How can it be one year since you left us- you, who were always so full of life? On this first anniversary, I am checking in, hoping that all of your dreams about Heaven came true for you. No matter what, I love to think of you being in wherever and whatever Heaven is, making the Angels laugh with your stories, your blue eyes twinkling, no more pain or suffering. I have no doubt that the Sonic chocolate shakes are plentiful, as are the perfect tater tots you loved so much. I bet you are making apple pies for God and everybody, still worrying about the crust being just so, beaming when they tell you how delicious every bite was. I so miss our post-doctor-visit lunches at the Sonic drive-through, laughing and talking as we watched people in the Bug with the top down. I miss hearing your voice, telling your stories, telling me you love me.
The tater tot connoisseur…
I am doing really well now, but I had a rough time after you left…your death changed me in ways I am still discovering. I felt like my heart had been torn from my chest that last morning, even as I was deeply grateful that you left so peacefully and that I was by your side- just as you told me you wanted it to be. I will always treasure the last words of love that you said to me, just as I will treasure the countless memories I have of our time together. I cried a lot of tears, retreated from the world for a while, let myself fall into some unhealthy habits….but I also grew as a person. A lot. I think you would be proud of me for the hard work I have done to turn things around, growing through your illness and death, as well as my own grief.
Grief has been a great teacher, helping me to see the world with more compassion, more understanding. It opened a flood of love and friendship that sustained me in the darkest days and gave me hope. It also taught me that I am stronger and more resilient than I ever knew- just like you. It took time for me to see this in myself as I swam through the river of grief. I felt for so long as if I was separated from the world by a thick veil- there, but not really there. But slowly, as the weeks and months passed, the veil began to lift, and I began to resume my life, fully engaged instead of on the periphery. I never wanted you to live in pain, never expected you to live forever…but somehow I always thought there would be more time- even that last morning. You had always pulled through, and I believed in your strength too much to imagine life without you. It sounds silly now to say that about a ninety-two year-old woman in the hospital on a Bi-Pap machine, but denial happens to the best of us. I’m glad that I asked you all of the things I did, glad that I told you how much you meant to me, glad that I knew what you wanted me to do to carry out your wishes, glad that I let you say what you needed to say instead of stopping the words I didn’t want to hear. But, there is so much more I wish that I had said to you, so much more I wish I could ask. I guess that’s true anytime you lose a loved one…there is never enough time. The door is closed now, and I have to rely on my gut instincts, on the knowledge I have of you from our fifty-one years together. No matter what was left unsaid or undone, you and I both knew the bond that we had, the love that was always there.
I can feel you with me, deep in my heart, feel that somehow you are the guardian angel you said you would be. I felt you on stage with me in Madrid, felt you beaming with pride that your baby was doing what she loved and playing for you, felt you with me as I released your ashes into the beautiful waterfall on the Nantahala River as I promised you I would do. You live on through Linda and me, your girls, in the lessons you taught us, in our physical characteristics, in our soft hearts. What a beautiful thing that is, to have love go on and on, running through our veins, infinite. How grateful I am to have been loved by you so unconditionally, so completely. Maybe that is what has been the hardest…losing the one person in life who loved me and knew my heart more than anyone ever could. I think I took that for granted for a long time, always assuming you would be there for me to run to when I needed advice or encouragement, the one constant throughout my entire life.
That is life, though, isn’t it? We are meant to go off on our own, using the lessons we were taught and the gifts we were given to forge our own way in the world. You gave me a foundation grounded in love, believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, and for that I will always be grateful. In fact, on this first anniversary of your passing, I am nothing but grateful; grateful for your gifts of encouragement, laughter, and love, grateful for the special bond we shared, grateful that I was able to be there for you when you needed me most. I don’t believe in living in regret and sadness, so today I am celebrating that you lived almost ninety-three years filled with joy and sorrow, laughter and tears…filled with life. I am celebrating your indomitable spirit, the many hearts you touched with your kindness and joy, and the courage with which you faced life up until your last breath. Today, I know tears will fall and my heart will ache as I will undoubtably think of our last hours together, the difficult last month of hospitals and nursing homes, but mostly I will think of our shared laughter, our adventures, the silliness that you always said kept you going, and I will smile. And who knows…there may be a Sonic shake to toast you today, too- something extra special to mark this occasion, this first anniversary. Wherever you are, I hope that you can feel my love and gratitude….I know that I can feel yours. You told me many times that I was your angel, a surprise baby that came at such a difficult time in your life and gave you a reason to go on. In actuality, you were always my angel, and you still are. Love never dies, I know that now without a shadow of a doubt. What a priceless gift you gave to me.
Thank you so much to those of you who took this journey through life, loss, and grief with my mother and me. Your kindness and encouragement have made all the difference. With special thanks and love to Mom’s ‘Space People’ from Facebook…You are angels.
This one’s for you, Momma…