Blog Post

You two are such a cute couple

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Jacob and I hiking at his second favorite place about 45 minutes west of Tallahassee- Nature Conservancy land, Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines – November 2014. I loved his circle glasses – every time people see photos of Jacob who have not met him (like at the widow camp) they say “I bet he was an artist, right?”
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One of my favorite blurry photos of all time – summer 2012 at Spanish Oaks, our home for 4.5 years – and Jacob’s Bart Simpson figurine.

I recently told our old landlord (from our favorite house (see the post here) in Tallahassee that Jacob had passed away, I had been missing a few random things and I wanted to know if she still had them. Unfortunately, she sold our little house. After she started to cry and talk about how much she loved Jacob, she also said something that I forgot people used to say to us, “You two were the cutest couple.” I hadn’t heard that in over a year, and I forgot that was something people told us often. I bursted into tears (as usual) because I knew that I would never hear that expression in the present tense ever again. It also made me unbearably sad because I felt like people will forget about our life – that we even had a life together – without being told – never to be seen in real time. No one knew of our intimate day-to-day life (except me and Jacob) so of course, I will never forget – but everyone else, it seems they will. How could they not?

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I LOVE this photo. Once again, at our Spanish Oaks apartment and Jacob was studying for his final exam in his human sexuality class – Fall 2012. He looks so handsome. Look at those hands. So beautiful.

The way he did the dishes and aligned the mason jars perfectly stacked and always to the left of the plates – the way he would keep “fun cereals and snacks” on the counter instead of in the pantry because he didn’t want to forget about them in the morning. How much we loved to buy the tub of Nestlé Toll House cookie dough. But he always would burn them and say “coos, can you make them please?” How much he loved the holiday Pillsbury cookies and each new holiday there was a new shape – ghosts, pumpkins, snowmen, Christmas trees. He would call me and say, “should we get the ghosts or the pumpkins???!” He would burn those too – so I always made them. “Thanks baby coos!” He got very frustrated when he would burn them – I would say “You are far too intelligent to deal with these simple matters, I got you covered baby Jakes.” It was a huge tradition to get those Pillsbury holiday cookies – we realized though that when we were kids they would come in a log form and now they come in a tray form. We liked the log…  How excited he got when we would get whole milk. Sometimes he would come back from a gas station with some sketchy whole milk and I would say, “Jakey – this is uggos, please let’s go get you some real whole milk.” When we lived in Olympia, Washington they had the best whole milk, according to Jacob. He was the whole milk expert. If anything was in the fridge, he would forget. It was so cute how he kept things out on the counter – always in a particular way. Never haphazard. Now, that day-to-day living is just a memory. I want to go back. These realizations are not easy. I never thought I would lose the love of my life- so when people would say, “you two are such a cute couple”, I always said “aw, thank you”

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Spanish Oaks Apartment – when we first moved in – Summer 2012 – nothing but pure and unconditional love.

but never thought twice about it, because I knew how perfect we were for each other and how lucky we were. Now, I know that no one will ever know “Kaitlin and Jacob” as a couple again, and I will never hear these words again. I am going to start using my real name in these blog posts*. For us, there was/is no Kaitlin without Jacob and no Jacob without Kaitlin. I am nothing without him. I am truly a body without a soul. I mean, Christ, our old landlord, and my old boss, Carla knew more of our life together than anyone else. It will all just fade… and time will do nothing but encourage the haziness of what we shared. I feel like we were a clear photograph

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Okay. I loved to watch Jacob sleep. He liked to watch me sleep, too. He used to say “Baby coo, when I can’t get to sleep I look at you and whisper I love you into your ears, and hope it is getting in there.” So, I was working on homework late at night at our second apartment (my mom spent all weekend putting up these curtains and painting our walls). And I took this photo because I just loved how beautiful he looked sleeping. Fall 2011.

and now it is entering into an out of focus blur. This is why I write and write in journals, I voice memo memories into my phone, I write in word documents every day so that my memories of Jacob will never fade… but the day-to-day living without him will become farther and farther away. And that is always clear when I wake and he is not cuddling me. 

