Prior to Jim Cluse’s death, he was the main breadwinner for his family, a jack-of-all-trades who handled car issues and around-the-home repairs, and most of his friendships revolved around him and his wife, Peggy, being a couple who hung out with other couples.
After he died, Peggy had a lot more responsibility for running her life than she had before, and a lot of time that before had been taken up by being Jim’s wife.
“I said to my son-in-law one day, I’m like, ‘You know, I really am a homeless, penniless widow,’ and he said, ‘Peggy, when you’re following Jesus, isn’t that a great place to start because you’ll know he provided everything.’”
Peggy Cluse moved back in with her mom in Brookfield, got a job and is building her own credit. She’s stronger and braver than she thought she was, and chooses to define what a widow is rather than letting the word define her, she said. That’s why she’s leading a group for widows called Boldly Walking With Jesus that has started meeting at 6 p.m. every Tuesday at Six-Fourteen Church in Masury.
The group sprung from a realization that she really enjoyed the friendship of two women who became widows long before she did.
“As they came alongside of me, I really understood what it meant when Scripture says that when the Lord comforts you and then somebody comes alongside, then you’re able to do that and share that same comfort,” Cluse said.
There’s much to be learned from people who are on the same journey you’re on, she said; not just about coping with grief, but about embracing life.
Cluse said she created the group without any notions about what it should be doing. She had ideas about what it could be doing, but wants the ladies who show up to set the path. They could talk about how they’re feeling and the issues they’ve come across, or they could play games or do things away from the church building, she said, supposing that activities that are not about grieving can actually deepen the conversation.
“I don’t honestly know what I’m doing, but I figured, if I stepped into it, and just started, the Lord would kind of make a way,” she said.
Attendees do not have to be church members or even Christian, but Cluse hopes the sessions have “the fragrance of Jesus.”
“I think that – this is just my heart – but I think there is a supernatural joy that Jesus affords us when we’re leaning on him,” she said. “I’m hoping that as we spend time and we just kind of see what he can do and the testimonies of other women kind of steering and showing and guiding that maybe somebody who’s struggling would maybe find a sense of comfort if she drew closer to the Lord. I’m hoping that women wouldn’t be intimidated by it.”
Six-Fourteen Pastor Jared Woodward embraced Cluse’s idea as it follows his desire to “reach out into the community in a more intentional way.”
“There is so much nuance in grief, and we wanted to help people however we could,” he said. “We wanted to provide support in a very practical way for those who experienced the loss.”
Cluse described herself as “naturally a joyous person,” and has found her journey since her husband died on March 15, 2019, to be “empowering.”
“I have a sense that, as sad as it is that I’m not doing life with my husband and still being a wife, I am still God’s child and he has a great adventure for me, and I’m not scared,” she said. “I’m ready.”