A few weeks ago as I was doing laundry, I noticed that I had already done a few loads of dark laundry, and still had more to go. My first thought was "that's weird, I don't ever remember washing this many dark clothes before."
For whatever reason, this thought took me by surprise. It may seem obvious to some of you, because we have 7 people in our house now, so of course I would be doing more laundry. But that wasn't the realization. It was because most of Steve's laundry is dark - he prefers darker colors. And I realized that for some reason, I was surprised that it wasn't like Jeremy's. And my subconscious automatically went to "before" meaning before Jeremy died.
What's weird is that I rarely compare Steve to Jeremy. They have a lot of similar qualities - mostly the good ones - which is why I love them both so. But they are very different. Whenever those thoughts come in my head, I try to be gracious to myself and to Steve to remember that not only is he different, but so am I. But, I'm human and I love two men both at the same time so I'm not so naive to think that those thoughts wouldn't creep in once in awhile.
Jeremy didn't do it that way. What would he say in this situation? Steve handled this so much better than Jeremy would have. Jer would have handled this better. Jeremy would have known what do about this problem. Jeremy would remember this reference. Steve hasn't figured this part out yet. Jeremy never figured that out. I wish Steve and I could have share this memory, too. I wish Jeremy wasn't missing this.
The truth is, these kinds of thoughts can plague widow(er)s in new relationships. I can't speak for everyone, but I know that I'm ok with wrestling with these things. Maybe it's because I won't ever apologize for loving and continuing to love Jeremy. Maybe it's because I won't apologize for loving Steve as much. Maybe it's because Steve is great about talking through these things with me without feeling threatened. Either way, these fleeting thoughts remind me that I have lived two separate lives that continue to overlap in my heart. And that's ok.
Today, as I was folding laundry, I remembered that thought from a few weeks ago and smiled. The bottom line is that I miss doing laundry for Jeremy and grieved a weird, tiny piece of my life that maybe I hadn't before. And I smiled because I was thankful to be able to do laundry for Steve, whether it was dark, light, or pink and polka dotted (ok, that might not be so great!). It's ok that it looks different. It should. They're both equally important and meaningful. One does not negate the other.
Sometimes all it takes is a silly moment of folding the laundry to change your world.
Enjoying a few warm moments this weekend in Panama City Beach, FL
I find it ironic sometimes how much I love being at the ocean. It's ironic for me in particular, because I have no desire to ever be IN the ocean due to my ridiculously irrational fear of fish and all things that live in the water. I will put my toes in as long as I can see the bottom, but if I see anything in the water, even from far away, I am outta there faster than a speeding bullet. But, I digress...
What I meant to say is, there is just something about being near the ocean. The white noise of the waves, the view and appearance of infinity....it's breathtaking. It's hard to see this view and not just stop to reflect.
Every year for the past 4 years, I have gone to Panama City Beach, FL in January for Gulf Coast Getaway to lead worship. Every year, it has proven to be a pivotal point in my life.
The first year I went with Jeremy and it was just the most incredible experience. Even days before he died, we talked about how much we were looking forward to going again in just two short months. We could never afford to travel for leisure, so we always squeezed our experiences into these trips. We had never witnessed worship like that before, we got to do what we loved, and we met so many cool people as a result of that trip.
The second year, I was 8 months pregnant and newly widowed. I remember praying our plane would crash into the ocean. I remember aching and wrestling through worship, and marking every spot that Jeremy had stood the year before. I remember 1,600 college students raising $10,000 for my family and being overwhelmed in my gratitude for the hearts of so many who were carrying me forward.
Last year, I remember a different kind of wrestling, as I was battling the judgement of many for my new relationship, but feeling my heart healing as well. It was also the weekend that Steve told me he loved me, while I heard the crash of the waters in the background, and the beating of my heart echoing behind.
This year, I was able to bring Steve with me. I needed him to know why this place was so sacred to me, why I loved it so much. Every year, I've spent time at the foot of the ocean: comforting a friend who grieved a betrayal of the worst kind from her best friend, cursing and sobbing in the middle of the cold night, wondering why I had to keep on breathing without Jeremy by my side, swelling with joy and confusion at the uncertainty of life and of what the future would hold for me, and hand-in-hand with Steve, enjoying a new experience together, and also grieving that I would never again be hand-in-hand with Jeremy in that place we so loved.
This place, and the ocean represent a lot for me. Fear, growth, question, pain, struggle, and ultimately, hope and healing. That's why I love it so much. The ocean challenges me. It humbles me. And it heals me. It's a place that reminds me, even in the midst of knowing at the foot of the vast ocean that I am small and insignificant, that I am also not alone and that I matter.
