6 Years Missing You

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I woke this morning with eyes swollen and red.  I’ve cried a lot over the last few weeks.  Knowing that this month was fast approaching. Dreading it as I have every year since the day you took your last breath.  I remember people telling me that time will lessen the pain. I still wait for that day.  The pain has not lessened, though it has changed. Most days, I walk around with a dull ache in my chest, but every once in a while, the sharp pain returns.  The searing pain of loss that takes my breath away.  That’s the pain I’ve been feeling lately.

6 years. Six years without seeing your smile. Six years without hearing you tell me you love me before I close my eyes each night. Six years without your kiss waking me in the morning. Six years without feeling your hand firmly holding mine in yours. Six years without your laughter. Six years without my best friend.  Six years without your love in my life. Six years of me, walking my path without you. Six years of me, with a broken heart.

Acceptance.  I’ve been fighting it. But slowly, I’ve grown to accept that this grief that has settled into my heart and over my life, and has changed the colour of my future, will stay with me always. The pieces of my heart that loved you and love you still, will always belong to you.  I’ve had no choice but to accept that you no longer walk beside me, and our dreams of growing old together are just that-dreams.

I’ve started picturing my future without you in it. It hasn’t been easy.  It’s been painful.  It’s been hard.  But because you believed in me, and believed in strength I never knew I had, I fight to heal my heart. I fight to take steps every day, being an example of strength for our family. I fight to figure out who I am now, without you here with me. I fight to find gratitude-through my sorrow-for the blessings you have left me with.

And at the end of every day, I close my eyes, and still hear echoes of your voice telling me  that you love me. And I smile, because I am so lucky. So lucky to have had such love in my life. So lucky to have known you. To have loved you. And to have been loved by you.

So today, as I remember the day my life changed forever, I will also remember how happy you made me. I will remember your eyes on mine. I will remember your courage and your fight. I will remember everything about our life together.

I miss you, my Love.

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The Face I Love


Six years ago, you faced the biggest challenge of your life. Bigger than Pain. Bigger than Cancer. For me. For ours. For me. 

I let you make the decision, promising to stand behind you whatever road you chose.  We knew there was nothing else we could do. Nothing else we could try. Surgery three times to remove the stubborn disease that grew time and again. Grew faster and stronger through radiation and chemotherapy. There was only one man, one surgeon, who was willing to take a risk…but only if you were. Not for a cure, but maybe for control.  Maybe for an extra two to five years. Maybe. But at what cost? Your face. Your right eye. Removal of most of the right side of your face. Reconstruction from your fibula. Skin grafts. All to remove the cancer growing in your sinuses. Causing extreme pain. Taking years off of the long life you should have lived. 

Once you made your decision, I swallowed my fear. Fear of putting you through yet another surgery. This one more risky than any of the others. This one scheduled to take 24 hours or more. Fear of the consequences. Facing the cruel world afterwards. A world that puts so much value in appearance. I hid my fear from you, offering you strength. Cancer had already taken so much from us…and now…your face. The face I love. 

Six years ago, we prayed together. Six years ago we cried together. Six years ago, when I asked you why. Why were you willing to risk this?  The face I love? “Babe, I will risk it all. Two to five years will allow me time to watch our kids grow a little more. And…I can’t leave you. I love you.”

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”       – Lao Tzu 

Loving our kids, Loving me…it gave you courage. With our future so uncertain, with your life on the line, I wiped away my tears and promised you that as long as you were willing to fight to be with me, I was willing to fight alongside you. And with that promise, with your hand on mine, with our heads bowed in prayer, my heart so filled with love it surrounded me…I looked at your face. The face I love. And memorized every line, the color of your eyes, the length of your nose, the curve of your lips as you smiled. Every inch of this face that I fell in love with so long ago. 

As they wheeled you into surgery, they stopped to give us one more moment. You squeezed my hand. You looked into my eyes. The look on your face stamped into my memory. “Babe, I love you. I’m not leaving you. I will fight and I will come back to you.”  One last look before the doors closed behind you. One last look at the face I love. 

