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Developing Story

Often people are amazed at my family. Why? Because I have five children. Yeah. I said five. They range in age from eighteen down to one.

The Kids, in Order. 

My oldest, Kayla, was born when I was only seventeen (and a half). She was a surprise and definitely complicated my senior year of high school. Brendan, the first boy, was planned. Why? I’m not sure. We were young, struggling with each other and to pay the bills. I think I was hoping he would be the gift that would draw us together (that’s how a 20 year old thinks). Stupid. I know that now. Nonetheless, he was a gift. He didn’t help or hurt the relationship. He did come at a time when we were starting to get our act together. Shortly after Bren was born, I was able to be a stay at home mom. We also bought our first house and our first new-to-us car.

With all of that good stuff, our relationship still had problems. I had reached my final straw with Randy. Some how (thank ya, Jesus), we managed to come back together and work towards (and achieve) a truly wonderful marriage.We were finally on a path to success. Our finances were finally on track, his job was on track, our relationship was on track, our spirituality was on track, and, we were finally mature enough to be the parents we should have been all along. We wanted to pull us together as a family. Sort of like the cherry on the sundae. We wanted another, and last, baby. We tried for 5 months and finally, we were pregnant with Emily. She was amazing. Our story was finally developing into a happy one.

All babies have their issues, but overall, they were wonderful and amazing babies. So far, amazing kids, too.

If Randy were still living, I’d be standing at a count of three. That didn’t happen. I met someone else, Tim, and several years later we were married. I started and finished college with a BA. It was time to put school on hold before continuing on. It was time for a baby. Tim didn’t have any children of his own. He wanted me to decide when and how many children we had. I didn’t think he would ever want to have any. I had three and he considered those his. Most men, would be more than fine with that. And, he was. He said he loved those kids and if we never had kids together, he would be okay. Just like Randy and I wanted to do, Tim and I wanted to have a living expression of our love.We wanted a child together. So, when the older three were sixteen, thirteen, and eight, Nora joined our family.

Eleanora (Nora) was born with two ecstatic sisters and one brother. Her daddy, over the moon! She cried often and smiled sometimes. She was demanding and serious, but miles ahead in all areas of development (except size, she’s a tiny thing).

About 16 months later, while practicing ‘whatever happens, happens’ method, I discovered I was pregnant again. I wasn’t so sure this time. Four was a lot and I just wasn’t sure how all this would work out. A baby is a baby and there is no greater miracle. I only hoped this one would be a little less demanding than Miss Nora. Cason was born just shy of 2 years after Nora. Thank goodness, my prayers were answered. He was a fantastic baby.

Their Stories.

There are a lot of things you don’t hear from other mothers or experts. Like, no one tells you how hard breastfeeding can really be! No one tells you that having a newborn, fluid coming from several places, and no sleep can leave you feeling on edge and lonely! No one tells you that you will have to say things like, “Quit rubbing that peanut butter and jelly sandwich in your hair,” or the words “Why would you drink someone else’s medicine?” No one prepares you to talk about periods and erections.  No one explained to me that I would have to teach them how to be a human being.

There is nothing more fascinating to me than watching the little pieces of their personalities and intelligence develop, often faster than I can process. It has been so amazing. One day, so it seems, they are drawing a circle with dots and calling it a face. The next, they are learning calculus and picking out colleges. It really feels that fast!

I have enjoyed every second (well, almost!) of every child’s story. The single most amazing part of their story is the moment I realized they are developing their own story! I can tell them how to do things while encouraging their independence, but the moment I notice they have their own ideas solidifies the process for me. It’s working.

I can remember all of their ‘my own story moments’, but will spare you the boredom. I will share Emily’s because she is the last one to reach this point (so far). She was always bugging me to eat lunch with her at school. I couldn’t usually do it because I was in college at the time. If I wasn’t at school, I was trying to get homework done because having three older children and being in college isn’t exactly easy. One day, I surprised her. I knew she would be happy. She bought lunch that day. She sat down at the table with her tray.

“Emily, don’t they have two lunch options?”

“Yeah.” she answered with a confused look on her face.

