My dear Shayne,
Today is your 40th birthday. Your day. The day you were born 40 years ago, and forever changed the trajectory and future of my life in so many ways… ways I still cannot feel or comprehend yet. Having little ladies with you certainly a HUGE one, and changed the landscape of the rest of my existence and theirs and everyone that comes after them.
You, you and your gigantic soft heart and huge beautiful brown eyes and miraculous green thumb were brought to this world to change a lot of lives and hearts and perspectives, I know this.
But I can’t speak for all those. I can only speak for mine.
I don’t own the rights to anyone else’s experience or perception of you just because I was your wife at the time of your death. Just mine. And what you meant to me and the family we grew together in the short amount of time we had to do it.
Because… out of all the people and places and things you had experienced until the moment we met, you chose me to walk into forever with. Come what may. And I chose you. We were brought together to love, create a life with the promises of looking forward to the future. And not only nurture and take care each other’s hearts, but our little family’s.
And we were together, chose each other, until the unforgiving powers at be of the universe decided that what we had, the time we shared, was all that would be given.
I know I share this with your mom (who, by the way, I have come to learn is one of the strongest women I have ever known and will probably ever know), but I hold your day, your birthday, as one of the biggest highlights of my life – and yeah I realize, I wasn’t even there.
Sure, I don’t hold the record of knowing you in your life the longest. That’s not what defines a person’s grief. Its the level of depth you reached in with the person. What did you exchange, what love was shared.
You came into my life when I was 19, I could have had no idea then what the next 10 years would bring.
I could not have assumed we would live a lifetime in them. But we did. The love that grew there and was able to bloom after you have been gone, was worth 100 lifetimes.
Every conversation, moment spent with you, energy exchanged, intimacy, led me here.
Your birth spun a tapestry of love and light into my life unlike anything I would ever know. The ripples created by you entering this world…. you have no idea what you’ve done.
Your birth, YOU, your DAY, is the very reason I am here writing and the love I had and now… have found again.
Regardless of your last moments or ours together, you alive, I know the truth. I hold a truth that nobody knows or will ever know. Its between us. I know where our hearts are and were. You are not defined by that night. And I wasn’t going to lay down and take the beating of it, either. And you know it. Having to witness you unresponsive on the floor, being so confused and angry, choosing your wardrobe and viewing your body days later… all of that was not going to hold me hostage the rest of my life. You are not those moments.
I know it and you do to. With love, onward.
And I know you would be shaking your head, smiling, doing your “geez, that’s my girl” thing… at all I have done since your last day. The moving to the beach. My freak-outs. Sky diving. Driving you, & carrying you in my purse everywhere, and sprinkling you all over. Making widow friends. Drinking too much wine at Harbor Docks. Hand-holding and singing with Celine Dion (I have a feeling you’d be shedding proud tears for that moment!). Bear-hugging strangers. Blind-dating in Ohio. Shaving my head (finally!).
That’s your girl.
…but I know you would have known this and probably did, your death wasn’t the end of me or our life. It is just a continuum of what we shared and had. I take what you gave and build, build, build.
I cried heavy, guilty tears alone over the fact that anything I felt joy about since you died, “would not have happened unless you died.” The beach. Experiencing new places and meeting extraordinary people. Having kindness, selflessness, and compassion thrown at me from every which way.
True. But. Those things and everything that has happened is not because of your death, but in reality… because the love you poured into me and this life when you lived.
I would not have been able to step into me. I would not have felt the strength to keep.on.fucking.going. unless you had equipped me with any love less than the one I received.
I never ignorantly assumed we would have just a life of sweet, we’d definitely tasted enough sour. But it just made the good, the sweet, feel even better.
You provided me with plenty of challenges. (I sure as shit gave them to you, didn’t I!).
But I am grateful for each and every one.
Grateful for it all, any and all time I was given with you. It was and is exactly the way it needs and needed to be.
I am grateful for the things we talked about, and everything that has now gone unsaid between us. I am grateful for your patience…. your you-were-so-patient-I-was-so-annoyed-of-it patience. Every moment you probably wanted to give up on my naivety and stubbornness, you didn’t. We grew instead, because you just wouldn’t quit. You weren’t a quitter. You saw something in me I hadn’t seen yet and you just wouldn’t ever quit.
