“This year, the anniversary of my husband’s death sucked.
And, it wasn’t just because it’s the day Chad died. It was like nothing could go right. Nothing.
By 3:00 p.m., I was ready to climb into bed, turn on the fans, pull up the covers, flip on the TV, and cry myself to sleep. I was the epitome of feeling sorry for myself.
And, as much as I wanted to just give in to the day, I knew I couldn’t. I’d promised my sweet girl we would do our yearly dinner at our favorite restaurant and have our annual walk in the park.
Why? Because the year Chad died, I was having awful nightmares after his funeral. Terrors mostly. I couldn’t find peace. There were some nights at my mom’s house where I touched calmness. But, when I was alone, I just couldn’t find it.
Until one night that summer, we went downtown for dinner, and then took a walk in the park near the capital building. I will never forget what the air felt like, or how this fragrant, flowery scent cascaded through the slight breeze. I will never forget watching my daughter search for Pokémon, or even what the grass felt like when I slipped off my flip flops. It was the first time after he died where I felt relaxed. Where I felt like I could breathe — because there were so many times, when I would hold my breath knowing if I sucked air deep into them, they would rattle, and I would not be able to control my sobbing.
So, every year, we go back to try to find it – that peace which eludes us all too often in this horrible grief journey.
Except this year, they were closed. Just that night. To sanitize. I hate the Corona.
We tried a couple more of our favorite restaurants. Booked.
We ended up having a mediocre dinner. I mean, the food was fine, but it wasn’t what we had planned. And when you’re trying so hard to feel better in the midst of feeling so bad, you really just want to do what you had planned. You’ve had enough limbo. You need something definite. Something tangible. Something you can hold onto.
Even though we didn’t get to go to the restaurant we wanted to, we did go to the park. We just sat there. Peace was still there. Still in the breeze. Still in the way the sun peeked in through the trees.
But for some reason, my heart was still heavy. Maybe it was just the day still creeping in.
I’ll take any opportunity to take a picture of my beautiful daughter, so I asked her to look at the camera. And, for the first time I can recall in a really long time, she smiled. No pouty mouth. No duck lips.
Just a real smile.
As I went back through the camera roll to look at them, I came across this picture of this blanket.
The blanket she takes everywhere. Every time we travel. Every time she stays at a friends. Every time we have a long car ride.
That blanket is sure to come.
And, I know why. So does she.
It’s the blanket she brought to her dad the last time he was in the hospital.
It’s the blanket she pulled up to his shoulders, so he could be warm when she stayed with him the day he died.
It’s the blanket she rested her elbows on when she held his hand as he gasped for air.
It’s the blanket she gently lay his arm down on an hour after he died, when she finally let go of his hand.
It is his blanket.
And it’s her blanket.
It’s the one thing she has of his that was with her when she had to say goodbye.
And, when she wraps herself in it late at night, I assume she imagines what it might feel like to wrap herself in his arms one last time.
And, in spite of her disappointment our restaurant was closed, and in spite of the fact she knew my day had not gone the way I wanted it to, and in spite of the fact the only tangible thing she has left of her dad is a weathering blanket… she smiled.
Suddenly, my problems didn’t seem so big.
So, I smiled back.
Because as much as I wanted to feel bad that day, I want to be happy.
I want to remember a life well lived.
I want to remember what it felt like to be loved by him.
I want to remember the jokes.
I want to laugh.
And sometimes, it takes somebody with a pure heart and infectious smile to remind us what’s important, and what can wait.
I’m forever grateful for my friends and family and everybody who remembers and helps us honor him, and who still helps us fight for a cure.
But today, yes today, I’m grateful for the girl who smiled when smiling seemed impossible.
I hope you’re lucky enough to have that, too.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Diana Register of Meridian, Idaho. Her books “Grief Life” and “Grief & Glitter” are available in print and on kindle. You can find more of her books here, and her podcast here. Connect with Diana on her author Facebook page, and Instagram.
Read more from Diana:
‘My husband bungee corded my kid to the backseat. Not kidding. She was 3 years old. I honestly didn’t believe it. But there she was, strapped in a makeshift five-point harness.’: Widow hilariously recalls memory of late husband
‘What is wrong? Is something wrong?’ He didn’t answer me. ‘Chad, seriously, tell me what’s wrong.’ He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and leaned in.’
‘He whispered, ‘You are not alone,’ and cradled this stranger in his arms as she took her last breath. Chad, too, was dying.’: Widow details police officer’s kindness during final weeks of life
‘My 15-year-old asked, ‘Mom, can I get a tattoo?’ I let her and no, I don’t care what anybody has to say about it.’: Mom says daughter ‘earned’ tattoo, ‘She showed me what surviving looks like’
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