Today is the celebration of the best day of my life. Eight years ago I was lucky enough to marry the best person I had ever met. Today is my 8 year wedding anniversary, only it isn’t. Today is my third wedding anniversary without my husband. Writing this seems
unreal. How is this the start of the third everything? I love Steve more today than I ever have. Every day I appreciate him more. Every day he makes me a better mom, a better friend, a better person. How could this be my third anniversary alone?
Last week was Steve’s second angel-versary, and it seems surreal that it has been that long. I don’t know where the time has gone, and I honestly have no idea how I have made it without him. I feel like I have aged 20 years, but with that age comes some great reflections on life. Steve loved to teach and learn, so I thought I would share a few things I’ve learned on my journey. I’ve learned a lot about myself and a lot about what it means to not only survive, but to thrive.
- Attitude really is everything. I have good days and bad days, but the difference now is that I know just how much control I have in my life. I do not get to choose what happens to me, but only I have the power to choose how I respond. How I respond is a reflection of who I am as a person – good or bad.
- Grief doesn’t stop. I thought the second year would be easier than the first. I was wrong. There are different challenges, but that doesn’t make it easier. I haven’t made it through a week without some song or memory causing tears while I drive. There are times I wish for my best friend, the person who just knew what to do without words. There is not another person on this Earth that can fill that spot. And I grieve the loss of those feelings, the memories that won’t be made, and the loss of someone who so positively impacted my life.
- Life doesn’t stop either. All of us only get a certain number of days on Earth and no one can tell us when our time will be up. Every moment I spend with a poor attitude or focusing on what I lost versus what I have is time that I don’t get back. That is time that I am not giving my best self to the people that I still have in my life. I still grieve, yet I am thankful for the wonderful gift that Steve was to me in life. There are things I miss about the past, but I also have a pretty great present. It is much different than I ever imagined, but different doesn’t mean bad.
- Dreams change. Steve and I had dreams together, and they all ended the day he died. All of my future plans were gone. I am a “type A” personality, and I no longer had a goal. I no longer had a direction. For me to move forward I had to identify new dreams. I needed to be brave enough to dream again because I always want my daughters to dream. The new dreams I created have already changed, and that hasn’t always been easy. To me it has felt like a loss all over again, but at the same time it has made me realize that I need to spend more time focusing on the present while still seeing a dream on the horizon. I don’t need to know all the answers or understand how it all works – even though I desperately want to.
- I am stronger than I give myself credit for. People comment on how “strong” I am. I don’t always believe them. They don’t see me hiding out in a garage because I can’t stop crying and I don’t want anyone (especially my kids) to see it. They don’t see the mom that feels like a failure because I don’t meet my own expectations of mom-perfectionism. They don’t see the inner struggle that I have just to function some days. I’m really good at putting on a “strong” face to the world. However, when I really stop to think, I realize just how much I have handled. My kids are happy, healthy, and safe. They know they can talk about their Daddy at any time and it is a safe and positive conversation. I am capable of providing everything my children need and a lot of what they want (good or bad!). I have a career that I enjoy. I volunteer when I can, and am looking forward to helping other widows in the future. I am 2 weeks away from finishing the MBA program that Steve and I started together. I have started another relationship and chose to love again.
There is an inner voice in all of us, and what it says is powerful. Make sure that voice builds you up, not puts you down – you are stronger than you give yourself credit for!
- Leave a legacy, everyday. We don’t know when our life will end. Someday it will end. If your life ended today, would people remember you the way you would want to be remembered? What would they say about you? Steve left a legacy at the age of 39. Someone once told me that Steve’s legacy was more impactful than most people that live to be 100. Two people came up and told me at his funeral that Steve’s friendship and life coaching literally saved their life. Steve and I had talked once about how we would want to be remembered, and it is so humbling to realize that he was remembered exactly the way he had hoped – a man dedicated to his family and friends first, community second, and his career third.
What legacy do you want to leave?
Starting the third year of events without Steve is daunting. I wonder what life would be like if he had not died. If I really stop to think about that I can honestly say that I would still have my old dreams. I would have a different career, and I would still be living in my house in a town that was familiar. Steve and I would have worked through more challenges as a couple, and would have come out even stronger each time.
When I pause that thought and think about the present I realize that because I lost Steve I became a better person, a better parent. I love Steve even more now because I appreciate how much positive impact he has had on my life. I cannot overestimate how many times I have struggled and just focused my thoughts around what Steve would say or do in certain situations. I can hear my angel talking to me when I just take the time to listen. His words can still bring me back to reality. Powerful. I love more openly because I don’t want to live with regret. I am more compassionate.
I would give almost anything to be celebrating my 8 year wedding anniversary with my husband, but I can only do that in spirit. I am truly blessed to have had such an amazing person in my life. Every day I know I have a choice in how I handle my day. I try to wake up thankful for the gifts I do have in my life. I have someone who kisses me good morning
, I have two girls that make my heart swell with love, and I have the best family and friends a person could ask for.
Today I will celebrate the life I had with a man who truly loved me unconditionally. I will celebrate the memories we made and the person I am because of the love we had.
Live, laugh, love, and leave your legacy.