Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Missed, Loved, and Remembered

August 31, 2011

Hi honey,

Six years ago today you headed out the door for what would be your final bike ride. You checked the tires on your bike, oiled the chain, filled two water bottles, kissed me good-bye, left, came back for some unidentified thing (I still wonder what brought you back, and if those additional moments cost you your life), and then kissed me good-bye again. After that last touching of lips, our lives would never again be the same.

Every August I approach this day with trepidation. I wonder why the reality that you are never coming home doesn't lose some of its sting. Shouldn't I be used to this by now? You'd think after 2,190 days I could open your cupboard in the garage without tears burning my eyes. And yet, on Saturday when I pulled open both wooden doors to reveal the "stuff" I haven't yet been able to move...the life I used to lead jumped out and smacked me right in the face. The force that was you screamed from each tire tube, sports watch, track shoe, Livestrong band, and trail map that are safely tucked inside that 2'X4' space. The memories of daily runs, weekend bike rides, day long hikes, and various family trips floated through the open cabinet doors, taunting me with the nearness of what was; I had to shut the doors a couple of times to take a breath.

Because your death still takes my breath away. Because it still isn't fair that you aren't going to need those stupid deflated tire tubes. Because I loved the life I had that included you. Because you were important to so many people. Because collectively, we miss you every single day. Because the world isn't the same without you in it. But when I opened that wooden cupboard, it was like time traveling. Whirling back through the moments that made up our life together at warp speed, only to come to a crashing halt on the door step of reality. You are still dead.

And yet, you aren't. I still feel you. Not in the ghostly sense, but in the warmth of love. You can be found in laughter, especially the laughter of children. I feel your determination and discipline when I want to quit; your confidence in me when my own wanes; your ability to let go of troubles, when holding on seems the much safer course, every time I face uncertainty. You know me, and knowing that you know moves me, changes me, and propels me to dig deeper, try harder, reach further...make a difference.

Your sense of fun has inspired many a silly conversation, and a number of pranks. Your dedication to the people you love has changed their lives, even after yours ended. Your ability to push yourself to achieve your personal best has inspired many an athlete, some who race in your memory. Your refusal to be anything other than who you were, has cemented your place in the hearts of every person who loved you.

But perhaps your greatest legacy is the fact that those whom you loved, know they are loved still. That is what I hold onto when the reality of your death sneaks up on me. You loved me. And you still do.

Damn cupboard.

I love you now and always,


Special thanks to Janine for sharing her writing day with me on this anniversary...and to each of you readers with whom I can share both the heartbreaks, and the unexpected joys, of life after widowhood.


  1. Michele, your words wash over me with sorrow as well as comfort as I choke back tears...tears for you, for Phil, for your family. The sorrow is obvious but the comfort comes from the strength you have shown and the gifts you have given to me and countless other people who have lost the love of their lives. You are a true inspiration and I am so fortunate to have found you and SSLF. You and Phil are held in love and light.

  2. Hugs to you Michele. These dates are still important. I just had my 7th anniversary of the passing of my first husband. I find it a time to reflect on the life we once had. There are so many good memories. The garage is also a place where I keep his outdoor things: the camping and fishing and boating bits and pieces. They alway hit me with love and memory too. And I still have copious amounts of them. My son used much of the equipment for a while, but he doesn't seem to have time to camp and fish anymore. So they remain in the garage. I can't let them go: they are too much a part of who he was.

  3. Dear sister in sorrow - Michele - I weep with you and I stand with you in remembrance of your dear Phil. It matters little how long - the pain lingers and yes, can slap us in the face. May your memories sustain you - sending love and light your way today and every day.

  4. Dearest Michele, thanks for sharing the love that you had with Phil and also the unexpected loss you suffered 6 years ago today. I read your post today and could not hold back the tears. At 18 months, I often think back to my life and how suddenly it changed and will never be the same. I pray daily that my husband's death will yield a special gift to me in building up my compassion and empathy for others. Without any doubt, Phil's death brought you to this scary uncertain widow world.

