My story of loss is now at the three-year mark. Throughout my life no other three-year time period has ever been so long and yet so short. How have I survived three long years without my life’s partner? In the early days, the hours were excruciating and I couldn’t wait for sleep to bring relief. At the same time, how can it have only been three short years since I had him by my side? So much has happened that in some ways the time has flown by. Only others who’ve walked the grief journey can truly relate.
I’m not really sure how I’m supposed to feel at this three-year anniversary of Patrick’s death. Overall, I am doing well. Day by day I continue to move forward. For the most part, the load is lighter; the fog has cleared. The waves of intense pain are less often and have a shorter duration. I cry easily, but can smile as the tears flow. I don’t fear the emotion; I let it out and keep going.
When people tell me I’m doing better, I’m not sure how to react. I know such words are spoken out of love and meant for encouragement, so I choose to receive them that way. If someone says they know Patrick would be proud of me, those words touch me deeply. Although I’m not living to please him, it’s a bittersweet thought that he would think I was continuing to make the right choices in following the Lord.
Several significant events happened this year that the Lord gave me the desire and the strength to carry out. Early in the year, I received a promotion at work that better fit my skill set and gave me more flexibility. It requires more leadership and initiative, which in turn, has increased my confidence. I am enjoying the corporate world and am becoming more marketable as I continue to learn and grow.
I also purchased a car for the first time on my own. To some it may not seem like a big deal, but to a girl who always drove whatever vehicle her dad and then her husband bought, it was uncharted territory. I educated myself, narrowed it down to the make, model, year and mileage and began my pursuit. It was an exciting process; I’m happy with my choice and love whipping around metro Detroit in my little Honda CRV.
During the summer, I traveled to Hungary for a mission’s trip teaching English. I worked with a team of teachers and missionaries I had never met before and stayed with a wonderful Hungarian family. I don’t think a smile left my face the entire time. It was such an awesome experience and the highlight of my year.
Then in the fall, I decided to sell my house, downsize and move to a condo. Even though I knew that moving would be necessary at some point, it all came about rather quickly and when God sets things in motion, you just go with it. From Labor Day until last week, putting my house on the market, packing, and moving became all consuming. I spent hours going through every box, shelf, nook and cranny. I organized, sorted, donated and purged, determined not to keep unnecessary stuff. I could not have done it alone. Many friends helped; Paige came home on weekends and tackled whatever list I had for her. We face-timed Parker to ask what he wanted and show him our progress. And then there were my parents, who deserve the biggest shout-out of all. They worked tirelessly alongside me over the weekends and then fulfilled dozens of tasks during the week while I continued to work full-time. They kept me going when I wanted to quit. They knew I didn’t enjoy the process and didn’t make me feel bad when I worked quietly engrossed in my own thoughts or when I let the grumpiness slip out. Somehow they knew when I’d reached my limit and couldn’t make another decision that day.
You see, deciding to move was something I knew with my head was right, but my heart fought it the whole way. There were many emotions that had to be dealt with as I closed the door on the last house where we lived as a family of four. The home Patrick and I fixed up and where we could have stayed forever. We shared this home with hundreds of students and families. 16 years was the longest I’d ever lived at any one address. But I knew it was time and I knew I needed to go through it. It was the wisest thing to do financially. So like any other tasks I need to accomplish, I made my lists and started checking things off, one item at a time until it was done.
Buying a car and the trip to Hungary were endeavors I was nervous, but excited to embark upon. Selling my house was a challenge I needed to face, but didn’t want to. However, I truly believe all this year’s events were gifts of God’s graciousness to keep me busy. Business and activity help keep the loneliness at bay, which is the most prevalent pain from the loss of a spouse. To be doing life by yourself, without a companion, well I don’t know that I will ever get used to that.
Patrick’s memory brings me smiles. I can now honestly say I’m glad he didn’t suffer with that terrible disease any longer. Early on, I wished he had the “slow version” of ALS, but now I’m glad he didn’t. God spared us all on that one. I remember the good times and think of Patrick when he was whole and well. The photo above shows his perspective of life. He was helping our good friends load up their daughter for her first year away at college. He was always cheering everyone on and looking at the positive of every experience. I imagine he is enjoying Heaven and encouraging me to continue pressing on here.
I miss my husband every day; I think of him often. I know what he would say and think and do. I sometimes “talk” to him. I know he’s not there, but I equate it to talking to myself, of which I have no shame that I also do. His absence is a hole that I will always carry. Yet, I do feel like a whole person again. No longer do I think I have a sign on my head that shouts “widow,” I’m just Dena. My personality has returned, even though I’m changed in many ways. My faith is stronger and my God is with me. I don’t have anything to fear and so I don’t.
Patrick’s story ended, but mine did not. His legacy lives on through my life, through Paige and Parker’s lives, and through the hundreds of people who were touched in one way or another by his life.
I don’t know what’s in my future, but I am no longer dreading it. God has proven himself to me over and over again. He will walk with me in 2016 with whatever He brings my way, as I continue to move forward.
Philippians 3:13-14 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.