Posted by: James Atticus Bowden | November 2, 2014

Two Months to Dread

Nellie's grave in Arlington graced with flowers from her beloved sister, Pookie.

Nellie’s grave in Arlington graced with flowers from her beloved sister, Pookie.

I dread November and December 2014.  These months are the last of the first times without my wife, Nellie Katherine Kyle Bowden.  November is a full year since her stroke.  December is the first anniversary of the death of her body.   The full year of living without her will be done.  Gone.  Over.  I hate this time with a cold passion.  My warmed tears course my hot red checks, but my hatred is cold.  I hate few things in life.  Very, very few.  I hate her absence.

Oddly so, this hate, because I love the first few weeks of November when we have Indian Summer in Tidewater, Virginia.  It’s my favorite time of the year.  Since I love every season, Indian Summer is the extra love placed on top of love – rejoicing with great joy in every warm day surrounded by such glorious colors.  It’s also my annual time of assessment – right before my birthday.  The assessment I make with the Lord God in prayer is more than the usual observation, introspection, and thoughts of a man who is always alive and engaged in his own head.  Like the fall festivals of the Hebrews, it’s about accountability.

I dread looking at all the accounts of life without my wife to factor in every calculation.  I know she is in Heaven.  Her absence brings such sadness and loss to life.  I don’t want to feel how a full year without her feels.  I don’t even want to think about it.  But, I must.

I didn’t go to our local fall festival for the first time in 25 years.  I’ve made myself do other things – to be normal and go through the grieving process.  But, I dodged this one.  Last year I worked the Republican booth as usual and we took our oldest daughter and her kids to the Poquoson Seafood Festival.

October 2013.  Funnel cake with Nellie. Her hand is on my back.

October 2013. Funnel cake with Nellie. Her hand is on my back.

We had no clue what would happen in a month.  No idea.  She wasn’t feeling well, but soldiered on.   We had fun that day .  She touched me then like she did over 30 years before.

Nellie's hand on my back - back then.

Nellie’s hand on my back – back then.

And holding my arm.

And holding my arm.

I hate it that Nellie is gone.  I’m not angry.  Especially not angry with her or God.   Myself or anyone.  Just hate her absence.  I’m grateful for every day here at Sanctuary for my duties as Father and Grandfather, Brother, Cousin, Friend, Believer, Patriot, etc. Yet, I hate having to live without my wife.  My Nellie.  I hate that it’s been a whole year without her.

No more birthdays to celebrate her.

Nellie is overwhelmed at seeing a whole restaurant full of people on her last birthday.

Nellie is overwhelmed at seeing a whole restaurant full of people on her last birthday.

No more time to share our deep desire for one another.

1977.  Pregnant with our first child.

1977. Pregnant with our first child.

No more growing old together.

Our time together ended.

Our time together ended.

I know to be grateful for a love so dear.  I know to praise God for Nellie.  I know to be grateful for a desire that defined a love more broadly and deeply for the way we were together.  I got it.  I know it is the way of the world that one would pass before the other.  Understand.  I know that God can expand the human heart to love more anew.  Believe it.

I dread these two months for what they mean this year.  Not for all time I have left on earth.  I dread what they mean now.

Every week the steel bands that were so tightly constricting my head and chest – my whole body encased in a pain I felt upon rising – are loosened.  I feel much healthier and stronger.  I laugh and smile.  I’m living life as it is.

I dread what must be done these two months.  My first birthday without her – since 1972.  Thanksgiving.  Her stroke.  My youngest daughter’s 30th birthday.  Her death.  Her memorial service.  CHRISTmas where we’ll be aware instead of overwhelmed by emotion.  I’ll be more engaged, not just trying to survive – and not stroke out as BP spiked.

God is good.  All the time.  No matter what.  NO MATTER WHAT.  Thank You, Lord Jesus Christ.

The night before we wed.

The night before we wed.

My wife, my Nellie.

My wife, my Nellie.

Ok, November and December 2014, let’s go through you two.  I won’t be alone.  Just missing her so.



  1. Why don’t you write a novel based on the love you and Nellie had for each other.

  2. Marianne, thank you. I’d like to incorporate aspects of our relationship in my next novel – Sci Fi – with the main character. Also, soon I plan on starting a book A Grief Felt – which is a tangent to C S Lewis’s A Grief Observed. More about emotions and feelings and less detached intellectualism. Thank you for your suggestion.

  3. A beautiful tribute to Nellie. She would be honored to have inspired this kind of love and devotion. Blessings as you walk through the coming weeks and feel the sadness of missing her daily presence.

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