Saturday, December 31, 2016

Another Year to Be Grateful For

As we sit here on the cusp of a New Year, getting ready to bid farewell to the old one, I can honestly say 2016 was the best year I've had in a while. Not perfect by any stretch, and not without it's sadness and challenges, but good nonetheless.

Last New Year's Eve I had absolutely no idea what the upcoming year had in store for me. I couldn't even begin to imagine the possibilities 2016 held, but I welcomed them all with open arms and without reserve. I was ready to tackle any challenge that faced me and to take advantage of every opportunity I was given. Little did I know just how far those opportunities would take me, literally and figuratively.

One day last January, out of the blue, I received a call asking me if I would go to Petawawa to share my story with some of the soldiers there. Without hesitation (I really do need a pause button), I immediately said yes. Of course, I had no idea that was to be the beginning of a new chapter of my life. As I stood there speaking to a battalion of infanteers, I couldn't help but wonder what Dan would have thought of it all. And then I could hear him saying, "You gave her a microphone and a captive audience, what were you thinking?" Actually I know he'd be pretty damn proud that I was able to find a way to use his loss to help soldiers and their families who are struggling. I can never put into words how much the response from all of the soldiers I have spoken to means to me. Since that day, I have had the honour of speaking several times. I have traveled across the country from Petawawa to Gagetown, Toronto, Kingston and Yellowknife. Yellowknife of all places. And in every single one of those places, I have been welcomed by old friends and new. I have met some of the most amazing, courageous men and women who serve our country. Men and women who have shared their stories with me. Men and women who inspire me every single day. Just as I have touched their lives, they too have touched mine. And they have become my strength.

When I first started writing this blog, I had no idea, of course, how my words would resonate with so many. Or that anyone would find me so inspirational. That's the thing isn't it? So many of us go through life never truly realizing the impact we have on others. I have been fortunate enough to get a small glimpse of the impact I have had on so many. And I am humbled by it. I am humbled by the widow who thanked me for telling her its okay for her to be happy (and it so definitely is), by the soldier who found the strength to not open a drink, by the one who called his mom to tell her he loved her after he heard me speak. I am humbled by every soldier and family I meet. I am humbled every single time I am asked to speak. I am humbled and I am incredibly grateful.

Grateful for the opportunity to make a difference and to give back. Grateful to those who believe in me, those who support me, and those who entrust me with their stories. Grateful that my story has inspired others. Grateful that I have given a voice to hope in the face of tragedy.

As I spoke in Kingston last month, I was overcome with emotion. So many dear friends were there to support me; friends from my very first posting as a young army wife, old neighbours, new friends. How very fortunate am I to have so many wonderful people in my life? I am so incredibly grateful for them and for the life that I had and the life I have. The life I have now is not the life I ever imagined myself having, but its a damn good one. And one I will never take for granted.

It is so easy to take it all for granted; our health, our people, our time. We are all guilty of that. But life is so very fragile. And often fleeting. 2016 reminded me of how tenuous it all is. This year a beautiful, gregarious young woman was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. My neighbour died mere months after being diagnosed with stomach cancer. A husband and father of three suffered a fatal heart attack while golfing with friends. All tragic, painful reminders to never take our lives or our health for granted.

The life you have may not be the life you envisioned yourself with or the life you want, but it's your life. And it's up to you to make it the best one that it can possibly be.

It is never, ever too late to make a fresh start. Every day you get is a new opportunity, a new chance to begin again, please don't ever squander that gift away.

And no, it's not easy. I know that all too well. Starting over is hard, scary and painful. You will make mistakes along the way. You may even stumble and fall. But you can pick yourself up and you can start again. I know because I've done it, many times. I will never tell you that it's easy but I will tell you that it's worth it. Truly.

Leave the past where it belongs, in the past. Don't carry it with you into the New Year.

C.S. Lewis said, "There are far, far better things ahead than any you leave behind."  I so believe this to be true.

Bitterness and anger won't heal past hurts, they won't bring back what you have lost. But they will ruin the future and rob today of it's joy. And today really is the only day that is ever guaranteed.

My New Year's wish for you all is that you see how very much you have to be grateful for. Even when you don't believe you do, you really do. You're still here. That's a good place to start.

And always remember someone else is happy with less than what you have.

Someone else is happy with less than what you have.

I have no idea what 2017 has in store for me, but I do know this: I am grateful for the gift of another year. I know it won't be without it's challenges and there may well be more sadness but it will also bring with it happiness and joy.

Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and so much more.

Be grateful for the gift of another New Year. It's a gift that far too many will not receive. Please don't waste it.

Hello 2017. It's nice to see you!

"Approach the New Year with resolve to find opportunities hidden in each new day."~Michael Josephson


Thursday, November 24, 2016

There Is Always Something to Be Grateful For

There is always something to be grateful for. This may sound trite to some but it really is true.

The other day someone asked me how I can be so positive all of the time. I honestly wish that were always true, but even I have my moments. Especially last month:

October was a bit heavy for me. I was tired, frustrated, overwhelmed. Sad. And then one day, I was literally knocked on my ass by the dog. As I stood there wiping away my tears, wishing once again could it just be November already, I noticed that there were roses on the bush beside me. Despite the frost, the wind, the rain, they were still there, still blooming. At the end of October. They'd been there for days and I'd never noticed them. I was so wrapped up in feeling sorry for myself, I couldn't see what was right in front of me.

I'm sorry October, it really wasn't you, it was me.

I actually am a pretty positive person, 90% of the time (okay maybe 85%). But sometimes, it gets to be too much, even for me. The truth is sometimes I'm tired. Tired of always being the one responsible for everything, of having to make all of the decisions. Sometimes I'm scared; of what the future has in store (I don't want to be the crazy old widow in the rocker on the porch with a passel of cats), scared I'm going to mess it all up. Sometimes I wonder if my kids got stuck with the wrong parent, the one who isn't as much fun and isn't the best at helping them with their homework (I suck at math). Sometimes I worry I've made all of the wrong decisions. Sometimes I really miss my friends and feel like I've let them down because I'm not there when they need me the most.

And sometimes it's hard NOT to get caught up in the day to day stress (seriously why does everything have to break at the same time?). Sometimes all of the little stuff adds up and seems like really big stuff. Especially when you are worn down emotionally. Which is where I was in October.

Until the day I found myself on my ass on the sidewalk.

