Being Content in My Grief

Three years and three months out seems like an eternity since I lost my husband. This eternity is heightened when I think of all of the things I miss: having my soul mate to talk to, vent to, being held and comforted when I have had a hard day; or even the help, mental and physical breaks from being a parent and all the responsibilities this entails.

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When I first lost Joe, I remember thinking, “I will not get through all the stages of grief.” Though, I did, indeed, go through every single one of them, like a jig-saw puzzle that often moved forward, backward, and sideways faster than I could mentally keep up before knowing I had changed directions again. No one, and no literature, told me there would be a stage of contentment; but I am here to tell you, that phase is where I am now.

I struggled to admit this phase of grief, because in a way, I feel guilty stating that I have “accepted” my reality. I don’t know that I have necessarily “accepted” it, but I have indeed become content in it. I do not like it, I am not happy that my reality is what it is, but since my reality of my life is that I am a young widow, that my husband passed away from a grueling and vigilant fight to last as many days as possible on this Earth, and that my son will never get another Earthly day with his Daddy, I am content, to say, “We are living. And we are making the very best of the life we have been given.”

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I can be content because of many factors. First and foremost, my son. He is truly what makes me continue to seek goodness, to be the best in all areas of my life, and to show me pure, genuine joy in life. His smile makes my heart burst, and his pure sense of exploration, inquisitiveness, and constant evolution into his own person drives me to continue to live. Providing him the childhood of a lifetime, is my ultimate desire as his parent. Watching him grow into a young man, is my only wish I could ever seek in life.

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I am content because I did go through all phases of grief. I often look back at private journaling, as well as public blogging I have done, and cringe on both. But I do not regret any of them. Those pieces are only reflective of the stage of grief I was in. Without going through everyone, sometimes multiple times, means I couldn’t be where I am today. I did grief my own way, not the way others suggested, or how those with the greatest of intentions suggested. I knew what I needed, what I felt, and the way I needed to feel. And I felt my feelings through the nasty process. I am stronger because of it.

I am content because although I despise my circumstances of feeling helpless, beyond frightened and scared, angry, robbed of me and my family’s life, and eventually helpless, it has made me into I am today. I am stronger; even though I didn’t want to be. I love harder, and I was already a lover. I feel harder, more, and cry more often; when my heart was already so very tender. I cannot help it. The loss of your spouse’s health, body, mind challenge you and your beliefs in many ways, but it makes you love, like you have never loved before. I would never trade any of that for less love.

I am content, because of my faith. Faith in God, yes, but faith– believing what you cannot see. I never once believed that life or loved ended when someone took their last breath; but that belief, only amplified October 26, 2014. I believe in love more, I believe in signs from those we cannot see, I believe in God, like I have never in my life. I was once asked,

“Do you still believe in God? Even after your husband getting sick and later dying?” My answer, “I have never believed in God more, than my very darkest days.”

You see, that is when He has been the most obvious, the most present. The blessings beyond our sickness, our situation, are so immense, mere words couldn’t convince you of the things He made happen. But He did. And–I continue to be amazed by His goodness.

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I am content, because unfortunately, yet fortunately, there are other widows and other young people fighting cancer in what should be the best days of their lives–raising families, accomplishing goals, pursuing dreams. I hate it for them, I wish beyond any wish, they didn’t have to fight the battle they are armored up against. But because they are, heals me, and allows me to heal others. The fellowship of those that truly understand, you don’t have to tell them, they just get it. It has healed me beyond belief. The opportunities, that by calculation, had already been decided and chosen, yet arose for me in God’s timing, have healed me. Modeling for a national non-for-profit, speaking to Congress, writing our story into a book, seeking out those with similar situations and just “being” there. I am content because of this.

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I am often asked about my next stages of life–dating, finding love again, why I continue to be involved in a world that can be so heavy–and so close to triggering me back into my journey of the heavy stages of grief. I respond with, “I would never wish my life circumstances on anyone, but I would wish my perspective on the world.” There IS joy and beauty and blessings in the very darkest of our days. I am content with just days. More days to give more, be more, and do more good for this world.

I am content.

See the Beauty in the Ashes,

Kristina

When “Thank You” Wasn’t Enough: A Caregiver’s Perspective

Many moments in my husband’s sixteen month battle with colon cancer, I wondered how much more we could take. One more set back, one more battle with flu, dehydration, one more chemo that depleted every ounce of energy or fluid left in his body; one more blow that our blood counts weren’t going down, but in fact, were doing the complete opposite, with a steady climb upward. It broke my heart, I tried to fill the prescriptions faster, have paperwork ready beforehand, and not to mention, the laundry done, floors swept and mopped, dusted shelves, and an infant that barely made a noise, because he was just content at all times. The appointments were made, the lawn was mowed during nap times of both of my boys–my husband and our son– so as not to miss a beat of them needing me while they were awake.

