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Happy Birthday, my love, my friend.
I miss you.
Today, your daughter sat snug in my lap while we watched morning cartoons. We were 30 min away from having to leave and I was still in my pajamas, breakfast uneaten, makeup not done… But I couldn’t get up. Because, as I do many days, I was SOAKING her up.
Every so often, in between her crunching and munching on apples, our 3-year-old tilts her head back far and looks up at me. Her eyes sparkle and a grin spreads across her face. Oh, how that grin reminds me of you.
This is the third year that we are celebrating your birthday without you here. That seems impossible, for two reasons. 1. How could it be 3 years? On one hand, it feels like you were here yesterday! And, 2. How could it be ONLY 3 years? I’ve lived a lifetimes since I last saw your face.
Things have changed around here. Your girls have moved 4 times since you left, we’ve crossed from one side of the country to the other; twice. We’ve adopted a new man into our little family and we are working hard to make it the best little patched-up glorious family that we can.
Almost all the furniture is different. My style has changed a bit and I gravitate so much more to the things that I love instead of the things people always told me I should.
I do still decorate for all the little holidays. The fall stuff is up now. I remember how you always told me how much you loved that I did that. Back when we were dating and I lived in that tiny apartment, I remember how enamored you were that I decorated. At the time, I thought it was silly. But, now, I love how much you loved it. I love that you noticed and smiled that I took the time and spent the money to get dollar store autumn leaves on the window, because it made me happy inside.
I’m so different now, too. Not just where we live. As a person, I am different entirely. I’m not sure you would recognize this soul so well. It’s old now. Weathered and strong. I’m BRAVER now than ever before. I’m not scared of anything. Literally. Isn’t that crazy? Remember when I told you that I wouldn’t be able to live without you? I told you (and believed) that if you died, I would die. But, you swore to me I wouldn’t.
You said I was stronger than I thought. That God would carry me through. That our little babe needed me.
I cried then, in your arms, imagining the nightmare that loomed ahead and wishing with all my being that we could switch places. Oh, how I longed to switch places with you.
It’s crazy now, looking at what you said. That I would be okay. You said it with such confidence. How did you know? You knew that you knew. And I had NO idea. I truly think that ONLY God could have helped you see and given you that peace. It was ALL true. Now, I see what you saw then.
I think, I kept on living at first mainly because, I took a long, hard look at your short life and figured that… You wanted to live SO BAD and you didn’t get to. So, I better truly LIVE my days out in your honor. Not surviving, but thriving. Not wallowing, but celebrating. Not wishing I was dead, but creating a life I WANTED.
Like you always said He would, God came near during the darkest times. That day they told us your cancer was back and I collapsed to the floor, clutching the new life in my stomach as if I could somehow protect her from those words. That day 3 years ago, almost to the date, that you started hospice when your eyes were glazed over from the pain and yet you still breathed the word “blessed.” That day that they came and took you away and your hospice bed lay empty, all of you GONE in a single day.
In the end looking days like today straight in the face, can be hard for me. Only because I wish that maybe, as some sort of birthday miracle, you could come down and give me a little sign. But, I know how selfish that is. I’m lucky enough to have seen signs of you often and feel your love settling down on us every single day. Like gently falling snow, you are here.
It’s different now. But, our love is the same. It’s different now. But, you’re smile graces my presence every day. It’s different now, but somehow, it’s all okay.
It’s been 5 years since I celebrated a HEALTHY birthday of yours with you. 5 long years. And, though, the many healthy happy birthdays spent with you were FUN, none of them actually compare to all of these since. Because, once you got sick. EVERYTHING became clearer than it’s ever been.
God opened up my eyes to LIFE because of YOUR life. He showed me what being grateful truly meant. That life is so much more about living for people, for love, for hopes and dreams than it is living for money, or boats, or houses, retirement or things.
Your love, our love, has wings.
I’m so grateful I get to see it fly.
Happy 30th, Nicholas. Forever and a day.
Nick and I were married for 5 years but hell hath no fury like an early onset of a rare, terminal cancer. I was 15 weeks pregnant when we found out that Nick might not make it long enough to meet our baby.
