Early in our marriage, Rob and I discovered that we enjoyed working together on writing projects. In college, Rob had studied English, and I had majored in communications. We both loved the written word and hoped to build communications careers after college. As husband and wife, we developed a great writing relationship.
In our 20s, when Rob worked as a journalist, he encouraged me to freelance as a stringer for a local newspaper. He taught me how to structure a news article; and while he wrote for Christianity Today, I covered town parades and high school graduations. Rob taught me interviewing skills, and I learned how to take shorthand notes that would make sense hours later when I sat down at my computer to write. I wasn’t particularly interested in journalism, but my little checks helped supplement our income. Before I knew it, I was a better writer and had a solid bank of clips.
On the childless weeknights of our early marriage, Rob and I would head down to the local coffee shop, grab drinks and spend the evening on our side by side laptops editing and writing. A penniless newlywed, Rob accepted every freelance project he was offered. If he couldn’t complete all the work himself, we’d divide his assignments between us.
On those nights, Rob and I wrote and edited countless articles, email newsletters, and advertising copy. An adjunct speech instructor at our local college, I showed Rob how to craft a tight thesis and how to structure an argument. He wrote my headlines; I wrote his deks. He wrote articles; I copyedited. We critiqued and edited each other, and our regular interaction with words made us both better at our work.
Though our communications careers took different shapes over time, Rob and I always enjoyed talking about writing and working on projects together. I edited both of Rob’s books and helped him write cover letters for job interviews. He reviewed my work email drafts and shaped strategic communications plans I wrote. No piece of writing ever left our home without two sets of fingerprints on it.
When I left my communications job two years ago this month in anticipation of our cross-country move, Rob encouraged me to begin thinking of what I’d like to do in this next season of my life. He told me to dream big and take the time to discover where I might best use my gifts. Maybe try something I’d never done before. Neither of us could have ever imagined this next season would be one without him in it.
As I have returned to writing and begun rebuilding my career since his death, I miss Rob’s fingerprints all over my work. He was so good at what he did. I draft a crisis communications document, and I miss his feedback. I get stuck on a paragraph, and I wish I could hash it out with him sitting on the sofa beside me. I have found friends to offer a second opinion or a solid edit, but none compare to this man who knew me so well he could complete my sentences.
Hidden toward the end of one of Rob’s books, there are a few sentences that I wrote for him. In a late draft, he was struggling with how to put his thoughts into words. We sat down together, and he talked it all out. “Want me to take a stab at it?” I asked him afterwards. He handed me the laptop gratefully. When I passed back his computer, Rob read my words, smiled and said, “That’s exactly what I wanted to say. Thanks, honey!”
To my surprise, those sentences made the final cut. When I look at them on the page, they don’t stand out. Any editor knows that’s exactly as it should be. My words blend seamlessly with his together on the page. The writer and the editor working hand in hand, creating something beautiful. His words, my words, our words. So much like our life, every part woven together.
After 17 years of writing together, I have realized that every word I ever write will be in some way because of Rob. Whether I tell his story or my own, whether I write an article or design a communications plan, Rob will be in all of those words because he is a part of me. Our collaboration for all of those years gave me this beautiful lasting gift, his words forever with mine.
These days, I miss Rob every time I see my words in print. Each time I send off a completed project, I cry. The person I most want to share this with — my editor, my co-writer, my husband — is gone. Rob used to tell me that he didn’t know what he wanted to say until he’d written it down. Maybe this will be the same for me too. As I write, now in his absence, perhaps I’ll discover what I want to say, who I want to be. In my words, I know I’ll always find Rob there too.
7 thoughts on “Words Woven Together”
Thank you for your beautiful, transparent, grieving,and rejoicing, heart. I miss your husband for you and your kids.
God has gifted you with expressing truth and grace and grief so beautifully.
Thank you so much for your sweet words, Alison. They mean so much to me!
This is so beautiful. I am leaning in as I read this – knowing this loss in a different way. My husband and I are a team, and we have built a synchronized unit where I do pink chores and he does the blue ones. These days, I am purple and he is working hard to try to reactive the neurons in his brain to move his left side at a stroke facility. I cry every day and miss his daily presence. Keep writing – your words strike chords of hope in my heart (and I am sure in many others across the countries).
It’s okay to cry every day and miss him, Jacqueline. There is so much to mourn. Wishing you a little rest in these days where you being “purple” and doing it all.
Tears. A beautiful marriage of two minds.
After Grandma Jean passed the responsibilities of executor were mine. I was preparing a letter to the beneficiaries and my first draft was rather wordy. Rob sat down at the dining table with us. He helped sort out what needed to be communicated now and what was for later. What was important and what was confusing. He told me about an author who said that what you take out is more important than what you leave in. If he’d had more time he could have made it shorter. Writing isn’t like talking. Not a lot of words to say a little but a few words that say a lot. Like a craftsman at his trade, Rob developed his skills. He told me once that to be a good writer you have to write all the time. During Rob’s ‘What Your Body Knows’ development, I sent him an idea. He liked it and said “thanks Dad, that might be a chapter”. Well it didn’t make the cut. He was too good at his craft. I once thought Rob might follow in my footsteps. He was good with his hands, but his craft was going to be different. Thanks for sharing that part of your life.
Thank you for this story! Rob was always so willing and happy to help with writing projects. You had different crafts but the same dedication to the task. Your example was a gift to him.