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… when someone you love dies and you’re not expecting it, you don’t lose them all at once; you lose them in pieces over a long period of time – the way the mail stops coming and their scent fades from the pillows and even from the closet and drawers. Gradually you accumulate the parts of them that are gone. Just when the day comes – when there’s a particular missing part that overwhelms you with the feeling that they are gone – forever, there comes another day, another specifically missing part. Grief is never linear nor are the five neat little stages in a row that we’ve been taught. Grief is circular at times spiraling. You work hard to move through each stage and just when you think you’ve arrived at some level of acceptance you’ll find that you are back to anger and confusion – once again. But healing is the consequence of the effort you make every day with the hope that eventually the shattered pieces of your heart; your life can find it’s way to wholeness. I never imagined my life without him in it. He was my greatest teacher of love, grace and hope. I was his best student learning the lessons well of his abundant gratitude for life and all of it’s possibilities.

I remember this time of year – 3 years ago. The always Monday morning that follows the holiday season – back to the routine in the New Year.

It was always toughest, the first day after long weekends spent with David or any extended time spent with him at all that was out of the ordinary. I found that I contacted him more then usual – as well I heard from him a lot more too. We had both taken additional time off in our last holiday season together – 2011, what a blessing that was for both of us – what a blessing it would be for me years later – for me now.

We were planning so many things for the New Year – “2012”, relocating now that my Mom was gone. Her illness monopolized our lives even more so in the last five years. We did it by choice, willingly – I was so enamored by my husband of his love and commitment to each of my parents during that “long good bye” with my Mother. Our life – any plans, even our work schedules had to be scheduled and rescheduled according to the needs of my Mother’s illness and her constant care. At times immediate. There was also my Father to consider who needed care and support. We’d moved closer to them it just seemed the most logical at the time. My Mother lost her 10 year battle with cancer and we laid her to rest in December of 2010.

David and I lived every moment of 2011 – we celebrated life and we lived every day as though it were our last – how odd to quote that now “live each day as though it was your last” … but death had taught us a valuable lesson – it taught us the value of life. And so, we welcomed January 2012 – the New Year together, valuing everything of our life together. My husband was never one to waste his time in the trivial things of life – he said it often, “I want to do those things in life that will out live me” … he said it but more importantly he lived it.

Grief is no more intense or more painful when death happens suddenly – but it does diminish our capacity to cope because the loss (for me anyway) was so disruptive in the unexpectedness. His death, only a short 13 months after my Mother’s death and there was no gradual transition – he was simply gone. In a little over a year I had experienced the full spectrum of death both in the way of anticipatory and suddenly unexpected. It violated my sense of “fair” in life – initially assaulted and then completely obliterated my sense of control in my own life. It complicated and hindered my recovery and I really never expected to recover from the loss of David’s life in mine. Intellectually we recognize what has happened but when death occurs suddenly and without warning there is a wounding that remains in your heart forever – it is the unexplainable and the no understandable context that was my greatest struggle. For me, I got stranded in my feelings of inordinate guilt for those “signs” leading up to his sudden heart attack that I had neglected to see – I was stranded for quite a long time.

It has been a long journey for me to get here today. I have lost my way too many times to count, I have made some horrendous mistakes along the way but I know that there is renewal that is occurring within my spirit – my soul. My senses are heightened these days – I don’t feel so dulled in how I respond to life anymore. There is anticipation and a nervous excitement for the New Year.

I’ll remember “my Dave” next week, January 2015 marks the third year of his death. I’ll think of him like I do everyday. I’ll remember a cherished life, a Man who led his life with an open heart and was loved by many – I’ll whisper a prayer of thanksgiving, that for a brief moment in time this wonderful man graced my life and I was loved beyond measure. I’ll continue to honor his memory by choosing to live a full life – a life full of gratitude and grace.

“If  we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us” – 1John 4:12