I left myself out of my boyfriend's obituary

It had only been a day since Bob died. Only 26 hours since I had kissed him goodbye, rushed and alive; only 23 hours since I had hugged him goodbye, unmoving and cold.

Yet, there was so much to do.

So much to prepare.

So I sat down at his parents' kitchen table, the same one at which we had enjoyed Christmas dinners, French toast and homemade wine, and began to write his obituary.

Tried to distill 29 exuberant years into 350 words.

The beginning flowed more easily than I had expected - his interests, his successes, his charms - but when it came time to list the "He's survived by... " I paused.

Although Bob and I had been in each other's lives for 12 years, we had started dating again only seven months before.

And we had decided only to become officially boyfriend and girlfriend again and to officially start building a future together the day before his fatal car accident.

Did that make me enough of a somebody to include in an obituary? Even if I did include my name, where was I supposed to put it?

After his parents, but before his siblings?

They were permanent fixtures of his family, whereas I was just a girl who had loved their son, brother, uncle.

I left myself out.

When I called the funeral home to make sure that they had received the obituary, the woman asked me: "Isn't there a girlfriend?"

I said, yes, that was me, but I had omitted myself on purpose.

She seemed puzzled, but let it go.

After it was published, Bob's mum texted me, upset, saying I should have put myself in.

I was a "most important part of him", she added.

I immediately regretted my decision. I was at my best friend's childhood home, trying to survive a pre-wedding brunch for another friend.

In her room - untouched through the years, full of pink and lacy promise - I curled up on her bed and sobbed.

The next day, a friend would put on a long white gown and say time-honoured words and hold a champagne glass high in the air.

If Bob and I had done that, I would have included myself in his obituary.

But I was barely the girlfriend. And I did not feel like that was enough.

I did not feel like I was enough.

Although our love had lasted longer than some marriages, the only vows we had ever said to each other had been quiet and private; that we would love each other "to infinity".

Plenty of long-term partners never tie the knot, happily.

But since our relationship had just resumed and since one-half of it was now gone, I yearned for that official stamp.

When you are dating someone who is alive, you are writing your story as it unfolds. You stay together or you do not. You get married or you do not. You grow old together or you do not.

When that someone dies, your story stops in the middle of a sentence, with no way of knowing how it would have ended.

I do not know if Bob and I would have lasted. I do not know if we would have had chickens, and children, and a romantic escapade for our 20th anniversary.

A two-lane highway and a cloudless August morning made sure we would never find out.

Does that mean he was not a part of my soul, a "most important part" of me?

No. I had loved that man since I was 17.

He had been there for me through awful boyfriends, sick parents and a failed marriage. He had been integral to my growing-up years. And I know he would say the same about me.

It has been more than 11/2 years since I left those four words - his girlfriend Susan Shain - out of a public dedication to the man I loved.

I now know that it was foolish because just as he was everything to me, I was more than enough to him.

But I also know it does not matter.

We did not need a piece of paper to prove our love story - and I do not need one to remember it either.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 18, 2017, with the headline 'I left myself out of my boyfriend's obituary'. Print Edition | Subscribe