Posted by: carolyn / through a widow's eyes | April 1, 2011

hey babe

This was a writing prompt / exercise  from my friend The Widow Lady, who generously shares her blog every month – along with her heart and soul. Her YOUR STORY feature for March 2011: Write a letter to your lost loved one.

I had to sit with her challenge for several weeks, cogitating, and reading others’ heartfelt letters, before coming up with any coherent thoughts. And one thing I learned is that the task of  “putting pen to paper” in this way is a lot different from idly thinking about what I’d say to him if I could.  I recommend the process, if only to burn the result or keep it somewhere safe and private. Unlike some. As I saw on another blog recently: “First of all, who gave you my diary? Oh yeah, it’s online.”

Hey babe,

I just casually toss that over my shoulder, because sometimes it feels like you’re right here, keeping an eye on us. You’re still my husband, still A.’s dad. You’re just somewhere else now. You are somewhere just out of reach, but somehow still within earshot.

Living with you and without you since you’ve been gone continues to be such a strange education for me. I didn’t expect this. Never been religious, because I never felt it in my gut. Never had an inkling of the afterlife, never believed in heaven, always considered myself a science – based person. But science is dependent upon hypothesis, query, and proof. I can’t prove any of what I feel. Such unexplainable and synchronistic occurrences have happened since you left us that now I just don’t know. I don’t know what causes the strong sensation that you’re watching me as I work in the garden, or right behind me as I open the back door and walk into the kitchen. And the uncanny intuition of knowing where to look to see the hundreds of small gifts I find while out walking, often crying (yes, still),  missing you, is not to be denied. Did you send them? How is that remotely possible? These feelings are crazy-making  –  that the phenomena that gives me so much comfort at the same time makes me so confused and doubtful of everything I thought I knew.

Our daughter A., now a young woman, home on spring break, crept into bed with me sometime in the night. This morning in the half-light of our room, my first sight of her took my breath away. Her face, turned away from me in sleep, showing only her cheekbone and dark brow and sweep of hair, looked so much like yours that it brought tears to my eyes instantly. And again now, remembering.

I wonder what you would think about how we’re doing without you. I know you would be so proud of our girl, going about her life, excelling in school, daring to head off on her own adventures. I don’t know how she has the strength – I surely don’t. My only consolation is what our friend S. reminded me, when you were dying and I talked privately with her, so worried how our girl would fare without you. She wisely said: Think back. When you were 18, how much did you think about your parents when you weren’t with them? And that was a relief, because my answer was Not Much. But A. is not me: she’s much kinder, more empathetic, an only child so much closer to us than I, one of many,  was to my parents at that age. My father died when I was 45, and it still took two solid years for me to get to some semblance of being at peace with his absence. You were dying while our girl was finishing high school and trying to figure out what she was meant to do next. I know she hurts so deeply inside, misses you so, thinks of you constantly. But she amazes me daily with her fortitude, her quiet wisdom, her serenity. Of course we both always marveled at her wit, her cleverness with language, her creative mind, and her inherent commitment to serve, working to make the world a better place from the time she was a tiny child. She makes me laugh and makes me proud every day. She is so much like you.

I wonder how you’d feel about my utter desolation after losing you. I think you’d be surprised that I am hurt so deeply. I know I am. I thought, after your long and terrible illness, and our troubles over the years, that I’d take a few months to recover, and then move on, the same person only better than before, stronger in the broken places. I hope for your sake that you can’t know the truth, because I think you’d be horrified at how much pain your death has caused me. I even have your bad habits now. Your foibles that annoyed me so: I watch in wonderment to see myself  incorporate your tendencies with my own, as a way to get through this. You’d be alarmed to see how much time I waste now, drinking too much, staying up too late, ignoring the demands of my body, shutting out my friends, spending too much time alone in the comforting blogosphere, even as you would be amused that those are the very behaviors that irked me about you. You would hate to see how I am so physically and mentally depleted since your death, how very sad I am, how long it is taking to “get better”.

I also wonder, if I had died instead of you, how your life would be. Would you be better or worse off than me, coming up on two years out? You were always so practical, so calm, a model of Zen acceptance, or stoicism, or fatalism, whichever way one chooses to look at it. You were so different from the old me who used to approach life with her dukes up. I am sure you loved me more purely, more unconditionally than I loved you. Would you have been able to wear the mantle of widower and stay present and strong? Or would your deeper love only make you hurt more deeply too? Would you be as broken as I am, or would you be able to accept what is and move on?

I am trying to follow the examples you set as you lived your life. Conserving energy for what matters, not worrying about the unchangeable, trying to see the big picture, choosing when to push on through and when to rest. There are lots of pieces of you in me now. You’ve changed me in ways you can’t possibly know, and in ways I never expected, even after all our years together. I need to access some of your grit and determination now, to pull myself out of this dark place.

I think you’d be proud of the person I will be when I am healed. I’m not well yet, and of course won’t ever be the same, but I know I’ll be better than before, from having had you in my life. I will be kinder, more spiritual, more disciplined, less randomly jumping from project to project, not always looking for the next new stimulus. I will choose more carefully how to spend my time and energy. I will notice and appreciate things I took for granted before. I will be the caretaker of what we built together. I will save from our old life what is valuable to me now, and jettison the rest. For our girl I will try to be the parent you would have been if you could have stayed.

I will keep trying. And I will keep on loving you.


your wife



  1. How incredibly moving. If my wife wrote something half as wonderful as this after I’m gone, I’d consider my life a resounding success.


  2. […] is a comment, from someone I don’t know and likely never will, on a recent story I posted here  [see : hey babe] and also at The Widdahood, a free social support network dedicated to anyone who […]


  3. Carolyn, I have been sitting here reading all of your words that speak right to me. This must be a Carolyn thing. All of what you put into words are what I am thinking and feeling. I am 2 years and 5 months into this ‘widow thing’ and I am trying to get a grip on it but like you I am depleated. I married him at 17 years old and I was 15 when we started this adventure. 38 years of marriage is a little hard to let go of. I wanted you to know reading your thoughts are a comfort to me Thank You, Carolyn White


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