“I’m Gonna Love You Like I’m Gonna Lose You” (Our Old Texts Say A Lot About Us…)

Like every married couple, it’s no secret that Jimmy and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on every single thing.

One thing we agreed to disagree on was the best way to die. He considered the way my Dad died nothing short of wonderful and thought the way his Dad died sucked.

It goes without saying that dying sucks no matter the circumstances, but there was always this ongoing debate as to whether it was preferable to know in advance that you were going to die, so that you could bid proper farewells to your loved ones or just “peace-out on-the-fly” as Jimmy put it in his hippie vernacular.

I would often get irritated with Jimmy after my Dad died because he would say,

Oh Man! Your Dad would’ve loved the way he died! He really went out in style!

My Dad died from a massive coronary at the age of 63, one July afternoon in 2001, after playing 18 holes of golf while eating a bowl of seafood gumbo at lunch with my mother – quite literally the three greatest passions of his life.

I always regretted that I did not expect my Dad to die so young and never really got a chance to wrap things up, so to speak. To say a proper good-bye.

Unfortunately, Jimmy’s father wasted away from illness before the very eyes of his loved ones. While Jimmy always agreed there was indeed opportunity for “closure,” it was terribly painful to witness the suffering involved.

I know I’m selfish that I’m so hurt God took my Jimmy when and how He did.  I guess he was God’s Jimmy and not my Jimmy.  But, I know he would never have wanted to be taken from us so soon.

At just 54, we had far too many unrealized dreams.  I know he wanted to float that last baby girl down the aisle. And he wanted to finish raising his sons. He wanted to see more grandchildren born.


Nonetheless, it’s really left me with a lot of unfinished business as I’m sure y’all might imagine.

I lie awake every night and I wonder if I was actually a good wife. I wonder – if I had a crystal ball and I knew that he was going to die so young, would I have doubled down in some key marital areas?  For instance:

-He would’ve gone out to eat every night, but I said “no.” I was always on a diet.
-He would’ve done the hokey-pokey every night. I never said “no,” but sometimes I wore really, really ugly pajamas on purpose.
-He liked to travel, but I complained that it made me motion sick.

You get the picture.

So, the other night I did what any crazy widow – not entirely in her right mind would do – I started scrolling through all of our old texts. I was trying to analyze what kind of wife I was.

I feel like I’m losing perspective. Was I nice? Was I loving? Did I make him happy? Did I “do him well all the days of his life” like Proverbs 31 said I was supposed to?

Maybe our old texts would give me a clue…

I came across the following text and took comfort in the fact that I was schlepping around out there one day trying to get my man some sinus medicine – because we all now it’s kind’ve a pain in the arse. You have to show your ID so they know you’re not running a meth lab.


But, then I found this one. And it was painfully obvious that he was better to me than I was to him. Not that it was a contest or anything, but Geez…


9 days before Jimmy was killed

I must admit I was somewhat encouraged when I stumbled across this little gem however…


It’s pretty stinkin’ endearing and I think it speaks volumes about the depths of our devotion that he thought I was going to ferret out a recipe for something called “baba ganoush” and make it for him.  I’m not sure where he was or who he was with on the 17th of January, but how cute is that? It kind’ve made my heart sing.   Notice my response?


I don’t know if I was running for the cookbook or Epicurean.com, but what I think matters here and what I’m choosing to focus on, is that he believed I was going to make this concoction.

I can’t remember the last time I did anything meaningful with squash.  But maybe I was going to make that stuff – You really never know with a person like me.  I’m full of surprises and super loving, as evidenced by the sinus medicine effort.

Sometimes I tell myself I shouldn’t have let my children’s father ride that motorcycle  – to the degree a wife really lets her husband do something.  But I do know he loved me so much he wouldn’t have ridden if I had really pressed the matter.

But, like my Dad, he definitely died doing something he passionately loved.   So, all that’s left for me is a lot of time to scroll around for evidence that I loved him like I was gonna lose him…

“You Can Tell Everybody This Is Your Song” (I’m Not One Of Those Who Can Easily Hide, So I’m Going To Face The Music…)

Within a few hours of them letting me know you were gone, my entourage left me alone (for just a second) in my closet to change into my pajamas, when I suddenly experienced just one of the hundreds of epiphanies regarding my forever-changed future…

What about the music?

I’ll never be able to listen to music again.

When you’ve been with someone since you were both 18, every song has a story or a memory attached to it. And of course we loved music together. But, I guess that doesn’t exactly set us apart from other couples. Couples love their music.

That’s because music is almost always about love and relationships.

When we were teenagers, I would always say, “Turn the radio up! Doesn’t this song remind you of us?” And you would do that thing you always did, where you kind’ve cocked your head to the side when you didn’t quite get something. Like why a particular song was OURS.

Eventually you explained to me that you didn’t really listen to song lyrics. I was astonished. You said you liked music for the music.  And then I was confused. You mean the notes? The arrangement of the notes? Who doesn’t listen to the words? It’s just one of the many ways we were different.

Through the years, of course, I forced you to parse many many many songs’ lyrics and meanings with me. I remained convinced every song was OURS

Except for a few of those AC/DC songs you liked.

(I know I always made you turn them off when I hopped in your truck. Guess what? I would let you listen to them now if we could ride in your truck somewhere together just one more time. But isn’t that just the way it goes?)

