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.

Poetry Friday: “A Better Resurrection”

What a week. I don’t know about you, but this past week has felt grueling. So many decisions, so much wrestling. I’m grateful it’s Friday.

Of late, my heart has been chastened. Too often it takes coming to the end of myself before I recognize my need for Jesus. I wish it wasn’t that way. I wish I relied less on my own inadequate strength and turned more quickly to him for provision. If I’m honest, even on my best days, my heart is like a stone. My harvest of achievements are an empty husk; my life is a broken bowl. No wonder I run out of strength. No wonder I feel lost when I try to forge my way on my own.

I appreciate Christina Rossetti’s words today because they bring me back to this core truth: Jesus is my life. It is only in him that I live and move and have my being. As the hymn writer says, “Nothing in my hand I bring. Simply to thy cross I cling.” And so, on weary days and triumphant ones, my heart’s prayer must always be for this resurrection life. “O Jesus, rise in me.”

Whatever you face today, it is my prayer that you find your life in Christ. He promises resurrection for this day and for the life to come. Thanks be to God.

A Better Resurrection

by Christina Rossetti

I have no wit, no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numb’d too much for hopes or fears;
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimm’d with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.

My life is like a faded leaf,
My harvest dwindled to a husk:
Truly my life is void and brief
And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall—the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.

My life is like a broken bowl,
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perish’d thing;
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.

Lessons in Bunny Trust

One evening this spring, my youngest looked out the window during family read aloud time and whispered, “Mom, a bunny!” Sure enough, on the edge of the thicket that lines our property, a baby bunny crouched. A little ball of fur so tiny it looked as though you could cup it in a single hand. We stopped reading to watch the bunny munching quietly; and, of course, we named him Peter.

Over the last couple months, we’ve watched Peter grow. Almost every night, he comes out of the thicket to eat grass and leaves just as the sun is setting. Always alert. Always alone. Sometimes my third-born quietly steps outside to watch him at a distance, setting out lettuce leaves and carrot sticks for our little friend. The bunny eats his fill then slips back into the thicket through a little entrance directly across from our living room window.

Photo by Pixabay on

Peter has grown a lot since we began our nightly viewings. But even though he’s a lot bigger, he still seems so vulnerable. Often he freezes in place and crouches low in the middle of his dinner. His big, beautiful, dark eyes always scan as he eats. His little ears move like radar, constantly twitching to pick up sounds of danger. He knows he’s small. He knows the world is big. There’s so much that could go wrong. Even so, there’s something in Peter that still brings him out into the vulnerability of my open lawn every night at dusk. Maybe it’s his hungry belly or instinct. Maybe it’s trust.

When we think of biblical analogies of trust, we often head straight to the gospel of Luke, to the lilies of the field or the birds of the air. Nobody calls forth the humble bunny as an icon of faith. But after watching Peter for these months, I’d like to add a third to Jesus’ lineup of pictures of trust. The bunny is less freewheeling perhaps than the other two. Certainly less glamorous. Bunnies have few defenses; they’re scared most of the time. (They’re herbivores — prey — after all.) But there is no getting around the kind of trust they must muster to live each day. When I look at Peter, crouching as he eats, venturing out each night into the open grass, I realize his life also is a picture of the life of faith. Not all faith is warrior brave.

Many days since Rob’s death, I’ve felt a lot like Peter. I sometimes wonder if “brave” is even written in my DNA. For most of my adulthood I have wrestled with the fallout of trauma-related anxiety and PTSD. Now I must learn to live without my strong, wise, beloved husband. I look out my window at Peter; and I see myself, nervous as life compels me to do the next necessary thing. Since Rob died, my life is filled with so many new tasks, and my survival and flourishing mean that I must venture forward to do them. Even if I’m afraid. Even if my trust feels thin. If I had my druthers, I’d rather hop back to the rabbit hole and enjoy bread, milk and blackberries for supper.

In the last year, I’ve received the lovely compliments that I am “brave” or “strong.” When I talk to other widows, they tell me they often hear the same things. Very rarely do I feel brave or strong. On the contrary, most days, my life is an act of bunny-like trust. Moving forward while still unsure. Venturing out in vulnerability while learning to shoulder my sorrow. Tearfully (and often, fearfully) taking the next right step alone. Learning to balance alertness and care without slipping into hypervigilance. Often it feels less like bravery and more like sheer survival. Everything was easier to do with Rob at my side, and I miss him there. This new life is hard to do.

