Comedian-actor Patton Oswalt, understandably reeling from the death of his wife, Michelle Eileen McNamara, on April 21, has largely been silent these past few weeks, posting only a few brief messages about the subject to his Twitter account. Now, Oswalt has gathered his thoughts and penned a truly lovely and heart-rending remembrance of McNamara for Time. She was an accomplished true crime writer, publishing her work on the blog True Crime Diary. Oswalt helpfully lists some of the best articles there, including “#bloodbath,” which he terms “a speculative masterpiece” about the effect that social media would have had on the Manson killings of 1969. Another of McNamara’s posts, an investigation of the Golden State Killer, led to an article in Los Angeles Magazine and would have led to a book for Harper Collins. “This was the project she was 2½ years into when her story stopped,” Oswalt writes, “sometime on the morning of April 21.”
In many ways, Oswalt himself stopped that day, too. “There hasn’t been much of an ‘I’ since the morning of April 21,” he writes. Burdened with grief, he is now struggling to redefine his life in McNamara’s totally unforeseen absence. “She hasn’t left a void,” Oswalt observes. “She’s left a blast crater.” The most poignant passage of the article comes at the end, when Oswalt discusses Alice, his young daughter with McNamara.
Five days after Michelle was gone, Alice and I were half-awake at dawn, after a night of half-sleeping. Alice sat up in bed. Her face was silhouetted in the dawn light of the bedroom windows. I couldn’t see her expression. I just heard her voice: “When your mom dies you’re the best memory of her. Everything you do and say is a memory of her.”