I have a little story about the obit …
As most of you know, I’m Jeff’s ex-wife. When Jeff was diagnosed, we hadn’t been a couple for almost 20 years. I have always loved him though. He gave me 2 amazing children, but also, he was an amazing person.
It took me far too many years to understand that Jeff and I spoke vastly different love languages. Had I understood all those years ago, perhaps we would have worked harder at our marriage.
We remained close after our divorce, but as our children got older and coparenting was needed less and less, we drifted apart somewhat
When Jeff got sick, it was never a question for me if I’d be involved or not. My circumstances allowed me the time and my heart knew it was where I needed to be.
It sometimes embarrassed me to receive “special recognition” over being so involved. I have always felt any of us would do what I did for the people we love. It was an honor to be by his side, to fight with him, celebrate the small victories, cope with the many disappointments, and to be here when he just couldn’t fight anymore. It was not only an honor, it was a privilege. I don’t deserve some award for that … that’s just how love works.
So I helped write the obituary to post on the funeral home page. They aren't doing an obituary for the newspaper, just the funeral home website and as I'm "the writer", Jeff’s family asked if I'd compose a brief something.
The lady from the funeral home actually sent a draft and all I really did was tweak what she already had. I didn’t add a whole lot more as I thought what she had written sufficed.
She mentioned that Jeff and I had been married and from that union we had children.
But, when it got to the part, "Jeff is survived by ..." the draft only mentioned his children, parents, sister. (Channing, Drake (children), Richard, Marie (parents), and Kim (sister)
I really had no idea what to put for myself or if I should add my name at all. Although Jeff’s parents and sister made me feel welcomed/included, I fretted over how they may feel about my name being listed as I’m not technically family.
They expressed numerous times how much they, extended family, and out of state friends appreciated the detailed updates on Jeff. I have been complimented repeatedly on my writing style and the effort I put into keeping everyone informed, but really, it was “no big deal”. All I did was retell our experiences. It just seemed like the right thing to do and the words easily flowed as I only described actual events. I had no idea I had such a huge following! So many people relied on me and I had no clue anyone was even reading. I updated as I wanted my children to have a place where they could go back and review their dad’s courageous fight. For reference, for those reading that weren’t members of the support forums, I also kept Jeff’s go fund me updated.
Anyway … I wasn’t sure if I should list myself in the survived by part. What if the family didn’t feel like I really belonged in that portion. Ugh. I really struggled with the decision and finally, I decided to include my name and I settled on, "best friend, Stephanie Williams"
I read the finished piece out loud to Channing, Marie, and Kim for their approvals. Dick (Jeff's dad, aka Richard) wasn't in the room, so I let him read it when he returned.
When he finished, I could tell he wasn't pleased about something.
I promptly said, "we can change or add anything you want ..."
He took a deep breath and what I *heard* was, "best friend, Stephanie Williams is NOT appropriate... "
Almost dutifully, I said, "oh, ok ... I can take that part out!!”
I immediately felt bad and felt like I had made a huge mistake by adding my name. Although, I myself struggled knowing if it was “right” to list myself or not, when Dick said it wasn’t appropriate, it surprisingly hurt my feelings that he agreed, I had to hold back my tears that I did not want anyone to see. (EVERYONE was in the room with us)
Dick went on, and what HE SAID (not what I originally THOUGHT I heard) is, "best friend is not ADEQUATE. You were more than that.” Dick had never said it wasn’t appropriate, I was so stressed about adding my own name and prepared to take it out, my brain just heard the wrong thing.
Upon his actual words registering with me, I was so taken off guard I immediately started to cry. No holding those tears back, but that was ok. I was crying out of love and gratitude, not embarrassment.
Kim turned and said, "he loved you …"
*more tears* from me … I was flooded with emotions.
I asked what they wanted me to change it to ... Marie said “ex wife” didn't sound right … she suggested “mother of his children” and we all laughed when she added, “that was no easy task”, but “mother of his children” just wasn't sounding right either.
I then explained when I wrote about Jeff that:
* husband wasn't true
* ex husband wasn't acceptable
* friend wasn't enough …
I always referred to him as "my Jeff".
It took me awhile to decide on what I should say in reference to me. The final version reads: “his love, Stephanie Williams".