This time of year fucking sucks. Okay? September Jacob died last year. We were supposed to get married in October 2018 – Abe as the ring bearer (Jacob’s idea, of course), November- a holiday we both loved and spent exclusively together since 2014, because we were each other’s family – now, completely gone. We had a routine of playing Charlie Brown’s Christmas on vinyl and Bird and Dizz (Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie) – on loop- all thanksgiving long on our record player. Man did we love listening to those two albums on Thanksgiving. I can still see Jacob walking into the living room to change the side of the record. Like yesterday. We would watch Plains, Trains, and Automobiles. “Baby, John Hughes movies are perfect for Thanksgiving.” We cooked my mom’s casserole she made us in college. ***By the way – every time we came home from college (2010-2014), Jacob spent the night before at our house, and woke up with us – the first time he ever did I said “You will wake up to the smell of my mom’s casserole and the sound of the Macy’s Day Parade on television.” As we slept together in my childhood room every year in college before the Fall holidays, we started to bring our own traditions such as our Thanksgiving vinyl – especially Charlie Brown’s Christmas with us. Jacob would always trim the tree with us shortly after. Me, my mom, and my dad haven’t put a tree up since Jacob died – no holiday decorations – and it will be the same this year. Jacob was part of this ritual. I remember the first time he trimmed the tree with us, my dad introduced him to eggnog and sprite. “Mr. Griffith I always hated eggnog but with the sprite, wow, it is so good- I mean, how good is that?” So, I know these traditions are jumbled and all over the place (welcome to my brain) but these are some of the early things me, Jacob, my mom, and dad did for those four years in college. Last Thanksgiving (2017), Jacob and I had plans to take the train from Boston to NYC and meet my parents for the Macy’s Day Parade. Tickets already booked – Airbnb already booked – and Jacob was so excited to take a train. “Baby, I love trains – I wish they were more common here in the United States, I am so excited (emphasis on the SOOO as he came to hug me) to take a train for Thanksgiving.”

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One of our first little trees (see stockings to the left) at Spanish Oaks – December 2012.

So here we are, as stupid fucking morons feel compelled to holler “Happy Thanksgiving” to everyone on the street, it makes me break down, cry, and then get angry that the world stole our life away. I woke up this past Thanksgiving morning sleeping with Jacob’s ashes and talked to him about what we would be doing. If I would be pregnant yet… what music we would be playing and how we would be cuddling and easing into our morning. How he would have probably surprised me with coffee. Or that I would have made him an Irish latte (half Early grey with honey and half frothed whole milk- you can froth milk like at a coffee shop if you heat it up over the stove and then pump it in a french press.) He loved this! “Baby, can you make me one of those… um, um, Irish lattes?” In a cute little voice.

Just – please – please- please – stop saying “Happy Thanksgiving” “Happy Holidays” and the worst of all for me – “Happy New Year”, because it is another year that Jacob will not see. I am truly terrified for next year because I will turn the age (27) Jacob was when he died – and I do not want to live past his life on this earth. This time of year is just adding salt on the endless goddamn wounds. And you do not need to tell everyone “Happy” anything. Just shut the fuck up and keep your happy cheer to yourself.

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December 2013 – the last Christmas spent at my parent’s house.
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A few weeks before Christmas 2014 at my parent’s house. These photos are so fucking hard but so beautiful. WE LOVED EACH OTHER SO DEEPLY.

 

I WILL NEVER MOVE ON

Any widowed person will tell you that we have heard, time and time again (except for recently as I just isolate myself in bed all day and shut off my phone as to not hear them), the endless parade of well-intentioned, thoughtless comments that come our way within MINUTES of losing our soulmates – Everything happens for a reason/ Time heals all wounds/ God never gives you more than you can handle/ It was God’s plan/ We all choose our own death (some stupid pseudo-Buddhist shit)/God needed another angel/ I know exactly how you feel (UGH UGH UGH UGH)/ You need to get over this. That of course, as you have read in previous weeks is not the full list of “fuck you’s” in the chest. The truth of the matter is, nobody could ever know what we are going through (thank God) or what it IS until they themselves have gone through it. Yes, people want to help – but they don’t stop to think about how insensitive these clichés can feel when heard by someone who is in tremendous and VERY REAL LIFE OR DEATH KIND OF PAIN.

