Walking My Land, Saying Goodbye

This acreage once housed my dream. When Rob and I bought our property in 2018, we sensed a shifting as our children eased out of homeschooling and into hybrid schooling. For the first time since our early marriage, I would have some time to spare, some extra space to breathe and dream. Rob and I had always longed for land, and I began to pour myself into dreams for this acreage. Our move had been hard for me, and I was hopeful about this land offering me new purpose.

The plan was that when our family returned from our road trip last fall, I would renovate the interior of a workshop on the back of our property and turn it into a quiet retreat for local artists and writers. Rob helped me brainstorm and create my business plan to turn another outbuilding into a rental space. Instead of looking outward for purpose, I would turn inward to this 2.5 acre plot we’d chosen together.

But last summer’s road trip ended in death, and last fall was — and every day since has been — not a shifting but a sifting. Sorting out the dreams I could keep alive. Saying goodbye to the ones that died with Rob’s death. As I realized I couldn’t manage our big property alone, I had to admit that my vision for our acreage was a dream I also couldn’t keep.

Walking the Land

Yesterday, I walked my land for the last time. I traced the old stone wall lined with oaks and maples that have guarded its boundaries for generations. I said goodbye to the hydrangea and her blossoms, to the lavender my sister planted for me after Rob died. As I neared the little unfinished workshop overlooking the pond, a quiet deer bounded off into the woods, its white tail waving a farewell. The workshop’s windows stared out at me like mournful, empty eyes. It never lived the life I hoped it would.

As I walked my land, I wept. Deep sobs that exhausted me, emptied me. I carry so much sorrow. There is so much I leave behind. The memories of Rob. The dreams for my future. The good, good life we lived together. Grief has lived on my land as long as Rob did. As I stood in silence, listening to the birds in the marshland nearby, I could not help but think. I am weary of grief’s companionship.

The Companionship of Grief

I didn’t want to move to Massachusetts when we came here two years ago. I didn’t want to return after Rob died. Over the last year of grief, I have struggled to shoulder the burden of maintaining this acreage without him by my side. I knew from the very beginning that I didn’t want to do it alone.

But yesterday, on that last day, I wished I could take it all back. I wanted to cling to this place, the last one that will ever have memories of Rob in it. I wanted to somehow resurrect our old life, revive all the dreams I’ve had to bury since he died. I wanted the little workshop with its broken glass panes to miraculously become before my eyes a dream realized, not a dream lost. I do not love this place, but I have loved this land.

I write often about the growth I believe can be born from grief. I firmly believe that transformation is possible. But we will never get there unless we allow ourselves to experience the full weight of our sorrow. Unless we open the door to grief, let her drop her suitcases in the hall, offer her the spare bedroom and invite her to sit down to tea. Transformation after loss only happens when we acknowledge grief as our companion.
There is no other way.

When I signed the closing papers for my property, I came across this line in the legal writing: “I, Clarissa C.B. Moll, being unmarried…” I wasn’t expecting it, and it hit me like a gut punch. I still have to remind myself of its truth many days. I came to this acreage a wife but am leaving a widow. I dreamed new dreams on this land but am leaving with different, fledgling ones. I leave behind the marks of a life with Rob and take with me only memories of our life together. Grief, not Rob, walks beside me into this new chapter.

For the last year, this land has not been mine alone. Grief has walked every inch of it with me. My new unwelcome companion has marked this land as much as I have. As I say goodbye, I am reminded of these words from one of Rob’s favorite novels, Hannah Coulter:

“Sometimes…I wander about in this house that Nathan and I renewed, that is now aged and worn by our life in it. How many steps, wearing the thresholds? I look at it all again. Sometimes it fills to the brim with sorrow, which signifies the joy that has been here, and the love. It is entirely a gift.”

Wendell Berry, Hannah Coulter

This land. This life. This love. This sorrow too. Somehow, in ways I still cannot understand — entirely a gift.

