“Firsts.”  Such a loaded word for widows.

My first time introducing myself on here… I am Elizabeth Dreier, forever a wife to my beloved Simon; mother to my son who inherited his parent’s love for calf roping and all things rodeo; mother to my daughter who is a champion rower like me; I’m the daughter of a hairdresser and appointed Federal official; I’m the daughter-in-law of a soon-to-be Congressional official.

I am Elizabeth Dreier; widow, nurse, licensed pilot, photographer, observant Reform Jew, solo parent, wannabe Pinterest mom, coffee snob, Target shopping professional, former Miss (enter state here)… My list of labels could go on and on.  The one that sticks out the most, though, is “widow.”  The one that sticks out the most is the one I never wanted.

In early 2009, my beloved Simon took his life.

He suffered intractable pain from a car accident and couldn’t live with it anymore.  We had his sperm frozen because I battled ovarian cancer at a young age.  We knew we wanted children, but we didn’t know if I’d be able to carry them.  After Simon’s death, I used his frozen sperm for IUI and conceived a gorgeous son who’s the spitting image of his Daddy.  Two years later, I did the same thing and had a daughter who may as well be my twin with her icy eyes and white-blonde hair.

My children know the truth about their father’s death.  I don’t believe in hiding it from them.  They will know sooner or later and I don’t want them to resent me for lying about it.  I’ve shared the age-appropriate details and when they’re old enough, I’ll tell them the whole story.  The children have seen my darkest moments; anger, sadness, loneliness, anxiety.  They also see my brightest moments; understanding, joy, pride, healing, hope, faith, love.

I met Simon when I was three.  He was my first date, first kiss, first love.  We married as soon as I was 18 and the four years we shared as husband and wife were what I refer to as my Glory Days.  It’s been ten long, painful years without my darling Simon.

I swore I’d never love again…

But when Simon’s best friend lost his wife to the same cancer I survived, there was sort of an unspoken bond there.  I grew up in a family of politicians and married into a family of politicians, so I suppose it’s only fitting that I’m dating one.  We’ll call him Mr. Smith.

It has been almost a year for Mr. Smith and me, and it’s been an adventure.  Sometimes up, sometimes down, sometimes a straight line.  As a nurse, I know the trite saying, “if there are no ups and downs, your heart is not beating.”  I roll my eyes at that because I’m bitter and I can admit that I’m bitter.  Yes, I’ve learned to love again, but I still want my Simon back.

Mr. Smith also has two children, approximately the same age as mine.  They adore each other and they’re happy to see their parents happy.  I’m a long, long way from being ready to be Mrs. Anything again, but having a lover, friend, and partner who “gets” me is a gift I cherish and thank my God for daily.  We like to believe Mr. Smith’s wife and my Simon are happy looking down upon us being happy again, ourselves.

I hate to say “moving on” because a piece of my heart will always be only Simon’s…

But I’m getting comfortable with “life goes on”… Because it’s true.  The world will never stop spinning for my broken heart, my babies will always need their Mama, and a decade later I’ve realized something: I deserve happiness, too.  I’ve realized it’s not an indication of the depth of my love for Simon if I love someone else.  So that’s where I’m at and that’s what I’m doing.

Ten years on, I feel like Elizabeth again…

I know Simon is so joyful for that.  He is proud of me, our children, and the way I’ve survived with grace and grit.  If I can do this, you can do this, too.






Elizabeth had a love story straight from a fairytale; she met Simon when she was three and he was five after her family moved into the house next door to Simon's family. They were inseparable, but simply best friends for a decade or so until Simon noticed Elizabeth's "ocean eyes," as he called them, and Elizabeth noticed Simon's time in the gym was really paying off. Their first date was at Elizabeth's favorite restaurant that overlooked the lake they had both grown up on. When dessert came, Elizabeth saw, "will you be my girl?" was written in chocolate sauce on the plate. She said yes to this handsome man with the fluorescent white smile and sunburnt lips. Simon pulled out a little blue box with a gold Star of David necklace in it; he had spent two weeks' salary to purchase something that honored Elizabeth's preference for simplistic gold jewelry and their shared Jewish faith. Simon put the necklace on Elizabeth and they walked down the dock in her backyard. Two kids, freshman and sophomore high schoolers who had never been on a date or had their first kiss, dangled their feet off the dock's edge and let their lips meet for the first time. Neither of them ever kissed another and ten years on, Simon is still Elizabeth's last kiss. Ten years on, she has never removed that necklace.

