To my wife, on the anniversary of her death

My Dude,

You’ve been gone a year. The enormity of this anniversary has loomed for a while but now that it’s here I’m having a hard time coming to grips with the reality of it.

A year without you. I lived twenty-two years without you before we met. Then sixteen with you. And now I’m back to accumulating years in the “without you” column. It was easier to pile those up when I didn’t know what I was missing.

It’s hard to talk about what it has meant to lose you without slipping into clichés: having a hole in my heart, the good days and bad days, taking things one day at a time. They are clichés because they contain some well-worn truth, I guess. But also, there are no good words to express the size of the loss or the depth of what it feels to lose the person you love. Clichés help approximate it.

What I’ve tried to do instead of using clichés is to focus on the smaller parts of the loss. To take it in small bits rather than all at once. That’s what this blog has been about, I think. A way of processing my grief in small doses and, hopefully, helping our son know both of us better in the process.

Our son. You would be so proud of him. He has weathered this past year with a grace that matches your own. He articulates his feelings remarkably well. He is resilient. He is kind and compassionate. His tender heart is somehow both tougher and more tender. He is a wonder.

Last night he told me he forgot what your voice sounded like. Not for the first time, I was grateful that we live in a time of cell phones. I pulled up a video I had captured of you reading with him when he was little. It was a book he had memorized before he could actually read the words. You turned the pages as he recited the story from heart. When he finished, you said, “You did it!” in your high, sweet voice. Our son on the screen smiled, and so too did our son sitting next to me watching the video. He remembered your voice.

See, I am keeping my promise. He won’t ever forget you.

And neither will I, of course. I have been thinking constantly about our sixteen years together.

I have been thinking about how the words “I love you” slipped from my mouth long before I ever planned to say them. We had only been dating a few weeks, but my heart already knew, and so it squeezed the words out into the world. I was surprised to realize how true those three words felt as I heard myself say them.

I have been thinking about how we almost broke up once. I was stressed out about entering a Ph.D. program, which might have caused me to move away from you, and I was wondering if we should break up before it got any more difficult to do so. Typical overthinking on my part. You told me I needed to figure it out and you quietly went back to your apartment. An hour later I came to your door and saw you had been sobbing. I told you that I realized I was being an idiot, and that I knew I would never find a love as good as what we had. After that, I was committed to us fully. It was the smartest thing I’ve ever done, after what was almost the stupidest.

I have been thinking about what a gift it was to see your face and hear your voice. I have been kicking myself for not fully appreciating that gift every single day.

I have been thinking about how I was able to come visit you at the hospital the last two weeks of your life. We hadn’t spent that much time alone together since before our son was born. At one point you told me that you were sorry that I was going to have to carry out all the responsibilities around the house without you. I told you I wasn’t worried about all that, that I would somehow manage. I told you the thing that I was most sad about and most afraid of was just how much I would miss being with you. And I was right. That has been the worst part.

I have been thinking about the courage you displayed at the end of your life, and the grace with which you died. I have been wondering if I supported you as well as I could have through all of it. I can’t imagine what was running through your head, especially at the very end. I’m glad you were surrounded by friends and family. I hope you felt loved and at peace.

I have been thinking about how one of our favorite songs was “The Luckiest” by Ben Folds. It made you cry every time you heard the chorus: “I know that I am / I am / I am the luckiest.” The fact that you were able to feel lucky after all that life threw at you says a lot about you. About your positivity. Your perspective. Your grit. But it also confirms that, actually, I am the luckiest. To have someone whose love for me was so strong and so certain that she could express gratitude even when being dealt the worst of hands. Well. I can’t believe I got to have someone like that as my partner for the better part of sixteen years.

I love you so much, dude. I miss you.



4 Comments on “To my wife, on the anniversary of her death

  1. Caleb, very touching tribute. I could feel the emptiness you went/ going through. Stay well for your son and for yourself. There are no comforting words. Death leaves us with heartaches that no-one can heal. But her love for you and your love for her leaves memories that no-one can steal.


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