Memorial Day has a purpose which is to remember those who have laid down their lives for us and for freedom. Many of us take those days for granted yet many others grieve still because they were children, fathers, mothers, siblings and friends and many of us have personal memorial days, today is that day for my family and me.
Grieving can take on many shapes and sizes and is different for each person who was affected. For me, today is the anniversary of my husband’s passing three years ago. He was young, only 52 and suffered a lot at the end. Sometimes I still struggle in the month of May with a little anxiety with breathing myself, then realize and press through the moment. I witnessed his struggle because he was home on hospice with me which is what he wanted. Although his primary disease was caused by malignant melanoma and other complications, he had what is called a saddle pulmonary embolism on April 25th, 2014 which normally kills the person within 4 minutes. He survived that for the next 4 weeks eventually taking his life. This causes the person to feel like they are slowly drowning. He lost oxygen to his body which began in his feet and moved up through his body until he eventually passed. Every day his breathing got worse and we all had to watch it. It was difficult.
During that time we cried a lot, Eric and I. I was up 24 hours a day pretty much to help him, Alexis helping a lot. I watched him suffering from not only the pain but knowing he would not see his children marry, our grandchildren grow up, he knew each struggle that each child would face, all seven, my boys included, he was afraid for me, hated leaving me, he said I was his sunshine in his life (trust me, I was) and he wrote letters to everyone. He would be proud of his children, sincerely proud. I attended Caleb’s graduation from the Sheriff’s academy a month ago and cried knowing Eric would be so proud of this young man, his son. He was the youngest to graduate. Eric’s four biological children lost their mother during the same month, May to same cancer. For them, the heartache was now compounded. The same month, same cancer, two parents. I have been blessed with the responsibility of loving and being here for them as they grow. I see them as mine and have loved and cried at times for the responsibility but I am very responsible for them and love it and love them. I feel honored to have been chosen to marry their dad and helped with the responsibility and joy. But now, each of us is moving on. As a family, we walk with a limp but have greater empathy and concern for others who have lost loved ones. Now we laugh a lot. Our lives have changed in different ways, I no longer run a non-profit, no longer am a counselor, but life coach for widows, run my own business and ride a bike a lot but I still love the Lord and am very passionate about that.
My children, specifically Eric’s, have moved on but with hardship at times. They mourn the loss of a father and of a friend. Grieving comes from the inside, mourning is outside. The hole is bigger during their significant life events, marriage, graduations, and children. I say this all the time, your family and your children are your legacy. Nothing else, not fame, not fortune not your job but your family. Yes, we work, yes, time is not always on your side, but make sure they know you treasure them. We have to live life, we are all moving on and the sting isn’t as bad and each of us realizes he is not coming back and our identities have changed a little.
Remember the days of loss, don’t forget them and as I have told my children, make the loss a reason to do well, not an excuse to do poorly but make that person’ loss a significant life purpose for you and for their memory even if you grieve for that person for the rest of your life, it is what they would want.