My dearest love...
Three years ago today you departed this world for one infinitely better. Three years. It sounds and feels like an eternity. So much life has happened in these years without you, and with every fiber of my being I resent the relentless passage of time that tugs our life together further and further into the past. You gave me a lifetime of love in eight short years, and that's exactly what our story feels like - another lifetime. I look at my life now, at our sweet daughter who had only just entered the world when you left it, and wonder if you would even recognize me now. The transition from wife to single mother was almost seamless. With everything in me I long to make you proud, to honor your extraordinary life and carry on the work that you were only just beginning. Everything I do is for you, and always the nagging question...is it enough? Are you proud of me? Would you be happy with the life I am forced to choose for your girls?
You always encouraged me to write. You told me to stop spending so much time cooking and cleaning, and to write a blog instead. You were always the first one to read and "like" every single one of my posts. In the schizophrenia of shock and grief after losing you, I couldn't imagine ever publishing a single world into the cybersphere again - posting a thought that I might vehemently deny within days, or hours. But I had to write, because it was all I could think to do to honor you. I want the whole world to know you, Nate - to catch a glimpse of the best man I've ever known, and if the only way to do that is through my writing than I will never, ever stop trying to capture you on a keyboard.
I blogged regularly at first, letting my raw feelings spill over into virtual journal entries. The empathy and comments from strangers were cathartic somehow, reminding me that we were not alone - not forgotten. I witnessed your story capture those who never got to meet you in life. But somewhere along the way, I ran out of words. I let my blog go untouched for over 14 months. I knew that with every click on a new post, my readers would be hoping for some kind of assurance that the girls you had left behind were finding peace, moving forward, entering some kind of resolution. Public grieving after Year Two, well into Year Three, started to feel belabored, exhausted - and yet, I couldn't think of anything to say that didn't revolve around you, my love, and the hole you left in our lives. My grief became more and more private. No one except me could possibly understand the void carved into my very soul at the absence of my husband, my soulmate, my best friend, my provider, my listening ear and strong shoulder and steady giver of the advice I needed so desperately.
And so, I simply fell silent. I became absorbed in the all-consuming task of parenting a newly minted two-year-old without going insane, started new friendships and deepened lifelong ones, resumed daily life with my family, made new traditions with your family, rented a big old farmhouse in the country - how you would adore this house! - and read hard books that forced me to grapple with issues of faith and my relationship with God. In the hubbub of the last year, it has been hard to silence the constant clamor - to find the solitude necessary in the present to relive the ever-receding past. The highlight of these past 14 months has been two pilgrimages to my personal Mecca: Prince Edward Island.
When I was 7 months pregnant with Elissa and you asked where I would go if I could go anywhere in the world, I interrupted you as the words "Prince Edward Island!" bubbled over in a gut reaction of ecstasy. Images of sun-kissed red cliffs rising above sapphire seas, rimmed by fields of rippling grass dotted with lighthouses and lupins had inspired my dreams since I was five years old and my mom first showed me the film Anne of Green Gables. And of course you, still courting me after four years of marriage and determined to make all my dreams come true, immediately planned a surprise trip and presented me with our "Adventure for Kindred Spirits" itinerary the day before we left! You whisked my heavily pregnant self through the Northeast and around the entire Island in just four days, leaving us both dizzy and in love with this secluded corner of paradise.
It was everything I'd ever dreamed of, and so much more. Last summer, when I thought I would crack under the strain of solo parenting and attempting to turn life right-side up again, I could think of only one reprieve - going back to the blue and white inn nestled at the back of Memory Lane, next to the famed Green Gables. I wrote to the inn owners and was immediately welcomed by a veritable flock of kindred spirits. It was the perfect balm for my shattered heart, and I spent June, July and August on an island of grief, surrounded by a sea of tears that enveloped me the moment I ventured into the solitude that unlocked all the suppressed pain of the last two years. I felt you here with me, Nate, in a way that I never had before. You were with me along the stretches of lonely beach, biking on red dirt roads, washing dishes in our tiny cottage, wading through the fields of waving grass. I buried myself in journals of our relationship, losing myself in a love story that was so riveting I couldn't put it down - though of course I knew the beautiful-turned-horrific end. Then, at the cries of our waking daughter, I surfaced to the brutal slap in the face of reality. Every day the shock, the disbelief, the gut-wrenching pain of your absence that literally left me writhing. I didn't know how to live, Nate. The numbness of that first year was a mercy compared to the agony of coming face-to-face with you gone, because how could I survive it? And yet, I was grateful for every tear, every sob wrenched from deep inside me - because, my love, you deserve all the tears in the world. I would cry an ocean of them for you; I would drown in their salt just to find you again.
If I could sum up last summer in a sentence it's this: longing for life to be over so our family could be together again. Your absence colored everything; the beauty surrounding me was tinged with the awful reality that I must explore our paradise alone. I could scarcely breathe through the suffocating loneliness.
This year, I've been back in Prince Edward Island for the past month. I purposefully got off social media so I could clear my head and immerse myself in the beauty of this present moment. And Nate - to tell you this feels much like a confession - I have realized just how far I've come in a year. I had to plumb the depths of my grief and despair, wring every ounce of anguish out of my severed soul before I could begin the slow crawl to the surface. To breathe, and live again. The revelations are slow in coming, and they take my breath away with all the force of a gut punch. One day, watching Elissa in her bath, I realize: I feel happy more days than I feel sad. Squealing down a steep hill on our bike, the wind whipping our faces, I realize: I'm excited about my future with my girl. It's going to be beautiful, albeit broken. It's going to be good. I'm trying to shake the guilt of finding joy and hope in a world without you, because Nate, I know that's what you want for us more than anything. A lifetime of grieving you feels appropriate, but frankly, you would hate me for it.
If you could tell me one thing on this day, the third anniversary of your death, it would be to LIVE. To make my mark in the world. To give Elissa the love and adventures and zest for life that she would have had with two parents. And Nate, more than anyone else I've ever encountered it was you who taught me how to live full, live well, live extraordinary. It was you who raced through life at breakneck speed, seeing and doing everything, and yet skidded to a halt at the perfect moment to just be. To inhale a beautiful sunset, letting the last rays of yet another unforgettable day wash over you. To stare at a rumbling ocean for hours, thinking deep thoughts that no one but God was privy to. To gather me up in your arms - baby belly and all - with no other intent than to drink in my nearness. And here, on this island, I feel it again. We are one. You have taught me and shown me about life, and for the rest of mine I will strive to apply your lessons and teach them to our daughter.
At the end of our whirlwind babymoon three years ago you stood on the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia, breathless with excitement as we watched the sun set and I froze beside you. Tonight Elissa and I will climb back to the top of Cadillac. We will watch the sun go down and imagine what it would be like to stand on that mountain with you, nestled on either side of the man who is the center of our world, warmed by the fever of your intoxication with life and its beauty. We adore you, Nate. Passionately, relentlessly, forever. You will always be our knight, our muse, the one who has gone before us to exemplify a life well-lived.