How One Dad 'Kept Moving' After the Sudden Death of His Wife

Patton Oswalt is a stand-up comedian, actor, award winner, and widower father to one young girl. A little under six months ago, Oswalt's beloved wife, crime writer Michelle McNamara, died suddenly in her sleep at the age of 46.

She left behind a devastated, grieving husband and child, who are still learning how to navigate life without her.

In a gorgeous essay for GQ, Oswalt reveals how he has gotten through the last few, very difficult, months—and how it's mostly down to his daughter, Alice, who is just seven.

"Michelle was the point person, researcher, planner, and expediter. I was the grunt, office assistant, instruction follower, and urban Sherpa. I did idiot sweeps before we left hotel rooms and ran checklists before we attended school functions and boarded planes," he writes.

"But Michelle put those lists together. She knew how to use my OCD to our little family's advantage. And her super-mom skills were one brilliant facet of the dark jewel she was—true-crime journalist, online sleuth, tireless finder of half-remembered facts, and crafter of devastating murder prose. I was looking forward to spending my life with the single most original mind I'd ever encountered. And now? Gone. All gone.

"It feels like a walk-on character is being asked to carry an epic film after the star has been wiped from the screen."

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Oswalt says it has taken him a long time to understand that no one is ready for the things life throws at us; we all just have to learn to adapt.

"You will never be prepared for anything you do, ever. Not the first time. Training and practice are out the window the second they meet experience. But you'll get better. I have subjective yet ironclad knowledge of this.

"This is my first time being a single father. I've missed forms for school. I've forgotten to stock the fridge with food she likes. I've run out of socks for her. I've run out of socks for me. It sucked and it was a hassle every time, but the world kept turning. I said, 'Whoops, my bad,' and fixed it and kept stumbling forward."

He offers support for single fathers, and says if he can do it, so can anyone else. Then he offers the simplest explanation of why.

"I'm moving forward—clumsily, stupidly, blindly—because of the kind of person Alice is. She's got so much of Michelle in her. And Michelle was living her life moving forward. And she took me forward with her. Just like I know Alice will. So I'm going to keep moving forward. So I can be there with you if you need me, Alice.

"Because I'll need you.

"I can do it. I can do it. I can do it. Because of you, Alice."

It's a beautiful tribute to his wife, and his daughter, and an amazing lesson in how to keep on going when everything seems impossible.

You can read the whole essay here.