Some days though, I was just depleted. One hundred and fifty percent, spent. Exhausted. And I wanted to give up. I wanted to cry, throw a fit, go for a walk, maybe even get a pedicure, to just relax from the most daunting task of all. Taking care of my sick husband, and our sweet, fresh baby that came in the midst of fighting cancer, took a toll. That wasn’t an option though. It never was, it never is, and it never will be. I often cried on that mower, or in the shower. I often stifled tears, and talked myself down while I was doing laundry, or bringing wood in for the fire place. I even sent mass texts out: begging for prayers of patience, strength, endurance, and understanding.

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Eight months pregnant before our second surgery in July 2013.

And even though my sweet husband said, “Thank you” more times than I could ever remember–for every single thing I did for him, some days, those two words didn’t seem to be enough. You know what was enough, though? The way he looked at me from across the room as I changed another dirty diaper, grabbed another drink out of the fridge for him, and wiped up spit up–that look was enough. The way he smiled, or held me longer in a hug, made me know he was grateful beyond any words he could say. The way he squeezed my hand in the middle of the night, or I quietly heard him whispering a prayer to God, thanking Him for his wife: THAT was enough. His sweet random texts I received in the middle of my teaching days, to say, “I could never tell you thank you for all you do for our family. I promise I will fight to be the husband you deserve.” THAT was enough.

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Post surgery after a total colectomy June 23, 2013.

 

When he got up every single morning, on chemotherapy or not, and cooked me eggs, bacon, and toast, while bringing a cup of hot coffee to my vanity while I got ready for work–THAT was enough. When he woke up in the middle of the night, in between feedings of our son, and needed more pain medication, requiring me to get up one more time; thank you didn’t seem enough. But when I crawled back into bed, and he kissed my forehead and told me he couldn’t make it without me: THAT was enough. When he knew every other week, he walked into a clinic to be hooked up to chemo that would make him sick until the next time he had to walk in, THAT was enough. He never once complained; he never once asked if we could stop trying to fight; THAT was enough. When the pain was unbearable, and his eyes begged me to make it better, while he gasped for more air, and I felt helpless and hopeless, “me” was out the window. He was enough; his fight, strength, determination to be a Dad and Husband the rest of his days, THAT was enough. The hospital camp-outs in the floor, the second-opinions, the unmatched days and nights that we got to be a family at home in the floor, and avoid the rat race of life: THAT was enough.

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Joe at our chemotherapy appointment, while our two-month old son naps on a pallet next to him.

There are many titles I have had the honor of holding. Other than Joe’s wife and mother to his son, caregiver is my favorite. It was, and is, the most difficult phase of life I have been through. It is also the most honorable and beautiful thing I have ever been through. There is no way I could have allowed someone else to do what he needed those sixteen months. I only wanted him to know that every single act I did for him, whether it was keeping track of when and what to administer of his medication, or carry him to our bed because he didn’t have the strength to stand up, or to feed him like a small child when he was too weak to pick up a spoon or wipe his mouth; yeah, every bit of that, was my way of saying “Thank you” for every day he fought for us to remain a family.

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True Love.

When thank you doesn’t seem enough in battles of your hardest days, what else do you see that is enough? Maybe even the look from across the room is all you need, to realize that “Thank You” isn’t enough; they don’t, and could never, have the words to say just how grateful they are for all you do for them.

It’s been three years without him; he still sends me signs every single day of how grateful he is for me. What he may never know, though, is just how grateful I am for him and all he gave me and made me.

XOXO,

A Thankful Caregiver

When Cards Stop Coming, Being a Family of One Less Does Not

When my husband passed away just over three years ago, the inopportune timing of right before the holidays about took me under. To say I dreaded the holidays, would be a major understatement. The panic, fear and stress of how and what I was supposed to do, to get through them was beyond me. Fate took over, as it typically does, and invitations rolled in for my son and I to join friends, their families, and even strangers to join them for holiday festivities. The sympathy cards were so abundant, they were countless, that lasted well beyond the holiday season. The rawness that my husband, my life partner, and our children’s daddy wouldn’t be here was fresh. Sympathy abounded each person’s tone, intent, and well wishes to get us through that first holiday season.

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Four days before Joe passed; less than a month before Thanksgiving.