"All you have to do is pay attention. Lessons always arrive when you are ready"~Paulo Coelho

Hopefully the lessons arrive a little less painfully the next time. It's funny how literally being on your arse on the ground forces you to look at things from a different perspective. As I picked myself up and dusted myself off, I saw those roses. And those roses reminded me that everyday might not be good, but there is something good in everyday. If only we take the time to see it.

All that stuff I was stressing about was just that..stuff. Stuff that in the overall scheme of things really doesn't matter. It only mattered because I was letting it.

I was unhappy. Because I was making myself unhappy. I own my happiness, that's my responsibility.

I was focusing on all the wrong things. I was focusing on what I don't have and not on the things I do have. I was counting my misfortunes, not my blessings.

I have so very much to be grateful for. I'm healthier and fitter than I have ever been. Everyday I can walk by the ocean and breathe in the salt air. I live in a beautiful house in a beautiful town. I have three, healthy, happy, well adjusted children. Children, who as it turns out, actually think I'm doing a half decent job at this full time, single parenting gig (well, besides the night I threatened to quit, apparently I can't do that, who knew?). It's very true that I'm no good at math, but I do employ a very good math tutor. And while we might not have the same hair-brained adventures as we did when their Dad was alive (Dear Lord some of them were beyond ridiculous), we still end up having loads of fun together.

My friends know that if they ever need me, I'll be there faster then they can say Bombay Sapphire (I'd even bring some with me). I might not get to see them every week or even every month, but they are always there for me, just like I am always there for them. And I am so fortunate that I get to spend time with them whenever I travel. Whether it's in Petawawa, Gagetown, Ottawa, Toronto, Kingston or Yellowknife (Yellowknife of all places), there are always old (and new) friends there waiting for me. How lucky am I?

I might indeed end up as a crazy widow rocking on my porch someday, but somehow I doubt it (okay the crazy part might happen). But the passel of cats will definitely not be happening as I just happen to be allergic to cats. And besides, that's plan Z anyway, luckily I have twenty-five other plans to go through before I get to that one. I think I'll start with plan A: Count my blessings.

There is always, always, something to be grateful for.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ~Melody Beattie


Monday, October 24, 2016

After the Doorbell: Twenty-Five Things I Didn't Know About Being a (Military) Widow

Before I was widowed, I had absolutely no idea what being a widow really entailed. The military spends a lot of time preparing soldiers to go to war, but they don't really prepare wives to become widows, they don't issue us joining instructions when we are widowed. I had been a military spouse for almost twenty-one years. I was actively involved in our military and regimental communities. I attended every pre-deployment briefing, ironically even including one Dan held for his own regiment before they deployed to Wainwright. But over all of those years and over all of those briefings no one ever told me what really happened, after the doorbell rings.

In the days and weeks after Dan died, I turned to books and the internet for information on being widowed. I needed to understand what I was going through and I needed to know if what I was feeling was normal. There was a lot of helpful information for widows, information on grief, practical information on finances, cautions on not making any big decisions in the first year. But most of the information was generic, written for the much older widow. Being widowed when you are elderly is a much different experience then being widowed when you are forty-three with three teenagers. I did find one book with a very short chapter on some of the unique challenges facing a younger widow, such as single parenting and dating. And another that very briefly mentioned war widows, apparently they do better because "they have a built in squad of cheerleaders." Perhaps that's not an entirely accurate statement, but support from women who have experienced a similar loss is very important, support that I didn't have when I was first widowed. I didn't have a squad of other military widows cheering me on, in fact, at the time I only knew one other military widow and I hadn't seen her in over fifteen years. At any rate, I'm not a war widow, I'm an accidental military widow. And mercifully, Dan was the only one killed in the accident, so there was only one of me.

Eventually, of course, I did meet other widows. Military widows, civilian widows. Older widows, younger widows. Widows with children, some without. Some widowed long before me, some widowed after. All of them amazing, courageous, resilient women who inspire me and who have taught me so much. We are the same, and yet not the same. All of our losses equally tragic but all of our experiences and stories as unique as we are.

There is no rule book on on how to move forward with life after loss, it's up to each of us to move forward, in our own way, and in our own time.

I have learned some things about being a widow. Ask another widow, and her list will be similar but different. Because there is no one list that fits all for widowhood.

  1. You will be in shock. When I was notified of Dan's death, I didn't cry, or scream or collapse. I felt nothing, as if I was separate from myself. I remember at one point I actually thought, "I should be crying, why am I not crying?"  I didn't know I was in shock.
  2. You will be more afraid than you ever have before. How will I tell our children? Will our children be okay? How will I support them? What am I going to do? I'm going to mess it all up. Who will look after me when I'm old? What if I fall down the stairs? No one will ever know. So many fears....
  3. You will be more exhausted then you have ever been before. Physically and emotionally, completely and utterly exhausted.
  4. You will have memory problems. I constantly forgot where I was going, what I was doing, what I was saying. To be honest, I'm still a bit forgetful but the kids tell me I can't blame it on being a widow anymore.
  5. You will have difficulty concentrating. It was 18 months before I was actually able to read an entire book cover to cover.
  6. You will have sleep difficulties. I was never a great sleeper to begin with, and even now two and a half years later I still have sleep difficulties, and I often still have to rely on medication.
  7. Widows weight loss is a real thing. I think I lost about thirty pounds in the first four weeks. Not a weight loss plan I would recommend. 
  8. Widows have a very strange sense of humour. Well, lets be honest, I was pretty funny to begin with, I'm just even funnier now.
  9. There is a business side to death. Like it or not, there is a business side to death, and there are rules and procedures that have to be followed. I will always be grateful for my Assisting Officer, I could never have managed all of the meetings and paperwork without her.
  10. You will carry a death certificate in your purse for the first two years. Because you just never know when you are going to need it. And ironically, you will also use your marriage certificate more after you are widowed than you did when you were first married.
  11. You will become acutely aware of your own mortality. If I die, my children are orphans. I can't guarantee that something bad won't happen to me, but I will be damned if my kids lose me because I was too selfish to take care of my health.
  12. You will be judged. Some people are very judgmental of widows, when you date, if and when you get married again, how much money you spend. Some even seem to think they could do it better.  "If I were you." But, fortunately for you, you're not, are you? 
  13. People will tell you how you should grieve. So many people are still influenced by the myth of the stages of grief. The truth is not everyone will go through all of the stages of grief, and yet we are told that we must and if we don't, well then there is something wrong with us.
  14. You will make mistakes. And lots of them. And that's okay, everyone makes mistakes. I've never been a widow before, I've never been a single mother before, I've never even really had to date before. You don't know what you don't know. 
  15. You are stronger than you think. You never know how strong you can be until you have to be that strong.
  16. You will get to know yourself very well.  The good, the bad, the ugly. As it turns out, I'm actually proud of who I have become. I'm not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but honestly, who is? 
  17. You are not what happened to you. I am so much more than what I have lost. I am not just  Dan's widow, as I was not just his wife. I am not my marital status. I'm Monica. Well, a slightly improved version of her.
  18. You will feel like you are stuck in between two different worlds. Being widowed is kind of like forced retirement. I often feel like I don''t really fit in in my civilian community but sometimes I'm not sure I really belong in a military one either. 
  19. You are allowed to move forward with your life. Moving forward with my life is not betraying Dan's memory. In fact, for me to do anything other than I have, that to him would be the ultimate betrayal and a disservice to everything he stood for. 
  20. Dating is really complicated. Really, really complicated. And one of the added perks of being a military widow: its hard for a "civilian" to understand your military life and anyone who wears a uniform will have a hard time seeing you for you and not your last name.
  21. You will miss sex and physical intimacy. Yes, I did just write that. Not all widows are 95, just saying.
  22. You will look at life through a totally different lens. Loss has a way of really putting things into perspective. All of those little things that you think really matter: they don't.
  23. You will be more grateful. I am so much more appreciative of what I have now. I consider every minute I get to spend with the people I love a gift. Because what if I never get to see them again?
  24. You have to own your own happiness. I'm responsible for my happiness. Me. Nobody owes me my happiness. Happiness is a choice I make and I have to work at it every single day. I can choose to be happy or I can choose to be miserable and being miserable is not who I am. 
  25. Life is too damn short. We always think we have more time, until we don't. There is never, ever enough time. 
Widowhood is an intensely personal journey. Some lessons you can really only learn if you live them. Unfortunately, there are no short-cuts through hell. You just have to keep going.

