Missing Shawn

That Super Bowl Google Ad

Were you watching the Super Bowl last night? If you were, did you see that Google advertisement, the one with the old man remembering his late wife? If you saw it, did you think that it was sweet? Did you think about your own grandparents? Did you imagine that someday you would be like that old man?

Well, not me. All I felt was pure, unadulterated rage.

I realize this is not what the makers of this ad intended. I’m sure they wanted viewers to feel a mix of nostalgia and love when they saw it. I mean, what beautiful narration by the widower, and what amazing images of the man and his wife throughout their lifetime! Many of my friends on Facebook went nuts over such a “heartfelt” ad. It was “so sweet” and “touching to the bottom of our souls.”

You know what I was thinking the entire time?

“That’s so unfair.”

The guy in the ad was clearly about 85, and had lived approximately a half-century with his wife. He missed her, and he wanted to remember her. But all I could think was, “he got a whole life with his wife. And I got robbed of that with Shawn.”

It’s not fair of me to say this. His grief is real (he is apparently a real person) and his loss is not to be diminished. Comparing grief does no one any good. Is my grief really worse because my husband died after we’d only been together after 15 years, rather than 50? What if we’d only been married for 5 years? I mean, this argument is a stupid one to have, because it doesn’t help anyone feel better.

And yet, I just keep thinking, “it’s not fair!”

This man – the one from the commercial – he got a whole life with his wife. He got all those memories, the ones of them raising their kids, the ones of them doing things with gray hair, the ones of them traveling to Alaska.

A whole life. He got a whole life that he didn’t have to do alone.

Last night, as I got 5-year-old Tommy ready for bed, he turned to me and asked, “Did Shawn like the Super Bowl?” and I choked out my reply. My boy calls his father by his first name, because he can’t remember ever saying “daddy.” Worse, he doesn’t really remember his father, and no Google trick is going to help with that.

And I didn’t get those years with Shawn to raise Tommy and our other two kids as a family. Together. Google would never make an ad like this about my life, because my life does not evoke the “right” emotions about grief and loss and life and love.

I try to be fair when things like this are up on everyone’s social media pages. I love that people are thinking sweet things about their loved ones, and that there are places to do this even during Super Bowl commercials. The ad is supposed to make you post things like, “hold your loved ones a little closer tonight!”

It’s not supposed to make you scream out loud, “it’s not fair!”

The ad is supposed to make you think that love will last forever. That you’ll get a lifetime with your spouse and that things might be bumpy, but you’ll have each other throughout most of it. And maybe that’s the case. God, I hope that’s the case for everyone I know who is married.

But for some of us, it’s not. And while it may not be fair to compare my situation to someone else’s, I can’t help but think that I’d give anything to have what the man from the Google ad had.

A whole life together.

Image Credit: Becky Hale Photography.


  • Kara

    Yes! Yes! You have once again written what I felt myself watching that ad. I actually felt guilty for being upset for the same reasons. I don’t compare grief. Mine is not any worse or better for how many years we were together or how long my husband was sick. I don’t compare, but when I saw that ad tears came to my eyes. Tears for all those years I will not have Leon with me to make memories and then to remember them. It isn’t fair. None of it is. I’m not one to throw myself a pity party, but it isn’t fair, at all.

    • Marjorie

      Yes – this is what I was trying to capture! Grief is not a contest, nor should it be. But the ad – it still made me scream, “it’s not fair!”

  • Cindy

    I was 48 when I found the love of my life — and he was taken from me 10 years later. After he died I hated to see old couples hobbling together in stores because I was robbed of that. Was it too much to ask for M. and me to grow old and crotchety together? It was. For some reason I wasn’t allowed more than a mere 10 years and 5 months of true love. I keep asking, what now? The future continues to look bleak without all the plans M. and I had for our future together.

    • Marjorie

      I know. It’s so hard to think about the future – and yet we must. Not just for ourselves but also for our loved ones, who want us to keep living full lives in this world.

