Monday, October 24, 2016


Question: “How are you?”

Answer A, the most common one: “Oh, you know.”

Answer B: “Shitty.”

Answer C: I pretend I didn’t hear the question. I really do that. Because I don’t want to have The Conversation, and even if people are only asking out of habit, I’m not interested in lying. There are times that I let, “Fine.” fall out of my mouth when someone asks how I’m doing, and I regret it. It’s not true. I'm functioning fine. I get the necessary stuff done. But I'm not fine.

Another workable answer might be, “I have no idea.” Am I going to cry in a minute? Am I going to get frustrated and throw something? Am I going to go back to bed? I don’t make plans because I don’t know if I can pull them off. I’m this lethargic, fragile thing on the verge of despondence or crying or screaming or slumping or I have no freaking idea.

I don’t want to write anything because I don’t want to propagate my depression. I’ve done a decent job highlighting what’s good, what there is to be grateful for, but I don’t feel a ton of that lately. I’m not bitter. I’m sure that will come soon. I am just so sad.

Gosh, but at the same time I’m not stupid. Or stupid enough to ignore the good of what’s right in front of me. I was sitting on the couch crying a couple hours ago, and there was a knock at my door, one of those incredibly well-timed knocks. It wasn’t just the cookies in hand that made me grateful—hell, delicious though they are, they’re so secondary to the kindness of a friend showing up at just the right time—it was the relief of being able to cry at a real person at that moment.

I get well-timed texts and emails from my people, known and unknown until now, telling me they’re thinking of me. It seems arrogant or assumptive, but I suspect that is happening a lot and I don’t know it—people thinking of and praying for me. Maybe I feel it? Or maybe I’ve just become so insufferably self-centered that I’ve deluded myself into thinking that my tragedy affected and continues to affect everyone else’s lives.

It means I’m touched though when people tell me how Jim’s death impacts them. It validates the pit of pain I’m still stuck in with no rise in sight, and also, I think it’s correct. Correct that people are changed. He was such a big personality. He had notable positive impact on really anyone who met him. I would be irked if his death was just something people felt sad about for a minute. It’s bigger than that and not just for me.

I am scared of forgetting. I am so scared I will forget what he felt like. Fretfully and with true trembling, I’m really damn scared. Over and over I listen to the couple recordings I have of his voice because I’m scared I’ll forget what he sounded like. Even with those recordings though I can’t find in my mind the exact sound of his voice when he answered my calls, “Hey baby!” I am scared of forgetting his habits. I sometimes have flashes of memory of something he did so often I can’t believe it wasn’t top of mind before. How can I forget his patterns? Time is going to pass and I am going to forget. I make notes. I try to capture what I can. I am so scared of forgetting all the things I loved about him.

On the wall just as you come in from the garage there is an 11x14 of my favorite of our wedding photos. The glass has fingerprints on Jim's half. My fingerprints. I touch that one as I walk by. I stop, run my fingers along his face, and sometimes I talk to him. Usually I just tell him, “I miss you so much.” Simple, accurate, inadequate.

I don’t like how I look in photos really ever. I’m not photogenic, and I’ve come to terms with it. I’d rather appear better in person than in photos anyhow. Point is, even though I don’t like what I look like in photos, when we decorated I hung quite a few pictures of us together throughout the house, because when I look at them I don’t see me. I see him. I look at the photos, I adore him, and then I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I’m in that picture too. Weird.” But euphoria, I think, makes people prettier. Being so deliriously in love has to have made me look better or—and this might make more sense to me—I know how happy I am in those photos and that makes me care less about what I look like when I notice that I’m in the picture too.

Seems when I’m in a crying phase—read: right this second—I put on makeup just to cry it off. I often don’t wipe the mascara stains from my cheeks. I don’t see many people these days so I don’t need to look presentable, and the people I do see generally expect that I’m going to be a mess. Also, I’m comforted by the honesty of looking as sad as I feel.

One of the kind gifts I received after Jim died was a Giving Key. It’s a key stamped with a word, and you keep or wear it until you find someone who needs the word on your key more than you do. Then if you’re ready you give it away. My key says Brave. When I received it I couldn’t think why I would need Brave. What does being brave have to do with losing your heart? I figured it out. It takes bravery to go out into the world when there is the risk you’re going to cry to strangers. It takes bravery to go back to things you did before. Walking out the door as a new widow requires a deep breath and mustered gumption because you’re an unfamiliar person, and you don’t know what it’s going to be like to interact with things and people from Before. Brave is appropriate. For now I need Brave.

Friday, October 21, 2016


I won my husband with a beach cruiser. Whenever I was nervous about something—teaching a new class, a presentation at work, and really all the things ever—Jim would say with total confidence, “You can do anything. You built a bike.” The bike’s what did it. I ordered a beach cruiser and put it together myself with things like ratchets and swearing, and that’s really all it took for Jim’s heart to belong to me. He thought capable was hot.

Wait, also my butt. That man loved my butt. He fell for my competence and my butt.

He loved lemon anything. Lemon cake. Lemon bars. He loved acidic food. When we were wandering around the Lake Michigan area back in May we found a shop that sold tea and fancy vinegars. He tasted the Meyer lemon-infused white balsamic and put it on the counter while I was paying for tea. “Get that too,” he told me. “It gave me lockjaw, so it’s good.” I could get him to eat anything so long as I drenched it in vinegar. Anything but broccoli and arugula.

He liked those weird, giant Smartie’s lollipops. He would put one down on the kitchen island and then smash it with a saute pan so he could eat the shards.

Thinking of him smashing the Smartie’s lollipops reminds me of a time shortly after his divorce that  Jim made chocolate chip cookies. The recipe called for softened butter and he hadn’t set any out ahead of time. So he got a cube of butter from the fridge and a meat tenderizing mallet, put them in front of seven-year-old Ben, and said, “Here, soften this.”

