a strength for us.” Its God’s message and Milena is living it.