Since Todd’s death, people have told me, “he’ll always be with you.” They mean well. They smile, maybe pat my arm and wait for me to nod in agreement. I know these words are a cliche, something to say to someone grieving, nothing mystical intended. I don’t imagine the people who say them mean anything more than Todd lives on in my memories. But, sometimes I feel like he’s still here, really with me.

In November a few years ago, Todd and one of his dearest friends went on a week-long cross-country disc golf odyssey, covering courses from Arizona through Texas and back to Kentucky. I missed him that week, but I knew that he was having fun and that he’d be home soon. I’m still happy that he had the opportunity to take many of these disc golf pilgrimages after that big western trip, returning with gifts of stories and tee-shirts and extra long kisses just for me.

It’s been 13 months and 5 days since he died, and still, I have times when feel like I’m waiting for him to come home from some extended disc golf adventure. I feel like he’s nearby, about to pull into the driveway. No matter that I’ve moved. No matter that he’s never been in this house. He knows where I am. He could walk in the door anytime now, cover me with kisses, and tell me about his trip. 

Last weekend was my first outing to a music venue without Todd. I went with his daughter and son and cousin in recognition of the love of live music Todd instilled in each of us. When we got to the club, his daughter and I headed straight for the restroom, and when I came out, I automatically searched the crowd for his 6’4″ frame. It was a disorienting split-second. All night, I longed for him to be next to me or behind me in the crush of the crowd. I felt vulnerable without him, like when I had hip surgery and had to protect the incision from small children, table corners, and energetic dogs.

I try to avoid crowds. They are emotionally overwhelming. I can’t help but imagine he’s there somewhere, winding his way back to me.  Sometimes, I catch glimpses of him. At a high school basketball game, there’s the back of his head–he’s taller than almost everyone else. At the memorial disc golf tournament, his silhouette was near the fire pit. My insides freeze in simultaneous recognition and disappointment. My brain tingles. I feel panicky.

When one of our dogs died, for weeks I’d see it peripherally around the farm, at the top of the driveway. It would make logical sense that my brain is still searching for Todd the way it did for our dog. Habit and established neural pathways take over. Even so, I talk to Todd as though he’s here with me, just as I ask him to visit me in my dreams when I know darned good and well that dreams are products of our sleeping brains.

I’ve taken to watching “reality” TV shows starring mediums. I DVR them and binge watch. I know I’m not the only one. These TV shows are made for millions of viewers like me, people whose deceased loved ones have left gaping holes in their hearts and lives. Watching these shows I’m aware of my own foolishness, but I continue to wonder.

I wonder, is he here with me? Does he know how I am? Does he listen to my conversations? Can he hear the music I play for him? Is he with his parents? Was he the tow-hee singing, the heron standing alone in the stubbly field, the trash bag on a branch dancing in the river, the reason his daughter walked away from a serious car accident a few days after his death?

Once, as I was praying out loud on my drive into work, I unintentionally mixed up my words and said “dear Todd” instead of “dear God.” It just came out that way.

It wasn’t blasphemy.

It was hope–hope trouncing logic and science, hope that he hears me, that he’s everywhere at once and close by, with me.

 

About 

Sue Leathers is an English teacher and mother of two daughters, 19 and 22. 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, after a failed marriage, 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 sudden massive heart attack. She has found solace in Hope for Widows and in writing of her own journey, and hopes to help other widows not feel alone by sharing her experiences here.

Sue can be found on Instagram: @susanjanie