I originally wrote this journal on March 15, 2016, 10 months post loss (a 1st Spring Break without Eric)….
It popped up as a memory for me today. I re-read it and so many thoughts came over me! Happy and sad…yet as I reflect I can see how far I have come since that first Spring Break without him. And I’m amazed at the strength and humor I have found through these firsts (as 4). So here is the original post below…following with reflections and pictures.
Today was a tough day traveling alone, another first without Eric, but I survived, we survived. I’ve been up since 1:30 am traveling. Lots of things went wrong, but I will just sum the highlight of the day up by saying do not ever, ever, ever assume your rental car has the fast pass toll tag in a New York City toll. Do not gingerly get out of the vehicle to ask for help and try to pay. Better yet don’t approach an NYPD officer (unknowingly) for help. Do not tell the officer he scared you or you understood the danger of trying to exit the car (yes I acted bold and brave in a highly dangerous situation). Furthermore, always Lock the doors of the car so your curious smart high-tech teen son can’t exit the car to inspect or think he could operate the toll gate himself. I had no idea until I was escorted back to the car. He was only trying to help his desperate mom. He never meant harm and that doesn’t make me an unfit mother. I’ve never been so practically pat down and thrown in jail, all for just innocently acting with my guts and heart to pay a toll from the wrong lane. I drove for 45 or more min past the toll booth crying uncontrollably and feeling like such an idiot for trying to just solve a problem. It all resurfaced daily reminders. I realized how alone I am without Eric and how I’m also half as sure of what the heck I’m doing. I just roll with it half the time, but I do so from my heart. It’s scary alone and it turned my day from worse to feeling hopeless and dumb. I needed Eric today, and I miss him and his smart solutions. We were a team! Mr. NYPD officer wherever you are tonight I hope you will remember me, the 44-year-old mom that was just trying to pay the toll, and get to point B safely without her husband for the first time in big New York City highways. You didn’t know that, but I’m just a girl with a heart that was trying to find a solution. I certainly learned don’t ever exit the vehicle in the toll, as you (NYPD officer) stated several times “I’m gonna drill that in your head” I got it for sure. At the end of this day, I’m grateful for my kids that stand by my side. I’m grateful I made it safely to my sister’s house in CT in one piece, and most grateful for many hugs and warm embraces after a long day. I’m especially grateful for my sisters loving spirit and support. Days like this can be tough and painful, but I’m reminded even more what I do have and what and who remains by my side with warm smiles. I do believe regardless of my errors, Eric guided me safely from a dangerous situation. I would like to believe he is with me as I travel the unknown territory.
Reflections….first off, look at these amazing (pictures below) and so many memories my kids and I had with my sister, brother-in-law and cousins…all one of those “Firsts without Eric/Spring Break). We made some amazing memories…had I not fought the fear of taking the kids through the toll, highways, airports and many other courageous acts of unknown territory. Never underestimate the power of fear. Had I not faught through my fear – I would have missed so many opportunities for laughter, connection and fun. It was painful and there were tearful moments without Eric. Moments where I felt completely lost and hopeless, wondering what in the world and how will I ever? But, looking back I think we had far more happy and joyful moments than sad. We gained courage in the process. I didn’t think that at the time, but looking back. Wow. Just wow!
- I drove through mountains (a first), to Vermont with my sister. It was scary, but I managed half (which was huge considering my fear) the drive! Conquering driving fears alone! In snow and sleet and steep mountain terrain!
- We climbed amazing rope courses, we bungee dropped and ziplined 2-3 floors high from the ground! A first for me! Looking back, the experience was exhilarating. Even though I kept feeling like it didn’t feel right “alone” having fun without Eric.
- We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day authentically (as Uncle Rob referred to it). We ate Irish food, enjoyed irish music and had some great laughs together. This was a first for all 4 of us! It was fun to experience.
