The Internet has been abuzz in the last week with the sad and shocking news that Patton Oswalt’s wife, Michelle McNamara, died unexpectedly at the age of 46. Oswalt is a comedian perhaps best known for his role in The King of Queens, while McNamara, his wife of 11 years, was a successful crime writer in her own right.
In the days since her passing, it’s been confirmed that McNamara died in her sleep, though the cause of her death on April 21 is still unknown. Still, amid the few, scattered details that have been leaked to the public, this has perhaps been the most tragic part of all: McNamara and Oswalt have a 7-year-old daughter together named Alice, and the news of her mother’s untimely death has undoubtedly hit her hard.
However, at a mere 7 years old, it seems Alice is already wise beyond her years.
On May 1, Oswalt took to Twitter to pay tribute to his wife’s memory. What he left was but a simple, yet powerful quote — but it was the name of its author that left everyone stunned.
Alice’s wise and moving words have been making the rounds on Facebook and Twitter for days — though perhaps it’s no surprise. It’s heartbreaking to hear of a child losing her mother, and unfortunately, the hardest part is likely ahead of her, even after the shock wears off. But, even at her young age, Alice has expressed something profound. Her quote speaks to legacy — what our loved ones leave us and how we carry their memory forth into the world.
My own mother died at the age of 47, just one year older than McNamara was. I was fortunate to be older at the time, though I was still just 18. I was also fortunate to have warning — my mom had cancer, so there was time to prepare ourselves as best we could with important conversations. She even penned a letter to me after her terminal diagnosis. “I will ALWAYS be with you,” she wrote. “Because part of me made you — the very best part of me,” she added, jokingly.
Remembering this has saved me throughout almost a decade now of grieving. It’s agonizing not to be able to pick up the phone and call the first person you always turn to — your safe place, your role model, your biggest fan, your compass — to share good news and bad, to laugh with, to learn from. I can’t count the times I’ve longed to give her a hug again, to hear her voice one last time. How do you possibly stay connected to someone in separation?
To lose someone so incredible and influential to you, is to lose yourself and everything you knew. Your life is obliterated.
But, with time, you rebuild … because you have to.
When I look inward now, and I look at my life and the people who make it great, I see my mom everywhere. I feel her everywhere. When I laugh often and loudly with my family and my friends; when I truly listen to people; when I’m tender with my son, the center of my world; when I’m genuine and generous with others; I’m embodying her. I feel connected to her and I feel like myself again. I’m comforted and happy – so happy – that she is living on through me and the people I meet, and the people I love, and the work I do, and these words I type — words I never thought I would have to write, because this was not supposed to happen, but it did, and I’m breathing, and I’m seeing the beauty that’s been born from my mom’s brief but profound time here.
“Everything I do is a memory of her. The best memory.”
So, when I read these sweet words of a bereft young daughter, a “motherless” daughter who I hope will always know her mother is within her, I empathize deeply. I’m so sorry for her loss, and I know it won’t be an easy road. But it will be a transformative one.
Alice will undoubtedly grow up faster than she should have to, but I hope she finds peace from sharing her mother’s legacy, and embodying her essence. I hope she learns to navigate her “new normal” with hope and an open heart.More On