Posted in Ben, Grief, Joy

How has it been six years?

Six years. Seventy-two months. Over two thousand days and 52 thousand hours. Those are the numbers that mark the passage of time since you left us. As I sit down to do the math, it strikes me that our children had you in their lives for a shorter time than you’ve been absent. This summer I realized that I’ve been a single mom for longer than I had you as a partner in parenting.

Unfairness and Loss

My list of losses continues to grow with each passing day. The unfairness of all that we have lost and missed out on since you have been gone:
• Our children have missed out on growing up with you as their dad on earth.
• For six years, they have had to navigate life’s challenges with only me by their side.
• We have missed you at every milestone like first days of school and losing first teeth.
• Our son doesn’t get to have your guidance on becoming a man, understanding how to treat ladies, and growing in bravery and strength.
• Our daughters have missed out on having their dad teach them about healthy relationships with men.
• Father/son campouts and life conversations—are voids left by your absence (and trust me… Josh would rather have those conversations with you then me any day).
• Our girls won’t experience the joy of a father/daughter dance or having you walk them down the aisle.

A Painful Journey & Lessons Learned

Last night I read a post from six years ago. I pleaded for prayers on your behalf after that last seizure believing you would be heading home the next morning. And the following day brought a reality I never imagined—returning home alone, telling our kids you were gone, and planning your funeral instead of your homecoming. I had no idea what the future would hold in that moment. And when I look back on how much we lost that day and in the six years since, I could really get lost in how unfair life has been to us.

And yet amidst the sorrow and unfairness, these years have been full of learning for us. Lessons that have been hard-won, forged in the fires of repeated, unexpected losses. And while our life together did not end up being full of sunshine and roses, I know that it’s in those challenging moments that I have gained this wisdom:
• Life is fleeting and unpredictable.
• Grief and loss are unavoidable.
• Sadness comes when we least expect it.
• Despite the hardships, life is worth living.
• Every day is a chance to try again.
• Small victories are worth fighting for.
• Forgiveness is always worth it (for us and for others).
• Love is important, even when it seems undeserved (especially when it is undeserved).
• And nothing is more important than showing our kids that every moment counts.

Embracing Life’s Imperfections

There is no denying it. Life is not fair. Today we should be celebrating another day with you, but we are not.

Instead, we are faced with the same choice we have had every day for the last 6 years. The choice of whether to live life as fully as you did when you were with us. Embracing the pain and the joy and living authentically every single day.

We have the choice to keep living. The choice to get up every day and make it count. The choice to live life to the fullest and pray that it brings us one day closer to you… but not too soon.

Six years have come and gone. Seventy-two months and so very many days. Not one has passed where you have not been remembered. I hope you know that the ache of your absence will never really fade, but we are fighting every day to find purpose in the here and now. We are moving ahead; we are celebrating the all too short life you lived. And we are living.

Life really is not fair, but it will not keep us from making every moment count. For you and because of you!

We love you, we mean it!

Trish & the kids

Posted in Ben, Grief, Joy

Five Years… Gone All Too Fast

It’s been five years… five years since I fell asleep on the chair next to your bed and woke up to doctors and nurses running into the room.  It’s five years that have gone by all too fast, and so incredibly slow at the same time.  I was not prepared then… and as much as I brace myself for the emotions that will come running on this day… I don’t think I am ever fully prepared for that either.

I can still remember waking up to doctors running in asking me if you had had a seizure and sending me into the hall.  I remember feeling so alone as I listened to them for what seemed like hours before going to the waiting room to call your family. How upset I was about getting locked out of your hallway for literal hours.  I remember sitting alone there listening to worship music. And waiting for the doctors to come get me; crying all the tears I had before family arrived. 

And I recall feeling hopeful before the doctors explained our options and the decisions we needed to make.  And I have never forgotten how as I agonized over how we would make decisions for your care that you literally took your last breath.  You always knew how to make decisions easier for me.  And as hard as it was to say goodbye, I have always been thankful that that was one decision you and God took out of my hands.

There is not a day that goes by that I do not think about you, share stories about you or just plain remember you.  Despite what some people in my life may believe, it isn’t just the pictures on the walls or talking to your family and friends that reminds me. I remember when I climb into bed alone, look into our kids eyes, or hear them say things that you would have laughed hysterically at.  All those things remind me, even at the most inopportune times.

Reality is that you have officially been gone for longer than K had you in her life. And in a few short months, the same can be said for the twins too.  They have heard so many stories and seen so many pictures, but comment all the time that they wish you were here to see this or that.  And K tells me often that she can’t wait to get to know you when she gets to heaven. It is just one more reminder that this is not the way we pictured our lives going when we fought to bring these three babies into the world.

