Seven weeks after jogger Jim Callaghan, 49, was struck and killed on Main Road in Laurel on Jan. 16, a police investigation into the accident continues — and his broken-hearted widow Jennifer is facing the painful reality of life without him.
According to Southold Town Police, the Jamesport resident died in the pre-daylight hours while jogging through dense fog.
Police have said they believe Callaghan was struck by two vehicles heading westbound. He was found lying in the roadway. At the time, police said Callaghan might have been first struck by a vehicle that left the scene or that some type of medical condition or emergency caused him to be on the roadway.
This week, Callaghan’s wife Jennifer said that while the accident is under investigation by Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, investigators have said her husband’s cause of death was blunt impact to his head, torso, and extremities.
“They found no evidence of any medical issues,” she said. “He was always healthy.”
Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley said this week that the investigation is still active and ongoing; he added that the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s report had not yet been released.
As the investigation continues, Callaghan’s widow finds comfort and solace in memories as she faces the days without him.
Jim and Jennifer Callaghan on their wedding day, Sept. 22, 2012. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Callaghan)“We had crazy little routines,” she said. “Date night, every Thursday night, whether we went out or stayed home. We didn’t answer the phone or watch TV. We either got takeout or cooked something special, or opened a bottle of wine. We stayed connected.”
The couple celebrated the anniversary of the day they met, Feb. 22, 2011, on the 22nd of every month.
One year after the day they met, Callaghan asked Jennifer to marry him; they married on Sept. 22, 2012.
And two weeks ago, on Feb. 22, Callaghan gathered with loved ones at Iron Pier in Jamesport to celebrate the third anniversary of the day they met, and to pay tribute to the man she said will live forever in her heart.
The group gathered on the beach with the urn containing his ashes and together witnessed a spectacular sunset.
“There’s a beautiful country song, ‘Drink A Beer,’ by Luke Bryan,” she said; the song is played often as a memorial song after great loss. “We packed a bunch of coolers and brought his urn at sunset. It was overwhelming, and it was sad.”
The evening marked the third anniversary after her first date with Callaghan, whom she’d met on Match.com.
“We talked for about six months and then I had an issue with my computer and he talked me through it. I said, ‘Enough of this. We have to meet.’ We were together ever since.”
Reflecting on her husband, Callaghan said, “We had quite the love story. We lived a lot in the short time we were together. We did everything together.”
The two would bring picnics to his marathons and races, enjoy free concerts in the park, and go for walks together every night.
Her husband was “a gentleman, in every sense of the word,” she said. A comedian, with sharp wit. He was intelligent, devoted, a loving father of to his four children, a great friend. He was athletic, motivated and a motivator. I could go on and on and on. He was a little bit of everything.”
Asked if finding the driver that hit her husband would help to ease the pain and lead toward closure, Callaghan replied, “Hell, no. Nothing eases that pain. He died a horrific death and knowing that is the worst.”
Remembering the darkest of mornings, Callaghan said her husband wasn’t even supposed to have been jogging that day.
“It wasn’t even his plan,” she said. “The night before, we’d put our house on the market, and we went out to celebrate. He told me he would get up early to work on the computer.”
Her husband, Callaghan said, was a business consultant who did freelance bookkeeping; she works as a project manager for Crescendo Designs.
The couple had a morning routine; he would get up and exercise or work in the office, and he would wake up Callaghan when she needed to get up.
“Before he went downstairs, he always kissed me and said ‘I love you,’” she said.
But that morning, Callaghan never came back upstairs to wake her.
“I got up and the house was empty,” she said. “I went looking for his car and thought maybe he’d gone to the gym, but the car was still there. That’s when I knew something was wrong.”
Using a find-a-friend app on her phone, Callaghan set out to locate her husband. “That’s how I found him,” she said. “I found the site, and the police stopped me before I could see him.”
Remembering the darkest morning of her life, Callaghan said, “It was your worst nightmare, multiplied by a million.”
Callaghan gave police a full description of her husband. “That’s how they knew it was him,” she said.
She is still perplexed and angry, Callaghan said, that her husband “broke all of his own rules,” including running before dawn and in the fog.
Despite the pain of sharing memories of the worst moment of her life, Callaghan said talking about the anguish helps her to heal.
On the weekend of an invitation-only memorial to her husband, almost 600 people came to her home. “It just proved the caliber of man he was,” she said.
And, she said, the huge support of friends and family who’ve embraced her during her darkest hours has sustained her.
“My friends and family, Jim’s friends, the running group, everyone has been incredible,” she said.
Knowing that her husband’s goal had been to help keep his wife, who suffers from chronic arthritis and asthma, healthy, her support network has helped keep her on track.
Looking ahead, Callaghan said she still plans to sell the home she shared with her husband and move to Arizona, to live their dream in his memory.
Although he’s gone, Callaghan said she still feels her beloved Jim with her, as do members of their family. “There have been a lot of ‘Jim’s here’ stories,” she said. “He’s just been everywhere.”
Despite the heavy cloak of grief, Callaghan carries on. “I honestly don’t know what’s keeping me going. It’s either some strange, inner strength, or it’s Jim pushing me on. It’s what he would have wanted. You wake up sad every day, and then you take a couple of deep breaths. Getting home to an empty house is the hardest part.”
And yet, the bond the couple shared is forever, Callaghan said. “He was the love of my life, and then some. I was very, very blessed, for no matter how much time I had him.”