When I was doing the pharma thing meetings made me travel, and he always, always had a surprise waiting in the hotel room when I got there or something delivered later. Flowers. Pie. Snacks. Shoes. When I didn’t tell him ahead of time what hotel—often I didn't even check myself until landing at whatever airport they'd sent me to—he’d ask coworkers where we’d be. There was one trip where nothing came until the day before I left to go home, and I thought, “Okay, this is the time he forgot. That’s alright. He can’t be all-the-way perfect.” Actually he could. The hotel made a mistake and since I hadn’t thanked him for the flowers yet, he had to call the hotel and be like, “So you screwed up, right?” Yup. Habits are helpful. It was his habit to send me stuff when I traveled. It was my habit to thank him when I received it. Since I didn’t execute my habit, he knew something was off.

He liked that he was habitual and predictable. I pointed out that he always stood the same in the shower, and he got a kick out of that. I love that he liked himself.

Whenever Jim was proud of himself he got the same facial expression. His “proud face” I called it. That expression would be indistinguishable from the everyday to people who didn’t study his face like a wife would, but small though it might have been, that tiny shift charmed me.

When we flew places he would lean forward on the tray table and fall asleep. But first he’d take off his glasses and tuck them into the seat pocket. Then he’d take down the tray table, put up his elbows and his forehead in his hands, and fall asleep. I used that as my cue to tickle his back and his head. And when I reached around and touched his earlobe I loved looking to his face to watch the crinkles around his eyes deepen as he smiled. It happened every time.

Since he died one of the things that people tell me they liked about Jim was that he didn’t have an ego. He was humble though he had plenty of reasons not to be. I liked it though when he'd show the rare flash of ego. It was cute. I’d point it out, and he’d like that about himself too.

I feel so bad for my dogs. I wasn’t the best dog owner before he died. Now I’m horrid. I haven’t walked Gus since we lost Jim. And when I’m home it’s not like I’m playing with them. I’m on the couch or in bed. I’m grateful they’re old, that they aren’t puppies and require a ton of attention. I couldn’t pull off a puppy right now.

The rooms in the house that don’t have pictures of Jim bug me. Or even freak me out. I get all frantic and have to go find a picture and tack it up. I don’t like sitting in the spots in the house where I can’t see him. He should be all over the place. I wish he’d haunt me.

Lately the bargaining part of this shitty process looks a lot like wishing that I could just tell him stuff and know for sure he heard it. That’s all I need. I’ll stop being sad and mopey and start looking people in the face again if I can just tell him things I know he’d find interesting or would make him laugh. I don’t even need to see or hear his reaction. I can imagine it perfectly.

Being happy was fun. I have the best memories of my husband. He loved me so much and I'm grateful that I know I made him happy. I smile when I think of him and our memories. I cry when his absence is too big. It’s always there, but sometimes it's just too huge for mere gloom.

Saturday, October 15, 2016


I feel like I’m in some holding pattern, but I don’t know what I’m waiting for. Shit seems pointless. Nights and weekends are the worst. They make me negative. I’m not that strong person people keep telling me they admire.

I get stuff done. My house stays tidy and organized. My toenails are painted. There is healthy food in the fridge. I even eat it. I text my family and sometimes my friends. I take yoga most days. I’ve taught a few classes. When teaching I’ve done a good job pretending to be a normal person. My students laugh and move and leave with what they needed. One guy told me that he missed my wit and is glad to have me back. I replied that it’ll be better when I'm back to being myself. But c’mon, I’ll never be her again. That’s not me being forlorn and dramatic; my massive loss has made me different. I still have the the basic elements that make Megan, but I’m changed. I don’t know what I’m like now. I know that I don’t have much interest in being who I have been.

Jim said that he thought of himself as average. Average height. Average looking. Just your average guy. But we know that he wasn’t. He was vibrant. Being with him animated me.

Physically, I keep my commitments. Mentally I’m disengaged. It’s good I’m a decent faker. My days are a lot about Just Get It Over With so that my new constant companion, the sink in my stomach, and I can go home, settle into my nest in the far corner of the big couch, and watch The Great British Bake Off over and over. It’s all I want to do. I’ve seen every episode of all six seasons at least four times and the first three seasons more than that. For some reason it’s what I want to spend time with.

I look awful. I have a dull complexion and a dreary countenance. Drained, sad, weighted—my heart shows in my face—and I don’t care.

It's weird and even little offensive that people are living as usual. That they even can. But sometimes it feels stupid that I can’t get past Jim’s death. It’s never not hurting me. Should I be better? Should I have moments where I feel fine? Better not, because I don’t. People love to say “time will heal,” but A) I don’t so much want it to, and B) no it won’t. Time will just pass. It won’t heal me. It might teach me. By way of time I will learn how to do more, to be more productive, but it won’t un-widow me. It won’t bring him back. The only thing that could heal me and whole me is having my Jim.

Gone. Just gone. Trying to explain how that feels is futile. I know time has passed. It doesn’t feel like it. Has a month and a half really gone by? Has it really been that long since I’ve walked Gus or listened to music in my car? When I have to tell someone that I’m lazy or uninterested or just an all-around bummer because my husband died and they say they’re sorry for my loss and I thank them and try to push the conversation forward, what I really want to do is yell, “No! You don’t understand. This isn’t just some guy dying in a plane crash. He was different. He was special. Not just special to me because I’m in love with him, but actually special. Our relationship was enviable and beautiful and that makes all this sadder . . . ”

And here, I’ll say it, why in the hell didn’t an asshole die? The world is teeming with them, and the guy that died was Jim? Really? Jim? It couldn’t have been someone who sucks instead of the most thoughtful, most attentive, most selfless, most playful, most entertaining man, like, ever? Really? That’s what had to happen? That’s bullshit.

I wish I had his glasses. I have his backup pair and they’re the exact same style, but I want the ones he wore every day. But if his wedding ring came back to me bent and burned how mangled must his plastic glasses have been? I guess so bad that that the Medical Examiner’s office wouldn’t even offer them to me. Only the ring and his watch face, which was unharmed. Guys, buy Rolex. The bracelet from his watch was gone, but the face didn’t have a single ding and was still ticking when we got it back. If that’s not a compelling advertisement for Rolex, I can’t think what would be. The thing survived a plane crash with fatalities.