That next holiday season though, one year later–we didn’t get those invites, and the shock and numbness of just losing him had dulled–just a bit. Since the rawness wasn’t as fresh in everyone else’s mind, I realized it would be left to me, to lessen the blow of the holiday season; but how? It truly felt like the first holiday season, trying to figure out what I  was supposed to do–everyone took care of the last one, when I was only walking through the motions.

Three years out, I know what to do. Joe’s family is our home base, and we schedule, just like everyone else, where to be, when to be there, and who we will spend our holidays with. But you know what has not changed? What hasn’t changed, is that Joe isn’t here. He is not here to hang the Christmas lights outside, while I decorate inside. He is not here to wrap the Christmas presents, because I absolutely hate that one job of the holiday season. He is not here to pluck his stocking off the mantle, but it is still hanging there, embroidered with “Daddy” waiting for his large, calloused hands to grab it. He’s not here. Period. But his love is, and his memories are, and so is the longing of missing him–from me, his children, his parents, and his friends and family.

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Christmas 2016; two years out.

Talk about them. Any grief article, blog, book, or conversation I have–we want that. Talk about them. We may cry; we miss them. But it hurts us worse when you don’t. We still send his childhood friends Christmas cards, we want one from them too. We want to see you thriving, living, loving. Still invite our family over for get-together’s. Yes, we are one less, physically; but he is still with us, he makes us the family we are, and were. Still celebrate in love.

We are just a family of one less- we are reminded of that every day. It still hurts, it is still raw that we do holidays, and every day, without him. The amount of time since he was last here, will never change that. We just want Thanksgiving memories and traditions that still talk about the gratefulness of all Joe was, and is, to everyone he touched, to be brought up. We will still continue our Christmas traditions of our angel tree since Daddy passed, presents under the tree from Daddy under the tree , and writing our Christmas letter to Daddy each Christmas Eve to put in his stocking. That’s how it hurts less; we still acknowledge him every day, in everything we do. We hope you will too.

 

Holiday Blessings,

A Momma in a Family of One Less

What I’d Say to You Today if There Was One More …

Letters and conversations to my husband that passed away three years ago tomorrow, are not new things. In fact, they are probably the two things that have kept me as sane as I am today. Feeling like I am telling him things, filling him in on the chaos of life, and asking for advice, signs or direction into a next step of life proves helpful to my heart and clarify of mind. The odd thing to others is, I do hear him. I hear him in the way the wind blows at the exact right moment, in the exact right direction, in the exact right path.  I can hear his catch phrases of, “It’s just time and money,” when I become overwhelmed with one more project that needs to be done at the house. I constantly see those crystal blue eyes shining, with his thin lips pursed together, as he tries to shyly discrete how much his heart his shining for me, after each success or milestone that is accomplished. I can feel his pride beaming in a room, in which I have tackled one more thing. But truly, if we had one more hike, full of just he-and-I conversation, down a sunny and breezy Arkansas trail, I think it might go something like this:

“Did you see just how big he is getting? How could he look more like you? I mean seriously, that big head, and THOSE eyes. Babe, how he can he look more like you each and every day? He acts just like you, too. He is so tender hearted and so sweet natured. I marvel at how much he knows about you, through you, and that I know you too have a bond so deep–I cannot even see it”

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Those blue eyes.

“Are you disappointed? You know, when I get upset, and lose my patience; when I don’t have another ounce to give, and I get another night of take-out? Do you get mad when I get mad at God for Him taking you too soon? I try not to get mad, but I do every day, because I still miss you so much.”

“Can you believe we got to go to Congress and share our story? And how about that modeling gig? You think everyone now will know I really am the luckiest girl in the world–because you picked me to be your wife?”

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Standing on the Capital’s Steps, March 2017

 

“How did you know? You know, that day that out-of-no-where you told me I would write a book one day, while I was nursing our infant son, and you were lying in bed sick from the chemo? How did you even know that? I did it. Just to heal, I put the words down on paper, and it reminded me all over again, that God gave me the greatest honor of my life to be your wife to take care of you.”

“These last three years, I needed you. I knew you said you wouldn’t miss a day, but I really needed us. Fighting this world head-on together,  to cry with you, to be held, loved. I could feel you on those days and nights, though. How did you do that?”

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A sad Porter, wanting his Daddy.

“What’s it like up there? What all do you really see? Is it really so pure like God tells us and promises us? There really is no hate, pain, fear, regrets, remorse, or tears? I try to imagine, I just simply cannot.”

