Today would have been my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary. That’s a big one, noteworthy. They make decorations and candles and cards for that number.
The impromptu surprise celebration at our family’s favorite campground three years ago still plays like a movie in my mind as I tried to soak in the sight and sound of my mom and dad celebrating their 37th. Not one of the Hallmark numbers, but memorable and important to us, because it was their last together.
We were still reeling from the news we received just days before that the chemo wasn’t working, devastated by the doctor’s estimated 3-6 month expiration date on Dad’s liver. We found out right before starting a week of vacation together, and the news hung over our packing, our arrival, our greetings. We gathered – broken, defeated, angry, sad, confused, not sure what to do or say to one another. What do you say? [Read the post I wrote after having a few days to process – Part 1: A Time to Weep]
In the year and a half that Dad had cancer, life didn’t come to a standstill – it never does [though there were certainly days where it felt like everything was crashing to a screeching halt]. There were birthdays, and holidays, and babies born, and anniversaries, and weddings, and yes, then eventually a funeral, too.
So that day, three years ago, we found ourselves in a spontaneous celebration. Because 3-6 months was still 3-6 months away. And we had that week of vacation together, and that week was their anniversary. We laughed harder and smiled bigger and acted silly with blue cake frosting on our lips. We took pictures and ingrained the memories into our hearts. [Read the post I wrote the next day – Part 2: A Time to Laugh]
That 3-6 month prognosis in June turned into 9 more great months of living and loving life together. My parents set an incredible example for us, living life one day at a time, trying to make the most of it, not worrying too much about the future, and not living in the past either. They helped me do this alongside them during my dad’s 18 month illness.
Since his death, though, it’s been much more difficult to stay in that place of living in the present. In the past 2 years I’ve been grieving loss after loss, [also known as compounded or complicated grief] and sometimes I feel stuck in the past, rather than moving forward with the days I have in front of me.
But life doesn’t come to a standstill – it never does. Even if I’m stuck, life is still going on around me and I’m missing some really good stuff. So how do I, how do we [if you’re a fellow human being who also has something you’re grieving] move through our grief and also recognize and honor some of these Big Days like Father’s Day without your father or a 40th Anniversary without your spouse?
I’ll give you an example from my beautiful mother – she spent the day doing two really healing and healthy things – she watched a video of an Alaskan cruise that she and my dad took with her whole family [she just lost her dad last month, so I’m guessing it was also healing to see my grandpa on the video with Father’s Day being tomorrow] and then she wrote a reflection on my dad’s carepage where our family and friends have followed his cancer journey and our subsequent grief/healing journey since his death. I’m going to read that next after I publish this post!
Both my mom and dad have inspired me with their honest heart-felt writing. May I honor them as I too use writing as my outlet for grieving and growing with grace.
- “Aim, Fire!” (then scramble to get ready)
- Another Year