It's been 200 days that I've been living without you. Tomorrow 201 and it's Johnathan's 7th birthday...first birthday without you. I opened my calendar and saw the date. I remember writing down 100 days. 200 days..."keep going", our anniversary (I made a plan), your birthday (I made a plan), then one year. I remember writing 200 days and pausing, it looked so far away and I didn't think I would make it that far, there was no way I could breathe without you that long; and here it is. I can't believe I've lived without you for 200 days, it seems unreal, it seems like it couldn't possibly be that long already. We never spent more than two weeks apart. That was the longest we spent apart....two weeks and we talked everyday. When I wrote 200 days down on today's date I was afraid that I would have forgotten your voice in my head, that I wouldn't be able to remember your touch, but I haven't....I can remember every detail of your being, your smell still lingers and sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night to your haunting scent. A few weeks ago I took off my wedding band, I needed something closer to me but not a constant reminder of what was. I looped it on a silver chain with your wedding band and it felt much closer to you, I cling on to it constantly to remind myself that your near. It felt so empty on my ring finger so I placed the Tiffany ring you got me last year for Valentine's Day there...it's light and not so painful to see down on my finger every moment.
When I talk about you I sometimes get so mixed up.....I'm starting to talk about you in the past tense and I hate it. "That was Josh's favorite" or "he would have loved this"...."Josh wore that all the time". Other days I speak of you in the present like you'll be home any minute.
I didn't think I would survive this weekend and now this week. I keep thinking of all the things you would have planned for Johnathan's birthday. You usually made him whatever he wanted for breakfast and dinner. Probably would have taken him swimming....maybe we would have taken him to his favorite restaurant...Red Lobster! you both loved to the calamari. You probably would have wanted to wake him up and wished him a Happy Birthday first. You would have gotten him anything he wanted. This year he couldn't think of a single toy he wanted for his birthday....I know that his secret wish was to have you back; it's mine too. You would have told him how proud of him you are. I don't even have the energy to be angry anymore, just deep sorrow that fills me knowing that we can't hug you and tell you how much we need you, how much I need you.
Today feels like we just lost you yesterday. I get a burst of energy and then suddenly it feels like I can't breathe, I can feel my heart racing, I get dizzy, nauseated, and can't remember simple details. Those moments feel blurry and surreal.
200 days feels more overwhelming than 100 days....165 more days and it's one year.....one year. I don't want to imagine what that will feel like, but I can't help obsessing over it. This weekend I walked through your side of the closet and the real thought of going through your clothes finally came over me. I took a deep breath and looked through each shirt, pair of pants, jackets, jeans....I came up with a quick plan and discussed it with Johnathan. He was pretty resistant and looked at me with tears in his eyes and said "ok...we can make labels for everyone and give everyone a choice of what they want....but I go first". I agreed and said ok....we can pick what we want first and then let our family chose some pieces. We held each other in the closet and looked around quietly, not sure if we are ready...but knowing that we can't continue living like you're going to come home any time soon. I can't keep pretending that maybe some miracle will bring you walking back through the front door. The more time passes the more I'll get stuck in this place and it's not what our children deserve....they deserve perseverance.
For Johnathan's birthday I'll get him a memory chest to keep all the items he doesn't want to alter...a box to keep all your memories. He had a great idea for Isabella....."get her a glass frame mom and put a jersey in it....with some of daddy's pictures with Bella....we can hang it in her room". So thoughtful and it really is a great idea. Every now and then she still turns to your photo in the living room and says "daddy"...she'll stare intently for a long time, studying every detail of you....you look familiar to her, she knows you're called daddy, but it's almost like she's letting go of hope that she'll see you again soon, too. It breaks my heart that she'll only hear great stories of her dad and who he was...and not see hime for who he is. We tell her stories of you all the time, show her pictures, play your videos to hear your voice...she seems so eager to hear more and see more.
I still can't believe I will be living the rest of my life without you here...I don't think I will ever stop looking for you around every corner. Every morning I wake up hoping to see you waiting up for me....Every afternoon I still wait for you to come home....Every night I still look for you before I go to sleep....that will never go away. Your presence is still so evident, thank you for that. Thank you for giving me memories to last a life time. I love you, I miss you, I want you home.
For us, this song. Last week I dreamt of you so much, we had so many in depth conversations...the dreams were so vivid. I was almost scared and talked to a friend who said to "believe" that you really are visiting me in my sleep and that truth is obviously true by what we talk about...I started to keep a journal of all these dreams that I can never forget our words now.
