Husband of DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley Hale in the forest in Maine
Love and Chris

What If He Dies?

I woke up in the dark this morning, and I was alone. I could hear Chris rustling in the next room, probably putting things in his overnight bag. He was leaving on a very early flight. His job is still based in Atlanta, and thus to Atlanta he had to go.

I wasn’t fully awake yet, and so I simply laid there, listening to his quiet movements. He stepped softly, not wanting to wake me up. He loves me so much, I thought. I’m so lucky to have him, I thought.

And then, in an instant, my thoughts turned.

What if he dies? I thought.

My heart started to race. Calm down, I said to myself.

But my thoughts kept going. What if the plane crashes? What if he gets in a car accident? What if he just dies, overnight? It happens. I know it does.

I physically shook myself. I really needed to stop thinking like this. I should still be sleeping.

But the image of Chris stayed in my mind. The one of him smiling at me in the kitchen. The feeling of him holding me close. The way he looks when he’s playing with the kids. Him. Him. Him.

What if he dies?

I know this isn’t normal. I haven’t exactly polled my non-widow friends, but I am pretty sure they don’t wake up abruptly when their partners are going on a short work trip and think, what if he dies? When Shawn was alive, I never thought this. I’d be more annoyed that he woke me up early, or stressed about handling everything on my own for a few days. (For a few days! It’s almost hilarious to remember that single parenting for a few days would stress me out.) I can’t remember every work trip that Shawn took, but I’m fairly confident that I never woke up with a start and thought, what if he dies?

I got out of bed. Downstairs, I could hear Chris making my coffee. I knew he’d come back up with a steaming hot cup and kiss me goodbye, but I also just wanted to be near him. I put on my robe.

He was in the kitchen, eating Grape-Nuts with blueberries. I looked at the clock. He was running late.

He smiled at me, his eyes warm and his body welcoming. I went to him, pulled him to me, smelled him. He’s okay, I said to myself. This is normal.

I watched him finish some breakfast. “I worry about you when you leave,” I said.

He looked right at me. He knows me well enough to know what I might be thinking. “Nothing is going to happen to me,” he said.

“I know,” I said.

What if he dies? I thought.

He had on a red flannel jacket, the collar turned up because he was going out in the cold. He moved around, packing a few things in his bag. “Do you know where I left my black glasses?” he asked, and I didn’t, so he went to look for them in the other room. I watched him, unable to do much but sip my coffee. I’m so lucky to have him, I thought.

His bag was packed, and he put on his boots at the front door. He was using his new briefcase, the one I bought him for Christmas, and he held it up to show me. I just smiled, saying little. I think he knew what I was feeling. He kissed me. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I promise everything will be okay.”

“I know,” I said, which was both the truth and a lie. I know that – logically – he would be okay.

And yet.

I watched him walk out to his truck. I could see his breath in the air as he easily slid into his seat and closed the door. He didn’t know I was watching him. I should have been back in bed. It was still completely dark.

I watched him drive away. He is fine, I said to myself. And I am so lucky to have him.

What if he dies? I said back.

Image Credit: Sharyn Peavey.


  • Lynn

    Hi Marjorie, I doubt it’s normal for most people but I even thought that way long before hubby died. He was 13 + years older than me. I knew how lucky I was to have him, as I survived a disastrous first marriage in my 20’s with one beautiful son to show for it. I never thought it would happen so soon, but I knew there was a high probability I would be left behind. My anxiety was so high when he’d work late on little or no sleep and drive home. If tell him my fears and he’d say, “It’s scary in there (meaning my head) isn’t it?” I’d say, “Very!” Oftentimes when we were relaxing together, I’d say, “Can I keep you?” He’d say, “I think you already did.” I’d say, “I mean longer!!!” He’d say, “I’m tryin!!” (Because he lost weight.) This happened weekly, if not daily. It’s one of the reasons I am not looking to date: I doubt I could find that kind of love again and if I did, I do not want to go through that significant a loss again. I could bear it; I am surviving this. I just don’t want to. Blessings and thank you for your blog, I look forward to it! Lynn

    • M Brimley

      This is a really sweet story. And I get it – finding love again is something that involves a lot of risk and that calculation can be totally different for every person. I love that your husband would say, “I think you already did!” when you asked if you could keep him. What a sweet window into your relationship. He sounds lovely. I’m so sorry for your loss.