“Do you know me today? You know, three years out. I feel like it has been forever since I have kissed you, hugged you, talked to you. I’ve changed, I’m better and I’m worse. I fight the demons of losing you and the guilt, grief, depression, sadness that goes with it every day. But me–you always said you were proud of me, are you still? I’ve tried every way I possibly know to carry your name on; selfishly –for me, because it helps me when I talk about you more. And for our son and daughter, because I want them to always remember the best daddy in the world. I want them to know that even with all the bad, the world doesn’t owe them a thing, we still owe the world all the greatness we have to give.”

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Keeping my promise to him-Graduating with Masters in Education Administration, May 2015

“How do I know? How do I know when all the next steps are right, are perfect timing,or imperfect. How do I know what you would say and want–remember we never talked about that, because we couldn’t. It hurt too bad, and it still does. I just wish I knew for certain, and heard you tell me what your wishes were, when you were not here to tell me anymore.”

“She’s beautiful–your girl. She’s truly breathtaking. She looks just like you–still. I know your heart would shine for her, just as it always has. I dream of you walking her down the aisle one day; kissing her good-bye for prom this spring. And I die all over inside, when I know that is not the reality.”

“How does he know? How does he know things that there is no way I told him? That I know, in some way, you two can communicate with each other, and do, so that he still knows all of your favorite things, how to do certain things, that there is no Earthly explanation for? Is that you carrying out the last begging request I made, to always send a sign, through him, when I needed to know you were close? It marvels me Joe, you really always have been beyond extraordinary–but this tops the cake!”

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Joe’s Babies.

“I’m sorry; for all of it. For crying too many tears, for our son seeing each one fall, for crawling into a ball in the middle of our bed and not being a functioning member of society too many days. I’m sorry I still question God’s timing and plan in all of this. I’m sorry that too many days the grief consumes me, and I can’t make it go away. Thank you for loving me this much, that it would hurt this bad, though.”

At the end of this conversation, I would realize he didn’t say anything, and I said it all. Because he would be content listening as I rambled from one thing to the next, never taking a breath to wait for the next answer. And that look–the one that confirmed everything I knew he felt about me, would be shining in my direction, beaming with pride. Without a shadow of a doubt, I know he would say,

“You’re doing it all perfect. You are the greatest mother I could have ever chosen for our son. You are perfect–at everything you do, how many times do I have to tell you that? Always and forever, baby, I love you, forever and always.”

With an extra long tight squeeze and a kiss on my forehead, his words never had to be spoken, it was the feeling he gave me that confirmed everything would turn out just fine.

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Our last photograph together. Unconditional Love.

I sure do need that tonight, and for the last three long years that I haven’t had a hug or a kiss from him since. What I would give.

Three years–far too long to live without your soulmate, your best friend, your husband, the father of your son. Far too long for your son to live without their daddy to hold their hand, and teach them new things. It is just far too long.

XOXO, An Aching Widow’s Heart

 

 

 

Why I’ll Never Move On in Grief

As the three year anniversary approaches of losing my husband to Colon Cancer, I get asked frequently, “When are you going to move on?” It is a gentle question, often presented simultaneously with hesitation and lack of eye contact, in fear of how I might react. A fair question, nonetheless. Humans were not created to do life alone, we naturally seek companionship, crave the feeling of being loved and cared for. And three years, well, that is a lifetime when days seem to trudge by, and are unfulfilling without someone to do life with you.

I never really know how to answer the question though; other than, “Never.” Yeah, I am never, ever going to “move on.” I can’t. This is my life, it is a story that will forever linger until the day I pass from this Earth. It is a story I keep alive for a child who has, and will, grow up without his dad here to guide him and share memories with. I won’t stop talking about Joe, because when I do–that is when he really dies. To hear his name, blesses my heart and fills it with so much joy, it is indescribable. To honor his life, his memory, his heart, is yet another way to give back to this world that needs more good. I keep Joe alive because I don’t want another young widow in this world; I don’t want any other child to go through their life wondering what their Dad is like, or cry themselves to sleep because they miss him so much. I want a cure to Colon Cancer, and mostly, I pray to God that it happens before the possibility of our son begins to have symptoms of Lynch Syndrome, the hereditary form of colon cancer.

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I often tell people, if you didn’t know our story, and spoke to our son, you would never know his Daddy has been gone three years. We talk about him daily, random conversation, of “Oh, that’s what my Daddy does/eats/likes.” He is proud of his Daddy, and knows him better than science should ever begin to explain a toddler’s memory. I am darn proud of that, and blessed because of it.