I hate this picture because it's before I got filler in my face and fixed the parentheses lines,
but I love it because it's real life. Jim is cleaning his glasses on my wedding dress. 

I’m all death all the time. Before Jim died, at the end of some yoga classes I told the students not to hesitate to ask me questions after class because “yoga is my favorite thing to talk about.” On the way home some nights Jim would correct me, “Yoga isn’t your favorite thing to talk about. I am. But that annoys people. I’m just a liiittle bit too awesome.” Too true. He was all I wanted to talk about before he died; he’s all I’m able to talk about since a fiery plane crash stole what mattered to me. It is so hard to care about anything—about anyone—else. I don’t care about the election or the fires in south Reno or people’s jobs or their kids. None of it matters to me. I’ve been thoughtful in my past, but with my heart went my good soul. I suck now.

I’m difficult to encounter in person. People don’t know how to handle me. Hey guess what? Neither do I. I don’t want to be treated differently. I don’t want to be treated the same. I don’t want to be ignored. I don’t want attention. I don’t want people to give me those sad eyes that they can’t help but give me, but I don’t want them to pretend nothing is horribly wrong. There is no right answer. Some moments I’m trying to do a good job living, teaching class, taking class, eating the right quantity of food that’s good for me. Other moments I’m laying in bed only going downstairs to get more of too much ice cream and too much Swedish Fish.

I want to park at Raley’s and before going inside text Jim to ask if he wants me to get him anything in particular at the store. And I want to get back the same answer he’d send every time, “Pineapple. Thanks, baby.” Man, he loved me. It felt exhilarating. It felt comforting. It felt too good to be true. And, well, turns out it kinda was.

Sunday, October 9, 2016



This morning I came across a note you left me when we were in Whistler. Made me think I oughta write you one of my long-ass letters. Been a long time since I’ve done that.

Hey, so my hands smell like meat. Ben came to hang out this afternoon, and I defrosted the Kobe dogs. I was stumped on what to feed him for dinner until I remembered you got those. “I touched meat for you,” I told him, “That's how much I love you.” I use the food you’ve bought—vinegars, frozen things—and get sad(der). Someday it will all be gone. All the stuff here will be stuff I bought.

As I was cutting him some strawberries I thought of how some mornings I’d come down for breakfast and you’d already have a bowl of cut strawberries waiting for me in the fridge with a little tag: For my wife.

Earlier as Ben was starting to build a new house in Minecraft he asked me, “What color do you think I’m going to choose?” “Red?” I answered. “Yup, Victory red. I changed my favorite color to Victory red.” He misses you. Also he’s spawning Minecraft polar bears like crazy right now.

I started crying talking to him a few minutes ago. We’re both on the big couch and intermittently chatting while he builds stuff and I type. He asked if his friends can come over. I said sure. “I mean not today, as it’s a bit late for that, but sometime, sure.” He replied, “Even though I don’t live here?” I told him, “You don’t live here anymore, but it is your house. You have stuff here—” this is the part where I lost it and couldn't talk for a sec—“ and your dad is here. It’s still your house.” We got kind of weird and quiet like we all do when this happens, and then he told the Stupid Megan joke to lift us. I love that you told the kids about Stupid Megan; we laugh about it all the time. Ben’s so much like you. He's tender and kind, and he thinks he’s hilarious. He’s right about that. Just like his dad.

Don't think we only cry about you. We laugh a lot too. Like about that time that you fell asleep sitting up right next to your gate in the Portland airport and missed your flight. Dude.

There is so much I want to tell you. All the things. I want to tell you the good things—how kind people have been to your family since we lost you, how much your kids and I enjoy being together, how effing cute your grandson is. And I want to tell you the shit things, like even though I don't physically weigh more than when you died I feel like the space around my heart gained thirty pounds. A lot of the time I sag when I stand.

I miss you so much that my breathing gets messed up. I'll suddenly wonder why I'm uncomfortable. Then I remember that I need to exhale. I went to class this morning and when Cassie talked about breath, like yoga teachers do, I thought, Yeah right, like I can even breathe at all. I went through a week or something like that where I thought, “Okay, so I don’t cry all the time. Alright.” That’s gone. I’m constantly weepy. Everything is so up and down. Dammit, the only thing that's certain is that you really aren't coming home. Jim, you bastard, just come the hell home.

This totally blows. You belong here. Not wherever you’ve gone to. 40 days. You’ve been gone 40 damn days. I’m still a mess. I’ll probably be a mess forever. Sometimes I try to talk to you aloud. Yeah, that doesn’t work; I hear a blood rush in my ears, my throat starts to close, and there's tears all over again. We had it so good. At least we knew it and didn't take it for granted.

I was tidying my nightstand last night and found another note, one of your 3x5 card love notes from a while ago. “My Sweet Wife, Every day I fall more in love with you . . . ” Gosh, I miss you. Thank you for leaving me notes. Yeah, they make me cry when I read them, but how great that I have them since they make me smile too. I am so grateful I had you. 



Oh, and oh my gosh, the freezer drawer in the cabinet? I totally turned that into an ice cream-only drawer. How did we not think of that earlier!? It’s stocked with, like, $200-worth of ice cream. It’s freaking genius. And tonight Ben had cookie dough ice cream instead of plain chocolate like usual. It way weirded me out.

All my love, really—all of it,

Your Wife

Friday, October 7, 2016


We were at Disneyland all week. Me, my four kids-by-way-of-marrying-Jim, the grandboy, Nathaniel, and the Allens (Traci and her three). We booked the trip way back in February. Even though Disneyland is not my thing, I was game to go. Jim makes everything fun. Then Brandon died. Had to cancel that ticket. Jim died. Cancellation number two. Our party had multiple deaths since initiating the booking. Don’t get too close; we’re bad luck.

On the flight down Ben sat between me and Josie. He leaned over after takeoff and told me, “It's awkward sitting between two crying people.” I cried during check-in at the hotel. On dark rides or slow lines I lost my place in time, fell into my head, and became some lady crying at Disneyland. In the evenings I curled up at the head of the bed and left mascara smears on the white linens. The kids get to a place where they have to just look away. Gonna go get ice cream, okay, Megan? Okay? I suppose it’s, uh, nice? not to have to explain why I’m crying. Again.

