DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley's family Shawn and daughter Claire swim in pool when Claire is a baby
Missing Shawn

Claire’s New Email Address

Claire has known about email for a long time, but it was only recently that she discovered that some of her friends have their own email addresses.

“Mom!” she said excitedly one day last week, “all of my friends have email addresses and I need one too!”

I’d waited a long time for this. Actually, Shawn was the one who had looked forward to setting up Claire with an email account when she was old enough for one. In fact, when she was only a few months old, he told me he had secured an email address for her.

I remembered the email address. But I couldn’t remember the password. “I think I need to break into Daddy’s email and try and find the password,” I told Claire.

It took a long time, and a lot of verification codes, but we finally got into her email.

The first three emails were from her Dad. I started crying before we opened them. I showed her how to open the email, and then I read the first one aloud with tears streaming down my face.

Subject: Your first email address

Date: Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Claire, This is your Dad. We set up this email account for you when you were only 3.5 months old.  Right now you are far too young to use email as you barely realize that you have functioning arms, hands, and fingers. We love you very much and I wonder when you will be old enough to use this. Please email your parents when you start using this account. Love, Dad.

I laughed out loud while I kept crying. “Oh, mom,” Claire said, hugging me.

“It’s just that dad was funny like that,” I said. “It reminds me of how witty he was.”

We opened the next email.

Subject: Happy one year birthday

Date: Sunday, April 11, 2010

Claire, This is your Dad… Shawn Brimley.  You had your one-year birthday party 2 weeks ago.  You were hilarious, smashing your face into your cupcake in front of about 25 people and your grandparents on Skype.  I also put my face in a cupcake and kissed you on your lips.  It was funny and you laughed.  The last year has been the best of my life because of you and your Mom.  I love you so much and I can’t wait to see you every day. You are the best thing that ever happened to your Dad.  Happy birthday baby.  Love, Dad.  

Well, I cried a lot at that one too. The final one was a date I’d forgotten, though I remembered the moment immediately when I read it.

Subject: hi

Date: Sunday, September 12, 2010

Claire – this is your Dad. You are growing so fast and I love you so much.  Today your Mom told me that we are going to have another baby soon!  So I hope you will be a good sister to your new baby sister or brother.  I know you will.  I love you.  – Dad

That was it – he had only sent her three emails, and all had arrived in the first year and a half. Probably once baby #2 (Austin) came along, we got too overwhelmed to do things like this. Austin and Tommy don’t have email addresses, so clearly this was something Shawn did for our first kid, but not for the others…kinda like the baby books I made for Claire but not her brothers. (Sorry boys!)

Claire got right to work emailing me, her friends and Grandpa Tom. We sat on my bed and I re-read the emails from Shawn and I cried and cried. “Oh, mom,” Claire said again, patting my leg for a minute before turning back to her email account.

She wasn’t sad. She was happy to have the emails from her dad, but she was equally as happy that she had new emails from her friends. The magnitude of the moment was a bit lost on her.

I don’t mean to make her sound flighty. Someday, she will read these emails from her father and know how much he loved her from the day that she was born. Someday, she’ll watch the videos he made for her and realize what great strength it took to make a “life advice” video for her just a day before he died. Someday, she’ll know how powerful it was that he left these digital memories behind for her. A record of his love.

But that day, she was just happy that she was old enough for this big thing called “email.” She was so excited that she had her very own email account, and she sent me a dozen emails in the first hour, complete with 9-year-old emojis.

It was one of those perfect moments in time and I thought, “I’ll always remember this.”

It should have been his moment with her.


  • Gabe

    So heartbreaking and beautiful to get these messages from Shawn. Little treasures. There were several moments over the years that I saw how perfect Shawn was for you. His pride and excitement when I visited after Claire was born was definitely one of them.

  • Sheryll Brimley

    Gee whiz Marjorie, that must have been so heartbreaking for you!!! But also, so treasured for you & Claire!
    Sending love.

  • Dave Q

    Secure those 3 emails somehow. Forward them to your account or save them as PDFs. Email accounts get hacked, and 9 year olds sometimes delete things without realizing what they are doing. Do it right now. And thank you for sharing.

    • Marjorie

      Of course I did this right away! Don’t worry, I do know how 9 year olds can be with email since I parent one every single day. 😉

  • Terry Clark

    Print them out for safekeeping. Treasures, indeed. I love that he identified himself immediately!

  • Karen

    Wow. I’ve been silently reading your blog for a while now, never commenting because I felt like I had nothing new or different to share. But wow. New words when you thought there were no more. Heartbreaking and hear bursting at the same time. One day Claire will get it. A stranger is thinking of you tonight. Love.

    • Marjorie

      Oh, thank you. Sometimes when I feel super down it helps to think about the idea that people are thinking about my family. xo

  • Jen

    What an incredible gift.
    I turned 45 about 4 months after my husband passed last year and he was always huge on birthdays. He also had a humor that had no end. The middle of July I decided it was time to clear his closet out. I opened it and noticed a box I hadn’t seen before. This was also the first time I had opened his closet since his passing. I pulled the box down and it was a present for me the card reading “to my Snickerdoodle, happy 45th anniversary of your birth”. Taped on the box was a note that read “ if I’m not dead put it back and walk away. If I’m dead open it and remember I’m loving you from beyond”. That note is probably my most cherished possession, even more than my wedding ring.
    I don’t know you or your family but from what I’ve read on this site there is no doubt in my mind your girl will cherish that email for life. Like I do my note. Not because of material value but because someone we have loved and lost thought of us and went out of their way because they loved us and we cherish the love we will always have for them. What a beautiful gift for you both.

    • Marjorie

      I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. It’s so beautiful. I recently found a letter I’d never opened from Shawn and I opened it last night. I’m still so raw from reading his words that I can’t blog about it yet, but I will.

  • Kathy Peacock

    I totally went and created an email for my boys. I put it on my calendar to email them on their birthdays. I just love that Shawn did this for Claire.