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.
I’ve definitely experienced periods in my life where I didn’t feel like I knew which way God wanted me to go. Where I felt like God wasn’t really giving me direction and I didn’t know what His will was. But, none of those periods were quite as QUIET as when I lived in Florida.
I had felt a tugging to move to Pensacola…. a tiny beach town on the Gulf of Mexico, and I hadn’t known WHY, really. I knew God wanted me there, I had made a few friends in the area, had spent a month vacationing there, had a little crush on a local, but none of THAT constituted a move. I mean it was BEAUTIFUL there too, but NOT like Washington-beautiful.
I didn’t know the answer but I KNEW I had to answer the call anyway. My husband, the love of my life, and my baby daddy, had passed just a year before, I would have to sell the house and uproot my one year old and, as a SINGLE WIDOWED Mom, trek across the country, THOUSANDS of miles away from my family and all reliable babysitters.
It didn’t make sense. It was nuts. My friends and family (most of them) didn’t really get it, but I shrugged my shoulders and told them, “Neither do I. I just know I have to go.”
When I started making plans, God moved in big ways, assuring me that He wanted me down there. I had an offer on my house for ABOVE asking within five days of listing it. I found a moving company within my budget quickly and felt ok trusting them with all my stuff. A town house the PERFECT size for Austyn and I basically fell into my lap that was just minutes from the beach. And, I secured new contracts with local Pensacola businesses in a matter of weeks.
When God gives you marching orders and you follow, He sure will make sure your path is straight.
So, I went through 45 days of hustle and got everything set… Flew across the country, settled in, found a part timeChristian pre-preschool for Austyn for while I worked, I went to markets, I dated that local, I joined a gym, I raised my baby girl, I made some great friends… and then, the rest of the time, I prayed a TON.
“What now, God?”
My question seemed to go unanswered, for so long.
“Helllllooooo? YOU brought me down here. What do you want me to do?”
Finally, one day, I got it. “Be still.”
“That’s it?! Really. Move across the country… and then…. Do NOTHING?!”
At first I felt cheated. And confused. Like why?? But, then I decided just to listen and do what He asked. Because, in my experience, even when it doesn’t make sense in the moment, God always makes sense later. So, I stilled. I worked on me and on work and on Austyn but other than that, I was still, UN-PLANNING (which is so UNLIKE me).
So, for months, there was:
NO moving forward with my book like I was planning.
NO direction or heading for my relationship with my then-boyfriend-now-ex.
NO direction on my career, which I knew would be more than just a writer.
NO planning of a family or a house or a future.
Just, me. Still. Waiting. Listening.
Waiting is hard. I kind of hate it. But I did my best to do it anyway. And to stay grateful in the waiting. I prayed. And did my best each day to listen.
EVENTUALLY, piece-by-piece He revealed a bit of the next steps for His plan. But ONLY one step at a time. I couldn’t see the whole staircase, as they say.
First step was to break it off with the local which was so scary, especially because he was one of the only people I had come to know in Fl and also because my heart was still so very fragile from losing Nick.
Months later, it was a direction to move home. To give up the life I had just finally gotten used to, the white sand beached and the salty air. The best friend who lives just a few miles away….. Just up and pack AGAIN.
And, revealing the next step in my career path didn’t even come for almost a YEAR after that.
I think, in the end, following Gods will is all about TRUST. It’s about taking it a step at a time. A day at a time. And trusting, that, in th is end, HOW He’s leading will all make sense in the end.
Sometimes that means quitting something even when we don’t see where we are going to next.
Sometimes it means resting where we are without even attempting to plan the future.
Sometimes it means starting something new.
But only you can know what God is speaking to your heart.
Continue to pray, read His word, and TRUST that HE can figure it all out for you. One step and one day at a time.
Oh, and now, looking back on my time in Florida…. I can see SO MANY REASONS for my time there. SOOOOOO MANY.
MOST IMPORTANTLY: I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the time spent on, what felt like, the other side of the world. My trust in God and my dependence on Him wouldn’t be as strong. My confidence in myself and appreciation for silence wouldn’t be so ingrained. And I might not have this thick skin that formed from following God even when everyone else thought I was whacko.
NONE of those reasons were apparent to me BEFORE I moved there or even immediately upon returning to Seattle. Funny, isn’t it, what God and Time can reveal to us, when we give them the room to not make sense?