“Didn’t you like the other option? I know you don’t like that soup. It’s tomato.”

She had the sweetest look on her face as if she was thinking how silly I was. “Yes I do. I love tomato soup. I love to dip my grilled cheese in it. Geez, Mom. Where have you been?”

Well, there ya go, she had her own brain and had likes and dislikes different than me, Tim, and her siblings. She, was her own person.

They all continue to surprise me with how many of our ‘lessons’ we teach that they seem to just blow off. Years later, I am noticing in our older children, those lessons, actually stuck like glue and they have adopted them as their own. When I call them out on how much they used to hate that rule or seemed to ignore this rule, they laugh. They hadn’t even realized we finally agreed. And then there are other things that I watch and think, ‘Where in the world did that come from and why?’

Just proof, and it’s wonderful, that they are their own people. I gave them the slate and the instructions, but they are writing the story.

Uniquely Young.

My first post was a long and emotional. It was as hard to write as it was to read and living it was almost unbearable. The whole process of grieving is absolutely complicated. Every person, even in similar circumstances, have very different grieving experiences. That’s perfectly normal.

I couldn’t lean on my family. When someone young dies (he had just turned twenty-five 4 days before that), it shakes everyone’s foundation. Young people are not supposed to die. My in-laws were devastated beyond comprehension. I’m not sure what I would do if I lost a child. Probably wish i were gone too.My parents and grandparents felt like he was a son, so they had a similar reaction. Plus, watching me, their own child, suffer was probably almost worse than their grief. For my friends, his death was hard because they could see themselves widowed, with children. They felt grief for Randy, sorrow for me and our families, and worry for their own families. My kids and I talked about missing Daddy and how sad we were. I wanted them to know it was okay to be sad. I couldn’t share my burden with them though. I truly had no one I felt I could share that burden with, besides God.

Believe me, I know that God carried me on days when I couldn’t find the strength to walk. There were many of those days. I did grow deeper in my faith. I needed to find my path and do the work. No one could do that for me, not even God. I looked for resources to help me. I couldn’t find any that were designed for young widows or young widows with children. I felt like I had to do it on my own. I don’t want you, or anyone, to go through this alone.

Don’t get me wrong. People stepped in to help me. More than I could have ever asked for. All of my stuff had to be moved back from the new house. My brother-in-law and friends did that. Before the move we had given away some furniture because we were replacing it with new when we moved. My family helped us do that. People watched my children whenever I wanted so I could go be by myself and do what I wanted. I just couldn’t, or wouldn’t, dump my emotional garbage on them and leave it for them to sort through. They had their own.

I think feeling like you have no one to share the burden with happens more for young widows than other widows. A young widow is also responsible for her children’s healing too.  The moment he died I was a single mom of three children under 7 years old. I didn’t have an education. I didn’t have a job. I didn’t know how long we would have healthcare. On top of that, I was dealing with lawyers to get bills paid that my insurance denied (I had to SUE my OWN insurance company to make them pay our bills from the accident that was caused by someone else, even though we had carried uninsured and under insured insurance for many years). Plus, there was a criminal case since he was ticketed for drunk driving. He (who is to remain nameless so I don’t somehow get in trouble)was charged with reckless homicide. He plead guilty. He was sentenced to probation (yes, probation), loss his license for 2 years, and would carry a felony conviction with him forever. I also started receiving nasty phone calls. I had tracing devices on my line and had to have a security system installed. That’s a lot for a person who wasn’t sure how to put both feet on the floor in the morning and cried herself to sleep at night.

I did find THREE things that helped me:

First, I donated my time to a Christian Pregnancy Center. Another passion of mine is teen moms because I was one. That was tough even with support. There are so many girls who do not have that support and I wanted to help. I couldn’t make myself feel better, so I thought I could help someone else feel better. Being there did help.

Secondly, I sought counseling. I was already reeling from Randy’s death when Sept. 11th happened It was less than a month later. I found myself sitting on my bed while the kids were in school, rocking and crying as I watched footage of people jumping from towers.