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The double-edged sword though, is it does hurt like hell. I am sure most friends ask me the question of moving on, because they do still see me cry, grieve, and miss him.  They are concerned that because I talk about him so much, it allows the wound to still be so fresh. They are correct–it does. The alternative though? The alternative is a child that forgets about his Dad, and never talks about him. The alternative is a child that doesn’t know unconditional love, beyond the Earth, but eternally. The alternative is me not talking about Heaven, salvation, grace, and forgiveness in the purest sense. And it is a silencer in a world that needs a cure for colon cancer. And when I think about what hurts worse, talking or not talking about him, never “moving on” past our pain-filled story, I realize I can live with the deep cut to my soul and keep talking about a little boy’s Daddy, rather than to forget.

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Moving on never really happens for any of us, anyways. We wish we could, but everything that happens in our life molds us, forms us, allows us to carry on from lessons learned. The love, and the ruthless pain from losing my best friend and husband, will carry with me until the day we get to meet each other again. I may take different steps, I may take a chance at falling in love again, I may live a life full of happiness with a sweet blue-eyed boy who is the exact epitome of his Dad, but I will never move on. Unconditional eternal love ensures that it is stronger than anything else in this world. I am just blessed enough to have it.

XOXO, A Sweet Boy’s Momma

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My Fears for the Boy Who’s Daddy Went to Heaven to Soon

Growing up, I heard the chatter that was redundant fall out of every parent’s mouth:

They grow up too soon.”

“It seems like yesterday they were in diapers.”

“Next thing you know they will be in college.”

Words that all parents share, feelings and sentiments we all bask in and wonder about how time passes so quickly. And we all share in the worries and what-if’s of tomorrow.

 

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I know I am not alone in the second-thoughts, motives, and self-doubts in my parenting. It’s just that the mom-guilt is so heavily burdened by the grief-guilt, some days I feel like I cannot take the pressure. The struggle, the tightness of my heart, trying to control the tears from falling. You see, not only do I fear all the things we share in as we walk our parenting journeys, but I also have other fears. Fears that arise from my son’s daddy being in Heaven far too soon. Fears that I try to quiet, and hush, every single day. But they are real. Grief is real. It never ends. And the more we talk about it, the more we know there are others out there who share in our fears and struggles.

I fear, daily, one day he will forget his Daddy. His memories, the talks we have about him, how he looked, what they said to each other. 

I fear one day our sweet baby will stop talking about his Daddy. Even though that sweet boy has never went a day without talking about his Dad, since the day he was fourteen months old, when daddy joined the angel army with Jesus.

I fear the amount of hours I work will tell our son I didn’t have time for him. Even though, he goes to work with me, coaches on the sidelines with me, I fear he will see a mom that always had to work, and didn’t have time to always get in the floor to play with just him. 

I fear, every hour of every day, I am not providing the male opportunities his Daddy would, if he were here. Even though I spend hours researching, building projects, riding four-wheelers, taking him fishing, explaining how mechanics work–what if it isn’t enough to fill the void of his Daddy being here?

I fear being a mom, I one day won’t have the manly advice to give to him, that only his Dad could. Then what? Do I fail? How do I overcompensate for that? Who do I trust to give up a little piece of my parenting role, to help mold him into a fine young man?

I fear the grief that has overwhelmed my heart since October 26, 2014 will taint our innocent sweet baby. I fear he will resent me for shedding so many tears, and being sad missing his daddy, even in the really good times. 

I fear, every day, that I make wrong decisions, that will affect him a lifetime. The days I’m too tired after work to play, the too-many meals of take-out, and not enough home cooking. I fear I don’t color with him enough, that time is flying by so quickly, I can’t even slow it down. 

I fear he doesn’t have enough male influence, that only men can provide. Will this harm him, create self-doubt, or low self-esteem, as he grows older and needs these influences?

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I tell myself daily it is all ludicrous. I tell myself that all parents share in these unknown fears, that we are all just doing the best we can do. But what if the fears of a little boy who’s daddy went to heaven too soon, become real?

Fear is a gripping chain I try to throw off my back every day. It is a fight. It is a struggle. Fear never really goes away, it controls. And writing about it, allows us to free ourselves, and each other, knowing we are not alone.

I’m doing the best I can do, I really am.

A Sad Momma of a Sweet Boy Who’s Daddy Went to Heaven Too Soon

Because of the Very Worst, Life Gave Me the Very Best

It’s been some time since I have been able to sit down and write. Writer’s block, lack of enthusiasm, loss of creativity, angry that I am doing life alone, whatever you want to call it; I had no words to pour out onto a page. It frustrates me when I get to this point, because writing is, and has, truly been my greatest way to handle grief. However, dates seem to consume my memory banks, and flood my emotions. June always takes the cake for emotions, as I finish up celebrating Mother’s Day in late May, Father’s Day, the date of my husband’s cancer-versary (date of diagnosis), the thirteen days we initially spent in the hospital, which also overlaps our wedding anniversary.

