Brimley children dressed as zombies on first Halloween after death of their father
Missing Shawn

Zombie Apocalypse

A few years back, Shawn got really obsessed with zombies. I think he was binge-watching too much of The Walking Dead, or maybe it was when he re-read World War Z. In any case, for months he would constantly bring up the issue of what we would do in the event of a zombie apocalypse.

The conversation would go something like this:

Him: “Marjorie, we should really think about what our plan would be if the zombies took over!”
Me: “You are crazy.”
Him: “You are not taking me seriously! What would we do? Where would we go?”

It would go on like this for a while, with me dismissing his ideas and him continuing to detail all of the problems with a zombie invasion. I think he would keep harping on this topic because at the end of the discussion, he knew I’d always be laughing. And he loved that – making me laugh, I mean.

But back to this topic. If you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know much about the pop-culture infatuation with zombies, I’m here to tell you that it’s a very real obsession that Shawn shared with a number of other people. Or maybe “shared” is a strong word. I think the other people with whom he discussed this topic probably just appreciated listening to his overly exaggerated account of what might happen to all of us if zombies took over.

Because there would be a lot of problems in a zombie apocalypse.

First off, zombies are relentless and so you need guns and other weapons to fend them off. We did not have anything like that in the house, so Shawn went out and bought an axe just in case. (For real. I think he may have needed it for other things, but since I said “definitely no” to the gun, he bought an axe instead. “To use to smash the zombie’s heads apart, obviously,” he told me when I questioned this purchase.) When some of Shawn’s friends helped me go through his things after he died, one of them took the axe. I told them I didn’t want it because it was just a hazard with young kids in the house and that no one was going to use it. So now I have no axe.

Also, if you are going to survive during the invasion, you need a supply of food and water. Shawn made me store bottled water in the basement (to be fair, he noted we might need this for a natural disaster as well) and he encouraged me to do lots of my own gardening. He even built me my own garden beds. Sometimes when we were hanging out in the backyard with friends, Shawn would brag about how my garden could definitely get our family through a few weeks of zombie fighting.

In addition, you would need to build some sort of barrier to keep the zombies away. Shawn was handy, and kept a lot of leftover lumber in our back garage. Two years ago I tried to throw it away, and he reminded me of all the things we could use it for. “Even for the zombie apocalypse!” he said. I laughed, as I’m sure he knew I would.

But in this crazy scenario where the zombies took over, Shawn believed that we might have to flee DC with our family. In that case, the plan was that I’d put Tommy in the carrier, Shawn would put Austin on his back, and Claire would run beside us because she’s a great runner. We’d travel to Canada and live off of his parent’s farm. He liked this plan so much that we spent an entire summer family reunion actually laying out how we would defend their farm from the zombies (a barn comes in very handy, he argued, as he and his brothers-in-law could shoot them from the roof.)

I thought about all this because I was in our back garage the other day and I saw the lumber. I then remembered the axe, and how I’d given it away, and the garden that I’d let die. I hadn’t thought about the zombie apocalypse in over a year. But right then, standing in our cold garage, I could almost hear Shawn’s voice.

“We need to plan, Marjorie,” he always said.

So what’s my plan now? Run for the hills with my 71-year-old father and three kids? Figure out how to construct a barrier and defend my home when all I have are nerf guns? Or just give in to the zombies?

I don’t want to lay down and die (or become undead, or whatever a zombie is.) But the fact that I’m spending so much time thinking about this highlights how insecure even totally insane hypothetical situations can make me.

Shawn kept me safe. He kept us safe. I felt that every single day.

And now it feels like the zombies may come any day and I’ll have nowhere to hide.


  • Melissa

    Toward the end of his illness, my husband would chastise me for indulging in “what ifs” so I completely understand your anxiety, Marjorie. Even though my husband didn’t worry about zombies, he did believe in being prepared for the unexpected since we lived in an area that could be affected by hurricanes, etc. He bought a generator in case we had no power and there are a number of five gallon containers of potable water lining one wall of the garage. He also bought a whole collection of dried foodstuffs that he stashed away in a bin under the sink. He always thought ahead and tried to anticipate any disaster. After our very first night together, he hugged me tight and said “I want to take care of you.” Now that he’s gone, I still feel that care reflected in all the things he set up for me so I would be protected, financially and in many other ways. Like you, I felt safe with him and fervently wish he were still here.

    • Marjorie

      Yes – the water and the dried foodstuffs! Such planners, our husbands were. I always thought it was a personality quirk, but it’s crazy how insecure I feel without all the prep work done for me.

  • Andrea

    Not to make light of this, but we would also flee to Canada to my in-laws’ cottage in the event of a zombie invasion. It’s not a farm, but it’s fairly defensible and has a good supply of water and game. If we do have a zombie apocalypse, I promise that I will check to see if you, your kids, and your dad need to flee alongside us, at least as far as Shawn’s parents’ place, and to make sure you get there. So there’s one thing you can check off your list of worries!

  • Sarah

    I love this! I remember this discussion at our Sunday breakfasts, but my favorite “what if” discussion of Shawn’s was “what if you were the president, what good government would you enact for U.S. citizens?” And Shawn’s first answer to this question was always “jumpsuits!” Then it went on from there —describing the types of jumpsuits, what colors might be best, emblems to adorn the jumpsuits, etc. God, that had me laughing so hard!

    • Marjorie

      Oh, I had TOTALLY forgotten about this – I need to do a blog post on the ridiculous things Shawn used to say at our Sunday breakfasts. I could call it “Sunday breakfasts” and then also talk about how we all met up for one final meeting mere hours before Shawn died. Because that’s the kind of friends you all have always been for me, Shawn and our family. xo

  • Sheryll Brimley

    This made me smile! The picture made me smile! I remember that evening when we all sat around the dining room table & talked about our plans should the apocalypse hit. I think that was the time Shawn went to our Canadian Tire & bought supplies for his “get away bag”? We really believed him!!

  • Kay

    My son has planned for the zombie apocalypse too! Is it a military(security) minded personality trait. In any event, I’m sure if I asked Adam to go and get you and the kids, he would, in a heartbeat! And he has training to ward off the zombies… I’ll say no more, just trust me on that! Man I wish I had known Shawn and had a Sunday breakfast with all of you!

  • mh

    Hello, Marjorie, I started reading your blog a few months ago as a fellow mom of young children in the DC area. Now I’m also a widow. My husband loved zombie movies.

    • Marjorie

      Thank you so much for telling me that. And I’m so sorry that you’ve joined our terrible club. But I am glad we all have each other.