Kelley Lynn Shepherd said the king of all insensitive comments is: “You Need to Move on.” And I have to agree with her on this. Completely. 

… I am going to summarize some of the things she said:

Let me say this as simply as possible:

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS MOVING ON.

It is a lie
It is a fairy-tale concept, invented by those who don’t know what to say.

It is invented out of ignorance and fear.

They want you to move on so that they can feel more comfortable with your presence. (yes I know – I am awful company – completely aware). 

It is as if they are saying to us, “If we can all just pretend that this scary death thing never actually happened, then it would simply go away.”

Except, guess what? It never goes away. Not for me. Not for us. Not for the person living inside of it. It becomes you, and you become it, and you become wrapped in each other. Death and life become one and everything is different forever. The death of a spouse or partner is different than other losses, in the sense that it literally changes every single thing in your world going forward. When your spouse dies, the way you eat changes. The way you watch TV or movies changes (for me, I am unable to watch movies at all because I never watched ANY movie in the past 7 years without Jacob. At night or out in the theatre. So the fact that his eyes cannot see what I know he would love makes me want to vomit.) People disappear from your life entirely. Your job changes (graduate school for me- a career? seriously? the whole reason I even wanted to be a teacher is so I could financially support Jacob and I both so he didn’t have to work a shitty job and he could focus solely on his writing – collect a body of work, which he never got to do – like Stephen King’s wife did for him). It was a family decision between Jacob and myself. Your self-esteem changes big time. Your self-worth. YOUR DAILY FUCKING RITUALS. Your mentality. My mental state altogether… The way you breathe. The way you walk (or the lack of walking). The mornings – the constant reminder Jacob is not there when I wake up. Your physical body (I can only eat toast… literally.) Your hobbies and interests change (none for me anymore). It all seems so futile and empty. EVERY. SINGLE. THING. CHANGES. For me, our apartment/house is gone – for the first time since 2010 I am back living in my hometown, with my parents, in my childhood bedroom and not with Jacob. Not in our little safe spaces we created together. Not with our mini Christmas tree and stockings for each other and then finally in 2016 a stocking for our cat Abraham with a fish on it. Jacob loaded it with tons of treats “cheese middlez” and “tuna temptations” and little mice toys. Jacob worked as an assistant manager of a toy store for a while in Tallahassee late 2016 – March/April 2017 (funny story about when my parents came to visit him there one day I will get to it) and anyway, right next door was a locally owned natural pet store that always carried new products from Japan for cats – like full fillets of salmon and cutting-edge new treats Jacob would come home with. I remember he got Abe two huge fillets once and I gave Abe the whole thing and Jacob said, “Baby, we were supposed to give them to him together!” I said, “Okay, I’m sorry but he was jumping up and down wanting the rest of it – you give him the other one!” After Abe got both he was meowing and meowing jumping on the kitchen table, following us from room to room – it was quite adorable. Jacob was like “Jesus, buddy – there is none left! I will get you more tomorrow!” He would pick him up, “Oh my little fish breath wonder.”

Anyway… I was handed a new life I never asked for and DO NOT WANT. Jacob and I wanted marriage-so often we just were like, “let’s just go to the courthouse and get married and have a small reception later on… ” That was me and Jacob’s style for sure. All of this future robbed from us, especially that I will never bear his children and grow into parenthood with him – I mean- this is the hardest, most gut-wrenching, horrific, and life-altering reality to live with.

To top it all off, people with their partners beside them and social support (once again, I only had Jacob… so no real friends for me.) People like to think they suddenly know what is best for you. They treat you like a child. They want you to treat it as if it were a divorce instead of a death. EXCUSE ME? I did not fall out of love! THE LOVE OF MY LIFE WAS TAKEN FROM ME. They want you to put that person in the past – like some “ex” – um no fucking way, I still say “we” every time I talk about Jacob – we did something or we liked something or we watched something, or we love this etc. etc. These type of comments from people are beyond hurtful. And so what ends up happening? I feel / we feel more alone and isolate further and further. Just like I have done. I am doing. For me, it is a very scary place to be because… I do not want to live – I do not see a purpose without the love of my life – a whole life without Jacob? My one true love? The best father there could ever be? The most amazing human being the world has ever known. The love, compassion, creativity, curiosity, intellect, beauty, on and on the list can go…The man I dreamed of having children with since I was like… 13. And you want me to keep going? Nope. Count me out. So these comments people “offer up to you” feel like more blood dripping when the dagger is already deep in the chest. Yeah, I am angry. I am sad. I am in a horror film. I have run out of words to describe the miserable pain. And the only thing there is to help me? Bring Jacob back. But that is impossible.