Oh, but I’ve lived through some scary days in my short 28 years, but I’ve found SO MUCH TRUTH in exactly what this quote says.
Nothing stings worse than regret.
ANYTIME that God has put something on my heart and I’ve turned the other way, pretending not to hear His call, I’ve regretted it. HARD.
So, I stopped turning away from Him as best I could and, each time, risked looking a bit like a fool. In the end, GOD CAME THROUGH, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
In 2007, I dumped my long time high school boyfriend when, a guy I barely knew, came back into my life asking for another chance (only to realize that very guy was my very soul and a perfect mate).
In 2008, I said “Yes” to a proposal at 20 years old, before we had lived together or slept together. The world thought we were crazy (only to be utterly grateful and find that His “crazy” way of living is exactly how God intended). <3 PS… Happy 8 Year Would-be-versary, Nicholas… We had it good, love. We were so blessed. We ARE SO blessed, even now, huh? We HAVE it good. <3
In 2011, I sat by my husband and planned a trip to meet with a rare cancer specialist though we had no money in the bank as we had just bought our first house (only to get a call an hour later from someone who wanted to give us their airline miles, which covered every cent of those last minute flights).
In 2012, I quit a job with my husband in remission and me, 9 weeks pregnant (only to find God had a better one lined up for me, where I could work from home. Just so happens that Nick’s cancer came back with a vengeance three months after that job change and I was able to take care of him AND work. GOD. SEND.)
In 2012, I asked for time off when our money had all but run out, with a mortgage to pay and medical bills stacked higher than a chimney (only to be told that ANY and ALL time off that I needed would be PAID, in full, though I had accrued no PTO to spend).
In 2013, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, her life thrived while my husband’s disappeared before my eyes. And yet I FOUGHT my instincts and chose to trust Him anyway (only to find, later on, that He really was worth trusting all along).
In 2014, I walked my 9 month old daughter down the aisle of a church at my husband’s funeral and I smiled and I laughed (only because I KNEW that I could still find a reason to smile, even though it felt as though life had been torn from me).
In 2014, I moved across the country, to Florida when He called me there with my 1.5 year old little girl, 5,000 miles away from my friends and family (only to realize that I needed this time to myself to figure out who I was AFTER loss, that I could be a good single mom, and to come closer to my God).
And, in 2016, with many mistakes behind me but fewer regrets than before, I said “Yes” on the alter to a man who people exclaimed “I had only dated for a year!” (Only to find that peace that surpasses understanding, that I knew THIS MAN was made to be my *second first*.)
The list goes on and on and on… And I *also* have a list of times I’ve turned my back on what God whispered to my heart… That one isn’t as pretty. I’ve found that following a God who whispers to your soul, even when it seems like a crazy bunch of nutso is ALWAYS, ALWAYS worth it. Because sometimes the LOUDEST plan isn’t the RIGHT one.
God’s plan DOESNT always make sense. And, often, He will ask us to take a step, even when we might be close to THE LEDGE. He asks us to step out, NOT BECAUSE ITS SAFE but because HE IS THERE.
Sooo DANG GRATEFUL for the people in my life who have spoken into me, believed in Gods direction for my life, followed Gods direction on their own, and held their tongues if they ever thought me a fool. There are many but specifically, I would love to thank Nick, Jay, Judy, Eric, Daniel, Kat, Cat, Sean, James, Mike, Genna, Kinslee, and my whole family and COUNTLESS friends. I could never forget all you’ve done for me. ❤️#danggrateful
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
It’s challenging enough to balance your own emotions between a lost spouse and a new-found love. But, trying to balance the emotions and responses of others can prove to be even more exhausting.
Losing someone is difficult, no matter to what capacity you lost them or to what capacity your relationship had reached. When you lose a best friend, a lover, a husband, your heart is ripped clear open and into a thousand many pieces. The face you present to your loved ones, to your family, to the public is one that’s put together even if inside it feels like you are falling apart.
Eventually you might find a way (I honestly think this can only happen with God’s help) to put yourself back together again, for realz this time, on the inside. But, that genuine smile. That glow. Especially if you’ve fallen in love with another might hit others wrong.
To them, it might feel like a slap in the face. They may think that you’ve forgotten who you lost. They might think it doesn’t hurt anymore. After all, they don’t see the waves of grief wash over you, so clearly those waves must not exist.