As we were landing at LAX Ben put his arm around Jo, pulled her to him, and put his head on her shoulder. It made me smile and then cry because whenever stuff like that happened Jim would try to take a picture real fast in case the sibling affection was a long time in returning. Blurry and dark though it was, I took the picture for him. I do that a lot and then cry because I don’t have anywhere to send the photos and videos.

A couple weeks ago I took pictures of Katelynn’s little guy kneeling at our glass door and banging on the windows. I wanted Jim to see that he has such big hands. While waiting for the kids to do some rollercoaster I hung out with our grandboy. He pulled his foot to his face—my yoga baby—and giggled. I took video and cried more, telling him, “Your grandpa would have enjoyed you so much.” I sent the video to my mom and sisters and they cooed like they’re supposed to, but it’s not good enough. I want Jim to be delighted. Please don't tell me that he is, that he is delighted watching us from heaven. He’s pissed. He wants to be here. And don’t tell me to text the photos and videos to him anyhow, that it will be therapeutic for me. I have access to those messages. I know he’s not on the other end. It’s not good enough. Nothing is.

I’m waiting for when this will all be less shitty. But at the same time I don’t want it to be less shitty. Less-bad days scare me. I want to be this sad forever because I don’t want to forget or get past or comprehend. I lost my person. Guys, I lost our future.

Every time I pick up my phone to check for messages I remember that it’s pointless. The name I want to see won’t be there ever again. I have people I care about who love me and are checking in, and when I look at my phone I see names—Margaret or Traci or Amy or Cameron or Kyle or Mom or or or—waiting for me and I feel this flash of gratitude or comfort, but the one name I wish to pop up never will.

Traci and I should probably get together and write a widows’ handbook for what to do with kith experiencing significant loss. A thing I’d include is to never hesitate to reach out despite suspecting that it might be useless or even an inconvenience. A text, an email—if you want to send something to say you’re thinking of the grieving, do it. That stuff softens the hurt for a second. Even if you don’t get a fast reply or a reply at all, trust that your note or your flowers made a good impact. Think of it like this: the person who relished caring for me is gone. When someone else does, no matter how few the words or small the gesture, it has the potential to make a moment less awful. That ain’t nothin’. I'm lucky to have scads of quality humans thinking of me and telling me so. It doesn’t get old. It’s never useless. I’m grateful. My guy would be too.

He wanted to be at stupid Disneyland. Where we all are, wherever that is, that’s where he wanted to be. We did our best with this trip. We kept track of each other. We cared for us. We were together all at once. And thats really all I can consistently pull off right now—just showing up.

Disneyland 2014

Friday, September 30, 2016


The laundry is too easy now. It’s small. I have clothes enough to do it only every two weeks, and since my clothes are little, the basket doesn’t fill up. I don’t wish I had more laundry. I wish I had Jim's.

There is dust accumulating on his beard trimmer next to his sink. How do I clean off the dust without wiping away the gray whiskers still on the trimmer? I want his whiskers to stay.

Though I really try not to see it, even through the worst thing that I've ever experienced, there is too much good to ignore. I don’t have him, and while he is the only thing I want, I do have so many other things.

So say he had to go. I don’t know in what scheme of things, but say he had to die. If he had to go, we that are left behind are set up well to keep going. His company, Victory Woodworks, is stronger than ever. When I would travel with Jim for meetings or vacation, there would be days that he’d hold up his phone in the evening and say, “Not one time. They didn’t need to contact me once.” His guys—my guys—were running the business then like they are now. Jim worked to become unnecessary in Victory’s day-to-day operations. The team, they want him. They miss him. But to keep crushing it, they don’t need him.

He took care of many things around the house before he died. He swapped out the knobs on the cabinets in the laundry room so the old ones aren't there to irritate me. He fixed a part on the new garage door opener so that it doesn’t malfunction anymore. He hung a new TV. He replaced the light on the deck.

There are things in the house that aren’t so much undone as needing to get started. At 10 the night before I lost him we were in bed and I remembered we hadn’t yet decided on the new bathroom tile and I needed to return the samples to the flooring store the following day. I turned on the lights, brought him the swatch boards, and he picked which of my options he preferred. So when I get around to redoing the bathrooms upstairs like we planned I know what flooring my husband liked.

When Jim and I were talking about getting married I told my then-therapist that I figured we’d just pop into the courthouse and tie the knot real quick. She took issue with that. She was adamant that we have a wedding. It didn’t need to be big, but we needed to have something. “It’s important to engage in the ceremony,” she told me, “His kids* need to know that this is important.” I grumbled, but I made it happen. We flew in my friend Ash to come shoot it because if I was getting guilted into a wedding I was gonna have photos of the damn thing. So glad we did.

At night before my drugs kick in and mercifully knock me out I lay in bed and look at pictures of him. Every night I used to snuggle up next to my husband and tickle his back until he fell asleep. I don’t have him, but I have the photos. If we hadn’t had a wedding and hadn’t had a photographer I’d have half as many pictures of my sweetheart. If for no other reason than that, I’m glad I went to a shrink after my divorce.

And then there are the memories. I have so many great ones. I don’t have bad memories of Jim. We didn’t fight. And this should be said: that wasn’t always easy. It was a choice. The beauty of our relationship was on purpose. We’d both just come from divorces and indifferent marriages and so we were deliberate about doing a good job together. While we were crazy in love and certainly compatible in personality and desires, our relationship wasn’t without effort. A couple of my mom’s catchphrases from when I was growing up were a guide on my end (and natural on his, I swear): “You love those you serve,” and “You can say anything—it’s how you say it.” I’m sure at some point I’ll want to write more about how we did a good job being married, because we really did, but for now know that while it felt magical, it didn’t happen by way of magic. Our over-the-moon union happened by way of intention, follow-through, and abandon.