The drill drills on. Grief gives life a permanently provisional feeling. It doesn’t seem worth starting anything. I can’t get up. I sleep, I lay in bed, and I am always restless in my sleep. I used to smoke too many cigarettes to stop the trauma and visions boiling in my brain but now I can’t even muster the strength to walk outside. Up until this I always had too little time. Now there is nothing but time. Almost pure time, empty successiveness.

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Christmas 2011 – I realize I am in the middle of a sentence here but Jacob is giving me a sweet kiss and I always loved this photo. We were just babies here.
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Desperate man blues

There ain’t no colors in the sky
Anymore
And I don’t feel much like singing
Can’t see what for
And there ain’t no comfort in this life
Anymore
All that I can see that’s ahead of me seems like
Such a chore
Maybe something will happen to make it all better
Better?
Maybe something will come along and make me happy
Happy?
There ain’t no fun in living anymore
And I don’t feel much like living
Can’t see what for
There ain’t no life left in me
I feel a bit funny
Like a ghost
With nowhere to go
My hope has gone and left me
A desperate man
There’s no spunk left in me
I feel so hollow in me
So empty, so empty
So empty, so empty
A big chunk of what I was has gone
And left me a desperate man
Now I’m a desperate man
I’m lonely, scared
Sad, sorry man
And I just can’t see no colors in the sky
Anymore
There’s color there I’m sure, but it ain’t mine
And it’s made me blind
A desperate man
Desperate
I’m a desperate man
– Daniel Johnston (listen to the song here) from one of Jacob’s favorite albums of all time, Hi, How Are You. Still on cassette and vinyl in the boxes of our belongings… I remember the day I gave him that album on vinyl and cassette. I said, “should I put it in a separate spot from the rest of our records?” He laughed, “Baby coo – everything around here is OURS – there will never be a day where my stuff and your stuff are separate.” That is when I knew he wanted to be with me forever…I was 19. I knew it for so long myself, but Jacob laughing at the idea of separating our books, vinyl, mugs, cassettes, or anything else – made me truly realize he wanted to be with me forever. I can’t even talk about the memory… just much too depressed this week to use my own words. This song describes the last 14 months almost perfectly, except the two sentences of idealism. I used to listen to this song with Jacob and we would talk about it at length (the sadness, the poetry of it, the desperation in the art)… but now I am living it.
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Without you, Jacob – I am a body without a soul. Can we go back to this place? This time? This memory… December 2014
Blog Post

A laugh for you, my widow friend

 

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Jacob reading South of No North by Charles Bukowski (book of poetry) in our second apartment together – Fall 2011 – Jacob read and read and read and of course, always quoted Stephen King who said “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”

