The first thing on my mind this morning when I woke was my list of To Do’s preparing for tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day. I ate some breakfast, woke the kids, cleaned the kitchen and scrubbed the stove after leaving it a mess during a lazy ‘vacation day’ with the kids yesterday. I prepared the green bean casserole, cleaned more dishes and retreated to my room with some ice water and my list to get the rest of my day planned out.
Then I pulled up Facebook on my phone to see who else might be preparing for Thanksgiving and came across my sister in law’s post remembering her brother, my late husband, who passed away 5 years ago early this morning. ‘Wow’, I thought, ‘Five years’.
The first three years were difficult. Last year I determined I would make an active choice to be happy when faced with moments of sadness. But this year has been different, easier. We’ve transitioned into a new normal. I could not have imagined that I would start this day not thinking of him, but planning the holiday instead. Yesterday and today have typically been the two most difficult days of my year and yet here I am feeling good, pausing, reflecting, smiling and happily preparing for Thanksgiving Day.
I still think of him every day. I still dream about him fairly often, I still miss him, I still love him, I even still get mad at him. But perhaps within this fifth year, I’ve become accustomed to living without him. That statement almost sounds like a betrayal. I imagine the me from three years ago is glaring at the present day me right now and scoffing at how I could be humming through this day, the date of his death. I’ve spent hours planning and making a Thanksgiving feast, not because I have to and he’s not here to do it, but because now I want to and I enjoy it.
We hang an ornament with his face beaming at us on each Christmas tree in our house (yes we have three trees). Before this year I hung them out of sight to avoid his face whereas now I find myself smiling softly at the sight of his dimples. I fondly glance at the mistletoe he kissed me under as I walk past it when the sight of it used to crush me with the knowledge I wouldn’t receive any more kisses from him. We have not forgotten him, but the holidays are happy again.
Life has somehow moved forward, even without him here and I think I’ve finally, for the most part, caught up with it. I can accept that I am both mom and dad, good cop and bad cop, the bread winner and the home maker and I am good with that now instead of feeling overwhelmed and abandoned. The bed doesn’t feel empty anymore. I don’t wake up and sigh with disappointment that a new day has dawned and I am still here. I find myself opening my curtains to let in the sunshine. I can sing songs we sang together without weeping (most of the time). I can watch videos of him with my kids and laugh and smile. Life, is happy again.
The road here wasn’t short or easy and it’s definitely not over. Each morning I smile and say hello to the new day instead of waking and sighing because I’m still here. Each morning I begin again. Each morning I try again. And again, and again. And even though arriving here five years later has been a long, bumpy, painful journey, I am here and I’ve arrived at yet another new beginning. Life isn’t perfect and it’s not pain free. But, I’m alive again. And I’m happy again.