You can never truly be prepared to be a widow. But you can be proactive.

The harsh reality is people die. Suddenly, unexpectedly, tragically. Death doesn't just happen during deployments, obviously or I wouldn't be writing this blog. Accidents happen. Cancer happens. Suicide happens. Twenty-three or forty-three, private or lieutenant-colonel, husbands or wives, none of us are immune to death.

You need to make sure you have all of your paperwork in order: wills, power of attorney, insurance documents etc all should be reviewed and updated regularly.

And most importantly, you need to sit down and have that What If conversation with your spouse. It's a conversation that all couples, especially military couples, need to have.

Burial plans and funeral arrangements need to be discussed. They are not easy things to talk about, but trust me, those are extremely difficult decisions to make when you are exhausted and grieving. And you need to have an intimate conversation about life moving forward without you.

Thankfully Dan and I had that conversation. It was the most important conversation we ever had as a couple. That conversation was the prologue to this second chapter of my life. When others question or criticize my decisions, I have the surety of knowing I am honouring Dan's wishes for me and our children.

Two and half years later and there is still so much that I don't know about being a widow. My list is still evolving, as am I. I'm still learning, still making mistakes as I go, but really, isn't that what life is all about?

Learning, evolving, loving.

"Everything you need to know you have learned through your journey"~Paulo Coelho

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Anyone Can Die

As I drank my coffee and scrolled through Facebook this morning, my newsfeed was full of tributes for Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip following last night's final concert in Kingston. Lovely, eloquent, heart felt tributes. So many who were genuinely overcome with emotion; a mixture of sadness, loss, pride. Love.

When Gord Downie announced in May that he had terminal brain cancer, Canadians were left reeling. How could this happen to a beloved rock icon? He's only fifty-two. But of course, cancer doesn't care how famous you are, or how young you are, or how much you are loved. It is cruel, and random and unfair.

Gord's decison to go public with his diagnosis has moved and inspired many. When he could have easily been defeated, he made the choice to continue doing what he loves most, touring and performing.

Cancer may decide when his life ends, but he will decide how it ends.

Anyone can die, but it takes a lot of courage to really live, especially in the face of a terminal illness.

Truth be told (and as it's Sunday morning, it seems as good of a time as any for a confession), I was never actually a big Tragically Hip fan. I almost feel like I need to apologize for that (how very Canadian of me.) I was more of a Rush, Great Big Sea, Spirit of the West kind of gal (and incidentally, speaking of inspiring, if you haven't seen it, you really should watch Spirit Unforgettable, a documentary about Spirit of the West's lead singer John Mann's battle with early onset Alzheimer's.)

You don't have to be a fan of The Tragically Hip though, to recognize the impact that Gord Downie and the Hip have had on Canadians. They are after all, "Canada's Band." They provided the sound track for many in our generation. And though I can honestly say I never danced to them in university, nor have they ever been on my running play list, I've listened to their music many times over the last twenty seven years.

Dan was a huge Hip fan. He owned every one of their cds. In fact, I'm pretty sure that stack of cds is still packed away in my basement somewhere. He used to love playing them when we were driving home from Petawawa, usually as we were coming out of Quebec and into northern New Brunswick, my least favourite part of the drive. He would belt out their songs at the top of his lungs, while I would sit in the passenger seat fuming. The madder I got, the louder he would sing (so unlike him). If you ever had the misfortune of hearing him sing, you will appreciate just how painful an experience that was. I'm not sure how many arguments we had over the years about the Hip but I know there were a lot.

The one and only time Dan saw them in concert was when he was in Kingston on a course. I'll never forget how excited he was, he talked about it for days afterwards. And as sick as I was of hearing about it at the time, I'm so glad now that he got to go to that concert. It's funny how sometimes the things you think don't matter that much actually matter the most.

Up until a few months ago, if you had asked me who the lead singer of The Tragically Hip was, I wouldn't have had a freaking clue. Me and a whole lot of others, I'd say. Now every Canadian knows Gord Downie's name (unless they've been living under a rock). And now they know what the word glioblastoma means.

Glioblastoma. The most common and aggressive cancer that starts in the brain. It's just one of over 120 different types of brain tumors. Twenty seven Canadians are diagnosed with brain tumors every single day. Approximately 55,000 Canadians are living with a brain tumor. Like Gord Downie, most of them are seemingly perfectly healthy, until one day out of the blue, they are not.