The thought occurred to me as I buttoned up my pajama top that I’m never going to be able to listen to music again as long as I live.

But then I thought…well…maybe I could just switch over to a genre we had no previous history with. Such as Rap music or Symphony music.  Talk about hugging polar opposite ends of the culture spectrum.

But I would only have to pick one. And neither were likely to make me dissolve into a puddle of tears as I drowned in recollected memories.   Because they would all be songs I’ve never heard before.

But within a few days I came to my senses. I’m not cultured enough for classical and a bit too prissy for rap.

I decided I was just going to delve right back into our stuff headfirst.

Rip the bandaid off.

Full immersion.

No screwing around.

Nothin to it, but to do it.

So I picked out our favorite Motown songs* for the pictorial video we showed at the funeral and have been wading through our catalog of music ever since, for the blog and just life in general.

Do I cry?

Like a baby. But it’s okay. I can’t give up all of our music forever. It would be like giving up US. And I just don’t realistically seeing me turning to rap or the symphonic sound to get my groove on…

But listen to this funny thing that happened to me on my way home from therapy yesterday:

This therapist-guy’s office is right by one of my favorite stores.  So I decided yesterday that if I have to go bare my grief-stricken soul to a veritable stranger on the weekly, the least I could do is treat myself to a little shopping spree.  You would want me to.  I did it for you.

I found some darling pants I liked and decided to try them on, but I could only find them in a size 0. I asked the young sales girl if they had them in a larger size somewhere in the back-stock.

How much larger?” She asked.

Well, let’s start with literally anything larger than a 0 – like a 2 or a 4?  Or perhaps (gasp) a 6!

I went ahead and tried on the 0 because…well… I don’t actually know why.

Could not even get the zipper to budge. Which was discouraging, because there was a time before the friends and neighbors started bringing “comfort food” every night…

As I was peeling them off of me, one of OUR SONGS came on in the dressing room and I started bawling my eyes out. Right about that time the sales girl informed me that they indeed did not have those pants in anything larger, but she went on to inquire  “How are those 0s working out for you?”

I was sobbing.


As I exited the dressing room, I handed her the 0s back with red, swollen, puffy eyes. I thought about explaining that I’d  just lost my husband/best friend but that seemed like a tad too much information.

You could tell she thought I was just extremely overwrought about needing a 2 or a 4. She assured me they were readily available in larger sizes online and shipping was fast and convenient. (As if I didn’t know that – they have my credit card on file, for the love of God.)

But, it’s going to be a long, long time before I can just go venturing about in public subjecting myself to any ol’ random soundtrack the establishment might be playing without running the risk of embarrassing myself.

I did, however, start wondering if bawling your eyes out legitimately burns real calories or if that’s just water weight?   It’s not like I’m crying to get down to a 0 or anything, but if it worked…

*In the interest of full disclosure : Jimmy’s two favorite Motown hits were “Sexual Healing” and “Lets Get It On” by Marvin Gaye, his favorite Motown artist. I’m proud that even in a state of unprecedented shock and bewilderment, I was classy enough to know those were not appropriate for the funeral video.  Doris would’ve been proud of my discretion.

“Hello, It’s Me” (Maybe I Think Too Much, But I’m Seeing You Now More Than Ever In Our Children…)


I called our oldest son “Jimmy” today.

I don’t know why.  But I can picture a miniature Dr. Freud and a group of Lilliputian Phd candidates wandering around my vacuous brain, peering about and conjecturing on the matter.

The obvious explanation is that he looks exactly like you. Everyone says so. But I really don’t think that’s why I called him the name of his doppelgänger, dearly departed father.

I think it was the all-too-familiar verbal dynamic that was taking place at the moment.

It was the feeling of trying to persuade a guy with an entirely male perspective about something from an entirely female perspective. That’s something that happened around here with ongoing regularity between me and you, so I merely got confused for a second.

My mind slipped into an old familiar gear.

I was earnestly and emphatically trying to explain my unique point of view on a particular matter to James and I thought there was a slight chance he might not be agreeing with me, so in a semi-amused state of frustration I shouted,


We were both immediately and momentarily stunned. Like the time I waded-into-that-icy-creek-in-Montana-stunned.

Tommy was sitting there too because he had been enjoying the show up until that point. (Everyone knows younger siblings will find a way to sit down in the room and make themselves cozy if they think there might be even a glimmer of fireworks between an older sibling and a parent.)

Tommy immediately squeezed my hand.

I teared up. Then I remembered that thing James used to do when he was a tiny boy and smiled despite my tears…

Every time he wanted to tell YOU something, or ME something or BOTH of us something, he would walk up to us and wait patiently until he had our attention (we worked hard to teach our children not to interrupt adults.) And then, when he was sure he had whichever (or both) parent(s) attention, he would introduce himself as though we didn’t know who he was. He always said,

It’s Me, James!”

And then he would go about showing you whatever he had crafted out of play dough or Legos or show you a trick he had mastered or ask for juice or whatever…

But no matter what it was he wanted or how recently he had just spoken to you previously, even if it had just been minutes earlier, he would re-introduce himself anew with each verbal exchange…

It’s Me, James! Can I go outside to play?”

“It’s Me, James! Yook what I can do!”

“It’s Me, James! Come yook at what I painted on the wall for you!”


