Courtesy of WBUR.org /The Cognpscenti |By Brenda McDonald | Originally Published 03.01.2016 |Posted 03.19.2018

About six months after the death of my husband, Tom, I awoke to the sound of a thud outside my front door. Afraid, I forced myself out of bed. From the second floor, I looked out the window down to the usually quiet, dead-end street. The sun hadn’t risen yet. Under the light of the streetlamps, I saw a pickup truck back out of my driveway. As I stood at the window watching the vehicle drive away, it took me a few minutes to remember that I’d subscribed to the local newspaper and to realize that the thud was the sound of the paper landing at my front door.

The next morning, I woke again before dawn. Since Tom’s sudden death, with the opening of my eyes came the realization that he was gone. Now, in the midst of feeling that pain, I listened for the thud. First, I heard the rumble of the pickup truck, the opening of the vehicle’s door, and then, there it was.

The thud at my doorstep reminded me that life goes on. And it did.

“There’s life out there,” I thought, tossing the covers aside.

In the dead of winter, in the predawn dark, the newspaper guy never missed a day.

I thought: If he can do it, I can do it.

Once a week, I left the paper guy the payment, plus a tip — a 10 or a 20.

Once he wrote in black marker on the clear plastic that the paper came wrapped in, “Thank you! Stephen.”

One day, at the fish market, I overheard one of the men behind the counter discussing his newspaper deliveries, how many miles he covered that morning.

Could this be Stephen? I wondered.

My heart thumped. So my newspaper man also flips fish, I thought. I wanted to talk with him, to tell him how he inspired me to get out of bed every morning, in spite of my grief. But I wasn’t sure I had the right guy.

I ordered a pound of scallops.

“What’s your name?” I asked, as he wrapped them.

It was not Stephen.

If I wanted to, I decided, I could meet my delivery man.

I could get up in the morning and wait for Stephen. I could offer him a cup of coffee. My husband used to do things like that, offer a cup of coffee to a stranger.

But I opted not to open the door to a man in the dark.

After a year, I sold the house. I cancelled the paper. I moved to a new city, closer to Boston.

I could not have survived that period without my circle of family and friends and the food, music and laughter they offered, or the good doctor, writing, books and prayer that brought me solace. I include in this list the newspaper delivery man, who arrived at my loneliest hour, in the dark of the morning.

I wanted to talk with him, to tell him how he inspired me to get out of bed every morning, in spite of my grief.

The thud at my doorstep reminded me that life goes on. And it did.

It’s been more than four-and-a-half years since Tom died. Miraculously, I am in love. My boyfriend is also widowed. Having gone through the depths of despair, we laugh, sing and dance together. We savor the taste of wine, enjoy each morsel of food. We share each kiss, each touch and each song, with a deeper appreciation for life, joy and love.

I’m sorry I never met Stephen or left him a goodbye note to tell him what he meant to me. I hope he’s doing well.

And somewhere out there, early in the morning, the newspaper makes its thud, as life and love go on.