In my mind, I had just lost my past and my entire future and now, the world was on fire and people were jumping from sky scrapers. I knew my situation was bad, but those people and their families, had it worse. I felt like I was drowning. I was having panic attacks, although I didn’t know what they were at the time. I called Randy’s EAP and found a counselor in my area. She turned out to be a Godsend! Her sister had also lost a husband to a drunk driver. The kids went when they wanted. I went alone when I felt I needed to. The anxiety would build up every week, every appointment had its challenges, and every time I left that building, I felt better. We continued counseling for over a year. My counselor navigated everything WITH me, even the beginning stage of dating.

Later, about month 2 maybe, I did one more thing. I started working out. I had gained weight. It’s amazing how that year went. In January I was still pregnant and I gave birth towards the end of that month. By May, he thought he had a job over an hour away. By June, he was in his new job, we had found a brand new house (wasn’t even finished yet), and we were preparing ours for the market. By the weekend of August 14th, kids were registered in new school and all of our stuff was in the new house waiting to close. On that Saturday, August 18, Randy died.

I was having trouble with my periods. I thought it was all stress related, but all my kids had was me now. I had to be the best me I could be. Plus, I wasn’t sleeping and had SO much anger. I thought maybe working out would let me release some anger, take off some weight, and wear me out enough that I would fall asleep. It worked, on all accounts. I did get back on track and so did my periods.

Every experience has things happen that you could never predict. For me, some of these were amazing and restored my faith in humanity. Others, left me hurt.

I never could have predicted the wake  would be comforting. The outpouring of support was so uplifting. They estimated about 475 people waited in line for over an hour and a half to see me. I expected this to be torture. I cried, but not as much as I had expected. What I found was he was loved by many. What an impact we have on others. They all had their own message to relay and usually involved a story or three about Randy. How amazing. Comforting. Also, many people donated money to help us through. Amazing donations from people who might not even be able to afford it. It restored my faith in humanity. It showed me that when the chips are down, people, even strangers will step in.

On the flip side of that, there were some things that happened that broke my heart. I would go to the grocery store and see people I knew. It was a blessing and a curse. Part of me didn’t want to talk. I was just miserable. Part of me felt comfort when they would over to talk.  I can’t count the number of times I saw a person that normally would come talk to me, but instead, they looked at me and walked the other way. Hurtful. They didn’t mean to hurt me. I later would talk to some of them and say, ‘Hey, noticed you at Wal-Mart a while back, but I guess you didn’t see me’. Many said that they wanted to talk to me, but they didn’t know what to say to me and that it was just too painful to look at me. They explained that there was so much pain in me that it couldn’t be hidden.

As you move towards living again, you start wearing a smile. It’s fake, but you wear it because it makes other people feel better. People have preconceived ideas of how long a person should grieve. Some think you can grieve, but you have to be ‘normal’ again. They have no idea the depth of grief that lives in us. At first, people will call and they will make an effort to stop by. By the 6 month mark for me, I stopped getting visitors and calls. I actually had some people tell me that I needed to get my act together, it had been a long time. Who in the world are they to tell me how I should feel or for how long? It’s hard not to let that kind of stuff bother you.  It’s just as important to not let that kind of stuff bother you. This is your journey on your time and if you want to go the long way instead of taking the short cut, you should do it. In fact, I recommend it.

I don’t want to bore you with little details or every single step I made.  I don’t plan on taking you day by day account through my grief. Or even month by month. I would like to take you through some important aspects of my process. Just giving the highlights makes for an emotional and long read. I have some things I wrote way back then. I plan on sharing those, too. It’s interesting to look back at where my heart was then. There is something very unique about being a young widow.  We may be different and walking on different paths, but we share that bond. There are those who came before you, those who walk with you, and those who will follow you. May you find kinship and comfort in that.

The Tree Branches

“If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you right into your purpose.”    – T.D. Jakes

Yesterday, I made the venture into the realm of blogging. It’s something I should have done a long time ago. Blogging isn’t my goal though. While I think I will enjoy blogging, I would love to go beyond and venture into public speaking and writing books.  That’s my dream goal. There were a couple reasons why I have waited this long.