The ocean reminds me that if I close my eyes and listen, take a deep breath and soak in the moment, I will have survived one moment. If I can survive one moment, I can survive the next, one breath at a time.
There are those moments that repeatedly roll around in my head. They're the staples I held onto the moment Jeremy died, the ones that epitomize our relationship and bring me peace about the last few days of his life....the sweet exchanged I shared with him in the car, not knowing it would be my last, holding hands with him the night before, going out to dinner as a family just days before he died. These are the pieces I remember vividly because I've held them so tight.
I think after someone dies, your brain automatically scrambles to try and hold onto every important piece you can retain from the last minutes/hours/days/weeks of their life. We grasp onto these pieces to remind us of life, to make sense of the chaos and to store them in our hearts. These are the pieces that, whenever I think about the last days of Jeremy's life, I think about most.
But then there are the pieces in between. The pieces of simple, every day things that we may have forgotten about until something comes up to remind us. A random conversation I forgot we had, a silly joke he told to the kids I couldn't remember, or a song that sparks a memory. These aren't the moments I think about most regularly, but when they come up, they bring another piece of him together.
These little moments, these in between pieces, have come up here and there for the last two years, and I know they probably will continue to for the rest of my life. And even though they aren't the staples I run back to or the moments I hold on tightest to, they're just as important. I'm always grateful when these little pieces come back to me.
First of all, I wanted to give everyone an update on the money we raised for my sweet friend, Amy, who lost her husband tragically at the end of November (for the record, November sucks). In the month of December, we raised $5,582.72!!!! I will continue to leave the Paypal donate button up until my revenue check is paid for December (it's usually two months behind), so if anyone wanted to make a donation and wasn't able to, you still have a chance. I'm so incredibly thankful for the generosity of others, even complete strangers, who were willing to take the time to help. It gives me hope and reminds me of how much good is still left in the world.
Lately, I've really needed the reminder.
I always admire people who can say they live life with no regrets. Maybe I'm a little cynical, but I don't believe most people have no regrets from their past. I sure do. There are a lot of things I wish I could go back and do differently. But I know those are the things that make us who we are, help shape us into the people we become.
After coming out of intense grief, one of the few things it teaches me is to move forward with no regrets. I'm not so naive to think I won't make mistakes or forget to embrace life - I'm human. But I have loved and lost and I don't like wasting time in this life not using it to let the people around me know how much I love them. Perhaps if I lose someone I love again, I'll never feel like I said enough, did enough, embraced enough....but I will keep trying.
I love that starting a new year brings about hope for so many people. A hope for change, a hope for something new. So many possibilities on the horizon for the year that lies ahead. For those who are in suffering, though, grief can be a reminder that the world moves forward while theirs is ending, and they have to drag over into a new year kicking and screaming. Two years ago, I couldn't escape the horror I felt watching time tick into a year that Jeremy would never see. I cried myself to sleep long before midnight because I couldn't bare the thought of celebrating....and I prayed I wouldn't have to see the year either. What a year can change. Last year, I went on a first date palms sweaty and heart racing, so unsure of where my life was headed....but I had hope. This year, I will do my best to pay that hope forward by living with no regret. Of loving when I know I should, of speaking up when I feel the need, or keeping my mouth shut when it's necessary, of soaking up every day moments with my children, of putting myself and my health as a priority, of loving every bit of the second chance I've been given.....no regrets.
This is not an easy task. I'm constantly in shock by the hurt that few people can cause. Some of you have seen the comments that have come through on my blog - hurtful, accusing, demeaning. I don't post them anymore, as they have gotten progressively worse, and I refuse to give them the satisfaction. In fact, they don't upset me anymore because there is no weight in them for me. The only upsetting piece is that it's someone I know. I just feel pity for people who live in such pain that they feel the need to impose the pain and hurt and misunderstanding onto others....especially others who have already been through so much (and I'm not just talking about me here.) I've heard the ridiculous things that people have said to widows, you can add to that the things people try to tell that same widow when she tries to date or remarry....it's enough to make anyone go mad!
I will no longer tolerate such negativity to weigh me down. I'm human, and words can be especially hurtful, but I lived through my worst hell, what can one person's opinion really do to me? Not any more pain than I've already suffered. This year, I move forward. No regrets. Leaving behind my mistakes, but bringing the lessons I've learned from them and the good pieces along with me.
The life lessons I've learned from grief will not be in vain.