My friend’s husband retired just one year ago.They took a bucket-list trip to Israel. Mostly, they were planning for the next stage of their lives, hoping to be grandparents and moving to be near their children. Then, the unexpected happened. While pushing the snowblower up their steep driveway, her husband had a massive heart attack and died.

My friend had some crazed days ahead: planning the funeral, telling family and friends, coping with the shock to her children, and the sudden loneliness in and around her. I offered to cook a meal in between the two viewings for her out-of-town family. Then, as family and friends receded back into their lives, I felt I needed to say more, do more.

What can I say? How do you find words that let her know you acknowledge and feel her pain. I wrote this letter. In between the innumerable phone calls, emails, and business to take care of, she could read this emailed letter in her own time, and the right time for her.

I thought all night about the emotions you experienced: the moment of terror, followed by hopes unmet, dreams changed, and your life companion/partner/friend/lover, moving to another world, still within feel, but beyond vision. I once read a story about death. It’s like Albert is a boat on the horizon. One moment you see him and then next moment you don’t but he is still there.

Through our friendship, I have learned so much wisdom from you. Last night, I had a big dose of it. I admired the way you found humor through the pain, fond memories through the numbness, poise through the irrational. I’ll never forget how despite the challenges of marriage, you ultimately came to understand and share the value of sticking with it, making it work.

You adapted to the changes that retirement brought, and shared the pros/cons, opening my eyes to the possibilities in the unimaginable!

I’m convinced that I will learn more from you in how to cope with loss with dignity; how to adapt and alter family roles to keep the familial fabric as strong as it was before; how to know when you need to test being alone and when you need to lean on friends; how to continue to grow into the mother and woman are you meant to be.

I wish you many sweet and frequent memories to keep Albert’s spirit alive for you and your boys. As your friend, I vow to remember Albert for you and with you. Albert didn’t get to say goodbye, but he will be trying to reach out to you often to say thanks for the years of love you gave him and he will surely be looking over your safety and happiness. If you keep your heart awake and alive, you will notice his attempts.

With sorrow I write these words but they are laced with the hope that life has many joys in store for you yet to be realized.


What have you said to friends in a similar position that you can share?