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I am often frustrated by the lack of understanding from others when I get to this point. I attempt to preface it all–make plans, do fun and exciting things, go on adventures, be extra reflective and grateful for God’s blessings, but then it hits. I am celebrating a wedding anniversary as one, not two. My husband is in heaven, and our life together was cut short. Milestones, anniversaries, birthdays, all of it, cut short to celebrate together.

That’s where reflection comes in, however. A quote, the only words, someone has shared with me in this journey of grief is at the most forefront part of my mind:

“It hurts this bad, because you two loved each other that much.”

Truth. It really does hurt this bad, because we loved each other that much. And you know what? I loved him as much as I did, because of the very worst. I thought I loved my husband with every bit of my heart, that there was not possibly another ounce of love I could give him. And then the doctors told me he had cancer. The doctors then made me share the news with my husband, while I was seven-months pregnant sitting on the corner of that sterile, white hospital bed. God chose me to take care of that man, who battled for sixteen months, in between countless chemotherapy infusions, blood thinner shots in his abdomen, dressing the largest gaping stomach wound I could never imagine, surgeries, pumping medication refills after medication refills into his declining, frail, thin body to keep him comfortable. He chose me to deliver his son into this world, while Joe was sick, knowing we needed hope and strength from something a doctor couldn’t prescribe to make him better.

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I was petrified. I was angry, anxious, full of fear. I begged God sprawled heavily pregnant on public bathroom floors to change our circumstances, to spare his life and take mine. I bartered with the one who calls all the shots telling Him I could endure the pain, but to relieve Joe’s body. I told God what I thought I knew, and promised Him our son and daughter needed their Daddy, more than they needed me. He didn’t need my half-knowings, He told me there was a different plan. I just begged Him to change it.

Sure I loved Joe in the greatest of times–family vacations, road trips, dinner out, working on a never-ending dream house. I loved him when it was fun, and we were daring: hiking trails, caving, wake boarding, being in love without a care in the world, getting married at sunset next to the ocean. Love is easy when things are good. But in the very worst, when cancer came and robbed of us of a lot of joy and happiness, when cancer filled days with pain, sorrow, questions, and doubts–that’s when I really loved him. And you know what? In the absolute very worst, love is even easier. It flooded my soul like nothing has ever flooded my soul in my life. When we faced losing every materialistic thing we owned, when cancer threatened health and life, when health failed and told me our children would grow up without their dad, and leave me as a widow, love was easy, and it was the very best. All of the bad in this world allowed me to see life in a totally different perspective. A perspective I am forever grateful for, and a better person because of. I’m thankful every day for the gifts cancer gave us–they are too abundant to count. Deep, unconditional, love that is indescribable. Restoration in humanity and my faith. Miracles that cannot be explained, at least from the explicit state of mind; just confirmation that God has way more power than even we think we can comprehend. Answered prayers, community, and prevailing love from friends, family, strangers, medical staff, you name it. We got the very best, in the very worst.

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So, as our wedding anniversary approaches, I remember how we celebrate. We celebrated our first wedding anniversary without my husband being able to sit up, use the bathroom on his own, and could barely keep his eyes open after a total colectomy only a few days prior. I sat seven-months pregnant next to his hospital bed, watching his chest rise and fall. It was the greatest celebration of life, knowing I had my husband one more day in this crazy life. We celebrated our second wedding anniversary, on our front porch watching our sweet, chunky, little nine-month-old son playing with his toys and puppy. Joe was too weak, sick and tired to sit up from the chemotherapy, so he laid on the cushions on a porch bench, while I played on the deck, watching our sweet baby and my sweet husband, thankful for all of God’s grace and goodness. Our third? I returned to the beach we got married at, the exact spot, alone. I fell to my knees and cried, asking God why this was the plan. Our fourth–I cried in bed, then remembered Joe brought out the best in me and pushed me to my limits. I went out and para-sailed above the beautiful lake we live on. And our fifth? I will choose to live again, doing something full of crazy adventure and fun. It will push me outside of my comfort zone, raise my heartbeat, and know that the very worst of life, has given me so much good.

Remember the collateral beauty in each moment. They very, very worst has truly brought the very best in life. Even when I hated to admit it, God remains good and prevails His blessings upon us maybe just in ways we didn’t specifically ask for. I am choosing to see all the good, even when my heart hurts on an anniversary of eight years this man has been in my life, five of them being married to him.

