• DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley poses with family in 2017
    Missing Shawn

    It’s Not All About the Last Day

    One of my favorite quotes on dying comes from the late Paul Kalanithi, in his book When Breath Becomes Air: The last day of your life is not the sum of your life. The sum of your life is the sum of your life. I’ve thought about this quote a lot over the past three years. As I’ve discussed Shawn’s illness and death, both in my private life and on this blog, I’ve thought about how I needed to keep remembering other parts of him. I’ve tried – often unsuccessfully – to push back on the bad memories and remember the good ones. Yet try as I might to think…

  • ER hallway like that visited by DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley
    Things That Suck

    Room 9

    Tommy’s clothes were covered in blood when I saw him. He’d been playing football with the big kids and had finally gotten the ball. Excited by this thrilling turn of events, he took off…and collided with the iron fence. The cut on his head was deep. He needed to go to the ER. Chris volunteered to go, but the health insurance for Tommy comes from me. As we’ve already discovered, just because the kids and I think of Chris as a parent doesn’t mean he legally has those advantages at this point. I needed to take Tommy. Chris would stay behind with the big kids, both of whom were pretty…

  • car driving like that in blog by DC widow writer Marjorie Brimley
    Things That Suck

    Sometimes Bad Things Don’t Happen

    The crash was so loud and the impact was so close to me that I screamed involuntarily. “Are you hurt?” the man working at Goodwill asked as he ran up to me. I looked down. The car hadn’t touched me, somehow, but it was close enough that it had brushed my long skirt. “I’m okay,” I said, grateful that he’d come over, even if he was violating the 6-foot social distancing rule. I wasn’t so sure about my car. I had been parked and standing next to my car when the other car ran into mine. The driver of the car had gotten out and was profusely apologizing. The other…

  • Sunshine streaming in living room of DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley
    Missing Shawn

    2 Years Ago You Told Me This

    2 years ago, on this day, you were here with me. You were sick, yes. You couldn’t run with our kids. You couldn’t lift your CrossFit weights. You couldn’t even turn on your side in the bed and face me at night. But you were here. With me. We spent the day together, visiting with friends who came by, but mostly sitting next to each other, savoring the sunshine that streamed through the windows on that freezing January day. If I close my eyes, I can feel the way the sun’s warmth landed on my back as you looked right at me and reminded me that you loved me. As…

  • DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley plays in fountain with her two sons
    Missing Shawn


    “He needs a colonoscopy soon, Marjorie.” I think about these words all the time. My dad said them to me probably a month before Shawn’s diagnosis, after some tests had revealed that there were tiny bits of blood in Shawn’s stool. At the time, I told my dad that Shawn had one scheduled for January. “I’d do it sooner,” he replied. Our talk that day scared me a bit, but I brushed it off. Shawn had a doctor here in DC, and he was getting on a new antibiotic to help his pain. I didn’t need to worry too much. Why didn’t I make him go get the colonoscopy right…

  • Stethoscope used by doctor of DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley
    Family & Friends

    Heroic Work

    I met Reed, the man who would become one of Shawn’s cancer doctors, minutes after we first came to NIH. The days before we met him were a blur of horror: I had driven Shawn to the local ER and watched him curl up in pain, hours later Shawn had been admitted to that same local hospital and gotten a colonoscopy, and immediately after the operation we learned that Shawn had stage IV cancer. Then we sat in that local hospital from Friday until Monday and never saw an oncologist. It was one of the worst weekends of my life. Our friends showed up, including our pediatric oncologist friend Jason…