I have just returned from a long weekend of Camp Widow where I met a true extension of Jacob’s soul and someone I feel like could be and is developing into one of my closest friends in life – Élise from Montréal – we have done voice memos/ videos/ or facetime calls nearly every day to talk about our soulmates who are very similar (we also have very similar stories of loss as well) and I am going to visit her in Montréal (she has the sweetest french accent, and is helping me keep my four years of French stay fresh in my brain). I want to visit Montréal and go to all the places Jacob wanted to visit there in Montréal – the places we talked about visiting together (Leonard Cohen’s first apartment, his museum, the park where he spent many hours as a child, wrote many poems and spent time writing his first novel, Beautiful Losers, which Jacob always said was the most underrated book of all time.) He loved that book, and when he gave it to me in Christmas of 2016 he wrote me the most beautiful inscription. I read it every day. And Jacob and I both really wanted to go together (and planned on it in winter of 2018 since we lived so close from Boston) especially after all the years of watching one of his all-time favorite documentaries… Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen (it is free on youtube, trust me – watch it.) Jacob watched it on loop junior year of college and it also changed my life- and I cannot think of anyone remotely close to Jacob on this earth EXCEPT Leonard Cohen, he is truly the only one that reminds me of Jacob. And Jacob agreed in a very humble way – that is why Jacob always turned to art and artists – to find himself reflected. We also wanted to visit Montréal in winter because the documentary was shot during winter. Jacob was so cute like that. Anyway, just the fact that this fellow young widow, who I now refer to as my dear, dear friend who I love with all my heart, Élise (my age, without kids, whose spouse was a writer) knew of Leonard Cohen is beyond belief (that reminds me of another Jacob story…) The fact that I could be in the same room with a friend drinking wine listening to Leonard Cohen blew my mind. Actually, it brought us both to tears. In addition to telling our horrible, painful and miserable stories of loss – but in the backdrop hearing Leonard Cohen – it was as if I was with Jacob. Why this is so important to me is I have never done that with anyone but Jacob in my entire life – because he was my best friend. My only friend. In addition to being my lover and soulmate. I never had a “girlfriend” that was ever even remotely close to a soul like Jacob… this is why I watch and read Leonard Cohen interviews and books all the time – to feel closer to him when Jacob’s words to me, photos of him and me, and videos to me and of us leave me wanting more and more (which is always…) But my darling friend Élise who I met this past weekend had a piece of Jacob’s soul in her – and so much of her is because of her spouse, just like so much of me is from Jacob… For instance, she said she wouldn’t have known about Leonard Cohen if it wasn’t for her darling soulmate Lukas, just as I wouldn’t know of him if it wasn’t for my Jacob. But more on that later (I promise, it deserves its own post – and it will when I visit her in Montréal and see all the places Jacob and I wanted to see, which will be painful but at least I can be with someone who understands, I can cry with and who can hold my hand in my suffering – we can hold each other’s hands in suffering. Jacob would love her and I can hear him saying, “Thank you for helping my baby coos” – I feel like Jacob brought us together in some cosmic way. I felt him while I was with her. A connection that was of course in no way like me and Jacob’s but it felt like Jacob was there if only for a few moments. How wonderful to feel that way no matter how fleeting – a way I never thought was possible.

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Jacob, of course, reading as usual – this time- Bob Dylan Chronicles in Fall 2011, in our favorite chair still in our second apartment together -we brought this chair with us everywhere we lived- remember this is not the third apartment where we lived together for 4.5 years during college-but we still called this “The Jakes (Yakes) Reading Corner” or “Jakeys Reading Corner”. *Notice the cup of soda next to him, so darling.
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Me and Jacob (Jacob and I- whatever, who gives a fuck at this point) on my 19th birthday.

 

So, I also started an intense procedure this week on my brain-super fun, right? No. Super fucking shitty.  And painful. Feel free to ask me about it in the contact section of this blog. I’ll probably post about it when I finish. So, mentally, I am honestly not ready to talk about or even process all that happened in the last week and a half… but one thing I can offer you is something I heard this past weekend which was: tragedy + time = comedy.  This is a phrase Jacob used to tell me a lot… so it was kind of a Déjà vu moment. In fact, I remember Jacob saying this is why the Jewish people are so goddamn funny – they have been through so much tragedy over time. It is a really hard concept for me to believe now, but I kept being reassured by other widows that will change. Like I said, hard to believe. I am really sick of “things will never get better, but different bullshit”. BUT – I am going to give you an excerpt from Kelley Lynn Shepherd’s book (who I met at Camp Widow in Toronto, and who also did the wonderful Ted Talk, “When Someone You Love Dies, There Is No Such Thing as Moving On” – she is very quick witted and makes you laugh at the RIDICULOUS SHIT people do/act/say/think/project while you are in grief. Jacob would find this story incredibly funny (and her incredibly funny) and I actually laughed out loud because I have gotten similar comments in the vein of “Be glad you have your health!” FUCK YOU. This story seriously made my day – week – month? And I could hear Jacob laughing – also, my mother-in-law was the first one to witness me laughing at it, I couldn’t even get the sentences out they were so funny and close to home. She hasn’t seen that since Jacob died. I didn’t think I could even laugh that hard anymore – not without Jacob with me every day. So, enjoy…yeah, I hate that word too.

