The night my husband died

We stood watching on my front deck as the second ambulance arrived across the street. My erratic neighbor shouted up to me, “IT LOOKS LIKE YOUR HUSBAND!”

No one ever believes anything he says but then I realized I had not seen Mike since he left the beach about 45 minutes ago. We had been having a lovely conversation with an older woman who thought we were a Friday evening senior citizen group. He was charming and engaged her with questions about the winters that she spends in Key West in an RV. I had left them to help my friend take a panoramic photo of the awe inspiring simultaneous sunset and full moon rise.

When I returned back to my dusk ladened circle of friends, Mike had left. The rest of us packed up the chairs, towels and coolers and headed back to my second floor front deck before the gnats got too hungry on the beach.

While this neighbor may not be that reliable, I quickly left the deck and ran to find Mike.  He must be in the den watching T.V. in his favorite green chair. When he wasn’t there I skipped steps up to our bedroom where my bed was eerily still made. It wasn’t unusual for him to make an “Irish exit” and head off to bed without telling anyone, but there was no sign of him.

By the time I got back to the deck the first ambulance was leaving and the DJ had started playing music again for the people at the party across the street. Doug and Karen, my next door neighbors who were still on my deck, told me to get in their car. Off we sped to the hospital.

Karen held my hand and attempted to reassure me as I squeezed her fingers. We rushed into the ER and gave reception the name of our beach community house where the ambulance had come from. They directed us to a room and I told Doug to go in first while Karen and I held onto each other.

I recognized the doctor who had been in the ambulance. I had taught his son kindergarten 15 years ago. I asked “what happened?” He stopped, shocked to recognize me. He replied, “we couldn’t get his heart started”. Then he walked away.

Doug came out of the room and nodded to us. We all walked in together, the 2 of them supporting me. I saw my husband laying on the table. He was still barefoot and in his bathing suit. He had his faded blue t-shirt on and it was definitely his face with the scruffy gray, been vacationing for 2 weeks, bearded look. As I walked closer I was relieved to see that his eyes were open. I thought he must be OK. But as I touched his arm, and felt that reassuring bicep muscle that always made me feel safe, I noticed his eyes were open, but he wasn’t really there.

Why was he not moving? Why was there a big bump on his head and bloody scrapes on his knees? This could not be happening, I yelled, “WAKE UP!”

Late that evening, after I had left the hospital and my family had gathered around me, I was confused to hear more details of that evening.  The police had met us at the hospital and told us they would be coming by my house later.  An investigation had begun outside the party house by the beach.  Witnesses were being questioned. It was going to be a long night.

Once home I made the most difficult phone call of my life.  My 18 year old son was away at college – far away in another state. He had only been there for one week.

When I called, his phone had died so I went to voice mail.  I called the dorm.  I asked the R.A. to have him call me as soon as he got home.  When he called back I told him that his father had died.  It was cardiac arrest.

We just had not understood why his heart had stopped, until the next day.

Video evidence later would show that 2 men attacked my husband at this party.  He had gone over to use the bathroom at the beach community house. Apparently he walked through the party area where food was being served and these men had pushed him out.  An altercation ensued and the 2 men were taped sitting on my husband.

When he stopped moving, they had left him, lying on the ground next to a group of 16 year olds eating dinner.  No one helped him.  Twenty minutes later 911 was called and responded to the party.  Although efforts were made, the EMTs could not get his heart started. His time of death was recorded in the hospital.

Rumors arose that the 2 men who attacked my husband were connected somehow with the local police.  No arrests were made.  The next day it was as if nothing had happened.

Mike’s brother and I pursued a wrongful death lawsuit against the 2 men. The civil suit took almost 3 years.  I had to relive that night over and over again. In the end I was awarded some money.  Having 2 sons in college and now running my household on only one income was challenging.  I am glad that we went through the process.  We won.  But it was difficult.

Five years later I still suffer from unexpected grief triggers, especially when it comes to reports of police brutality and corruption.

You can runaway for a while, but it still hits you like a knockout punch at times.  Grief may never go away.  We just can’t live in it.

