Steaming coffee cup for blog by DC widow writer Marjorie Brimley
Love and Chris

He Makes the Coffee

When Chris first came to stay with us, he was shocked to learn that I drank instant coffee. He didn’t understand how I could drink something so terrible when I really enjoyed food and cooking. “It’s just so much easier,” I explained.

Of course, it was more complicated than that.

I started drinking instant coffee when Shawn died. I did it for a lot of reasons, but I told myself that I made this decision because it didn’t make any sense to make a full pot of coffee when I was the only one drinking it. I’d gotten used to crappy coffee as a teacher (teacher’s lounge coffee is universally horrible) and so a little instant coffee wasn’t going to kill me. I had a million things to do every morning – make lunches, find socks, prep lessons, change diapers, soothe anxieties – and instant coffee seemed like a good shortcut in those early days. And though many things changed over the years, my coffee routine stuck. Instant it was.

Chris took this problem seriously. Within a few weeks, he’d acquired a new coffee pot and a high-end grinder to match. When he made me the first cup, he asked, “tell me honestly, is it better than the instant coffee?” with a bit of a smile. He knew it was.

And so we started a new routine. Every morning, we would wake up before the sun and we would snuggle for a few minutes. And every morning, he’d sneak downstairs to make the coffee before I could even get on my robe.

Often in the early days of our relationship, as I laid in bed in those pre-dawn hours, I’d think about how lucky I was to have him. And sometimes, I’d think, “I don’t deserve him.”

I knew it was a silly thought. I don’t even believe in the idea that we “deserve” something like love. But as he’d make my coffee, I’d think, “Chris is such a better person than me.” Maybe that’s a silly thing to think, but it would cross my mind in the morning, and many times throughout the day.

Because what else could I think when I watched him throw the baseball to Austin over and over again in the yard last spring? What else could I think when I’d read him a blog post I wrote about Shawn and he would tell me it was great, even though I knew it would be hard for me to hear if the roles were reversed? What else could I think when he woke up every day and unloaded the dishwasher as he made me coffee? What else could I think when he continued to love me, even as I outwardly processed with him – and with all of you – what it meant to fall in love after loss?

Would I choose this life if I were him? This is the question I asked myself in the early days.

This is the question I sometimes still ask myself today.

I arrive in the kitchen every morning just about when he’s finishing up making me a cup of coffee. He’s ground the beans just so, and he smiles at me when I come up to him at the kitchen island. He likes to watch my face as I try the coffee and gage how much I like it. “Too strong?” he asks when my face tweaks even a little bit. I always smile back at him, amazed at how much he is paying attention.

I want to tell him every morning that he is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I want to tell him that I love him more than I thought was possible. I want to tell him that no matter what I write about on this blog or say with my widow friends, I want no one else besides him, not even for a moment. I want to convey to him, somehow, that I love him without any reservations.

But I never say that in the morning. Sometimes I whisper it to him at night, and sometimes I even write it on my blog. But in the morning, I just sip my coffee and we talk about where we want to go running and the way that Tommy came into our room at 3 am and the things that we’ll have for dinner.

I think often about how I don’t do enough, how I can’t truly convey how much I love him as we sit in the kitchen in the morning. I can tell him that I love him, of course, but I can’t figure out exactly how to show him that. I guess I simply want to do something for him like he does for me every morning with the coffee – an act of love that says so much more than, “I love you.”

You may think that making the coffee is a little thing, and that I do small acts of love for Chris all the time. Maybe that is true.

But in many ways, Chris is more flexible, more thoughtful, and more aware than I am. Maybe that’s because he’s just a more selfless person than I am. I don’t mean that as some sort of insult to myself. For so long, I had to be focused on my own survival and my own processing. Learning to let go of that – in life and in my relationship – has been a process.

And he has held on through it all.

Chris is not a saint, though he may sound that way on this blog, and I may feel that way sometimes when I watch him fold the laundry or hug Tommy after a fall or make a gin and tonic just like I like it. He is human, like all of us.

And yet. Sometimes his love for me feels superhuman. Yes, he makes the coffee. But here’s what you don’t know:

Chris doesn’t drink coffee. Never has.

He makes the coffee just for me.


  • Julie S Giordano

    Yes!! Marjorie!! Chris!! Tears of joy!! We all wanted this for you (Shawn included). No matter what you say, I feel that you kinda, hella deserve it!! I wish you, Chris, and your children a beautiful and peaceful holiday season. Hoping these new joyful memories can begin to replace the rawness of this timeframe for you!! You are an amazing woman, xoxo!!

  • Babette

    Wow! Your blog has been my lifeline as I watch my husband get worse every day. This one boosted me up when I needed it most tonight. My husband makes me coffee every morning before I get up. My boys do not understand why I do not like Starbucks or any other coffee. The reason is right here in the article. It is his selfless love for me, even now when his health is waning that keeps me going. He is a better person than me and always has been. Hugs. Thank you!

    • Dolores

      Hi, Babette. I just wanted to say that…I understand. I, too, had a husband who made the coffee. He also let me sleep a little longer, and when I got up, he made the bed! He often made me a “breakfast burrito,” and handed it to me as I rushed out the door. It’s been years, and I can read this memory and still cry the wet, copious tears of the freshly-widowed. Love is huge. But it is measured in little acts. God bless you.

    • M Brimley

      This is simply beautiful. I know it is so hard to watch someone that you love suffer so terribly. I’ll be thinking of you, as I know so many of my readers will as well.

    • Erin


      My husband also makes me coffee every morning, unless he can’t because of the cancer. During this journey (I hate that word, but can’t think of a better one) I have worried about my morning coffee. I make terrible coffee! I can’t stand drinking it, it is awful and bitter.

      I hope for Christmas my parents will give me a super easy to use espresso maker. So my husband can still make me a coffee in the morning, but on the tough days I can do it myself or ask one of my kids (they are 10 and 7).

      I have also found the blog to be a life line. There is no handbook. But I feel less alone knowing I am not the first person to walk this path. Thank you foe that.

  • Dolores

    The beauty of small, mundane things…I’m so touched by this column, Marjorie. Thank you for reminding me of our morning routine. You helped me to see in a new, fresh way, how much love is present in the little things. In your case, maybe not so little. I didn’t expect the last two lines. Virtual hugs to you all.