One reason I have waited is because I am scared (I told you I  will be honest). I love writing. I have written few things that were read by others. Every time, thus far, I have shared my writing it has been because it was an assignment, for proofreading, or because I had it hidden and it was found (and read) without my permission.

I hold my writing so close because when I write, my thoughts flow without interruption and often from deep places that I don’t let everyone see. Writing has always been my safe place. When I have troubles to sort through, or if I am angry, I write. When I write, the world just seems to make more sense. I worry that if I let the world read my writing, it leaves me vulnerable. It will open me up to criticism.

That leads me to the second reason I have been hesitant. There are few things that I feel I do adequately, and sometimes, I even question those. I can write and I am a good mother. If I fail at either of those things, I’d have nothing left.  I feel like I was born to do those two things. Don’t get me wrong, I could improve in both areas. I strive to do that. I apologize when I am wrong and I work through it in my head. For some reason, hearing someone else tell me I need to do something can be hard for me.

Once in awhile, if I see someone struggling to make sense of the world or when someone has wronged me, I have written something specifically for them or shared with them something I have written in the past that might apply to them. I have done that because making someone else realize their worth or coming together on finding a solution to a conflict trumps my fear. I am hard on myself. Sometimes I  wonder why I think I have anything to say that someone else might want to hear. And, sometimes, I wonder how much I pushed my point of view on someone who didn’t want to  hear anyone’s opinion at all.

For those of  you who know me, you might be thinking this is not the real me. You think this, because there are few who like to talk as much as me. No doubt, I am good at talking. It’s served me well. There is something that you don’t know. I probably talk a lot to keep you from asking too many questions. This blog, these words-this is me. My real and unapologetic thoughts and feelings put into words.

While this is a scary, intimidating path to be on, it’s one I want to do. I want to improve as a person and in my writing. I think it could therapeutic for me. I know that if these thoughts have confused me, hurt me, challenged me, or changed me, that there are other people going through similar situations and feelings. I don’t have answers. God has answers. I do have support. Maybe even a tidbit of wisdom. Sometimes, knowing that someone else is with you is enough to take a step forward. We can all learn from each other if we are open to the process of change.

I found my passion(s) a long time ago. I hope I have found a purpose.

Bottom line? How else do I reach my goals, unless I am willing to open and take the first step. I am willing to do that, finally. I know people will have different views of the same experience. That’s what makes us complicated and amazing people. I know not everyone will enjoy what I have to say, maybe they will absolutely detest it. This is my journey. My journey to tell from my perspective. I’m putting it out there. I hope I will see my goals through to fruition. What the world chooses to do with these thoughts and experiences is up to God and the world.

The Hardest Day

Saturday, August 18, 2001 will go down as the absolute hardest day of my life.

As I bolted through the doors, I was on display. A room full of people, lined up in chairs, focused on the crazy woman bursting into  the otherwise calm room.  The security guard and I locked eyes. I could tell he was waiting for me. His voice was calm as he asked me for my name. My first name was enough. He knew who I was. He gestured around the corner. With a step and turn of my head, my fears confirmed.

There it was–a sign over the door. The tan sign stood apart from the stark white walls. It read, “Quiet Room”.  Ironic since it screamed at me. I shuttered. Thinking to myself, “Please. No, no, no.” I took a deep breath and allowed my eyes to fall away from the sign as I  glanced around the room. There, I saw our family, quietly weeping. They could barely stand to look me. Their stares glued to their hands. Crumpled, wet tissues wrapped around their fingers. Shuttering shoulders. It was more than I could handle. I grabbed the door frame for support as I laid my head on the door in defeat and whispered,

‘No. It can’t be. Please, tell me it isn’t true.”

I knew in my heart it was true. I could feel it. My mother-in-law lifted her head and nodded. Our families silent tears turned into sobs muffled behind their grimacing faces.

A thin woman with short dark brown hair and glasses hesitantly moved towards me. I didn’t know her and I wasn’t sure what her plan was. I am not sure it mattered. I was in shock. Ideas swirled through my head until it made me dizzy.  She gently placed her hand on mine, and when I didn’t push her away, she moved it around my shoulders. With her grasp, she encouraged me to come inside that tiny room thick with grief.

