She wasn’t happy. She wore the smile for her family, but inside the shell she was miserable. She wanted out. Out of the marriage, out of the hell and torment she lived. Only her small children kept a twinkle of a fire burning within her. Tragedy hit hard one day. The night before that horrible day, they had a fight. The worst fight ever. She witnessed a very angry part of him that she feared tremendously. In his fit of drunken anger he almost killed the dog, he kicked, he tossed, she yelled. Much later she managed to curl up on her side of the bed, hoping he wouldn’t slither over in the middle of the night and take what wasn’t his, hoped he wouldn’t take what little hope she had left. Eventually sleep consumed her and she rested. She found the tiniest corner of peace in her world. Morning came with a phone call that woke her. The caller, whom she knew, asked to speak to him. She couldn’t understand why because she didn’t like him either. She sensed trouble. She knew no logical reason why this person would want to speak to him unless something terrible had happened. He turned his back to her, mumbled a few inaudible words and hung up the phone. He turned and faced her, she stared, he stared. Then his mouth opened and the hurtful words spilled from him. A family member was gone, dead. Taken away forever. She was silent. She laughed. Thinking the fight from the night before is continuing, his anger and spiteful words are leftover from the night before. But he just stares at her. Then the look in his eyes told her this one time maybe he spoke the truth. She hit him. And she hit him again and again while falling to the floor. But he held her. Only to lower her to the floor. He walked away. She doesn’t remember very much after that. Not until the rest of the family gathered. They cried. They hugged. More family gathered. More friends surrounded. They shivered, not from the cold of that winter day, but from the grief that gripped their hearts and lungs. She helped pick out the clothes. She picked through some personal things. She cried. She struggled. Being in the house frightened her, she could barely walk, could barely breathe. And then it snowed. They prayed. They cried. They buried their loved one. And it snowed again. They tried to live, one hour at a time. They tried. She tried. But she cried. All the time. In the middle of the night she sat in a quiet dark room, alone, away from him, buried her face and cried until she slept from exhaustion. She felt like a hollow shell. Nothing was left in her anymore. But she had to live. She had very small children that depended on her. She discovered how short life can be. It’s the only time she ever realized it. She knows now. And it changed her. She still hurt. She still cried. And she was still very weak and fragile, but she changed. She had to change. Before he ripped it from her again.