Monday, March 16, 2020

Stepping Out of the Fog

"Sometimes, only one person is missing, and the whole world seems depopulated. "   –Alphonse de Lamartine, Méditations Poétiques

Five months. This week will mark five months since I held Kerry's hand, heard his voice in person, laughed at something he said, or told him some story about the kids.
It's also been five months since I saw him wasting away in a hospital bed, lying confused and scared because of medication, suffering in silence in order to lessen my worry, or told me some story about something in the hospital room that isn't there.
Now you can imagine the crashes of waves that hit me. They are sometimes selfish, because I want one more day, one more moment, one more hug. Those waves feel like I'm drowning over and over as I know I won't get those things this side of Heaven. Then they become tall and painful because I'd never wish for him to experience one more of ANY of the things he endured for two months in the hospital - and an entire month prior. Those waves are much harder and hurt more as I know letting him go was the right thing to do - and I have to accept God's (terrible, in my opinion) plan. 
This past month, since The Great Thank You post, has been an awakening for us all. I think the fog is lifting more with each week, and we as a family are realizing how much we just existed on autopilot for a while. It's like waking from a dream and not being knowing where you are. 
I realized it when I was reading back through cards and letters we received. I kept getting surprised by who they were from because I didn't remember reading what was written. And yet I KNOW that I read every single one. When the kids and I started talking, we all agreed that we could remember bits and pieces, but most of the day-to-day things are gone. Even some of the weeks leading up to his death are a blur. I don't know if it's from sheer shock and dismay, pure heartbroken grief that felt like it would never ease up, or just the way we protect ourselves in times of trama. 
Some days it feels like five years. Some days it feels like five minutes. Mostly, it just feels like forever. And coming to terms with that is a work in progress. 
Austin with some HHS friends! 
There are fewer moments of taking my breath away, though. And driving home for work is really the only time I find myself crying out of nowhere (almost every day). My friends are AMAZING when I just need a minute to catch my breath when I'm telling a story or remembering something that chokes me up. 
I've taken time to travel and reconnect with people, and by doing so, I've found laughter and happiness. It doesn't mean I've lost my grief, but I've been able to live. I'm finding out who I am now that I'm alone. Scary most of the time - but exhilarating to see that I'm truly braver than I ever thought possible. 
We had to..
The kids and I make points to do random things for fun and not be afraid to joke around about what Kerry would be saying or doing. We miss him, but we keep his spirit alive by talking about him. He's part of my every day conversations, and I'll never hesitate to speak his name out loud or mention something about us. Because it IS still "us". 
We are still a thing. Not even a new person in my life would ever take about the "us". We were so good together, and we loved fiercely. I know I will love again someday because I know what it feels like to be loved perfectly and to love perfectly. (I also now know what it's like to be left with all the stuff a pack rat spouse leaves behind. Who knew someone could prepare me for the Coronavirus scare with all his extra cleaning supplies with zero knowledge it was coming?!) Those lessons can't be wasted. 

Five months. 
I wonder what the next five will bring. I hope they bring more laughter, more memories, and more healing. I believe they will bring a lot of new experiences and probably a lot of tears. But without a doubt, they will come. 
I can make it. My kids can make it.
If you see us smiling and laughing somewhere, know we're making it. 

Monday, February 17, 2020

Thank You

Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape. ~ C.S. Lewis

Thank you. I know this blog post may feel less personal than a handwritten thank you note, but the daunting task of writing “thank you for the **insert gift, card, or meal here**” so many times really made me stop and think first. I know so many people took time to reach out to our family, and I just think that deserves more than a quick handwritten, but impersonal, note of thanks. I wanted to print it and mail it to everyone. But, again, that overwhelmed me too. And I just think waiting longer isn't really plausible because a lot of things overwhelm me these days. That led me to this. 

Pardon all the words. I’m verbose.

Thank you for the cards, letters, meals, gift cards, money, phone calls, texts, pumpkin spice items, groceries, flowers, wreaths, plants, and prayers. Our family marvels at the outpouring of love from so many people. The funeral, while sad, was such a blessing to us. Kerry would NEVER believe so many people came to tell him goodbye. He’d also be completely shocked at how generous everyone has been to our family, and we know he’d be thankful for the support system of people walking with us through this unexpected tragedy. More than anything, I hope he’s in Heaven with the knowledge that we are cared for deeply.

My amazing kids (and niece)
How are we doing? No one wants to ask because the answer is complicated and, frankly, scary. You want to know, but you don’t want to know, because grief is scary and ugly. There’s no magic potion to make it easier to face – either as the person who runs into us at the grocery store or as us. THANK YOU to those who have just offered a hug or a quick hello. And if you were scared to speak to us, don’t be. There are no right words to say, and even the wrong ones show you care. But in answer to the question, I’ll tell you that we are on the road to figuring it out.

We are strong. Kerry and I have raised amazing children, and every day they amaze me more with their strength and love for me and each other.

Billy and Meg have been incredible through this ordeal – and shown a lot of maturity when it isn’t always easy to swallow the notes of sympathy about me and “the girls”. – He’s been a Smith for 10 whole years, but not everyone is quite as aware of the adoption! Billy misses his dad and wishes he’d had more time to learn from him, but I think he’s got the basics down pat!

Gracey is a pillar of strength. She has shown maturity beyond her 21 years, and been in charge of cheering me up when I know her heart is breaking too. She looks to the future and has the optimism we all need. I am thankful for her absolute support and love.

The "Team" whom I'll never be able to repay.
Sadie, our Dean’s Honor Roll OSU Cowboy, shows me every day that hard work and perseverance can pull you through even the toughest of times. She’s got her big girl panties on and is kicking her freshman year in the butt even though she aches to hear her daddy tell her how proud he is of her accomplishments.

We are sad. That story circulating about the old man comparing grief to waves is spot on. It comes in waves, sometimes tidal waves, but it seems to hit us all at different intervals. I’m thankful our bad days are staggered, because it lets everyone else hold up the one getting knocked down by the wave that moment.
I find myself crying less, but having a dull sense of sadness lingering just under the surface. I find I get my feelings hurt about silly things and have to stop myself from taking things personally. (All new to me as I’m pretty thick skinned.) Sadie said we are like cats. We know what we don’t want, but sometimes what we want isn’t what we want either. She’s not wrong. Mostly we all just want Kerry back, and with that possibility taken off the table, we just struggle.

We are brave. On our worst days, we still stand together ready to face whatever comes our way. It’s exhausting and scary. It’s not easy. And it’s definitely not without tears. But, by gosh, we are determined to be brave. We make the hard choices. We make the not-so-hard choices. And we face the really scary, awful feelings with as much grace as possible.

Billy is helping make a list of things we need to do around the house, which makes me less stressed knowing someone is thinking ahead. Gracey stands ready to handle anything she needs to, and Sadie always stops to analyze feelings with me while we (the talkers of the family) work through all the complex emotions of being with Kerry.

It’s hard to be brave. I won’t lie. But I am SO proud of our bravery.

We are grateful. Those who text or call just to say hi are invaluable. The friends who stop to invite me to dinner to make the days and nights shorter, and I am very grateful! Having support and unconditional love even when we haven’t been all that loveable has been amazing. (Ok – mostly me – not so much the kids…I’ve been a bit salty here and there. But thank you to those who have weathered it and not been offended or walked away. Particularly those who just loved me tighter and kept coming around.)

So many chapters of our books aren’t written, and we weren’t ready for this plot twist. I wish I could see each person who gets this letter and say something in person, but that will likely take years.

Thank you for your prayers and your love. We wouldn’t make it through this without you.