Don’t give a shit what anyone else might think of your relationship. If you want to sit next to your person in a restaurant booth, screw the naysayers and do it. If you want to lift the center console in the car, slide along the bench seat, and sit closer, do it. Give in to the sap. Kiss in public. Keep holding hands even when they start to sweat. Be a little uncomfortable to relish the comfort of closeness. Touch more.

There were times that I felt stupid and hesitant about blogging so much about Jim, about exposing my delirium and infatuation. But it was too big to keep to myself, and now I’m grateful for every word. I read my memories and can’t help but smile. I look at our pictures, listen to recordings of his voice, spray his cologne on his jacket and wrap it around me, and for a second—and maybe it’s only a single second before it all makes me cry again—I have him. Those pieces are all I have. But at least I have something.

* It may seem strange that I don’t write much about the kids. But their grief is personal. Their lives are their own. We hang out a lot and love being together, but any part of my story that’s closely intertwined with theirs belongs to them as much as me. I’m careful with that stuff. 

Monday, September 26, 2016


Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. Where’s that sixth stage of grieving, the one I’m in right now—Dead Inside & Productive. DIP. I’m in the dip.

I’m holding it together remarkably well. My mom tells me, “Sorry that you’re really good at this, but you’re really good at this.” Shit. Why? I want to be one of those people that can’t get out of bed and it’s okay because she just lost the best thing Planet Earth had to offer. The problem with that is that it’s not me.

I know who I am. I’ve always been proud of my strong sense of self. Jim loved that about me. I loved the same thing about him. I wasn’t just his wife; I was his match. I am capable, reasonably smart, determined, and episodically indefatigable. I was this person before Jim. Eventually, even after losing him, I’ll be back to being the person he loved, only sadder. At present I’m just resentfully able with a hole inside me that somehow has physical weight. How can empty be so heavy?

I find that I sigh a lot. Great sighs. Stops between big things like opening the estate bank account and small things like making toast. Where I am feels kind of like dread. Maybe dread for the future. My long, long future without him. It makes it hard to care about stuff. Like sunscreen—why put on sunscreen if maybe my leaving it off can give me cancer, and if I get cancer I might die sooner and then I’m spending less time living without him? I don’t know what I believe about what happens when we die, but I know for certain that this life is now without my person. So I’d prefer that it’s a lot shorter than is expected for a vegetarian, teetotaling, drug-free yoga teacher.

Lots of stuff that I might have enjoyed before seems worthless. Okay, so I take apart the guest bed and get rid of all the big pieces and get a new one and assemble it myself, who cares? I used to do things like that while Jim was at work and it delighted me that he would be impressed. Now who’s going to be proud of me and say “my wife’s a badass” when I’m a capable asset and not a burden? What's the point?

There’s good and bad to posting how I’m doing where everyone can read it. The good is that people know. The bad is that people know. It’s nice for me to be able to express stuff I’m feeling in pretty extensive detail without having to tell everyone individually how things are going. But people I see while out running errands as I pretend to live normally know that I chucked a remote across the room one night. (They don’t know though that a few days later I also chucked my phone and a metal stool. Aw eff, they do now.)

There’s also the fact that my feelings change so rapidly that whatever I posted a couple days ago could be worlds away from how I’m feeling now.

I’ll say this though, the writing and the posting helps. I don’t know why. I’m sure there’s some psychobabble to explain it all, but I don’t actually care about the why. I care how I feel, and if I feel solace of some sort by making the details of my inner workings available to anyone who can read, well okay then.

I think that act even further solidifies me as Jim’s complement, the throwing it all out there. When Jim’s ex-wife was having an affair he told anyone who would listen what was going on and that he was trying to save that marriage. He had no shame about being a cuckold; he needed help and keeping quiet and being secretive about what could potentially be embarrassing wasn’t going to help him and his kids. Should my children see a therapist? Where is the best divorce attorney? Is how I’m feeling normal? If you don’t toss out information you may not stumble onto the stuff that could end up most useful.

Unless we’re close, you and I, it’s my habit to be an intensely private person. Except in writing. When it’s just me and the computer screen nothing’s off limits. But when I’m posting my feelings real-time and seeing people who have read it all, it’s like we’ve had this long, really personal conversation and I wasn’t there when it happened. It’s equal parts awkward and easy.

As I go through all that needs to be done after your husband dies—will stuff, business stuff, figuring out how to hang a bike from the garage ceiling—I try to move quickly. Sometimes I feel like I’m running from what what I know and what that’s doing to me. If I move fast then the truth won’t catch up. But then I'm standing in the grocery store staring at rows of cans of chili, not sure how I got there because I don’t eat that stuff, and the weight of my new lonely and shattering reality returns.

He’s gone. Tomorrow marks four weeks since I’ve heard from my someone.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Tuesday, August 30.

Jim kissed me goodbye at 3:45AM. I woke some but I can’t remember if he kissed my face or just my arm. I was in the middle of the bed, nestled more toward his side than my own.

Wheels up was a little after four. He'd chartered a plane to make it a day trip. On weeks where we have the kids Jim avoids overnighters. He was aiming to be back in time to get Josie from volleyball. John, the pilot who was also Dustin’s first flight instructor, flew Jim and Luke, Victory’s V.P., to Vegas where they picked up another guy before heading to their meeting in Southern California.

I skipped class that evening. I ate ice cream instead. At 6:30 I’d just mowed down my second knockoff Drumstick when Jim’s mom, Gay, called me, “Have you heard from Jim?”

“Yeah,” I told her, “He’s on the ground by now. Well, I mean I haven’t talked to him, but we texted earlier. He’ll have landed. He’s getting the kids. I expect him any minute.

“Megan, there was a small plane crash in Rock Park. I can’t get him on his phone.”

“Okay . . . Okay. I’ll Find-My-iPhone him and get back to you.”

I logged into his iCloud. All devices on his account were offline. All the iPads and iPhones, the computers. iCloud must be broken. I logged into my own account to make sure that all my devices were offline too. Nope. It located all my stuff. Refresh, refresh, refresh. All Jim’s gadgets were still offline. My calls went unanswered.

