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  • Kristan Higgins

That slightly tragic air

Updated: May 3, 2022


Here’s a secret: I imagine being widowed all the time.

Don’t worry. McIrish knows. He understands. First, he’s a firefighter, so he puts himself in harm’s way all the time. One time, he was late coming home, and he didn’t bother calling. His phone was off, so obviously, I assumed the chief would be pulling up the driveway any second to deliver the tragic news. When McIrish finally did walk in, I didn’t look up from my computer, as I had reached the “You’d better be dead or I WILL KILL YOU” phase of grieving. “What are you working on?” he asked, all innocent-like.

“Your eulogy!” I said and burst into tears. (Fun fact: He’s never forgotten to call again.)

Also, my dad died when he was 47, so for more than half my life, I’ve seen my mom dealing with widowhood. Two of my friends have been widowed far, far too young. And I’m writing a character who’s a widow right now.

So it’s only natural that I think about these things myself. I’ve teased McIrish about the things I’ll do if he dies before I do: I’ll buy an electric griddle to make pancakes and use the 15-pound cast-iron monstrosity we have now as his headstone. I’ll paint the living room wall electric blue. I’ll travel to lots of great places, but I’ll always have an air of sad mystery about me. Men will find me more attractive than they do now, drawn to that slightly tragic (but still so brave) vibe I give off. I’ll lose those pesky ten extra pounds and dress better to, uh, honor his memory (or something, but I’m always turned out very nicely in these imaginings). I’ll buy a horse and ride elegantly across the grounds of Pemberley. I’ll date, but I’ll never marry again, because who could ever take his place?

McIrish listens to these tales with a slightly sardonic expression. He doesn’t come out and say what he’s really thinking—that I’ll become a hoarder, eat only orange food and adopt far too many dogs.


It goes without saying that I hope to die in my sleep at the same exact second as my beloved husband, holding hands in our old age. I guess it’s the curse of the writer’s imagination to picture all those other things. As for me dying first, well, let’s just say I’ve already picked out his second wife. No mysterious air of tragedy for him.


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