I’m settling back into home now…I haven’t unpacked a thing and still don’t plan to for a while…little by little, taking the time to piece apart the amazing memories we made on this vacation. Looking back I didn’t realize just how much I really needed to get away for a while, to escape the haunting memories of us in this house. Walking in today was overwhelming, I could still smell you home, could still feel you home…but instead of a haunting dwell come over me I embraced it…slowly brought in our suitcases and just listened quietly to being back home. I made a quick list of some things I want to get done during the summer. The most difficult part of this whole experience is about to begin and I feel re-charged and ready…I can feel my strength rebuilt and know that whatever the future holds…I can face it now.
The second we arrived to our brother’s house our family picture fell off its hook….we all knew it was you there with us. It was breath taking and emotional, but I felt better knowing that leaving was the best decision I made. Throughout the entire trip there were other little signs that you were near…like finding a 4 leaf clover or a baby lady bug landing on Johnathan…and if we didn’t find you we sought you out and looked for you…like by free falling 40 stories high at Magic Mountain…because that’s what Josh would do…so we have to do it too!
First, U2 The Joshua Tree Tour was like a gospel, it was moving, it was magical and I’m pretty sure I cried during the entire concert…the concert of a lifetime and it couldn’t have been more perfectly timed. It was just what we needed to feel you again. I can’t believe we took Isabella, I was nervously looking around praying I would see another baby in the crowd…thinking to myself, “Am I crazy bringing my 1 year old to a rock concert”…duh! Yes I am. But my brother reminded me that it doesn’t matter what anything thinks, they don’t know our story or why we’re here…true, I felt better. Luckily…two seats behind me a young couple sat down with their son who looked to be the same age as Isabella. We joked that we had to buy these kids a concert ticket when they most likely would just sit in our lap. Both us moms were relieved we weren’t the only ones with our littles….security even handed us ear plugs. Isabella slept throughout the concert; Johnathan screamed when the giant Joshua Tree lit up and the song, “Where the Streets Have No Name” started playing. He screamed, “MOM IT’S THE JOSHUA TREE, THE ALBUM IS STARTING!!!!” He knew the words to every song, he sang along, danced, and we held hand’s, hugged and cried when “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” came on…reminding us of your funeral. I will never forget that night for as long as I live.
Memorial Day came and I was glad I was away from home and somewhere I felt safe and hidden. I was afraid that by the end of the day I would be a sobbing ball of mess…but then we found out your scholarship hit it’s goal! On Memorial Day! What a great day to commemorate. It could have easily been an emotional day, but that made it much better and tolerable! I feel so relieved still and can’t wait to begin brainstorm the next goals of our organization.
I even took Johnathan to Camp Pendleton…to walk in the water at Oceanside. He was very inquisitive about your time in this area; “what did dad do here in the Marines?” “did he come to this beach?” “did he eat at this restaurant too?” “did he drive on this road too?”…..I’m forever grateful that we got to meet your friend, someone that you spoke of often, someone that supported you too…you bought him a gift back in October-November..I remember you calling me to work and telling me you needed to get him a gift and you needed my card because you lost yours. I remember you ordered yourself one too! You had a plan. You never got to mail it to him for Christmas like you wanted to…So I hand delivered it. Johnathan walked away happy knowing he got to meet a friend from your past….a daddy he had only heard stories of was now in the present standing next to him. We spent the rest of our trip relaxing, eating out, reading books, telling stories….
When the time came to leave…I drove all the way back to New Mexico listening to Ariana Grande’s One Love convert for Manchester on Sirius. I think I cried all the way from Phoenix to NM. I learned a lot from that concert, a lot about perseverance and hope. I heard the sentiments of strength and it made me hopeful for our future as well. My biggest fear is that I will fall a victim to this tragedy; because this isn’t my tragedy it was yours and I want to make your story better than that, you deserve better than that kind of an ending, you deserve an ending of hope and motivation for other’s regardless of how your life ended. This isn’t my story I’m trying to teach from…it’s yours. As much as I wish…and sometimes want…I can’t and won’t let this tragedy take over me. I’m often told “I don’t know how you’re doing this?” I don’t know either, but I do know I don’t have a choice…..because #1. I have our children who need me. #2. This was horrific, it was awful, I was there, I heard it, I saw it, it was traumatizing – your death; but it was your death, your tragedy and that’s what aches me, that I couldn’t save you from it. #3. I have your story to finish.
I can barely keep up…
I love you, I miss you, I want you home