  • Henry

    That ad upset me too, although in a different way. I appreciate your anger, because from a vantage point of 15 years – with children too young to remember their father – death is unfair in an especially painful way, and it does seem that 50 years of marriage would provide a sort of completed fulfillment. That sense of fulfillment is what I felt the man in the ad projected. To me the ad seemed more cloying than heartfelt. I didn’t sense grief, but rather an unalloyed pleasure in looking back on a fulfilled marriage – pleasure that was heightened, of course, but the assistance of Google technology. Well, I was married for half a century, and I also feel that my marriage was unfairly cut short. Aggressive cancer tends to have that effect. I am still grieving and cannot look back without a painful sense of loss being mixed in with any pleasure. Perhaps I am simply deficient in gratitude. It seemed to me, however, that the main message of this ad was that technology that helps you remember will expunge grief. I felt that this message cheapened grief, minimized loneliness, and was in bad taste.

    • Marjorie

      What a perfectly said comment, Henry! I really appreciate the way you discussed how this ad could fall even on people who DID have all those years….grief is STILL HARD. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Kellie

    I too saw the commercial. I was warned by my youngest daughter (who works for Google and was able to see a preview of the ad) that it was so sweet and it made her cry. In my opinion, I think the feeling from the ad was a simple association that someone loved was gone, and special things were being remembered (and saved with the help of technology). I didn’t see anything that would make me feel like this technology with expunge my grief. I don’t think Google or any other company would claim they could do that. I also have to say that I didn’t feel like the gentleman in the commercial was expressing grief. I felt like he was remembering a few more things about his sweetheart, which were added to the previous list of thoughts he had included over the years.

    I am not here to take up for Google, but to give a different viewpoint of what I thought was a sweet commercial. My husband has been gone for 12-1/2 years and my kids (who are 40, 36 and 31), their spouses and two grandkids talk about him all the time. He was only 51 when he passed, but he was much loved and left a lifetime of stories. We would all give everything off of our backs to have him back again, but since that isn’t possible we keep him around by knowing it is safe and fun to talk about him whenever someone thinks about something he did or said (which was a lot!). Even my 7-year old granddaughter knows of him through pictures and stories. In fact, she pointed him out to me in some pictures that I had sitting around the house one night when I was babysitting her. She was two and was pointing to him and calling him Pa-Pa. It blew me away that she knew who he was since we had not yet taught her anything about him. I also loved that she called him Pa-Pa – I always wondered what his “grandfather name” would be. I interrupted my son and daughter-in-law who were out to dinner and asked if they had ever shown her pictures of him. They had not, and had not ever talked to her about “Pa-Pa”. I just figured that she knew him in her own way and confirmed my thought that his presence was constantly with us.

    I have to mention one more thing – I totally related to Cindy’s statement. My main trigger of sadness is to see a sweet older couple together – I always think that “that should have been us”!

    Much love to all of you.

  • Kurt Spieles

    I’m glad I was getting a bowl of chili when that ad came on. Nobody in the room mentioned it to me, either, for good reason in their minds, I’m sure. I don’t even know how I ended up on this blog, but something linked me to this post and now I’m catching up on two years of a someone’s story that I’m relating to in all the anguishing similar ways.

    My wife died almost two weeks ago. It was Thursday afternoon, January 23rd. Her life is now frozen in time at age 47 and I’m lost in an alternate existence that I never thought I would inhabit while trying to continue raising three lovely girls between the ages of nine and 14 without their beautiful mother. I don’t understand why they have to endure this, too.

    I’m sure if I had seen the commercial, my thoughts would have been similar to yours. The couple of times I tried a support group, the scenarios involving others never seemed to involve young children and always had a faint sense of celebrating a life completed. I certainly held no negative feelings toward them, but was certainly envious of all the additional time but they and their grown children got.

    Thank you for sharing all that you have. I’m sure I’ll keep reading as my emotions let a little daylight in from time to time. I wish I wasn’t at this site. I really, really do. But here I am.