With a VERY real possibility of less than 6 months left to live, we were forced to discuss the impossibly hard stuff. Sometimes, I flat out refused to hear it. But, thankfully, other times I let my heart soften just enough to listen. With tears streaming down my face, I would set my jaw, and SOAK UP every. single. word. Because deep down I knew that, someday, it might be VITAL that I remember.
The following words and final wishes are that of my late husband, Nick Magnotti, who passed of a rare Appendix Cancer at just 27 years old. These are his words, paraphrased; His thoughts, summarized; And his love, spread clear out in the open, for all to see. I share it here because this.. THIS is how he lived; OPEN, RAW, REAL & FEARLESS.
“To My Dearest Love,
Firstly, and MOST importantly, LIVE. YOUR. LIFE. TRULY live it. And, PLEASE, do NOT feel guilty for living your life just because I’m not here to live mine. Don’t let days waste away or opportunities pass you by because of fear. You have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to be afraid of and you have EVERY DAY of the REST of your whole life AHEAD of you. If God chooses to bless you with another day, then, it’s your DUTY not to waste it.
Remember that PEOPLE matter more than anything else. More than money or a nice house or good clothes. Remember that we had it wrong for a while… That those late hours at the office did nothing for love or eternity. We’re lucky, you and me, that we get to see this side of things now, before too much of life has passed us by. Don’t forget what we’ve learned.
I want you and our girl to have fun; I want you guys to laugh, and to smile. I don’t want you moping around and missing me too much. So, take her to Disneyland, take her camping, don’t save all our money, spend it on experiences and memories. Do the things that I would have wanted to do with her. Take her to Italy, make sure she learns to fish, teach her how to love the world, and how to love God. Bake cookies, travel, make messes, learn new things, paint, explore, hike. And, for goodness sake, try not to worry. Smile at her ALL the time, even when life is hard, so she knows that it’s okay to smile, even when things are tough.
Cling to God, baby. CLING HARD to Him with all your might. You can’t imagine how hard this has been for me to let you go. It breaks me to know I won’t be here for you. But, ULTIMATELY I know that I can TRUST that God has you and that He will care of you. YOU WILL BE OKAY. And, this TRUTH has given me IMMENSE PEACE and INSANE FREEDOM; Freedom to LOVE YOU NOW and go when it’s time.
I know it will be SO HARD, at first. That it will HURT so bad. So, when you are in more pain than you can imagine; Tell God about it. Turn to Him. Try not to turn around and run the other way. Turn to Him and He will turn to you.
I want you to remember me, but don’t remember me for this hard stuff. Remember the good stuff. Remember that I honestly feel BLESSED, even with this pain, these tumors, and this hospital bed. I feel blessed because I got a chance to this life, because I have you, and because I have God. And, if I can feel blessed, then so can YOU.
Don’t remember the sucky stuff we’ve been through these last few years, unless it helps you. Instead, remember all of our jokes, the belly laughs; Remember my hugs and our first date. Remember that the happiest days of my life were spent with you. That my all-time favorite days were the day that I married you and the day I got to meet our little love for the first time. I’ve lived an amazing life, baby, and you gave me that! So, don’t feel sorry that it’s over, because I’m not. I am just so THANKFUL that it happened.
And, don’t miss me too much, because I know I will be around. I don’t really understand how it works, but I just have this deep-down feeling. I just know that I know that I know that I’ll still be here, in a way, and that our love won’t be severed by death. So pay attention to what’s around you. Look for me when you need me and be comforted when you see signs of my love.
AND, finally, I know you won’t want to hear this. And, you may not want to think about it right now. But, I want you to remember this… It’s VERY important: Do NOT close yourself off from love.
There is someone else out there for you. I don’t know how I know it, but I do. There is another love of your life out there… Another guy. And, as much as I know we hate this right now, I need you to know that I WANT you to find him. I know you and you have TOO MUCH to give to be alone for the rest of your life. You were made for relationship, baby. So, PLEASE don’t give up on finding love again. I want you to be OVERFLOWING with “happy.”