Falling Asleep

When our first child was born, Rob and I quickly realized the all-consuming nature of baby bedtime routines. After the evening feeding, Rob swaddled our little girl snuggly, hoisted her high onto his shoulder and slow danced her through the kitchen to the melodies of old church songs and Crosby Stills and Nash.

As she quieted in his arms, Rob gingerly tiptoed into our apartment bedroom to lay our sweet girl down to sleep. Swaying before her little crib, he slowly lowered her into bed, a deep knee bend worthy of any yoga instructor’s praise. He held his breath so even that would not wake her.

But no sooner had her head touched the mattress, our baby’s eyes sprung open. She locked gaze with Rob and let out the wail of one who feared banishment forever. Alone? In a crib? Sleep? Never! Back he’d head to the kitchen dance floor to start all over again. “Just let yourself fall asleep,” we’d plead with her, as if she could understand us.

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Giving in to Sleep

After weeks of this routine, there eventually came a night where baby’s belly was full enough and her body tired enough that she’d give in quickly to sleep. Rob lay her down in the crib and backed slowly out of the room, waiting to exhale until he crossed the bedroom threshold. For the rest of the evening, we sat in anticipation. Would she wake up? Would this be the wondrous night we’d heard so much about — the night our little daughter would sleep a full eight hours for the first time?

The longer we sat, the more the quiet surprised and unsettled us a little. Was she okay in there? Should we be watching her? What was previously relief evolved into worry. We poked heads in, letting our eyes adjust to the bedroom’s darkness. Yes, her little chest rose and fell with the rhythms of her sleep. She was just fine. After many nights of bedtime struggle, she was finally resting in peace.

Asleep in Christ

Rob and I often talked about the different ways we name death — crossed over, died, passed away, resting in peace. We both particularly loved the Apostle Paul’s phrase “asleep in Christ.” Its subtle eschatology expressed our faith, and its gentle imagery touched our hearts. The phrase conjured up images of our babies, wrapped in their swaddling blankets, curled up against Rob’s warm chest, swayed gently to and fro in his arms to the soft music of his calming voice. This solace, this comfort and rest, was what we longed for in our hour of death. Asleep, resting without care. Safe in the bosom of Jesus.

This past Sunday, August 9, marked a year since we laid Rob to rest in the little mountain cemetery in Washington. When I think of that day, I can’t help but see the parallels with those baby bedtime routines of long ago. Jesus took Rob into his arms in death. But in an earthly way, Rob’s burial was a bedding down. A little folding of the hands in sleep. August 9, 2019, was a bedtime ritual of its own.

As I think of Rob now, buried in that quiet cemetery 3,000 miles away, I’ve come to see his grave for what I know it really is — a resting place. When I become anxious about him or the physical distance between us, I remind myself that a year ago we repeated a ritual he and I did so many times with our babies over the years. We lay our beloved one down to rest, and we quietly stood back. Holding our breath, watching for signs that he was okay, allowing him to give himself fully to sleep. And when we saw that all was well, we walked away. A normal, natural pattern to bedding down writ painfully deep on our hearts. August 9, 2019, was the hardest bedtime routine I’ve ever enacted.

The Dawn to Come

Years ago, Rob and I were talking to our pastor and his wife, commiserating about child bedtime struggles. Why was it so hard to turn off the light at night? Why did our kids seem to fight sleep with every ounce of their beings? As adults, we saw rest as something to embrace. Our kids seemed to want to avoid it at all costs. “Every night is a little death,” my pastor mused. “And every waking in the morning, a resurrection.” His words struck me. No wonder it could be hard for our children to let go at night, to offer themselves up to the unknown vulnerabilities of slumber. The letting go necessary for restful sleep could be a mammoth endeavor.

August 9, 2019, was a day of mammoth letting go, a bedtime ritual deeply painful. I know that Rob is dead. I’m not afraid to use that word. However, neither am I afraid to say that Rob is asleep, asleep in Christ. And like Jairus’ daughter, like Lazarus, like Jesus himself, someday Rob will awaken. This burial, this bedding down is not the end. Someday, from his resting place, Rob will rise to see the dawning of the new creation, the rising of the Son of Righteousness with healing in his wings.

