DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley and family at children's baptisms
Missing Shawn


The pastor was talking about Jesus, and my mind was wandering.

Sometimes, in the middle of a service, I find myself immersed in whatever is happening at the front. The music or the sermon or the prayers can whisk me away into a place where I’m totally focused on whatever it is we are doing in that moment. I love those times in church. They feel the most holy to me.

But I was in a new church with my extended family over the holidays, and the pastor at the front wasn’t one I knew. He was engaging but I wasn’t fully listening. Still, I liked how he was talking about their church community, so I tried to focus on his words.

He started discussing the concept of “home.” He was using this idea to talk more about finding Jesus at home, but that wasn’t what struck me about his sermon. “When I think of home,” he said, seemingly a bit off-the-cuff, “I think about my wife, Julie. No matter where we are in the world, I know that she has my back, and I have hers.” He paused here, and let those words sink in. “That’s home,” he said, “she’s home to me.”

I thought about it for the rest of the sermon. I think the pastor wanted me to be thinking about how Jesus could be “home” for me, or something like that. But all I could think about was his concept of his wife as “home.”


I know that feeling – the one that you get when you’ve found your person in the world. The one where you don’t actually care whether you are in the back of an old jeep in Vietnam or sleeping under the stars in rural Idaho or even if you find yourself holed up in a run-down place in Costa Rica with a shower that electrocutes you sometimes. You don’t care where you are, really, because you get to be with your person. Today and forever.


When Shawn died, I wanted to run away from everything. I wanted to move to Texas where my family is, or to California where it would be warm and I could see old friends, or to some far-away country where no one would know my story and I could just fade into the landscape. But of course I didn’t move. I couldn’t do it for many reasons, but the biggest issue was that I believed it would not be good for my kids. They needed stability, consistency, and the same friends they’d always had surrounding them.

Plus, how could I leave the home that Shawn and I had just remodeled? The one with the beautiful fireplace he designed and the couches he picked out years prior? How could I leave our home?

But I could have done it, and without the kids, I probably would have. I would have moved abroad somewhere, to a tiny island or a massive city, changed my name and disappeared into the world. I would have run away from my house and the pain that I remembered when I was in it.

It wouldn’t have helped my heartache, that I know. It wouldn’t have helped ease my pain because home wasn’t – and isn’t – the house where I live. For a decade-and-a-half, when I thought of “home,” I thought of Shawn.


Maybe that’s why I feel so unmoored now. I never felt lost in another country when I was with Shawn. He’d get out a map (because we actually used physical maps a lot when we traveled) and a compass and we would find our way. I didn’t always know where we were, but I never worried.

I have a house, and really, I think of it as my home because my children and my father live there. The people I love most in the world are in the same house that I shared with my husband for many years. It’s home.


But in many ways, my “home” is missing. He is gone to another place, and I am here, wandering the streets on my own.

Image Credit: Chip Somodevilla.


  • Melissa

    “Unmoored” is such a good description, Marjorie. Everything is the same, and yet everything is radically different. How can someone be here one minute, gone the next, and the world keeps on turning like nothing happened? When my oldest granddaughter left for college, my son told me, only half jokingly, “This must be what it’s like when someone dies.” He meant the emptiness left behind when someone you love and interacted with intensely every day is suddenly no longer there. But he knew she would be coming back home and he could take comfort in that thought. We don’t have that luxury.

    • Marjorie

      Exactly – everything is the same in my life (same house, car, kids, etc.) but nothing is the same without Shawn. That’s so true.

      • Melissa

        When my father died, my mother’s physician told her “You know, nothing will ever be the same again.” It made me want to yell “Well, thank you, Captain Obvious!” Of course he was right, but I didn’t think his comment was particularly helpful at that time. I guess some doctors are just like the rest of us when it comes to struggling with what to say to someone who has recently lost a loved one.

        • Marjorie

          Oh, totally. I think it’s just hard to know what to say in tough situations. I STILL fall victim to cliches even though I write this whole blog about how annoying they are! We’re all just human.

  • Jill Bradley

    You made it through Christmas, that’s extraordinary! This is my fifth Christmas as a widow. I only cried once, just for a few moments. It does get easier, or we just get better at managing it. Keep moving forward.

    • Marjorie

      Yes, I can see that it will get easier, if only that Christmas was easier than our anniversary this summer. I like how you wrote, “it does get easier, or we just get better at managing it.”

  • Melanie

    It wasn’t until my husband died that I understood the meaning of the saying, “Home is where the heart is.” It is true.

  • Diane

    Oh Marjorie, I too have no words. Sending love and hugs across the many kilometres and oceans. I am thinking of you x