Forewarning, Really Long! Below is a letter to Mike I wrote and wanted to share. Might not flow or make sense but I wanted to include it all. Grief is messy and unpredictable and I am learning to just accept that. Take from it what you want and ignore the rest :) I found an incredible foundation called the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation with the slogan Never Give-up .
(Don't worry Graham was happier about the shirt than he appears here ,real life.)
I was touched by their story and ordered us some shirts , I let her know how we had just lost Mike and how encouraged we were by her mission . Because Mike always told the kids Never to give up and he never did. The mom, who lost her 7 year old daughter, mailed me a book with a personalized note saying how much it helped her through her grief.
I read the book, Permission to Mourn by Tom Zumba this week . He has a poem titled The unpredictability of Grief and I was blown away by his words that had described all I had been feeling and writing about. I encourage you to get the book or to go to their site for some inspiration. There are amazing people in this world who have endured , suffered , and come out on the other side doing amazing things. We need to bring light to these individuals and their stories. I am grateful for the hope they brought me this week.
We can Keep Swimming through Grief.
We can come out stronger.
If we allow it.
It has been a really long( kinda like this email to you) and extremely unpredictable,
almost three months without you. But deep down I know it hasn’t been without you.
I should be used to the unpredictability of life by now.
We had gotten good at going with the flow , adapting to the unforeseen.
But doing it alone without your physical being , is a completely different story.
And I have struggled.
Struggled to find you with me in these unpredictable and confusing days of grief.
The unpredictability of grief. Is what has scared me the most.
The unpredictability of the strength of the grief waves.
The size of them.
And the magnitude of how they will knock me over each time.
Is so frightening.
Not to mention the not knowing the length of time it will take me to get back up.
They still feel like they are drowning me at times.
I asked a grief expert this week how long and how often will these waves will keep coming with this magnitude.
Her advice this week- I want you to let go of all expectations for yourself and just take each one when they come.
Feel them all.
That’s the only way through.
I know that.
But I hate missing you so bad.
I want you back, in flesh.
But you haven’t left me.
And I know that.
I am grateful for your love .
The love you keep sending me each day.
Some days I find it hard to find you.
Maybe because the kids are so dang loud ( they always tried to steal my attention from you 🙄 and still are )
And some days I can feel your love so strong that I can physically feel your arms grab me ,
wrap around me and hold me tight.
It’s an instant remedy when I do find it.
Love has always been our remedy.
And I don’t want those moments to end.
I pray for that feeling each day and night to come often.
I am finding you in the stillness.
That is what grief is.
And that’s what scares the crap out of me.
It’s what held me captive at our home for more than two months since our last night together.
I feel safe at home in my sacred grief cave .
Where you are everywhere I look.
Where I am free to cry by myself as long as I wanted ( sort of - as long as the kids allow)
I was also afraid to go anywhere because I was afraid I was leaving you behind.
However , the kids would have never forgiven me , if I said no to going on our annual beach trip.
They are keeping me alive too ( and many others) .
Although , I also felt you telling me to go.
So we went and on the way I counted 136 number 29s on the drive.
I know I am crazy, they thought I was ridiculous too 😜 but I just kept announcing them all the way .
But I felt stronger with each one we passed.
And I let them eat candy like you did on road trips.
(Celia ALWAYS talks about the day me and you took her to cvs and let her buy whatever candy she wanted and drove around all afternoon eating it. Your only warning. Stop before your stomach starts to hurt. )
When we finally made it the kids ran straight to the ocean.
I took a picture of them playing in the ocean. And I immediately went to text it to you.
Sometimes this doesn’t feel real.
Like you are still here.
I forget you aren’t.
And so then and there on the shoreline ,
my aching heart took over ,
the waves knocked me down inside once again.
Yet I shared my sadness and missing you with my dad.
You know I am use to going on vacations without you ,
you always had to stay and work 😜.
But I realized this unpredictability of grief right then.
When it hit me that I didn’t have you to call and checkin with.
Or send pictures of the kids to - no one loved getting pictures of them like you did.
I hadn’t prepared myself for this moment.
Hadn't seen it coming.
So I rode the wave of grief.
My dad and I conclude that the underlying current and the very deep bottom is just that we flat out miss you.
I have to keep going back to that deep flat bottom layer of sadness and missing you ,
to really find you
and each time I reach it ,
through countless tears,
you are healing me more and more.