A year later, I’m still waiting for that day. I’ve laid my beloved to rest. I stand at the threshold of life’s door, holding my breath, waiting for signs that he is waking. In a curious twist to the old familiar bedtime routine, it is I who now fight the sleep that has overtaken him. I want Rob to wake up. I’ve never been more ready for resurrection.

Even so, I must say, “Beloved husband, just let yourself fall asleep.” You — and I — are safe in the arms of Jesus. You rest in peace. I wait in expectation. Both of us, for now, in these corruptible bodies. One day, together awakening to the passion, the glory, and the beauty of the incorruptible.

Maranatha. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

The Right Way to Grieve

Six months after Rob died, a global pandemic began. What a crazy year in which to grieve. While COVID-19 has complicated our grief process in myriad ways, foremost, the pandemic forced me to reevaluate the wisdom of cross-country travel this summer for the anniversary of Rob’s death. I wrestled for months about giving up that plan. I’d already made the itinerary and carried it in my day planner since the winter. I didn’t want to give it up.

With every fibre of my being, I wanted to be there in that place to remember the day Rob died. I wanted to visit his grave, spend the day in the mountains. Eventually, though, as COVID cases surged in the west and other states along our route instituted travel restrictions, I made the hard choice to give up my plan. Saying goodbye to the hope of a Washington summer not only meant saying goodbye to road tripping and being with friends. It meant giving up the opportunity for on-site grieving, which I assumed must be the most valuable and important kind.

Healthy grieving relies on understanding your limitations, and I finally had to acknowledge mine. The things I could control, and the things I couldn’t. I grieved the reality that, because of COVID, a cross-country trip with four kids didn’t seem wise this summer. And I came to accept it, albeit begrudgingly. I felt no pressure from Rob to be there. He wrote a book about dying; he knew how hard grief was to navigate. He would have understood and supported my choices. He trusted me to make good decisions for our family. Instead, I felt pressure from myself to “do this right.” I’d fallen into a classic trap: I believed there was only one right way to grieve the first anniversary of my husband’s death.

Once I made the decision to stay local instead of travel this summer, questions arose. How to mark this day that changed our lives forever? What could we do if we couldn’t grieve on-site? Would anything we did be even close to adequate? Well, come to discover — grief isn’t site specific. You can do it anywhere.

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Hitting the Road

A few weeks ago, we loaded up our camper and drove south to spend four days on Cape Cod. If you were to rank vacations, it wasn’t the greatest. COVID restrictions limited how many cars could park at beaches, making access almost impossible for out-of-towners. All of the souvenir shops we loved to browse limited customers, and the oppressive heat left us craving exclusive access not to their merchandise but to their air conditioning. Large crowds outside of our favorite walk-up fried clam joints made local seafood less appealing. Add to all that a consciousness of why we were going away in the first place. At one point, my son astutely observed that perhaps we shouldn’t have expected much from a vacation planned on the anniversary of Rob’s death. For a bit, I thought maybe he was right. Maybe this had been the wrong way to try to grieve.

But as we drove along the Cape’s quiet back roads, we began to reminisce. Here was the place we’d stopped for ice cream with Rob that summer we’d camped a stone’s throw away. There was the baseball field where we’d watched a summer Cape Cod League game together. As we filled the car with memories, I added ones the kids had never known — of the years we’d vacationed on Cape Cod when they were too small to remember. Rob body surfing at Nauset Beach, his husky voice growling out a Creedence Clearwater Revival hit on karaoke night at a dive bar in town. Funny stories of our younger years, wistful memories of times gone by.

Another Sort of Burial

On the evening of the anniversary of Rob’s death, the kids and I set out for our favorite beach, a place full of memories. Memories of a dad who helped his kids collect crabs in tide pools, of a husband and wife relaxing together in beach chairs while their children happily played in the surf. Memories of happiness before it was marred with sorrow.