I can remember having friends over who would witness this bizarre behavior and their facial expressions always registered a peculiar type of puzzlement. Which honestly is kind’ve dumb because anyone who has ever met a toddler knows their minds are just complicated little machines.

Nonetheless, we both found it mildly embarrassing, remember?

We would make every attempt to trivialize it, confidently reassuring our friends, “We know who he is. We just think that maybe he, (because we have so many children) well…he isn’t entirely convinced. And he feels like he needs to introduce himself properly and formally each time he addresses us, so there is no confusion as to which of our offspring he is – children being in such relative abundance around here…”

But we do know.  Of course we do.  How could we forget?  He is James. Our firstborn son.

But today I forgot for a second. I thought he was you.

But in all fairness to me, I have to tell you how your sons have really stepped up to the plate these past 4 weeks. (Is that a baseball analogy? I know how much you love it when I use sports analogies to drive my points home.) They have both stepped into your intimidatingly large Marlborough Man shoes and done everything they could possibly do at the tender ages of 17 and 20 to make you proud.

Honey, we are getting so much figured out. You wouldn’t believe the man-things we do on the reg these days.  Big time testosterone-infused activities. Involving the likes of pool cleaners, Kelly blue book values, car titles, septic tanks, taxes. If you can see us right now wherever you are, I know you are shaking your head in bewilderment.

There’s no way you’re not up there wondering where in the heck all this initiative and wherewithal was when you were alive…we were just holding back out of deference to the Alpha Male!

One of your favorite lectures (and you had many) was called, “The Awareness and Participation Speech.” You were constantly in an uproar at the lack of these two fine American qualities you considered essential, yet lacking in Today’s Youth. You were convinced they disappeared with your generation. But your sons have dug deep and are exhibiting these traits. Apparently, they were there all along, just lying dormant?

Your boys are actually going to be exactly the men you wanted them to be. I would give anything for you to see. They are home every weekend tending to my every need, taking me to church, rolling the trash cans up and down the driveway without your admonishment, hugging me tons and just taking care of their mom in general.

The thing is – they are just exactly like you.

Maybe that’s the real reason James felt like he needed to introduce and distinguish himself way back when and why I’m inadvertently calling our boys by your name these days.

“Love Look What You’ve Done To Me” (Leaving Me To Feel This Way…)


I don’t even know how to tell you this – so I’m just going to blurt it right out:


I went to see a therapist yesterday.

I know.

I know.

I know.

You are so irritated. If people can even get irritated in Heaven or Purgatory or wherever God has stashed you for the time-being.

I guess if you’re in Heaven, it’s possible you’re smiling indulgently, but if you’re in Purgatory – trying to wrap up some loose ends – then I bet you’re having a cow.

But calm down.   I called and checked first –  I think insurance pays for some of it. (Therapy, not Purgatory.)

In the 33 years we were married and over the course of raising 5 kids, there were certainly more than a few times we encountered a little marital strife. And since my default mode is always “drama first” I might’ve calmly screamed on occasion, “We’re getting counseling!”

And you would immediately become resistant and entirely unhinged at the mere suggestion of outside intrusion into the sacred sanctity of your marriage, (per all men from your generation.) I don’t know if it is the $175 an hour therapists charge or the idea of telling your personal business to a total stranger – probs both.

To be entirely honest, you know I never actually had any intention of going to a Marriage Counselor either, I just liked throwing that threat in your face like a glass of icy cold water when I was frustrated with you. It was endlessly entertaining.

Anyway, whenever I “went there,” you would always shake your head in mock dismay and say,

Who are the two smartest people we know?”

And I would reluctantly sigh,

We are…”

And then you would say, “So who is best qualified to solve our problems?”

And I would reluctantly sigh, “We are…” 

And that was that. End of discussion. We would work together to find the high road of compromise to solve whatever was the matter with our relationship at the moment – money, sex, bratty children or the king-of-all-marital-woes… dry cleaning.

But this situation does seem a little more serious.

Everyone keeps insisting  I need to find a Grief Counselor. I keep saying “No Thank You.”

We Blanchards solve our own problems.  Amiright?

Remember that one Sunday we made our children all go upstairs and watch “Urban Cowboy?” Remember how hard we tried to get them to relate to Bud and Sissy?* How incredibly immature the two lead characters were throughout the entire movie, but how devoted they were to each other in the end and they got back together because all they really needed was their love and commitment to each other?

They didn’t need no stinkin counselor! They just needed those license plates in the back window that said “Bud” and “Sissy” to confirm things. Our kids rolled their eyes and suffered through the movie, but you could tell they couldn’t wait for it to be over and thought we were nuts for forcing them to watch it.

Anyway…a person you really respect and admire sent me a link to a highly regarded local Grief Therapist. Honestly Honey, he’s straight out of “Central Casting.” He looks just like a therapist from a movie set – he even wears a cardigan. I thought he was going to pull out a pipe and smoke it during our session. (So glad he didn’t on account of my allergies.)

I made sure he understood I wasn’t there for myself, per se. I assured him I was nailing it in the widow department (the strongest woman everyone knows) and was merely there “vetting” him for our children’s sake. He wasn’t buying it. Not one bit.

He thinks I’m grieving the loss of you pretty hard.

I tried to explain to him what a wonderful father you were to our kids, so that he could get a handle on the extreme depth of their loss. You know – just so he would know what he was about to be up against.

