• Two photos of Marjorie Brimley's parents and husband before the death of her mom and Shawn
    Things That Suck

    20 Years

    Two decades ago, a woman I barely knew shook me awake. I was staying with a friend on one of my days off as a camp counselor, and I had gone to bed early only to be awoken at dawn by my friend’s mother. “Your father is on the phone,” she said to me. I was disoriented, but went to the kitchen to pick up the phone. “Hello?” “Marjorie,” my dad said.  I knew something was wrong immediately by the tone of his voice.  And then he said the words that would change my life forever. “Your mother killed herself last night.” “No,” I said, “no, no, no!” I fell…

  • Austin in church in Washington DC
    Family & Friends

    Talking to My Kids About Death, Again

    Many years ago, when Claire was about 5, she was just starting to understand the concept of death. One day at school she learned from a friend that people can die of all sorts of diseases. This peaked her curiosity and she asked me about a dozen questions that night. “But how do people get sick in the first place? Why do some people get so sick they die? What happens when you die?” I answered her questions the best I could. At the end of our conversation, she asked me one last question. “Mom, is it possible that a kid could get sick and die?” I froze. I hadn’t…

  • Shawn Brimley with Austin Brimley looking at the sky outside of DC

    What If the Plane Crashes?

    I’ve taken my kids on airplanes since the very early days of their lives. Claire was only six weeks old the first time she rode on a plane, and I remember boarding the flight with Shawn and about fifteen bags to guarantee we had everything. As I sat down, the man in front of me turned around and said, “that baby better not scream for the entire flight.” Claire was six weeks old. Through some miracle, she slept through the entire flight and I smugly de-boarded the plane afterwards. Shawn was livid at the rude man, but I felt victorious. I must have been doing everything right if my baby…

  • Marjorie Brimley with husband Shawn at the birth of their son Tommy in hospital
    New Perspectives

    Brave Through It

    I woke up Wednesday morning with a smile on my face. I can’t remember the last time that happened. The night before, I received a text from my closest friend at work that she had delivered her first child, a boy. I had lived through her pregnancy in a way that I hadn’t ever done with my other friends. I remember helping her navigate the early days of pregnancy, getting baby bump pictures while I was in the hospital with Shawn and watching my daughter tenderly touch her belly at Shawn’s funeral. When I came back to work, we talked a lot about my life, which was sad, but we…

  • Shawn Brimley with Claire at Christmas
    What Not to Say

    It’s Not “Better”

    The other day, I was coming out of my house to run an errand and I ran into a neighbor.  I don’t know her well, but she and her husband are always friendly.  The day we moved into our house, they brought over a bottle of wine.  When a hurricane struck DC soon thereafter, her husband came out and helped Shawn as he dug a trench so that our basement wouldn’t flood.  We always waved at them when we’d see them on the street, and they thought our young kids were adorable. When Shawn died, they left a very sweet note on the front porch.  Apparently, they had noticed us…