I promise you, my love, that no matter what I will always, always love you.
The words Nick spoke to me weren’t necessarily presented to me in one long letter, like I’ve recorded it here, now. Rather, they were whispered over pillow cases in early morning hours, in deep gravelly truths as he squeezed me so tight that I could’ve sworn we were the same person, in conversations with eyes locked as I pumped another round of medication into his veins, and in promises breathed, hushed, and willed to form prayers.
PS. Nick DID get to meet our baby girl, “our little love.” He fought hard and raised hell to spend 8 precious months with our little girl, whom we named Austyn Elizabeth.
I wear a ring on my right hand. It’s a sweet eternity, a hope, a memory.
It was given to me for my 26th birthday, by my husband, Nick, who was undergoing endless chemo, attempting to kill the monster that was consuming him from his middle out. Literally. (Appendix cancer is a nasty beast. And, its rare, but more common than you might think. Look it up sometime.)
Our daughter was 6 months old then, all smiles and giggles and teeeeeny, tiny blonde hairs. She took in the world around her for what it was, she didn’t know how soon ALL of it might fall apart.
But, I knew. I had seen the wires and tubes sticking out of her daddy’s body more times than I could count… I had hoped and dreamed and raged and fought, but still, when I looked at it straight, it looked like we were losing the battle anyway. Even after all THAT. After all the work, all the prayers, all the medicine, all the green drinks, the specialists consultations across the continent… The feeling of failure was so palpable at times that I could taste it in my mouth; under my tongue, sharp, acid, HARD fail.
I started to give this OUT OF CONTROL situation up to God. I gave Him my feeling of failure, my last hope. When there honestly wasn’t anything else I could do and I had exhausted every other option… I decided to try and make the best of it. And, I knew that I would need SUPERNATURAL help to do so.
It was hard and it sucked and it was the worst thing I have ever faced in my entire life…. But, I began to try to view each day as an adventure. Even the super crappy ones. Even the ones spent in the ER, and the ones spent lying next to my weakening husband in bed.
When I brought him home from a hospice center in November, to live out the rest of his life as it turned out, I could hardly recognize his earthly body anymore.
Sure, technically, it WAS the same body. The very one that had lifted me effortlessly, spun me around, and thrown me into the lake my mother lived on just a few years before. It WAS the body that had so easily stood into a handstand during our engagement photo shoot. It WAS the same body that fathered our child, but it looked different now.
“Hollow” would be the only word I could use to describe those last months, physically. But, spiritually, he was BRIMMING. His relationship with God was DEEPER than any I had ever seen. He truly trusted and had grown closer to His Savior than I could have ever hoped for for myself.
He handed it over. His everything. His life. I saw him lay himself and his hopes down a little bit more every day. But, not in exchange for something worse. Honestly, you could FEEL it in your bones. HE KNEW that he was laying down this life FOR SOMETHING EVEN BETTER.
In early December, when pain had kept him (and us) up for another endless night, he asked if I would help him get out of bed.
“Will you pray with me?”
We knelt down against the couch that didn’t belong in our bedroom. The one that we had brought in for Nick to sit in when his pain was so bad that lying down at any angle caused intense pain to shoot, unbridled, through his abdomen. His tumors were stringy, and they latched on tight, wouldn’t let go, pushing and pulling on his organs (the ones that were still left after surgery, anyway).
“God. You know I love you. And, I trust you. I’ve been having such a hard time letting my girls go. But, I know you have a plan. And, God, I want you to know… I’m ready. I only want your will. Whatever it is. If I stay, that’s SO fine with me. But, if I need to go… Lord, I trust you.”
Tears streamed from his eyes down his cheeks, onto our tightly clasped hands, but when he opened his eyes again and looked to mine, I saw PEACE, not pain.
He died one month later..
I wear a ring on my left hand. A solitaire; a gift, a promise.
On a night last December, among Christmas lights and a winter breeze, my best friend got down on his knee and asked me to become his wife.