XOXO,

Celebrating life–Kristina

Preserving the Innocence of a Child Through Grief

I often catch myself holding my breath and clenching my chest more often when my son’s innocence of his Daddy’s absence comes out. When we hear the motor of an airplane, or see the streak it leaves through a crystal blue sky, you can hear his voice rise when he jumps up and down and screams, “DADDY, DADDY, IT’S MY DADDY.” My throat gets even more restricted when I see him on the playground and his friends chime in with excitement when they think they are seeing our son’s daddy playing captain, while flying high in the sky. The tears fight my will not to fall when we bow our head each day, three times a day, to pray for our food. He doesn’t just thank God for his food, but his daddy too. Each and every time.

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What really gets me though, is when I don’t expect it all. The grief, the painstaking stab in the throat, when he watches other kids at the park  play with their dad’s and asks out loud, looking up to the sky, “Daddy, I keep asking you to come down here, but you won’t listen.” With a sad face, he looks at me, shoulders slumped, and asks me why his Daddy doesn’t come down to play with him. The catch in my throat often delays the response to give to him, although my heart and mind are racing to find the appropriate answer. His innocence and joy are so pure, as are all young ones, and you see, I don’t want to take that away from him.

 

Part of his innocence was taken that day in late October when his Daddy drew his last breath. He was in the arms of one of my best friends, when I let out the blood curdling scream of “NO,” begging God instantly to reverse the decision He just made. Too young at fourteen months old, to have a conversation with explaining what just happened, he only knew the screams his mommy was letting out. That best friend had to comfort him, since my heart was handicapped to do so myself. You see, in that moment, both of his parents were incapable of comforting him. One that had left his Earthly body, and the other who’s body released every bit of stress, grief, tension and was oblivious to anything but the shattered heart attempting to keep beating without her soulmate.  He was not afforded the innocence of having his Daddy here to teach him to ride a bike, play in the floor with cars, or be his daddy’s little buckaroo. He was granted a life with a shadow of sadness always lingering, always absent of one man he would need the rest of his years. He, without choice, had that innocence taken away from him far too young.

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I find myself every day questioning whether or not I am handling grief correctly; not just my personal grief, but leading my son’s grief. I do not know whether I am doing right, wrong, or just okay. I guess only time will tell me the answer to this. What I do know is this–they grow up far too fast. Each day I reel at how fast the past four years has gone–four years since my husband was diagnosed with Stage IV Colon Cancer, while we were seven months pregnant. Four years since our son was born into an inopportune situation. Four years since cancer changed our lives forever, and eventually took my husband, and his dad, from us. Four years of learning to lead a life I didn’t choose, or want. Four years. I feel like I still live the heaviness of cancer in our every day lives, although that picture has changed drastically.

Since four years of different forms and stages of grief has come, I have decided this: if seeing or hearing an airplane in the sky, makes my son’s heart jump with joy and excitement because he thinks his Daddy is the one flying that thing, then I am going to let it. If his prayers every meal and every night consist of telling Jesus thank you for his Daddy, then I want to keep those sweet prayers coming. Even if he gets sad, and asks me why his Daddy won’t listen to him and come down here to play with him, then I am going to encourage him to keep having those conversations with his Daddy, since I do not have the answer to give to him. I am even going to let him keep talking to his Daddy’s pictures every time he gets mad at me, and tells him “Daddy, mommy is being mean to me, you come down here and swat her.” Because as frustrated as I can get at that almost four-year-old little boy, my goodness, that makes me laugh every time.

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His innocence will grow into something that will tell him different far too soon. My heart might just break a little sooner than I ever thought possible, when reality hits him hard. I forever want him to have conversations with his Dad, I always did. After all, I choose the world’s best Daddy to be that boy’s Daddy. I love the stories he makes up about his Daddy, and I love the things that his Daddy comes down to tell him, when there is no other way to justify that child knowing details that he, in fact, does.

Innocence in grief has been a blessing. It is a blessing. The reality of this ugly world is not. I beg you to not take the innocence of a child in their grief. It is all they have to get through.

XOXO,

A Little One’s Widowed Mommy

We Talked About Everything. Except Dying.

My husband and I dated three years before we said, “I do.” He is as opposite from me, as I am from him. He is as quiet, as I am loud and talkative. He is as shy, as I am outgoing. Opposites certainly did attract, when God created this man for me.

