Michelle McNamara, acclaimed crime writer and wife of comedian Patton Oswalt, passed away exactly one year ago. Her death, which occurred peacefully in her sleep, was unexpected and earth-shattering to everyone who loved McNamara, most of all her husband and young daughter, and in the year since her passing Oswalt has written a handful of beautiful, emotional elegies to his wife.
Today, reflecting on a full year of grieving, he wrote a Facebook post that begins: “It’s awful, but it’s not fatal.” He talks about what happened the morning he found McNamara, and about how he could only bear to take off his wedding ring last night, 364 days since it all started.
At the time of her death, McNamara was hard at work on a book about the Golden State Killer, a serial murderer she whose case she was deeply involved with. McNamara believed she was close to a solution, and her husband has vowed to make sure her meticulous research gets the recognition it deserves.
This Saturday, April 22nd, CBS will air The Golden State Killer, a documentary feature focused on McNamara’s work and the personal interest she took in the case. The doc will heavily feature Oswalt, giving insight into McNamara’s involvement with the case and history with true crime reporting.
Here’s a preview:
And, in its entirety, here’s the heartbreaking post Oswalt put on Facebook:
It’s awful, but it’s not fatal.
That’s the dispatch I’m sending back from exactly one year into this shadow-slog. A year ago today — an hour from now, I’m just realizing — I came back from dropping Alice off at school. I’d let Michelle sleep in. Got our daughter dressed and ready for school — lunch packed, class folder in her backpack. I stopped on the way home to buy Michelle an Americano and left it on her bedside table around 9:30am. Went up to my office, did some writing, answered some e-mails, Tweeted some thoughts on Prince dying. There was an art show at Alice’s school in the afternoon and my wife and I were going to go, get dragged around the room by Alice as she chattered about her artwork and the work of her classmates. Except instead I came back down into the house and the life i knew was gone.
I’m one year into this new life — one I never even imagined, and I can imagine some pretty pessimistic and dark contingencies, some stomach-freezing “what ifs.” But not this one. This one had such a flat, un-poetic immediacy. The world gazes at you like a hungry but indifferent reptile when you’re widowed.
Last night I took off my wedding ring. I couldn’t bear removing it since April 21st, 2016. But now it felt obscene. That anonymous poem about the man mourning his dead lover for a year and a day, for craving a kiss from her “clay cold lips.” I was inviting more darkness. Removing the ring was removing the last symbol of denial of who I was now, and what my life is, and what my responsibilities are.
But it’s not fatal.
I put the ring in this little box I’d had made, when Michelle and I moved out of the house we lived in together in Burbank — first as boyfriend/girlfriend, then as fiancees, then as a married couple. When we moved into our new house I had the box made, and filled with it random trinkets and scraps of our life leading up to marriage. The first movie we went to after moving in with each other, the first movie premiere we went to, hotel keys and love notes and pictures.
Michelle brought me nothing but happiness. You see it in our faces, that picture between the two pics of the box. That was taken literally a month after we started going out. Look at us. We knew this was it.
So the ring goes with the happy stuff.
And no, I’m not making today any sort of dark ritual or painful memorial. No graveside visit. Those are for when Alice and I have something exciting to say to her. No candle lighting or ballon launching. We think of her every day — she’s still so tied into our worlds, in a way that’s encouraging, and energizing. So why light a flame that will die, or release a balloon that will disappear? Michelle’s gone but she wasn’t the kind of soul that disappears or dies out.
I’m gonna pick Alice up at school later. She wants to go to a pet store and buy “worms that will grow into beetles.” She’s becoming a cool bug girl and Michelle would have thought that was hilarious (Michelle HATED insects). Then we’ll go get ice cream. Or go home and play a game. I’m her dad. I want to make her days fun.
I’ve become friends with a lot of other people who share my tragedy. We’re an informal, subtle little club. No rankings or initiation ceremonies or secret handshakes. And no, we don’t “see it each other’s eyes” or “sense it without saying it.” We went through something that transformed us but, for the most part, we keep it together. We lost someone who made us live better in the world. It would be an insult to them not suddenly live badly in this world.
I plan things better. I’m more patient. I still sleep badly, and my weight and health need some work, but that’s combat damage. There’s got to be a way to fix those without being shitty to friends and strangers who are struggling with chaos. I’ll try.
One year in. Another year starting. It’s awful, but it’s not fatal. Message received? Over and out.