We made it through Bella’s 2nd birthday without you. It’s hard to imagine that you never got to celebrate or will get to celebrate one of her birthdays with us. I keep struggling with the fact that I can’t remember her first birthday. It’s such an important milestone birthday (even though she won’t remember) I want to. I remember Johnathan’s first. We had a pool party, with a sand castle cake, it was a beach theme and so many friends and family came to celebrate. For Bella we talked about themes, decorations, cake designs….and we never got to do any of it. What I remember of her first birthday was a lot of crying, I’m not sure I even showered; everything else is blank but I do remember watching the video that would be played for your services, we had to send it back with our notes to the funeral home director the next day. So, on Bella’s first birthday we all gathered around the T.V. as I played your funeral’s video collage – that’s what I remember from her first birthday. I have distinctive memory of the day before – ordering her food because I couldn’t bare cook for her birthday dinner. This year I planned to order from the same restaurant because of how kind and patient they were with me and I finally got to thank them on Friday. I had a list of things to do this past Friday in preparation for Bella’s second birthday, but first I had to get the car tuned up before we leave for California for the third time this year (any excuse to get out of here/out of our home for another holiday I can’t bear without you). I had happened to run into the sweet owner of this restaurant at the dealership. By chance he was talking to the family next to me, their daughter is studying hotel and restaurant management and he mentioned being the owner of this restaurant. I stopped working and closed my laptop as I let him finish his conversation with the family. When they got up to leave I stopped him to let him know how much I love his restaurant and that I was planning on ordering from them again for my daughter’s 2nd birthday. I told him how I had ordered for her first birthday last year, I went on and on before I finally let him know that I wanted to thank his employee for being so patient and kind to me last year – I told him how you died and when I called the restaurant I could barely get my order out, I couldn’t remember the menu options and was trying to stop fumbling over my words, I told him I finally got it together and told his employee that my husband just died and I was trying to plan our daughter’s first birthday, but I couldn’t even think straight and I apologized over and over. She said it was “okay”, she told me to describe the ingredients and she would help me with the menu options that I was describing to order. I told him that when I was done placing the order she told me to call when I got to the restaurant; she didn’t let me get out of the car, she loaded everything up for me so I wouldn’t have to step foot inside (assuming that I was too overwhelmed with grief to face people in a small place). Holding back tears I told him I never got the chance to thank her but that I would forever be loyal to his company. He gave me a hug as he went to get his car and gave me the number to his residence to place Bella’s 2nd birthday dinner directly with his wife and daughter and get the family discount. I was not looking for a discount, I just wanted to say thank you for the kindness.
Bella’s second birthday was still hard, I fear that her birthday will forever be tainted by your anniversary. Even though it may forever be solemn, it means that we love and will continue to love deeper and more intimately and that is the vision I had for this birthday – filled with love, peace, family, and enjoyment. She had a blast with all her cousins playing games, opening presents, digging into cake, and running around. It was as good as it could get I suppose. The day started out cloudy, just as it was last year, it was cold too, it was eerily familiar – but I am more confident that I will remember this birthday. That night I dreamt of you. I had a dream that you left us, moved away to some school because it would be cheaper than paying out of state tuition. I wasn’t happy. I was very angry with you. I woke up from this dream and without even thinking I grabbed my phone – saw the time (8:40ish AM), I opened the lock screen and told Johnathan, “Hey, let’s call your dad, maybe he’ll answer us today!” (still angry). Before I even turned to Johnathan I realized what I had just said, “Oh my GOD! I’m so sorry Johnathan, I don’t know what I’m thinking of course we can’t call your dad, he can’t answer, of course, I’m sorry”….I turned to look at him but he was still sleeping and I was so so so grateful! I couldn’t believe how angry I was at you, that I woke up and demanded to call you and let you know how I angry I was that you left – even if in my dream, it was only temporary. The sadness sunk in that I would never get to even call you to tell you how angry I am that you left! How I wish I could just call you and tell you that I want you home and wish you never got in your truck and left. I put my phone down and tried grounding myself back to reality. I laid back down and turned my phone off. I looked up at the ceiling, reminded myself what day it is (Sunday), Bella’s birthday party was yesterday (Saturday) – family was here, tomorrow is Monday and I go back to work, Johnathan goes back to school….oh and it’s the 11th, her actual 2nd birthday. I thought that maybe after Karate we could go get ice cream and bring it back to have with Bella and their cousin. Once reality set in, I got out of bed and faced another day without you (385 to be exact).
This morning I went back to our usual morning routine. Johnathan and I went to wake up Bella together, we sang “Happy Birthday” to her – she was not amused at first, but by the second round she was ecstatic (like learning today was special). I asked her how old she was and she said, “twoooo!” Yes Bella you are two!!!! We sang Happy Birthday all the way to school and she sang along with us.
I don’t think that I will ever get used to you not being here and the selfish part of me will always believe that you should be here….no matter how much “at peace” you are now, your place was and will always be here with us. I am hopeful, as my dad said this weekend, “You made it one whole year and survived, if you can survive the hardest part you can survive the rest of your life now”. It’s true, I can’t believe I breathed over 365 days without you now, so maybe I can get through the rest. I know it won’t be easy, grief will flood me like a tidal wave and I will have to succumb to it some days, but I have learned that I will live through it. I’ve learned that I can face my grief – that my belief of sitting with my grief, facing it, and letting it flood me will not destroy me that it will not take over my life, that it will pass and I will wake up from the haze again and keep going. I have learned that living one year without you has been unimaginable pain and then worse, that it was rock bottom heart break that I never knew was possible, but someway and somehow you are dragged up to stand on your feet again, but some days all you can do is crawl – and that’s ok. I’ve learned that some friends will (with all the best intentions in the world) not do the best thing for you, that they will unknowingly be unkind, rude, and discredit your grief as their own. I’ve learned that grief shows who is there for you, who will love you unconditionally without prejudice when you hate the world. I’ve learned that sometimes you support those around you who are grieving for your loss and that it will humble you to know how much your spouse was loved. I’ve learned in one year that there is a secret society of young windows who sit around and drink wine and talk trash on the phone – I am forever grateful to my TAPS family. I have learned that grief cannot be pushed aside and dealt with later, that when it comes you must honor it, welcome it, hold it in your heart, let it awaken you –even at the most inconvenient times, like in the middle of a grocery store, when your pumping gas, checking the mail, during a conversation on the phone, laundry, or at work. I will continue to honor and tend to my grief; I will also forever love you and want you home.
I chose this song for you and Johnathan tonight, you’ve seen his struggles this past two weeks (I hope). I’ve wondered if others wondered why I chose a country song for the intro of your video. I was hesitant because I know you didn’t like country. But I chose this song for Johnathan. When we found it, we cried. I actually haven’t watched this video since before your services. I hope this makes sense why we chose it.