The kids and I wrote notes to Rob and sealed them with corks in tiny glass bottles. And when the tide stretched out as far as the eye could see, we dug a hole deep in the sand. As the hole began to fill with water, we plunged our hands deep, burying our messages safely into the ocean’s floor. We laughed as the water rose. We splashed each other and chased each other with seaweed. Our own little haphazard seaside burial, marked by a mixture of all the joy and grief of the last year. Life lived defiantly in the face of death.

When we settled into the camper that night, I sighed and said, “Well, we made it.” “You’ve been saying that all day!” one of my kids exclaimed. I hadn’t realized it. The words had been my litany over the day without my even paying attention. Maybe I hadn’t grieved the way I thought I wanted, but the day felt like a finale nonetheless. We’d grieved the best we could with what we had. And somehow the day felt complete.

Here’s To Making Do

As much as I talk about flourishing after loss — and I’ve come to ardently believe in its possibility — I also believe in simply surviving after loss. Sometimes surviving is more than enough. Surviving a crappy COVID vacation. Surviving a year of navigating life with grief. Surviving the absence of my beloved, not simply 3,000 miles away but seemingly an eternity away. Grief doesn’t need to be deeply symbolic or ceremonial. It doesn’t even have to be site-specific. There’s a lot to be said for just hanging on, for making do with what you have. There’s no one right way to grieve.

I discovered that day that our family didn’t need to be in Washington to say goodbye to Rob again. Life asks us to do that every day. Though I’ve restricted our travel this season, grief has still joined us wherever we’ve gone. We could bring our grief wherever we traveled.

If that’s the case, if grief will companion us wherever we go, here’s to simply hanging on, to surviving the very worst, to making do with what we have. Here’s to lackluster vacations and grieving rituals, to the shifting of tides and the ever-presence of memories regardless of location. Here’s to grief and love that know no geographic boundaries. Here’s to making mistakes and reworking plans and pointing our feet forward, however awkwardly, toward new life after loss. All of this is the right way to grieve.

It’s Alright to Cry

Since having kids, I’ve become a real crier. Perhaps motherhood’s hormones tipped the scales. Maybe I’ve just developed more empathy as I’ve aged. Whatever the cause, the result has been lots of tears in our house. Happy, sad, angry, wistful, frustrated. All the tears. They’re all welcome.

As a regular crier, I’ve always disliked the term “ugly crying.” In my book, no crying is ugly. Body shaking sobs that make my mascara run? Sacred. Weeping that leaves my eyes puffy and my face red? Endearing. Humans are the only living things on earth that cry. What a sacred honor to be able to express our emotions in such a visceral, physical way. Expressing our emotions in tears is never ugly. Tears are healthy, cleansing, empowering, precious.

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Since Rob died, I’ve cried a lot. Weeping. Bawling. Wailing. There has been so much to grieve. An outsider might say my tears haven’t been pretty, but I think they are beautiful. Every tear reveals the depths of my heart, a heart that is full of love and wrestles with loss. I cry when I think of the happiness of my past life with Rob. I cry when my heart aches from his absence. The Psalmist tells me that God keeps my tears in a bottle. None of them are ugly to Him; all are precious.

Many times, grieving people find themselves apologizing for crying. In the grocery store or the doctor’s office, they tear up and find themselves saying, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to cry.” They believe their tears are ugly, something to hide, unwelcome. They think grief is an emotion nobody wants to see. I’ve done it myself, found myself explaining away my emotions to make someone else more comfortable. How unfortunate.

Rob used to tell our kids about a song he sang as a child in school. “It’s alright to cry. Crying gets the sadness out of you.” Hokey lyrics, perhaps, but scientifically accurate. Tears are not only beautiful expressions of our emotions. They release hormones that ease pain, improve mood, and relax us. Far from being ugly, crying offers our bodies the opportunity to rest and repair.

Recently, I was talking to my grief therapist and she stopped me short. “When did you last have a good cry?” she asked. I was surprised by the question. When I thought about it, it had been a while since I’d teared up. I hadn’t realized I was carrying my emotions without giving them the opportunity for release.