I spent Canada Day with two of my closest friends and their daughter Carolyn and her husband who were visiting Nova Scotia. It was a beautiful, sunny day. We spent the afternoon touring the vineyards and wineries of the valley; sampling the various local wines, beers and ciders. We had so much fun, you couldn't have asked for a more perfect way to spend the day. The next day, as they were driving home from another day of site seeing, Carolyn had a seizure in the back seat of the car. And then another. And then three more after they arrived at the hospital. Three days later they received the diagnosis, a diagnosis that no one ever wants to hear: she has a brain tumor. She's twenty seven. Twenty seven. She was perfectly healthy and then she wasn't.

I've known Carolyn since she was a spunky six year old lecturing any one who would listen on the dangers of smoking (she wasn't wrong there). I wasn't surprised when her mom told she me was going to become a nurse. I've lost count of the number of babies she's helped usher into the world. And now she's the one who needs care. But when she could easily become angry and bitter, she's not. She's positive and upbeat. Last week she baked cookies and brownies and took them to her co-workers, just because. Maybe we should all take the time to stop and bake cookies for someone. Just because.

Life is too god damn short (to not eat cookies, especially chocolate chip ones).

Anyone can die but it takes courage to really live.

Carolyn amazes me with her courage, strength, and positivity. She never chose to have a brain tumor but she chose not to let it define her. Just like Gord Downie.

Gord Downie has brought the subjects of grief and loss to the forefront of our collective consciousness. He has shown us that we while we don't always get to choose what happens to us, we absolutely get to choose how we respond to it. Tragedy doesn't have the final say. We do.

I may never consider myself a Tragically Hip fan, but I am a Gord Downie fan. Because of his very selfless decision to go public with his illness, he has helped raise awareness of a very devastating disease. He has brought hope to many who were hopeless. And money raised from his charity will go to finance research that could lead to a "series of potentially game-changing breakthroughs in the treatment of neurological disorders including tumors, cancer, dementia and stroke." Treatments that will, of course, come too late to save Gord himself, but that may, just may, come in time to make a difference to someone like Carolyn.

And that will be his most important legacy of all.

"No dress rehearsal, this is our life."~ The Tragically Hip


Friday, July 8, 2016

The Things We Need To Say

When I was a kid, my mom would always tell me that time goes by a lot faster when you are older. I would always laugh (and probably roll my eyes) and tell her she was wrong. Then of course, I grew up and had kids of my own. And suddenly one day I realized that what she said was true. Time really does go by faster when you are older. Go figure, my mom actually knew what she was talking about. As painful as it was to do, I picked up the phone and called her and told her as much. I'm sure she didn't stop grinning for a month.

Even though I knew my mother was right, I didn't truly appreciate the value of time until after Dan died. It was then that I realized I had spent most of my adult life waiting for time to pass. Waiting for the next posting message. Waiting for the course to be over. Waiting for deployment to end. Waiting for the house to sell. Waiting for the kids to be out of diapers. Waiting for them to start school. It's very sobering when you realize you've spent most of your life waiting for your time to be gone.

Time that I will never, ever get back.

Sometimes you never realize the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.

I write (and speak) about time a lot. Because it is one of the most important lessons I've learned in the last two years: to never take my time for granted. 

It's so easy to get caught up in the day to day stresses of work and raising families, in the waiting, that we lose sight of this valuable lesson. Sometimes even I slip and forget, until a harsh wake up call reminds me. When my neighbour dies of cancer at 61. When my friends lose a friend to a heart attack at 49. When my friends' daughter suffers a sudden, life altering illness. All tragic reminders that life can change on a dime and that we can never, ever take it for granted.

The trouble with time is you always think you have more. Until you don't.

The other day I posted a link to an article on my Facebook page:

  • I love you
  • I'm sorry
  • I understand how you feel
  • I believe in you
  • I'm scared
  • No
  • Thank you

Such important things to say, but things that many of us struggle with saying. Often we put off saying them because they are difficult to say. It's hard to admit we've been wrong or that we're scared. It's hard to say no. Or to tell someone that we love them.

I've said these things more over the last two years then I ever have before. Because I am very mindful that I might never get the opportunity to say them again.

The truth is I am scared sometimes. Scared of that god damn snake I stepped on when I was walking the dog (seriously 3000 acres of dykes and I put my foot down on a snake. It was dead, incidentally. I'm not sure if it was from me stepping on it or not). Scared that I might spend the rest of my life alone in this big old house. Scared that I will mess everything up.

I've never been a widow before, I've never been a single mother before, I've never even really had to date before. And well, you don't know what you don't know. Often, I don't know what I'm supposed to say or do. And sometimes I end up saying or doing the wrong things. But I have learned it's okay that I make mistakes, we all make mistakes. And it's okay that I don't have all the answers, I'm not supposed to. No one does.

Fortunately, I have the most amazing friends, friends who are always there for me, even when I screw up. I'm so incredibly thankful for you. I actually don't know what I'd do without you. I can't thank you enough; for always being there for me, for always listening to me natter and for being my shoulder to cry on, and also for kicking me in the ass when I need it the most.

My three kiddos have heard me say all of these things (and more) many, many times. We discuss them a lot. They know that I actually don't know what I'm doing sometimes (well, a lot of the time. I just make it up as I go along). They also know I do the best I can until I know better and then I (try) to do better. They know because I'm honest with them. Because we discuss it. And yes sometimes our discussions even illicit some eye rolling (it's okay K, if we're lucky someday you will be able to call me to tell me I was actually right, and I was, of course). 

And I tell my kids I love them every, single day.

These are things we all need to say, while we can, before it's too late.

I don't want to spend the rest of my life wishing I had told someone how much they meant to me. Or how much I appreciated them. Or how much I missed them. And that should also be on the list.

  • I miss you

The people we care about need to know that we feel their absence when they aren't with us. We can't always be with our people, especially when we live in different provinces (or countries) but we can let them know we miss them. And how much we value the time we do get to spend with them.

It only takes a few seconds to send someone a message to say thank you or to tell them that we love them, or that we miss them or just that we are thinking of them. And yet often we don't make the time. We don't pick up the phone to call because we are just too damn busy, with work and life. We'll do it tomorrow.

Only, sometimes, there is no tomorrow. And you didn't say the things you needed to say.

Instead, you are left with a lifetime of regret.