And yet, I have not forgotten all the things I learned from you about embracing the hard and facing storms head on.  I try every day to live the way you would have, by attempting to thrive in the midst of hard times.  You are the one who taught me that death and cancer can not win if we do not let it.  You taught me that we have to live every moment to the fullest.  And you taught me the importance of surrounding myself with people who love us.  But most of all you taught me to trust God in all things, even if we do not understand. 

I think you would be thrilled to know that the kids and I have visited 45 states together. And in the past year we have been to 4 new countries.  I know you would be excited to know that we are homeschooling again. We have plans for lots of time on the road, and with family!  And I have no doubt you would be incredibly proud of how brilliant each of our kids are. Each one of them has your passion for learning new things. 

I remember early in the grieving process being told that time heals all wounds.  I wholeheartedly disagree.  I do believe that time softens the blow and lessens the scars of past heartbreak, but I do not believe that time heals them.  Because while we are happy, whole, living; you are still missed every single day! And you are never forgotten.

I hope that today and every day you know that we love you to heaven and back again!  And I am thankful for a heavenly Father who holds us (and you) in His hands. I believe you are rejoicing over each tiny victory we have in our lives!  And today and every day, I am thankful for every moment that we had you!

“Love you, mean it!”

Posted in Ben, Grief, Joy

Fifteen Years of Rainbows and Raindrops

Fifteen years ago, I woke up after a mostly sleepless night.  I was excited about what would easily become one of the best days of my life.  It had been a late night… In fact, I had hopped into a red convertible Corvette with my soon to be husband late the night before.  We had taken a short drive away from all the family staying in the dorm I oversaw.  And we found ourselves dancing under the streetlights in a parking lot next to the Campbell University football field. 

People might think that was romantic.  Or they may think that was a silly way to spend the night before our wedding when dozens of people were in town to spend time with us.  But Ben knew that even after hours of lessons preparing for our first dance, I was still nervous to dance in front of our family and friends.  And he wanted to make sure I woke up on our wedding day without a single worry in my head. 

I forgot about that moment until last night.  I lay in bed alone, remembering back to the night before that memorable day.  A night when I saw all that I had dreamed of finally coming to fruition. 

Our wedding day… May 28, 2006

Today would have marked 15 years of marriage to the first person I ever loved.  15 years of learning about life, love, and each other.  15 years of parenting and growing our family together.  Years that weren’t perfect, but where we continued to choose each other despite everything we faced.

Today is my anniversary… but at the same time, it’s not.  Because we only got 11 years of marriage to learn and grow together.  We only got to prove to the world that we could do it all for 11 short years.

I learned a lot in those 11 years… and even more in the four years since that relationship unexpectedly ended.  And this is what I know:

  • Marriage is hard work.  In 2014, I blogged about how there was no title that I ever worked as hard for as Mrs.  I had not forgotten about earning my doctorate, but I knew that I was going to spend every day for the rest of my life working hard as a wife. 
  • Marriage is worth it.  I have not forgotten the hard moments of marriage.  The moments when you both must fight in order to keep on moving forward together.  When it feels like the world is imploding around you.  It does not matter how much work it is, it is worth it.  It is worth it to know that you get to wake up every day next to the love of your life until the end of time.
  • Life is short.  This is probably the most cliché, but it is also the best advice I can give to anyone in a relationship.  Tomorrow is never guaranteed.  In fact, today may not be either.  Do not waste a single minute.  Love big, embrace the ones you love, and enjoy every second with them.

If you are one of the lucky few who have gotten to spend more than a decade with the one you love, I applaud you.  I envy you.  I wish I was you.  I will likely shed a tear or two hearing about your 25th and 50th anniversary knowing that I will be old and gray before those celebrations will be on my radar again. 

But I will also cheer louder and harder for you then anyone else.  And I will thank God that He allowed you all to make it to that point… because marriage is hard, and while it is worth it, not everyone makes it to that point.

So here is my advice to you: Cling to those you love, remember that life is short, and celebrate every little milestone the two of you reach together. It is worth it.

Today I’m remembering moonlight dances, cheesecake, and wedding vows. And missing the man I thought I would spend the rest of my life working hard to deserve. Happy 15th Anniversary in Heaven, my love! Love you, Mean it!

Posted in Ben, Joy

I’m learning to do hard things…

And just like that, three months have gone by.  If I have learned anything in those three months, it is that I can do hard things.  Things I never wanted to, things that I pray I never have to do again, and things that I pray to God I will forget that I ever had to do. In many ways it seems like yesterday that I sat in his hospital room or with him on the couch.  I feel like he is standing next to me every night as I pray his words over our children when I tuck him in.  But the house seems quieter at night, and I am no longer looking for him around every corner that I turn.

If you had asked me a few months ago, I would have told you that I could never live without Ben and that I wouldn’t want to.  But I am learning more and more every day that I can do hard things… impossible things.  The things that I have no desire to do, but that God gives me the strength for every single day.