Graham threw sand at us and I felt you tell me ,
it’s not whether you get knocked down by these waves ,
But whether or not you get back up.
As I looked out at the relentless waves that the kids kept getting back up in.
With a smile and laughter.
And so much joy.
I thought of how you always did this. Got back up. With a smile.
You taught them how to do that.
I taped your quote to the dash board of the car before we drove down
I will never forget how many times you got up for me. )
You taught me too. So I got up.
And we survived the first beach trip without you physically.
It was here , at the ocean , that I learned how to feel you with me a little better.
In a different way. And I’m trying channel that energy as we are back home now ,
and the deep sadness is creeping its way back in ,
in no time at all.
I really hate having to accept life without you each night .
I miss my snookems , who turned the light off on me in the bathroom while I took my contacts out🤣. And made fun of me each time I dropped them down the sink .
You would sing the lyrics from Joe Nichols country song about dropping a contact down the sink.
And it made me smile at the end of the day.
I miss you.
However I am believing now that that is still you.
Just you and your voice is still alive inside me.
But I will admit that life sucks without you, the way the water sucks them down the drain.
I am grateful for all the ways you keep letting me know you are with me.
And with each passing day , I know I am getting stronger.
You would be proud. I’m even having some energy to put towards disciplining the kid’s again
- everyone says that’s a good sign 😜
I can hear you telling me to get my s&@$ together and turn our living room back into a living room
and not a floor of mattresses.
Soon, I promise.
You have sent the number 29 and red cardinals in countless ways to me through angels on this earth these past three months.
And I’m starting to believe each one a little more.
That it IS you.
I still question them all.
Mainly because it sure as hell is not nearly like having you here to hold and hug each day.
But I am choosing yes , more and more.
Our friends , families, strangers have done incredible things for us over these months, it’s truly amazing.
I believe your love has shown up in books like Tear Soup from a friend at church (side note - if you haven’t read it and are going through grief buy the book - or I will send to you )
Stuffed animals cardinals , who graham refers to as daddy bird and feels you with him each time he hugs it. Mugs. Paintings. Ice cream. Metal cardinals .
Through necklaces , cards , and on and on.
So many amazing letters people have written to me and the kids.
Even on Father’s Day.
Thank you for welcoming us to the beach the first night with an amazing sunset.
We went to see the new boat.
I was nervous to go. I felt guilty because you weren’t here to see it with me for the first time.
You were so excited about it and talked about it all the time ,
you never talked about how sick you were.
Just the good things in life.
But you of course, once again you proved me wrong.
You always loved to do that 🙄
You were with us after all.
You showed up as this unbelievable angel in the sky that looked like it was hugging us.
And I believed a little more , you are watching us. And are with us.
Jake reminds me of that too.
When they do something that I know would aggravate you,
like jump on the couches like a trampoline,
I will say if daddy saw you - Jake quickly corrects me -“you know he already saw right ?”
And he is right.
We are starting to really feel you with us and see you never left us.
But it’s taking us all going through this sadness to realize it.
To cry , scream, laugh and talk our way through it.
Graham for sure wins the award of having the temper you had in college.😳
We are feeling each wave of sadness together.
Celia has been leaving her teeth dangling for days.
She needed you here to pull them out. I feel your absence so much in that too.
She won’t let anyone else do it for her.
And she made herself sick one morning over it.
She finally said she just missed you.
But ...when she finally pulled it she was so proud of herself and she said - Daddy is proud of me !
Or at the beach as Graham and Celia we’re happily playing,
and he suddenly had some enlightened thought and announced that D was my dad.
He said -
“D is your dad , I miss my dad. Are you going to die when I am old “
I told him I miss you too. So so bad.
And that I pray I am with him for as long as he grows old.
Another unpredictable wave.
This wave. This wave completely knocked me over again.
Sitting on the porch of the condo , in the middle of family laughing and talking .
My heart sunk.
Back onto the ocean floor of grief.
I couldn’t get back up that night. He went right back to laughing and playing but I couldn’t go on.
I wish you were here and he didn’t have to have those thoughts or fears.
I rode the wave of sadness through until Morning.
And went to watch the sunrise like I did every morning .
And I found you there.
Telling me to get up again.
And to Keep swimming.
Swimming through this grief.
Even if it’s on the
bottom of the ocean at times.
