Amy died at 1:28 am, during the night of September 11, 2016. A few hours before, around 5:00 in the evening on September 10, I finally found the courage to read to her a letter I’d written earlier in the week.
There are no real secrets in the letter; it’s mostly just a long thank you note. But it was important for me to write it all down before she died, to read it to her unhearing ears.
Amy didn’t even twitch or blink, but I felt better saying a proper thank you to my girl. She stuck with me for 30 years, after all.
In the years that have followed, a number of people have asked to know the contents of that letter. Like I said, there are no secrets in there, so I've included a copy of it here for anyone who is interested.
September 07, 2016
It seems so weak to say, “Dear…” when you are so much more than that to me. I’m sitting here watching you struggle to breathe, hearing the nurse and the doctor say you will die soon, maybe before 24 hours are over. I’m surprised that I have any more tears left within me, I’m wishing I could do something, anything to make you happy one more time.
I loved making you happy. It made me happier than even I could have imagined.
And yet, here we are. So even though I know you will never read this, even though I know you already know this (we’ve talked about these things a thousand times!) I want to write it all down so that someday, when I’m better, when I’m mostly whole again, I can read it to myself and remember you, and smile.
I just want to say thank you. You’ve made my life one worth living, and that’s saying a lot for me because I’ve never been crazy about this awful planet and these frail bodies we are forced to use to inhabit it. Soo…
Thank you for making me feel safe. When you were near, nothing could hurt me, not for long at least. Today I made your hand wipe away my tears, one last time. You were so good at that for me and it devastates me that you will no longer be able to do that for me. With you gone, I feel like I will never feel safe again. So I am glad that, for 30 years, I knew what it felt like to be safe, because of you.
Thank you for loving me fiercely, with loyalty that borders on the supernatural. Thank you for telling me you loved me first thing every morning before you got out of bed, for telling me again every night just before you drifted off to sleep, and for telling me a dozen times in between during the day.
I learned from you that the greatest part of love is loyalty. You always were determined to build me up, never to tear me down. You never insulted me, or put me down, or belittled me in order to show yourself superior (even though you are superior in so many ways). You never let me be embarrassed in front of others, never told humorously insulting stories about me to our friends without my permission, never reprimanded me in front of others, at least not in ways they’d see. You always stood up for me when others told jokes at my expense, or tried to say anything about me that was hurtful or unkind. You stood between me and many pains that way. I knew it too, and I loved you even more for it. You are, you have been, so so loyal to me, in the face of everything, with me in everything, even better, FOR me in everything, even when I was not for myself. So thank you for that fierce, loyal love. It is irreplaceable, and I feel desperate already, knowing it has been taken from me for now, until I see you again with Jesus.
Thank you for liking me as much as you loved me, for always being my errand buddy, for standing in line with me/for me at Comic Cons, for taking vacation time from work just to go see movies nominated for Academy Awards with me, so we could see all the “Best Picture” nominees before the Oscars. Thank you for just hanging out with me, trying new sitcoms with me, going shopping with me, sitting on the couch rubbing my painful legs while we watched The Big Bang Theory or Friends. Thank you for sleeping next to me on the couch while I watched football, for just sitting in the same room while we both read books, for holding my hand in soapy dishwater, for being better than my best friend. Thank you for liking me Amy. I liked you best too.
Thank you for, you know, “the stuff” in the bedroom. I know, you’d be mortified if you knew that I was saying this in a place where other people can read it, but hey, if you wanted to keep me from bragging about your sexploits, you should never have died on me. :-) But thank you for loving me so well, so often, in this way. I mean, wow, I was a lucky, lucky man. I didn’t realize how generous you were toward me until late in our marriage. I figured everybody was mixing it up like rabbits all the time, then I found out other men’s wives just lost interest, or somehow looked down on their husband’s desire, or used sex as a bargaining tool or withheld sex as a means of punishment or whatever. Even when you were mad at me, or tired, or bored or distracted or busy you still welcomed me into your arms, you made time for me as a priority in your life. Your answer was always yes, thousands and thousands of times—even after cancer. When I was with you, next to you, that was the only place in my world where I felt like I truly belonged, where I could finally relax and just be at peace. I loved belonging to you.
I loved that sex with you was always special, but never a special occasion, that it was a normal, everyday, comfortable, frequent part of our lives. Your loving arms made me feel safe, gave me hope when I felt I would despair, kept me wanting to get up every new morning when I felt so sick I just didn’t want to live. Your lovemaking showed me that sex is more than just physical gratification; it is a sacred moment, a holy thing that’s also just a whole lot of fun. (I think we sometimes forget that joy is a holy thing.)
