This was going to be my programming and professional blog. A place to put technical thoughts, store my references to talks I’ve given and places I’ve traveled, and then pontificate on the tech landscape and the things that I keep learning along the way.

A lot has changed since I last wrote here and I debated writing about it elsewhere, but in truth, I need to write about it in order to move on and to get back to the tech stuff, so it might as well be here.

I have been on a hiatus from work at Mapbox since mid-December of last year.

In October, life was normal.

In November, my wife Michelle started having stomach pains and went to the doctor.

In December, doctors discovered advanced and metastasized pancreatic cancer.

In January, they told us that it was terminal and that she would maybe live a year.

In February, we rediscovered our footing emotionally and fought with all we had while trying to make life normal again along the way.

In March, despite promising indications, we found out that the grueling treatments weren’t having the hoped-for, slim-chance, miracle effects that we held out hope for.

In April, she died.

I wrote a lot on the treatment blog that we both kept during Michelle’s illness. It felt good and it was therapeutic, even if what I wrote about was, at its core, about being terrified and watching my best friend and soulmate’s life slip away.

Michelle and I last summer

But here I’m going to attempt to move on and write a bit more candidly about what I’m actually going through and what I’m trying to work out now, today, after this is all behind me and only I remain.

I have a lot of topics that I’ve been keeping notes on. There are a lot of layers to this.

  • There is grief. It has emotional and physical symptoms. I knew Michelle for nearly twenty years, most of that time sharing everything, and now she is gone. Some days I weep—not cry, but weep—with the feeling that she is forever gone and that she can’t experience the world’s adventures which she so loved, and that she is not here while I try to do that.

  • There is loneliness. When Michelle and I started dating, I was twenty-five and completely happy alone. But our relationship blossomed into something that redefined nearly every part of me and what I lived for. I setup nearly all of life’s incentives around building and sharing with her—and we shared a lot. Now it’s just me again.

  • There is trauma. For five months, I watched Michelle struggle to accept, then to heal, then to live, and then I watched her die while I could do nothing about it. I watched her athlete’s body destroyed slowly over that time while we battled daily pain, terrible symptoms, and the mental weight of what we faced and how things would move forward. I still have dreams where we are trying to get her enough protein, or to strategize dealing with pain, and I can’t even bear to look at pictures of her from when she was growing up because it’s too much to think of that innocent person going through what she would have to go through.

  • There is identity. I really did see my life as part of a partnership. Nearly everything I did I did for that partnership, to share in the building of a life and a set of memories together. Now I need to figure out again what it means to be me, what motivates me, and what I really enjoy on my own.

In some ways, I find myself looking back fifteen years to where I was when I was on my own before. But of course, I am changed since those days and have a much different life. So it’s going to be a melding of both—picking up some thoughts, routines, and hobbies from long ago and trying to form brand new ones, too.

I’m not going to promise anything regular or methodical about these posts. I’m taking life as it comes these days as I try to rebuild, and writing will hopefully be part of that. It certainly feels good to write some of these things down now, so it’s promising that I’ll continue.

I found this tweet to be inspiring a few weeks ago:

I hope you can benefit from me writing—from learning more about my journey, but more importantly, from maybe taking away something that will someday help you deal with similar events, part or all. Of course, I don’t wish anything remotely like these experiences on anyone, but inevitably we all will face grief someday at the very least. Here’s hoping that me sharing a little of my humanity will help with that.

For me and for you.