“Sara, would you come in and sit with us?”

The guard slowly closed the door behind us.

What else was I going to do? I had no thoughts of my own; at least none that were clear. I followed her into the room. It was small. The walls lined with maroon chairs and average tables, typical of doctor offices and hospitals. Fake flowers and boxes of tissues decorated the sparsely lit room. She sat with me on one side. My mother at the end of the room and Randy’s parents across from us. She calmly took one of my hands in hers and handed me a box of tissues with her other.

“Sara,” she tenderly continued, ” I’m Kathy. I am a chaplain here at the hospital. You know that Randy has been in a terrible car wreck.”

I nodded. I wanted to tell her I knew he died. I wanted her to quit talking.  I couldn’t stop her. I couldn’t speak. I wondered if maybe I was wrong and he was just badly hurt. I knew she would never tell me what I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear that he was going to have a tough recovery, but that he would be okay. I knew that wasn’t going to happen. She was going to tell me what I ready knew. Her message written on faces of loved ones. On the guard’s face. On the sign to the room. There was no mistaking the truth. I briefly glanced at her face as I waited for the devastating news.

“I’m sorry, Sara. He didn’t make it. They did everything they could, but it just wasn’t enough.”

A tear crawled down her cheek. I lowered my head. My lip was trembling. My tears silently fell one after the other, collecting on my shirt.  No one in the room could contain their cries. The kind of noise that comes from pain so intense it rips you apart from the inside out.

I couldn’t look up. I just wanted to rip her hands from me and run. I wanted to hide.

“What happened? I squeaked. “Was it his fault?”

I needed to know if it was his fault. He was always so tired when he left because he wasn’t a morning person. I often worried about him falling asleep at the wheel.

“No, no.” Kathy assured me. “The other driver crossed into his lane. Alcohol may be involved,  but we don’t know that for sure yet.”

I just shook my head. This stuff happens on the news, not to us. I still couldn’t lift my head. I just couldn’t. My own pain was enough. I couldn’t bear to look up and face his parents. Hearing my husband was dead was almost more than I could take. I couldn’t bear to stare into their grief. Kathy pulled her own tissue from the box.

“Can I see him?” I muttered.

“Whenever you are ready.”

“I’ll never be ready. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.”

“I know,” she continued,”It just isn’t fair.”

“Can you call my Pastor? I think I want him here.”

“Of course.” She answered.

I just shook my head. Unfair didn’t do this justice. How was I going to tell my kids? What were we going to do? I wanted Randy to hold me. That’s what happened when I was lost, hurt, or unsure. He would hold me and tell me it would be fine. Who is going to do that? How was I going to make it through something this terrible thing without him? I knew it wasn’t going to get any easier to stand up from that chair.

“I’m ready.”

Kathy walked me down a hallway and we turned into a chilly, bare room where he laid peacefully.

Covered with a thin white sheet, folded down at his shoulders. His dark hair looked black against his pale complexion and the bright white sheet. His lips tinged blue. He looked perfect except a tiny scratch on his chin. At the edge of the room, I almost collapsed. This was instantly real. I just kept shaking my head. The soft-spoken chaplain encouraged me to touch him and talk to him if I wanted. Everyone waited while I slowly made my way around the gurney until I reached his chest. I laid on his chest and sobbed. It’s as close as I would get to him ever holding me again.

“We’ll give you some time, Sara.”

My family and Kathy left me alone to say my goodbyes. I was so sad and so angry. How could he leave me like that? We have three children. We had a baby! Why didn’t he ever wear a seat belt?

I calmed myself. I knew it wasn’t his fault. He would never leave us on purpose. I talked to him a little. I told him that I loved him. I told him that I wasn’t sure how I was going to do this without him, but I would. I promised to never forget him and to always make sure the kids knew him. I promised to do the best I could. I told him how happy the past couple years had made me and that I would miss him more than he could ever imagine.

I knew I couldn’t stay there forever. I knew I had to leave him. How do you leave someone you love so much laying there, by himself, waiting to be put in a cold drawer in the morgue. Leaving him in that room was the hardest thing I ever did.

