We survived Thanksgiving.
We made a different decision...decided to spend it with friends we adore like family. We spent the day at the Masonic Lodge in service to those who serve us...40+ sailors from the Great Lakes Naval Station. My husband John started this with his amazing friend Todd a few years ago as a service event for the Lodge and it has grown every year.
It is a full day of events...we pick up the sailors in buses early in the morning and bring them to the lodge for breakfast, then off to the movies. Some choose to stay at the lodge and enjoy the outdoor heated tent we set up with xbox and wii u games, ping pong or air hockey. Others take advantage of the communications station-donated cell phones, iPads, Internet devices to call, FaceTime or Facebook with family and loved ones around the world-for many this is the first time in weeks for them to be able to make those calls. We have volunteer photographers take and print pictures of individuals and groups and provide them cards to write friends, family, and loved ones. We mail them. All that goes on before and after dinner... for sixty (sailors plus the 20+ volunteers who stayed for dinner.
My job? Volunteer coordinator-kind of like trying to " nail Jello to a wall" to make sure everyone was in the right place at the right time. Collin and I lost ourselves on the day...and I can't think of a better way to spend this "first"
I only lost it twice during the day....first, when I saw John's picture at the Lodge. He looked so happy, and my heart felt like it had been crushed. I fled to the kitchen and lost it for a few minutes. How could I not? The other people rallied around me, and I composed myself and went on. Later on, one of my girlfriends grabbed me in a tight hug and whispered, "you are my sister...forever"
The second time was when we put the sailors on the bus...42 + hugs will do that. I went up to help put things back together, to ready the lodge for the next events. And it hit me...hard...that he would never hug me again, never hug Collin, never teach a new group of lodge members how to find their strength and courage to become better versions of themselves and the tears flowed again.
The bite of loss is different now, hitting less sharply, but not less keenly, than it did in those first months. The day after Thanksgiving was our seven month angelversary. We have made it this far, Collin and I and we are forging our new life. We are living in the moment, sometimes breaking it down to days and hours, but we are making it. I keep reminding myself that this journey is a marathon, not a sprint, and self-care is not negotiable.
Painful as Thanksgiving has been, we have been gifted with people in our life who understand how hard it is for us to reach out-and reach back. If they don't, or can't, Collin and I wish them well-compassion for loss and limitation in others seems to be hard wired into us now. Some journeys are for he and I to take alone, but we have managed to determine a cadence to our lives-we know not to spend an entire day at home without some organized activity. We know to talk to each other...and ask for what we need.
Losing ourselves in serving others seemed to be a fitting way to honor a man who did that quietly, without fanfare. Limelight was not something he sought-he was all about us-all about our family and sharing that spirit with others. We went in with a spirit of Thanksgiving to others...and ended up "Thanksgetting" a sense of connection with the wonderful man I was privileged to be a partner to for 17 years.
Now, deep breath....on to celebrate Christmas. Sometimes in our widowed world, hope is an act of courage. How can it not be in the face of such loss? Collin and I are choosing to celebrate the holiday-that is the right choice for us.
So, the trees are up, and on Saturday, another widow is bringing her daughters over to help us decorate them. We are sharing cookies, brownies, cider, laughter and tears.
Sending kisses to heaven, honey. I saw the love you left behind today in the faces of others today.