I Ran a RaceĀ 

August 26, 2017    9:44pm

I ran a race tonight.  Strangely enough it was 13 months to the day since I lost my husband but that wasn’t what I focused on.  Instead I noticed the beauty of my adopted hometown, the common cause, the community, the love.  The course snaked through my college, the place where I met my husband but only happy memories greeted me.   It was a race of conversation, of happiness and not worrying about time. It was about the beauty of small moments, hope for the future,  kind cheers and hellos from so many people I care about.  

I’ve run a race this month.  We are back to school- a new position for me, 8th grade for my daughter and daycare for my son.  We are getting back in the swing of schedules, homework, early morning mad dashes and evening exhaustion.  Life is again pushed by the synchronization of schedules, meals, chores and the packing of bags.  The hectic pace of happy, busy kids and a single mom who can actually perform under pressure with a tiny bit of grace. 

I ran a race this summer.  It was a race of becoming “normal” again, of finding my voice and spreading my wings.  A race of loving my kids even more than I thought I ever could because my head was finally clear and my heart was wide open.  A race of taking chances and finding out that God continues to fulfill his promises and bless me in ways I never imagined.  

I ran a race this past year.  A race of unimaginable heartbreak, of horrid fog and a million stumbles.   A race that involved months of treading water and gasping for air.  A race of learning, pain and a renaissance where I saw that deep inside, Heather was still there and she had something to offer the world. 

As I sit on my back swing and stare at evening sky, I am overwhelmed once again by God’s beauty and healing.  We can never know what the future holds- what our race may look like.  We can only continue moving forward with our eyes focused on the many blessings around us.  Thank you God for all my races- they’ve made me better.  

…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.  Hebrews 12:1

The Darn Yard

How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.  I’ll go ahead and admit I had to look that one up.  You see I’ve never been good at one bite at a time.  I want to take the entire elephant, shove it down my throat first and then figure out the bites.  I’m a doer and usually on a big scale.  That strategy was not an option after loss.  

Our yard is 1.2 acres but might as well have been 1000.2 acres late last summer.  I have to immediately stop now and commend my neighbors.  They mowed my yard EVERY WEEK last year from August through early November.  It was like a sound from heaven!  About the time I would look out the window and sigh that the yard was getting tall, I would hear the sound of a motor and boom- there was a saint on a John Deere cutting my grass.  It was truly one of the most wonderful things that could be done for a broken woman who could barely pour her children a bowl of cereal.  

The beginning of cold weather marked the end of mowing and the beginning of rebuilding.  Slowly, over those late fall and winter months, I begin to figure some crap out.  I learned to build a fire in my wood burning fireplace (shout out again to my neighbor who taught me how to open the damper.  I know…it’s embarrassing.)  I learned to orchestrate our lives so that everyone had clean clothes, relatively healthy meals, transportation and (most of the time) a happy, somewhat sane mother.  I figured out all the parts of the household as a single parent.  


Spring had arrived.  The birds were singing, the bunnies were hopping, work and activities were humming…oh and my grass was growing.  Again.  Grass does that in the spring but for the life of me I couldn’t manage to get the yard mowed and the trimming done.  Insert my saintly father who hauled his mower over every week this past spring and mowed my yard.  He also taught his 40 year old daughter how to use a trimmer so the fence line and the swingset didn’t look like Heather’s World of Random Weeds. 

Then, one day, it finally happened- I mowed AND trimmed the darn yard.  I’m not certain I’ve been more proud of myself as a single mom. It was that final item, the albatross around my neck that had separated me from achieving total independence.  I was now able to do ALL of the “stuff” that I needed to accomplish as a single mother.  I could really run my household, all by myself and it worked!  

There are still plenty of things I have to ask for help with like changing the light bulbs in my double tray ceiling or all things related to plumbing (a few of you are laughing right now) but the day to day, week to week things- I can do those.  Many times I may do them with one eye open, two children simultaneously yelling “MOMMY” and something boiling over on the stove- but I do them! 

I guess my lesson through all of this is to give yourself time and heaping piles of grace.  Time to be sad, overwhelmed and angry about what could have been. Time to learn, to make missteps and to trust that things will get better.  Time to let people help you, to carry your “I can’t do this (and that and some more of this).”  Then, time for accomplishment and triumph when you finally embrace your imperfections and figure some stuff out.  

I am writing this on a Saturday morning. We are back in “school mode” at our house. My family’s laundry is towering in the laundry room, the Clicklist is awaiting pick up, there are bills to be paid and guess what?  My grass is tall again.  One bite at a time Heather, one bite at a time. 

A Year LaterĀ 

To quote one of Patrick’s best friends “I’ve lapped this thing.”  I’ve been completely through the first year.  All the firsts- holidays, birthdays, anniversary and college football season.  I’ve been through the first school orientation, dance recital, awards ceremonies, the filling out of forms and writing “deceased” where it says father (that NEVER gets easier by the way.)  I’ve done all the firsts. 

The first year was a buffet of emotion, of fog, of light and of overwhelming thanks to my healing God.  I can remember one night just a week in when it took me almost 3 hours to change the sheets on our (my) bed for the first time.  I remember driving my kids to school when I was on leave and then coming home to just sit and stare.  I remember going back to work and thinking I could never possibly EVER be good at my job again.  I remember cleaning out Patrick’s closet and feeling as though someone had cleaned out my insides at the same time.

However I also remember the first time I let go and belly laughed with my kids.  I remember my first night out enjoying a glass of wine with my friends.  I remember kindness from family and I remember the first time I enjoyed being alone.  I remember walking on the beach during Spring Break and crying at the overwhelming beauty of a sunset.  I remember standing on the deck of the Disney Dream this summer humming “It is Well with my Soul” and realizing that a whole bunch of my broken pieces were finally stuck back together.  

I have struggled for a couple weeks with the right analogy for the first year- roller coaster?  Sinking ship with one lifeboat?  4 alarm fire?  Tsunami?  It all seems fitting in some way but I don’t know that there is really one way to describe this first year of young widowhood.  It is a journey full of mountains and valleys.  Of bone crushing sadness and the decimation of so many dreams.  It is also a time of acceptance, awakening and rebirth.

I know that some might find it strange that my oversharing self chose not to publicly acknowledge the anniversary of Patrick’s death.  That was a conscious decision on my part.  A decision based on what was best for myself, my children and his legacy.    Other crappy club members may choose differently and that is more than ok.  We all go down this road at different speeds and make different pit stops along the way.  What has resonated most for me is to remain authentic and true to me- to my feelings and to what I need.  At the end it is between myself and my Heavenly Father on how I handled things, how I honored Patrick, how I raised my children and how I forged ahead. 

My friend Amanda brought me a bag of groceries on the day Patrick died.  I don’t remember much of what she brought (although I’m CERTAIN it included Reese’s cups).  The one item she brought that I remember so very clearly was toilet paper.  Printed across the front, in huge block letters was the word STRONG.  She told me she thought I “needed strong” right now and boy I sure did!  I didn’t  know on that day, the most horrible day of my life,  how MUCH I would need that strength in the months ahead. 

I’m thankful for all of this first year- even the brutal, ugly parts. It has shaped me into someone different than the woman I once was.  I hope I’m a better child of God, mother, daughter, sister, friend, partner and teacher.  As I stand at the beginning year 2- I open my eyes, my arms and my heart to what God has in store for me.  Oh and by the way…I sometimes still buy the strong toilet paper.  

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Phil 4:13