DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley looks into the eyes of her late husband Shawn
Missing Shawn

Last Night

I felt the hair on his face brush up against my cheek. He pulled back for a minute and looked at me. I could see the lines around his eyes crinkle up into a slight smile. Then he closed his eyes and kissed me really slowly. His arms, strong and twice as big as my own, were wrapped around me.

I was so happy. Blissfully happy, like that kind of happy you feel when a child is born or you have that first kiss with someone you know you’ll be with forever.

But after that moment came confusion. Why was I so happy?

He looked at me, and then I realized that he KNEW. He knew everything that was happening in my life. He knew who I was now.

I was dreaming, but it was so real. Shawn was there with me, healthy and happy and kissing me on a couch that we had when we were first married. I could feel his breath on me. He was REAL.

And he knew.

He knew I wasn’t the same. He knew I’d moved forward, in a way. I hadn’t gotten remarried or sold the house, but he knew that I had changed in fundamental ways. He knew I was different. Still Marjorie, yes, but not the Marjorie he knew for 15 years.

He wasn’t mad. He was kind and he was thoughtful and he kept looking in my eyes like he wanted me to know that. In the dream, I was really confused about why I had decided to do so many things without him. I was particularly upset about why I had let another man grab my attention. Why would I do those things if he was right there?

I woke up. And the guilt hit. Hard.

My first thought was this: “Why had I let him go?”

I wasn’t cursing God for taking him from me. I was cursing myself for letting parts of him slip away from me. The tone of his voice in the morning. The way his eyes looked when he was really focusing. The feel of his face against mine.

I’ve dreamt of him many times before, of course. But these really vivid dreams have somewhat faded. They’ve been replaced by dreams where Shawn is hazy. Present and happily cheering me on…yet hazy.

But he was there in my dream last night. So real, it felt like I was actually touching him. So real that even hours later when I typed this sitting at my school desk, I couldn’t stop the tears.

So real.

I cried a lot after waking up in a bed alone with the image of Shawn in my mind. I tried to go back to sleep at first, to see if I could recapture the dream. I wanted that feeling back, if just for a moment. But of course I couldn’t.

I just kept thinking this over and over again: I want my old life back.

Yes, I want the parenting partner and the man who could fix everything in my house. But, actually, I can figure out how to live without those parts of Shawn. I can deal with the logistics and I can somehow manage to parent my kids on my own. What I still miss with deep desperation is simply the man whose beard brushed against my cheek.

I miss what it was like to have a person next to me who loved me fully and completely.

And here is something I know for sure: I would give up every bit of the emotional resilience and financial knowledge and new flutters of the heart I’ve had this year, if I could just have him with me again.

Because he was real in my dream. So, so real.

Image Credit: Stefanie Harrington Photography.


  • Jenn

    I found your blog last night and I feel very grateful that I did. I lost my husband of 24 years April 19th 2018, also from cancer. I met him at 18 married at 20. He was the love of my life and my best friend all rolled into one. Never did I think I’d be a widow at 44 let alone a single parent. The posts you’ve written resonate so strongly with me. Actual thoughts and feelings I’ve had myself, that no one understands (and I pray they don’t for decades) because no matter how empathetic you are unless you have lived it you’ll never understand. And that’s alright.
    Thank you for putting yourself out there. This road is so unpredictable but by you putting your thoughts and feelings out there you’ve made me not feel so alone and I’m very grateful. I am incredibly sorry though that this is your story because I understand your pain and I wish that on no one. You have a new loyal reader here and I hope you and your family have a great weekend.

    • Marjorie

      I read “never did I think I’d be a widow at 44 let alone a single parent” and thought – “EXACTLY!” When Shawn died, I remember thinking, “how is this possible?” And yet it’s my reality. But if I have to be here I’m so glad I could connect with you. Thanks for reading.

