Posted by: donrhymer | May 27, 2015

The Puzzle Piece

Hardly seems possible that two and a half years have gone by since Don’s death. That’s over 900 days. I think the most time we ever spent apart was a few weeks, when he would go on location for a film shoot.

A lot of life has happened in the past 30 months. Our kids are all here in the Los Angeles area and are working hard at building careers. Don would be so proud of each one of them for the unique ways that they are pursuing life. It’s been awhile since I’ve posted and much has happened in the past six months as well. I adopted a sweet little puppy in October. I took her to have her spayed, only to have the vet call and tell me I was too late! We had an unexpected litter of three puppies over the holidays. Not what I would have chosen, but they were a welcome distraction during the hardest part of the year for us.

People have asked me many times over these months, “Are you keeping busy?” “Are you busy enough?” If you know me, you know that I’m a “stuffer” of my emotions and I’d rather do anything than have to feel them. However, somehow I instinctively knew that I couldn’t stuff this level of loss, and that I needed to actually pull back from things I was doing to allow myself time to feel, to grieve, to experience the pain. I know that everyone handles loss in different ways. For example, I had one person tell me that the best thing she did after her husband died was to accept every social invitation that came her way. I must’ve looked at her like she had two heads as I thought to myself, “That’s the most insane thing I’ve ever heard!”

This spring has brought with it a new feeling for me. I can see an open space in front of me that I am beginning to recognize as life. An invitation to stick my big toe back in. For the first time in so long I am able to look a little bit outward, rather than inward all the time. Life doesn’t necessarily feel good, but it feels a little bit better. This open space scares the hell out of me because I don’t know what to do with it. A friend who also lost her husband describes us as on a “path of reinvention”.  It’s a path I’ve resisted at every turn. I don’t want to reinvent myself. I want to be who I was. Who I was with Don. His wife. Parents together of our kids. It’s not where I would ask to be, or want to be. It’s just where I am. And figuring out what to do with that is the journey.

Another friend whose son died of cancer describes us as puzzle pieces whose shape has been forever changed. The picture on the puzzle box looks different than I had imagined or dreamed. I am a different person than I was two and a half years ago. That’s inevitable. It’s just the truth. My edges are different and I don’t fit into the puzzle the way I used to. I’m not a couple anymore. I go places by myself. My conversations with our kids are my own now, not ours as parents. To be fair, my kids and friends never make me feel out of place – it’s just part of my own transition. I’m learning how to be comfortable with (that’s the challenge) how I fit into life now.

I’m at that stage in life where a lot of my friends are starting to look forward to the next chapter, the next big adventure. Weddings and grandkids. Downsizing from the family home. Retirement and travel. All really good and life-giving things. When I look ahead to those things my sadness is that Don won’t be here to experience any of them. All the joys in life he is missing that will always be “less than” without him. But I also realize that I can’t resent other people’s happiness – it’s not fair to them, and it would make me a bitter, sad woman. That’s not how I choose to live my life.  As Don said, God does indeed inhabit the bitter and the sweet.

I know I have many more chapters and many more adventures ahead of me. So I’ll continue to figure out how my piece of the puzzle fits into life. I don’t have any answers yet, but at least I’m beginning to ask the questions.

– Kate



  1. love you.-noli

  2. When my brother had to bury his 21 year old son, he found this quote but no reference to who wrote it: “There are things we don’t want to happen but have to accept, things we don’t want to know but have to learn and people we can’t live without but have to let go.” I actually think of you often and send you happy energy as you work your way through this. Hugs.

  3. Kate, I’m so glad you shared this with me (us). Thank you for showing us your big toe!

    Love Albert. (So glad I was there in the beginning of your story with Don.)

  4. Thanks for the update, Kate. You are “dealing” and not standing still while being totally true to yourself. Unsurprising given your strong character, but reassuring to hear it nonetheless. Win will be home from Harvard for the summer and it would be nice to see you.

  5. This is beautiful, Kate. Your heart is here.

    We love you!


  6. Kate, You are reinventing yourself in a new form. What trials you have been given, but also great blessings. Don was so lucky to have you next to him as he made his journey. You are a beautiful, strong, soulful woman. Hang in there, step by slow step.

  7. Well said my friend. So glad our puzzle pieces are on the same board of life.

    My heart is FORVER with you as you continue the journey forward!


  8. Thanks for sharing this Kate. You sharing your heart and life is a step in trying to heal, and I will be praying for you in the days and weeks ahead.

  9. So proud to call you a Friend. Although you did not choose this journey, you are an amazing example of truth and transparency for others facing this, and for all the rest of the people that surround you. That includes me. Don was right…God is in the bitter and the sweet. Even through your pain you have been a light. Deb

  10. Thanks for continuing to share your heart with us. Its a real blessing. Blessing to you this morning!

  11. Kate, I am glad I saw this post. Looking forward to stepping in with you.

  12. Thank you for sharing your heart, Kate. We’ve been praying for you and the kids. May God’s grace continue to envelope you all.

  13. Love you Kate

  14. Thank you for sharing this Kate. There was a guest speaker at Mariners Church in Irvine (who has his own church in Monrovia). His name is Albert Tate and the sermon he did was part of a series they’re doing called “Reset.” I (hope) I’ve pasted the link here and that it will speak to you as it did me.

  15. Dear Kate,

    You are so right in that it seems almost impossible that Don died 2 1/2 years ago. I always thought that the sayings, “Time and tide wait for no man.” “Time marches on.” were rather trite and not appropriate to a hurting heart. But there is truth in both of them. We rejoice that all three of your children are back in the Los Angeles area and are building careers. That must be a great comfort to you and how grand to be with them more often.

    One of my friends described how he was doing, with the loss of his son, as having a hole in his heart. Six years later, in December, he said, “The hole is still there but it’s different…the edges are smoother and each season brings more joy and peace. Robbie will never be forgotten, but it gets easier to imagine him with the Lord and enjoying the glory of heaven.”

    You have come a long way in the last 2 1/2 years. Has anyone ever told you to write a book about this, or at least a booklet? You have a very captivating way of expressing grief, of telling the story of your climb out of the darkness that comes when a loved one is gone. I think it would a great encouragement to many, not just to me. If nothing else, you could print each of the Let’s Radiate Don as chapters. Do I sound like I’m nagging? Good! That is my intent!

    Many blessings as you continue to work on your piece of the puzzle, enjoy your children, embrace your friends and cherish your memories.

    Love, Patt


  16. I noticed it’s almost a year since your last post. I hope that you and the children are doing well.

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