Love, fear, mortality

I am haunted by a dream, a dream that is far too likely to be true, and wakes me up in the middle of the night. In this dream, my wife wakes up in the morning to find my body cold and still in the bed next to her. I feel no pain for myself — I’m dead — but I burn with the agony of loss that she feels, and the pain that wracks her when she calls our kids, and the reverberations of sadness that I will be responsible for causing. If you live life in the embrace of friends and family, you know what I’m talking about. Love and happiness exact a cost, every moment filling a pool of tears that grows deeper with our closeness, and as we grow older they well close to the surface, until…they inevitably break and fall in sorrow and grief.

I’ve been married for thirty-six years. Thirty six years of inseparable mutual devotion in which a lachrymal ocean has grown, that we work together to shore up and contain, because there will be a flood of grief when that dark shore is crossed. I can imagine some grim shadow of it. I can dread it.

And I can sympathize when the partner of long-time commenter Nerd of Redhead dies after 43 years of marriage. That is a rending I don’t want to contemplate…and yet it’s what haunts me, too.


  1. says


    That is a rending I don’t want to contemplate…and yet it’s what haunts me, too.

    Me too. 38 years for us on March 11th. It’s so hard to think of us as not…us.

    My tears and my heart go out to Nerd. My love, too, always.

  2. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    So glad you put this here, PZ. Nerd deserves to have his loss recognized and his community gather for him.

    I said it elsewhere already, but I’m so sorry, Nerd. Anything you want to write to us, I’ll read. Anything you need to hear, I’ll say.

  3. says

    My sincere condolences, Nerd.

    My parents recently broke 50-something years married and they’re slowing down and curling in on themselves, like mid-80-somethings people do. I’m terrified to see what the loss of either one will do to the other. I think my lonely ways are a result of that fear: I want to go alone, losing my dogs was almost more than I could take. I don’t want to be the source or recipient of that kind of pain.

  4. feministhomemaker says

    We are approaching our 38th anniversary this summer. Thank you for voicing this, PZ. My heart goes out to Nerd of Redhead. Full hearts for all we love, full of empathy for those we can imagine feeling the same thing.

  5. Chancellor says

    Oh my.

    Sorry for your loss N, your comments here have helped make me a better person. I hope you find the strength and in person help to guide you through this time.

  6. says

    Nerd of Redhead,

    Your commentary here has been to me the source of great amusement at times, great consternation admittedly as well, but also at other times great inspiration, most often when you have talked of your deep love for your beloved Redhead. I am deeply saddened to hear of your loss and offer my deepest condolences to you and yours.

  7. says

    Condolences to Nerd. Sincerely.

    This is a strange thing to say, but I enjoyed the stories we occasionally received here of Nerd taking care of the Redhead.

    Yes, we knew she was disabled, and we knew the job of caretaker was hard, but we also learned over time how much Nerd loved the Redhead. And we heard about a lot of creative fixes for her problems. There was a foot-soaking before toenail-cutting, for example.

    Feels like we lost a member of the family.

  8. Bernard Bumner says

    Condolences to you Nerd. Your deep and tender affection was so very evident in the stories you shared here. I’m really very sorry to hear this news.

  9. Garcia says

    I have enjoyed your comments over the years. I can truly sympathize with your loss and your sad news.

  10. Sastra says

    Nerd of Redhead: I am so very, very sorry for your loss. I have been married for almost 40 years to someone I met when I was 17, and never dated another. You know there are 2 of you, but it doesn’t feel like two separate lives. I wish you only the best.

  11. LanceR, JSG says

    My heart breaks for you, Nerd. Words are a feeble, pathetic thing in the face of loss.

  12. CJO says

    Chiming in with the chorus. This is sad and awful news. My condolences, Nerd.

    Though obviously I never met her or you, I know she knew she was loved. A small thing compared to the absolute finality of death, but it will grow as the grief recedes.

  13. carlie says

    Oh Nerd, I am so, so sorry. Your stories about the Redhead over the years showed an abundance of affection, intimacy, and devotion, and I always marveled at what a great relationship you had. I’m sure many things on a daily basis were difficult for you both, but the depth of your attachment shone through it all. Few people in the world have been so loved.

  14. FossilFishy (NOBODY, and proud of it!) says

    Oh Nerd, I’m so very sorry.

    Over the years the love you have* for the Redhead has inspired and uplifted me. I’m a better person because you loved her and gifted us with stories that illustrated that love. Thank you so much for allowing us that insight into your life.

    All the virtual hugs to you. I hope that peace finds you quickly.

    *I never use the past tense here. A person’s absence in this instance doesn’t negate the love we have for them, just opposite in fact.

  15. magistramarla says

    I want to add my condolences, too. Nerd, you are a good man for taking such good care of your Redhead.

  16. Pierce R. Butler says

    Nerd’s devotion has always set a very high bar of the best of humanity for all of us.