It had felt a little complicated at first… Jay and I. I mean, I had JUST come to terms with my being a widow, with my being a single mom. And, instead of those things being bad things, I let those things mean ADVENTURE. I could live wherever I wanted so I tried 10 months on the Gulf of Mexico. I could do what I wanted for work, so I crafted my best job ever and went after it, writing blog posts for startups and entrepreneurs. I didn’t have to double check my choices with anyone or risk being questioned, so I listened to music for hours on end after putting my little girl to bed. I ate ice cream for dinner on more than one occasion. I joined a gym and went to yoga on the evenings. I read book after book after book, because once the toddler was asleep and work was done, nothing else really required my attention.
Needless to say, I was single… but I was ALSO satisfied. Years after my late husband’s death, I had finally come to terms with whatever life God had planned for me. I had finally TRUSTED HIM with the trust that I had seen in Nick so many years before. Endlessly, recklessly, completely.
When I moved back to Seattle, I rented a house in the sweetest little neighborhood. Austyn and I walked to dinner and to the park by the lake. I would drop her off at her Montessori school in the morning and walk to the cutest little coffee shop you’ve ever seen, drink an Americano, and type like a mad woman. This. Was. Life.
I didn’t think there was someone out there that could ADD anything to the situation, really. I mean, sure, I definitely wondered what it might be like to have a Partner in Parenting and sometimes I wished there was someone to talk to on the nights that I couldn’t sleep. But, for the most part, God became THAT person for me and I LOVED growing in my relationship with HIM, exclusively. It honestly was pretty incredible and I will cherish that time forever.
So, back to Jay… I had known him for years, technically. He had been one of my late husband’s best friends, back when we had first met. I wasn’t too sure about Jay at first, all those years ago, but Nick had vouched for him every time I questioned their friendship. Telling me that Jay was still “growing” and to give it a few years. He said that EVENTUALLY I would see what he saw in his friend: someone who was loyal, trustworthy, hardworking, and kind to a fault.
I hadn’t seen Jay in years when I returned to Seattle, but when we met for smoothies with Austyn, I KNEW something was up. I had reached out to him, to catch up and mainly to talk about local churches (Jay, just a few years into his relationship with Our Father). But, when we sat down nearly a year ago today, I had felt a stirring in my soul. I tried to ignore it at first…. Because, let’s face it, change is SCARY as heck and I was HAPPY where I was at, thank you very much!
But, God had plans… And, ignoring Jay just WASN’T an option when at the FIRST sign of a crush, he sent me a page-long note asking me about dating a widow, what Nick would think, and what the Bible says. He wanted to get it right, and if we were going to do this, he wanted me to know he wasn’t messing around.
“I haven’t had a girlfriend in five years. Because I’m so picky. I won’t date someone unless they have the qualities I want. I feel like I know you but not all that well, but based off what I do know from the past and our recent communication I know you have many qualities and characteristics that I personally look for in a woman.”
This guy, who I had previously decided was simply a “bad influence” on my husband, would come to mean more to me than I could have imagined. His life, I would come to find out, had been changed BIG TIME since we had last really spoke. By the VERY ONE who changed my life too, Jesus Christ.
The rest, as they might say is history…
I get remarried in just 9 days. I get to marry my best friend, who used to be best friends with my other best friend.
It might sound kind of weird to other people. It might not.
To me, its perfect.
There are TWO INCREDIBLE LIVES we might live. Our own DREAM or our DESTINY. Sometimes, they are one in the same….. But, sometimes, they are not. Many times, our DREAM leads us to our DESTINY. But, while you’ve spent a lifetime coming up with your DREAM, God has been busy, working in the background, crafting your DESTINY. And, it’s one wilder and more beautiful than you could ever imagine.
There will be AS MUCH beauty in your DESTINY as there is in your DREAM. So, LET GO of what you think you want and let God guide you. After all, HE MADE YOU.
You were made for MORE than your DREAMS. You were made for BRAVER than you believe. You were made for a CRAZY BEAUTIFUL life.