That you are there too with me.
But on Father’s Day you really showed out for us! And We hope you loved our messages we wrote to you in the sand. We prayed prayers of gratitude and asked you to keep letting us know you are with us. But especially to keep making us laugh.
We are still smiling because of the FLM sunrise you sent us that lit up the sky that morning.
I woke them all up to see it .
An orange sky like I have never seen before.
(FYI- The entire time at the beach Graham would announce whenever it was a FLM sky.
We will never let anyone forget you,Don’t worry. )
Nancy Brooks made the kids t-shirt blankets out of all your t-shirts. They were made out of amazing love and are incredible , as you know anything she does is, she even made special tote bags to carry them in. They wrapped their little bodies in your love immediately and each smile was priceless. They have been snuggling with them every day since.
I told the kids that your impact is as big is the ocean and sky.
I thank God for that.
You didn’t need a lifetime to teach us that.
36 year was enough.
And I’m slowly coming to understand and believe that.
Now we will carry you legacy and love forever and ever. wherever we go. ( we have lots of projects in the works, that I am so excited about )
Our love will never die.
Even through your death.
You are always with us.
You live in our hearts and no one knows that better than Graham.
I’m learning that grief manifest in a bad way when it’s not released.
Either through tears , laughter , writing , running , screaming. It’s got to get out.
One important way we are finding that helps is to talk about you. I talk about you all the time.
I say your name every time I think of you to the kid’s.
We talk about everything you liked and hated.
Like how you hated the sand but loved flavor ice , as the enjoyed both on the beach Father’s Day afternoon.
I wonder how many you ate while you were sick ?
They love hearing about you and especially all the ways they are like you.
I heard Graham tell his friend Winnie , you know why I’m silly - bc my Daddy was silly. 🧡
They all have pieces of you in their hearts , souls and skins.
And this in one way I know you are always with me.
I went to Eddys this week for a massage Session for the first time like you did each week.
I think Eddy and I were I both just as broken hearted thinking of the pilate sessions you had already paid for that were left , that we knew would never be filled by you.
I couldnt bring myself to go until now.
But as I walked on the gravel path to his studio.
I cried thinking of how the last time you went , I went with you.
And I walked behind you as you drug your oxygen tank through the pea gravel.
I could still hear the crunching noise the tank made today. And tears flowed down my cheeks.
Eddy and I talked about your strength.
It was not if this world.
He was such a gift that moved in down the street, an answer to prayers.
He helped you find your breath after GVHD literally took your air from lungs.
Cancer stole your breath.
I told him how my heart still breaks every time the memory comes of you sitting in the office with dr Arellano at that last appointment.
When we heard her say the leukemia had spread.
You matter a factly said ,
So what’s the next plan. I have to get off the oxygen. I’m going to keep working on getting off the oxygen. So that we can go to the trial at md Anderson.
My heart sunk .
I knew it wasn’t going to happen by the look in her eyes.
And she so incredibly kindly told you , that you were doing great , that you were doing everything you could do and to not worry about getting off the oxygen.
Thank you for showing me how to live.
Your will to live until your dying breath was the most amazing gift I I could have witnessed in this lifetime. Second to the amazing gift of feeling your love.
And so I will keep sharing your love for the rest of my life and your story of strength , grit and determination.
Losing you ,
has taken my breath ,
I am sure it’s not the same magnitude of what you physically felt BUT it’s got to be close.
I have been working on finding a way to breathe again.
Keep reminding me to breathe.
And to my amazement ,
in the stillness ,
the slowness ,
the deep breaths ,
I feel your presence the very most.
Maybe thats why the mornings at the beach brought such peace.
When I turn inward ,
and breathe deep and feel
All that grief has to offer ( which isn’t always fun ) .
I also feel and hear you saying.
Keep getting back up.
Thank you for teaching me the importance of breath.
It is saving me these days in missing you.
The same way it brought you peace and saved you in your final months.
We are going to your home , you camp , your favorite place next week.
I am looking forward to all the ways I might feel you with me there ,
even in the painful sadness of missing you.
I will ride out each wave of grief because I know you will be there all along the way
and waiting to catch me at the shore.
Love was always our remedy.
And it is still our remedy through grief.
Even through death.
Our love will never die.
I love you 29.
Here are a few more pics I wanted to send you from the beach :) The kids are making you and me proud each day!