If he agreed to take our kiddos on.

I told him how you would make Tommy’s coffee every morning and start his car so it would be warm and running when he was ready to leave for school. And how I’m having to get up earlier in the mornings to pick up the slack and fill in all these “nurturing gaps” you left in our kids’ lives when you died.

But then it started to sound like you were a wee bit of a Saint. And I thought we needed to go for a more balanced representation. I didn’t want him to get the wrong impression. So I started to emphasize how strict you were.

I said, “Oh don’t get me wrong! He could be mean!”

He asked me for a few examples of your meaness and so I attempted to give him some.

You know what he had the nerve to say next?

He said, “I’m really not hearing ‘meanness,’ it just sounds like your late husband had some really positive and effective boundaries…”

I was flabbergasted.

Mainly because I had really tried to lead with my most effective arsenal of negative stuff I had against you. But unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) it all appeared to this supposedly unbiased Mental Health Professional that you had a reasonable and rational approach to relationships. You would’ve loved it, because of course that’s what you always maintained.

Now I’m starting to think that if you had actually ever called my bluff and dragged me off to a marriage counselor, I might’ve come out on the losing side of the arrangement.

After my experience the other day I’m starting to think our  potential “Marriage Counselor” might have implied I was the problem and suggested implementing some positive changes I could’ve made.

Dude – that might’ve had been the best $175 an hour you ever spent. Improvements for Sissy.

And then the next thing this guy did was pull out his calendar and schedule me for another appointment in 3 days!   Like I’m some Woman-in-Crisis-Mode.

So Love, look what you’ve done to me…

It’s like this guy just didn’t get it, no matter how many times I explained it – I was simply there for the children. You know – to help them cope.

*One of the greatest ironies of parenting is that we spend so much time trying to get our kids to appreciate the movies and music of our generation. Jimmy and I loved “Urban Cowboy.”   It came out the year we met.   Although we were Rock fans and neither of us ever learned to two-step, we lived in Houston 3 times and made some of our very dearest babies, friends and memories there.   The best part of “Urban Cowboy” is when Boz  Scaggs sings “Love Look What You’ve Done To Me.” That song says it all. Pure genius. We slow danced to it often.

“No More Lonely Nights” (When Your Plans Don’t Quite Work Out The Way You Intended…)

Less than a month ago – straight out of the clear blue sky – you announced you were going to, “Go the way of Paul McCartney…”

I don’t think there’s another soul on Earth who would have instinctively, intuitively and instantly understood the shorthand of your meaning when you said that, but I immediately knew.

We picked up on the finer subtleties of each other’s nuances for 35 years in the way that couples do. I knew exactly what you meant. Darn it – we could’ve won a lot of money on a game show.

You went on to explain yourself anyway…

I don’t want to spend anymore nights away from you.”

You were tired of traveling with your job. You loved your work, but half of the restaurants you supervised were in other cities and you were weary of spending too many lonely nights at The Holiday Inn Express saying good-night over the phone.

You said you’d been thinking about it and you just didn’t believe in it. Not anymore. Not for us anyway. “Life is too short,” you said.

We had often discussed the great love affair and devotion that former Beatle Paul McCartney had for his wife, Linda Eastman McCartney. Rumor has it that the couple only ever spent one night apart – when Paul was incarcerated prior to his Japan tour for drug possession charges.

We were intrigued by their rare devotion to one another. Exceptional among celebrities.

We also discussed on many occasions how prophetically ironic it was that Paul was so committed to her since he could never have known she was destined to die so tragically and unforeseeably young from breast cancer.

Not long after you made your proclamation, you arranged for the promotion of someone younger you trusted within the company to take over those restaurants that required travel, even if that meant sacrificing a little of your influence and power in the workplace.

I was surprised and yet not at all surprised. I know you were at a point in your career where you felt like you had earned the right and had nothing left to prove.

That was just a few weeks ago. We were so close to our “McCartney Plan.”  We could almost reach out and touch it.  Gracie even gifted us with a Paul and Linda McCartney Coffee Table Book for Christmas, which will forever remind me of how our love story was so similar and parallel to theirs.

Back when you traveled, you’d often fuss at me when you arrived home to find I had turned the air conditioner setting on full-blast and then plugged in our heating pad and placed it on your side of the bed to pose as my PROXY YOU over there radiating pretend body heat to keep me warm.

But I was just so accustomed to you keeping me warm and secure at night.

Our kids always got entirely grossedout when I told people in public that you and I slept curled up around each other like a litter of newborn kittens.   They were particularly offended when we referred to ourselves as spooners

Remember our first apartment? We couldn’t afford a bed AND a couch so we had a twin bed that we set up to look like a couch with throw pillows on it by day and then we slept on it at night. So basically, we slept together in a twin bed the first three years we were together.

My mom, who had the gift of prettying things up with language, called it a “Studio Bed” And, didn’t we think that sounded so chic and sophisticated?

Most of our friends were surprised we never graduated to a King sized bed all those years we were married, but I remember it like it was yesterday when we finally moved up to a Queen.

I was kind’ve sad about it.

And I think we only finally relented to the ‘call of the Queen mattress’ because all our darn kids insisted upon sleeping with us. We were constantly waking up with a toddler’s toe jammed inside one of our nostrils.