From my car seconds later I phoned Gay and told her I couldn’t get him so I would go down to that RV park. Why not? Then I called Dustin. He’s a pilot.

“I hope I’m calling you prematurely,” I said, “but I need you to try to call John.” I told him about Gay’s call, about how I couldn’t get his dad on the phone or find him. He listened to air traffic control. Nothing useful. He called me back after talking to John’s flight school. I had a hard time understanding through the new pitch in his voice. It was John’s tail number that went down. They’d seen black smoke.

I get calm right here. I think I detach.

Jim enjoyed reading aircraft accident reports. Weirdo. When he told me about the accidents, what errors pilots made or conditions that caused a crash, I always asked, “Did they live?” He’d scoff a little and tell me, “Of course not. No one ever lives in these things.

I thought of that while I drove. “‘No one ever lives in these things.’ My husband is dead. I’m driving to where my husband is dead.

Emergency people surrounding the park stopped me. Look fraught, say “my husband was in that plane,” and they let you through. I tried to read the cops’ faces. How much pity? How much did they know? I worked through the first layer of responders. Then the second. Once parked, the policemen steered me to the other side of a Suburban away from the media.

It starts to get fuzzy here. I don’t know how much time I spent sitting the back of a police car. Was it 20 minutes? An hour? Who said there were two fatalities? “But there were three people in the plane,” I told someone. Jim, the pilot, and Luke. All anyone knew was that there were two fatalities. How long before I thought to call Mike, Victory’s GM, to ask if he knew if they off-loaded Luke on their Las Vegas-stop coming back?

They did. Luke deplaned and flew back on Southwest later.

Two fatalities and only two on the plane. John. My Jim. But not really. Because he was just coming back from a meeting and he was going to pick up the kids. He was looking forward to seeing me.

The kids. At some point Katelynn called asked what was going on. Someone had told her to call. Gay sent Jim’s brother-in-law, John, and his son Rand to me. When I saw John I chucked myself at him harder than I’d ever done to anyone in my life. I can't imagine how he remained upright, but he held me.

When did I text Traci? Did I call her too? I must have. She came to the RV park.

Mike and Brandan, Victory’s COO, were suddenly there. It only occurs to me now that I don’t know how they got through the barricade. There must have still been a barricade. With them I started what would become my habit for the weeks to come, the consoling and recalling. I looked up at Mike, failed to hold it together, and told him, “I know there will be time for this—I’m sure I’ll say it again later—but Jim was so proud of you. He thought of you like a son.”

When did I call my parents? I know when I did it wasn’t twenty minutes before they were in the car on the nine-hour drive to me. I don’t think I spoke with Katelynn again. Maybe I talked to her husband Nathaniel? I know I talked to Dustin more because we discussed how to tell the little kids. What do I do about the little kids? Their dad was hours late to pick them up.

I took a call from a number I didn’t recognize. It was the kids’ mom. She’d heard rumors. I stopped her. “I’ll tell you what’s true. Your kids’ dad is dead.”

The next call was Josie. It was all the way dark by then. Her sobs triggered mine, and I remember crying with her while I sank back against Traci’s car and slid to the ground.

Rand drove my car and Traci drove me. When I got in her front seat I said, “I’m going to come off as cold as this gets started. I’m good at this. I’m good in crisis.” How did I know that? My husband has never died before. But I was right. I’m irritatingly capable with this shit.

By way of calls and text messages, we, Jim’s closest family—the wife, his kids, his sisters, his mom—we knew. The rest of his close people, his Victory Woodworks family, were next.

Like I threw myself at John the night before, when we got to Victory at six the next morning to meet with the employees I hurled myself into Luke’s arms. Luke was alive. By getting off the plane in Vegas and flying home commercial, Luke lived. I remember saying again and again, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry you have to live with this.”

I’m so sorry we have to live with this. Here we are though. I’m grateful every day that Luke lived.

I spent a lot of today at Victory and told so many of the team, “We’re missing the most important piece, but we have all the other parts. We will make this work.” I’ll be damned if we don’t crush it, the work, the living. It’s been three weeks today. For however temporarily, I suppose it’s about time I got to this place.

Saturday, September 17, 2016


The TV remote that was already a mystery is glitchy now because I threw it across the room on Thursday night. My mom sat calm on the couch and didn't say anything. If throwing the remote is what was going to alleviate any kind of anything for her daughter, throw the remote already.

It didn’t help. I figured out nothing truly does. There are just the occasional unpredictable ups flecked through persistent ache.

I didn’t get to see him, his body. Not that I wanted to. I didn’t. But I think not having seen Jim's body leaves a gap I can’t bridge. I never saw proof beyond the two personal effects that the Medical Examiner gave me—his watch face and scarred ring. We didn’t get anything else, not his belt or his phone, his wallet, not even his damn socks.

A couple days after after he died the nicest one at the Medical Examiner’s office called me with a note of comfort—and maybe relief?—in her voice saying that they’d recovered his wedding ring.


I can’t get beyond that word. Recovered. They didn’t just slide the ring off his finger. They recovered it. He wasn’t him anymore.

The M.E.’s office called me again later—“Mr. Elliker has been scientifically identified by dental records." So we have verification, but the last time I saw him he was alive. I know I’m not supposed to think about the graphic details, everyone tells me not to, but I can’t help it. I think of the body that did such a good job loving me. They had to identify him by dental. They couldn’t just have someone do it by sight.

The pit in your stomach reading that? It’s my fixed parasite.

Just like I don’t know which scrap of life will serve as an up, I don’t know what will set me off. The other night it was seeing our dog Gus automatically settle into his bed. Around midnight I finally said we all could go to sleep. The dogs and I went upstairs and my mom tidied a little before heading to her room. She found me on my bedroom floor stuck in silent, exhausting sobs. Seeing Gus do what he always does when Jim is home was too much. Gus plops into his bed in the corner. Sophie hops into her basket. Jim gets in the shower. I take the decorative pillows off the bed, fold the big comforter in thirds, turn down Jim’s side, turn on my lamp, habit after habit now missing a part.

