• Claire Brimley, daughter of DC widow writer Marjorie Brimley Hale, at the colon cancer race in DC
    Missing Shawn

    They Remain for Me, Too

    The kids know that the annual 5K ScopeItOut run (put on by the Colorectal Cancer Alliance) is a really big deal in our house. We talk about it for weeks and they know that the team is one that is in honor of their dad Shawn. We even have t-shirts. They are all still young enough that they think the team name “The Turd Offset” is hilarious. (Lots of team names utilize the puns of butts, and ours is the same. Shawn worked on “The Third Offset” strategy when he was in government.) In any case, this year was no different. Everyone was excited to do the run, and for…

  • Microscope for blog by DC widow writer Marjorie Brimley Hale on colon cancer awareness
    Holidays

    National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

    It’s only been a couple of decades since President Clinton declared that March would be National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. And it’s only been a couple of years since I’ve known about it. It’s strange, how unaware I was about colon cancer, an illness that is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death (in men and women combined) in the United States. Seriously, before Shawn got colon cancer, I’m not sure I knew anything about it. It was a disease old people got, right? That’s why you got a colonoscopy when you’re old, right? I guess it could seem surprising that even though…

  • DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley poses with family in 2017
    Missing Shawn

    It’s Not All About the Last Day

    One of my favorite quotes on dying comes from the late Paul Kalanithi, in his book When Breath Becomes Air: The last day of your life is not the sum of your life. The sum of your life is the sum of your life. I’ve thought about this quote a lot over the past three years. As I’ve discussed Shawn’s illness and death, both in my private life and on this blog, I’ve thought about how I needed to keep remembering other parts of him. I’ve tried – often unsuccessfully – to push back on the bad memories and remember the good ones. Yet try as I might to think…

  • Orange flowers for blog by DC widow writer Marjorie Brimley
    Things That Suck

    The Room at the Hospital

    I had to get a mammogram the other day. I might be a young widow, but I’m not that young, and I was already months behind on my check-up due to the pandemic. I’m never behind – I am deeply fearful of cancer – so I donned my mask and went to the appointment. As usual, the initial mammogram was inconclusive. Something is almost always a bit strange with my body, and I usually have to get the follow-up testing. The doctor told me they could do it immediately, but I’d need to change rooms and wait just a bit for the technician to do the procedure. She brought me…

  • Fireplace like that of DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley
    Things That Suck

    My Body Knew

    I sat in front of the fire, not because the wind was whipping the tree branches side-to-side, and not because the ice had started to cling to my car windshield over the past week. It was cold, to be sure, but the inside of our house was warm on that November night. Still, I shook. Confused, I put my face close to the flames, hopeful that it would stop the involuntary shaking that had taken over my body. Shawn was upstairs, finally asleep. I had held his hand and pretended to sleep as I waited for his grip to loosen mine, so that I’d know that he was unconscious. He…

  • Hands holding newspaper like that written by DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley
    What Not to Say

    Trigger Warning

    Last week, I wrote this piece for the Washington Post on how parents can help children who are grieving. In case you haven’t read it yet, I introduced the piece by talking about how Claire was really missing her dad last summer at the pool, and then I discussed what experts say parents should do in similar situations. I did not describe Shawn’s illness or death at all. I posted the article in an online group, thinking maybe others would want to read it. Also, I was genuinely proud of the work I did and wanted to share it. A few hours later, I saw that someone had replied to…