Yesterday was the seventeen month mark. So much can change in a second, let alone in seventeen months. My life was turned upside down in just a moment, when my husband passed from this life on to the next.
They say, grief comes in waves, and it is something that I have personally found to be true.
I go through phases: I have good days, weeks even. I feel happy, something I never could have imagined a year and a half ago. I am getting better at pushing away the sad/hard thoughts when they are triggered. I try to focus on remembering the good. Because there really was SO much good.
But my emotional state is still fragile, and I always eventually fall apart. All of the unresolved feelings that I have worked so hard to suppress since my last break down come out at once, and it hurts. Sometimes I am triggered by a memory, a song, a show on television, something one of my children says, etc. Last night it was my oldest daughter going to her ‘baptism preview’ that broke down the walls that I so diligently have been building.
A couple of weeks after my RJ passed away, I remember Addison’s eyes streaming with tears. “Mom who will baptize me now? I’ll be eight soon.” My heart broke as I acknowledged the fact that her Dad wouldn’t be there for that special day, or any of the other important days in my kids lives. At least not physically.
When I brought up her baptism a couple of months ago, I told Addison she could pick whoever she wanted to perform the ordinance. I reminded her that she is so blessed to have so many Grandpa’s and Uncles who would love to be there for her, and that are worthy priesthood holders. I was a newlywed, and didn’t want to make her feel any pressure to choose my new husband. She told me she would think about it. About half an hour later I asked her if she had given any thought to whom she would like to choose, and she casually said, “Yep! And I already asked him.” Surprised, I asked about her decision, and she smiled and said, “I picked Ryan. I get to have one of my Dad’s baptize me after all!” I felt like my heart might burst out of my chest, I was so full of gratitude. My children are so blessed to have two wonderful Dads who love them. I felt so much better knowing that Addison had been able to make her decision without worrying.
But last night, as my husband and I were discussing our plans for that day, I just couldn’t hold back the tears. This is the first of many big events in the lives of my children, where their father’s absence really stings.
He should be here.
I’m sure he is busy on the other side. I can just see him furiously working away on the work that he has been called to do. He must be an incredible missionary. And I know with my mind that if he was supposed to recover…if it truly wasn’t his time, he would have had some kind of miraculous recovery.
But my heart just plain doesn’t agree.
As much as I wish that I had a perfect understanding of why things had to happen the way they did, I am far too human. What could possibly be more important than raising his children? What could be more important that being a Father?
Addison will not be baptized by him. Instead, my daughter will be wearing her special ‘Daddy necklace’–the one with his fingerprint engraved onto a pendant. She wants to take a piece of her Dad into the font with her.
I know RJ is very much alive in spirit. I know he would never miss such an important day in his daughter’s life. But my heart still hurts knowing that I will never get to see him proudly smile as he helps our children out of the baptismal font. I will never see him take them on their first date. I will never watch him tear up at another dance recital (he was such a softy!) He won’t be there cheering at ball games or practices. I won’t get to watch him giving our children away on their wedding day. He won’t ever hold our grandchildren.
Honestly the things I missed the most in the beginning were small. Holding hands, watching TV on the couch, dirty socks on his side of the bed…but being married has helped those things be less noticeable. I have someone, who I love, that I can do those things with again. I feel less lonely.
But the big things are hard. Holidays, birthdays, milestones… there have been so many times that I have wanted to text him pictures or videos of our kids. Times when I wish I could talk to him about our challenges and triumphs. He loved us so much. I miss him.
So I am sitting here, outside of my daughter’s preschool with tears steaming down my face as I desperately try to pull it together. My eyes are swollen, cheeks are blotchy, and nose is running. Pick up is in approximately 6 minutes. It’s not going to be pretty. You’d think a girl would learn to pack a purse with some Kleenex and makeup after seventeen months of widowhood. But alas I have proven myself to be glutton for punishment.
You can’t avoid, ignore, or run away from grief. I’ve tried. It may work for a time, but it always comes out eventually. The days keep passing, and waves keep crashing.
In the beginning the seas rage. Waves pummel you, while you just hold on and gasp for breath, and wonder if you could ever possibly survive such emotional battery. Over time you learn how to dodge the blows more effectively, and the waves hit less frequently. You can often even see them coming and can prepare. Sometimes you can smile as they rush toward you, finding happiness despite it all. But eventually you get tired of jumping, or a sneaky wave comes out of nowhere. The waves crash against you. You find yourself knocked off your feet, pushed to the bottom of the ocean floor, searching for a way back to the top. You come up gasping, exhausted by the effort, but somehow you know that you will make it through.
Because you have done it all before. And you know you will go through it all again.
And though I love when the water is calm again, and the storm subsides, I have also come to appreciate the strength I have found while enduring the waves. I am learning how to swim.
“And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what the storm’s all about.” -Haruki Murakami