A few days later, the tears began to fall. The catalyst was so insignificant, I can’t even remember what made me cry. All I remember is how much better I felt afterwards. Beautiful, painful tears had brought relief.

Poetry Friday: “Farewell”

Recently, my kids and I enjoyed a getaway respite at my sister’s home down on the farm. Moving in the midst of grief and pandemic is challenging, and we all needed a break. My sister’s acreage abuts farmland that is under conservation, preserved for generations to come just as it’s been farmed by generations before. It’s a beautiful place to rest and recharge.

As I watched the cows happily moving across the field, their babies trailing along behind, I wondered what parts of my life will be thus preserved, protected for time to come. Since Rob’s death, life has felt entirely upended, the future now feels so uncertain. In the face of death, what truly can last?

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I own no land that will be passed down to generations after me. I have few possessions that bear lasting value. I am reminded of the words: “all flesh is grass.” And I realize that no attempt to preserve or protect my little life will ever be successful. If even great men and women are forgotten, surely someday I will be too.

And then, I remember Rob, my grandparents, my friend who died of cancer. Though now absent, their lives continue to bring meaning to mine. They are preserved in memory, protected in the heart from the weathering effects of time. My love for them and their love for me is forever imprinted on my heart. Outward remembrances may fade away. But love stands the test of time.

I have no gift of land to place in conservation when I die. My descendants won’t jockey for any valuable possessions. But I hope my love will be preserved forever in the hearts of those I have cared about long after I am gone. What a joy to discover that is conservation work I can start right now! I can invest in relationships, plant the seeds of remembrance by loving well today.

Today’s Poetry Friday poem comes from Anne Bronte. As you reflect on her words, consider the parts of your loved one that last after her death. What investments can you make now to offer others a loving, lasting memory of you?


by Anne Bronte

Farewell to thee! but not farewell
To all my fondest thoughts of thee:
Within my heart they still shall dwell;
And they shall cheer and comfort me.
O, beautiful, and full of grace!
If thou hadst never met mine eye,
I had not dreamed a living face
Could fancied charms so far outvie.
If I may ne’er behold again
That form and face so dear to me,
Nor hear thy voice, still would I fain
Preserve, for aye, their memory.
That voice, the magic of whose tone
Can wake an echo in my breast,
Creating feelings that, alone,
Can make my tranced spirit blest.
That laughing eye, whose sunny beam
My memory would not cherish less; —
And oh, that smile! whose joyous gleam
Nor mortal language can express.
Adieu, but let me cherish, still,
The hope with which I cannot part.
Contempt may wound, and coldness chill,
But still it lingers in my heart.
And who can tell but Heaven, at last,
May answer all my thousand prayers,
And bid the future pay the past
With joy for anguish, smiles for tears?

No One Told Me Marriage Was Like This

“We realize it’s not about what we get out of our marriage but about what we become in our marriage.”

Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage

A year after we were married, Rob wrote a piece for MarriageTrac about our rocky adjustment to wedded life. He and I were both independent and more than a little stubborn; and, like all young couples, we fumbled our way toward wedded bliss. Many times, we discovered to our dismay and dislike that marriage pinched. No one told us it would involve so much self-sacrifice. I chuckle as I read those old words of Rob’s now. We were just kids back then. Our brains were barely done growing. We had no idea what we were doing! 

Now that Rob is gone, it would be easy to gloss over those tough early years, to only remember the prettier picture of our marriage matured by time. When I think of our early marriage, I cringe a little when I remember the awkwardness, the petty arguments, the hurt feelings, the “me first” attitudes we both had to shed. I’m embarrassed to say our marriage was sometimes messy. 

And then I remember that perfection was never our goal. In that first year full of foibles, we also read Gary Thomas’s Sacred Marriage together. And we chose this question from Thomas’ book to guide us as we developed our relationship: “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”

As I reflect today on what would have been our eighteenth wedding anniversary, I can say with full assurance that my marriage to Rob made me deeply happy. I loved our life together. I see that it sanctified me as well. The years of iron sharpening iron, the wearing down of those rough edges, the commitment to love each other like Jesus loved us. 