  • Melissa

    I have not been blessed yet with vivid dreams of my husband that seem so real like you have, but I do know other people who have had these “visitations.” (Some may scoff at that word, but I believe it to be true.) A friend of mine told me of a dream she had after her mother died. She said it was so real she could smell her mother’s breath (much like you feeling Shawn’s beard and his breath on you.) When my friend told her mother, in the dream, that she wanted to be with her, her mother said it wasn’t her time yet. In your dream, you sensed that Shawn knew what you’d been through and was telling you, without words, that it was okay; that whatever you do, he’ll always be there for you. That’s such a gift.

  • Kate

    Just dreamed about John two nights ago. It was real, and I didn’t even wake up sad or crying or lay in bed thinking “it wasn’t going to be this way!” like I have so often. Maybe that’s a blessing of 5 years of thoughts? He doesn’t appear in dreams often, but it stays with me when he does. It was sweet- that’s all.

    • Marjorie

      I can’t really imagine not waking up sad after dreaming vividly of Shawn….but I can see how it will happen some day. I love that you are in a place where dreams like this are sweet. Thanks for telling me this.

  • Melanie

    I too believe this was a visitation dream, Marjorie. I have had two of them…one from my mother and one from my husband. Both had important things to tell me and they were told without words. It’s through thoughts and emotions. In both, they looked strong and healthy and so happy. I wil never forget those dreams. My husband motioned for me to come over to him and then with our arms round each other he pointed at something at which we both laughed. He knew what it was but I didn’t. I just knew that it was somethng wondrous and that I needed to hang on. This was 4 months after he had died. A short time after that….days…our daughter called me to say that she was 8 days late and was sure ahe was pregnant. She was. Timothy was born the next September.

    I have not had another dream of him like that since then. There have been other dreams which have misted away, but I will never forget that one.

    Shawn was smiling and happy for you and as you said, he knew. He knew you completely when he was alive and he was your home. No matter what happens, he will always be your home and he will always know you.

    • Marjorie

      I love this story SO MUCH – especially the part about your daughter. That’s amazing. Like you, I’ll always keep this dream with me – it’s one that I know will linger forever.


    At the end of the day “What I still miss with deep desperation is simply the man whose beard brushed against my cheek.” It really isn’t complicated what we long for but your simple words describe it so well. I would love to see him smile, hear his laughter, to hear his voice on the other end of the phone, comment on the reruns of Seinfeld, and so on but I do just miss his presence.

    • Marjorie

      Yes – I miss Shawn so much in the small moments. The beard moment is actually what made me really start crying when I was thinking back on the dream.

  • Karen Gorman

    I also lost my husband on April 20,2018 and I miss everything about him, he knew about everything and was always there for me. I know he is not suffering any longer but I miss him every day, he was my rock. I have joined a grief group and made many friends there which helps immensely. Your story is amazing, thanks for sharing,

    • Marjorie

      Yes, my grief group was SO important to me. I made one very dear friend who I still see at least weekly and who I am so lucky to know. These groups are terrible in a way, but mostly I found so much support in them.

  • Steph

    Hi Marjorie, just found your blog and wanted to say thanks for sharing your thoughts. Almost two years ago I became a widow at 41, and now raise our three teenagers alone. I am blessed with caring friends, but the end of our outings, they get to go back to their husband and a life innocent of times of unbearable sadness – although I wouldn’t wish it any other way for them. With your blog, it is comforting to feel a bit less alone being a younger widow, even if I’m a world away in Australia. I’m a teacher too (9 year olds) and I think you’re amazing to find the time to parent, teach and do this – but thank you for your honesty and time, you are helping so many others. I haven’t had a dream like yours, but do feel Bryce around and hear his thoughts when I’m scrambling for ideas to intelligently parent a tough issue for any of them. Love, Steph.

    • Marjorie

      Thanks so much for reaching out from halfway across the world. Wow. I love how you said “I do feel Bryce around and hear his thoughts when I’m scrambling for ideas to intelligently parent a tough issue for any of them.” That’s beautiful. I feel the same way about parenting and my kids. And yet sometimes it’s still so hard to know what to do. Thanks for sharing – sending hugs.