17 things I lost when Hubby died

A blog reader recently sent email about his wife who died too quickly after a cancer diagnosis. “I was unprepared and now alone. My awesome wife and friend … was now missing from my life,” he wrote.


Photo: Gary Johnson


His email reminded me that when we lose someone of infinite value, we don’t just lose a spouse, a child, a sibling, a parent, a friend. These people are so much more to us: Listener and Good-Advice Giver, Income Tax Preparer, Cheerleader, Fix-It Guy, Personal Nurse … the list is actually quite long.

As a reminder of what roles a loved one can play in our lives—and how wise it would be to notice and speak gratitude. now. while they’re still alive—here are a few things I lost when Gary died:

17. Errand-runner

I’ve always thought of running errands as a time-wasting, necessary evil. After Gary retired, he didn’t mind picking up prescriptions and mailing packages. And occasionally, while out on a mission, he’d stop by my office with his cute grin, packing a Chai tea.

16. Personal data processing manager

Gary’s career was with computers. Which means I lost the person who handled my computer issues, and website-management challenges, and the remembering-to-renew-domain-name details. Quite a valuable thing — one’s very own personal data processing manager.

15. Car maintenance guy

You mean I’m supposed to watch the gas gauge? My rig needs regular oil changing? And a 105,000-mile tune-up? Someone in our marriage knew all this, but it wasn’t me.

14. Garbage taker-outer

It’s not as if taking out the garbage is demanding, but how nice was it to have the garbage disappear regularly without a thought as to where it went?

13. Fellow cook

I miss cooking full meals for a man who appreciated my cooking. And I miss having that man in the kitchen with me — slicing, dicing, kissing, stirring, tasting.

12. Travel agent

Gary always made travel arrangements, checked us in for flights, and rolled me out of bed in the early dark hours to get to the airport on time. (Although once, Gary got me to Los Angeles International at 5:30am for a 7:00am flight, and when we checked in, the attendant said, “You know this flight leaves at 7:00pm, right?” Gary almost … almost … lost his travel agent status.)

11. Personal masseuse

Gary gave the best massages. Enough said.

10. Road trip companion

Hubby and I road-tripped well together. Our last adventure before he died was the best ever. Hiking in the Tetons; riding horses in the Rockies; and exploring around Arches, Moab, Zion, and Canyonlands. Since being widowed, I’ve logged thousands of alone-miles — to SoCal twice; Boise countless times; and my recent, epic Oregon-to-Idaho-to-Utah-to-Colorado-hiking-visiting-family-friends road trip. And there hasn’t been a single adventure where I didn’t wish Gary was my road trip companion.

9. Hiking partner

I still hike and snow-shoe in the wilderness — sometimes alone and sometimes with my amazing, cancer-kicking, courageous, audacious hiking/snow-shoeing posse. But I miss those lace-up-boots, toss-backpacks-into-rig, spontaneous weekend treks with my favorite hike companion.

8. Date night collaborator

Keeping Friday date night isn’t quite the same without my husband. I still do it because it’s fun, and it gives me an excuse to eat out. Oh, but how much more fun to have an actual person along on the date.

7. Escort

I loved linking my arm through my husband’s to cross a parking lot toward a football game, movie, concert, church. There’s something so incredibly comforting about physical touch, about being held by someone who was the best thing that ever happened to me.

6. Advisor

There were so many things I ran past Gary. Shortly before he died, he was still offering words of wisdom: You probably shouldn’t make any major decisions for six to twelve months after I’m gone, he said. Which is wise advice. And I usually took his advice, but I resigned my job and moved out of state right after he died. And I’m pretty sure he was pleased with the opportunity that allowed me to do that.

5. Cheerleader

Gary believed in most of my wildly epic ideas. Like wanting to write a book. And fundraising and chaperoning high school students on international adventures. He usually pointed out what could go wrong — this logical-thinking, data-analyzing husband of mine. But once we talked through all the angles, he was my strongest cheerleader. He believed in me.

4. Fun-planning co-conspirator

Cancer prompted us to make more memories, take more risks, create more fun. Which means the last ten years of our marriage — the cancer years — were the best. Imagine.


Wisdom from Winnie the Pooh


3. Fellow conversationalist

I married a quiet man. Some people thought he was shy, but he was simply content to let others have the spotlight. He was a good listener and I can never remember a time when he complained that I talked too much. (Which we all know I’ve done. Often.) In the cancer years, things changed. He became more talkative, and I loved listening to his thoughts and ideas. I miss that. So very much.

2. Physical-affection giver

My grand-dogs love me dearly, but their sloppy licks on my face just aren’t quite the same as Hubby’s affections. Sigh.

1. Closest friend

Gary once said, “If someone gave me two football tickets and told me to invite whoever I wanted, I’d want to take you.” Correct answer, hon. We truly enjoyed doing life together. And I miss miss miss that companionship.

* * *

Someone named Paul Valery said this:

A great man is one who leaves others at a loss after he is gone.

So much is lost when we lose a loved one. And while I didn’t mean to, I’m afraid I took too many of these things for granted. Which is a reminder for me to look around and express gratitude for what I have in the people I’m closest to.