YOU know where YOU are at with your grief. You KNOW that your love for your lost loved one will NEVER go away, even if you wanted it to. Don’t let what other people think or don’t know about you get in your way of moving forward.
There is NOTHING wrong with moving FORWARD.
There is NOTHING wrong with falling in love again.
There is NOTHING wrong with starting a family with someone who wants to be a part of your broken life and help you hold together your broken heart.
There is NOTHING wrong with continuing to LIVE even if your late love didn’t have the chance to make it this far.
Your story CAN be BEAUTIFUL again and you can be HAPPY about sharing that BEAUTIFUL STORY. So, do it, friend!
Guilt can be a powerful thing. It can hold us back… Especially Guilt mixed with Grief. Sometimes it can be hard to smile when you know that smile might cause someone pain… But, I CAN ONLY CONTROL ME. And YOU CAN ONLY CONTROL YOU.
As long as you are doing your best, LIVING your life, and remembering the one you lost without letting it consume you, I would say you are doing a DAMN GOOD JOB! Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.
You do you. There are no timelines or agendas to follow as far as grief goes. You know you. You do you. That is all.
So, no matter where you are in life… Live for God. Live for you. Don’t live for others. God’s opinion is TRULY the ONLY ONE that counts. <3
To borrow some cheesy quote from some brand that I can’t quite remember right now… “It’s YOUR life. Live it Beautifully.”
You guys remember how a few years back I got to go to the Super Bowl? No? Well, I freakingdo! I was totally GONNA write a blog post telling you guys all about the experience, but life was so crazy busy at the time.
Nick, my late husband, had passed away January 7th so I was knee deep in sympathy cards, waist deep in paperwork, and neck deep in a puddle of my own tears. Our daughter was just 9 months old. She was just beginning to walk and starting to find ways to get into trouble (imagine a baby who is suddenly able to open all the cabinets in your home, purposefully step on the dogs tail, and falls down every single time her toe hits a grout line on the tile floor… Chaos?Exactly. Moms of babies/toddlers, you hear me. Total. Complete. Chaos.).
So, there I am, trudging along, a 27 year old widow (The heck?! Those last four words will NEVER look right to me). I’m trying to keep my smiles up for my little girl, my head up for my sanity, wondering how I’ll ever trust God again, and I get a phone call.
“Alyssa! The pastor of our church was given Super Bowl tickets. They don’t know who they are from, but the person who dropped them off asked that they be given to somebody who needs some joy in their life. Pastor Mike saw your blog posts and knows about Nick. Anyway, he picked YOU! Two tickets to the Super Bowl, airfare to New York, and a hotel. What do you think?”
At first, it seemed like the smartest answer would be “NO WAY.” And, it probably would have been. I was suddenly a single mom. Who was I to think about bringing my sweet little baby girl girl to NYC? I was super busy… But the more I thought about it, I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I knew that Nick was looking down on me and how dang disappointed he would be if I said No.
Right then and there, I made a pact with myself. I would never pass up another opportunity just because I was scared. No. More. Fear.
Fear had ruled far too much of my life. Nick and I hadn’t done that many awesome and exciting things in our marriage. Mainly, because we were afraid (okay, okay… it was mostly me). We were afraid we would miss out on too much work, that we might not have the money, that we might get lost in a foreign country (valid fear tho: Jay and I got lost in Paris. True Story.) the list goes on and on…
We didn’t start REALLY taking chances until Nick was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. What a wake up call, right?! After that, especially once he was given a bill of clean health (which only ended up lasting 10 months), we took EVERY SINGLE opportunity we could to do the things we wanted to do. We went on a vacation (I swear that I hardly knew what that word meant before cancer) to Hawaii. We got pregnant (enter: Baby Girl Magnotti). We spent more time together. And, we spent QUALITY time together (imagine that)!
So, would I like to go to Super Bowl? “HECK YES!”
The trip was amazing, one of a lifetime and I don’t regret one second of it! One of my sweet friends, Cat, came with me to the big game and stood by my side to cheer the Hawks on. Austyn came along and my dad too for extra help!
I got to see our team, the Hawks, WIN the Super Bowl, in person!!!
I got to stay at a beautifulUpper East Side Manhatten apartment that a sweet friend online (who’s sister also passed of Appendix Cancer[same as Nick]) let us borrow for 5 nights!
I got to see New York City!
I got to stand in the middle of Times Square!
I get to tell Austyn she’s been to NYC, something that took me 27 years to achieve. :] PS. I am TOTALLY going to take her back there once she’s old enough to remember it.