The very last text I sent Dan was "Eaves trough is up!"

Not I miss you or I love you.  Because I didn't know that would be the very last thing I ever got to say to him. I thought I had all of the time in the world to say all of the things I needed to say.

The trouble is you always think you have more time to say the things you need to say. Until you don't.

I'm sorry (the garage is a mess). Thanks (for putting up with me for all of these years). I miss you.

The eaves trough is up.

It takes two seconds to say I love you.

Say it as often as you can while you still have the chance.

Because you never know when that chance will be gone.

It only takes two seconds.

I love you.

"The regret of my life is that I have not said 'I love you' often enough"~ Yoko Ono
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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Life Is The Flower

I had just started my run this morning when one of the neighbourhood ladies stopped to tell me the news. The man from The Little White House had died while I was gone last week. We stood there silently for a few minutes and then she asked, with tears in her eyes, "Monica, why is life so unfair sometimes?

Of course, I don't have the answer to that question because there is no answer. It just is.

I held back my own tears (and anyone who knows me well will tell you this was no mean feat) until I rounded the corner. I cried through pretty much the entire run. I cried for the man I never knew who won't get to golf this summer. I cried for his wife who will have to walk the dog alone from now on. I even cried for their dog.

I cried for my cousins (and their mom) who lost their dad a couple of weeks ago.

I cried because life isn't fair and sometimes it just sucks. Really, really sucks.

And then I stopped to wipe my glasses and realized I was standing by a patch of lupins. I've gone by them several times this week, but never stopped to look at them closely. Today I did. They are beautiful, the dark pink ones are my favourite, which is funny because I'm not really a pink kind of gal.

As I watched them blow in the breeze, I thought about how hardy they are. Resilient. They come back every year, no matter how harsh the winter is. The wind never breaks them, they may grow a little crooked sure, but they keep growing tall. Sun or rain, they bloom anyway.

I thought about how lucky I am to have this beautiful day. I was able to go out and enjoy it. I could go for a run, so many can't. I could stop and smell the flowers. And I did, literally and without getting stung, I might add (there were a shit ton of bees there). Now, that's lucky.

I actually had a chat with my neighbour last summer by that very patch of lupins, we even talked about how pretty they were. He didn't know then that he wouldn't live to see them bloom this summer. He didn't know that he only had a year left. Just one more moment in time.

There is never, ever enough time. And nothing is ever guaranteed.

Each day we get with the people we love is a blessing.

And yes, sometimes the endings come far sooner than we want them to.

Sometimes we are just meant to love each other, as best we can, for as long as we can.

Life is too damn short.

Today I was reminded of that.

I think I'll go plant some lupins in my garden so I'll never forget it.

"Life is the flower of which love is the honey."~ Victor Hugo


Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Little White House

Over the last few months I've received a lot of messages; from soldiers, wives and widows, strangers and friends. Messages of support and encouragement. Messages from people who are moved and motivated by my story. And messages of sadness and sorrow. Messages from those who are struggling and have lost their way. So many heartbreaking stories. Oftentimes they just need to share their story with someone who kind of gets it. Sometimes they just need someone to tell them "you're strong enough" And you are strong enough. 

I've had a lot of people message me lately asking me for advice, wondering how I was able to triumph over tragedy and have a good, happy life.

I have a good, happy life because I made the choice to have a good, happy life. I know that makes it sound like it was simple, but of course it wasn't. Starting a second chapter of your life is far from simple or easy. It's a lot of hard work. It's exhausting and overwhelming, and a little bit frightening. But it is also meaningful, fulfilling and yes even exciting.

When people ask me for advice, I often worry that they think I have all the answers. I don't (I'm good but I'm not that good). Nobody has all the answers my friends, nobody.  And if they ever tell you that they do, just know that they are full of shit. Full of it. Really.

I don't have all of the answers but I do know this to be true: life is too short. I know I've said that before, but it bears saying over again. Life is too short.

We are all guilty of taking life for granted. Because we think there is always tomorrow. But sometimes there isn't tomorrow.

Sometimes you don't get another chance to tell that person you love them (you didn't because what if he doesn't love you back), or to call your mom (you haven't because you've just been too damn busy working and drinking beer with your buddies), or to take your kids on that trip to Disney you've been promising them for five years (you didn't because you really needed a second car, but you might take them next year). And then one day.... it's too late. There are no more chances. You never told him. You never called her. You never took them. And you never will.

There is a little white house at the end of my street. I pass it several times a day, and I often think what a perfect home for a retired couple. It's a cute little bungalow with a well manicured lawn and lovely flower beds. There's a beautiful bridal wreath bush in full bloom in front. The couple who live there moved in a couple of summers ago. They have a crazy little black lab that they got when she was a puppy last year (who incidentally is far better trained then Ginny ever will be). I often drive by them as they are walking downtown for dinner or coffee, or we pass when we are walking our dogs. They are always hand in hand. Always laughing and smiling. Clearly they are a couple who are madly in love and own it quite proudly. They make the most of every minute they have together. Every time I pass them my heart is warmed and I can't help but smile.

I was never a person to believe in things happening for a reason, but over the last two years I've started too. I'll never believe that the accident happened for a reason. It didn't, it was nothing more than that, a fluke accident. But I do believe there is a reason why we meet the people we do, when we do. I've had the most amazing people come into my life over the last two years, people who have held me while I cried, who made me laugh when my heart was breaking, people who have taught me so much and helped me become the person I am today. I can't imagine what my life would be like without them.

Call it fate or serendipity or whatever you will, I believe people come into our lives because they are meant to. Maybe they are meant to change us, or we are meant to change them, or maybe we are meant to change each other.

And sometimes it's because we are meant to love them.

Sometimes maybe we're just meant to be there for each other and love each other, as best we can, for as long as we can.

The other day when I was walking Ginny, one of the neighbourhood ladies stopped me to ask me if  I'd heard the news about the man in the little white house. My heart immediately sank. Because when someone asks you if "you've heard the news", it's rarely good news. He'd become ill with a stomach bug a couple of months ago, and he just couldn't shake it. He went to the ER a couple of times, and was told it was just a virus. But of course it wasn't just a virus. It was cancer.  And it was already too late. There's nothing that can be done, no treatment or cure, just medication to manage his pain.

They got married a couple of weeks ago. I don't know why they hadn't before, maybe it hadn't seemed important or they just hadn't gotten around to it, and besides, they had time (there is never enough time). But time sadly, is no longer on their side. It could happen at any time. Today, tomorrow, next week.