Excerpt from the book, My Husband Is Not a Rainbow: The Brutally Awful, Hilarious Truth About Life, Love, Grief, and Loss by Kelley Lynn Shepherd (which by the way she is someone I completely relate to on so many levels of her personal grief story – robbed of children, a future, and growing old together without the only person she wanted those wonderful things with.) Quick aside: Jacob used to say, “I think you and I will be great at the whole becoming senile together thing – we are already so cynical already.” I always laughed when he said that and responded that, “We are 65-year-olds trapped in 25-year-old bodies Jakey.”

Okay here is the excerpt – I hope you find it as funny as I did. And validating for that matter…

“… Months ago, I posted on Facebook this: “Need to attempt this life thing again without Don. Not looking forward to it. Wish me luck!” A lot of people did wish me luck, told me to hang in there, and a bunch of other really nice things. And then there was this comment:

“Be glad you have your health, Kelley. Remember that some are living with diseases which make it difficult to just get out of bed. I’ve got rheumatoid arthritis, but some have it worse.” Well, alrighty then. What the hell is THAT supposed to mean? What does your rheumatoid arthritis got to do with my husband’s death or ANYTHING for that matter? Nothing. I don’t see the connection. Because there isn’t one. They are two completely different issues. It makes zero sense to bring up one when talking about the other. I suppose the purpose of saying something like that is to make me feel “grateful” for all the things I could be dealing with that I’m not dealing with. But honestly, I never saw the point to that argument. It’s like when you were a kid, and you didn’t want to eat your vegetables, and your mom would say, “Eat everything on your plate! There are starving children in Africa!” Okay. Whether or not I eat my green beans, they will still be starving. My eating or not eating my food has nothing to do with them being starving. Starvation will always be an epidemic, and the only way to combat it is to help them! Send donations. Put programs together to help solve the ongoing issues. And guess what? These beans are still disgusting, and I’m still not eatin’ em.

So if I tell you my husband just died and you say, “Well, at least you don’t have rheumatoid arthritis!” I’m going to look at you like you’re fucking nuts. Unless you leave it as a comment on Facebook. In that case, I will just THINK you are fucking nuts and say nothing and then write about it in my book later on. No, I don’t have arthritis. I also don’t have lupus, lyme disease, or a weak bladder. And hey, at least I am not headless! You know, some people are walking around earth without a HEAD! So be grateful you have a head! And legs. There are some people who have no legs. And if they grieved the loss of their legs, would you say to them, “Well, be grateful you have a torso! You know, some people don’t have a torso! Or eyes. At least you have eyes! I know a guy with no eyes, no torso, no legs, no arms, and no face. He’s just a foot. So be grateful. You could be just a foot.”

I mean, where does it end? Your problems are your problems, and my problems are my problems. The death of my husband is what I happen to be dealing with. He is gone forever, and my life is forever different, and every day, I’m stuck trying to get up and figure out another reason why I should stick around. I’m sorry if, at the moment, I’m not feeling very grateful for my lack of rheumatoid arthritis.

“I don’t understand the need that some people have to compare pain. If I tell you my wife died just 4 weeks after her diagnosis, and you come back at me with some story about someone you know who suffered longer with the same illness before dying- what am I supposed to say? “Okay – you win! That pain is worse than my pain.” There are no prizes when everyone is dead.” – Joe Harris.

That quote is how she ends the segment –

Jesus Christ, thank you, Kelley – I get this shit all the time- not only the “be grateful you have your health” but the “people have suffered much worse, and for much longer” or the “people have suffered much worse and how selfish can you be lying in a bed for 14 months doing nothing?” or “people have suffered much worse with much fewer resources and have gotten through it.” All from the same goddamn person.

I hope those of you in mourning found this excerpt somewhat funny and at least a slight distraction, validation, and connection to the author and fellow widow. She gets it. She has turned it into humor. And I can hear Jacob’s laugh.