People have said all sorts of things to me in the last two years in efforts to offer comfort. Some have been confusing or inadvertently hurtful, and others held nuggets of truth that have come to make more sense with time.

Recently, I’ve been unpacking “he’ll always be with you.” It’s a common sentiment. Initially, I thought it simply meant I’ll have loads of memories to act as a balm, which they did and still do. I can lose track of time in memories, letting them take over like a movie playing in my head. 

Then, I moved on to another phase during which I thought maybe he really was with me in spirit, following me through my day. I looked for signs, in particular, I listened for a birdsong I’d hear whenever I was at his gravesite. I longed for concrete evidence that he hadn’t left me. But, I couldn’t believe that he could be with me and a friend across the country at the same time, like a spectral Santa.  As months passed, and signs never came–no weirdly coincidental moments that led me to say, “that was him!”– I had to stop because my search was only making me feel somehow less. I was disappointed that I had no psychic sensitivities or even worse, I wondered if my love for him or his for me wasn’t deep enough to tie us together with an invisible thread.

Todd in his element at the Short Mountain Tournament in Tennessee.

But, in the last few months, “he’ll always be with you” has made more sense. I had a moment on the disc golf course when I knew he was with me in a deeper way. There wasn’t a birdsong. I didn’t find a penny or see a cardinal. But, I understood how he was with me.

Disc golf was one of Todd’s passions. He left a huge collection of discs when he died, and when I moved from his family’s farm last fall, I packed a plastic storage bin full of them with me. This summer, I began to throw one around the back yard with my dogs for fun, when I had the urge to  throw it for real. Todd had given me a disc bag (pink!) that he’d won at a tournament, so I packed it full of drivers, a few midranges, and two putters, and off I went to a local course one Saturday morning. 

I’d walked a few tournaments with Todd and had picked up basic knowledge of the sport from him and his friends, and once I played a beginner’s tourney for fun with him. But, my hips had been becoming so progressively painful from arthritis that I couldn’t walk with him during his last summer. My first surgery was scheduled for December of 2017, but he died in October of 2017. I’d run out of time. He was gone before I became bionic.

Anyway, I knew the basics and set out one Saturday to throw all by myself. No one was at the park that morning, and as I played, I talked to myself and to Todd. By hole 4, he was telling me which disc to choose. The next Saturday, I was back at it, talking to him and listening to him, trying out his different discs to see how each flew. I could imagine him saying: Sue, you need your own discs.  

I went home and ordered a few discs that made more sense for my novice game. When they were delivered, I wrote my name and phone number on them with a Sharpie, and the next weekend, I sat in the grass by hole 11, and wrote my info on the handful of Todd’s discs, too, next to the big TK that he’d written. 

I am hooked. I come home from work and watch clinics on YouTube. When it cools off on evenings, I go to the school’s football field to work on my distance. I practice my putts in my backyard. My goal is to play in my first tournament next spring.

And that is how he is “with me.” He’s in me, part of me. Not only when I’m at his gravesite or on the course. Always. A million times a day, I could point to something I do or say or think that are because of him. 

I don’t know why I hadn’t figured this out before. After all, all relationships influence who we are. If it weren’t for my boyfriend in high school, I wouldn’t know how to paddle a canoe. So why don’t I hear my old boyfriend’s voice in my head? 

Because I loved Todd and he loved me. Of the importance of love, Viktor Frankl wrote, “Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importance.”

Understanding how Todd could always be with me comes when I had begun to worry that I was losing him, when time was fading not only the intensity of his death but also my memories of his life, and when I’m figuring out who I am now, who I want to be.

Someone once told me, “He’ll always be right here” and pointed to my heart. I get that now. He’ll always be with every single person who loved him, not just in our fading memories, but in our vibrant living. 




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