A local news station covered the story. We did an interview here in Seattle before the game and then one at Columbus Circle in NYC. When those videos hit the news channel, there was a lot of love…. But, there were also some nasty comments.
One commenter said something like, “She must not have loved her husband if she is going to the Super Bowl just one month after he died.”
The answer that came straight to mind was “I must love my husband SO MUCH to go to the Super Bowl right after he’s died.”
Doing things AFTER loss isn’t disrespectful. Doing things might be hard though. You should NOT feel guilty and don’t let people make you feel that way. You very well might be scared, but please don’t let that hold you back.
Whether you’ve lost someone or not… remember that LIFE is for LIVING. Stop being afraid. Put on your BRAVE PANTS. Live every single day… on purpose!
So go on then…. Oh, and GO HAWKS!
Read the crazy story BEHIND the tickets at the bottom. You’ll never guess who the “mystery person” was who gave their SUPER BOWL TICKETS to the church!
SO…. WHO GAVE THE TICKETS TO THE CHURCH? >>> The guy who gave the tickets to Overlake Christian Church contacted me when he saw the story on the news. The reason he had dropped two perfectly good Super Bowl tickets at the front desk of the church that day, just a few weeks before the game, was because he knew he would need to stay home. You see, his father was sick with cancer and he wanted to be there for him. As it turns out, his father passed away the very day after the big game.
PS>>> Mike Howerton has become a great resource for me for my upcoming book! He’s an author himself and has offered great advice and amazing resources. Seriously. God sets things up in some pretty awesome, amazing ways, don’t you think?!
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 haven’t really been around for very long at all, so I don’t claim to be an expert by any means, but I’ve experienced a thing or two…
Last night, I attended a wedding of a dear family friend. Two beautiful people joined together by law and by God. Before the ceremony began, thoughts of my own wedding day swirled through my mind.
A BEAUTIFUL BEGINNING
August 16, 2008 is a date that I will never forget. It was magical, perfect and I felt God’s presence and blessings so strongly that day. I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be, exactly when I was supposed to be there. Like a perfectly timed song on the radio, my fairytale had come and everything was as it was supposed to be.
When we were dating, Nick and I could make anything *feel* magical. But, it wasn’t because we were doing anything particularly special. It was because we APPRECIATED the time we spent with each other, and realized what a blessing the other was. I remember the day the picture above was taken. We simply went to a park after work. We took pictures and laid in the grass and talked about our childhood, our lives, our futures. Nothing was particularly romantic, but it felt romantic as ever. It was ALL mindset.
But, feelings can change. Feelings are fickle.
And, if we aren’t careful, negative feelings CAN rot our most precious gifts….
As the months and years of our marriage began to pass us by, I am ashamed to say, we let the magic fade. Nothing changed about our marriage, really. Nothing changed about the romance. But, Nick’s mindset had shifted a bit, and I had let my mindset change entirely too much.
Instead of simply realizing the blessing of *being together,* we focused on what we wanted next. A bigger house, nicer clothes, more expensive cars…
Suddenly instead of the home-made romance I had cherished before, I came to a place where I had decided I wanted NEEDED more.
I fell for the lie that materialistic things *equal* worth (and, even, your marriage’s worth). I lived in a place where exotic vacations, expensive jewelry, and fancy surprise date nights with red-carpet-worthy dresses were a sure sign of the level of adoration that your husband actually held for you. (Or, so I thought.)
It was horrible. UGLY, really. I don’t like sharing the rather hideous parts of myself (who does?) and I’m ashamed for some of these things I’m about to share. But, it’s the truth… And, though I don’t believe sharing my story makes me any less guilty (only God’s grace does that), I do believe that sharing my story may help someone else.
THIRD YEAR’S THE CHARM?
A week of particularly petty fights had lead up to our third anniversary. Nick had acted like he hadn’t planned anything for our anniversary, and I thought that he possibly was planning some sort of surprise. That there was some kind of plan. Along came our anniversary, a weekday… I went to work and didn’t get any flowers delivered. I came home and didn’t have a card waiting for me. Nick arrived home and asked where I wanted to go to dinner. He thought we should go out but didn’t want to get too far away because he had to get up early for work the next day. So, after much argument, we settled on a small local restaurant in Monroe. Sure, it was the nicest one in town, but Monroe was tiny and this place welcomed construction workers after a long day on shift. I dressed up as best I could, and without a second glance from Nick, we trekked out to the restaurant. The dinner went by uneventfully, like any other night, other than the fact that I spilled my drink completely into my lap.