You just never know.

They thought they would get to spend the rest of their lives together. Instead they spent the rest of his life together.

He's sixty one years old. He retired only a couple of years ago. He played eighteen rounds of golf a day. He was physically fit and active. He did everything right and he has terminal cancer.

Cancer didn't happen to him for a reason, it just happened.

I'm sure neither one of them ever planned on starting a second chapter but, well, sometimes things happen. And then one day fate (or serendipity or whatever you call it) led them to each other.

How lucky were they that they found each other when they did. They had a second chance at love and they took it.

For a few brief years, a moment in time, she was his person and he was hers. They were happy. They made the most out of everyday they had together.

Sometimes we're meant to be there for each other, and love each other as best we can, for as long as we can. And sometimes that's not long enough. It's never, ever long enough.

I don't have all of the answers but I know this to be true.

This morning I ran by the little white house at the end of my street. A wife lives there alone with her black lab. Her husband will never come home.

All we can do is to love the best we can for as long as we can

Life is too damn short.

"To be someone's first love is great but to be their last is priceless."~Anonymous


Thursday, February 25, 2016

I'm Forty-five For A Moment

I turned forty-five last week. Forty-five, caught in between forty and fifty. I'm still not sure how that happened. One day I was twenty-five with a newborn son, and now I'm forty-five and he is twenty. In the blink of an eye.

At least I have my midlife crisis all over and done with. Not that I was planning on heading into a midlife crisis at forty-three, mind you. I'm not sure that anyone actually plans on having a midlife crisis, I'm just glad mine's behind me. And for the record, I didn't buy a Porsche, though I did buy a new Highlander last fall (which doesn't count because it took me freaking forever to make up my mind to buy it).

Forty-three was a hard year, in fact it was pretty awful for a few months. But ironically, I came out of it much healthier and stronger than I was when I went into it. Dan's death was a huge wake-up call. In the midst of all the chaos, I started taking care of myself. I ate a lot better, I exercised regularly, I lost a ton of weight. I actually enjoy working out now, and I cope so much better with stress because of it. Skinny jeans don't scare me any more! At forty-five, I'm fitter than I've ever been, physically and mentally. Quite honestly, I never thought I'd be saying that (especially the skinny jeans part).

I have to admit though, I have gotten a few more wrinkles and grey hair since I was forty-three. Well, the greys are hidden, the wrinkles not so much. To be honest, I hadn't really noticed them, mostly because I can't actually see without my glasses on (it makes it much easier to live in denial). But then one day I looked in the mirror when I had my contacts in. Dear Lord! Where the hell did they come from?

And this is how I found myself in the drugstore looking at anti-aging creams. Who knew face cream was so freaking complicated?? I asked the skin care consultant, who was all of twenty-three (if that) which one was the best. I explained to her that I had just turned forty-five and had discovered some wrinkles. Her response was to ask me how bad my face sagging was (seriously are you freaking kidding me? I said forty-five not eighty-five, thank you very much). Fortunately for her, she agreed sagging wasn't a problem yet (thanks for that) and led me to the appropriate line of products. She showed me the best ones, explaining to me the different options (and this was when Katty bailed on me because she was trying quite unsuccessfully not to laugh). "Think of it as taking a road trip, they'll both get you there, one's just going to take you longer. You can take the scenic route, or you can take the highway." I don't need the goddamn highway, I need the freaking autobahn! And obviously the freeway to anti-sagging while I'm at it.

I make jokes about being old all the time, but I really don't think I'm old. Mostly I just use it as an excuse for a bad memory, when really my memory isn't that bad, I'm just disorganized. I chalk that up to being creative. I'm sure there's a study somewhere that proves creative people are more disorganized, if I were more organized I would have saved a link for it. I've decided one of my goals for this year is to TRY to get more organized. Emphasis on try, Rome wasn't built in a year after all.

Last year when we moved into the house, I found a card at the bottom of a box of Tupperware I was unpacking. I'm not sure how it ended up at the bottom of a box of Tupperware (I told you I was disorganized) but there it was. I didn't recognize it at first but when I looked at it, I realized it was the card Dan had given me for my forty-third birthday, just a few months before he died. It was a classic Dan card. He found it highly amusing, me not so much (he would actually still find it highly amusing). I really can't make this stuff up.

Sometimes you find things when you need them the most.

I'd been so sad that week. Moving into the house alone was so much harder than I'd expected. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself because my life was literally and figuratively a mess, and then I found this card. Talk about perspective. He was right (of course he was). I'm still here. I got to be forty-three (as shitty as parts of that year were), and forty-four and forty-five and hopefully many, many more. Life really is a series of moments, some happy, some sad. If we're lucky we get a lot of them. I don't ever want to waste any of my moments. I want to make the most of every year I get.

We all complain about getting older but we shouldn't. Old age is a privilege denied to so many. Being forty-five really is so much better than the alternative.

So hello forty-five, I'm alright with you. Wrinkles and all. But if you could hold off on the sagging for another few years, that'd be great.

"Half time goes by, suddenly you're wise. Another blink of an eye, sixty seven is gone. The sun is getting high, we're moving on.."~John Ondrasik

One Hundred Years


Monday, February 22, 2016

You Only Regret The Chances You Didn't Take

I was out for my walk this morning when one of the old gaffers from the neighbourhood stopped so his dog could meet Ginny. Of course we ended up chatting for a while, well actually more than a while, because you know me, no conversation is ever brief.

It turns out he'd been meaning to say hello to me for weeks, in fact he'd even tried to catch up to me a couple of times when we were out walking, but apparently "for a shorty" I walk fast (that's what happens when you are being dragged by an 80 pound black lab). Some of the neighbours had told him who I was (it's like living in PMQs, only with retirees, everybody knows everything). He told me he often sees me out with the dog, and I always seem so happy. Apparently he didn't see me the day Ginny dragged me into the muddy ditch, I wasn't so happy that day.

As we were talking he told me a little bit about himself, and I discovered we have something in common. He's a widower. His wife of 53 years passed away three years ago, so he "can kind of understand what you've been going through. But it warms my heart to see you out there, living life. Life's too short to waste being miserable". Amen to that my new friend.

