It’s hard to live after death

For the last several months I’ve written a little poem every day. Something that would take no more than ten minutes to compose. I’ve kept that up even through out my husband Bob’s illness and in the days since he died. Writing, as you probably know, keeps me alive. It lets me put my pain on the page. Here are a few of my most recent poems written since Bob died.


I don’t know how
I am managing
To walk, to live in this house
To even breathe
My husband of over fifty years
Died last night.
He just stopped breathing
And thinking
And talking
And eating and walking
He just stopped all the things
That one does to live.
He was done with all that
He left me alone
To find a way to live without him
To learn to walk again
Without him. And I wonder
If I’ll ever be able
To do that unless he’s
By my side.


I decided not
To see him dead,
Which meant
I couldn’t touch him
One last time.
I had seen him
The day before he died
During a FaceTime chat
He looked wide awake
Happy and smiling
His eyes open
And his voice strong.
I didn’t want
seeing him dead
To take away
that last image
Of him alive
And saying I love you to me.
Soon I’ll have his ashes
Then I can touch him again.


It’s Thanksgiving today.
It is my first without
My dear husband Bob
Since 1967. That year
We ate in a restaurant.
I ate cog au vin and
it was delicious.
But more delicious was
Sitting across the table from him.
This year I will attend
two COVID-sensitive feasts
One outside at a friend’s house
The other in my home
With my son and daughter-in-law.
Neither will compare
To the dinners with him
With family, friends,
Some small, some huge
with lots of cooking work for me.
I wouldn’t mind cooking
If I could have him
With me again today.


I’ve started the cleanup
Gathering bills
Cancelling credit cards
Contacting the tax man
And the lawyer
And the mortgage broker
And that is just the beginning
There are accounts to close
Things to donate to charity
Other things to give away.
It looks like this job
Will take forever
Unless I dump it all
Into a huge baggie
And put it out for pickup.
But I don’t want to do that.
I want to go through
His things piece by piece
And touch each one


[Sorry to take so long to write here again. Thanks for your patience.]


  1. These are amazing, heartbreaking, and relatable. And the time jumps are incredibly skillful. Mo

  2. Alison Wells says

    This brought tear to my eyes, thanks so much for sharing this with us, all the very real things that you are going to be without now. Sending heartfelt wishes your way.

  3. I didn’t want to see John dead either, Madeline. I wouldn’t even allow open casket, which is what he wanted because he seemed to revert to his Italian Catholic roots at the end … but I felt it would be dreadful for the boys and me to have that image as our last of him. You were lucky you had 50 years together. John and I only got 17, but in so many ways, they were the best years of my life and I count my blessings that, unlike many, I once had true love. Stay strong, friend. I’m guessing Bob would want that for you and not to weep but to remember him as strong and loving you, his wife.

  4. So poignant, Madeline, but I can tell it doesn’t begin to touch your feelings of loss. And I can’t pretend to know how you feel now, but I do respect your willingness to put feelings on the page, a noble act of courage.

  5. i’ve still no words, madeline. you’ve said them all. begun them, maybe. too close to comfort you. my own fear is deep, too. deepened by the simplicity, the eloquence, of your sheer, shared, depth. my heart to you, my friend.

  6. Lynda Beth Unkeless says

    I AM THINKING of you today Madeline
    and sending you lots of love
    on this rainy, cold and gray day in San Francisco.

  7. Oh, Madeline, this is such a heartfelt, soul-wrenching tribute to your beloved Bob.My thoughts and prayers are with you, dear one. Keep writing. Much love, Kathy

  8. Dear Madeline – loss is hard to bear – but giving voice to it helps us go on, even when we think we can’t. You show us that so beautifully through these poems. “It is love that binds from plane to plane,” one dear friend and wise woman reminded me when Maya died. The pain is a reflection of your deep love for Bob. Holding both of you in my heart today. Love always, Eleanor

  9. Madeline Sharples says

    My dear friends Mo, Alison, Susan, Marian, Bev, Lynda Beth, Kathleen, and Eleanor –
    I so appreciate your reading my poems. It was so important for me to get these words on the page.
    And thanks for your very heartfelt words about my loss. You are all in my heart.
    Love, Madeline

  10. Michele Jennings Mazauskas says

    Madeline take all the time in the world to go through your husbands things. I lost my husband 14 years ago, I was 45. He was sick for 10 years. I had to son’s at the time was in 5th grade and the other in 6th grade. They watched for 10 years as their fathers health was failing.My eldest son started college and my younger one was getting ready for prom and high school graduation, my husband died and was not there for that. The worst day of my life was calling my son at college to tell him to come home that his dad died. Several months later, I too was alone. I would never go out, friends that I thought would check on me didn’t. I was completely alone. Coming home I would look at the sofa where my husband use to sit. Now it was empty r. I never got to grieve, but one day I just went to bed and let me cry and scream. I knew I had my son’s and I promised my husband I would take care of them before he died. You need to take all the time to grieve. You need people to check on you and take you out, it doesn’t make you forget, but it makes you still feel alive and wanted. Let yourself cry, let yourself be angry and go through all the loss at your time. I know the feeling of emptiness, as well as my son’s. I have since remarried, but you never forget, because when I look at my boys and their mannerism and the hard work, I see my husband.

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