When I think of you, I remember you as you were. Before the surgery. Before the cancer. Before the surgery….Then I remember you after. My love for you stronger with every passing day. No matter appearances. No matter at all. You were still my guy. Still my love. None of that changed. I loved you even more. For fighting. For keeping your promise of coming back to me. For showing our children what real bravery was. For loving us, loving me, more than yourself. 

So today, I will remember us six years ago. Praying, hoping, fighting. I will remember why you did it. For the kids. For us. For me. I am so lucky to have known a love like that. Love bigger than illness, bigger than surgery, bigger than vanity, bigger than fear.  

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Saying Goodbye

Anyone who knows me, knows how much family means to me.  In the years since Terry passed, I have poured my energy and heart into the family he left me with. Anything I have remaining, I’ve given to my immediate family, my sibling-cousins, and my close friends…My “people”.

Terry’s family and I didn’t part on good terms after his funeral.  In fact, there was a lot of anger on my part, and resentment and guilt on their part.  My kids and I really had no contact with them for almost five years.  Then, earlier this year, I reached out (once again), and was told that Terry’s mom was in the hospital and not doing well.  She had been ill since Terry passed away. I felt a pull at that time.  A pull to offer my forgiveness for all that had transpired, and perhaps offer some understanding for the loss we shared.  Time had helped me heal, and it bothered me to see that time had only deepened her guilt and grief. A few months prior, when I last spoke to her, she was still incredibly angry. Still grief stricken and unhappy with the life she was left with.

I followed my heart, and flew out to see her.  I was unsure about what reception I would find, but in the end, they were Terry’s family.  I realized quickly that, for them, it was as if the loss had just happened.  None of them sought healing, instead, living in their grief, that had now turned to bitterness and regret.

As I walked into the hospital room, it was very apparent that she had aged tremendously.  She looked at me and smiled, and reached for my hand.  When she could catch her breath, she removed her oxygen mask and said, “I really messed up. I’m sorry. I should have…” I stopped her then.  I realized in that moment that I needed to reassure her.  I told her that it was in the past.  That I was there now, and all we had control over was our actions from this day forward.  I also told her that I forgave her. It was all I could offer her.  My forgiveness.

In our last moments before I walked away from her for the last time, I looked in her eyes and saw the toll it had taken on her. Our shared loss. She lost a son, after all.  Her only son..and her actions caused the subsequent loss of all that is left of Terry in this world.  She turned her back on all that Terry loved most. There is nothing I could have said to help ease her pain, so instead, I shed tears with her. Sometimes in moments of tremendous grief, our vision is shortsighted.  We are fixated on our own grief, our own loss. Oblivious to the pain of others around us.  I knew I was guilty of this, and as she squeezed my hand one last time, I smiled at her, and knew that for the first time in five years, we both understood just how devastating the loss was to both of us.  Her loss as Terry’s mom, and mine, as Terry’s wife.

As I boarded the plane to come home a few days later, I knew that I had done the right thing.  I wanted her to put her guilt and anger to rest.  Focus on the family she still had here, and fight to get better.  Since then she has remained in the hospital.  Getting better, then worse, then better, then worse.  Until this last week, when she just wasn’t strong enough to fight back anymore.  I got a call on Friday that she was not well, and on Friday afternoon that she had passed away.  I think she is now in a better place, where there is no guilt and no anger. No bitterness. Maybe now, she can find her peace.

I don’t know how I feel.  I’m sad.  Sad for the relationship that could have been.  Sad that she found her voice too late.  Sad that the last few years of her life were so unhappy.  She fought so much with Terry’s dad since Terry’s passing.  Instead of being grateful for each other, they fought.  Felt sorry for themselves. Wallowed in bitterness and regret.

No matter the distance between us the last few years, there were some good moments between us in the past. Those are the moments I will think of now.

I can now close another chapter in my life’s journey.  One that started over 20 years ago when Terry first shyly introduced me to his parents.  It’s funny how we can skim over so many memories, and when we need them most, they come back to us, vivid and full of color.  I can quietly put those memories away again, and say my goodbyes to the woman who brought a piece of my heart into this world, who raised him to be kind and loving, faithful and strong.  For all of this, I will always be thankful.