Anyway… I really miss you curled up around me now.  It’s truly unbearable at night. So I hope you don’t mind, but I’m running the air conditioner at full blast in February and I’m setting up my makeshift “Heating Pad Hubby” on your side of the bed.

He doesn’t snore.

He doesn’t get inadvertently tangled up in my hair.

He doesn’t reach out for me in his sleep for a snuggle.

I’m fairly resigned that he will never croon “Baby I’m Amazed,” in my ear.

But, he does his bit to generate a little heat from your side of the bed which almost works to fool me in my sleep that maybe you are still there beside me…

“And Honey I Miss You” (How To Really Appreciate Your Spouse In Two Weeks Or Less…)

Today was my first Valentine’s Day without you.

Since you were in the restaurant business, it was always a really busy day for you. So it’s not like we went out to dinner or anything romantic like that. You were always at work, right?

Still…I knew I was your Sweetheart. And that mattered so much to me – even if we weren’t physically together. So I told myself all day today that it’s actually still true.

Look how I’m saving us money by being my own Grief Therapist!

It did hit me hard though. I feel completely untethered without you. For 35 years my entire existence was wrapped up in US.  You and me. Who we were together. I was always one half of a whole. I know that’s a very un-chic way to look at one’s life and relationships these days. Some who read this might suggest therapy for me because I approached our life that way.  It’s very anti-culture, but at least it was that way for both of us.

Anyway, I’ve gotten a million texts and phone calls from people letting me know they are thinking about me on my first Valentine’s Day alone.

You’d be so proud of me. I got our dishwasher fixed today!  All by myself.  Well, not actually all by myself.  So this guy, Josh, was sort’ve my Valentine. You know how much I’ve always hated dealing with workmen, but I’ve been washing dishes by hand since the day after you died, so it was worth it. He charged me $347.39, so maybe he didn’t feel the same way about me that I felt about him.

But when the dishwasher cycled all the way through, I kind’ve loved him a little.

I also had James’ car towed to the shop and am texting back and forth with the mechanic about what exactly is wrong and how much it will cost to fix it.

I took our new “Therapy Puppy” (read: pain in my arse) to the backyard to potty and swept out the pool while I was outside with him. You would be rolling over in your grave if you saw all the orange dirt coating the bottom of your pool. I knew you’d be so proud of me for thinking to sweep it while the puppy is peeing and the pool guy is fixing the automatic pool sweeper.

I also turned on the hose and put some water on that new little tree you planted out back and were obsessing about. That old Bobby Goldsboro song from the 60s keeps running through my head, “And Honey I miss you, and I’m being good…and I long to be with you, if only I could…”

Remember that song? You used to like to sing it every time I wrecked one of our cars.   You really wore it out that one time I wrecked one of our cars into our other car!!!

“She wrecked the car and she was sad, and so afraid that I’d be mad, but what the heck!”

I’m so sorry I wrecked so many of our cars, and I know how frustrated you always were with my less-than-stellar driving skills, but at least I gave you a lot of opportunities to belt out that song. And you know you loved that song, especially when it made me cry and I begged you not to sing it because it made me sad to think about one spouse trying to live alone after the other one is gone.

On a positive note, I’ve become a bit of an expert on death and grieving and grief-support these past few weeks. I feel like I could author some kind of a How-To pamphlet on “Responding to a Friend or Neighbor Struck by Tragedy and Grief.”

One thing that has captured my attention is how many people have texted, emailed and sent me cards telling me I’m the “strongest woman they know!” What in the world are they basing that on? The false bravado I displayed at your funeral? Or all the years I was brazen and ballsy when you were alive? What woman wouldn’t be strong with a man like you standing behind her?

Now, I’m all alone. It’s just me. How in the world does anyone have any idea how strong I actually am? In the past 4 months I’ve lost my mother and the Love of my Life. I’m not at all sure that I’m strong.  But I am on to everyone.   I think our dear and well-meaning friends are employing the “self-fulfilling prophecy.” You know the drill – just tell people positive things you want them to believe about themselves and they will embrace it, believe it, live it out.

I don’t blame them. It’s a great approach. We raised 5 kids that way.

I’m having trouble getting hot water for my bath in the morning. And you know my morning (afternoon/evening) bath is my only comfort. At first I thought it was all the people camping out and showering here after you died that were usurping our hot water supply. But then after everyone cleared out, the problem persisted.

I know you always told me in the wintertime I need to draw the hot first and then add enough cold to cool it down so I can get in without burning my skin. I never listened.

I’m going to do that tomorrow morning. Now that you’re gone, I’m going to try to start doing a lot of the things you said.

It’s crazy to me that so much of our stuff broke the week after you died. Are you up in heaven trying to prove some kind of a point? If you are, can I just cry “uncle” now and wake up?

Is that what this is really all about? Is this actually some Dickensonian tale like “A Christmas Carol,” where the spoiled wife wakes up and realizes it was all just a bad dream? And then she turns over a new leaf and finally appreciates her wonderful husband for all that he was to her?

If you would just walk through the door and say, “Just Kidding!” I promise I would never take you for granted again.

But I’m a tiny bit mad at you that I’ve got that stinkin’ song stuck in my head. And I hope you’re getting a little kick out of that somewhere.

“Neither One of Us Wants To Be The First to Say Goodbye” (Fairwell My Love…Goodbye)


You know how sometimes you’ll meet a person and think to yourself or even tell everyone around you, “Oh my gosh, he was the nicest man you could ever want to meet!” Well, That wasn’t my husband.

