Matt Zoller Seitz is a renowned TV and film critic and the editor of RogerEbert.com, but his new essay on the site is of a far more personal nature. It starts with this: "My wife Jennifer died April 27, 2006, at 35, of a heart attack brought on by a defective valve that had somehow escaped doctors’ attention." At the time, his daughter was 8, his son was 2, and Seitz himself was about to turn 38. "It feels like it happened last week, but it also feels like it happened ten years ago. It's never not happening." From there, the essay moves to catalog life since then: an early, fast descent ("I was basically a drunk and a pothead for the first two years"), all kinds of "terrible decisions" and "bad messes," and, finally, to the better place Seitz finds himself in now: His kids are doing great and he's thinking about the future instead of wanting to die.
How'd he get there? He suspects part of is just getting wiser with age. "The only thing I can say for sure is that when you give yourself permission to just live—to fall apart when you need to, to feel whatever you’re feeling, to make mistakes and own them, to forgive yourself for what’s recognizably human, to make amends for egregious behavior to the extent that such a thing is possible, to let bad moments and bad days roll off your back instead of masochistically marinating in them—you get through it all with your sanity intact." The piece ends on an emotional note when he catalogs the "biggest change of all": He no longer apologizes "for still being madly in love with Jen" because it is what he is most proud of. She was the "total package" and he got to spend 17 years as her partner. "How amazing is that?" Click to read the full essay. (Read more marriage stories.)