Some days, I envy the lily of the field who waves effortlessly in the wind. Better yet, the bird of the air who sails on the breeze. Lilies don’t have feelings. They don’t understand the risk of stepping out in trust to eat your evening meal in the wide open. They don’t try to live their lives even as they watch for danger, for the neighborhood cat who might end it all. And some birds get to be hunters — falcons or hawks. Perhaps trusting wouldn’t be quite so hard if I could fly above it all. If I had the power to catch my next meal.

Of all the icons of faith, I see that Peter and I are kin. We shake nervously as we step out in trust, but we keep doing it. Night after night. Day after day. We venture forward toward the Jesus who promises to give his beloved every good thing, desperate for the sustenance that can only be found in the wide open life of faith,. We may not be outwardly strong and noble creatures, the bunny and me. But we can choose to trust. We can be faithful.

Recently, a pet bunny I know died of shock. It’s a common problem for rabbits. Thunderstorms, the howls of coyotes at nighttime — these and other frightening sounds, sights and smells can do poor bunnies in. Their rapid metabolisms can’t handle dramatic events. As I look out my window at Peter eating alone at dusk, I marvel. His fragility makes his faith all the more amazing to me. Stepping out into the open requires so much vulnerability, so much trust. What he craves must be stronger than his fear of the neighborhood cat or his dislike of thunder. His life depends on his willingness to trust.

My life too depends on this willingness to trust. So I pray for deliverance from fear, for Jesus’ presence in uncertainty. I pray for the mustard seed of faith that Jesus promises will move the mountains that stand before me. And over it all, I pray for the beautiful comfort of his goodness, his gentleness and his care. For the assurance of his strong arms around me, protecting me from harm and guiding me in paths of peace.


Poetry Friday: “God Speaks To Each Of Us As He Makes Us”

I have always loved the picture of God walking with Adam and Eve in the garden. They enjoyed such intimate conversation and fellowship. God spoke them into existence and never stopped talking.

In this poem, Rainer Maria Rilke gives words to God as we walk together with him through this life. Grief provokes all kinds of spiritual wrestlings, and sometimes it’s hard to hear God’s voice amidst our sorrow, anger, and questions. Even when the words are only dimly heard, these are the truths God offers us — an invitation to embody Christ in our suffering, to become a place where the Spirit can dwell. And reassurance too. No feeling is final. Life is a country still within reach. Whatever darkness we face, we walk hand in hand with the One who loves us.

Where do you find life in Rilke’s words today? In what ways to do you sense God speaking to you as you walk together?

God Speaks To Each Of Us As He Makes Us

Rainer Maria Rilke
Trans. Anita Narrows and Joanna Macy

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

Crying in Baseball

After three months of my boys’ impatient waiting, baseball season finally has begun. Quarantine closed all of our town’s fields, and weeds took up residence all over the warning track and in the bullpens and dugouts. When we arrived for the first practices this week, it was a mess!

The kids and I went over the other night and spent an hour weeding the bullpen to get it ready for games to start. As we sat in the gravel pulling up renegade plants, the commuter train whistled and ground into town. And I looked up. By instinct. I didn’t even think. I heard the screeching wheels, and my body knew. He was coming home from work.

Except that he’s not. Never again. I can look up every time I hear that train screech to a stop, and I will never see Rob jogging across the parking lot, his collar open and suit jacket over his arm. Rushing to make it to baseball practice on time, not wanting to miss his boy’s opening pitch for that evening’s game. Baseball seasons will come and go, and Rob will not see any more of them.

For my boys, there is no place more filled with the complex mix of pain and pleasure than that grassy field. Their favorite thing to do is now marked forever by the absence of the one who always did it with them. If ever they have to get their heads in the game, it’s when that whistle blows as the train rolls past the outfield fence.

We often don’t acknowledge the way our bodies remember. The ways our muscles and skin — our very cells — carry memories of our sorrows and joys. We think the way to move forward in our grief is to sidestep these physical cues. Ignore our bodies and get our heads into the game, so to speak.

