Patton Oswalt Discusses the Loss of His Wife, Breaks Our Hearts
The New York Times interview with Patton Oswalt wherein he details his current and somewhat eternal state of grief is predictably heartbreaking. Beautiful and lovely, but heartbreaking. And the added details of the morning he found Michelle McNamara not breathing make it far more so.
Overworked and anxious while investigating the Golden State Killer case she was writing about, Oswalt suggested she go to “sleep until you wake up.” In the morning, he got their daughter up and off to school, picking up a cup of coffee for McNamara. She was snoring when he set it next to her bedside. Three hours later when he entered the room again, she wasn’t breathing.
Oswalt still does not know the cause of his wife’s death. He suspects a Xanax overdose, but the cause of death is still unknown. He’s so honest about his state of mind, his current existence, it’s devastating.
As on the day she died, Mr. Oswalt has occasionally entertained the idea that his loss has not been real. One question has popped into his head several times: What if he is actually the one who has died?
“What if, as my last brain cell died, I imagined a whole other life, that my brain cannot deal with the horror of my body dying, so it’s made up the next worst thing, which is this person who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with has been yanked away from me?” he said, his voice getting ragged, spinning this scenario out, proposing that the interview he was doing at the moment was an invention of his own mind. After comparing his life to a scene from the movie “Jacob’s Ladder,” he stopped: “Sorry, I sound crazy.”
Since Ms. McNamara’s death, Mr. Oswalt has made it a ritual to sit with his daughter every night and write down three things they remember about her. “It keeps this living portrait of her,” he said, choking up.
He has new standup gigs planned, but his focus is to fulfill his wife’s ultimate goal: to finish her book on the Golden State Killer.
Mr. Oswalt has committed himself to finishing his wife’s book, working with a researcher and another journalist. “We can finish the book, but it was tangential to the work, which was: She was going to solve this crime,” he said. “She didn’t want credit for it. She wanted him to be locked up. She was close to figuring it out. It would give her bad nightmares.” Mr. Oswalt paused briefly to consider the right metaphor. “In comic-book terms,” he said. “I was married to a great crime fighter.”
Go hug someone, just anyone.