A story of grief by a man and a boy

quiet phone

My phone used to ring all the time. As did Desreen’s. Not because we have so many friends, but because we updated each other constantly throughout the day about what each of us were up to.

I’d told a joke that had gone down really well in the office and was calling to show off and get congratulated (or more likely to hear Desreen kiss her teeth at my bragging). She’d been asked for I.D. when trying to buy cigarettes because she looked so young. I’d just seen the boy she fancied from One Direction. She’d just been told something outrageous about someone massive in the entertainment industry that was ‘one hundred per cent true’ because [insert name – you know who you are] had told her. I’d just bought a pair of jeans. She’d just had to tell our son off for trying to ‘improve’ a three-hundred pound chair with his crayons.

My phone rarely rings now but it wasn’t until I observed some behaviour in married friends of mine that I’d even really thought about it. I realised that the reason some happy couples work is because they quite literally share their lives. They constantly fill each other in on the minutiae of everyday life because they can. They’ve been fortunate enough to find the one person on the planet prepared to listen and that doesn’t mind if they open up their innermost feelings or just call to say what they had for breakfast. Nothing is too momentous nor too mundane for partners who worship one another.

This became apparent twice to me this week. The first time I was dropping the smallest of gifts round to a friend. I knew he would be at work but I was passing so I knocked on the door and handed it to his wife. To my surprise she knew what it was before I had even taken it out of my bag because he must have mentioned it to her on his return from the gym where we’d discussed it together at the weekend. The fact he had acknowledged such a small thing made me smile about how he must share everything with her.

The second time was when I sent a friend a text message to update him on how many hits I’d had to this blog. I was quite shocked to see just how many people have visited in such a short period of time and I suppose I told him because the person with whom I shared my life has gone. He wasn’t with his wife at the time, yet three minutes later she sent me a text to say she had heard the news. Something that I know could have waited, or perhaps even been forgotten, had to be shared immediately because when we love someone in that way we feel a bit like we’re cheating them if they don’t get the latest updates on our lives. ‘Well you never told me,’ they say when they discover you had chicken for lunch and they have cooked it for dinner, too.

Without even knowing it, these two couples reminded me just how much I miss Desreen.

I miss how she would call when she had nothing to say but just wanted to hear my voice. I miss how she would say, ‘I think that’s all for now’, then call again thirty seconds later. And I miss having someone who would be genuinely interested to know every single new word our son had spoken that day.

32 comments on “quiet phone

  1. Clem
    January 11, 2013

    Keep this up Ben, enjoying (I don’t know if that’s quite the right verb to use) but I think you know what I mean. That pint’s getting warm too..

    • lifeasawidower
      January 13, 2013

      That final sentence made me smile. I like an ale more than a lager so warm still works for me.

  2. Pingback: quiet phone | Dan's Running Blog

  3. Will Muir
    January 11, 2013

    Hi Ben, thank you for this blog. I have read each entry back to back and have been in tears. I’ll think of you and your wee lad. If you ever want to come to stay with us in India, please feel free. I’ll keep reading as long as you keep writing. Thank you for sharing. Will

  4. Jane Hamilton
    January 11, 2013

    Your blog is heartbreaking but uplifting. I started a blog after losing my father and 4 other members of my family within weeks of each other. It has been a cathartic experience for me and I hope you find some peace and acceptance in writing down your thoughts and feelings as you go through this journey.

    • lifeasawidower
      January 13, 2013

      Thanks Jane. I’ll take a look. Sorry to hear about your loss too

  5. Mrs Ward
    January 11, 2013

    Ben, you write beautifully, poignantly, honestly …I got this blog via Dan French (ginger fella skinny legs…). I too have a boy (Jacksons age) and know what the trials and tribulations of bringing up a toddler involve at the best of times (never mind under difficult circumstances and life changing events like yours). Your wife sounds like she was an amazing woman and you sound like an you’re doing everything you can to be an amazing Father. If Jackson fancies another fesity fella to add to his social circle let me know. We’re in East Dulwich too. Nada.

    • lifeasawidower
      January 13, 2013

      Well if he’s got a scooter, he’s already Jackson’s pal xx

  6. West Hampstead (@WHampstead)
    January 11, 2013

    Hi Ben, just came across this blog by chance. We spoke in the days after the accident – i write the West Hampstead Life website, which covered it in detail. People are still talking about it – it looms large in our local consciousness. Amy, the American who was badly injured, is making steady progress in a rehab clinic back in the US, and people still ask about her and you. If nothing else, this blog should help people treasure what they have, which everyone needs reminding of. I hope it is helping you as much as it will undoubtedly help others.

    • lifeasawidower
      January 13, 2013

      Thanks for getting in touch. I’ve received updates about Amy too. It’s always good to hear of her progress.

  7. Aideen McGrath
    January 11, 2013

    You are my new 11 o’c tea break Ben. keep being brilliant. so much love from over here. xxx

  8. whywasn'tloveenough
    January 11, 2013

    I could have written this. This for me, has been the hardest part about returning to work after my husband’s death – no more messages, texts, phone conversations I especially love the line: Nothing is too momentous nor too mundane for partners who worship one another. It resonates so deeply with me.

