Today is the last day of what has been an extremely challenging year. It marks 259 days since my husband drew his last breath, and 273 days since we last heard his voice. It seems somewhat fitting to write this, my final post this year, and my 100th post since I started, on the final day of 2016. Both are meaningful.
I have alternated between anxiously waiting for this year to be over, to putting it behind me and starting fresh, and wanting to put on the brakes and stop 2017 from coming, because when it does, it will start a year in which A was not a part.
Earlier this week, in the middle of the night, because that’s where thoughts are the most difficult, and emotions are at their most raw, I had a strange thought (or perhaps a hope) that when the clock strikes midnight tonight, 2016 will start over and I can prevent it from ending this way. At the moment I thought it, it seemed like such a real possibility and the anticipation was incredible. But with daybreak came logical thought and emotional letdown. And the reality that I have no say in the matter. This year will end and a new one begin whether or not I want it to.
This is also the time of year when news articles come out listing some of the most notable individuals who died, and, truth be told, it has been a rough year for celebrity deaths. Many individuals who passed this year who seem to have impacted the lives of so many people, and it seems as though this past month had more than its fair share.
I have seen social media posts from individuals who mourn the passing of Professor Snape, or The Goblin King, or Princess Leia, or Willy Wonka. And who can forget Harambe the gorilla? If you look at Wikipedia’s list of notable deaths this year, there are even such frivolous listings as Pan Pan the Chinese panda and the family pet of the California Governor Jerry Brown.
I’ll admit to initially being somewhat annoyed when I see posts such as those. I personally know so many people who have lost spouses, mothers, aunts, daughters, fathers, and more to disease, tragedy, and even drug use. And, of course, there were also those who simply died after having lived long, full lives of 80, 90, even 100+ years. Some were expected (or at least anticipated and prepared for), while others came like a lightning bolt. But their passings left a hollow ache in those closest to them whereas a celebrity death is merely a bummer. A drag. A topic of conversation for those of us who knew them only from a distance and often as a character.
The more I thought about it, though, the more I envied those who feel that a celebrity’s death is the worst thing that happened to them this year. They are blessed in thinking that losing Dr. Jason Seaver or Marie Barone (aka Raymond’s mom) caused them distress. If the passing of Carol Brady or Prince or Arnold Palmer is the greatest heartache they experienced in 2016, they should be thankful.
Believe me, there have been celebrity deaths in the past where I thought “awwww, how sad”. Those of people who made me laugh, cry, feel. And looking back, I probably made someone else think “what does she have to be upset about?” So if your year has been free of tremendous, personal heartbreak, be thankful. And treasure those closest to you for as long as you can because it can change. Just. Like. That.
Before you think this is a complete downer of a post, it isn’t. Because I know that some people who mourn the deaths of people they know only from a distance have also lost someone previously. Or since. They have known heartache and loss and that hollow empty feeling.
But then they learned that beauty is borne of pain. That love comes from loss. And that new life grows from what was once barren. I know I am also on my way to learning this lesson.
Each morning on my drive, I pass orange groves. The past several years, there has been some sort of disease that has been killing off the citrus trees. (I don’t pretend to understand it all, but I have witnessed it.) This particular grove was no different, and an entire section of trees became nothing more than dead, fruitless limbs reaching grey fingers to the sky. One section was eventually razed and burned to prevent spreading to the entire grove.
A few random trees, though seemingly affected by this canker, were spared. Somehow they were seen as not dead or dying, but nearly dormant. When I drive past these particular trees, now bearing fruit after being empty for a few years, it always strikes me how new life can spring forth from what seemed to have been lifeless.
That, to me, represents grief and healing and pain and growth. There is new life among the ashes. Although the struggles, and trials, and hardships are clearly evident, so, too, is the growth, and life, and beauty.
I’m not making promises to go into 2017 a brand new me. I won’t make resolutions only to break them and feel sorry for myself. I refuse to think that the minute between 11:59 p.m. on December 31, 2016 and 12:00 midnight on January 1, 2017 is going to make some magical difference in who I am.
But I am going into 2017 changed. There’s no question. And it’s up to me to decide whether or not I will grow new buds that eventually bear fruit, or simply return to the dust.
It won’t be easy, and my scars will remain, but I choose life after my loss. I think it’s what my husband would have wanted.
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