I remember when Heather picked up the phone a little over four years ago and found out that Jackie had collapsed at work and had a very disconcerting x-ray at the hospital. “What?” Heather yelled in disbelief as her eyes flooded with tears. This was before Maddie passed away – Maddie was in my arms at that moment if I remember correctly – and Heather couldn’t process what she was hearing. It was too unthinkable and horrific.
“How could this be happening?” we later wondered together. “How to someone so young and vibrant? To someone who had a laugh that brought joy to so many people? To, well, Jackie?”
Heather and I have been through a lot since that evening, and experienced another loss both unthinkable and horrific. Through all of it, however, Heather has been grieving for Jackie.
I’ve been grieving too as Jackie is also my friend, but it’s different for Heather. She and Jackie amassed a treasure trove of wonderful memories together before I showed up on the scene, and right away I could see the beautiful bond they had.
Supporting Heather though this has been hard. As her husband, I want to make this better. I want to make her smile, to take the weight off her shoulders, but that has been impossible.
I try to understand that the stress of losing her friend often makes her moody, quiet, distant, or sad. I try to be whatever she needs me to be in those times, but I don’t always succeed. Sometimes it’s an effort to not to take her moods personally.
I also try to understand when Heather turns to her college friends for comfort instead of me. They are, after all, a very tight knit group and have been ever since they met at USC all those years ago. Still, sometimes I am not as understanding as I want to be.
I hate that I have any of these feelings. I want to be the stoic husband who supports his wife through a tough situation… a rock. I try to be that way, but… I don’t know. Do those guys even really exist outside of the movies or a Marlboro ad?
If there were some happy ending to be had that would make things easier. Almost anything can be overcome when you know there are brighter days ahead. But that is not the case here, tragically.
Heather is going to need my support more than ever in the days ahead. I’m going to do my best to give it to her, imperfect though it may be.