In 30 years, I was never tempted to stray from you toward another woman. Why would I be? Anytime the potential for that presented itself, it was so easy to just say, “Eh, what I’ve got at home—what I had last night!—is so much better than anything that woman has to offer.” Then I’d smile and go home and make love to you that night and realize, once again that, wow, I was a lucky, lucky man.
Your open arms made me safe. Gave me healing. Protected my soul. I miss this part of you so much already (no surprise right?) that I feel almost like oxygen has left the room, left my life. So I just want to thank you for who you have been to me in our bedroom, for your lifelong generosity with, you know, “the stuff.”
Thank you for always trusting me. I mean, not many girls would say “yes” when a guy they’ve been dating for only 10 days pops the question. And you kept saying yes to me, even when you were worried I was wrong, even when you knew that sticking with me meant you’d have to suffer for my mistakes. You let me move you across the country—twice!—away from family, friends, roots. You followed my lead, you let me lead, even when you knew you could be better at leading in some instances. Once a decision was made, you never backed down from supporting me. When I failed, and you knew better beforehand, you never said, “I told you so.” You never said, “You should’ve listened to me.” You just said, “Oh well. Let’s keep moving forward.” Do you know how absolutely rare that is? You made me the man who never wanted to disappoint you, and you did it by being willing to let me fail, even when you had to bear the consequences of my failures. Thank you. And you even let me buy you clothes! You let me buy about 80% of your wardrobe, and wore it proudly and bragged “Mike picked this out.” You trusted me with that, and not many women would, especially career women like you who had to wear my clothes to work every day. Seeing you in clothes that I picked out made me feel very special.
Thank you for sharing your dreams with me, and not being mad at me when I pushed you to make those dreams a reality, even though they scared you, even when you didn’t think they were possible. (And I’m sorry I didn’t take you to see James Taylor when he was in Denver…twice. I just thought we’d have more time! Thank you for forgiving me that selfish failure.)
Thank you for always smiling when I came into a room. Knowing your smile was there was enough to always make me want to hurry home. I miss your smile. I feel desperate for your smile. But anyway, thank you for always sharing that smile, that one special, delighted smile, just for me.
Thank you for letting me make you happy. I don’t know what to do with myself now, because that’s all I ever wanted to do, just make you happy. Who will I make happy now? Who will be delighted by simple things like a Pat Carroll autograph or a little heart pillow found after being tucked in a secret place? I can never be delighted the way I was when I delighted you. I know I’ve lost something very precious here, and I mourn that loss, but I thank you for being happy with me.
Thank you for listening to gospel music with me on Sunday mornings.
Thank you for making Lebanese food for me every birthday and Christmas.
Thank you for making wonderful family traditions, fantastic family memories. For always setting up the Christmas tree and just letting me watch your beauty while you hung our ornaments—every ornament with its own story.
Thank you for so, so, so much laughter.
Thank you for holding my hand under the covers while we watched movies or TV shows in our freezing basement.
Thank you for holding my hand when we walked from the car, through the parking lot, into the store.
Thank you for holding my hand while you slept, while you were dying, for reaching for my hand when you knew I was crying, for trying to hug me when you couldn’t even lift your head.
Thank you for this agony I feel right now, watching your labored last breaths, suffering through these last moments while you are still warm. It’s awful. Worse than awful. I feel total despair, complete anguish, a brokenness I don’t think will ever fully heal. And yet I’m grateful for it, because it means I have loved you deeply, loved you because you taught me how to love. Only love can feel grief, only love cares enough to weep at loss. So while I hate this moment, hate this day, hate the sun callously shining right outside this hospital window, I am so grateful that it is love that brought me to this time. That it’s YOUR love that brought me here.
I’m so heartbroken at losing you. I didn’t know what that word really meant until now. I honestly don’t know how I will live without you. I don’t want to live without you. But as you would say, that’s a problem for Future Mikey, so once again I will listen to your wise advice.
Amy!, you know how much I LOVE LOVE LOVE you, so I won’t bother repeating that mantra again. Right now, the best words I have for you are simply this:
Thank you. Thank you so much. For everything. For all, and forever.
Foreword, from James Taylor
Twas the Night Before Disneyland…
Does Your Husband Love You?
You Look Like Hell
Ring the Bell
Maybe It’s Pneumonia…
Fullness of Joy
Afterword, from Pete Docter
Appendix: Letters from Amy
About the Authors
If You’d Like More…
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