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Starting over in life with Sarah
Jeff and sarah
Jeff Benziger and Sarah Evers on one of their hikes -- this one on Table Mountain in Tuolumne County. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

The illness and death of a spouse is never an easy experience to watch. Although I had 18 months to mentally and emotionally process what my wife's leukemia would bring about - her death - I couldn't fully anticipate how life would change as the surviving spouse until it happened.

The illness persisted and Karen knew she was dying. In the final weeks she asked me if I was going to be okay. She wanted to hear assurances that I would be okay after she was gone. I reminded her that I was a strong person.

My life changed dramatically on July 5, 2013, the day Karen took her last breath. Although I knew it was coming I was stunned. The finality of death sunk in. My four children were without their mother and I was single for the first time in 32 ½ years.

Life goes on.

I'd quickly find myself confronted with new life issues. I was suddenly without the health insurance policy her employment had offered. I had to make due on a single income. Our rather empty feeling five-bedroom house was haunted with memories of her death at home. I was the lone caretaker of everything around the house, including the yard and landscaping that she was passionate about but was neglected following months-long stays at hospitals. I had to decide what to do with her clothing and possessions.

Relationships changed as well. Things felt odd, all of a sudden, with couples who were friends. I was suddenly the "third wheel" and dynamics changed.

Even babysitting the grandkids felt different.

Here I was, 52 years old and energetic and youthful still and full of life and certainly not wanting to be alone. Obviously, I wanted someone to love and the question of romance sprung forth. How soon would be too soon to date? How would my children accept their dad with another woman? What would others think if I decided to find someone to love and cherish in a matter of months? And should I even care about what others think?

I went to the internet in an effort to gain some understanding. I found no clear-cut answers. Some suggested not entering a new relationship for at least a year. Others suggested that each person must decide when it's right for them. Others suggested being sensitive to the kids but not let them dictate decisions that were made.

Somewhere in conversation, I learned from my grandmother, that her grandmother, Betty Caroline Derberry, had lost her first husband and hastily remarried two weeks later. When the second husband died, she married a Mr. Woodley a month and a half later.

Through chance circumstance, I'm in a new chapter of my life and in a new relationship. Her name is Sarah.

We've enjoyed a great and happy relationship since we started dating last year. Intensely attracted to one another, our chemistry is special. Tall and blonde, Sarah has a smile that makes me melt. Besides being an attractive woman, Sarah has offered amazing companionship and has presented a different experience in a mate. I have an opportunity to value Sarah - and show her in little and big ways - in the way that a man should value a woman.

Sarah has an energy and perspective that has both taken some adjusting to and she's challenged me on some of my ways of thinking and me on hers. But there are butterflies for sure.

We're very different in some respects and similar in others. She has encouraged me to do things I've never done before. We have jet-skied together, hiked to Half Dome together, traveled together and she encouraged me to live out a lifelong dream - to fly on a hang-glider. I found that she can ride - and enjoy - the roughest rides at any amusement park. She's jumped out of an airplane and I anticipate I will allow her to coax me into doing the same. I've taken her places she's never been before and we plan to do more traveling. Because of Sarah I've attended concerts at the Gallo - something I had never done before. In turn, I've taken her to community plays - something that she had never experienced before. She accompanied me to Vegas - on Valentine's Day - when Pawn Stars TV show producers called me to come down to film a segment for TV (which happens to be scheduled to air on Thursday, Aug. 14.)

Fourteen years my junior, she has children younger than my grown children. I've grown to know and understand their personalities and I appreciate the adjustments they've had to make for me. Her family is feeling more like my family as she continues to get to know mine.

Be happy for me. I feel fortunate indeed to be available at this time of my life as she is as well.

Meeting you was fate, Sarah, becoming your friend was a choice but falling in love with you was beyond my control. Here's to our new adventure in life.

How do you feel? Let Jeff know at