Posted by: Ken Wheatley | November 28, 2009

Setting The Mood

Not having seen rain for countless months, San Diego has been in a stage 2 drought alert. So it was clearly poignant, and emotional, that today – the day that I was meeting with three of Sheila’s sisters and one of her nephews to go through and hand over to them hundreds of Sheila’s family photos – that gray skies, pounding rain, and hail should envelop the day.

Karen arrived before the others and there were some photos that she had brought to share with me. One of them, an 8 1/2 x 11, immediately surprised and overwhelmed me at the same time.

When we got married in June 2008, Sheila had to enter from the left and rear of the outdoor patio at The Thursday Club and descend some stairs. Just after she descended the stairs, and before she made the right turn to the main aisle, there was one incredibly brief moment when she looked up and toward the front where I was standing. It was obvious from the look in her eyes and on her face that she was eagerly, emotionally, searching for me. I’ll never forget that look, and how she smiled so broadly when our eyes locked, or how I unexpectedly responded with tears at that moment. Her eagerness for some reason caught me by surprise. I think if she could have run down the aisle, she would have. We were both so incredibly happy. We had beat the odds of her illness and made it to our wedding. We were going to be husband and wife, finally.

I had been searching for someone who had been able to capture that amazing moment. The photos from the two professional photographers were bracketed on either side of that moment, but the videographer did capture it. However I wanted a print of it. Somehow Karen had captured it with her camera. What an amazing coincidence. So this morning was the first time I had seen the photo. And the sadness of losing her prematurely gripped my heart once again and the tears just flowed.

When everyone left this afternoon I went to the grocery store. After getting the cart I paused near the entrance to check a voicemail message that had come in earlier when an employee from the deli approached. She usually served us so she knew Sheila, but hadn’t known about her illness, and I haven’t been shopping much so she hadn’t seen me since September. When she asked how our Thanksgiving was I thought I would be able to answer “normally,” but I think because of having just spent 4 hours going over photos and reliving anecdotes my bottled up grief came pouring out, and I sobbed and cried as she held me. Trying to make light of it later I wondered to myself if people thought I was overcome by the lowered holiday prices.

Other than today, I’ve been coping better on a daily basis, in general. The sadness and emptiness is there but it’s not as debilitating all the time as it was. I’m sleeping more than I was, so that’s helping.

Mike from Texas called on Wednesday. He’s the friend who promised to be in the empty SuperBowl stadium sitting next to me. A month or so ago he sent me a very long handwritten letter sharing his grieving process when he lost his first wife about 7 years ago. Mike is a former police officer, a military special forces guy, and was in the Secret Service on President Bush’s (George W) protective detail. Not one to easily rattle. But he cried on Wednesday when we talked about the loss of his wife.

So having talked to others who have lost their spouses, both men and women, I know that it’s a long process and one that never completely goes away, as it shouldn’t. Mike is very happily remarried. Laura is a wonderful, beautiful, attentive woman. He always smiled broadly, in person and on the phone, when he mentions her name. And I’ve talked with strangers who have reached out and other friends or acquaintances and the story is much the same for them. They’ve “moved on” and found happiness in other ways, but there will always be a part of their heart and soul that’s permanently reserved for their lost love.



  1. Hi ken when is your surgery

  2. Sorry…thought I had responded when you asked before, but it slipped through the cracks. It’s Monday. Bright and early. Have to be there at 5:30am and surgery starts at 7:30ish. Should be in recovery by 11am.

  3. Hi Ken,
    I translate it in my time (plus 9 hours) and send my prayers to you!!

  4. Ken, thinking of you today and wishing you love and prayers that all goes well with your surgery.
    Big hugs! Kathi

  5. Wow Ken the swine flu is keeping
    Mary and I from you and your probably a very lucky man. I’ve called to check on you a couple times and spoke to Steve (very nice) and A woman and that is all I have to say about that>

  6. Looked tonight for updates on your surgery. Hope you are recovering with vigor. Was going through your blog and found your tribute to Sheila. Thanks for posting it. You two did more living in the short time together than most of us ever will. It is testament to true love and living like there will be very few tomorrows. How rich life can be. HOW WONDERFUL you found sheila to share in such wonderful advetures. We love you and hope you are progressing in your own fight with cancer. You and Alan need totalk. H e can use your guidance to start his own journey to recovery. Dawn

  7. Thanks Kathi! Good hearing from you….hope all is well back East. Have a good holiday.

    Big hugs back,

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