    You remain a great strength for me. Hugs on this very special day!

  5. My thanks to you for writing such a beautiful post. I know that I, as well as most of the rest of us, could actually feel the memories roaring into you as you opened that cabinet door.
    I, too, have a spot in the garage where all of Jim's cycling stuff is .... the tubes, the tools, some of the water bottles, those stupid shoes that click clacked all through the house when he was leaving or returning from a bike ride. What I wouldn't give to have that click clacking back. And to be able to poke fun at him for those ugly biking shorts that turn most any male into a life size Ken doll .... if you know what I mean.
    It's so nice to be able to smile, and sometimes laugh, at the memories now. Yes, there are still tears, but there are also more smiles.

  6. How beautiful and bittersweet. My prayers for you as you navigate this difficult day. I have a wedding anniversary coming up in a few days, and the two year mark in October. I have been feeling down the last two weeks just thinking about it and also knowing the holidays will be here before we know it. I still haven't figured out even the first step in moving forward. I have all of my husbands' things, including clothing in the closet, have not been able to remove it, so it is nice to know that after six years you are keeping some items. I'm like you, the memories kill you, but it's too hard to let it all go. You have done extraordinary things to reach out to your comrades in this pain, so please know that your husbands' legacy lives on in a big way, and every life you have touched he has touched also. God Bless.

  7. I'm crying so hard, I can barely see to write. So beautifully written, Michele. I could *feel* every word. I hate how we know each other, but am so very happy we do. Much love to you today.

    Karen in AZ

  8. Michelle, hugs to you. What a beautiful post from your heart and deep within. As I read it the tears streamed down my face and an understanding of emotions that many of "us" understand. As I am 2 days away from my husbands passing your words really hit home. As I struggle thru this journey I often question why him?, why so young? what was reason? what was the purpose? why me? why should I go on? what is my purpose? does he have a purpose for me? I don't know the answers and don't know if I ever will but as I read your post and how you turned such a tragedy to hope and inspiration and a gift for so many across the states and now global is something that is unmeasureable. No cost justifies the loss of your husband and the pain in your life with but I am in awe of something so remarkable and beautiful the person you are. This (SSLF) makes me take another step forward and still have breath in me to still ask why but to also think just maybe the pain can turn something positive to making sure to keep him alive some how someway as you did.

  9. Oh sweet, dear Michele. I was so in the moment with you as you opened that cabinet. My heart goes out to you today as you share your memories with us. You are so special to so many. Phil is so proud of you and the things that you have done. So many of us are grateful that you chose to start Camp Widow. I'm so sorry for your loss. Hugs and love


  10. "But perhaps your greatest legacy is the fact that those whom you loved, know they are loved still. That is what I hold onto when the reality of your death sneaks up on me. You loved me. And you still do."
    Beautifully Sad. Perfect Post.
    Huge Hugs.

  11. What a gorgeous, gorgeous post. My deepest sympathies and hugs from a stranger on this anniversary. I need to have my husband read this, to understand why I won't let him just run out the door "for a second" without a kiss good-bye. Why when he leaves on the road, I say, "Just come home to me when your done." This tugs at my heart hard, and I wish I had the words to say the many emotions I felt in my heart and in my stomach as I read your words... your beautiful tribute to your husband. Thank you... thank you for daring to share this with the world.

  12. Michelle,
    Thank you for that beautiful post and all you have done for me and for others. Five years ago when I lost my Phil, my soulmate of 40 years, I was searching the internet for some comfort during one of many sleepless nights. I found your website and your messages and others have helped me get through this devastation called widowhood. That hole in our hearts remains through the years and it does not hurt as it did initially but there are times....

  13. Michelle,
    Beautifully written words. As I approach the 6th anniversary of my husband Sandy's death, I take comfort in knowing that the feeling of loss I still have, is felt by others as well. To some 6 years is a lifetime, but to a widow it is merely a blink if the eye.

  14. Heartbreaking…and beautiful. xo