He moved to the neighbourhood last year too, "all the way from BC." Turns out he moved for "a girl" (he blushed when he told me). She lost her husband around the same time he lost his wife, and they'd all been friends, and "well you know, we decided why the hell not, we like each other, so I packed up and I followed her here, it was the best decision I ever made. You only regret the chances you don't take, you know. But I don't think I need to tell you that, you don't seem like the kind of person who will live life with many regrets. Something tells me you are going to have a wonderfully, happy life."

And there I am, on a Monday morning on Main Street in Wolfville, getting a hug from an old gaffer I've just met, crying because he's just so sweet and I'm once again reminded of how fortunate I really am. I wish all Mondays could start like that.

I've thought about our encounter a lot today. He's right, I really do try to live life without regrets. I make the most of every opportunity I'm given because I know I might never get that chance again. When I look back on my life, I don't want to say, I wish I had, I want to say, I'm glad I did, even if things didn't always work out. And sometimes they won't, and that's okay. At least I'll know I took the chance. Because like my old gaffer said, in the end, you only regret the chances you didn't take.

“IN THE END… We only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make.”~Lewis Carroll


Monday, February 15, 2016

The Maple Leaf Forever

Today for Flag Day the kids and I decided to visit the cemetery and place flags on all of the veteran's graves. The cemetery was closed but we trudged through the snow anyway. It was a beautiful, albeit cold (well Nova Scotia cold) afternoon, but it was worth it.

As a general rule, we don't like being at the cemetery. Seeing Dan's name in granite is a harsh reminder of all that we have lost. But today was different. It wasn't about us, it was about them.

We placed flags on each of their graves and as we did, we paused and read their names.
Arthur. George. Cecil. John. James. Neil. Ralph. Stanley. Gordon. Vernon. Dan.
Husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, friends.

These men (there are no female veterans buried here) devoted their lives to serving our country and to the flag we honour today. So how could we not honour them in return?

It's our responsibility to make sure none of these brave men are ever forgotten. And, maybe, just maybe, others that visit the cemetery will see the red maple leaves and they too will stop and remember, and say their names out loud.

Today my frozen tears were not of sadness but of gratitude. How lucky are we to live in a country with Arthurs and Roberts and Johns and Dans?

We can never thank them enough for all they have done for us and our country. The least we can do is spend an hour with them on a cold winter's day. We owe them that much.
"Our brave fathers, side by side,
For freedom, homes and loved ones dear,
Firmly stood and nobly died;
And those dear rights which they maintained,
We swear to yield them never!
Our watchward evermore shall be
The Maple Leaf forever!"~Alexander Muir


Saturday, February 13, 2016

I Could Never Be As Strong As You

"I could never be as strong as you. I could never do what you've done."

So many people have said that to me over the last almost two years. Often I hear it from people I think can handle anything. They seem so strong; they're so self-assured and confident, and yet they doubt they could make it through what I have.

Every single minute of every day someone is experiencing a tragedy; illness, abuse, rape, death. And every single day people rise in the face of these tragedies and not only survive but flourish. And we look at them in awe and say "Not me, I could never survive that. I could never be that strong." Perhaps it's human nature to underestimate what we are capable of.

I used to do the same thing.

Before I was widowed, I only knew one widow my own age. I met her several years ago when she just happened to move in beside us in military housing. In those days, a long time before the war in Afghanistan, there were mercifully few Canadian military casualties. My friend's husband was one of the exceptions. When I met her a few years after her husband's death, she was married to another soldier and moving forward with her life. We didn't talk about the loss of her first husband or her life as a widow. I didn't ask her any questions about it, partially because I didn't want to be intrusive, but also I suppose because I didn't really want to know, ignorance is bliss as they say and by discussing her husband's death, I'd have to acknowledge the possibility that it could happen to mine.

And I was young and naive. Of course, it wasn't going to happen to my husband, the mission he was on in Bosnia was SAFE. I marveled at her strength. She'd not only survived her husband's death but had married another soldier. There was no way I could do that.

I'd never be able to survive if anything happened to Dan, and I certainly would never be able to marry again, let alone to another soldier. I could never, ever be as strong as her.

And then one day my doorbell rang, and I was forced to learn just how strong I can be.

You never know how strong you can be until you have to be that strong.

As I stood at my front window that fateful afternoon, mentally preparing for what I was going to tell our children, I knew that this was NOT the end of my life. Our kids needed their mom, I couldn't let Dan's death take me away from them as well. And as I watched them walking into our driveway, knowing that I was about to break their hearts, I also knew it was up to me to help them put those hearts back together.

My path forward began that afternoon with the acknowledgement that my life was still worth living, even without Dan, as painful as that would be. I was so much more than just his wife and I AM so much more than just his widow. I wanted our children to know that life still had meaning, even without their father.

I knew that my actions would very much influence them. If I was negative, angry and bitter, they would be the same. And that's the last thing that I wanted for them.

I have tried to be a positive example to them since that day. Though there were plenty of times in the first weeks that I had to be stoic, I never wanted them to think being strong meant they always had to be tough and have a stiff upper lip. And for as many times as they saw me being stoic, there were many more times they saw me let the tears flow freely. I have never hidden my tears from them (Seriously what is it about commercials? They get me every time).

But strength isn't just about letting yourself express emotions. Strength is so much more than that.

Being strong means knowing when to ask for help, when to lean on others and also when to stand on your own.

It's not about having all of the answers (God knows I don't have them all, I'm good but I'm not that good).

It's about doing the best you possibly can, and knowing that sometimes you will make mistakes along the way.

Strength is knowing there will be times you fall and that's okay because it isn't really about the fall anyway, it's how you rise afterwards that's important.

And strength is knowing that happiness (or unhappiness) is a choice, no one can make us happy but ourselves.

Strength is owning your happiness.

I recently received a message from a young, newly married military wife. She wanted to let me know how much she admired my strength and courage. And in an echo of a young wife I knew so many years ago, she told me she didn't think that she could be as strong as me. She could never survive if she ever lost her husband, and she definitely didn't think she could get married again, especially not to another soldier.

When I read her message, I realized I had come full circle. And so I told her what I'm sure my friend would have told me all those years ago if I'd had the courage to voice my own fears to her, I told her the truth.

 I survived my husband's death because I made the choice to survive.

I made the choice to accept the unacceptable. I made the choice to move forward with my life. I made the choice to be happy.

And though I may have somehow made it appear easy (I've heard that one a couple of times lately) it's not easy. Life rarely is. Sometimes it's difficult, and stressful, and complicated. But it's also wonderful, amazing and incredibly rewarding.