Through almost two decades of marriage, I learned to love someone wholly other than myself. I learned to put his interests before my own. I learned to listen rather than speak, to support rather than critique, to serve rather than seek to be served. I was — and am — no saint. My attempts were marked by all of the sinfulness in my life that still calls out for redemption. I never reached perfection in my marriage. But perfection was never the goal. That’s something only God can do.

On their anniversaries, some husbands tell their wives, “You’re still the same girl I married.” I hope that Rob wouldn’t say that of me. After all of our work in the trenches of marriage for all those years. After the beautiful, though imperfect, pursuit of holiness together. After all we endured as our love formed into something that would last. Instead, on this day, I hope that Rob would say, “You’re not the same girl I married. I love the changes I see in you.”

Poetry Friday: “Club Sorrow”

Grief can be such an isolating experience. I talk to so many people who feel ostracized from their social networks after the death of a loved one. It is challenging to navigate relationships with a heavy burden of sorrow, and many bereaved people feel abandoned by those they considered close friends. They find that their friends simply don’t know what to do or say in the face of loss, and they quietly slip out the door.

What if you could find a place in your grief where you belonged? Where you felt truly heard and loved and accepted? What if you could become a card-carrying member of “Club Sorrow”? Today’s poem explores this idea.

I love that Maude Hutchin’s club of sorrow encircles the earth. Rather than walk alone, those who grieve stand hand and hand with one another. What a poignant picture of the universality of grief and the companionship to be found inside it. Whatever you face today, I hope you find a hand to hold, a friend to walk with you through grief. I’m honored that you walk with me in mine.

Club Sorrow

by Maude Phelps Hutchins

Lots of people are sad
Let’s all cry
And make a noise
As deafening as the sea

Each will bring a member in
And a member each another
And end to end
We’ll encircle the earth
And let none by who laughs
Aie Aie

A smile we may permit
But circumspect
We cannot be responsible
For loss by theft or fire
Our movements will suggest our sorrow
We’ll carry a furled flag
We’ll learn the chant of widows
And the wail of younger pain

And secret grief we also will admit
Provided the bearer writes in a book
The cause and content of his woe
Provided the girl reveals
As proof of her seduction
To the sad

The Love That Remains

Today this thought struck me as I rode my bike: Rob is never coming back.

A year after his death, you might say, “Duh.” And part of me would heartily agree. Even a cursory look at my everyday life makes it obvious. The dentist no longer calls with Rob’s appointment reminders. Our bank accounts bear my name only now. Rob’s razor is gone from the shower, his shoes moved from the hallway closet. A year later, I don’t expect him to walk in the door anymore.

After 17 years of marriage, it’s hard to pretend your other half lives in your house when his absence is so evident. I’ve begun to acknowledge Rob’s death in myriad outward ways, to accommodate for his absence as best I can. But recently I realized that my heart has held out hope much longer. Over the last twelve months I’ve clung to the idea that I could keep loving Rob the same way I always did. Everything outward might change, but surely my love could stay the same.

The year mark of Rob’s death has come and gone, and what would have been our 18th wedding anniversary approaches next week. These milestones speak to me so clearly. He’s never coming back. And just as Rob’s side of the bedroom closet looks different a year later, my love for him is changing too. I feel a lump rise in my throat as I reflect on this reality again. The realization breaks my heart. Of all the changes, I’ve dreaded this one most sacred thing.

As Long As We Both Shall Live

When I married Rob I promised to “love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as [we] both shall live.” I’m an Enneagram six; we’re wired for loyalty. I took my vow to love seriously.

For 17 years I kept my vows to Rob the very best I could, ardently, if imperfectly. I held him when he cried. I honored his leadership in our home. I loved him in his sickness and in his health. But I can’t do any of those things any more. He’s never coming back. Even if I wanted to resist this reality, I look at the vows I spoke to Rob 18 years ago next week; and I realize I have no power to prevent this change. Losing this part of loving Rob is part of grieving his death. Some parts of our vows simply don’t work without two people present.