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Joe and I have always had an “easy” relationship–easy, as easy gets. We still had things we didn’t agree on, but we rarely ever had an argument. We just talked. About everything. Even weird things, or things that were uncomfortable to talk about, we just did. I never really thought much about that fact–until sometime after he won his battle with cancer, and gained his wings to Heaven. Somewhere after that, it hit me hard, that we never talked about that one topic. The one that is inevitable for everyone to talk about. That thing that will happen to each of us. Death. Dying. Taking our last breath. Expiring. Not being here on Earth. We never spoke a word about it. Ever.

In the midst of the whirlwind that happened in our life: being seven-months pregnant, being diagnosed with Stage III, then Stage IV colon cancer, celebrating our wedding anniversary in the hospital, and then delivering our son into our mess, that topic just never seemed to come up. Or it intentionally was never brought up. We avoided it entirely, even when there was opportune times to talk about it–when the doctor told us our prognosis, when respite care was called, hospice, or even some terrifying moments of the loss of health. Here’s my perspective:

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During our first round of chemotherapy with our son at a week old, the doctor told us that any treatment from here on out would only prolong life.  I vividly remember the comment not even phasing me, while I nursed our son sitting on the hospital bed with Joe. It did not phase me at all. Bold face, wide eyed, I looked at him and replied, “Well, I guess you are going to see a miracle.” He sheepishly looked down, and weakly smiled. I wasn’t being naive, but I knew we were going to defy odds. We always won at difficult circumstances, and prevailed to the top.

 

Chemotherapy was hell on Earth. It is Hell on Earth. Anyone going through treatment will, and does, agree without hesitation. The mental warfare it does on those going through it, is a side effect society, and doctors, rarely talk about. This held true for Joe. Tears, emotions, fear, anger, and lots of why’s consumed us both. But never, ever death. Not even when he hadn’t eaten in days, passed out, hit his head and had a seizure in the bathroom floor unresponsive to me. Not even when the chemotherapy stopped working, and we tried multiple different options. Not even when we went for a second opinion, but didn’t get randomized for a clinical trial of chemo. Not even when the doctor told us there was nothing further we could do. Not even when he wasn’t strong enough to pick up our year old son to give him a kiss. Not even when he heard me softly crying on my side of the bed in the middle of the night, and asked if I was still awake. I stifled the tears, choked back the lump in my throat, and pretended I was asleep.

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Not even when he went most of the day without waking up, and rarely eating anything. Never. Ever. We did not talk about him dying. I simply couldn’t. I believed, for a very long time we would get our miracle of healing. I boldly prayed for it. I never had a mindset we would not. God would prevail, He showed up in impossible situations to prove His greatness. He would show up when we least expected it.

The week Joe passed away, he came up behind me, as I was sitting at the island feeding our sweet baby in his dark, mahogany wood high chair we picked out together. He softly picked up my flowing hair over my shoulders, and whipped it back into his frail, bony hands. As he played with it, he calmly said, “I’m going to miss this. So, so much.” He stopped due to the crack in his voice, but lingered running his fingers through my hair, and softly kissed my neck. I knew he wasn’t talking about days off from work together. He wasn’t talking about late morning breakfasts, just the three of us. I knew he was talking about “it,” but we didn’t talk about that. I didn’t, because I didn’t want him to think I had given up on our miracle. He knew. I knew. We just couldn’t.

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But today. Today–April 21, 2017–five days shy of being two and a half years since I kissed his face for the last time, not talking about “it” has proved harder, than just talking about the inevitable for all of us. I wish I knew what he wanted for my life, our life, now that he is gone. I wish I heard his voice tell me that it was okay to find love again, one day. I wish I heard him tell me how to raise our son into a man. I wish he told me he wasn’t angry that he got cheated at life, at being a dad, at being my husband, at being a son to his parents. I wish he told me not to be angry for him. I wish he just told me something, anything, about dying. Not having instructions after death is so much harder.

Talking about death isn’t the easy answer. It would have been hard, probably the hardest conversation we ever had. Although I “think” I know what he would have told me, I still need to “KNOW.” I wish we would have talked about what Heaven would have been like. I wish I told him to go say, “Hi” to my grandpa. I wish he told me he would watch over us. We didn’t though. We never talked about death.

There are many things that are uncomfortable to talk about. They make you wince, push it off until later, delay it a little longer. Later is always too late though, isn’t it? I’ve had a lot of tough conversations since then. Conversations that are possible situations I hope never happen in this lifetime. But I never want doubt, fear of the unknown from the past to haunt the future of today and tomorrow. Death is going to happen to all of us. We better just prepare and talk about it now.

Struggling with the thoughts of what tomorrow is supposed to look like-

Kristina