Melissa Gould Lost Her Husband 10 Years Ago. Now, She’s Finally Letting Go. Her Story is a Heartbreaking and Inspiring Look at How Grief Impacts Us All
I don’t consider myself a sentimental person. I don’t collect things. I’m not into “stuff.” I often look around my house and think “I could live without any of this!” (Whenever I say this out loud, my daughter rolls her eyes.) Of course, there are framed photos and comfortable furniture, tchotchkes here and there, but I always think that we could do with less. In fact, after my husband died, I decided to downsize from our four-bedroom house to a much smaller townhouse down the street. I even used the move as an opportunity to get rid of boxes and boxes of my childhood relics–photo albums, yearbooks, journals, books–things that sat in our garage since the day we moved in thirteen years prior. I knew, with hardly any remorse whatsoever, that it was time to let those things go.
Yet, I have an iMac computer that sits on my desk, it’s the same one that sat in my home office in the old house… in the time it’s taken me to write this many words, it is still trying to open a new window in Chrome. The wireless keyboard and mouse are no longer recognized, and it hasn’t been able to do a system upgrade since Mojave circa 2018. I have faded love notes taped to it from Joel, my late husband, and a graduation gift wish-list from my daughter that’s either from middle or high school even though she graduated from college last year. It is time for me to swipe its memory clean, delete all that it holds, and turn it off for good. It contains photos, contacts, home movies, and everything from business documents to drafts of everything I’ve ever written since I first turned it on nearly a decade ago. That’s how old this device is. That’s how long it’s been carrying the contents of most of my life. A life that began when my husband died.
I bought this Mac in late 2013. It sat in a box for a week that October, during which time I braced myself for setting it up–newer, faster, shinier than the previous desktop I was eager to get rid of. I was going to give myself the weekend to plug it in, set it up and figure out all its bells and whistles. But my husband, who had MS, was suffering that week with what we thought was a bad cold, possibly the flu. After a few nights of an unrelenting fever, his doctors said to take him to the emergency room. While we were fluent in MS, the idea of going to the emergency room threw us, but of course, we went. That was on a Saturday. By Monday, he was moved to the ICU. On Wednesday he was transferred to a different hospital altogether.
Meanwhile, the new computer continued to sit in its box, unopened for weeks, while Joel fell into a coma, and ultimately died of complications of West Nile Virus. All of this is recounted in my memoir, Widowish as is the fact that somehow, miraculously, life has moved forward for both my daughter and I. My daughter was thirteen when she lost her father, she’s now 22. I am re-partnered with a wonderful and patient man who makes space for Joel time and time again. Life is full and good, we’re happy, but this many years later, grief lingers.
As for the Mac, Joel knew about it, of course, but he never saw it out of the box. He never created his own profile. He never touched the keyboard. Still, for many years, perhaps because of a shared iCloud account, this device held Joel’s iTunes, photos from his iPhone, and some of his work emails. Joel, like all of us, lived a life, some of which is held in this desktop that barely functions, and still, I waiver at letting it go.
In some ways, it’s one of the last things of Joel’s that I have, even though it never was one of his things… like the “Big Lebowski” bobblehead that amused him so much, that I now keep on a shelf in my closet. Or the beloved fly ball that he caught at a Dodgers game, encased in a see-through plastic box. Or the contents of his nightstand: a book, a pair of reading glasses, and an old notebook with some of his scribble (it’s the scribble I cherish the most!). As mundane as these things are, they belonged to Joel, and that is enough for me to want to keep them.
I know the time has come to make space, literally and figuratively. I’ve googled how to wipe its contents clean. I’ve transferred what I needed to and am one step away from making this device another permanent loss. I’ll remove the faded love notes that have been taped there from the beginning and keep them in a special place. Maybe I am sentimental after all.
Melissa Gould's memoir, Widowish is an award-winning, Amazon best seller and Editor's Pick for best memoir. It's also a Goodreads Top Book of 2021, and has been named one of BookAuthority's Best Grief Books of All Time. Her essays have been published in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Hollywood Reporter, Buzzfeed and more. Learn more at: www.widowish.com