Friday, March 4, 2016

"See Your Memories"

Facebook. It's amazing how much it has shaped our lives. I can hardly remember what life was like before I shared photos of myself and my family on Facebook with my friends, when I could see old high school classmates get degrees, get married, have children - I have lots of people that I connect with on a daily basis, and Facebook has become part of my regular routine and communication.

Normally I love Facebook, because I'm a people person and I love to interact with my friends and family.  However, lately Facebook has been a sucker punch in the gut for me, due to this little link that pops up:

That's all fine and well and good when there are adorable pictures of Colton on there, or when I can relive happier moments - closing on a home, getting a new job, going to a Tigers game, etc. But since late February, I've been hit with daily reminders of when my life was shattered three years ago by Ryan's quick decline and hospitalization, that ultimately led to his passing on April 8, 2013.  Now I have a built-in way of reliving those memories on a daily basis, due to the daily status updates and blog posts that the two of us made and shared over that six-week period of time when we were scared, hopeful, hopeless, and also unbelievably supported by friends and family.

Today marks the three-year anniversary of the phone call I received while having lunch with a friend at the Pita Place, when Ryan told me that the doctors did not think he would ever leave the hospital alive.  I re-read our blog posts this morning after Facebook reminded me of this day (trust me, I didn't need a reminder; my brain can exactly recite any date that we had a good or bad thing happen to us during his cancer journey).  As tears spilled over, reading the terrified words that Ryan and I posted to our blog followers that day, I had a sick feeling in my stomach, remembering what that 28-year-old wife and mother felt that day as she struggled to comprehend life without Ryan.  I remember how she felt a desperate need to tell him that day how she felt about him, and how she would be okay, which led to writing this letter.  I re-read the letter, cried again as I remembered the resolution she made that day to be alright no matter what God chose as the ultimate outcome of the situation, and then I looked down.

At this guy.

Hudson Ray is my new son.  He was born at the end of January, and I'm so grateful for him (despite his colic, his penchant for taking tiny catnaps throughout the day, and my sleep deprivation - haha).  He is a tangible reminder of the blessings that the Lord has given to me after I felt three years ago like everything had been taken from me.  I sit here in the living room of my home that I have bought with my husband, Matthew, where we can create memories and new traditions and build a life together with our FIVE SONS.  (I'm just going to type that again for the shock value: FIVE SONS.  Lord, have mercy!)  So often, I feel simply overcome by the amount of grace that God has given me.  And I do not just say that because life is in a good place for me at the moment.

I feel like I'm sometimes living a double life.  In one world, I am this new mother again, I am remarried to this guy that I'm crazy about, I have this huge, blended family that is filled to the brim with noise and testosterone, and my life is consumed with basketball and soccer practices.  I live in a new town, and I'm about an hour away from my parents and my friends.  I go to a new church and I'm trying to meet people and make new friends.  All of these things are good, though I'll admit that the sheer rapidity of the changes that I've made has caused me to have more than one emotional breakdown in the past year.  Change is tough.

In the other world, I still have what's left of my life with Ryan - my relationships with his family and friends, the memories that I share with Colton about his father, visiting his gravestone, remembering things that we did together, advocating for a cure for cholangiocarcinoma, participating in the Ride-A-Thon at Paradise Ranch, talking with people about this blog or our journey, giving "widow advice" or "cancer advice" to other people in similar situations, and many more things that draw me back into the "old world" on a daily basis.

And the thing is, I regularly flip between these two worlds all the time, and to some degree, the two worlds sometimes overlap a bit, like a Venn Diagram.  I have come to accept and even embrace the fact that living in two worlds is my new reality.  I will never quite let go of my old world - I can't, and I don't want to.  So strong is the tie that bound me to my first husband that it won't ever break.  The strongest tie is the son that we have together, who at the age of almost six is starting to really be able to cognitively process the loss that he has endured.  And yet that ties that still bind me to Ryan do not impede upon my new world - if anything, they have enhanced my new world.  I feel like I can fully appreciate the beauty amidst the chaos.  I feel like I can keep struggle in perspective.  I feel as though I'm better able to identify that whatever good I have in my life right now, it's not because of anything I've done - it's because the Lord has specifically allowed it to be in my life.  These are all lessons that I've learned because of my time spent in a deep, dark valley.  I am grateful for the old world and even the pain that it still represents because that world has made me into a better person, a better friend, a better wife, and a better mother.

As I sit here with a sleeping infant on my lap - wow, he's actually been asleep for an hour, is this a special occasion? - and sun shines through the windows, I am reminded of the sun that was shining three years ago today, when my friend Sarah had to escort me back to work after I received that devastating phone call while out to lunch with her.  Not a single detail of that day has faded from memory. And every day for the next six weeks, fresh pain will be delivered on a daily basis when Facebook compels to me to click on "See Your Memories".  Yet because of the lessons that the old world has taught me about choosing my attitude and choosing to praise God no matter the circumstances, the new world will continue rolling along.

And I will be okay.