A Letter to Ed, by Beverley Shirley

My husband, Ed, was my high school sweetheart, my best friend, and my husband for 35 years. He died after routine shoulder surgery on August 15, 2012. I never knew that grief could be so deep, never guessed that the grief journey could be so long or so hard.  I have found some comfort in putting my thoughts and feelings into letters to Ed.  This letter was written on November 1, 2012 – All Saints Day. It is the second time I wrote to Ed. I mention butterflies in the letter.  Butterflies are symbols of resurrection and Ed had already sent me several butterflies in the 10 weeks since his death – but that’s another story.

I hope that reading my questions and thoughts will help others who have felt the same way – perhaps by giving word to your feelings.


Nov 1, 2012

Dear Ed,

How are you? What is it like where you are?  Is it a place where you are?  Are you?   If you aren’t, what is?

I miss you.  Do you miss me?  Is missing something you still can feel?  Do you feel?  See question number two.

Today was a hard day for me.  There was an interfaith remembrance service.  I went to remember you. But, then it seems as if I spend every minute, every breath remembering you.  I saw a butterfly, but when I walked toward it, it flew away.  So, I don’t think that was one of your butterflies.    I cried a lot. I walked past your office and wanted to knock on your window.  But you aren’t there anymore.  Or are you?  See question number three.

…But then it seems as if I spend every minute, every breath remembering you. … Why is that?  Used to be that I knew who I was and maintained my selfness.  My  identity was intertwined with yours, but unique and independent, too.  I had to be a strong force of my own – otherwise the force that was you would have swept over me. The dynamic that was us – you being you and me being me and we being we – it worked well for us, didn’t it?

But now, it seems that everything I am and I do is wrapped up in you. Or rather in notyou – in the void that is left where there used to be you.  Where am I?  Why can’t I see me past your death?  And how do I fit in with all the people who were part of our lives when you were you and me was me and we were we – now that I am notme and you are notyou?

Should I stop all this focus on the notyou? Or will the notyou ultimately lead me to the newyou? Is there a newyou?  (See question number four)  If so, what is the newyou?  If not, what is it that isn’t the newyou? (See question number five). I’m lost.




My husband was a professor of theology.  He prayed, thought, and lived deeply. As soon as I completed my letter, I knew what his response was:

Dear Bev,

It’s more important to struggle with the question than to come up with the right answer.




© Beverley Shirley 2012

Bev Shipley Jan 2014Beverley Shirley attends the Loss of Spouse and the Moving On groups at the Christi Center. She works for the Texas State Library to support Texas libraries and improve library services. Her son and daughter-in-law, her family and friends are treasures.

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