I have put my journey down in a book called No Simple Highway: A widow’s journey to seek justice for her husband’s death.  It was a cathartic exercise for me to write and I hope that widows will read it and understand that they are not alone and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

You can read Chapter One Here

or purchase the paperback or Kindle on

the night my husband died
The night my husband died changed my life. Life after the death of a spouse. Life keeps going for the people left behind. Sudden tragic death and complicated grief.

54 thoughts on “The night my husband died

  1. Tears again, still can not believe that night, unbelievable. GOD BLESS YOU MY DEAR FOR YOUR STRENGTH AND MOTHERING TO YOUR TWO AWESOME SONS DURING THIS unreal time and how you may help others. Who you never will know through your gift of sharing.

  2. Kristen, writing this is an act of love for Mike. I can’t imagine how difficult this must have been for you. Please know I am here for you. XOXO

  3. I have no words. Keep writing!!! My heart goes out to you. Know he is looking over you every day and so proud of you.

  4. I only know you through your blog, but you are a remarkable woman, who with all this placed at your feet, you are surviving. You must just believe that what happened, was just something that you couldn’t foresee or forecast – and with the help of your family and friends, life will alright, as long as you keep having adventures and so forth…and remember your husband had a great day with you that day at the beach.

  5. You write very well for a story so hard to tell. I hope that each year August will feel a little less difficult despite always being reflective and sad. You sound like a brace lady- keep going.

  6. In two weeks time it will be my wedding anniversary; it would have been 14 years but my husband died just after our 10th anniversary. It doesn’t get any easier I don’t think, it’s just that the times between the bouts of pain get longer. I’m not sure the pain lessens but you do get through it and you do learn to live again. Like you I’ve found ways to get on with life and there are times when I’m really happy, I just have a hole in my heart where my husband used to be. I greatly admire you for writing a blog so intimate and personal – it’s helped me to read some of the things you’ve written – and I hope that it brings you peace and a sense of fulfillment. Best wishes to you x

    1. Those times, like his birthday and your anniversary, really do bring back those emotions – even though you are moving forward and finding joy and a new purpose in life, it’s like a punch in the heart when it hits. It’s just now you realize it won’t last. I embrace the emotion now feel good to let myself cry a bit. Thank you for reading my blog and your kind comments. I will be thinking of you this month and sending you a virtual hug!

  7. I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m not a big fan of August too, a lot of stuff has happened in August. From August 1 to the 31st, its a very sad time.

  8. I’m so sorry for your loss. Getting up every day is a good place to start. I’m biased but yoga is very healing and gentle on the body and mind.

  9. I’m so sorry for your loss. You’re showing such strength around such a hard time and I think that’s what counts. Hopefully it will get easier to get up each morning as time goes on.

  10. I’m so sorry for your loss. You are showing such strength during such a hard time by talking about it. I second the yoga idea that someone else mentioned, it might help you during this time.

  11. Actually, it’s terrible that you write so well and describe this situation in a way that brings it so very close to my mind….and heart. I wish you lots of strength!

  12. Sometimes getting up every day is the greatest act of courage we can muster. I am so sorry for your loss, and I wish you the best. Keep writing as long as you are able – it truly is healing.

  13. Hi, my name is Arlene and I’ve literally come across your blog. First of all I want to say sorry for your loss. I think it’s phenomenal that you’ve channeled the hurt and pain into writing, I do not know you personally but you have inspired me. I encourage you to continue to be strong. Sometimes when I think on close relatives that has died for me, I tend to think on the good memories about them and that often puts a smile on my face. I pray that you continue to heal, continue to write and continue to shine.

    Psalms 147:3 He heals the broken-hearted and bandages their wounds
    Psalms 34:18-20 The lord is close to the broken-hearted. He rescues those who spirits are crushed. The righteous faced many troubles but He rescues them each time

    1. Thanks so much for reading. Writing has always been great therapy for me. Your comment inspires me!

  14. You are the first person I can relate to since I lost Daniel 3 half years ago. I, too am caught up in Wrongful death suite . I have nil support , well a little support from two people who have there own lives that Im not apart of . My two eldest daughters have alienated me which has made the trauma worse 10 fold . I can only see my grand children if I visit there house and then Im not welcomed . I can’t work , so not only is it wrongful death suite , its catastrophic injury on my part . Have you written a book ? thank you

  15. I am so sorry for your loss and that you are having such a continued hard time. I have thought about writing a book. Thank you for reading and your kind comment.

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