I am grateful for every pain in the ass move, all 9 of them….. every box we carried into a U-Haul, grateful. Every moment in that God-forsaken broke ass trailer in South Florida. Every sunny day we spent together alone at the beach with our pups. Every single decision made with you, especially the one we made driving back to Nashville from Florida… when we decided then that shit was gonna change somethin’ fierce around here, we’re going to add a baby! Every single second listening to your punk music in the Blazer. Every conversation made in movie quotes. Every.single.morning, every toothbrush you made me and left by the sink. Every surprise. Every note. Every “love you much.”
You changed my life, everything about my future. But you changed my heart.
You changed the way I knew love, and would love again.
I am sure you know.. but in addition to the big love I was carrying around for you with nowhere to put it…. I now love someone else, too. It’s so confusing and at times it all feels like way too much has been placed on my head and heart, but I don’t doubt that it was meant to. I am every bit worthy and deserving and capable of any love that has come after you. I can do this. Because you loved me.
I was never ashamed at any point after losing you to admit that I knew… I was not meant to life alone.
And I was too scared to say anything at first, but once I did I felt the weight lift.
I finally told Jessep, with tears, you would have loved him, too. What he is doing to my heart, and stepping in so boldly and respectfully as he has with your ladies.
I know this because Jessep breathes calm into my heart and mind.
The anxiety I white-knuckle-gripped onto for months after you died, fell away.
You would have gotten along, so well. I know this because I know you. I know your heart and warmth and it was hard not to feel comforted when you were around. Your vibe was “come as you are, its all good.”
You know this is all right. I knew right away. And you would have thought Maddax was an awesome kiddo. You would be so proud of him, too. Just like I am. We were brought together for a bigger reason than I can wrap my head around right now, but its not lost on me. And I am gathering so much strength and perspective watching him feel grief in a completely different way. I hope I do the same for him someday.
I’ve left you several places, our beach, our maple tree in Nashville, Kennedy Space Center… in the rocket garden of course, along 65 South in Alabama, Magic Kingdom at the castle, along Route 66, the Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon, snuck you in with me to see Celine Dion at Cesar’s Palace and left you at my seat, Lake Mead, you’re at Soldier Field, Wrigley after the Cubs won it, in Lake Michigan, along 30A while I was running the half marathon, and somewhere above northern FL from an airplane I jumped out of….
I sort of hate leaving you places because I feel like I am permanently leaving you behind. Those are pieces of you, the last remaining, I can’t ever get back.
But isn’t that the point.
I took you in, for all these years, gained a lifetime of love… now I get to give you back. Breathe it all in, and give you all back.
Me and this really brave, really loving, really sweet mini man Maddax had a moment together I won’t soon forget.
For the rest of my life I will hold the moment we shared out on a canyon ledge in Georgia, sprinkling you – & his mom – in the red dirt. I told you happy birthday and let more of you go. And watched as this little person, effortlessly, let his mom go. Beautiful. One of the most beautiful, honest moments I will ever share with someone.
I wouldn’t have had any of these beautiful moments without you, Shayne. You would love him.
You’d love him and Jessep and think what we’re doing is pretty damn great.
You would be our biggest fan. Because that’s who you are.
Because you had the most selfless, kind heart of anyone I ever knew. And I know, that’s all you ever wanted, was for me to be happy. You probably told me a thousand times since the day we met.
You would have wanted me to let go of pain, get over myself and wrap them up, too. All four of these people that now make up the brave cave.
I know, in your way, you are wrapping us all up now. I see and hear from you all the time.
There are so many things I learned from being yours, but true, tireless, we-dont-stop-til-it’s-over unconditional love is by far the one that has transformed my life the most.
And all I want to do is give it all back, every moment of love you gave me. Fortunately for these two boys, they’re getting it, too. I am so grateful.
Hope you’re loving us, because we sure are loving you. Jessep sees us, sees you, and wants to be good for us. And what he doesn’t really yet know is that he is already, just as he is. He is so good.
I hope in this almost two years now… I would have made you proud. You may be shaking your head smiling, but the day you were born and all your love has led me here. As much as it hurts so bad and sends an incurable ache through my heart… I can’t not celebrate the day you came into this world.
There will be years and years of celebrating your birthdays. Just like the first, they will all be bittersweet because I will be celebrating and pouring into you and you won’t even be here. I won’t know you, and will not be able to see you as you have the privilege of growing older. But I will still be loving you, & loving my life.
I hope you had the time of your life. Love you much, more, most. Always.