I hope my young friend never has to learn just how strong she can be, but if she does, I hope she too can make the choice to survive, to accept the unacceptable and to move forward with her life.

I hope that she remembers, even as happiness may seem to forget her for a bit, that happiness is a choice.

Life should be lived, not endured.

Ultimately we are the ones who are responsible for how we respond in the face of tragedy. We can rise up and do our very best, or we can admit defeat.

If we admit defeat, tragedy wins. I refused to let tragedy win.

Something awful happened to my life but my life is far from awful.

Strength is letting go of the life you had planned and embracing the life you do have. And I have done just that.

I may not know how the rest of my life will go, but I do know this. I'm strong enough to live it.

"Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will."~Mahatma Gandhi

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

You Don't Look Like a Widow

"You don't look like a widow." You'd be surprised at how often I hear that one. I'm never quite sure if I'm supposed to be flattered or offended by that statement. And what exactly does a widow look like? The answer of course is invariably the same: old. The stereotype of the lonely, little old grey haired widow. I'm so glad I got my hair done this week. While it's true the majority of widows in Canada are over the age of 65 (which really isn't old), there are in fact far more widows under the age of 65 then you may realize. And no, you'd never know to look at any of us that we are widows, it's not as if we have a capital W branded on our foreheads after all.

Cancer, war, suicide, accidents. Every single day wives become widows. We come in all ages, ethnicities and religions. Some mothers, some not. Some working, some not. Despite these differences, we are all supposed to fit in the same neat little box called widowhood. But here's the rub: widowhood is not the same for each of us. Being widowed at 43, with three teenage children is not the same as being widowed while pregnant at 24, nor is it the same as being widowed at 83. Having your husband die as a result of cancer is not the same as having your husband die suddenly in an accident. All equally tragic, all equally sad and devastating, and all different. Each widow's story is uniquely hers, and  how we grieve is also unique to each of us. And yet we are still lumped together in one widowhood box, with the same expectations of how we should grieve and when we should move on with our lives.

This may shock you (but I doubt it): I don't much like the widowhood box. I don't like being told how I'm supposed to feel and when I'm supposed to move forward (because you don't move on, you move forward) with my life. The last time I checked, I was an adult who is perfectly capable of making her own decisions. But people still do it, all of the time. At eleven months I was told it was far to early for me to start dating. Too early for whom? Not for me, and shouldn't I be the one making that decision? Ironically, I wasn't even planning a date at that point in time. But you know, just in case.

I actually knew a bit about grieving before Dan died. I'd previously lost both of my grandmothers, whom I loved dearly but their loss was not the same as the loss of my husband and the father of my children. I'd also studied grief in university (studying it and living it are two vastly different things, of course), so I was well aware of the stages of grief. Fortunately for me, I also knew the five stages of grief are bullshit. (You can read why here: No Stages of Grief.) Over the last 40 years, what was meant to be a guideline became an almost absolute. The author Elisabeth Kübler-Ross "constantly stated that the stages didn't all happen and not necessarily in order, if at all." And yet the myth of the stages of grief still persists, a myth that has caused me and many others a helluva lot of grief, for want of a better word.

Thankfully, the majority of the people in my life don't believe in the myth. They were the ones that just let me feel what I felt, they never told me how I should feel. They were the ones assuring me that life would be good again, they were always supportive, always encouraging.

But there are some who are still influenced by the myth of grief. When I made the choice to be happy, I was in denial or I was rushing my grief. When I said I wasn't angry, they assured me I would be. When I said I didn't feel guilty, they told me I would eventually. They seemed to have all of the answers and yet how could they? They're not me. I'm not sure if they are even aware of how much of an extra burden they placed on me. I certainly never told them. I should have. I went to a counselor because I began to believe there was something wrong with me: because I wasn't angry, because I didn't feel guilty, because I wanted to be happy. Think about that. Just stop for a minute and take that in. I thought there was something wrong with me because I wanted to be happy:

When you told me my life was going to be awful, you took away my hope for the future.
When you told me I must feel guilty for being happy, you implied that it was wrong for me to be happy.
When you told me what I should feel, you invalidated everything that I was feeling.

 I'm not sure who my counselor was expecting the day I sashayed into her office, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't me. She listened to my diatribe for about ten minutes before she raised her hand to stop me (I seriously thought she was going to yell UNCLE). "Monica there is nothing wrong with you, you are perfectly healthy." Silence. "Really? Are you sure? Because I think I might be crazy."  "You are NOT crazy" (don't worry, I was shocked too). When they talk about watershed moments, that was mine. I'm sitting there looking around her office; she has all of the right certificates on the walls, and this wasn't her first trip to the rodeo, so she clearly knows what she's talking about. There is nothing wrong with me. There is nothing wrong with me. I'm going to be just fine. I have never felt so liberated in my life. It was as if a 40 pound rucksack had been lifted from my shoulders.

 I own my happiness. Me. It's my responsibility. Nobody else can ever make me happy, only I can do that. This may not be the life I planned, but it's my life, and it's up to me to make it a good one. I had to accept Dan was gone and never coming back. I had to let go of what should have been, and accept what is. And (this is the one I struggled with the most) it means that I have to accept there will always be those who will never truly understand my choices, and that's okay, they don't have to, it's not their life. I believe acceptance is the most important thing. When you find acceptance you will find peace. As a wise padre once told me, acceptance catapults us forward. Each of us finds that acceptance in our own time, and in our own way. Grief is as individual as a fingerprint. No two people will ever experience loss in the same way. We can never truly understand someone's loss unless we suffer a similar loss, and even then our grief will be different. We can walk the proverbial mile in some one else's shoes, but our miles will never ever be identical.

I hope you never have to walk that mile, but if you do, I'll be there offering you the hope that someday life will be good again, not perfect, but good (and it will be). And then I'll say something ridiculous to make you laugh. I can't walk that mile for you, but I'll come along if you'd like company. If you don't have the energy to put on your shoes, don't worry, you can lean on me while I help you put them on. If it's winter, I'll probably suggest you wear boots though, oddly enough snow is pretty cold on the toes. But hey, if you really want to wear sandals, I'm good with that too. After all, they're your feet. And it's your mile. It's up to you how you walk it.

Even if happiness forgets you a little bit, never completely forget about it. ~Jacques Prévert

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