Kathy peeked in. “I know it’s hard. Is there anything I can do for you? Anything I can get you?”

“Yeah,” I quipped, “about another 50 years.”

“Oh, honey. I wish I could.”

“Me, too.”

With that, I kissed his forehead and ran my fingers through his soft hair one last time. I turned around and just left him there. To be honest, part of me still carries guilt about that. I know I didn’t have a choice, but it’s still one of the hardest things I have ever done.

Back in the room we discussed donations. Randy and I both had always said we would donate anything that we possibly could. We donated his corneas and skin for burn victims. I found peace in knowing that something truly good could come from something so awful.

The nurse brought in his broken watch and a bloody $20 bill. He was on his way to work for a day of overtime on his day off. He was even supposed to get a steak dinner, which is why he came back in the house that morning and grabbed  that $20. They would reimburse him later for the dinner. He loved a good steak dinner. In all the commotion (we were staying with my parents until we could move into our new house. The accident happened on Saturday, we were scheduled to close on Monday. All of our stuff was all ready there, waiting) he left his wallet on our temporary dresser.

“Sara, ” I looked up to see the nurse speaking, “I just wanted to tell you that I had to call your doctor to notify him of Randy’s death. I have never had a doctor show such a genuine concern for your well-being and sadness for the family. Your doctor thinks a lot of you. He would like you to call him in the next few days or as soon as you feel like you can.”

I nodded. “Thank you. He is amazing and I appreciate his concern.”

Something caught my eye as I was lowering my head  again. As, I looked back at the door, I saw a tall figure enter. It was our Pastor. The Pastor who had baptized us just a little over a year earlier. We hugged and we prayed. Well, I should say, he trembled through his fumbling words for a prayer as the rest of us sobbed.

“Anything we can do for you?” Kathy asked. “Anything you would like to ask his nurse? Would you like to know his injuries?”

“No. I don’t. He’s dead and knowing how that happened does not change that fact. It would just give me a mental picture I can’t handle right now.”

Kathy understood.

My dad appeared in the doorway. Just as terrified  and saddened as everyone else. He had been sitting with the older kids, preparing for Brendan’s 5th birthday party planned for later that day when he received the call. Seeing him made me question where the kids were, what they knew, what about the party, and oh my gosh, how was I ever going to tell them this?

The chaplain and I discussed how to tell the kids. She told me that straight forward talk using the actual term ‘dead’ was best. It seemed harsh, but allowing them to feel like Daddy was coming home or waking up wasn’t fair. I had to be as honest as their age and understanding would allow. Kathy’s other piece of advice was to get them back in a regular routine as soon as possible.

Another set of worries flowed into my head. Not only were we expecting to live in another house that following week, but that house was over an hour away from our old house. It meant registering them in another school and buying supplies for the new school. I didn’t even know where I was going to live, or how to get all of our clothes and belongings, how was I going to get them back in a routine? If I moved back into our old house, I would have to register them and buy supplies all over again. School started on Monday here (Monday was also Brendan’s actual birthday). How could I get that all done? Who do I call to get the process started? What a mess! From top to bottom, nothing easy about it. I felt like almost every breath was another brick to the head.

After filling out and signing paper after paper, we had to leave. There was nothing else to do there. I consciously had to put one foot in front of the other to get to the car. I had been dropped off at the hospital because no one wanted me to drive, so I rode to Grandma’s house with my mom. Grandma had watched the baby, Emily. My aunt and uncle and picked up the kids from Dad so he could go to the hospital. They would be meeting us at Grandma’s to tell the kids. All of the family from the hospital, and the Pastor, followed us for moral support. Emily was only 7 months and had no idea what was going on. Kayla was seven and Brendan almost five.

On the way home, I called friends, family, and the funeral home. No one could believe the news. No one. Everyone wanted to be with us. Everyone had their own grief. They had sorrow for me and the kids. They grieved for themselves as friends. Beyond that, it made them face their own  lives. We were proof that bad things do happen to good people. They wondered what would happen if this happened to them. It made it real-this really could happen to them. It was clear, no one knows what tomorrow holds.