P.S. If you found this post helpful or inspiring, please share, tweet or post!


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  1. Joanne Van Mol


    I’m so terribly sorry for your loss. This blog has me in tears. So well said and so true. Thank you for sharing.


  2. Nora Weed

    Oh Marlys, you touched my heart tonight. This morning I reached over and held my sleeping husband’s hand and wished for more time together. I hear you and I know myself that our time together is limited. I look longingly at those I love and accept that I only have now; so I will make the most of the time we have left. Thank you for the reminders.

    • What a sweet picture, Nora – holding your sleeping husband’s hand in the night. Beautifully said: “I look longingly at those I love and accept that I only have now; so I will make the most of the time we have left.”

  3. Marcia Musial

    Hi Marlys! I especially like and agree with #6. Waiting out a tour through the four seasons is not appropriate for everyone. We carry our people in our heart wherever we go, they memory is not in a structure. Also, I smiled when I saw this title. About 20 years ago, I purchased and framed a print of the Dalai Lama’s Seventeen Rules For Life! God bless. Miss you on the blog.

  4. Peter Howe B.E.M.

    Dear Marlys & readers,
    You already know I was given 25% chance in ’86…. Lord I am so thankful. My Barbara the following year & she carries the resultant pain and ache….. but Lord we are grateful. You know why I write some songs with ‘my love’ in mind, the last one being, ‘You’re my favourite time of day’ and what is even more real is we hold hands where ever we go because we always have, since we were 15 and we know why it is so important to be so close. Knowing how precious a loved one is, includes my younger brother David who was 29 when he went to serve the Lord. That brotherly love was companion, sports friend, music maker, pal, best friend & he too was a police officer, his memory is my solace for all that he means to me. Marlys, so many people will feel they are empathising with you, making them strong again and alive, in spite of their loss. Thank you once again for sharing your love and spirit…. even that shoulder to cry on. Our love, Barbara & Peter.

  5. Ann Ellison

    Having lost my husband you a brain tumor when he was just 56, I can certainly agree with everything you shared.

  6. Karen

    My stepdaughter just sent this to me, she has had so much longer than I had him in my life. She is a special woman and I hope she gets the coping skills she needs. Ivory n the other hand am not doing well but as they say it’s your time for mourning and grieving and no what should tell it’s time to get over this and move on. He was my perfect person for me, my best friend and never afraid to be myself and he was the same it was a perfect love and perfect union together, I did not have nearly enough time with him but I am so thankful for the time I had with my husband. I am lucky we came into each others lives. It was a tragic ending, I hope and pray my sweet stepdaughter can get through this, I love her like my own child.

    • You’re exactly right, Karen: “no what should tell it’s time to get over this and move on.” I’m sorry for your loss, and I so admire your love and respect for your stepdaughter in her loss. Blessings.

  7. Darrell

    Marlys… I am sure you had to struggle a bit to limiting your list to 17. I am sure every day new thoughts come to mind. Once again you remind us us all to not take these kind of things for granted. Every day is a blessing from our creator and every moment is passing and cannot be retrieved. Thank you once again for that reminder. It was nice seeing you yesterday again. You looked great! Blessing to you always for what you do. God really has given you a real purpose and ministry…

  8. Eileen Chiechi

    Everything you said is so true. After 57 years having my husband by my side always there is a lonely part that never seems to stop. Thank goodness for wonderful friends. But evenings are the pits.

  9. Reading this made me appreciate my man a little more. Or, maybe just see the things I sometimes forget to see. Thank you.

  10. My heart ached for you as I read this but I also cried because although my hubby is still alive, he was in a car accident 25 years ago which left him with brain damage and physically disabled. Consequently, almost all of the things you listed that you lost, I lost as well. I try to appreciate all the little things and certainly tell him as often as possible. Thank you for the reminder.

  11. Amy

    Thank you. How those tearful memories of loss do change into sweet remembering. My husband always did the grocery shopping – coming home with items not on the list and with way too many of snacks that we did not need to have in our home. Now, two years years later, when my son comes to visit, he intentionally goes to the pantry and we both laugh as he asks “Where are the snacks?” Sweet remembering.

  12. MJ Benson

    What an amazing ministry God has given you, Marlys… I’m in awe. Out of the most difficult time your life, He has given you beauty for ashes… the oil of joy for mourning… God is good! Love, ~mj

    • Well said, MJ: “Out of the most difficult time in your life, He has given you beauty for ashes… the oil of joy for mourning.” Yes, God is good!

  13. Great list and great post. When I lost my husband before his 30th birthday, I had to learn to live life all over again because everything was different for all of those reasons you listed.

  14. Jolita McDaniel

    Marlys, you write honestly, and how I appreciate your not holding back discussing your grief. I met the sweet Cheryl White this year who told me I might like your blog, and I’ll have to thank her, for yes, I definitely “get it”. I look forward to reading more from you. It’s been coming up eight years now since I lost my love of 54 years, and I still have my “howling moments”. It’s helpful to read from someone who knows and understands. Thank you!

    • “I still have my ‘howling moments’” … well said, Jolita. I get it, oh do I get it.

      Thank you for reading and for your encouraging words to write honestly and vulnerably.

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