• Shawn Brimley kissing Claire just before he learned he had cancer
    Family & Friends

    The Guitar Lesson Guy

    I’m sitting in the lobby of the place where my daughter takes guitar lessons. I can hear her (and a half dozen other kids) playing music in one of the many rooms behind me. This is a whole new experience for me because until a few weeks ago, I’d never been here. Claire started guitar lessons in September. It was Shawn’s idea. He bought her and Austin guitars last Christmas and desperately hoped that they would both be interested enough to learn a bit with him. But he was a self-taught player and insisted that at some point they would need formal lessons. He decided that the time for Claire…

  • Tommy Brimley fixing things in our house two years before Shawn died
    Things That Suck

    Who’s Saving Our Basement?

    About a week after Shawn died the washing machine broke and the basement shower drain plugged. I had eight people in the house (me, my kids, my dad, my aunt and my two friends Kelly and Paige) and all of the sudden, nothing worked. A plumber eventually fixed the shower, but the washing machine was dead. Luckily, I figured out that if I just washed everything on “quick wash” I could get the machine to work for about 15 minutes. And so, for the next month, I washed everything on that setting. This wasn’t the only thing that started to atrophy when Shawn died. It seemed like everything did. I…

  • Austin Brimley playing at the river in Rock Creek Park
    Family & Friends

    The Little Hand on My Back

    My middle child, Austin, is not the extrovert like his older sister and younger brother.  Though he doesn’t hide from a crowd, he’s most happy at home, reading books, riding his bike in the alley, and cuddling in our big chair with me. He’s always been this way.  Shawn and I spent a painful year watching Austin scream and cry every single day when we’d leave him at the preschool doors.  The next year was less dramatic, but he still shed many tears.  Finally in kindergarten he could walk into the classroom without crying, but he would still turn around the entire time and watch us, running into his classmates…

  • Austin and Tommy Brimley on their scooters during the last weekend before Shawn got sick
    Family & Friends

    There’s Only One Option, and This Is It

    My life before Shawn got sick was charmed in so many ways.  Like many other people who live privileged lives, I had only a vague sense of how perfect everything was.  Many times since Shawn has died, I’ve thought, “what was life even like before he was sick?”  So I went back to my Google calendar and tried to figure it out.  The first week in October, right before before he first started having stomach pain, my calendar was filled with things like, “Shawn on field trip with Austin,” “elementary school fall picnic,” “Claire guitar lesson,” and “dinner with friends.” God, it was so normal. Looking at my calendar led…

  • Marjorie and Shawn Brimley sitting in their house in Washington DC
    Missing Shawn,  Tributes

    My Eulogy of Shawn

    This is the eulogy that I read at Shawn’s funeral on January 13, 2018: I only had him for 15 years, but I wanted him for 50 more. But Shawn would not want me to talk about how unfair it is that he was taken from me – and from all of us – far, far too soon. I know because that’s how he lived his life. Shawn was grateful for every single day he had on this planet. I know because he told me. Not just in the final days of his life but in every day before that. And so, today, I will tell you a piece of…

  • Getting Brimley kids ready for school in DC before becoming a widow
    Family & Friends

    “I’m at Trader Joe’s, What Do You Need?”

    In the early days of Shawn’s illness, I was home trying to organize the kids for school the next day. Our families had not yet arrived, and I was trying to figure out how to get Austin to his early Spanish class the next morning. Desperate, I texted our friends Mark and Chris, who live behind us and have a son named Grant who often plays with my kids. “If I’m remembering correctly, Grant has French on Tuesday mornings” I wrote. “If that’s the case, is there any way that Austin can go to school with Grant tomorrow? He has Spanish and I just can’t figure out how to get…