Posted by: Ken Wheatley | November 7, 2009

Breathing In

During the drive to the grocery store this afternoon I was channel surfing and backed up to a station when I heard the words of a song that said, “…when you breathe out, I breathe in…”

I turned off the radio and spent the remainder of the trip in silence as I thought back to all the times when I would do that with Sheila.

Most nights when we went to bed Sheila would snuggle close and put her head between my left shoulder and neck. At some point she’d turn her face upward, for a kiss or two, but some times she’d fall asleep in that position as well. I would still be awake, listening to her breathe, feeling her heart beat against my chest.

In the blackness of the night I found myself focusing my attention on the various sensory experiences of her closeness – the warmth of her body as she pressed full length against me intertwining her feet with mine, the softness of her skin, the curve of her hip pleasuring the palm and fingertips of my hand, her soft hair cascading over my chest…and the feeling of her breath lightly caressing my face.

At some point we’d move apart, but still be touching in some manner.

I’m not sure when it started exactly, but one night several years ago I found that I wanted to breathe in her breath. I wanted to share the warmed air that moments ago had been inside of her. So when I could, which was often, I would put my nose as close to hers as I could without waking her so that as she exhaled, I would inhale. It took a little practice to comfortably sync my breathing to be opposite of hers, but it was a task that I took great pleasure in. If possible, I’d lightly rest my right hand against her chest at the same time so that I could feel her heart beating slower as she fell deeper into sleep.

I continued this practice to the end, and of course breathing in her breath became even more important to me the last few months.

I never told her I did these things. I’m sure she would have loved the thought, but it was just something, a secret ritual I guess, that I kept to myself. And a great memory to look back upon…



  1. Dear Ken,

    I’m so sorry God called Sheila home so soon and very upset that she sufferred so. Sheila and I are cousins and although we were ‘pen pals’ in grade school and high school we never had the chance to meet. My Dad and her Mom were brother and sister. Had I known about Sheila’s illness I would have found a way to meet her. I live in Maryland and have lived here all of my life except for my college years in Virginia. Sheila used to tell me a lot about how she enjoyed visiting Lake Havasu. One of my co-workers has a print of Lake Havasu on her office wall. The day I found out about Sheila’s death I had a pop up ad on my computer for a screen saver and it looked like Lake Havasu so I thought about Sheila. A few hours later my Mom told me the terrible news. Today she let me know about your on line tribute to Sheila’s life.

    Thank you for all of the ways you filled Sheila’s life with love and happiness. I’m keeping you and my cousins in my prayers.

    Take care of yourself and I hope the health issues you’re dealing with are resolved soon.



  2. Dear Pat,
    Thanks for writing. I’m sorry you never had the chance to actually meet Sheila. She was quite the woman, as you can tell. I only wish that I had about 50 more years to lavish her with love and affection.

    While doubtful, if you happen to have any of the letters still, I would really appreciate getting copies. Even though we talked a lot, there’s still much I don’t know about Sheila, and I’m still interested in learning all I can about her. So if you do have anything to share I’ll send you my mailing address separately.

    Thanks again for writing and caring for her.


  3. Dear Ken,

    Sheila sent me 2 pictures… one’s from ’71 and the other’s from ’79. I’ll make copies for you. As for her letters…over the years I’ve moved quite a bit and lots of my belongings are in storage. It’s hard to say if I saved her letters. I remember her sending me Disneyland postcards too. Hopefully I kept some or all of them. I’ll let you know.

    It sounds like you have lots of people in your life who are here for you at this difficult time. I think time alone reflecting on your love for Sheila is very healthy too. I can’t imagine what life is like for you now. My heart goes out to you.

    Take care,


  4. Hello Pat,
    Copies of the photos would be very appreciated.

    And I have a circle of friends and family that have consistently been there for us. It’s still a solitary, internal recovery process in the end, however.

    BTW…what’s your Dad’s name?

    Thanks again for writing.


  5. Hi Ken,

    My Dad’s name is Sam Kenney. Unfortunately he passed away 2 years ago on November 28,2007. He died suddenly. He and my Mom had 4 children and have 4 grandchildren. The youngest grandchild was 8yrs old when Dad died so we all have lots of great memories to cherish.

    Since Dad died around Thanksgiving,
    this time of year starting off the holidays is of course hard on all of us.

    What are your Thanksgiving plans?
    Should I give you my e-m address here so you can send your mailing address to me? I’ll send you Sheila’s pictures when I get your address.

    Keep in touch,


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