    Rest in peace, Redhead.

  17. Ray, rude-ass yankee, Bugblatting Flibbertigibbet says

    Nerd, I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Best to you and your family. The chronicle of your devotion over the years through your posts here has been inspiring. I hope you can find your way to peace.

  18. John Morales says

    I too am very sorry to hear that, Nerd. You must be devastated.

    May the Redhead remain bright in your memory.

  19. mostlymarvelous says

    So, so sorry, Nerd.

    It’s one thing to know that devastating grief is the price some of us have to pay for the uplifting love we share. It’s another thing entirely when you find that the price is now yours alone to bear. One thing we can be grateful for … our friend-lover-companion has been spared that grief.

    That’s both a small thing and a large thing. Wishing you the strength and the support you need to get you past this.

  20. says

    I am so sorry to hear of your loss, Nerd. Your abiding love, devotion and affection for the Redhead is a shining testament to the very best of humanity, and I hope that you find great comfort and peace in your memories of her. ♥︎

  21. Janine the Jackbooted Emotion Queen says

    Nerd, I hope you have access to the help that you need. Good luck getting through this. For what little it is worth, you have my condolences. I know that Redhead will be missed.

  22. Left Handed Atheist says

    De-lurking to convey my deepest condolences. We are coming up on our 46th anniversary this spring, and it is hard to think about being without the other. May good memories make your journey a little easier, Nerd.

  23. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I thank everybody for their support. The last few days have not been kind, starting with making a DNR decision, then making funeral arrangements after the fact.
    Back in 2001, the Redhead coerced me into buying a couple of gravesites, and a prepaid funeral plan. I forgot about the latter. It turned out to be a wise decision though, as I saved a lot money. Funeral directors are necessary people here in IL, as they are ones who fill out the death certificate information and upon entering it, also inform SSA.
    Finally have the clothing and jewelry for the viewing, everything but her glasses (bad NERD!, now with a calendar reminder).
    I have a viewing for her Sunday, and a non-religious funeral Monday, where I will led off with our history, then encourage people to speak up and celebrate her life, not mourn her death.
    Then I begin the next chapter of my life, which is widower.
    The prevailing wisdom is don’t make any major changes for 6-12 months. Sounds like good advice.

  24. Marissa van Eck says

    Oh gods, Nerd… *hugs* Just go slow. Drink a lot of pure water, don’t overload your body, and sleep as much as you can. Above all, if you have any family or close friends who can help, stay by them. Loneliness can and does kill people in your situation.

    And the rest of you, OFFER MATERIAL HELP! “My condolences” or “my thoughts are with you” sounds like the atheist version of “thoughts’n’prayers” FFS! Money, food, other goods, anything. I’m down a job and doing badly and already trying to support another person who has no income, but if you can think of something, Nerd, ask me. Even if it’s just some remote computer support or something. We won’t leave you all alone.

  25. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I don’t intend to spend all day moping around the house. There is an awful lot of clutter (like ~300 cookbooks) that needs to taken care off. I don’t want to just throw them in a dumpster. I believe CLC has a culinary class, and they might find some use the pile of cookbooks. Same with clothes, hospital bed and bedding, etc. No rush, just something every week for a while.
    I was also thinking, that there is a charity, Elder Care, that needs volunteers to transport seniors to doctors, etc. Once I replace the ’97 Probe, sounds like a day week might be in order.

  26. Ray, rude-ass yankee, Bugblatting Flibbertigibbet says

    I agree with chigau@64, it’s good to stay engaged. Donating things you no longer use & your time, will benefit many others.
    I also agree with Marissa van Eck@62, if there is anything you need, material help of any kind, send up the Horde signal. I won’t speak for others, but if I can help I will.

  27. opposablethumbs says

    My condolences, Nerd, I’m so sorry. I hope you have some support around you (locally, I mean, as well) and that you can get some useful help as and when you want it. Thank you for all the glimpses you have given us of your wonderful, devoted partnership.

  28. Tethys says

    I’m late to the thread as usual, but I too am saddened to hear this news.

    Nerd, my sympathy is all yours. Loss is always hard, and your love and devotion to the Redhead have always been such a wonderful example of how to be a partner. Take care of yourself, and many virtual hugs.

  29. Crudely Wrott says

    Ah! Dear Nerd . . . I’ve been inspired for a long time by the stories of dedication and long love between you and the Redhead. And now she has gone. It is such a sadness. It is such a loneliness. My sympathies to you and your family. It feels somehow wrong that I cannot express my condolences in person. I’ve known of you and her for a long time. This, then, will have to suffice.
    What I know of death is that the survivors survive and are changed in ways that slowly emerge. May you continue and prosper in kindness and love and memory.

  30. bonzaikitten says

    My condolences, Nerd. I know we don’t know each other at all, but my thoughts are with you and yours.