I worked on making a slideshow for my kids yesterday. I spent hours pouring through files of old family pictures and home videos. I smiled when I found pictures of my three children, and my heart ached a little when I recognized just how much they have grown over the years. I teared up occasionally when I came across long forgotten snapshots of my RJ. Every time I find a “new” picture of him, it is like a gift. A love note from heaven, reminding me that he is still mine.
Looking through our photos was so difficult, but to my surprise, the pictures that I struggled to look at the most were the ones of myself.
When I see old pictures of myself, I see a girl who was so blissfully unaware of real pain. I see a young mom who stressed over things like making the perfect chore chart, Pinterest worthy birthday parties, and organization. I see a happy, innocent girl who had no idea what true darkness really even could feel like.
I don’t even recognize myself in the girl I used to be.
I will be twenty nine in two weeks. I am young, and have so many chapters in my life that are yet to be written. I am still so early in my journey.
But the pain that I have endured makes me feel older than I am. The darkness that I have experienced has taken away my innocence. My heart is often heavy, and I feel the constant weight of grief on my soul. I am just so tired.
I quickly scrolled through pictures of myself, and let myself only linger on one. It was the one that RJ had taken of me two months before I became a widow. Two months before he passed away. I remember him smiling as he snapped it on his camera, and he showed it to our kids afterward saying, “Look how beautiful your mom is.” Days later, I saw that he had saved it as the background on his iPhone. When I plug in his phone and turn it on, it is still the picture that I see first.
I started crying when I saw it. I wanted to reach into the picture and shake myself. I wanted to warn myself just how hard things were about to get. I wanted to tell myself to hold on to every last second that I would have left with my husband, because I was almost out of time. I wished I could relive my last months with him so I could do them better. I wished I could go back to the carefree person I was before.
I was reminded again, just how much of myself had died when my husband took his last breath. He took so much of me with him.
But today I reconsidered as I got ready for the day. I realized I wouldn’t go back to being that girl, even if I could. Yes I have changed. Yes I have gone through pain that has aged my soul. Yes I still feel emotional trauma that hurts into my bones and makes it hard to breathe at times. Yes I am so incredibly tired, and don’t see an end to the heartache or exhaustion in sight.
But today when I looked in the mirror, instead of seeing a broken person–the one I so often see, I saw a fighter. I saw a girl who has looked despair in the face, and who has chosen to search for happiness instead. I saw a girl who has clawed her way out of the darkness and who clings to the light. I saw a girl who understands love, and who loves more deliberately than she did before.
I saw more than the pain and the exhaustion and the grief.
I saw hope.
I will keep pushing, and will keep growing, and will continue healing until I can look at pictures of myself, and not only see the heartache and the pain.
I will fight until I see me again.