I bought a house.

I bought it six months after losing Todd, the love of my life.

I know, I know. Widows aren’t supposed to make any big decisions in the first year of widowhood. “Widow’s fog” and all that.

I call B.S.

Sometimes, we need to make big decisions. Life demands it. The world goes on around us, with or without us, and we have to do the best we can. The fact of the matter is that I needed to make this decision. I needed a place of my own.

A little backstory

After Todd and I married, we lived like two lovebirds in our honeymoon nest, an off-the-grid home in the woods my sisters-in-law built on the family farm. Then, my father-in-law passed away and my mother-in-law became too sick with cancer to live alone, so Todd and I moved to the “big house” on the farm to take care of her. She died on Valentine’s Day 2017, and 8 months later, I lost Todd, too. Suddenly, the big house became way too big and the burdens of living there too much for me alone.

So, one gray day in late February 2018, I drove around my 3-stoplight town to see what was on the market. And, I found my house: five minutes from the school where I teach, across the street from the hospital, a block away from the public library. The seller walked me through the house the next day, and while the house needed serious renovation, it had thoroughly charmed me. Or, I’d watched too much DIY/HGTV during the long and lonely winter. Whatever the catalyst, I told the seller, “I want this house.” By April, after a few trips to the bank, it was mine.

Creating my own future

Choosing light fixtures, appliances, wall colors, tile has been fun. My bathroom floors are cobalt blue, and bedroom walls are cotton candy pink. Some of my decisions have been poor ones, but I don’t blame “widow’s fog.” I just made some bad choices.

Yet, with each decision, I’ve unwittingly been creating my own space, my own future, and, more importantly, the next version of myself. I’ve been healing, something I never expected when I bought the place. I am not healed nor am I whole again, but I’m learning to live with Todd as part of me rather than beside me.

Our cozy Shasta would have been our new home. Todd’s disc golf cart rests in front of it.

This is not the future I imagined a year ago. I was going to retire soon from teaching, and Todd and I would travel in our 1964 Shasta, hitting national parks and disc golf courses all over the country. I’ve had to reimagine it all, and ask myself over and over, what now? That kind of freedom is frightening. What do I do with the time I have left? I’m now hyper-aware of how short a lifetime can be.

Since Todd’s death, I’ve realized that what has kept me sane (besides my own children, my parents and siblings, and yes, my dogs) has been my job–my students and my colleagues. Work, especially when it involves helping others, is deeply satisfying. My answer to the What Now question, for now, is to keep teaching. I figure investing myself in my students will be an excellent use of my limited days on this earth, and a house in town and close to school will help.

Now, the renovations are almost complete, and in a few weeks, I can move in.

But, I’m not ready.

Packing up

I’ve packed 4 boxes. That’s it. I’ve procrastinated because I don’t want to go through Todd’s and my things again. Two houses full of stuff equals a minefield of grief triggers! No one who walks with grief daily wants to throw themselves into its grips, and that’s exactly what packing will do to me. So, I’m going to move slowly, one box at a time, and maybe all of the grief mines won’t blow at once. My brother-in-law told me there was no rush, told me to take my time in packing and moving. I’m blessed to have married into such an awesome family who loves me and gives me time and space to mourn my husband, their brother.

I’m not ready in other ways, too. I will exchange crickets and frogs at night for ambulance sirens, starshine for streetlights. The supportive network of my in-laws will be a few miles further away.

And, I’ll physically be leaving Todd, who is buried in the family cemetery on the farm.

More and more, though, I’m looking forward to the new house with the pink bedroom, to the next version of me, to my future. No matter what material things I pack and even though I’m moving farther from his gravesite, I’m going to take Todd’s love with me. And, I’ll take with me these final gifts from him: freedom, independence, and sheer headstrong joy in living. He is, after all, forever a part of me and part of my future, too.


Sue Leathers is an English teacher and mother. She had a huge crush on her husband Todd Kleffman, a journalist, when she was in high school, and she'd save his columns and stories. Decades later, she and Todd found each other through Facebook. He was the love of her life, her high school crush, and she was his biggest fan. She lost Todd in October 2017 to a heart attack. She has found solace in Hope for Widows and in writing of her own journey, and hopes to help other widows by sharing her experiences here.

Sue can be found on Instagram: @susanjanie