My mom, step-dad, and my little brother got to come up for Christmas, and I was very thankful to be able to spend the holidays with them. The holidays brought a lot of mixed emotions for me. While I was thankful for being able to spend time with family, it was also hard to deal with that first Christmas without Pat. It was hard to watch the kids opening their gifts, knowing that this year, Daddy wasn't sitting next to them, rooting them on, and participating, watching them giggle with their wide-eyed smiling faces. In the week leading up to Christmas, the Memories of the Christmas before came flooding back to me like they had just happened. I felt like I needed to be strong, and put on a 'happy face' for my kids, and family, so that's what I did, even though I felt like my heart was breaking into a million pieces all over again. As difficult as it all was, I was surrounded by family that loves me, and I did make it through.
Kayden's Birthday was December 17. I couldn't believe my baby boy was turning one already. We had pizza, and of course Kayden had his birthday cake, and he was a mess! There were lots of smiles, and laughter. Kids running all over on a sugar high. And just like anything else, it was very bittersweet. It's difficult to watch Kayden hit all these milestones, all while knowing his proud papa isn't here to enjoy them along side me. It's truly heartbreaking knowing that Kayden will only know his Daddy through what everyone else tells him, and pictures. He will never have his own memories like I do. He never got to experience just being in Pat's presence, or hearing his laughter, or seeing how his eyes lit up when he smiled. He never got to experience just how wonderful a person his father really was. He will only hear about it, which just isn't the same.
The week leading up to Valentine's Day was probably the hardest. I couldn't even sidetrack my mind, and trust me I tried. An image that will probably forever be with me, is watching him take his last breath, and how it made me feel. I re-live that moment often, but the week leading up to Valentine's Day, that's all that kept going through my head. I can remember that day like it happened yesterday. I not only remember what happened, but when I think about it, all of the emotions I felt that day also come flooding back. That week was full of emotions. I couldn't believe that a whole year had passed already. I couldn't believe that the love of my life had missed out on so many things. I couldn't believe that the world was still spinning, after his life had ended. It just didn't seem possible.
On Valentine's Day I got my first tattoo. A memorial tattoo for Pat, that I had been planning for an entire year. Everything in this tattoo is symbolic of something, and it turned out so much more beautiful than I ever imagined it to be. It means the world to me, and I am so glad I got it done. These pictures really don't do it any justice!
On the back of my calf, it says, "The Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from another", it is from Genesis 31:49, and Pat was buried with one half of a necklace (I have the other half), with this verse on it (it's called a Mizpah coin). The flowers each symbolize something different. The red rose symbolizes passionate love, a 'Forget-me-not' symbolizes remembered forever, the casablanca lily symbolizes celebration (of his life), and the white carnation symbolizes remembrance. The orange ribbon (body of the butterfly) is the Leukemia awareness ribbon, and have several hearts incorporated into the ribbon. The butterfly signifies 'rebirth', Pat has shed his 'earthly cocoon' and emerged as a butterfly into the Kingdom of Heaven. The butterfly is colored red, one of Pat's favorite colors, and purple, which symbolizes mourning in Thailand.
The 27th of March is fast approaching, and it's another hard day for sure. It would have been our second wedding anniversary. I suspect it won't be quite as hard as last year. My grief was still pretty raw at that point, and I was very saddened to be spending out first anniversary alone. I don't suspect this year will be easy, by any means, but I feel like it may be somewhat easier than last year. I don't know yet what I am going to do, but I can tell you, I don't really look forward to that day.
So you might be wondering, how am I doing today? Well I am doing better than I was a year ago. Some days are worse than others, but I am getting by. I put one foot in front of the other, on a daily basis, and do the best I can.
A lot of people seemed to drop off the radar, and it hurts to see relationships seemingly go down the drain. On the other hand, I still have amazing people in my life, and for that I am truly thankful. Some friendships are re-blooming, with people I have reconnected with. Others are newly blooming, with people I have just met in this past year, but feel like I have known my entire life. Some of the people I feel like I connect to the most, I have never even met in person. I call them my widda sisters, and they understand (unfortunately) like no one else ever could. Recently, one of these friends posted a status on Facebook that really caught my attention. She said, "I absolutely, positively, 100%(ly) refuse to be ANYTHING but happy!" She also said she would not let grief beat her. I have been stewing on that since she posted it. I am elated that she refuses to let her loss determine her happiness. She is right. I have proved to myself just how strong I can be, and I can do this too. Because of her positive outlook, it has given me a whole new perspective. I can persevere, and I will. I can find happiness, instead of faking it. I have so many things in my life to be thankful for, and I will not let grief beat me. I am still going to be realistic. I do realize that I will always miss Pat, I will always love him, and I will never forget him. I realize that I will always have a hole in my heart, that only he fit. I realize that I will still have moments of sadness, and that I will never "get over it". With all of that said, I am determined to be happy. That doesn't mean that I need to find someone to make me happy, I will just find happiness in all the little things again. I think I was so caught up in the guilt, I was afraid to be happy. I think a lot of widows/widowers can relate when I say that every time I felt a twinge of happiness, I felt guilty. Guilty I guess because I lost the love of my life, and that's not happy. He's not here to feel happiness, so why should I? I struggled with this for a long time, but I know, in my heart, Pat wouldn't want this life for me. He wouldn't want me to walk around with a fake smile on my face, pretending to be happy. He wouldn't want me to walk around for the rest of my days, miserable. He would want me to BE happy. And I think I deserve to be happy. So that is what I am working towards. Being happy, and on top of that, not feeling guilty for being happy. I think that honors him much more than walking around miserable, pretending to be happy anyway. To sit around and dwell on something I can't change is doing me no good. If I could bring Pat back, I would. But submerging myself in depressing thoughts, isn't going to bring him back. I know God's timing is perfect, and while I don't know what the big picture is, I do know there is one, and I do know God knows. I also know that I have to let go of the life I had planned, and let God work. So from here on out, I am going to embrace happiness, and I am going to embrace the life God has planned for me. I will not let this define me.