Goodbyes just plain suck. All of ’em. To hell with ’em. We weren’t built for ’em. Especially the permanent ones. You know, the ones where you know it will be impossible to see your loved one’s face again, on this earth? Those ones. They freaking bite. When you know that the next time you’ll meet eye-to-eye will be when your journey is complete. And, right then, you have no idea when that day will come and it feels like forever away.
Indefinite goodbyes suck.
Indefinite goodbyes without the hope of reunion suck even more.
I’ve been trying to explain goodbyes to Austyn these last few weeks because she’s gonna be missing some sweet friends of hers very soon. I’m her momma. I want to prepare her. So, I’ve been trying to tell her that, because of our move up North, she won’t be attending her awesome little Montessori school here in Seattle anymore.
Today was her last day. And on the way to school, I tried to warn her again. I didn’t want her to freak out but I didn’t want this day to slip by without her realizing it’s seeming significance. I told her that today there should be long hugs and extra kisses. In my heart, I know that these kids that she’s made into friends and the teachers she’s made into family will fade into the background soon.
But, she didn’t really seem to understand. I know this isn’t goodbye forever necessarily. We hope to visit back to her school a few times in the coming year at least. But, the day to day will be gone. Every day she doesn’t have school during the week this past year, she tells me she misses her “fwends.” I am nervous for the day she tells me this, this coming week. Break. My. Heart.
I’ve never really liked goodbyes. Not to my parents when they left for vacation when I was a kid, not to my friends for summer break, not to my bestie when we chose colleges that were states apart, not to the baby I never got to meet, and DEFINITELY not to my husband when he died of cancer just five years into our marriage. No, definitely not then.
I remember crossing the hallway between our master bedroom and Austyns nursery in the early morning, just hours before Nick would leave this earth. I had been watching his chest rise and fall for the last half hour, not much unlike the past two weeks. However, this time, when I had been awakened by my usual alarm to give him his next dose of pain meds, I noticed right away that something was different. The hospice nurses had warned me that would happen. They told me that his breathing would “change.” I had worried that I wouldn’t be able to tell. “You’ll know.” They had assured me.
And, I definitely did.
It was coming… Our final goodbye. I had spent the last two years saying goodbye to small parts of my husband, small bits of us, and large chunks of me that had been tangled up in him. First it was goodbye to cancer free conversations, then date nights, then grocery outings, then morning coffee, then goodbye to our sex life… Next came goodbye to his lucid words, goodbye to his sound advice and goodbye forever to our flow of conversation. Then, goodbye to his kisses. Goodbye to his voice and then his whispers. It was obvious that this real last goodbye had been a long time coming. And, yet, my heart felt so surprised. Already? We hadn’t had near long enough.
That last night of his on this earth was also the very last night I breastfed our little girl, Austyn. (Last night of breastfeeding because my milk supply cut off the very next day. The stress of losing my husband’s life proving too much for my body to handle along with sustaining my little girl’s life.) I remember wondering if I was nuts to leave Nick alone in that room, but I knew Austyn needed to eat and I had a strange peace that he wouldn’t leave me until I made my way back to his side.
As I crossed the distance between the two loves in my life, angels were with me every step of the way. God was physically present. I felt Him there, in the house. I felt Him in my bones. And, though, I was trembling and heartbroken, peace flooded me like none I’d ever felt. I remember caressing Austyn’s soft little hand as she sleepily drank and letting tears roll down my cheeks as I thought of not only my loss, but hers.
Nick died when Austyn was barely 9 months old. She hadn’t walked yet or talked yet. She hadn’t learned to count. Or ride a bike. It just all felt so unfair. At the very very least, it seemed a girl should have her dad for her first soccer game, for her first dance, even for her wedding. My heart ached for her and shattered for me. Split wide open, right down the middle, for us both.
Looking back now, I realize a silver lining that I hadn’t seen then. The innocence that was preserved in my little girl. Obviously it would have been an immense blessing if Nick had been able to live his life into the years that will eventually reside in Austyn’s memory. But, he didn’t. And so, my sweet girl doesn’t know goodbyes like I do.
As we passed Greenlake for the last time on our way home from school today, she told me something.
