I was married to my best friend and the mother of two beautiful and vibrant children.
I also had a career I loved and was working towards my MBA with my husband and partner in life, Steve.
Steve was by far the best person I have ever met and I felt incredibly lucky to be his wife. Not only was he a great husband, he was an amazing father. He lived for our two daughters and I could watch them play for hours. Our girls would argue over who got to rock with daddy each night – he usually ended up rocking them both. They were both daddy’s girls.
Steve and I had gone through some of the typical marital ups and downs during our almost six years of marriage. When you have young children, it’s easy to make them a priority over your relationship. About six months before he passed, we realized that we fell into this typical trap. Steve and I decided that we both wanted to make more of an effort to focus on us. He started coming with me on work trips and I rode along with him to some of his meetings as well. Together we talked, we laughed and we dreamed. Looking back, I really cherish this time that we got to strengthen our marriage and learn more about each other.
The Day Before
August, 24, 2013 forever changed my life.
Backing up one day, August 23 was one of the best days of my life. Our nanny wasn’t available, so we had planned to split our day at home. I went to work for a couple hours and Steve opted to work from home with the girls. Steve was originally going to physically go to work in the afternoon, but when I got home he finished up what he was doing instead and we fed the girls and put them down for a nap.
He then said to me, “Lets go lay down. I just want to hold you for awhile.” I had zero objections to that! Even though I had other things to do, I laid in his arms for an hour and a half. When the kids got up we played for awhile and then brought them to his mom and dad’s house.
Next on our agenda was to play a round of golf. Steve enjoyed golf and it was an opportunity for us to spend time together. I had taken two lessons in an effort to learn the basics, so we could play together. This was our third time playing together and one of the ways we made good on spending more time investing in our relationship.
After golf we came back home and got ready to go to his friend Brian’s house for his 40th birthday. Brian lives 1.5 miles from my house on a straight gravel road. I ran out to the barn for our lawn chairs and Steve pulled around to pick me up in our Jeep. The Jeep was his “fun” vehicle and we had the top off. He looked at me and said that he had picked out a song just for me. He hit play and Hunter Hayes I Want Crazy came blasting out of the speakers. He turned his hat around and we smiled at each other.
I held his hand on top of the shifter for that short trip. We sang and laughed the entire way to Brian’s and I remember looking at Steve and just being amazed at how happy I was and how perfect life was in that moment. I remember telling him that the day was really perfect and he agreed. Steve loved to spend relaxing time with friends and family, and this day was all about his favorite things from the start.
Around midnight I started to get tired. Steve had not seen some of his friends in months and he wanted to stay a little longer. Brian’s wife Jess said she would take him home, so I took our Jeep and headed back home. I fell asleep and half-woke to a text from Jess saying that Steve had forgotten his cell phone. Shortly after I woke up enough to realize that Steve wasn’t with me and I couldn’t hear him in the house.
I looked around and eventually looked outside. My heart sank when I noticed that our Jeep was gone. I sent a note to Jess to see if Steve was there. She replied that he was not and the fear set in. I got in my car and started driving.
There are no words to describe the feeling of seeing your husband’s vehicle upside down in a ditch. No words. On August 24th, 2013 I called 911 to report that my husband had died in a car accident. I crawled in the Jeep, laid with my head on his chest and held his hand until the emergency crews showed up. My dream day had just turned into one of my worst nightmares.
Through this experience I came to understand what it feels like when your soul dies – I also learned how to start living again. My reality is that the person I was with Steve died along with him. I realized that I had decisions to make around how I would live my life. I had to decide if I wanted to live in the past with my grief and loss or live in the present.
Steve and I had talked at length about what we wanted out of life before he died and even what we would want for each other if something like this happened. The memories of these talks have inspired me to focus on living life. I realized that my days are numbered. That number could be 1 or 10,000, but I only get one chance at each day. Every day is an opportunity – a gift.
The Power of Follow Through
This past year I’ve also come to realize how important it is to plan for the worst. I thought we had a plan. We had started a will (not finished) and had an application filled out for more life insurance. The reality is that “work in progress” does not count.
My husband was the president of a local company – had a degree in business and accounting and even taught classes at the local college. If anyone should have been prepared, at least financially, it should have been us. Should have been.
My goal is to also share what went wrong in our planning and give you some easy actions steps to take to move you closer to being prepared for the worst. I welcome any opportunity to share my story and potentially change the life of just one person.