The road to his resting place is not long or winding, but my stomach is in knots as I drive. I feel carsick and heartsick. On impulse, I turn into a grocery store parking lot to grab some flowers to place on his headstone. I’ve never done this before, because I hate the way they die and add to the sadness of cemeteries, but today I want to carry beauty into this space, if only for a day or two. That’s how life is anyway. We show up, we blossom, we fade, we bloom again – but only on the other side of sorrow.


Today would have been my husband’s 60th birthday. I feel the weight of the milestone-that-will-never-be creating an ache in my chest for the party we will never have. I miss the years that didn’t get to be, even though he’s been gone long enough that I can no longer build detailed images in my head of how they might have looked. This is so disorienting to me. In a world filled with plenty of hard, cold, tangible pain, it’s  frustrating to process something so nebulous and ethereal that still has razor-sharp edges.


I know exactly what flowers to buy. Red roses. We had an ongoing argument in our relationship about roses. I like pink best and he felt pink roses were “something you give your grandma.” He loved the romance of red roses; the passion. I grab a single rose and resist the urge to explain it to the cashier. “These are for my husband,” I want to say, “it’s his birthday.” But I don’t.


Back on the road to the cemetery, my heart beats something fierce. I take a deep breath and try to name what I’m feeling. Fear. Sorrow. Both at once, a chaotic chorus flooding my brain with warnings to run. Go get coffee! Go visit a friend! Target is right there! I can’t figure out why this is so hard. I am not sad for Steve, I know he is living his best life. I know he is not really buried six feet deep. I am not sad for me, exactly, because my life is truly lovely. And yet – I am wary and I don’t know why.   


Lost in the spinning of my own mind, I drive right past the entrance to the cemetery and have to backtrack and that little mistake presses on a raw nerve, adding anger to an already overloaded emotional bucket.   I let out an expletive just as “I’ll never be more loved than I am right now,” floats through my headphones.  I pull over and breathe those words in deep.  I close my eyes and visualize that truth making its way through the hallways of my heart, knocking on a secret door, and settling into the place that needs it most. If you asked me, “What place needs it most?” I couldn’t tell you, but I’ll know soon enough. Because, turns out, I’m going to run into an old friend here.


Aside: Apart from losing someone I love, the icons surrounding death are the hardest part for me. Grave stones. Funeral homes. Caskets. Mausoleums. These images create a surreality around Steve’s absence that casts a weird haze over everything. 


Steve’s headstone is simple and lovely. It took six months after he was buried for me and my kids to decide on which words we would etch into stone, the words that would capture the miracle of his life and his love and his faith. I still don’t know if we did it, but his stone simply says: Father. Friend. Faithful. I run my fingers over the white letters as image after image rushes through my brain like a grainy reel-to-reel movie. Our wedding. Holding our babies. The first night in our first house. That day in a doctor’s office. The day he held his grand baby. The day he flew away Home. Image. Image. Image. Finally, the movie stops on one, and I know it well. It’s a literal photograph that lives on my instagram.



2015 Bo.


July 27.


Thirty years after becoming a wife; ten days after becoming a widow.


I see her pinched face and I know: this is why I’m here. She is the one I’ve come to meet. Our relationship is complicated. I admire her and I’m disappointed in her. I’m proud of her and ashamed of her. She is my secret frenemy. But today, I realize, is the day I set her free. So I walk through the rows of graves, and I talk to that scared, sad widow. I tell her all her emotions are valid. I forgive her for not being enough. I thank her for stepping up to the plate, no matter how imperfectly. I tell her, for the first time ever, that she is not responsible for as much as she thinks she is. Her kids, her husband, her friends – they are all held within the love of God and it’s not up to her to keep His reputation safe for them. Finally, I tell her that we’re both going to be okay. Even better than okay. We’re going to find love, we’re going to heal, and we’re going to hope again. Not everyone will like the way we do it, but we’ve cared way too much for far too long about what other people think and there is so much beauty coming.


I don’t know how long I am there, but it’s awhile. I stay, silently waiting until I feel finished. I want to feel better, but I don’t really; not yet. I am sad and I hate feeling sad, but I’m learning to let myself feel it instead of trying to fix it. Finally, I lay my roses on the headstone with the three words and the name of someone so dear to me that I could never capture the love I feel in a million words or a million years. I am grateful. I am exhausted. I am loved.


I do not for a minute understand the way life twists and bends and turns. I only know that every single stretch of the road we are on is significant and sacred. The beauty. The battles. The sorrow. The triumphs. These are the days ordained for me, and this is the story He is writing. I can trust Him with the pen as I allow myself to fully feel and live all of it… all the way Home.



  1. Precious Bo, thanks for sharing this beautiful moment. Happy 60th Birthday to Steve (although he’s probably back to an eternal 30 up there in eternity). Your grace-filled life is beautiful and the story God is writing is beyond our understanding. From someone who’s been connected with your journey since years ago on the day Whitney was taken to the hospital in that accident — worshipping together, praying weekly in that little group, women’s retreats,books, and following your FB feed as our families grew up and our locations spread from Bend to Hood River to Hawaii. God sees it all. Thanks for loving Him and trusting in Him. And yes, He can handle His own reputation. Right now, Jon’s sister (just 70) is with us from Washington. Her husband, Bill, also passed away from ALS many years ago. Despite her (and our brother-in-law’s) faith, some of her adult kids have struggled with the pain and justice and power of God, but after all these years, we’re starting to see God’s redemption reaching back in; a daughter and her family are realizing their need for a Savior and actually went to church on their own this past Sunday, on Easter. The cross is so hard. Death is hard. The why of pain and unanswered prayers are hard. But through it all, JESUS IS ALIVE. Wonder how this all looks from Steve’s perspective, and from Bill’s. Thanks for sharing this holy moment. And thanks for being you, with the Lord shining through your life, all along the way. Both you now and that other-Bo are so lovely and beautiful. I feel so honored to have been a tiny part of your life.

  2. Once again, Bo, your words have drawn me in. Reading them, I distinctly recall the complete and utter sorrow I felt for you and your family, and all of the rest of us who Steve affected. I’m thankful that you are gradually getting closure and that your path now brings you so much joy. ❤️

  3. Thank you Bo. Just thank you. ♥️

  4. With tears streaming down my face… Thank you for sharing. You said it all perfectly, words I couldn’t articulate myself. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  5. I’m crying. The healing kind. Thanks for sharing this. ♥️

  6. Jon and Molly Stern

    Thank you dear Bo. I think I’ll print this out and send it on to Mom. Your process touches us so very deeply. And we are thankful. More than you know. Jon and Molly

  7. I needed these words today. I needed these tears. I need this truth. Over the years, Bo, you have held our hearts well. And in your trust and bravery in pushing the “publish” button, you allowed us the privilege of holding your heart too… sending up prayers to the One Who Hears as a way of thank you. To him. To you… and even ourselves. Thank you, Bo. Thank you for all of it.

  8. Bo,
    This post really moved me. Thank you. I appreciate your line, “I want to feel better, but I don’t really”. Thanks for always being honest.

  9. Yes