“My teacher sad today.” She frowned in the rearview mirror and I longed to see the dimple that shows when she smiles.
“Is she baby? Why do you think?” I asked.
“Because it my last day at school.” She said.
“Yeah. She’s going to miss you, sweetheart.” My girl captured hearts there, even through her terrible twos.
“Yes. BUT!!” Austyn’s eyes twinkled and that dimple appeared fast as her smile grew. “She will feel better soon maybe. Maybe I will give her a hug someday and she will feel all better. Soon, mom. Let’s see! She WILL feel better. Not tomorrow. But SOON!”
My sweet child. My heart swelled with pride and with grief, happy and sad tears threatened to brim.
I know she will miss her friends and her teachers come next week. But, I also know that she will make more friends.
I made a conscious decision long ago, with the help of my God, my pastor, my grief counselor and countless psychiatrists studies, that I wouldn’t share my grief with my little girl. At least, as best I can. I share my grief with you, with the world, with other adults in my life. But, not with her. Not yet. She’s been far too young to understand goodbyes of this magnitude. And, I’m trusting that decision even more now.
Nevertheless, she has surely seen me cry and have hard days. When as a single momma, I just couldn’t keep those tears from falling to the floor.
And, I don’t know if it’s so much that, or just who God has made her to be, but she is honestly one of the most compassionate toddlers I have ever seen. Her heart is on her sleeve and its pure as gold, untarnished. She’s got her bad days, I assure you, but her tenderness and care for others is as plain as day. She puts others needs first, especially if they are having a hard time. She pats backs, asks to kiss boo boos and all around wonders aloud “You doin okay in there?” And, I pray my daughter and this love for others always stays that way. It’s the very best gift she could ever possess.
In all her childlikeness, I realize how very much I strive to be just like her. And, sometimes, I really do accomplish it.
A sweet acceptance that a “someday reunion” is good enough. And, that living life for JOY in the meantime is all there really is to do.
Goodbyes suck. They sure do. But, you WILL feel better. Maybe not tomorrow. But, soon! <3
When Nick first passed and I had to fill in paperwork for doctors visits or emergency contacts or school registrations, it felt like torture. I would see the space where I was supposed to write my husband’s name, where I was supposed to put my daughter’s father’s info, and feel a hot rush of anger. I’d fight back tears and ball my fists. How can he be GONE?
Then, I kind of got used to it. Or, something. Numb to it, really. I would see the blank space and a jolt of “this is just plain wrong” would shoot through my heart. But, I’d move on quickly. It’s fine. I know I can do it alone. I wasn’t going to let myself wallow over the absurdity or the unfairness of my situation. It was just how it was. Single mom. “I’m fine.”
For example: When one of Austyn’s teachers in Florida suggested I “put another contact down for emergencies. Her father, maybe?” My response was flat. “He died.” I’m sure I came across rather blunt. Possibly morbid. I didn’t mean to. It had simply become a fact of my life. I have blue eyes, brown hair, and I’m a widow. Normal. Totes.
Only recently have I realized just how much I had buried my feelings of loss. Not so much the feelings of loss for ME, but the feeling of a completely devastating loss for HER. My daughter, who deserves more than I will ever be able to offer her, whom I love so desperately much. I felt a loss too, for her… A longing and desperation to give her the experience of having an earthly father, protector, influence.
Sitting across the desk from a medical provider last week, I completely missed a full sentence when I accidentally caught a glance of a particular paper as she went through one of Austyn’s files.
Scrawled hastily into the box that’s supposed to list her father’s name was a quick note. “Deceased.”
The familiar jolt came. And, then so many feelings I hadn’t expected instead of the usual numbness. Sadness, heck yes. But happiness too! Soon, she will have a daddy on earth to fill that space in her life (and on her medical forms).
Grief is a strange beast. Not easily figured out. As I reflect on my own journey, I see some places where I’ve suppressed and I’m sure I’ll find more as time goes on. To think that, just this week, I’ve started experiencing new emotions. Two years and a month later.
