For two years now, Todd has been the first thing I think of when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I think of when I fall asleep. There is always an awareness that he isn’t with me. Sometimes I cannot share his absence. Sometimes I need to feel the intensity of grief that came the weeks after he died so I can draw him close to me again, so I can really feel again.

But, sometimes sharing his absence can bring him closer, too.

October marked two years. 

I took the day off of work. In fact, I’d made arrangements in August to take off on the anniversary of Todd’s death. I didn’t know how I was going to handle the day; taking off felt precautionary. I’d planned to go to the gravesite and sit with him for a while and then go to the park to throw some discs and talk to him while I threw.

But the day before, Todd’s daughter told me she had also taken off of work. She wanted to go to Keeneland to bet on the horses in her dad’s honor and invited me to go with her. Todd loved the vibrant spectacle of Keeneland, and he’d make a twice yearly pilgrimage there with his mom, brother, friends, children, me–whoever could manage to get off of work or skip school to go. I had to work the last time Todd went, but I was not going to let her go alone on this day.

Todd reads the racing form, looking for his next winning horse.

When I got up the day of, I found on my kitchen table a gift box full of comfort items from my work friends: my favorite kind of Pop Tarts, essential oils, Dove chocolates, Flair pens, gifts that demonstrated thoughtfulness and love. My daughter had sneaked the box in while I slept. Later that morning, a bouquet of flowers arrived from the same group of women.

How could I ever thank them for their support these last two years and today? They let me talk about Todd when they talk about their husbands, as if there’s no difference in the world between a living and a deceased spouse. I know other widows are not so blessed with support, and I am grateful every day for each of these friends.

Later, at the track, Kindle and I bet on horses we thought Todd would have picked and let the sunshine warm us in the chilly October air. We got teary-eyed once or twice. We made our last bet on “Let’s Stay Positive,” which for us referred to “Stay Positive” by The Hold Steady, a favorite of Todd’s. We won. 

And, we learned that spending this day together this year felt better than mourning alone. Together, we made the best of a difficult day and honored his life.

I celebrated Thanksgiving with Todd’s family and friends, who are also my family and friends.  We ate and caught up, played games and laughed. We spoke of Todd and his mom and dad, brought them back to life with shared memories. Our fellowship co-existed with their absences, brought us closer, brought Todd and his parents closer to us. 

I suspect that Christmas and New Year’s will be much like Thanksgiving, and I hope that by sharing in our loved ones’ absences, they will feel more present. 


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