But learning to live with loss means allowing it to be embodied. Acknowledging grief as it makes its home in us, however unwelcome. Witnessing its effects on our bodies and responding to our woundedness with grace and tenderness and rest. God created our bodies, and these vessels have important wisdom to share with us. If we are to grieve well, we must stop and listen and respond to our bodies.

If we are to grieve well, we must stop and listen and respond to our bodies.

Since baseball season started, there have been more tears in our house than usual. Crying not for strike outs, but for the other losses our bodies feel when they head to the town fields to spectate and play. We’re slowing down a little to take it all in. It’s only natural to cry when your dad was your coach, when you trusted his hands as they signaled you to steal the next base. It’s normal to cry when your head instinctually turns as the train passes by the outfield fence. It’s healthy to listen when your body tells you to grieve.

It’s healthy to listen when your body tells you to grieve.

Finding a New Shell

“He had felt safe and strong in his shell. But now it was too snug. Hermit Crab stepped out of the shell and onto the floor of the ocean. But it was frightening out in the open sea without a shell to hide in.”

Eric Carle, A House for Hermit Crab

This past weekend I took my kids exploring at a local neighborhood beach. The water in the cove was warm, and low tide had brought tiny hermit crabs swarming all over the rocks and in the tide pools. My kids happily spent the hours catching crabs, creating little pools for them, and watching them scuttle along the bottom.

Hermit crabs are designed for change. In fact, they do it frequently. As they grow, they shed their shell houses and go in search of new ones. They find another shell to fit their new girth, but it’s not long until they outgrow that one too. Twice a year (on average) hermit crabs move out and into new homes. Change is a normal part of their life experience. It means something healthy is happening.

Photo by William LeMond on

I find I’m less like the crabs at the beach and more like Eric Carle’s classic character Hermit Crab. I step out of my shell onto life’s ocean floor and feel frightened without a shell to hide in, without a place to define me. Change makes me feel vulnerable. Even when the shell is snug. Even when I know I’m growing. It’s still hard to step out in trust toward something new. Especially when, like Hermit Crab, that something new isn’t sitting right in front of me. When I have to act in faith and go looking for it.

In a few short weeks, I technically won’t be a “new widow” anymore. I’ll have passed that first year mark of Rob’s death. Yet, as the days pass and I see more change on the horizon, I feel so new still. So tender still. While I wouldn’t describe this first year of grief as “safe and strong,” it was a house I have learned to live in. I have found some stability in the midst of tragedy. At least life has become a little bit predictable.

But each day, each month, the grief journey brings new change; and like Hermit Crab, I must change too. As I approach the year mark of Rob’s death, I sense there’s going to be some shell-shedding in the near future. Some searching for what comes next. Some finding a new home, both literally and figuratively. You can’t really get ready for that kind of change. You just have to step out in trust. Accept that you may have to try on a few shells before you find the next right fit.

I wish I didn’t have to do it, but I’m trying to remember that change means something healthy is happening. Moreover, that transformation is what we’re made for. Even in grief. I can do this next brave thing. Even if I can’t quite see what it is yet.

The Bittersweetness of Adventure

Even though Rob only lived in our house for one year before he died, his fingerprints are all over it. We bought the house with the intention to work on it, and we started right away when we moved in. Two years later, I walk through the rooms and remember the walls we painted together over Christmas that first year. I chuckle as I look at the sconces beside our bed and remember Rob working hard to get them level with each other.

Over the last year, I’ve completed almost all of the major projects we planned to do together. If Rob walked in the door today, he’d say, “You’ve done a lot of work on this place!” Even so, when I open the breaker box, there is his handwriting labeling the circuits. It will stay there for years to come. However much work I’ve done alone, this house was never just mine; it was ours.

I’m preparing my house to sell in the coming weeks. It feels good to be unloading the responsibility of a big house and acreage, and I’m filled with hope (and a good dose of nervousness!) about the unknown future that lies ahead. The market is solid here in New England. I sense that my timing is divinely guided.

If all goes smoothly, by the end of the summer I’ll be living somewhere new. Some place Rob’s feet have never crossed the threshold. A place that will only have memories of Rob if I purposely bring them there. It’s a hard reality to accept. Even though I’m content about the decision to sell the house, it’s still bittersweet. This is another ending. Another reminder that my future will look very different than I thought it would. Another adventure, but also another goodbye.

