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  • Writer's pictureDrew Dotson

Don't put the pity in serendipity (a grief no-no)

When you’ve lost a loved one, certain dates are etched in your mind. The big milestones are impossible to forget, but other, less monumental dates stick out, too. People share these “anniversaries” for a number of reasons — to reminisce, to document a memory, to relate to other grievers. And, yes, sometimes it’s for attention, sympathy, and the like. That’s not my modus operandi. I seek no ”I’m sorrys” when I post about Ramón. So, here I go.


I realize we’re approaching Presidents Day weekend. When I made this connection, I observed a slight change in my body. It wasn’t drastic or concerning, but rather it was like my entire body sighed.


Most people I talk to remember the last moments of normalcy before COVID-19 changed our lives. They remember the last day in the office, the last social outing, or the last trip out of town. I personally never experienced a pre-COVID-19 moment because of the bigger instance that happened just before.


Court was closed on Presidents Day, so Your Honor Ramón and I trekked to the North Georgia mountains for the long weekend. It was February 2020. On Monday of that week, Ramón had gotten a follow-up bone marrow biopsy to check his status three months after finishing chemotherapy. The day before the biopsy, he completed a half-marathon. He’d done quite well in the race, so I deemed it the test before the test — the pre-biopsy evaluation that told us the biopsy would come back without any signs of cancer. Seemed like sound logic to me.


Ramón on Sunday, Monday, and our mountain getaway


When we returned home after our relaxing weekend getaway, we learned Ramón’s leukemia was back. It was Presidents Day. It’s not like we were in the bed of a pick-up truck decked out in red, white, and blue, stuffing our faces with hot dogs and apple pie. I mostly remember it was Presidents Day because the next day I announced the news in a blog post titled Putting the dent in Presidents Day.


We were in the hospital as the world began shutting down due to COVID-19. But, at the time, that wasn’t very high on our personal radar. Ramón was miserable from chemo, and I was busy reading books in preparation for his bone-marrow/stem-cell transplant.


Within two months of Presidents Day, things seemed to be looking up. Ramón’s cancer was back in remission, and he’d successfully received his transplant. Then, his immunosuppression led to an infection, which ultimately resulted in his cardiac arrest. He remained minimally responsive until his death three months later.


So, for me, Presidents Day doesn’t go unnoticed.


Here’s the thing, though — and this is important for people to know. When I write about memories like these, it doesn’t come from a place of sadness. My goal is not for you to feel sorry for me. In fact, that’s my least favorite feeling. In this specific case, I’m sharing because it’s surreal to think about how much has happened in the last three years. I’m putting these thoughts to screen because I know others can relate to the oddness that surfaces on a memorable date. My words might make others feel less alone.


When I write about Ramón, it’s not because I’m sad — unless that’s what I articulate. I do it because it matters to me. And I know other grievers can empathize with this conundrum. A well-intentioned post can lead to a barrage of pity, which is often the antithesis of what the writer is going for. If someone expresses their sadness, comfort them however you see fit. Otherwise, just let it be — acknowledge the memory, share your own experience, or even just react with a click.


Sometimes it’s merely rooted in serendipity — minus the pity.

10 Comments


K Sue Bowen
K Sue Bowen
Feb 18, 2023

I appreciate your memories as they are honest! Losing your life partner is a game changer and something most of us don’t go through until our “golden years”. You have helped me think about loss and taught me a lot about grieving. Bless you!

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Drew Dotson
Drew Dotson
Feb 22, 2023
Replying to

Aww! Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I'm grateful that others "get it" when I talk openly about grief.

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pat.brock
Feb 17, 2023

Thank you Drew for your writings. It’s strange what triggers a memory. They seem to come out of nowhere.

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Drew Dotson
Drew Dotson
Feb 22, 2023
Replying to

They sure do. So many things make me think of Lyndsey, especially little miss Magpie!

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Heather Hall
Heather Hall
Feb 17, 2023

Anytime I see or hear anything Star Trek-related, I think of my Dad (Who passed away 9 years ago). He made me the proud Trekkie I am today. Like you have shared, that doesn’t make me sad. It makes me smile and remember good things!

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Drew Dotson
Drew Dotson
Feb 22, 2023
Replying to

I love to know I'm not alone. I feel at-ease knowing that the connection remains, even if the physical presence does not.

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Laurie Shanks
Laurie Shanks
Feb 16, 2023

I always remember my Mom on Rosh Hashanah and my Dad when I buy a new car!


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Drew Dotson
Drew Dotson
Feb 22, 2023
Replying to

I love that! And I'd say your mom wins this one — unless you buy a lot of new cars!

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Matthew Jones
Matthew Jones
Feb 16, 2023

A beautiful tribute. I still honor my father‘s memory every year since his passing by going fishing on his birthday, no matter what. He’s closest to me on the water. That’s when I feel him most (outside of when I write). That day is coming up in just a few weeks, so this blog really hit home. Thank you.

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Drew Dotson
Drew Dotson
Feb 22, 2023
Replying to

Thank you! I love that you celebrate your dad's birthday by doing something he loved. One of my new traditions is ordering Indian food on Ramón's birthday. He would be thrilled! I hope you have a peaceful day of fishing, and maybe your father will send some luck your way! <3

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