- We made it to the top of one of Vermont’s ski slopes (one we never skied with Eric). A first! There were a lot of tears getting down, realizing our fearless leader was missing, but with a lot of fits and flinging ski poles and falls and stubborn feats…we made it “up and down” with some laughs a long the way. Hot chocolate awaited us! We made the best of it and learned maybe skiing didn’t have to be our Spring Break thing anymore…new memories were okay, some are a little too tough without Eric. But we learned it’s okay to do things differently, new is okay!
- We honored Eric every step of that day skiing. From buttoning jackets to making sure our tickets were zipped up and cinched down. So many I could go on and on. We even caught snowflakes on our tongues! Need to find that picture! He would be proud of all his tedious lessons he taught us (and the kids). We were safe.
- Kailie and I took a trip together down from the top, alone. Just me and her. We did it for Eric…just to show him we could do it without the tears. And I’ll never forget this moment with her. A moment of Joy! We took it slow down the green the entire way. What a moment of bliss with my middle child, alone! She just totally gets me. And I love that “get to” have moments with her like this one.
- Carter skied down a black with Uncle Rob. He didn’t want to do it at first cause it wasn’t Dad…but once he finally went for it, he was so glad he did later. He talked about that months later and looking forward to spending more guy time with Uncle Rob. Melt my heart. That was a bonus in this trip! Carter took a first step in allowing another into his heart, made room for new experiences without his Dad. And that one experience I believe has helped him open up even more 22 months post loss. It’s a daily work in progress. But, that was a proud moment!
- We tubed, I sat in the sun on the tube slope and enjoyed being present. I acknowledged how worthwhile it was to be living…pondering how lucky I was! It was a bittersweet moment. Enjoying watching my kids have fun with their cousins.
- We clammed! Another highlight to this trip, freezing cold New England – but us Texans and Uncle Rob showed the way. What a feast we had later that evening!
- I spent quality time with my sister, we hiked up the “Sleeping Giant” and I felt peace that day. I felt connection with the trees, and all the beautiful nature that surrounded me. I practiced my Tree pose and felt proud of myself for getting to the top. I wasn’t winded at all, my Yoga and Boot camps prepared me well…I was physically noticing my strength!
- And YES – I can rally our troops and have everyone to the airport even waking at 1:30 am without Eric. That took strength. And sheer determination! I’m not sure Carter packed underwear! But it didn’t matter…we got from A to B and none of the small stuff mattered. Looking back, I am not sure where it came from, packing all the luggage, ski wear, etc. But the fact I did it and my kids picked up slack where needed….well, I’m just blown away thinking “Eric you (and I) paved the way and I am carrying out those plans….” I carry that part with me as I move forward and I am blessed with all he taught me. I can pack an SUV like nobody’s business – thank you Eric, you taught me well.
So, as I reflect on this past Spring Break first without Eric I am amazed. Amazed with the joy and happiness and memories we experienced. As 4! I realize now (not so much then) that happiness can exist as I move forward. It will never be as it was. But, it will be different. It’s not always easy to see myself accepting how things are. But, this trip (reflecting) brought some acceptance to what is. Small doses and experiences as 4 – as we go along…fight the fear, try something new….acceptance starts to show itself.
We are discovering new beginnings daily. Which I believe have brought us closer as a family. Not always peaches and cream, tough days. But the tough days I believe help us battle through the harder days ahead. And appreciate the good ones (like this last Spring Break trip). Looking back I was such a hot mess going through that toll booth in NYC. What a brave woman I was that day! I remember feeling like such a poor example (Eric would have never even attempted to get out of the car). Feeling so lost. But, looking back I think wow – I must have bravery deep in my soul. The Lord prepared me well. First, because I didn’t get hit by a car! We didn’t get a ticket! Yes…I got pat down! But, I am able to sit and laugh and learn that I need to be a little less like frogger. Yes, I am a brave soul! Always wearing my heart on my sleeve. I struggle with that. But, I think looking back my kids will never forget how brave their Mom was to try. I am always trying. I won’t give up this life….ever.
Thank you for reading this long post. I hope it empowers you to try something new, fight fear and find strength in the process. Even when it feels sad to push through the tough, know that you can look back and find something beautiful in the journey. I know I have and I continue to surprise myself. xoxo