Over the past three months:

  • I have attended church alone. And I have sat there feeling more alone then I have ever felt in my life.  Over the past decade, when Ben hasn’t been with me at church, he has either been listening online or I have been trying to memorize every point to share with him what he has missed.  The past few months, I have sat with my eyes pouring tears while others have looked on.  I just want to smile and say, don’t mind me, I’m just feeling alone in the midst of these hundreds of people… but I don’t.  I have pushed through and have allowed myself to be touched by the messages, even when I wanted to walk out and not be there alone.  And I have gotten better at it.  I don’t cry my way through every service now, and I long to be there every time the doors are open so God can speak to my heart a little more.
  • I have taken my three kids out to lunch alone. At actual restaurants (okay, so mostly Chipotle, but it counts right?!).  And they have actually behaved like tiny humans instead of cattle needing breaking (my three year old was proud enough of her behavior to ask if I would take them to the Cheesecake Factory next… and I was crazy enough to actually do it!).
  • I have called and notified more government officials and agencies then I can count. Telling them Ben is gone has not gotten any easier no matter how many times I have said it, and without fail telling someone who actually met him always reduces me to tears.
  • I have sorted through his office and many of his papers and my heart hurts a little every time I see his handwriting and realize that he is really gone and that there will be no more letters and cards and notes laying around for me to find.
  • I have watched flowers die and plants wilt that came home with us after the funeral. And I have thrown them away knowing that they were the last little reminders of the man that I loved and that people respected and cared about.
  • I have maintained some of my composure while visiting the place where he is buried. Seeing a sunken hole in the ground with no stone and a pile of dirt that is a cruel reminder of the hole that was left by losing him.
  • And I have looked at more headstones than I can count. How do you choose a stone that will be the only standing reminder of the man you loved one hundred years from now?  How do you choose the words to say and the things you want remembered?
  • And I have learned to not be scared coming home alone with my kids after dark to a house that is all closed up.

The truth is, I don’t do it alone.  I can’t do any of it by myself.  Without the ROCK who holds me up and gives me strength for each moment, I would never be able to do any of these things.  I fail miserably at maintaining my composure at the most inopportune times, but in the moments when I need God’s strength to make it through, I have found that without fail, He has sent someone to be there holding me up and encouraging me along the way.

Psalm 46:1-5 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.  There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.  God is within her, she will not fail; God will help her at the break of day.”

psalm 46_5

What’s the hard thing you are facing?  No problem is too small to our Father. He is here and willing to hold your hand and encourage you along the path you’re on, even if you don’t want to be there.  I would love to pray for you if you want me to!  And I appreciate your prayers for me… I know I need them!

Posted in Ben, Joy

Grief requires a whole lot of grace…

One of the biggest lessons I have learned through grief is grace…

“I was really praying that he would live through the holidays,” a friend told me recently.   “Really?  I asked, “I was kind of praying he would live forever.”  She meant well, but her comments came at the end of a long day and there just wasn’t a lot of grace left in me to give.  I snapped and immediately regretted it, cutting the conversation short so I wouldn’t snap again.

The myriad of comments I have heard have ranged from “life goes on,” at the visitation; to “you’re young, and I’m sure God has someone else for you,” and “do you think that the kids will even remember him?” If there is one lesson that I have learned through the last few months, it’s that surviving grief is going to take a lot of grace.  People mean well, but the words don’t always come out right, and when emotions are high as they often are right now, feelings are bound to be hurt.

But God is giving me grace and the strength to respond with, “It’s okay, we understand,” even when I don’t.  And in the quiet hours when I am alone, God allows me to look back and see that yes, they meant well even though the words probably didn’t come out the way they meant them.

Sometimes the comments that hurt the most are the ones that are true.  The “we all wish we could help you more, but we know you need to learn to do these things on your own now,” comments that resonate through my mind when I am alone at night.  I have learned to do way more things on my own this year than this independent woman ever cared to.  They are right, I do need to learn to do all these things on my own, but my mind hears those words constantly these days (I don’t really need to be reminded by anyone else).

And then there is grace.  I lay awake and think about how many hurtful things I have said that were well intentioned and how much I wish I could take them back.  And I pray that God would allow me to forget the things that they have said and just have grace for them… because I have been in their shoes more time than I can count.  I know I have to have grace for them too.

Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

_Let us approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need._.png

Has God ever given you the strength to have grace in moments you wanted to lose control?  Has he opened your eyes to see how hard it can be for people to reach out to you? Has he helped you to have the voice to say, “I understand,” and given you the ability to truly understand where they are coming from when they speak?

Most of all, I am thankful for the people who have taken time to reach out to me, even when they didn’t have the right words to say!

This season is hard, I won’t deny that… but I am thankful for the many lessons that God is teaching me along the way.  I couldn’t do it without Him… and HIS GRACE.