As I was organizing some things last week I came across this little gem. It was a card Nick had attached to a Christmas gift he had given me a few years ago. Can I tell you that I feel like I have won the lottery when I find these things! Seeing his handwriting, remembering that time, and for a brief second becoming enveloped in the indescribable joy of that memory, was wonderful, yet bittersweet.
I have often heard others who have lost loved ones say how much harder the second year seemed to be than the first. I couldn't imagine that, but have since realized just how true that is. As January 29th approaches, I can tell you that year two has proven to be very emotionally painful in ways that I was not prepared for. When I look back over that first year I see a person who was really just trying to keep her head above water and who was and is rather emotionally vulnerable.
I know without a doubt that God's strength has brought Aaron and me through many painful days. Yes, there has been joy sprinkled in between those days of sorrow, but His plan for our lives is far from being over and we still have much healing that needs to take place. One of the things that year two brought on was the awakening of many forgotten memories. The human mind has a way of being able to tuck away a lot of the memories that involved the pain and suffering, and it begins to remember the Nick before all of that, the Nick that was healthy and happy. Although they are good memories, they can be painful. The reality of "this is life now" has a way of really just taking your breath away at times.
Year two also leaves me wondering who I still am, what God's plan really is for me, and still coming to grips with not being a wife. I often find myself looking at someone's hand just to get a glimpse of that little circle of love and for that moment getting a lump in my throat as I still feel for mine. My thoughts will occasionally drift to what once was as I notice a couple walking hand in hand, or hearing others speak about their anniversaries, or special occasions with their spouses and think that used to be me.
I have to redirect my thought process on many days and remind myself how blessed I was to have shared life with Nick for as long as I did and to have been loved so deeply. Joy comes in different ways now, like seeing the mannerisms of their Dad that both Erika and Aaron mirror. One thing for sure is that Nick lives on through those kids! I have learned there is no timeline for grieving. As much as I may not want to feel the deep pain of this great loss, I cannot control it. With the power and strength of my Heavenly Father and the unconditional love and support of my amazing family and friends, I will survive this. In the process, I pray I continue to grow in the right direction.
These verses from James 1:2-4 have come to my mind and heart so often over this last year: "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
Honestly, there are times I grow weary in finding the joy throughout the trials and I become tired of having my faith tested. But I know if I let ago of my faith, the one thing that has brought me through every trial I have ever faced, then I am rendered hopeless.
So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. 1 Peter 1:6-7. I am wholeheartedly clinging to these words!
I always think about Nick saying "I want you to be happy. Please promise me that you and the kids will find happiness when I am gone." It's funny I always thought I was his encourager, but as time goes on, and I remember all his sweet words of wisdom, I realize he was mine. I would say our year of seconds were still full of many firsts and even though we may not see things as clearly as we would like too we have moved forward, we are healing and our faith remains strong through the trials.