In my grieving process, I have encountered catch phrases like “After Death, Love Lives On.” These phrases are popular in the grief counseling community. I think they try to capture the idea that when our loved one dies, we don’t stop loving them. We don’t simply ditch them and “move on.” If that is the intention, I subscribe wholeheartedly.

However, if I am to grieve in a healthy way, I must admit to myself that the love I carry for Rob, the love that remains after his death, does not stay static. Love may live on, but it changes too. Like other loving relationships, my relationship with Rob will evolve and mature with time. Even if his death biblically, technically, released me from my marriage vows, I promised Rob “as long as you both shall live,” and I’m still here. I am loyal and don’t make promises lightly. I heartbreakingly acknowledge that my love is changing. But what kind of love lives on after death? What does loving my husband look like when he’s no longer alive? How does my loving change when I must acknowledge he’s never coming back

Over the last few months as I have contemplated this change, I’ve discovered within my marriage vows the very answers I have sought. There are many ways I cannot love Rob anymore. Practical, physical ways. If the entirety of love was service and sex, our love has ended. But many of the promises I made to Rob all those years ago I can still keep, even as they evolve and grow according to my new life after his death. I can love Rob. I can honor him. I can be faithful to him. Even if he’s never coming back. If my heart breaks to see my love change in the face of death, I can hold on to these things. I can still love Rob well.

What Love Looks Like Now

A year out from my husband’s death, what does my love look like now? In some ways, it looks the same as it always did. I love him. I love Rob deeply, with all my heart. I want the whole world to know I love him. I’m still attracted to him after all these years. When he’s absent from the room, I long for the physical love of his presence. I honor him. I speak good words about him. I do not use his absence as an opportunity to malign him. I honor his voice in our family. I reflect his wishes in my parenting decisions. I consider his values when making choices. I am faithful to him. I remain faithful to our shared vision for our family. I faithfully and gladly acknowledge that I am and always will be Rob’s wife first. 

I also acknowledge that healthy love does not remain the same. That my desire to freeze our love in time was a desperate response, not a healthy one. As I release my grip on the love Rob and I shared, I find I am actually able to love him better. Less selfishly, more open-heartedly. Love expressed in his absence necessarily looks different from how I expressed it during his life. But this love can still grow if I cultivate it, even as the years of his absence pass by. There is so much I must leave behind. Nevertheless, so much love still remains.

My love for Rob is just as strong as it ever was, even if it’s nuanced by his death now. I miss his presence every day. I miss all of the ways he loved me. I miss all of the ways I could express my love for him. We said, “as long as you both shall live.” Even in Rob’s absence, I fully intend to keep my side of the promise. Even as my love takes new shape in the years to come, I will love Rob for the rest of my life.

Poetry Friday: “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep”

“Death is real; there is no need to say that because our loved one is in heaven, death doesn’t exist.”

Rob Moll, The Art Of Dying: Living Fully Into The Life To Come

Today’s Poetry Friday poem was penned in 1932 as the United States shifted away from its Victorian-era fascination with death toward a death-phobic 20th century. Mary Elizabeth Frye wrote this poem to comfort those who mourn, and it became wildly popular in her day. Even though it is scientifically inaccurate and emotionally avoidant, it’s still popular today. It’s easy to understand why. When we stand at the grave of the one we love, we want to believe Mary. We want to believe our loved one isn’t really there, that he or she didn’t die. We want to deny the harsh reality of that cold marble stone in the grass before us.

But pretending our loved one hasn’t died doesn’t help anybody, and swallowing our tears when we long to weep inhibits the healthy grieving process. Our loved ones are not sunlight or diamonds or stars or rain. They are dust. Heartbreaking — there is no other word to describe it. This is the tragic reality of death.

I am convinced that if we are ever to grieve fully, we must stop pretending and turn toward this reality. Rather than push them away, we must welcome our tears and embrace our sorrow with compassion and kindness. In effect, we must read Mary’s poem in reverse.