    • lifeasawidower
      January 13, 2013

      I hadn’t thought about what it would be like to be at work without the phone ringing. She was really the only person who ever called my work landline because everyone tends to call my landline. Perhaps it will never ring again. It certainly won’t be as much fun if it does.

  9. lisagorman3105
    January 12, 2013

    as everybody else has said, you write brilliantly and poignantly. you are also reminding me of that quirky, funny wife of yours that shared our office for six years. keep it up Ben, it is just so brilliant to keep up with how you and that beauty of a boy are doing. x

  10. ImogenLucy
    January 13, 2013

    “Nothing is too momentous nor too mundane for partners who worship one another”-

    I read your blog so far last night & found myself unable to stop saying that to myself today. I have never heard anything so beautiful or so true. You are a magnificent writer & I pray for peace and happiness for you, Desreen & Jackson.
    With nothing but best wishes

  11. Adeola
    January 14, 2013

    Thank you. For reminding us to cherish the ones we love. Your heartfelt blog captures the simplicity, complexity, depth, and beauty of love; as a husband and a father. I am truly sorry for the loss you and your son have to endure. Time heals.

    “All those millions of lives
    – and yet you found one another.”
    ~ Pam Brown

  12. EightySixThat
    January 15, 2013

    With a few minutes to spare at the office I decided to check on my unfinished blog. After looking at the weak stats and lack of visitors I figured I’d look at WordPress’ top blogs to see what I’m doing wrong…and that is where I found you. I’ve only read a few of your posts but I now know what I lack…passion, fire, dedication, commitment. Thank you. Each of your words are woven so perfectly. I can feel the weight of each one of them. Your wife is loved, truly loved.

    Though your story is filled with sadness, it has connected us all in some way.

  13. James Kirby
    January 16, 2013

    I saw you on BBC this morning. I never watch TV during the day, but I was chasing the weather report today and fortunately you came on: I was moved by your strength, honesty and love. I am lucky – I have been married for nearly 29 years and it means everything to me. My wife works around 65 miles away for 3 or 4 days a week, and stays there for half the week. We phone each other several times a day. Always at 8am, then once or twice during the day, then twice during the evening. All I can say to you is good luck, good love, and be strong. You are much admired. You have your son and he has you!

  14. Anna
    January 16, 2013

    Fabulous blog Ben. Whilst I haven’t felt the grief of the death of a loved one, so I can’t really compare my situation to yours, I am grieving the loss of my relationship. The father of my son left me last year when my little boy was only 3 months old, it was totally unexpected and a complete shock, and for me was a big loss, which as my son approaches his first birthday this weekend I am still struggling to deal with. Some of the things you have written I can completely empathise with and this post has really struck a chord. I wish you lots of love and good fortune, and want to congratulate you on your strength, it can’t be easy. x

  15. sidelined86
    January 16, 2013

    This is a beautiful explanation of what love is.

  16. Mike McGee
    January 17, 2013

    As a fellow widower I get you Ben! My wife very sadly died from a Brain Hemorrhage aged 42 in late December 2010 and it wasn’t until 16th Jan when you were on BBC Breakfast that I found someone who would also understand me.. I would be sure that you are now inundated with fellow male widowers but I wouldn’t mind sharing or trying to help in some small way.

  17. James Bickerton
    January 20, 2013

    I’m sat here after hearing about your blog on tv, I’ve read some of it, my wife died on August 29th 2012 after suffering from cancer since 2005, aged 46, we had been married since 1991 and been together for 30 years, I have twin boys aged 15 and a daughter 18. I have no idea why I am writing in this blog only to let you you are not alone, all of your feelings are not unique, I have many feelings of my own that cause me both guilt and relief, pain and sorrow. I understand that your wife was taken suddenly and mine was taken over a period of time but that really doesn’t matter, the fact is we have both lost the love of our lives, still no idea why I am writing this other than to say if you need to talk to someone let me know and if I can help I wil


  18. Yvonne
    January 21, 2013

    Hi Ben , I am so sorry for your tragic loss, I am touched by your story and will look forward to following your blog… Life is so unfair sometimes and you and your wife were so in love .. Your son in beautiful…

  19. Andy
    January 21, 2013

    This is an amazing blog Ben, and I am so sorry for your loss. I am a fellow ED resident and I am glad you have made an effort to share your experiences, as difficult as it may be. Many people forget to cherish the little things that really matter in life and in relationships, and this blog should help remind us to savour every moment with those we love. I am glad you are getting alot of supportive comments through this blog, you are a kind person and I pray for future happiness for both you and your son.

  20. Lauren
    February 5, 2014

    As always, I’m so sorry for you and your son. This is exactly how I feel now about my deceased husband. In the first few weeks, when something happened I shared it with my brother because I had to tell someone and Gabe wasn’t there. I don’t know what to say, but prayerfully, things will get better.

  21. Ollie
    February 5, 2014

    The honest words you speak of the fellings that you have are refreshing ….esp in today’s world. Please keep sharing x

  22. Jai
    February 5, 2014

    I’m fortunate not to have lost my husband (at least not literally) your blog has opened my eyes to how easily complacent we can become and how lucky we both are to have one another to share everything with….sorry for your loss and thank you x

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