We often think of adventures as exhilarating, and they are. But they also can be long, exhausting, scary and fraught with disaster. As the crew of the Dawn Treader (our most recent family read aloud) discovered, you don’t always know what you’re getting into when you sign up for adventures. You may just end up sailing to the End of the World. And regardless of what you meet on the voyage ahead, you’ll need to leave something behind.

To some, selling your house when you have no idea where you’ll go next isn’t adventurous. It’s foolhardy. To some, leaving traces of your loved one behind isn’t a good decision. It’s disrespectful or insensitive. But I am discovering that, if you know your Captain, you can make bittersweet choices. You can say goodbye and hello at the same time without contradiction. You can step forward into the unknown with hope, even as you grieve for what you’re leaving behind. In the words of the hymn writer, “I may not know the way I go, But oh, I know my Guide.

I’ve taken pictures of the two breaker boxes in the house. More than the realtor’s beautiful pictures, these two tell the real story of this house I’m leaving behind. A story of a husband and a wife and four kids who hoped to set down roots, who planned for a happy future together. A story of adventure that was marked by joy and sorrow. A story that, though this chapter is ending, hasn’t finished yet.

On Toward the Horizon

A year ago today our family began our road trip west, the vacation that would end in death. Rob took these pictures on the shores of Lake Erie that night, after our first day of driving. We had looked forward to this trip for months, and that first night was so filled with happiness. We were on our way!

As a family, we walked down from our campsite to the shore of Lake Erie, climbed around the rocks, found our perches and settled in to enjoy the view. To some people, there might not have been much to look at. Just a big expanse of water. But for two parents with insatiable wanderlust and four kids who’d sat in the car for hours, the view was perfect. Nothing but water stretching on to the horizon.

I have always loved wide open spaces. In childhood, the blue sweep of the Atlantic Ocean; and in adulthood, the expansiveness of the American West. Big sky country doesn’t overwhelm me with its size; I love the feeling of freedom that comes with a horizon you can see hundreds of miles away. Whether it’s water or land, I love the possibility of faraway horizons and the scale of grandeur that reminds me of my smallness in the universe. 

Since Rob’s death, I’ve felt that smallness acutely. Death makes you feel so powerless and little — a speck of dust on a hunk of dust spinning wildly through space. It’s easy to let death dictate that narrative for the rest of your days. “I will always feel powerless. I will always feel small and alone.” It’s easy to let your experience of grief color the rest of your days with negativity — to convince you that you’ll never really live again, that the rest of your life will always feel this small and wounded.

Yes, death makes us feel small. It wipes the slate, clears the table, removes everything we found familiar between here and the horizon. Death can make you feel like the one small person on the shores of a lake that seems to go on forever. It can be terrifying to feel so small and alone. I suspect it’s that same feeling that keeps folks at home instead of exploring, more comfortable in cities that in the great wide open. The breadth and depth and length and width are overwhelming.

Today, I was taken aback when a friend described my future as “this adventure you’re on.” I had to stop and write it down. I’ve been mulling over his words all day. His different perspective stopped me in my tracks. I needed that reorientation, that reminder. There’s still a horizon out there calling me. Death doesn’t have the final say. Rob’s death need not dictate the horizon of my life.

My friend’s comment reminded me that, though I feel small, horizons don’t need to frighten me; they can excite me too. My new empty-slate life can feel overwhelming, like staring out at the seemingly endless waters of the ocean. Or, if I’m willing, I can allow this new broad expanse to tempt me with the possibility to be found right beyond the curve of the earth. This same life that has dealt me sorrow is also still full of unexpected adventure. I may not be able to see it from where I stand on these shores of grief. But I do believe it’s still out there, maybe just beyond the horizon.

Today, as I remember this day where Rob and I began our last adventure together, I’m reminded not only of all that lies behind me, but of all that still lies ahead. Rob would want me to keep living. (No surprise, he and I even talked about it!) There is adventure still to be had. Joy still to be experienced. Like a seasoned traveler, I’ll leave a little of my heart at each place on the way. I’ll carry in my heart each place I’ve been. On the cusp of so much change, I’ve decided that I’m going to start chasing that beautiful horizon again. There is so much world left to see.