They lived an all-American dream in a nice area with great schools and sidewalks jammed with gorgeous moms who never broke a sweat pushing their jogging stroller. Simon was a star quarterback and Elizabeth was captain of the cheer team. He was Homecoming King and she was his Queen. They held onto their royal titles when prom came around and were voted King and Queen again, and Elizabeth won her high school pageant. They shared a passion for horses and calf roping, for sitting in the window seat of Elizabeth's bedroom reading books aloud to each other, for their mutual love of competitive rowing, horses and calf roping. Simon even grew to love his lover's love of all things Disney. Simon never quite got into gardening, but he beamed with pride that every neighbor on the street complimented Elizabeth's sprawling garden of kaleidoscopic flowers. Elizabeth never quite got into Simon's hobby of cars, but she beamed with pride, herself, when Simon's '69 Shelby won at a car show.

For Christmas 2006, Simon planned a six-day, surprise trip to Disney World; Elizabeth had just turned 18. Simon had not just planned a Christmas vacation gift; he worked with Disney staff to create the perfect experience for what he had in mind. Thanks to an uncle who's a Disney executive, Simon secured an invite to stay in the elusive, highly-coveted Cinderella Castle Suite. It was originally designed to be the private apartment of Mr. Walt Disney himself, but is now decorated in a sort of 17th-century-meets-modern-technology style. The marble floors, fireplace, endless stained glass windows, gorgeous mosaics, a bathtub you can look up in and see a projection of stars, and two queen-sized beds in the middle of a pumpkin coach are all so lovely. Simon and Elizabeth slept in separate but side-by-side beds, as they wanted to avoid temptation and save their virginities for marriage. Thanks to "Uncle Disney," as we called him, Simon was even able to secure a reservation at the Chef's Table at Victoria & Albert's the first night. The whole trip was planned down to the minute and Simon spared no detail. He arranged private, VIP tours for each attraction. If it was available, Simon made a reservation for it.

Elizabeth survived cancer as a child and Disney Princess books were the only thing that kept her mind off the pain. She would get lost in the pages and read fairytales for several hours at a time. Disney Princesses have a special place in Elizabeth's heart and Simon wanted to recognize that at every opportunity. He made sure she got the true Princess treatment. On the last evening before their flight home, Simon arranged for a sleigh ride back to the Castle.

Waiting out front of the Castle were Cinderella, Aurora, Belle, Rapunzel, and Elizabeth's very favorite, Miss Mary Poppins. As Simon and Elizabeth got out of the sleigh, Mary Poppins handed Simon a pillow with roses and a small glass slipper on it. With the Princesses and Miss Poppins watching, Simon knelt down and said, "Elizabeth Dreier, if I loved you more I think it would kill me. Please marry me." Elizabeth looked at the slipper and saw there was a ring in it - a Princess cut diamond, of course. She caught her breath and said, "'Yes' is far too weak of a word, but it will have to do." Simon slipped the ring on her finger against the glowing backdrop of the Castle and two perfectly timed fireworks went off just as they kissed. The wedding was a spectacular black tie affair with 600 guests and, unsurprisingly, held at a real life castle.

Young Elizabeth, barely an adult, still believed in fairytales the day she said, "I do." She has since learned they do not exist. Simon was overwhelmed by the intractable pain from a broken neck he suffered in a car accident that ten years ago, he chose to end his suffering on his terms. Before he left this world for the next, he had his sperm frozen. Elizabeth has two perfect children conceived after their father's death and she reads them the same fairytales she loved as a child. She works from home in the healthcare field, as well as training horses and young riders. Her greatest happiness comes from watching her children grow, reminding her more of their father each day. The few short years Elizabeth was a Mrs. were absolutely blissful. Simon made every day a brand new adventure and thanks to Eliabeth's passion for photography, she has albums upon albums of photos from the time she and Simon were teenagers until just hours before he passed away. The children will have to grow up only knowing Dad from pictures, but the love he poured into Elizabeth from the first time he noticed her "ocean eyes" spills right out of her heart and into their precious children.

In her spare time, Elizabeth still loves to read. She's switched to the true crime genre, however. She lives somewhere on a few dozen acres and enjoys the space to have her dream of a horse stable and multipurpose training arena. She hasn't given up calf roping, either, and she still takes her rowing shell out onto the lake behind their home to clear her head. Her oldest child just won a major roping and junior bull riding competition, and loves the cowboy life like Dad. Her youngest is a champion rower and avid reader. They're great kids and despite everything, they've got a pretty okay mom.

Life is hard. Life is messy. Life is painful. But as Elizabeth tells her eldest child, it isn't how many times you get bucked off the bull... It's how many times you get back on." Elizabeth misses her sweet Simon dearly and will never be the same person again. Life is now divided into "Before" and "After." Becoming a member of a club no one wants to join at the age of 22 came with a lot of hard lessons. For now, "After" looks like making the best of the absolute worst to show two intelligent, compassionate, loving, kind hearted little souls that we can - and will - survive, and we'll do it together to mold our "After" into a fairytale, after all.