We arrived at Grandma’s before the older kids. We gathered a brief plan on how to tell them. It was quiet. No one had much to say. You can only sob for so long and you can only say, “What a Shame.” or “What a great guy.” so many times. There is really not much to say after that. There was some speculation about the other driver and how the crash happened, but mostly, we all sat in our own silent internal chaos.

The kids came in and I wanted nothing more than to hug them and kiss them. They were bouncing as they walked through the door. Because they knew they were supposed to be helping Papa get ready for the party and that plans changed, they were expecting to hear the party had moved or that they were walking into a surprise. Ugh. Stab me through the heart. My heart hurt and my stomach dropped. Telling them was going to be bad enough. How can I possibly do it now? Several of us, including Pastor Bob, me and the kids went in the sun room off the main part of the house and closed the glass door to shut out the rest of the noise. The kids disposition changed. They knew this no longer felt like a surprise, but rather an incoming bomb. They were right.

I held Brendan on my lap and Kayla sat next to me with my arm around her.

“I have bad news.I just left the hospital. This morning Daddy was on the way to work and had a really bad accident.”

“Is he okay?” Kayla asked with tears in her eyes.

Their scared little faces seemed to hold hope for his recovery.  After all, that’s what I had hoped for too. This was all so hard for me to understand. How do I expect a five and seven-year old to do what I can’t do? I couldn’t even fathom where to begin. I had no idea what tomorrow would hold.

Through tears and a shaky voice, I respond, “No, honey. I’m sorry, but your daddy died this morning.”

Kayla’s reaction was what I would expect, complete devastation. Brendan, fell asleep. I knew he was trying to block it out. He would later tell me that he wasn’t blocking it out. Instead, he was hoping he would fall asleep, wake up, and find out it was all a bad dream.

Kayla had two very important and logical concerns.

The first was, who will take care of us? How will we get money? Daddy was the only one who worked? Kayla is a worrier by nature. I knew I had to choose my words wisely. I knew, instantly, I would have to make her understand that we would be okay. That mommy would take care of us and she didn’t have to worry. She had to know I was okay or she would worry herself sick about how to make me okay.

Her other questions was would I ever date and marry again. There was a 2 year period, or close to it, that Randy and I really struggled with our marriage. It was so bad that we had decided  (well, I did and he just had to go along with it even thought it wasn’t what he wanted) that he would move out. That scared him, more than I ever thought it would. He discovered that maybe he valued me, the kids, and the life we had more than he had realized . We started working on us, and our relationship, but not before I got a full-time job and put the kids in day care for a few hours a day. I was serious. If he didn’t want to be in a relationship that worked, I was prepared to live on my own.

He came to me and told me that he really wanted to work on us. That he hated the thought of losing me. The thought of it affected him more than he could have imagined. We spent days living on bare minimum sleep so we could talk. We talked and talked. We discovered a lot about ourselves as teens and about our relationship. We really looked at where we started and where we ended up. How much we had changed. When we actually realized that we were in love and not just together for the kids. It was an epiphany for both of us and the beginning of something amazing.

The last two years, or more, of our marriage, we were so unbelievably happy. Honestly, inside and outside, our marriage could not have been better. We really had figured it out. And, we finalized it with baptisms and one last baby, Emily.

Kayla never forgot that time in our lives. The fighting and daycare rocked her world. And she was angry about it. She was convinced  the reason we were fighting was because I just wanted to date other men. That I just didn’t want her daddy anymore. So, when Randy died, her thought was, that I was going to move on to the next one. Adult problems, choices, and solutions that no seven-year old could comprehend. It took her years to forgive me and understand how difficult that period of discourse was for me and Randy.

That became the new hardest task I ever completed. We all talked, guessed, made up stuff that could have happened to cause that accident in between many visits from other family and friends. I think we were all trying to avoid being alone with our own thoughts, but eventually, we had to go home and face our thoughts.

Finally, the kids and I went back to my parents house, our temporary home. I knew the next day would hold more tasks that would test the rankings on the ‘hardest thing I ever did ‘ scale. Life didn’t ask. Nope. It tore through my world like a tornado twirls through a town; destroying everything in its path. So began the journey.

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“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.”   -Washington Irving