Rest well in Paradise…

 

 

 

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Six Years

I woke up this morning, and as always, he was the first thought to cross my mind.  This is nothing new.  I wonder sometimes if I dream of him without remembering any of the details.  It wasn’t until I was at work that I realized it was April 12th.  There was something about this date that I knew I was supposed to remember.  My body reacted first.  My stomach rolled and a wave of nausea washed over me.  I had to sit down.  As I did, I realized that Terry was wheeled into surgery for the first time six years ago.  April 12th.

Six years ago I sat with him, holding his hand, watching the pain cross his face.  Six years ago, I was praying that the pain would subside and that he would be back to normal.  Six years ago, I didn’t know that Cancer would change the course of my life.

That day started the ball rolling.  I remember sitting with my brothers and my mom as we waited for the surgeon to tell us how the surgery went.  I remember praying, choking back tears.  I remember  that the minutes crawled by slowly, turning into hours before someone finally came to tell me that there were a few complications.  Soon after that, the surgeon found me.  He looked down, and when he finally looked at me, I knew there was something wrong.

Six years.  Six years since that day.  I sit here now and think of  how oblivious we were. Were we blind?  Were we naive?  I had no clue on that day just how much my life would change.

I’ve lived through this anniversary five times now.  The first two…I honestly cannot recall.  The third, I cried through that day.  The fourth, I tried to forget. Now this, my fifth, I struggle with my emotions.  Do I stop and find things to be grateful for?  Or do I let the pain of the memories take over?

All I know is this:  For the most part, I am stronger.  I find strength to get out of bed every morning, facing the world without my best friend by my side.  I know, as I look at my children, that he would be proud of me for raising our children on my own, and as we had always planned to.  I know that Terry had much more confidence in my strength than I ever did.  Knowing this, I know, too, that he would be proud of me for still standing today, not letting my grief knock me back to not living at all.

I have good moments, great moments, even. I still smile and laugh.  I learn more about myself every day.  I shower our kids with love and affection.  I have a new found confidence and strength.   I have found a way to hope again, and I  have rediscovered my Faith.

But I still have those “other” moments.  The days when I think of his smile, and tears sting my eyes.  Moments  when I long to hear his voice or laugh again.  Moments when missing him suffocates me.  Today, as the fog has lifted and the numbness has slowly left my heart, I think back to the “us” that was six years ago. Today, I have shed tears.  Today I have retreated from the outside world.  Today I miss him a little more.

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Let Me Take Your Hand

I have a friend.  We met years and years ago….before the grey in our hair, and the wrinkles in our brows. There were nine of us-and then ten… My friend and her husband-then me with mine.  Her two kids, and my three…and then the addition of my last little one.

Ten. And at the very core…were us four.  Laughing. Crying. Teasing. Talking. Eating. Drinking. Boating. Fishing.  And everything in between. Two couples who’s strength in love was evident to all who knew us. When my world was turned upside down with Terry’s diagnosis, it was Barb I reached out to.  When I sat alone those days leading up to his massive surgery, it was Barb that rushed to my side.  As Terry and I sat hand in hand in his hospital room to pray, it was our friends, Barb and Dave, we thanked God for time and again.  How lucky we were to have these two in our lives.  When Terry’s breath grew short in his final hours, I called them to sit with me and my family.  For they were our family.  Their kids, I love like mine.

When the pain of early loss took my breath away, I sought solace in their little piece of heaven. Where the sun shone bright and the water held promises of peace. Where their arms would reach for me in silence when the tears took over.  Then there were three…but never did they make me feel uncomfortable or out of place. They always made room for me, easing me back into pieces of myself I never thought I would find again. The laughter continued, and it was in those moments I knew that somewhere I was still alive. Their love shone through, reminding me of my own love with a man I missed with every breath I took. Love so strong and true. Irreplaceable and one of a kind.  Respectful and honest. Passionate and giving. Faithful and deep.  I loved spending time with them, because I could feel Terry with us. Not his absence, but the weight of his love around my heart.  My friends who helped bring me back from my despair to a place I could feel a little more like myself again.

