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