I’m not saying he wasn’t nice, of course he was, he was nice and got nicer with age, as men tend to do. I’m just saying that “niceness” wasn’t the most overriding quality he left you with when you met him for the first time. He wasn’t out there trying to bowl you over with his charm.

Jim Blanchard was so much more than that.

He was good.

In fact, In all my life I never met a man who was, quite simply, more good.

Because he wasn’t licking you up one side and down the other, blinding you with his sparkle, it would be so easy for an obtuse or distracted person to overlook or even miss altogether the substantive qualities that made him the finest man many of us will ever have had the privilege of knowing.

And I… I had the privilege to be his wife and the mother of his children, I worked for him (although I’m sure if he’s reading this right now, he’s saying my work claim “is debatable!”)

I kept his home, I kept his kids, I kept his bank accounts and I kept his heart. What all of that provided me with was a close -up, behind-the-scenes hidden camera view. A front row seat like no other, into the way this man truly conducted himself in every facet of his life. I never once in all those years saw that man’s character, his integrity or his commitment waver.

And trust me I watched hard.

When I started dating Jimmy, (we were both 18)  to use an antiquated phrase, I “set my cap for him” and I’ll just admit right here and now, he was entirely out of my league. He was extremely handsome, remarkably intelligent and possessed a confident James Dean swagger that was both indefinable and irresistible. We had a large group of friends who witnessed this romance unfolding and forecasted “uh-oh this ends badly for this girl”. “She’s bound to get hurt”. “She’s way out of her depth”.

The piece they hadn’t reckoned on was that, oddly enough,  Jimmy had a penchant for curly red headed girls. On our first date, we parked out in front of the lakes on the campus of LSU and stared shoulder to shoulder straight ahead at the water talking about life. He had such a reputation as a renegade with a tough guy exterior that I decided to dig deep, “Do you love ANYBODY?” I asked.

He seemed taken aback – surprised and said, “I love my grandmother and my mom.” Some little part of this 18 year old girl was enchanted and enthralled by the raw glimpse of vulnerability and thought, “Ooooh I think I can work with this!” There’s nothing that a teenage girl loves more than a tough outer shell with a soft, sweet center.

Ask any M&M you know…

A few years later, when we were married, there was a bit of a snafu on our wedding day and the cousin who was supposed to transport Jimmy’s beloved aforementioned grandmother to our wedding dropped the ball somehow. After the event was over and we were driving away from the reception, Jimmy got to the end of the pull-through, laid his head on the steering wheel and started to cry. I was of course alarmed as any new bride covered in hopes and rice and future dreams would be. When I asked him what was wrong, he said, “I just never thought I wouldn’t be with my grandmother on my wedding day. Can we go to her?”

But of course we could.

So, he in a white tux, me in a long dress and veil, looking like little bride and groom figurines snatched right off the top of a wedding cake, drove over 2 hours across a dark Louisiana swamp called The Atchafalaya Basin to a small Cajun nursing home where the residents lined the halls cackling and fussing in their native French language – so excited were they to see a bride and groom in full wedding regalia, certainly not your everyday sight in a nursing home.

We turned the corner into his grandmother’s room. She was sitting there in her wheelchair, clutching her rosary beads, head bent in prayer, when she looked up and burst into tears of shock and surprise at the site of her adored grandson as a groom. He knelt on the floor and laid his head in her lap while she made the sign of the cross over him and said again and again, “My Jimmy, my Jimmy you make marry dat girl? You make marry dat girl?”

That scene is burned indelibly in both my heart and my mind. He knew that she sat in that wheelchair all day thinking that she had been forgotten.

And the “peace that surpasses all understanding” enveloped me fully and I knew right then and there that I had chosen well.

So I stood there in that doorway and I thanked our God for the gift of this Great Man, who to the naked eye still looked so much like a boy. And I thanked Our Heavenly Father for whatever rare sliver of wisdom or insight on my part gave me such a bold confidence to pursue him. And then we turned around and drove the 2 hours back to Baton Rouge, packed our car with our wedding gifts and left for Little Rock that night – because Jimmy was in the restaurant business and had to work the next day.

There are hundreds more stories like that. Anecdotes that exemplify the character of this man, his unique leadership style, hilarious stories about his unorthodox approach to developing people, both employees and his own offspring.

I imagine those of us who know the stories and those of you who just want to hear them may sit around for hours laughing and remembering and recounting them. But Fr. Ray said I should probably limit my remarks this morning to 15 minutes or so…

But that’s okay, because I’m pretty sure that on the Seventh Day God said, “Let there be Charlestons and Let there be Mahogany” so that My People can relocate their party.

Early on in our marriage, I took a bible study where I was introduced to the concept of tithing. Apparently, unbeknownst to me and Jimmy, God had issued a mandate, expecting us to give away 10% of our income! All the young wives were encouraged to discuss this with their husbands that very evening. Well I wasn’t worried one bit. I knew we were “off the hook,” as my husband was a very frugal man who would never agree to such an outlandish request, even if it did come straight from The Lord.

But I went ahead and told him about it that night and surprisingly and enthusiastically he said, “you know what – I’m in! Absolutely! Set up an entirely separate bank account and we’ll call it the tithe account. Slice 10% off the top of everything I make from here on out and deposit it in there and we will give it all away!”

