Posted by: Rob | April 18, 2008

20 Months – Courage

I received an e-mail from my friend Tee yesterday. It had been a little while since I had received one and I was getting a bit worried. Pretty much all of the e-mails are chain mail forwards but they at least tell me that Tee is still with us.

I hadn’t thought of the date yesterday until I was reading a post by The Girl Left Behind, and I realized that April 17th marked 20 months since my late wife’s passing. So to mark that date and because I’d received an e-mail from Tee, which got me thinking about it, I decided to reproduce an old YWBB post I made once upon a time that was based on another e-mail Tee had sent me. It was aptly titled “Courage”:

I’ve selfishly kept the following for myself for almost a month, re-reading it repeatedly. I did ask the author if she would mind my sharing it with you all and she doesn’t. I’m sharing it now in the hope that it might help with the pain some of you are experiencing.

Some context: We met Tee and Dee at a Mexican clinic earlier this year. Tee has breast cancer; Shelley was there for melanoma. The two of them connected. Even though Tee is 20 years senior to Shelley, Shelley became a significant support for Tee.

After Shelley’s passing, I had written in an e-mail to Tee and Dee:
“It’s a month today since Shell passed on August 17th – it’s really been a rough couple of days. Losing Shell has taken away pretty much all of the reasons that I had for doing everything I did in life. There’s just such a huge void now… I know I have our kids to think of and family and friends keep saying that I have to go on……but, it’s so hard. I really don’t know what I’m going to do.”

This is the reply Tee sent to me with the subject line “Courage”


When you mentioned that losing Shelley had taken away pretty much all of the reasons that you had for doing everything you did in life, all I could think of was, what a wonderful compliment to Shelley to feel your love and devotion to that extent. I know that she knows that you feel that way. But I also thought ,I wonder what she would like to say to you in response to those feelings. And all I could think of was, ask Shelley. See if you can feel some impressions.

So I am going to ask her right now. (back in a space). Tee

So Rob, here are some feelings and thoughts that have come to me after a little personal chat with Shelley in the privacy of a quiet computer room in my little house.

Tell him to take each day at a time. Even each hour and minute. Tell him I always knew I loved him but now I know that I loved him more than I realized. What I also know is that he shouldn’t be alone on earth forever. It was so courageous, kind and difficult for you and the girls to let me go. It was hard for me too. But oh so right. Also, in time, even though I am gone, you must truly “let me go.” Know that I will understand because there is a time when you must and should move on with your life. I will always be there in your memories and there were so many great ones. We will never forget each other. Nothing is worth more than the time we spent together, except how you will spend your time now that we are apart. That is more important to me now. I don’t want the rest of your life on earth to be used up in too much sorrow concerning me. It will be difficult for a while; that is normal but the best thing you can do is to fill your life…..with life. And Rob, thank you for giving me so much of yourself during our life together. I hold you close still. When you look up into a beautiful clear sky, I will look back at you. Walk through a wooded area, I will walk there too. When your chin is down, I will urge you to breathe again. And if you listen carefully, you will here me say, “It will get easier I promise you, just give it some time.” What a journey this has been for both of us and the girls. But the journey doesn’t end here, Rob. I know this now. Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be. I’m looking forward to the future and I want you to also. WHEN YOU LIVE FULLY THEN I LIVE ALSO. Shelley


  1. I’d forgotten some of the context of the letter. It’s very beautiful. Tee is a special person.

    I love you, baby.

  2. Mom kept my Dad alive about 3 years longer than anyone expected. After Dad died, Mom was lost… she went from having the most important job in the world – keeping her husband alive – to facing the days not knowing what to do, no urgency, no priority to her activities…

    You seem to have mastered the transition… i’m sure there are dark days, though.

    Great reflection from your friend, Tee. i hope she’s doing well…

  3. DF,

    Thanks for sharing and for your thoughts.

    About Tee, sadly it is not going well for her. I received an e-mail this morning and it sounds like she has severe stage IV, with distant metastases, including her brain. She is in a lot of pain too. Yet, she continues to hold on because, she says, she is not ready to go yet. When we met, in March ’06, she had been basically been told to get her affairs in order and prepare for the end. That she is still on this side of the grass is somewhat miraculous and testament to her own courage.

    Her husband, Dee, is 72. They have had one of those marriages where they have been pretty much everything to each other. If memory serves, they’re getting pretty close to the Golden Anniversary. I worry about how he will manage.

  4. This one moved me to tears, which doesn’t happen often these days. Hugs to you, Shell, Ann, Tee and Dee.


  5. What a kind and loving gift, that e-mail, from a true friend.

  6. […] the weeks and months after Shelley died.  At a particularly low point in my grieving, Tee sent me a marvelous note that means a great deal to me.  As I made my way northward after my epic road trip, I made a stop at Dee and Tee’s in […]

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