How horrible for a mother to sink to the floor to hold her sobbing adult daughter? But she did and cried too. My parents carried me through that dark space when my ex-husband had an affair and I got divorced. And then they lived elated when having and loving Jim made me better, healed in my heart and broader in life. And now. Now my mom is here to just be here because it’s too much by myself.

Don’t take the patterns for granted. I’m so glad I was never mad about tidying up the night’s detritus each morning. Toss Jim’s gum from the nightstand. Move his slippers. Rehang his face towel. For some things his habits dictated mine, and picking up the paper towel wads all over the kitchen when he’d been in there didn’t irritate me. A little bit of Jim here, a little there.

I tell the truth when people ask how I am holding up. Not great. I feel like I’m always hovering on the edge of of something, waiting to deal with the surprise of what I’ll feel next. I see a couple holding hands, happy, and leaning against each other and I smile. I’ve had that and it’s wonderful. I see a couple holding hands, happy, and leaning against each other and I cry. I’ve had that and it’s gone.

I have to get out of bed now. I get Ben and Josie today, and while they know that I’m basically destroyed, I need to not be a mess when they’re here. At the burial sitting in front of Jim’s casket, I was a disaster. I was crying hard and felt Ben’s hand slip around my arm to comfort me. He’s 10. Katelynn took my other hand. When it comes to feeling what Jim was, we are what we have now. What we had can't be recovered, but even if it’s only by way of being in the place their dad lived, maybe today those two get some sliver of peace.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


Today I took donuts to the Victory Woodworks people. My team. I decided we’d celebrate a not-bad day.

I don’t understand what’s happening right now. I’m not bawling every minute. Yes, I’m low. I feel sludgy. There is that weight in the center of my chest that hampers good posture, but I’m not crying. And if I’m not sobbing every second, if I go for hours without tearing up, I feel like I’m being disloyal to Jim.

I have been trying to figure out why I am feeling a little better and how I could possibly not be this constant puddle on our closet floor. I’m coming up with two things: the heap of incredible memories I have of my darling husband and, well, you people. The mass of kindness and support I’m getting from friends, Jim's stalwart kids, yogis, my family, Jim’s employees, and people I don’t even know is overwhelming and is this thing I keep in my pocket next to the evidence bag the medical examiner gave me containing my husband’s wedding ring.

Bummer, I know. The ring came back to me misshapen and scorched. Seeing its condition rips me. I hate what it implies.

I'm feeling sorry for myself. Of course I am. But I cannot deny the spots where I’m fortunate. I’ve told person after person—usually with tears brimming and a tight throat—that I don’t have a single regret from when he was alive. There isn’t anything I wish I’d told him. He knew how I felt. I knew how he felt. We loved each other hard and squeezed every drop of juice from our life together.

Today when I was talking with one of Jim’s guys at Victory he commented that there is a last time for everything. Well, shit. An unfortunate but accurate point. Our lasts together reflected all the times that came before. On our last night together I tickled his back while he fell asleep mumbling, “This is my favorite thing. I love my wife. You’re my favorite. This is my favorite time. I love my wife . . . ” over and over. The last time I saw him he woke me up to kiss me goodbye. My last text said I loved him. His last text said he was looking forward to seeing me.

I’m lucky that I have a few recordings of his voice—a couple voicemails, the talk he gave at Brandon’s memorial, a recording of him snoring. In the snoring recording I ask him to roll over and as he does he tells me, “I find you irresistible.” I literally have a recording of my sweet, late love telling me he finds me irresistible. Who gets that? It’s like the life we had together—time and again I asked, “Who gets this? How can I be so lucky? How is all this happiness mine?” Its precious source is gone, yes, but, my, the remnants are so sweet.

Don’t count on my present positivity and gratitude as a persistent thread. I’m learning that this process is made of rapid slips and slides and stops and skips. This moment is one where I can’t overlook the good.

Being less despondent makes me suspect that I’m ready to try life by myself. I’m good at alone. No, I have to qualify that: I used to be good at alone. I will be again—it’s my nature—but right now my thinking is early and overconfident. I’m not ready for what’s next, not ready to be alone. So my mom is here with me and I’ve told her, “Sorry Sue, but you live here now.” She’s the best, so she said okay, ordered some t-shirts to be delivered here because she didn’t pack enough short sleeves, and told my dad back in Utah, “Love you. See you when I see you.” He's on board.

Some nights when Jim and I would go to bed he’d lay on his back and I’d smash myself up to his right side. He’d put his arm around me, pull me as close as he could and ask, “Why are you so far away?”

“Why” isn’t my question right now. It’s more “how?” How is this true? It’s more “really?” Really he’s never coming home? We never get to make another memory? All the photos we have of him are all we’ll ever have? I’ll never again run my hand along his beard? Really, never? I can’t decide if I’m more comfortable with the incredulity or if I’d rather get to settling into certainty.

Oh. Neither.

Monday, September 12, 2016


I’m sick of being strong. I’m sick of being inspirational. Of holding it together. I’m just sad. This is shit.

I went to yoga yesterday morning. It made me realize that it's better to take class here. When I’m able to take class I want to be in my community. Yogis here are spreading the word that what I want for now is for everyone at the studio to give me a wide berth and that giving me that space is caring for me. If I go and take class where the teacher and students don’t know what I am dealing with I won’t get the earnest tenderness that I do with my people.

While I cried for about an hour of the 75-minute class, I was surprised that my body knew what to do. My balance wasn’t terrible. My bending was the same. While my mind can’t come close to making it onto my mat, my body did what it was told. I’ve told my students that the practice they build is theirs, that it will always be there for them. Turns out I wasn’t full of shit. Not all the parts are there all the time. But pieces remain.

Everyone asks what they can do for me. The only realistic answer I can come up with makes me mad. It’s this though: Go love the hell out of your people. Love them hard. Make your person feel as loved as Jim made me feel. I hate telling people that because I want it back. We were shockingly compatible. It was unreal the way he loved me. We said, “This is what everyone wishes they had. How lucky are we?” But it’s gone, and here I am—through now-predictable tears—telling everyone, whether they want to hear it or not, to go make their relationships more. A Do-it-for-Jim!-type of thing. And I am sincere. But yuck. It’s not just unfair. It’s cruel.