My children love the concept of reverse psychology. Sometimes, to mix things up, I’ll tell them “Don’t go clean your rooms! Don’t you dare do it!” They laugh and run away to “rebel” and do the thing I precisely told them not to do. I encourage you to read today’s poem as an exercise in reverse psychology. What invitation to grieve opens up when you are able to hear your loved one, through Mary’s words, say, “Do stand at my grave and weep. I am there. I do sleep”? How does the shape of your sorrow change when you are able to acknowledge the finality of death? What would you add to Mary’s words to make them reflect the reality of loss you experience? If you were to reply to the speaker in this poem, what would you say?

Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep

Mary Elizabeth Frye

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

Investing That Made Our Family Rejoice

In 2017, Rob accepted a position with Eventide Asset Management, a values based investing company in Boston, Massachusetts. Rob had profiled Eventide in 2014 while on the faith and business beat for Christianity Today, and Eventide’s philosophy of “investing that makes the world rejoice” captured his attention. In every work environment, in our home and church life, Rob enjoyed attending to the needs of those around him. He loved to bring people together, and he felt deep satisfaction when the whole group was thriving. Rob was excited to join the Eventide team and work with them in service of the common good.

Our family was deeply rooted in Washington state, and the company graciously allowed Rob to work from home and commute regularly to the East Coast for meetings. Since we homeschooled, this meant that all six of us spent every day at home together when Rob wasn’t traveling. For the last three years of Rob’s life, our family enjoyed the treasure of this unique intimacy. 

Rob’s work from home days meant a million casual opportunities for family time. Each morning, Rob woke early to meet the stock market’s opening bell on the East Coast. The kids would sit around the kitchen table sleepily eating breakfast when he came down to brew his second pot of coffee for the day. Rob would hoist our youngest onto the counter and let her pour the water into the coffeemaker, a responsibility she held with pride. 

When lunchtime rolled around, “Shhhh… Dad’s on a call!” alerted rambunctious boys to burn off energy outside after a morning of focused schoolwork. And at the day’s close, Rob would open his office door and holler, “I’m off the phone!” The kids would come running in for a wrestle or hug. A “floor bed” on Rob’s office floor was each sick child’s special privilege. The sick one would lie quietly right beside Rob’s desk, mending and reading books away from the bustle of the rest of the household. 

The house feels very quiet these days without Rob working here. We transformed his old office off the kitchen into a music room where our boys can hold jam sessions and hang out. Rob’s office decor still hangs on the walls — pictures of him hiking with the kids, wall art of his corporate office along the Boston Harbor. The kids still jockey for who gets to drink out of the hip company travel mug, but nobody hops up on the counter to make the coffee in the mornings. The boys miss their lunch break P90X sessions with Rob in the attic room, the wrestling matches that signified the workday was over.

A few months ago, I met up with Rob’s old boss and his wife for lunch. After we ate, his boss ran to the car to bring me Rob’s suit jacket. Rob had left it in the office before we departed on our vacation, and it had hung there ever since. A quiet testimony to a friend and colleague lost. I remembered it at once; we’d bought it together right before Rob began working there.

As I looked down at the jacket on the way home, folded on the car seat beside me, my eyes filled with tears. It almost felt like Rob was there. There was something deeply significant about the way his colleagues had saved that jacket for me. 

Pundits and scholars and analysts have a million metrics for assessing the value of a company. They look at income statements and balance sheets, earnings forecasts and market competition. However, as I reflect on that suit jacket and on the years our family was blessed by Rob’s company, I believe there’s something deeper to consider when you look at investing in a company — the way they care for their people. The last three years of Rob’s life, three years of work-from-home school-at-home life, came to us as a gift from a company who loved their employees well. From an organization who sought to see beyond profits to people.

Working at home wasn’t always easy for Rob. I know we were distracting at times, and there are unique challenges to working far from your colleagues. But as I look back, all of those ordinary, everyday moments are priceless now. Eventide gave Rob a job, but they also gave us a treasure of family time in the last three years we’d ever enjoy together. They fulfilled their mission well. Eventide’s generous investment in our family life made our little world of six rejoice.