So, my big point in this blog post? That grief is funny sometimes. That our brains do miraculous things for us when we are faced with tragedy. That God has a plan all along. And, dang girl, if you are raising your little miss or mr on your own, I’ve been where you are and the road ain’t easy but God will handle it and He will give you the tools you need to succeed.
God is coming full circle. He won’t leave any of us hanging on with too much to hold and not enough. He will always give enough. (Or help us forget just enough, for the time being.)
Friends… Keep on keeping on! You guys amaze me. I love hearing your stories and seeing your comments. You guys bring me JOY and I know you bring your creator even MORE. Do you. Be Brave. Follow HIM. Live well. Until next time… xo
Dear Widows and Widowers,
You lost your best friend, your spouse. You’ve experienced deep, deep pain. There’s an elephant in the room that you can’t seem to hide, no matter how hard you try. It feels like everyone must see it (even strangers you’ve just met): there is a horrible gaping absence right next to you. Nothing feels right.
I feel you, I do. But, I don’t pity you. I really don’t. Not because what happened to you isn’t in every way horrible (it is!!!), but because I have been through this walk, too. And, I know that pity just isn’t helpful. Friendship, yes. Companionship, duh. Empathy, abso-freaking-lutely. But, not pity.
I’ve found through the years that those friends (many) who have gently encouraged me to take a good look at myself, to tally up my strengths, and to become more self-aware…. Those encouragers, their words, have been the most helpful. Especially those who have walked this path before me. They speak of heartache, but they speak also of growth, of unprecedented strength, and profound opportunity. I’ve found their words to be true. And I want to share my own encouragements with you here, today.
The word “opportunity” might seem absolutely crazy to you right now. You might be wondering if I’m out of my mind. Especially if you’re in the beginning of this journey when the only “opportunities” around might seem to be negative ones. Like the “opportunity” to break the world’s record for how many nights in a row one can cry herself to sleep. Or the “opportunity” to observe how long a human being can exist with a black hole that opened up right where his heart used to be. Yeah, it might super sound like a REALLY crazy idea right now. To consider this purely horrible situation an opportunity would be to consider it a foundation you can build upon. It would be to consider it a starting point for improvement. Opportunity??? REALLY?!?!? Yes. Really.
At some point, dear one, you will be able to get out of bed. You will be able to get off the couch. It will be hard. It will feel like your limbs weigh 500 lbs (each!) and you’re walking through the thickest tar. But, you must remember, that with time, it will get easier. I promise.
Sure, you’ll have up days and down days. Up weeks and down weeks. Good years and horribly crappy ones. But, overall, your trajectory will improve (if you let it, but we will get to that).
As these steps and days eventually get the tiniest bit easier, widowhood will finally present its beautiful sparkling face of opportunity. Whether you like it or not, whether you plan to or not, this opportunity will force itself upon you in one way or another. And, then, you’ll just need to decide.
The choice is yours and yours alone. Will you take this opportunity for all its worth?
Being forced into autonomy is not an easy transition. It’s hard. It’s lonely. It feels downright barbaric really… Like a torture of the most horrible kind.
But, during those long, cold nights, you’ll learn something about yourself. You’ll learn who you are… and, more importantly, who you want to be.
That person you’ll come to know will be a different version of the “self” you knew before your loss. (No matter what, great love and great loss will forever change you, alter you, it’s unavoidable.) But, get to know the new you… Believe me, you are worth knowing.
When you were married, your “i”s became “we”s and your “singles” become “pairs.” You had a date for every wedding. A companion for most meals. A person to look over you. Gosh, even just someone to just talk to about your day! (Ahhh… How I missed that, so!)
When you’ve been widowed, those things are suddenly (and seemingly irreversibly) stripped away.
Now, it’s just you.
Alone in a huge, unfamiliar world.
Along with that empty space in the bed next to you and the closet full of shoes that won’t be worn again, everything has changed. And, your plans for today, for tomorrow, for next week, and for a decade from now? They are different, too. Entirely.
So…. What are you to do with yourself? What really matters now? Who are you anyway?
