This week is set up exactly like the week Joe died. On Sunday night I saw him for the last time alive. He left from camp to go back home. Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday I talked to him on the phone. Emailed with him up until 4:30 on Wednesday.
And that was it.
So it's been 5 years since I saw him, 5 years since he died.
There is something about "5 years" that makes this year seem like a bigger event. I suppose after 5 years there's no denying, he's not coming back. 5 years is a long time.
In some ways it feels like a long time, in many ways it does not.
These days in July are hard every year. For me it's 10 days of memories- hurtful, happy and painful all confusingly intertwined. 10 days when highly charged emotions sit just below the surface, ready to explode and constantly bubbling to the surface. I blink a lot of tears back. I talk a lot and try to keep busy with anything I can. I have flashes of memories I'd rather forget that are brought to my mind by the similarity of the time of year, weather, sounds and smells. The 10 days start with Luke's birthday, 6 days later Joe's death and 4 days later my wedding anniversary which is no longer.
Every single one of those things is a huge life-altering event and they come at me in ten days. Maybe I should be glad that I get them overwith in a short period of time, but truthfully it just feels crushing sometimes. Part of me would like to go straight from June to August, but of course a bigger part of me would never in a million years want to miss watching my son have a birthday. To help him celebrate and be excited by it like you only are when you are a kid. These days of the year should be a happy time. And I do my best to make them go by with laughter and fun around me. But the pain is there also. My heart holds an ache with every year that ticks by as my children get older.
One of the deepest pains of my life is that as a mother, I will not ever again see my children with their father.
I long to see my daughter with her father in a way that I cannot explain. Trying to put it in words almost makes me feel angry because I don't believe there are any words that do the feeling justice. She was so little when he died. She is so much like him.
I am angry that this joy will never be part of my life experience. I will never again have that pleasure as a mother on this earth, ever.
And she will never experience the pleasure as a daughter of being with her father again on this earth, ever.
There are many, many layers of loss that come with death. Some of them are felt only by me, some only by my children and some only by you. We all loved Joe differently. His death impacted us differently.
It's been a crazy 5 years. I consider myself incredibly blessed in every way imaginable and have a life that is wonderful. I consider us to have moved through an incredibly difficult time as unscathed as possible under the absolute best of conditions. Still, it all hurts, and we are permanently impacted by what happened.
After 5 years, I am confident in saying that it always will hurt. Life is not easy. Not for anyone, I know that. We all have pains and scars that run deep and stem from a wide variety of personal tragedies. It is a brave choice to keep moving forward, to want better for ourselves, to search for peace and happiness. As adults I hope my children understand this-
Happiness is a choice, not a feeling that comes to us and stays indefinitely.
There will be times in life that they are effortlessly happy, and there will also be hardships, sickness, loss, and sadness. Days when they may not want to get out of bed. Days when they want to wallow in how unfair life is. I hope they allow themselves to feel that hurt, and then make a choice to not let it define who they are....to focus on the good things in their lives and be grateful for what they have. And move forward.
I acknowledge that for every time my heart aches at the thought of not seeing my children with their father, there are a thousand other beautiful, wonderful things I DO get to see. In my mind I accept the pains as they come to me and then consciously move the spotlight to what I do have. It is hard at times, but it is the only way. And it works. And it IS work. It is work to live happily.
I will always love Joe and be grateful for all that he gave me. I received the comment once (not meant to comfort) "You can find another husband and move on" and to me that is the most cold-hearted comment a widow can receive. It belittles the loss, it belittles marriage, and it implies that people can be replaced. And in my life, Joe will never be replaced. He was my husband and that meant something to me. I loved him with a fullness and innocence that is gone forever. I will never forget him, try to replace him or "move on" from him in any way that separates me from the beauty of his impact on my life. I will continue to live, be corageous enough to risk love, continue to believe that great things are in store for me. But I will never forget Joe. He is the father of my children. The man that chose me to be his wife. The man that shared anything I asked and was true to me "til death do us part".
He is part of me.
We will always be his. He will always be ours.
And we move forward.