One year ago today you passed away. The night before you left us, something miraculous happened that we haven’t shared with very many people. Your dear friend, perhaps your best friend, stayed beside you after most of the family had retired for the evening. He read you the last chapter of The Last Battle, the final book in the Chronicles of Narnia series by CS Lewis, one of your favorites. He specifically read that last chapter to you because it is analogous for the idea of leaving a broken world and entering heaven in all of its perfect glory. Even though you had been unresponsive for nearly two days, you were roused enough to ask your friend to pray with you. Tears were shared among both and when he said Amen, you raised your hands toward the heavens. Then you went to sleep for the last time.
Seeing your body without your soul is the hardest thing I’ve witnessed in my 34 years. I miss you. I still cry at unpredictable and inopportune moments (this, of course, in addition to the many predictable moments). The friends who have stuck it out aren’t phased by it. Once the waterworks start, they usually join right in. Other friends have grown distant. It’s okay. Grief is an intense process. I’m starting to feel like a pro at grief and all that really means is that I’ve accepted how it is handled so very differently from person to person. Your absence has left a hole in my heart, in our home, in our families, at your work, in our community, and on this earth. I think about you Every. Single. Day.
We experienced 365 days of activities, birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, graduations, births, and deaths without you. The sun set and the sun rose 365 times. Suddenly not having a husband, let alone a sick husband, to care for made the first few months dark, long, and somber. My girlfriends would come over to tuck me in and make sure I fell asleep feeling loved and supported. I can think of many tasks (pretty much any task really) more fun than calling companies to notify them your spouse has died and to update your marital status to ‘widow’. Some days it was so pathetic it was comedic. One phone agent, after explaining you had died, shouted, “Holy Sh*t! What the hell happened?! He was so young! THAT’S HORRIBLE.” And the first person I wanted to share it with, and laugh with, and cry with was you. You were my friend, my confidant, and, let’s be honest, my filter.
Our son and daughters grew a year bigger and are a year wiser. Our youngest daughter is finally almost potty trained. I’m grateful that we at least had your help for two out of three kids in the humbling adventures of potty training. Our middle daughter continues to be independent and spirited. You had such a way with her. You could reason with her and calm her when she would get frustrated. You were the only one she would take regular naps with. Our son promoted to the next scout rank, which is a miracle in itself because I’ve been a terrible den parent. You were so respected by that troop and they have rallied to help our son be successful. We buried our family dog and gained a new one. And I still have yet to clean out your stuff in the garage. I’m just going to say it: you may have a borderline hoarder. In your defense, anytime I asked if we had a particular item or tool, the answer was usually yes which made my life easier. Guess it goes along with that Be Prepared motto.
Most would agree that I’m an optimist and try to find the good in almost any situation. And while that’s generally true, I’ll say this: I hate that you died so young. I hate that your body gave out on you. I hate that tomorrow and all the next days will come and you won’t be there. It’s almost unbearable to hold myself together when our kids look me in the eye and ask questions like, “Do you think Dad can see or hear us anymore?” or “Why can’t he come back home?” Life should not be this way. Even in the strides we’ve made, there are some things I just can’t bring myself to deal with. I have yet to read any of your medical reports. I work at a hospital and do it for a living but do not wish to read, in print, what was ailing and destroying your body. I still get chills when I have to pick up mail in the same department where you had your interventional radiology procedures. Only recently did I disconnect your cell phone and memorialize your Facebook page, our two favored methods of communication when you were traveling for business. There have been a handful of times when a store clerk or stranger has been rushed or rude to me and I want to admonish them for their behavior. To remind them life is short and sweet and fragile. That we don’t know each other’s stories. That the person you are mistreating may have just lost what they loved the most. But I (usually) hold my tongue because that’s the right thing to do and it’s what you would have done.
Through this experience, we have all learned more about ourselves, about you, and about God. We stepped back to process the bigger picture – that the Lord had been preparing both of us for this to happen before we ever met. The little and big choices we made, some perhaps flippantly, were actually God’s perfect providence being played out, carefully crafted and weaved to sustain, protect, and grow us. You may have complained about your pain and discomfort, but you did not complain, even once, about your circumstances. You accepted God’s will and fate for your life. You expressed gratitude until the very end. You were so thankful for all that you had received in this life. Your testimony of God’s faithfulness touched lives all over the world and ultimately saved lives because it brought new believers to Jesus. I believe your legacy will continue to inspire many others for many, many years to come.
Thank you for choosing me to be your wife and mother of your kids. For accepting me as I was but gently encouraging me to always aim for the higher standard. For leading our family spiritually. For raising our children to be curious, adventurous, friendly, and empathetic. For working hard to provide for our family until your body literally could not function anymore. For providing for us after your death because of your responsible choices and kindness to others. For being fiercely loyal in your friendships. Thank you for being true to yourself while wildly loving Jesus.
You will be remembered and honored, sweet Simon.