But it was the way Jimmy gave it away that was noteworthy. Of course the Catholic Church received from us, but Jimmy very quietly behind the scenes paid his employee’s doctor bills, he paid his cooks’ children’s hospital bills, he paid their immigration fees to reunite them with their families. He gave people cars so they could get to work, made various orphans’ tuition payments and helped other people get back on their feet after a personal life disaster. But it was always very low-key. And, were I to ever utter a word of praise for him in public, he would’ve given me that withering “Jim Blanchard look.” For him, Christian charity was quiet, low key and personal, which is why you never saw us at fancy charity galas.  But I must allow for the fact that he also just didn’t like to wear a tux…

Recently, I caught wind of the fact that a few of Tommy’s friends were teasing him about how many kids we had in our family – saying surely Tommy, being number 5, must have been an “accident.” It was all in good fun. I think they just rationally found it hard to believe in this day and age people would purposely have 5 kids. I’m leading with this to try in some way, if at all possible, to illustrate Jimmy as a father…

One day when we lived in Phoenix, Jimmy came to me and said, “I  need TO TALK TO YOU. We are missing someone!”

I looked across the playroom at a sea of children’s heads. Our tweenage daughter’s 13 and 10 and our 5 year old daughter and 2 year old son and said, “1-2-3-4! No HONEY, everyone is present and accounted for!”

 He said, “That’s not what I mean! I’m talking about when I look over my shoulder as I’m backing our van out of the driveway for mass and I see all those little faces looking back, a very strong feeling comes over me that there’s someone else who’s supposed to be back there, someone who isn’t here yet. I think God has a little soul he’s wanting to give us ….I’m trying to say our family is not yet complete”

I don’t know how another woman walks away from a conversation like that, but suffice it to say, I was pregnant pretty soon after. I didn’t find it necessary to take a pregnancy test right away – I kept putting Jimmy off despite his badgering me. But on Thanksgiving day I guess he couldn’t wait another minute. He busted into the bedroom that morning with a brown bag from Walgreens, handed me the stick – pointed to the bathroom and said, “Go!” I came back and handed him the positive result. He was beside himself with joy, because I guess He wanted to give Thanks on Thanksgiving day.

Some of you may see this as an example of how much we adore our Tommy. And we do. He is undoubtedly cherished. But remember at this point we didn’t even know the kid. This story is really a testimony of the unfathomable joy the other 4 children brought their Dad every single minute of every single day. The man didn’t golf, play tennis, hunt, fish or go to Vegas. If he wasn’t working, he was daddying. The word Daddy was a verb in our house.

I think I would like to conclude all of this by describing to you the last few days of Jimmy’s life.

Three days before he was killed, last Thursday, I was at our daughter’s home babysitting our grandson when Jimmy swung by on his way to work. I let him in, he gingerly took the infant from my arms and sat down in their rocking chair cooing and stroking and loving on him. I sat on the couch beside them smiling and tearing up and thinking ironically that the greatest tragedy of my life was that my mother (who worshipped the very ground Jim Blanchard trod upon) died the day after Luke was born and would never be privy to the beautiful scene I was witnessing. The Great big man in a motorcycle jacket rocking the tiniest little replica of himself.  (And Yes- for those that appreciate irony, I was actually sitting there thinking one week ago that was the greatest tragedy of my life.)

At that moment Jimmy snuggled closer to Luke, deeply inhaled his baby scent, looked over at me, I’m not going to say he exactly cried, but his eyes glazed over a bit and he hoarsely whispered, “We got to do this 5 times! 5 times. Man – We were blessed!”

A lot of you know my precious mother died just a few months ago. I think Jimmy and I both thought I would be doing better by now and a little further along in the grief process, but the very day after that, last Friday, my grief was so palpable to him that it seemed to be affecting my health. He sat on the edge of our bed, wiping the tears off my cheeks from a sad dream and said,

I’m going to take the day off and we are going to stay in our jammie-lammies all day long. I know we have the baby  today, so I’ll cart his swing and a stack of bottles and diapers up to the media room and we can binge-watch our Netflix series until Emilie picks him up!”

And that’s just what we did. When Our daughter arrived to pick up her baby, Jimmy ran up to Panda Express and got us some dinner. We were standing in the kitchen making our plates and he asked me if I was feeling better.  I answered honestly,

A little bit. I just feel so lost, orphaned, abandoned without my mother here. She was my everything until the day I met you. In fact, I shudder to think how terrible life would be for me if I ever were to lose you…”

Jimmy paused dramatically to give it all some thought and these are the poignant words of wisdom and comfort that he laid upon my heart:

He said:

Hey I hear that! You know I was reading recently that in those Viking cultures, oftentimes when a Viking warrior died, they just buried his wife alive in the cave with him. I don’t know what those chics did in there all that time, but I would imagine they starved to death eventually!”

I was quiet and pensive for a moment.  Sensing my hesitation he added,

We would definitely get you some Swedish fish and Milk Duds and Coca Cola in there to tie you over for awhile…”

He had a quirky sense of humor, but honestly I don’t think he ever wanted to face life OR death without me.