Evidently I have to go through a bunch of terrible stuff. And because I’m tough and because I’m strong and inspirational and all that effing garbage, I will get through it. But I don’t want to. It doesn’t matter how resilient I am or how brave, Jim isn’t the prize. The person I want to be proud of me isn’t here anymore. So what’s the point of being great?

My autonomic nervous system is as stuck as the rest of me. I forget to breathe. Lots throughout the day I have to consciously exhale.

I know many people find comfort in thinking of an afterlife and seeing their someone again. Not me. It’s not Now. Now is when I want him. Now is how he lived. I don’t care about later. I care about this minute right now. I want to curl up against him and cry. I want to smell his smell on him not just on his jacket that I wear around the house. That isn’t good enough. Even if I stumble through the worst of the grief and I’m able to actually laugh or get up from the couch or eat more than Swedish Fish and whatever salad my mom hands me when I confess that all I’ve eaten is some candy and a Drumstick, even if I can someday sit up straight in sukhasana instead of slump or stand in front of a room to teach—everything after this is incomplete.

People ache their whole lives for the bliss I enjoyed in the day-to-day with my sweet, sweet Jim. I had an honorable man who adored me and made sure I knew it and so did everyone else. I had a man who left notes on the counter telling me that my smile made him weak in the knees. Who would leave two dozen roses in my car just because he knew where I was parked. Who always did the dishes after dinner. Who loved my body so much I was almost convinced it doesn’t suck. Who made little content sighs when I would tickle his back and who would fall asleep with his head in my lap and his hand clutching my foot.

Upon linking up with Jim I became a terrible friend, daughter, and sister because he filled any void. We talked for hours and hours and would have to cut ourselves off to finally go to sleep. When an event came up and I asked if he wanted to go, his answer was always the same, “Will you be there?” I explained accompanying him on so many seemingly mundane business trips as simply, “I want to be where he is.” I still do.

There is a Jim-sized gap in my little soul. You don’t fill something like that with other things. What he was wasn’t plain. What we had wasn’t ordinary. What I lost wasn’t small. And it seems that all that’s left is waiting for the end.

Friday, September 9, 2016


During the day I'm a little machine. The list of things you have to get done when your husband dies is long and grows by the day. Stupid stuff like changing the email address on the Hulu account and canceling the weekly milk order. Important stuff like dealing with the will and getting the death certificates. And stuff that falls somewhere in between there, like canceling his ticket to Copenhagen and repairing the watch he had on when he died so Dustin can wear it.

Yes, while I'm plowing though the massive list of to-dos, time sensitive and necessary by self-imposition, I crack. I cry. My voice breaks. I stop. But I put myself back together and get back to work, hopping from task to task, owning crisis management like my mom trained me, like a champ. 

I lose my shit over things around the house and things with the kids that Jim always took care of. A torn trampoline net. A confusing remote. A creaky cabinet door. How to get the lid on the Camelback to close because Ben wants to play with it. My people step in and calm me down and fix things. But they won't always be here. I'm going to need a new map for how to navigate the stuff that Jim did that I didn't even know about because he was quiet about that stuff. Because it wasn't a big deal. Because he knew how to do everything 

There are must-dos. But I try to remember that there are also things that I don't have to do. I have to do laundry, wash my hair, feed the dogs, and take out the trash. But I don't have to answer every text and message even though I'm grateful, go to the door, leave the house, answer personal emails, and clean out the yoga clothes in my bureau like I've been meaning to do for three months. 

There are things I wish I wanted to do because I used to enjoy them, like walk Gus, turn on Netflix, listen to music in the car, drive fast, laugh. That stuff doesn't make sense anymore. My person is gone. What else is there? We walked Gus together in the evenings. We watched shows together on the weekends. We were in the car together where constant conversation eliminated the need for music to fill silence. We drove fast in the best car ever. We laughed every single day. It was all We. Now it's only I. For always really. Because try to top what we had. You can't. What we had was annoying, only-in-the-movies, must-be-made-up perfection. If my sadness is going to be proportionate to my happiness, then I'll drown trying to find its bottom. 

Nights are the worst. It starts when I get on my computer to do one thing and end up instead clicking through photos and crying. That's when the crying isn't just a catch in my throat and sudden inability to speak. That's the crying that makes my insides seize and vibrate and breathing so difficult. I want to touch his perfectly shaped head and feel his hands where they're rough on the right knuckle and feel his arms wrapping me close. I want to have to scoot back to my side of the bed in the middle of the night because his body heat is making me sweaty. 

I keep my people up way past what's polite so I don't have to go to bed. Around 2am I get the dogs and we trudge upstairs. Here comes the hard part. But instead of crying myself to sleep anymore I lean on pharmaceutical intervention and pass out, not to get rest—Ambien doesn't leave you rested—but to pass the time unconscious. 

My body needs a yoga class. It hurts and I don't think I'm in a place to direct a self practice. But I can't go to class here and I don't want to drive far. Because the yoga community in Reno is tight, basically all the yogis know that the small, flexible girl with the substantial thighs is a widow now. And because the yoga community in Reno is kind, they want to offer whatever they've got and hold me. But I just want to slip into class as discretely as I can, set up in the back, try to move my body and not to cry, and slip out without accepting condolences. Even though I am bowled over by the kindness aimed at me, and I know that there's more than I'm aware of because people have been giving me space, being a distraction from what we do in those studios—self care—is so not what I need right now

Though—thanks to my extreme and potentially detrimental independence—the odds of me asking for help from anyone are about zero, I know that all the people who offer are serious. I believe that they want to—and they would—do whatever I ask. It overwhelms me. I hold the stacks of cards and the notes off of flowers and stall, just defeated. There are so many. How do I get started thanking them all? Don't tell me I don't have to. I'm not that guy. I do have to. It's how I function. Or used to, rather, when my heart wasn't underground in the most beautiful casket ever built.