    • Marjorie

      I wish you weren’t here either. I wish I never made this blog and that my life was back to happy and a tiny bit boring. But, as you say, here we are. So thank you for joining the conversation. It’s early days for you, so go easy on yourself. You’ll see that I needed to write, but even for me it took me almost two months after Shawn’s death to start the blog. Hang in there.

  • Pedro Mata

    I had the similar reaction. Yes it was heartfelt and as widows we feel the same loss. Yet, 15 years into my relationship when my wife passed, we were just beginning our memories. There are little triggers in life, that pull up a memory and I wish there were more. This is the person, I planned to spend the rest of my life with. Watch our kids graduate, enjoy our grandchildren together and in an instant, plans gone. It’s not fair.

    • Marjorie

      I know. I wish I didn’t feel it – but I do. I want the “it’s not fair!” feeling to go away. And yet, it’s there.

  • Chris

    My response was, “Fuck. You. Google.” But not because I felt cheated because my wife died. I felt pissed about what they are saying and offering. Here is this old guy with a lifetime of memories with his wife and the world they built, and now that she is gone and he is alone what does he do? He talks to his computer… and at the end it says helping with the little things or some shit. The little things. How to remember my dead wife… a little thing…? It says he’s 40 years older than me. And maybe I was refracting the situation through my own, but I have no kids (none shown for him), have seen almost every friend I have fall away (just his dog is heard), so I see him like I see myself, forgotten by friends and lonely almost all the time. I have a therapist I see weekly and a bi weekly spousal loss support group I go to and it is still nigh-impossible to understand, and even harder to try to navigate any of this in any normal way. THE ONE thing I know will be of absolutely ZERO use in any of this is talking to a machine. Even one that has a picture of her in it, or knows what movie was her favorite. (Solaris, Seriously….). I guess what pissed me off the most is the underlying idea that being content with the memories of the past by using Google some how makes it ok to be alone. I mean, if he doesn’t have anyone, at least he’s got the computer right? Fuck. You. Google.

    • Marjorie

      While this was a tough comment to read, I think it’s a really honest reaction to this ad. I get it. It’s tough, and thinking that a simple Google trick will fix it is….really hard to stomach.

  • Heather

    I just lost my husband suddenly, less than two months after his 50th birthday. He was not sick. He went out to play an adult league soccer game and never came back. This post is so on. I get that my loss is fresh, but I feel so robbed. Robbed of the chance to grow old with the person I chose to grow old with. And my boys, 12 and 14, are robbed of their father (and to be honest, their best friend) at a pivotal point in their lives. We are still reeling, honestly. And all the widow and widower support groups are full of people 20 years older than my husband and I. And I know I cant compare grief, but it IS different. My kids are going to grow up with no father. Just me, broken and hurting and trying my best to make it OK for them somehow. Anyway, just found your blog, so I am saying hello.

    • Marjorie

      First of all, I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your husband. It’s so awful. And yes – you can’t compare grief. Still, the loss of a young spouse, one who should be living for many more decades by your side, is a particular loss that I think has its own specific challenges. It’s so tough.

      Hang in there – you’re in the early days. It does get easier, I promise. There’s little I can offer you now, except that knowledge. And this blog. Take care.

  • Belangalo

    I had 4 years and 2 months with my beloved husband before he died unexpectedly less than 3 weeks ago. The funeral is tomorrow. I am 38 years old and 25 weeks pregnant with our first and now only child. A miracle natural conception after three failed rounds of IVF. He will never hold our daughter that he was so excited to meet. I feel like I am bleeding out and dying in slow motion. How do I had our shattered world together for our little girl? It’s not fair. We were supposed to be an old couple sharing memories of raising our children together.

    • M Brimley

      I’m so, so sorry. The early time period feels impossible with the shock and the grief together. I hope, as much as you can, that you can go easy on yourself and try just to get through each day. I think you might find some of my earliest writings (February and March 2018) good to connect with. I’m pulling for you.