In the early days of our marriage when Jimmy worked 90 hours a week, I took care of every aspect of his life that didn’t involve the actual running of a restaurant. I selected his outfit for the day, coordinated his necktie, laid out his underwear, brought him his coffee and ran a bead of toothpaste in a straight line down the bristles of his toothbrush while he was in the shower. But somewhere along the line, I dunno, maybe after the 5 kids or after he mellowed a bit, all the tables turned.

Somewhere along the line, Jimmy became solely responsible for:

-Turning on our tv …. I have no understanding how our remote control works
-Keeping track of all of our prescriptions, what I’m allergic to, how many migraine pills I had taken and when I could take another.
-He kept gas in my car, air in my tires and something that has to do with oil.
-Almost every night he brought me home a key lime pie, or a slice of mahogany chocolate cake, unless I was on a strict diet in which case he only brought a container of sour balls.
-He drew my bath in the morning after he made my coffee, but before he woke me up.
-And kept me supplied in those cheater-reader glasses. He was so proud he never paid for them. He got them from from the lost and found at the restaurants.

Saturday night, the night before he was killed I said, “Im congested, I can’t breathe through my nose,” he said, “if I leave right now I can get to Walgreens before they close.”

When he got home he unpackaged the bottle of Afrin , but the main thing is that he stood there handing me the spray and worrying aloud that maybe he should throw out the child proof cap because he didn’t think I’d ever be able to get it open the following week when he was in Kansas City. I told him it was fine – don’t worry about it. As usual, He was right. The very next night after they told me what had happened to my Hero, I sobbed and cried until I couldn’t breathe. Of course I got congested.  And when I reached for my bottle of Afrin from the night before I couldn’t get the lid off.

I guess the good news is that so many have offered to help me, I may start a sign up sheet for people who want to volunteer to do some of these things.

I recognize a lot of you younger people out there that I know looked up to Jimmy as a kind’ve pseudo-father figure. You may not think I know about each and every one of you because of his reserved public persona, but believe me, he would come home and tell me and tell me and tell me about you. I know he was your role model and your mentor. Believe me when I tell you how much joy it brought him as he witnessed you moving along your upward trajectories through our company or even on to other successes. So many of you were constantly checking back in with him later on your progress. Each one of you mattered to him more than you’ll ever know. Being a part of your lives meant the world to him.

To Jimmy’s only fraternity – the brotherhood of men he worked for (and alongside) Hal Smith, Hank Kraft, Mike Rogers, David Brauckmann. To Gary, Rodney, Jeremy, Brent, Matt, Ryan, Dave, Edd, Jason, Jake, Jay, Cory, the Brads, Charlie and so so many others, I want you to know through the 24 years he was with the company, there wasn’t a day that went by that he wasn’t proud of the manner in which y’all conducted business and what y’all accomplished together. He constantly told me that it meant everything to him to work with men of unparalleled character and integrity. In fact, The night Hal was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, Jimmy was honestly beaming as if it were his own personal award.

And to Jimmy’s mother, Mimi, I want you to know that sometimes he would look over at something I said or did or just the way that I handled a situation and say, “I married my mother!” But it was always and only when I had done something or behaved in a way that he found beautiful. He always told me you were a “Saint” and the sweetest woman on the face of the earth. I am so so sorry for your pain in losing him. I hope it gives you some measure of comfort to know he loved and cherished all you did for him his entire life.

Likewise to his siblings, Jimmy was so proud of y’all and your relationships. Every time one of y’all did something wonderful, he would say, “but of course – we are the best!”

To our own 5 children, I would say this: if Daddy had any faults it might have been that he took care of us too well… But what a legacy he left behind in y’all. Each of you is beautiful and smart and nice. But like your daddy, you’re so much more than nice. You are good. Partly because you inherited it and partly because you grew up basking in his shadow as he demonstrated everything he considered to be a teachable moment.

And didn’t he just consider everything to be a teachable moment?

So we will link arms and marshall this army forward without our General. But He left us with one heck of a blueprint. And, Who cares if we don’t know how to put air in the tires, you know what? if we can’t figure out how to get the air in, we can just buy new tires, I think they sell new ones that come with air. And if we don’t know how to replicate Dad’s extravagant Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners, we can just order pizzas.

Because I believe what Daddy did leave us is so much more important. Buried deep in your DNA and life experience is a mixture of strength, resiliency and a strong stubborn Cajun survival streak that can never be denied.

One last final thought- Jimmy and I loved to sing to one another. We sang constantly and sent each other you tube videos of performances or lyrics or songs we wanted the other to appreciate. The very last link he sent me was Styx singing “Don’t Let It End.” Underneath the link he had typed the words, “Man these guys had it going on!” If you have time later and you want your own private moment with Jimmy, pull it up on your phone and listen to it with him.

But Besides rock, we loved the Motown Sound and one of our favorite artists through the years was Gladys Knight. Besides the song that we played in the video last night, (My Life Story) she sings another song we both adored. The only problem is every time Jimmy would serenade me with this particular song, I would burst into tears. Cue the floodworks of sobs and tears. Every. single. time.

So much so that I had no choice but to issue a Song Ban forbidding him from singing it. Which honestly he thought was a little hilarious. He would get all high and mighty and tell me “Tiny Red – you can’t just Willy-Nilly BAN a song!” But because it upset me so much he finally promised me he would never sing it again.

And I’ll never sing it either. Because Neither One Of Us Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye…

Fair well my love – good-bye…