At the beginning (and there’s no timeline here…. sometimes the beginning could last quite some time) the answers to these questions might be, simply: 1. Nothing. 2. Nothing. And, 3. Who cares?!
But, eventually (and you’ll know when you get there) you’ll start to wonder about these things.
You had plans before but they changed. You were you before but now you’ve changed. Maybe changed most of all is a truth realized:
You didn’t know how short life was but now that fact is FOREVER implanted in your skull.
So, what do you do?
This, my friend, is where the choice arises. You have been given a unique gift. A chance to rediscover yourself. To fashion a life you want. To do that thing God’s always called you to do. You’ve been given a wake up call. Answer it!
Not because your late spouse wouldn’t have let you go after these things before (quite the contrary; they probably would have encouraged it), but because you finally got the kick in the pants that you needed.
It’s a swift and devastatingly beautiful truth. THIS is the ONE, precious short life we have.
How else is there to live, I wonder, than to make the most of every single day?
I once was blind but, through my husband’s death, now I see.
**My kick in the pants has pushed me to finally begin a journey towards my lifelong passion and the calling I believe God has always had on my life. I am in the process of writing a book (anyone know any awesome literary agents?)! Please Subscribe via Email to this blog in the upper left hand corner (below the fold) to receive my posts (via email, hehe, as stated), so you’re sure not to miss a thing! :]
Sending you all my gratitude for reading and sharing,
I remember my dad’s dad, my grandfather, holding me in his lap on a night when I was five… or six, or seven. My parents had gone away for a vacation and I had been whimpering in my bed. Homesick, momsick, dadsick… I had just wanted my. people. back. My grandfather had heard my quiet cries. The floorboards creaked as I heard him get up from his chair and make his way he across the room, slowly, so as not to wake my brother and sister. He bent down and easily scooped me right up. He brought me back to his favorite rocking chair and held me tight as I squished my favorite stuffed dog right into my chest. Even then, he smelled like old spice and coffee, aftershave and peppermint. He softly sang in my ear, my favorite song of his. A hilarious rendition of “Ain’t it Fun to Be Crazy.” Normally he did it with gusto, but that night, he sang it slow and sweet, almost whispering. He rocked and rocked, he made small circles on my back, he sang, and, eventually, my whimpers faded. And I slept.
That was over 20 years ago now. I took my grandfather to an appointment the other day and I haven’t really stopped thinking about it since. He’s had a hard time these last few months. A hard time figuring things out, a hard time remembering. He has dementia. I didn’t know what to expect when I first heard those words, uttered not too many weeks ago. But I see the signs of it now, I understand just a little bit more every time I see him. “It’s a really hard thing when the mind goes first… This disease is so tough.” That’s what I had overheard the therapist say to my grandmother. And my grandmother, my Nana, when Grpa was in his appointment, had turned to me and told me that she feels like no one understands, unless they’d been through it. None could understand what it’s like to caregive for someone who is horribly ill. “It’s like watching someone disappear.” Her eyes fill with tears. All I can do is nod and wish. Oh, how I wished I didn’t know. How I wished I could unsee some of the things I’ve seen. How I wished I could unhear the things I’ve heard. But then, my grandmother might not see me as she does now, see me as someone who just might get it. So I stop wishing. And I just listen.
January 7th marked two years since my husband, Nick, passed from this earth. But October 4th has actually been the real tough day for me as far as remembering goes. For October 4th 2012, was the day that I realized I would watch my sweet Nick disappear from my world. Nick reminded me of a star on so many occasions those last few years. Like one of those stars that you hear about that shines so bright and pure that it just can’t possibly go on forever. So it ebbs and it flows, it shimmers, shines, darkens and then it gives one last hurrah. You hold your breath as you wait for it to light up again, but for all the times you’ve seen it before, this time… it never does. It forever fades from the sky.
I don’t know how to comfort those that hurt anymore than I used to. I still don’t know what to say. But, if the years and my grandfather’s generosity with me as a young girl have taught me anything… It’s that sometimes all a hurting person needs is someone who is willing to scoop up the sadness and quietly sit with it until it too finally starts to fade.