Then another unthinkable happened.  My friend’s world shattered around her. When I heard the news, my throat closed up. Like in a nightmare, my eyes blurred with tears, and the panic once again settled over my heart. I couldn’t breathe.  My thoughts were of her and those two beautiful kids I loved so well.  I needed to find strength for them. Needed to find a way to think clearly-to be there for them when they most needed me. I hated that my dear Barb would know the depth of unimaginable pain.

I take my friend’s hand now…where she counts the moments of her loss in months passed.  I grieve beside her as I witness the raw pain on her heart.  I grieve for her loss and mine. For ours as we both lost friends. I grieve the person I once was, and the person she was once too.  I understand now the strength she gave me all of those years ago. When I couldn’t face the world without Terry by my side. I understand now how much their hearts hurt for me, watching me walk a path they would have done anything to save me from. I hate that our paths are parallel once again.  Once as young wives and mothers, and now as widows.

As I reach back and take her hand, I will tell her this:

I believe in you, Barb. I believe in your ability to work through your grief in your way and in your time. As you were there for me, I am now here for you. With patience, acceptance, and compassion.

Beside you I will hold memories dear, honouring David as your loving Husband, a firm yet gentle Father to your amazing children, and a one of a kind Friend to me and so many others.

As our journeys are similar, they are also different. Grief is unique to each of us. No one of us grieve the same way or in the same timeframe. I have no prolific words of advice, or magical words of solace. I can offer her limited understanding, knowing only what my grief journey has taught me. I can hold her hand, and shed tears for her. I can sit beside her and let her cry. I can do what she and David did for me, and laugh with her-giving her hope that she may one day feel a little bit alive again.  

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Happy Father’s Day

It’s our fifth Father’s Day without him, but for the first time since we lost him, I feel defeated.  One thing I fear the most, is that if I don’t speak his name, or make the effort to  share my memories of him, especially on days like today, that everyone else who knew him would forget about him.

Forget about him.  Is this even possible?  My heart screams “No!”, but echoes of “There isn’t much to celebrate now that he is gone” or “It’s different now, he’s gone” ring in my ears.  Do they think I don’t know that?  Do they think that I don’t feel this loss with every breath I take?  Do they think that there are pieces of me that will never be the same?  I know he’s gone.  I live it every minute of every day.  I live it first thing in the morning when he used to brush my hair away from my face and kiss me gently as I woke.  I live it through the day when I’m reminded time and again that my life is barely recognizable to me.  I live it when I make supper at night and I bury my memories of how much he loved my cooking.  I live it late at night as I close my eyes to sleep.  When my lips long for his good night kisses and I yearn to hear his heart beat under my ear once again.

Death can’t take away my memories.  Of him loving my child as his own.  Taking full responsibility of her through her youth, teenage years, and as she blossomed into adulthood.  Of his tears as he held each of our other three seconds after they were born.  Of his joy as they each accomplished goals and overcame fears. Of his desire and drive to always better our lives, making it as comfortable for all of us as he could.  Of his laughter as he chased, tickled, and played.  Of his struggle through his illness, and his will to live.  He sacrificed so much to stay with our family, more than most men would.  For us.

So, those people might be right….he IS gone, and it ISN’T the same, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is Father’s Day, and he IS and will CONTINUE TO BE the Father to our children.  Death cannot change that.

So, “Happy Father’s Day, Baby”.  I miss you and love you to the depths of my soul.

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Goodbye 2014

cs lewis

I leave yet another year behind.  A year filled with discovery…of myself, of my new reality.  This is truly the first year I walked through my life without a fog.  Where I can now remember my feelings and my reactions.  The haze of my life without My Love has cleared, and now the feelings rush in.  The feelings the fog protected me from.  The feelings of loneliness, and anger.  Of helplessness and fear.  So much fear.

As I approach another New Years Eve without loving arms to eagerly wrap around me, and love filled kisses filled with promises, I feel fear.  Fear of now understanding the depths of the emptiness of my life.  Fear of making so many mistakes raising my kids on my own.  Fear of the financial burdens weighing me down.  Fear of so many lonely nights.

I try my best to look forward to a new year.  Struggle to find a new focus and new goals.  I pray that my Faith will carry me through.  That the fear will subside and I will find more and more reasons to smile.

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