Of course, the question of happiness has taken on new significance and difficulty for me over the past 15 months.

But I have found that I can feel happy since Bill died, though it takes on a new kind of shape without him.

Being with my four children always gives me a depth of feeling, unlike anything else in my life. That feeling is contentment and gratitude, even if it is not always a throw-my-head back and laugh kind of happiness. It is happiness, nonetheless.

Perhaps, I am equating the love I feel for Ben, Sun, Danny, and Brittany with happiness. It makes me happy to hear love and concern reflected in their voices. A hug. A kiss on the cheek. A pat on the shoulder. All of those things from my children mean a spark of happiness alights in me.

Sometimes, when I walk into the swimming pool at The Pines, I feel thankfulness that I can enjoy such a beautiful space with a friend. The salt water is refreshing and cool on a hot summer’s day, and I am able to jump and walk in a way that I cannot on dry land. It is a privilege to be there.

It makes me happy to be with close friends who sincerely care about me. Occasionally, I can enjoy their companionship in a way that helps me forget my sadness at being without Bill. Only occasionally. But I’ll take it.

When I take stock of my friends and family, I find that they live all across the country and all across North Carolina, yet they keep up with me faithfully, which is the profoundest kind of happiness. Michigan, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Texas, Florida, Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Oregon, Wyoming, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Maryland, Guam, Georgia, New York, Montana, Arizona, New Jersey (soon to be Davidson) are among my roll call of states, in addition to Mt. Airy, Belmont, Charlotte, Asheville, Crossnore, Chapel Hill, and other points of my compass. North, south, east, and west of Davidson, too. As I type, I see the sweet faces of these friends, this family, and my heart fills with happiness.

I have trusted people, who are now my friends, who protect me in all things professional and help me feel safe in the world. That makes me lucky.

My pastors and fellow church members continue to provide me with the solace and grace and kindness that I have always found at my church. Gifts beyone measure. They hold my hand in dark nights of the soul.

There are moments when I am in the garden and I see a hummingbird at the feeder, finally having attracted them, and I feel happy. The abundant flowers and the sturdy new deck and the comfortable rocking chairs and the cathedral of green trees overhead fill me with peace.

When I write a sentence that says what I mean it to say, I am happy. When I can tell a story in words on paper that I want to tell, I am happy.

Coco and Cadi, ready for sleep

When I pat my dear Coco and Cadi, when they follow me through the house (the “dog train” as Ben called it), when they settle down with me at night, snug in our room, I am so grateful. Their company is warm and tender and loving. The towel that someone gave me years ago says, “Life without dogs. I don’t think so.” True words for me. When Coco walks over to me and lays her big head on my lap, she doesn’t need words to tell me that she loves me.  She tells me with her presence. When Cadi comes over to me on the couch and sighs as she rests beside me, she tells me that she loves me. They make me happy.

There are times that I drive around this beautiful town with its tall trees, when I feel happy at living here, at having invested my time and energy and passion in it. Bill wanted us here, was determined that this was where he would establish his practice of medicine, where we would raise our family and put down roots, despite my misgivings at coming to such a small town. He persuaded me that Davidson was the place for us. And he was right. I smile when I think of his fierce determination that we would be here.

I am happy when I think of the life we made here for each other, for ourselves, for our children, for Nana, for AngYang and Uncle and Kristi and Michael. For this family in Davidson that now includes Rosie, Abe, Roberto, Jerry, and Robyn. And for those friends and family who come here to visit, to share this sweet town with us.

So, in the end, in all ways, it is this world of family and friends that makes me happy. I am deeply, profoundly sad to be here without Bill. And yet, I am still happy to be here, in Davidson because this is where he wanted us to be. I feel his embrace, his warmth, our story all around me in this place. And I feel happiness that we built this life together.