Ripping disappointment seared through my heart and I felt sorely unappreciated. It hurt. And, I sulked all the way home and when we pulled in the driveway, I ran upstairs and locked myself in my walk-in closet (girl didn’t know how good she had it). Nick was apologetic but also slightly confused. After all, he had asked me multiple times that week what I wanted to do. I had hinted that he should surprise but never came right out and said it. And, let’s give the guy a break, he was 24 years old and pretty new at this whole marriage thing.
When Nick walked away, done with talking through a solid wood door, I rolled into the fetal position and cried out to God. I wondered allowed. “God, did I marry the wrong person? Does he even love me anymore?”
In hindsight, I see so much that was wrong in my thinking. I had put all the pressure on him and hadn’t taken any responsibility for making *him* feel loved either. No, he hadn’t surprised me with much, but all I had gotten him was a card at the grocery story on my weekly shopping trip and expected him to put together everything else. I wasn’t clear with him on what I wanted or expected and, honestly, I hadn’t tried hard at all to appreciate him for the last week, let alone the last few months.
But, that’s all hindsight. At the time, I thought it was a real possibility that I had made a mistake. Or, God had made a mistake. And, that maybe Nick and I weren’t meant to be together after all.
Fast forward 5 weeks later, I’m sobbing in Nick’s arms on our living room couch. He’s just been diagnosed with terminal cancer and I realize that my entire world is being threatened.
So, Did You Marry The Right Person Or Not?
Let me tell you something…. If you have ever thought “Did I marry the right person?” or you are thinking it now…
HOLDING ON to your spouse during the trying times and the questions is what marriage is supposed to be about. Better or worse. Sickness or health. Fancy cars or beaters… You are in this TOGETHER.
When you said your vows, your spouse BECAME God’s will for your life.
Marriage is a sacrifice. You won’t often get what you want. You may even have days or weeks or months where you are struggling for a reason to stay. But, if you do, when you do… I can tell you that it will make all the difference in your life and in your husband’s or wife’s.
A BEGINNING AND AN END
In a short five years, I experienced the BEGINNING and the END of a marriage. We had ups and downs, like most people do…. though I would say that we had many many more joys that difficulties.
My marriage started after I stood on a stage, in front of my family and friends and pledged my life and love to the most wonderful man I had ever known. It started when, with my best friend’s hand in mine and a smile spread wide across my face, we walked down the aisle announced as Mr. and Mrs. Nick Magnotti. We were so excited for the life to come. The decades we would surely have together.
Hello. One… Two… Three… Four… Five. Goodbye.
My marriage ended five years later when I laid down on my husband’s hospice bed in the master bedroom we had shared. His fragile body had barely made an imprint on the mattress, but alone and curled up, I tried to fit into it. I got as small as I physically possibly could, trying to disappear. Noises emanated from my soul that I had never heard before. The pain burned white-hot in the middle of my being. The funeral company had taken my husband away and nothing of him at all was left.
The beginning and the end. So very different. SO. MUCH. JOY. and then SO. MUCH. PAIN.
I may have given up fancy trips and sparkly jewelry by marrying a sweetheart of a mechanic, but my GREATEST blessing was giving up my everything to care for that man in his last days.
On his worst cancer days… When I had to wash him, feed him, turn him, help him with his medications, clean up after him… The days where I didn’t take a second for myself, those days I saw MORE of what it was like to be in a REAL MARRIAGE with REAL LOVE than I could have ever seen on a trip to the Caribbean.
So, whether you are sacrificing a *little* of yourself each day, or giving up your everything for your spouse, please see it as the blessing that it is. Recognize that our time together is not promised. That YOU ARE VERY MUCH meant for your spouse. And, that you never know what God’s plan is for your life.
Your spouse may act like they don’t need you today, but maybe there’s a day coming when their life, their soul, will depend on you.
And, maybe today, it feels like you would be better off without your spouse, but if you go, I can assure you that you’ll have days you wished you had someone.
Do YOUR part.
Hold up your end of the bargain.
LOVE with ALL that you have, even if it seems like the other person isn’t trying.
It’s an amazing, AMAZING privilege just to have another person walking by your side in this crazy lonely world. Try not to forget it.<3