It’s hard to know where to begin with this one. I normally write a Christmas letter each year and send it out along with pictures, etc to family and friends but 2019 has not been normal. On November 1, 2019 my wife (Teresa) suddenly and very unexpectedly passed away in the morning. It was her 42nd birthday.
So, for our two boys (Burke and Fritz), for Teresa’s family and friends our 2019 went from whatever it was to something that we wished it wasn’t. To talk about 2019 then becomes difficult for me.
We had a lot of great times together in 2019 (God I miss her!). We didn’t have a true vacation this year but made several fun weekend day trips along with a long weekend in Bend which was one of our favorite places (I can’t truly comprehend that this won’t happen again). The attempt of trying to relive those good times we had is painful to me right now. The impossibility of her absence is too strong most days and it overshadows the good times. However, we did, in fact, have a good time this summer. We went to Ft Stevens where the kids got to shoot off a cannon and then we went to Astoria for dinner. On the drive home that night we saw deer, coyotes and possibly big foot (or I just caught a glimpse of Burke’s reflection in the window – man the kid is getting big!). Over the next two months we went to Pacific City where Teresa, Burke and Fritz climbed up a giant dune while I gave up quickly in favor of climbing up a bar stool at Pacific City Brewing (after a few beers and lunch I, too, made it up – I just took a much easier route). We did a walk along the Columbia River in Hood River, saw petrified trees on the beach at the Ghost Forest and even saw whales in Depoe Bay. In Bend we stayed in a condo with a great view of the Deschutes river. We had a lot of fun going to Teresa’s favorite brunch place where they specialize in various eggs benedicts and bloody mary’s. We went through the lava tubes at Newberry Volcano just outside of Bend, went to Crater Lake (and walked down to the lake) and visited several great breweries and museums. Before school started we did a hike at Silver Falls (one of Teresa’s favorite places and the first time the four of us had gone there together) and one last trip to the coast where we did metal detecting and splashed in the ocean at Seaside. So, I could look back at 2019 and see how we had a great time together just as we did over the last twenty years but…
She should still be here. This shouldn’t be the end. If nothing else it should be just another year (with many left to come) where we have our up’s and down’s but overall had a great time and looked forward to many more together. I understand that I’m lucky to have been with her for as long as I got to be with her but twenty years just wasn’t enough.
Not nearly enough.
I’m thankful that our kids are doing well. Burke started middle school this year, which is a big change but he has excelled and even moved up to seventh grade math. Fritz is in the third grade and has also done well this year as he got in to the Talented and Gifted program for reading/writing and math. They are amazing kids and I love that I see so much of Teresa in them. From their courage, determination and sense of responsibility they embody so many of her amazing traits and I am so thankful that they were able to have such an incredible mom who raised them to be who they are now. It’s my challenge now to keep that going in them and I hope to God I’m up to the task.
Teresa was always the rock of our family and did so much for us day-in and day-out. Not only was she doing that for us but she was also giving her all to help the kids she worked with as a mental health counselor. She was an amazing mom, daughter, sister, friend, coworker, counselor, wife, and person. She was kind. She was loving. She worked hard at whatever she was doing. Over the last month and a half or so I’ve found myself looking around the house in wonderment. How did she clean everything so well? How did she know what vitamins to get the kids? How did she remember to buy clothes for the kids? How did she remember to buy toilet paper, paper towels and underwear and socks for the kids? How? How? How? All while working her ass off at her job no less. I stand there wondering how and can’t help but feeling like a jerk for not doing more to help. If I had made an effort I could have taken some of the load off of her at home. I could have asked her where she bought the vitamins and then made an effort to do so so that she wouldn’t have to worry about it. I could have done a lot of things.
I could have told her how much I loved her more often. I could have hugged her more. Kissed her more. Talked to her more. I could have made a stronger effort to show her how much I appreciated her and loved her.
I could have. I should have.
I wish I had told her more often how much I loved her. I wish I had talked to her more. I wish that I had said all that I thought and did more than I did.
I still talk to her and try to express this to her but the guilt I feel is still strong. The kids and I have had some good days together doing fun things like watching the new Star Wars movies, going to meet a band and listening to their sound check and opening Christmas presents together but, for me, the guilt creeps in and kicks me in the ass for having a good day. Why should you feel good, it asks, when Teresa is gone and not coming back? I agree with the guilt most days and spend the days crying and rehashing old wounds.
I fully expect to be able to accept these good days as well as I accept the bad days somewhere down the road, it’s just going to take awhile. The days where the kids and I have fun are more frequent and I feel like we have taken a step down the path of our new normal. There are times when I haven’t been able to keep walking but the kids help me along, and I will do the same for them if/when they need me to do so.
Teresa was an amazing human being and I love her so much. She saw me for who I was and loved me despite my many faults. I never felt I deserved her but that was my own shortcoming not hers, she never once made me feel that way. To have her leave us so suddenly is a true tragedy but I am thankful that we had her in our lives for as long as we did. For all that knew her know that my sons and I are always here for you just as you all have been for us. Together we will move forward and together we will help each other do so. If we can all try a little bit harder to live our best lives for Teresa, for each other and, most importantly, for ourselves, I truly think we can make a difference in this world and in a lot of lives, which is, undoubtedly what Teresa would want us to do.
I love you Teresa and I thank you for all the time we got to spend together and for helping raise two wonderful boys and instilling in them so many of your amazing qualities. I’m sorry that I wasn’t always my best when were together but I promise to do my best for Burke and Fritz. I love you and miss you more than I could ever say.
To our family and friends, I love you all and I truly thank you all for the support, kindness and love you have shown us. I hope that the New Year brings you all the peace and love that you deserve!
I am so deeply sorry for your loss. I still remember your vending picture in your cube and how beautiful she was out and from your stories about her I knew how beautiful she was in.
Nathan. You are an amazing father and were a great Husband for Teresa. She would not want you to be feeling guilty about anything. She is there with you everyday. She is encouraging you to keep going. She loved you. Don’t ever forget that. I pray your pain will become manageable. I love you cuz. You have my number if you need me to just listen
I am so very sorry for your loss!! I have known the Mouw family for 30+ years but haven’t seen Teresa since she was a child. I was so sorry to hear of her passing. Your feelings are real, honest and raw. I understand your loss as I lost my husband Feb 7, 2019 due to cancer. I also feel it’s not supposed to be this way. Our futures were cut short and it seems so very, very unfair. The biggest hurt is to see our kids deal with all of this and miss their parent not being there for all of their future activities. But you can do this! It’s hard but we will be ok and we will continue to make great memories with our kids in honor of our spouses. I wish you all the best and that You seek God for comfort and peace that only He can give
Love & Light!